Soul Stories is everything Blake Aaron is and more. The 10 compositions in the award-winning guitarist’s new release reveal exciting insights into his soulful musical journeys taken with several of his musical buddies who helped Blake realize his ideas. The first-call session player salutes one of his major influences – Wes Montgomery – with “Wes Side Story” and also re-tells the stories behind Carlos Santana’s “Europa” and Daryl Hall’s and John Oates’ “Sara Smile” via his virtuosic guitar playing.
Blake Aaron wrote or co-wrote all but two of the songs and performs with such renowned artists as saxophonist Najee, and jazz vocalist Spencer Day. Blake Aaron had the privilege of playing and recording with the late drummer Ricky Lawson who passed in 2013 following a brain aneurism. His toe-tapping, head nodding boogaloo-tinged “Wes Side Story,” and his hard luck story told on “You’re The One For Me,” features Lawson's exceptional playing on the last two drum tracks Blake Aaron and Lawson performed together.
The songs are short vignettes that depict many of Aaron’s life events, i.e., love, family, grooves and blues. “Wes Side Story,” is a happy, uptempo gem that exudes Aaron’s carefree spirit and respect for Wes Montgomery while Spencer Day’s vocals on his inspired performance of “You’re The One For Me” are truly soulful and were the catalyst for the sound on this track. Derek Bordeaux also offers his soulful vocals on “You’re My Miracle” which undoubtedly refers to the birth of Aaron’s new baby boy, his daughter and wife. Aaron plays lead and rhythm guitars and keyboards on this great song which was co-written with Bordeaux.
“Sol Amor” is a wonderful Spanish/Flamenco tinged beauty that features the exceptional soprano saxophonics of double Grammy nominee Najee. His technical agility, grace, and unbridled passion on this song really takes it to another level.
Mike Whittaker’s arrangement of Carlos Santana’s “Europa” is incredible and Blake Aaron’s realization of this arrangement on lead and nylon string guitar is the best song on the recording. The ballad is comped beautifully by Whittaker on keyboards, Winston Butts on drums, and Hussain Jiffry on bass and percussion. This patriarch of jazz guitar also performs the great string arrangements of Craig Sharmat on “Story of My Life,” and “Encantadora” with sensitivity and style.
The passionate way Blake Aaron tells these Soul Stories on guitar will inspire both novices and veteran guitar players alike to sharpen their chops and dig a little deeper when conveying the stories behind the songs. Overall, all of the songs on this excellent recording are worthy of several listens so … listen up!