“What is soul ?” Ralph Kiefer knows that this is a question which may prove to be too complex for just one simple answer. The composer, multi-faceted instrumentalist and producer from the South of Germany has been around as a solo piano artist, bandleader and session musician in recent years, enjoying a highly respected profile in the jazz as well as the crossover scene between funk and electronic music. he worked together with artists like POETS OF RHYTHM and HIPNOSIS. With THE SOUL SESSION though, Kiefer now sets out to explore the many facets of the possible answers to the question.
Time knows no boundaries in THE SOUL SESSION, nor do genres. It is the backbeat which counts on their debut album “ONE”. “Struggles And Blessings” is the apt opener. Bajka, who has been busy with Bonobo, Dalindeo and Radio Citizen features her unmistakable vocal style and we discover that THE SOUL SESION is all about diversity.
This is where “Root Down” comes in. A heavy heavy monster of a groove with a hypnotic brass section, “Root Down” is irresistible. De-Phazz vocalist Karl Frierson then dives soul deep into a modern fusion track. “Soul Desire” builds a bridge from the spirituality of the Seventies to the urgency of the present.
A few bars only into the mysterious opening of “The S.O.S. Suite”, mighty 17 minutes long, we know that this will be one serious trip into space. Think of the golden era of HipHop circa A Tribe Called Quest or Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth connected to the London pioneers of genre bending grooves originated in Camden Dingwalls or That’s How It Is. Dudley Perkins aka Declaime, who already worked with Lootpack, Tha Alkaholiks and Madlib, drops his rhymes to the main theme and boards the funky mothership, before Kiefer catapults it into an enthralling Drum’n Bass excursion.
We take a deep breath while “YeahYeahYeah” puts us back into deep relaxation. Anaj, a highly respected Berlin artist in many disciplines from design to sculpture, is introduced as vocalist on “Woman & Man”, while Karl Frierson returns for “Underneath” respectively. Here we see THE SOUL SESSION at their best: Beautifully crafted compositions, a tight rhythm section and cleverly worked out arrangements. “Hamjam” proves this point in full effect: Ralph Kiefer’s grooves are deeply rooted in the best of hang loose Seventies fusion, the precise machinery of Eighties funk and the crossover vibes of the Nineties.
Not a bad thing to achieve in 2011. Then, of course, there is “Light My Fire”. Yes, it is the Doors tune and you may be tempted to think that there is no chance to put some fresh perspective to a classic like this. But wait until you have checked out this version with RALPH KIEFER himself on vocal duties. Sticking to the era and still breathing the freewheeling spirit of the late Sixties and early Seventies L.A. sound, “ONE” closes with the “Horse With No Name Suite”. Clocking in at around 11 minutes the America classic, a bona fide three minute Seventies pop tune in its original incarnation, turns into an up-to-date Jazz suite on “ONE”. “Out Of The Rain” is the title of the suite’s closing part and that’s exactly the feeling you get after listening to this album.
THE SOUL SESSION steps into the arena with a longplayer full of pleasant surprises: A profound sense of history, respect and deep understanding of jazz, soul, funk and electronic music, connected with a high-profile musicianship and amazing songwriting skills. This is definitely “one” rare treat these days – and it’s all about Soul!