Some of the best albums in the annals of R&B were recorded before a live audience, with a few of my favorites being James Brown’s “Live at the Apollo” (1963), “Buddy Miles Live” (1971) and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Gratitude” (1975). Versatile trombonist Jeff Bradshaw, a Philly native, returns to the tradition with his latest project, “Jeff Bradshaw & Friends: Home,” recorded live at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia on May 28, 2014.
“Last year, I celebrated 20 years touring and recording in the business,” Bradshaw explained prior to the Kimmel Center concert. “My 20-year anniversary was last year, and I felt that my next work needed to be timeless. It needed to be life-changing, and I felt like if I gathered the right artists at the right time, it could be epic. It’s one thing to go into the studio and create a record, but it’s one thing to do a live album. So I said, ‘I probably need to do a live album.’ But where should the live album be? It needs to be at the most prestigious performance venue in Philadelphia, which is the Kimmel Center.
“I felt like I needed to come back home,” Bradshaw continued. “I’ve been touring the world. I needed to do something special in front of my own home Philadelphia family and tri-state area — all the people who have supported me. To do something big. I felt it was necessary to do it in front of my home family, fans and friends in Philadelphia — people I went to school with, people I grew up [with] in the neighborhood — I wanted to share this with them”
The result is the 14-track “Home,” which is a superb documentation of the evening of sophisticated soul featuring Trombone Shorty, Najee, Take 6, Marsha Ambrosius, Kim Burrell, Kenny Lattimore, Bilal, Tweet, Eric Roberson, Will Downing and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of The Roots, as well as Grammy winner Robert Glasper, who also serves as co-executive producer of the project. The artists were supported by a 20-piece band directed by Thaddeus Tribbett.
The disc, available on March 31, begins with “Open Your Eyes (intro)” immediately followed by “All Time Love” with Glasper, Eric Roberson and Tweet.
“I Do Sincerely” features the assertive and unapologetic vocals of British transplant Marsha Ambrosius, while Trombone Shorty brought a bit of the bayou to Broad Street with a rousing rendition of “N.O. Groove. “ A definite highlight of the evening was the De Barge ballad, “All This Love,” featuring Bradshaw on “bone” and Take 6 adding its signature harmonies.
A pleasant surprise was Bilal’s interpretation of the Enchantment classic “Where Do We Go From Here,” and I’m pleased to say that Bilal tastefully sang the first verse completely unembellished, before taking artistic liberties with the rest of the song.
While it was an evening of excellence from beginning to end, I did observe that “Home” received a considerable amount of editing in comparison to the live albums that were released “back in the day.”
Bradshaw will hold the “Home” CD Release Celebration at Theater of the Living Arts, 334 South St., at 8 p.m. on March 31. The event will feature special guests Eric Roberson, Kenny Lattimore, Tweet and Black Thought, along with DJ Aktive. For tickets, visit lnphilly.com.
”All Time Love”
”I Do Sincerely”
”Break You Off”