Album Review: Akina Adderley & the Vintage Playboys – Say Yes

From a superficial standpoint, there’s not a huge amount of common stylistic ground between the music of Austin-based Akina Adderley (& the the Vintage Playboys) and Adderley’s grandfather Nat, or with her great uncle Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. But with a peerless musical pedigree such as hers, she can – no, must – be expected at least to possess some serious good taste. And in fact she has plenty of it. On Say Yes, Adderley’s second full length, she trades in the sort of sounds that will be warmly familiar to listeners of such modern-day neo-soul acts as Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Fitz & the Tantrums, The City Champs, The Bo-Keys, The New Mastersounds and others in that high quality category.

Backed by a six-piece band plus a horn section, Adderley tears through original material that’s alternatively smoky and upbeat. And the highly accessible people’s music sort of approach favored by her famous forebears is clearly a big part of her musical bag of tricks. “Get Yourself Free” is propulsive and catchy, while “Easy on Me” is a swaying torch song capped by some seriously soulful vocals. The level of musical sophistication and polish (but not slickness) on Say Yes belies Adderley’s relatively short time in the music business. But Adderley’s no neophyte; she sounds as if she’s been doing this her whole life (and she may well have). The band provides stellar support, adding some nice decoration throughout without getting in the way of their front woman.

Tagging Adderley and her band as a soul act does them a slight disservice; they fold plenty of r&b into their sound, and on tracks like “Not Mine” they even serve up the sort of smooth jazz-pop that will attract those who like Sade or Steely Dan. And “Bumble Bee” features rock guitar combined with Memphis-styled horn work. The fretless bass and electric piano-based arrangement of “Savannah” show that Adderley and her band can take the subtle approach with confidence. “Attitude” has a Latin flavor, and the spare “Take it Back” closes the album on an intimate note.

At press time, the band’s web site listed only local Austin show dates, but I expect that will change by the time of the official release date for Say Yes.

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