Album Review: Dreamroot – Phases

This Durham, North Carolina group combines neo-soul, jazz and spoken word in a style that seems incredibly natural and effortless. Joe MacPhail’s piano runs are lyrical and accessible, and Lynn Grissett’s trumpet is soulful and heartfelt. The combination of jazz vocals and spoken bits works quite well; it’s closer to Anita Baker than Gil Scott-Heron, and it feels equal parts classic and contemporary.

The group mixes things up: “Good Morning Afternoon” has a vaguely Gershwin feeling, where “Caught in a Long Goodbye” bears the subtle influence of ‘70s late-night soul. In fact, with its musical shade and light, the latter may well be the best track on this consistency engaging release.

The understated engine room of Dreamroot is bassist Ittai Korman and drummer Theous Jones; their interplay is subtlety itself. And the talents of Serena Wiley (sax, spoken-word vocals) are extraordinary as well. Of course the pandemic means no live shows for now, but once that’s behind us, Dreamroot will be on my must-see list.