Something Else! sneak peek: Chris Jasper, "Keep Believin'" (2012)

If you believe like we do that the Isley Brothers of the ’70s and early ’80s were important in R&B and contemporary music in general, then you must have mad respect for Chris Jasper’s contributions through that band and subsequent projects. This Julliard trained, Billy Taylor mentored keyboardist co-penned nearly every one of their hits of that period and in the process helped to define their sound through his funky, smooth and intelligent keyboards, whether it was piano, organ, clavinet or synthesizer. Next to Stevie Wonder and Billy Preston, it’s hard to think of anyone else whose stylistic innovations on these instruments impacted R&B, funk, soul and Quiet Storm more than this man. He along with the other Isleys were early inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but he wasn’t done yet when he, Ernie Isley and Marvin Isley left the band in 1984. Forget “We Are The World,” the transcendental anthem of hope and harmony of the 1980s was his 1985 worldwide #1 hit with Isley-Jasper-Isley, “Caravan of Love.”

SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Get our thoughts on key Isley Brothers tracks as we run down some of our favorite their songs in our Featured Artist segment on this legendary R&B band.]

Jasper has since gone on to record nine solo albums, some of them gospel records, following the path of another great soul man, Al Green. Through all the trends in R&B, Jasper has steadfastly remained his own man, a very spiritual artist who delivers inspirational messages with a deft feel for classic grooves in soul music because he was so instrumental is shaping and transforming that style of music.

All of those things are present on his latest track “Keep Believin’.” He throws down the gauntlet from the start, with the challenge to “put down those guns and pick up those books…and listen to what I’m getting ready to put down,” and then proceeds to put down some of the most righteous, fierce old-school funk this side of 1983. There’s the pumping double bass drum beat, an irresistibly spongy Moog bass and a vintage talk box generated vocoder. The groove is nasty but the message is clean and direct, about staying positive and striving for achievement through education…a companion piece to his R&B chart topper “Superbad” from 1987. Jasper does another thing the old-school way: he builds in actual chord changes in the song.

This ain’t no hip-hop, though some of the savvier hip-hop artists have sampled his work. Chris Jasper keeps believin’ first in his craft, because he knows that what he preaches with his music and his lyrics are the things that will endure over time. And any time is the right time to cue up an uplifting, dancefloor smoker like “Keep Believin’.”

“Keep Believin’” is the lead single from Inspired, a new Chris Jasper album slated for release in January, 2013 by Gold City Music. Visit Gold City Music’s Facebook page for more info.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.