The Game Has Just Begun
It was over a decade ago when this reviewer (in the guise of a young, impressionable college jazz DJ) first fell in love with M. Butler. His The Village was one of my first flirtations with jazz, a music I love to this day. Under the tutelage of Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter, and Alvin Batiste, it seemed that the young, blind pianist had a future without bounds.
After that, Butler disappeared from my radar for years. Then, suddenly, he appeared to eschew jazz for blues. I was gravely disappointed. To me, his Blues After Sunset was totally indigestible. The talent that once dazzled me seemed to fizzle in his new idiom. His next project with blues roots darling, Corey Harris, Vu Du Menz, was much better, but still didn’t rock my world.
The Game Has Just Begun has Butler exploring the funk/blues/soul of his hometown, New Orleans, and has me wondering, “When will it end?” That beautifully vulnerable voice that still has me singing “Music Came” 13 years after the fact has been replaced by a low-down jook joint growl sopping with someone else’s grease. This entire project (with the startling exception of “Regeneration”) has all been done before, and done much better. It’s as though a youth of the highest caliber has soured into a middle age of mediocrity. It pains me to write this — but pains me even more to listen. I feel as low, as dejected, as betrayed as one of J. Lo’s exes. It has me crying, “Henry, what happened? I loved you.”
Basin Street Records: http://www.basinstreetrecords.com