Vassal Benford-Melody Man
Every once in a while a name comes across my desk that requires a double take. This was the case when I saw the name Vassal Benford on an mp3 in my in-box. My initial thought was this can’t be who I think it is; and secondly, “Don’t they know we’re a jazz station?” Well the answer to both questions was yes! The artist is none other than my longtime associate, birthdate sharing brother, Grammy winning producer, artist manager and label owner Vassal Benford. Vassal is the one who discovered songstress Deborah Cox who I had the pleasure of working with during my days working with legendary music mogul Clive Davis. No stranger to hit songs with more than 57 million platinum records to his credit. Needless, to say I was eager to see what my old friend had up his musical sleeve. Though pleasantly surprised but not expecting anything less his Melody Man is a good song. The songwriter-keyboardist is determined breathe fresh energy and creativity into contemporary jazz, thus his first release on his Benford Jazz label. The song at first listen will remind you of a Jeff Lorber track but then settles into its own identity with striking keyboards and a steady backbeat with a mid-song change that keeps the listener engaged. Vassal does not get too adventurous, understanding the complexities of getting a song on the radio, yet, doesn’t conform to the standard formula of Smooth Jazz “throw a horn in there” for the radio. In this programmer’s opinion “the formula” is also keeping the format from expanding. Melody Man made its way onto more radio stations playlist in its first week of release to become the #1 most added song on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart. You can hear the Melody Man and judge for yourself, while listening to Midday Jazz with Rivablue on Jazz 91.9 WCLK.