John Minnock – A Different Riff: Minnock Sings Shire (ENG review)

Dot Time Records – April 26th 2024
John Minnock - A Different Riff: Minnock Sings Shire (ENG review)

This is the fourth and final album by John Minnock, who passed away last February, so it carries a special significance. ‘A Different Riff’ is the artist’s sincere homage to the great composer David Shire. On ‘A Different Riff,’ Minnock delivers his final declaration of love for Shire’s work and continues his extraordinary artistic partnership with soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman. Co-produced by Liebman and Shire. Needless to say, we are here at the center of jazz giants, personalities who, beyond their art, have a modern and intellectual vision of their approach. David Liebman is certainly one of the greatest current jazz saxophonists, and this album breathes intelligence and provokes reflection on the purpose of art. Also featured on this album are pianist Sean Mason, bassist Mark Lewandowski, and drummer Pablo Eluchans.

Minnock has built a distinct sound and carved out a musical path based on his authenticity and passion. Through four official studio albums and numerous evenings of songs, Minnock has drawn audiences closer with his unique storytelling, lush vocals, humor, and vulnerability. The magic of John Minnock is that he was never afraid to offer his audience all of himself – through the balance of his characteristic wit with moments of true introspection, the artist painted a dynamic and captivating portrait of contemporary gay life, especially on his albums ‘Right Around The Corner’ and ‘Herring Cove.’

Minnock, a true interpreter, plays as much as he sings every track on this album, passion ingrained in his every note, and listeners are immediately drawn into deeply engaging with this album, awestruck by the ensemble of performers who elevate this album to the pinnacle of its art. It’s probably one of the most brilliant vocal albums I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in recent years. Minnock was incredibly proud of ‘A Different Riff,’ often referring to it as his best album to date. The singer recalled being drawn to David Shire’s material because of its ‘beauty, melancholy, disenchantment with the world, and hope.’ ‘I first discovered David Shire through film soundtracks like ‘The Taking of Pelham 123,’ ‘Hindenburg,’ Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Conversation,’ and ‘Saturday Night Fever.’ This was followed by discovering his name on songs like ‘Starting Here, Starting Now,’ and I knew I wanted to work with him,’ Minnock said. After the two connected – Shire, whose work has adorned both stage and screen for nearly sixty years, began writing pieces specifically with Minnock in mind, and a fruitful musical relationship began.

It’s hard to imagine that we won’t have any more albums from this great performer. This resolutely acoustic album will not become outdated, not just because of that fact, but also because of its sumptuous and understated musical arrangements, which are the key. To hear all these artists give the best of their art in 11 tracks is truly prodigious, and one feels truly small in the presence of so much talent gathered together. What a chance! What a joy! to be part of the contemporaries who consider this album completely ‘Indispensable’ in a world where everything is collapsing. Here, these are the sure values that speak to us and form the very foundation of a thought format that only a pure and rare intellectual elite possesses.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 25th 2024

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