Thomas Heflin – Morning Star

Thomas-Heflin-Morning-StarMorning Star is presented as a late-night radio show (complete with station IDs, and a radio DJ) and features songs that flow effortlessly from one to the next. The music on “Morning Star” features a traditional jazz group underpinned by layers of Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ and strings, as well as percussion and additional woodwinds to create a warm, soulful sound reminiscent of the CTI recordings of the 1970s. The music also fuses elements of modern jazz with R&B, gospel, and neo-soul.

The album was conceived around the title track “Morning Star,” and listeners may notice reworked snippets of the bassline and melody from the title track in other songs on the album. The music was recorded at the beginning of the CoVid outbreak, and the “morning star” – the last star seen at night before the new day arrives – also serves as a musical symbol of hope and optimism through these dark times. The radio DJ (Brandon Robertson) presents the tracks through poetic words of encouragement, creating the feeling of listening to an inspirational radio host during a late-night car ride.

The album features several notable musicians including world-renowned tenor saxophonist Gregory Tardy (Elvin Jones), Mavis “Swan” Poole (Lauryn Hill, Prince) on vocals, Peter Stoltzman (Steve Gadd/Eddie Gomez) on piano, Steve Haines on bass, Aaron Matson on guitar, Ariel Pocock on vocals, Xavier Ware on drums, Dan Hitchcock on woodwinds and Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” (¡Cubanismo!) on percussion.
According to Heflin, “The music for the album is inspired things that bring me joy and hope. “Morning Star” is the Slavic translation of my wife’s first name. ‘Anna Breschine’ is my daughter’s name and ‘The Moon Singer’ is inspired by a book by Clyde Robert Bulla that I like to read to her at night. In the story, a lonely child sings beautiful, wordless melodies to himself out in the forest. Evensong, which means ‘a service of evening prayers’ is meant to evoke a late-night musical meditation. Haiku is a quirky song based on the chord changes of one of my favorite jazz standards, Benny Golson’s ‘Stablemates.'”

The only composition that is not an original is “Self-Esteem,” by James Williams, an inspirational song that perfectly encompasses the positivity and soulfulness of its composer. Originally recorded on his album “Truth, Justice, and the Blues,” this version has been rearranged to feature vocalist Mavis “Swan” Poole singing the uplifting lyrics by Pamela Baskin Watson.

The album was recorded July 29-30 by Mischa Goldman at Auralation Studios Heflin’s home state of Tennessee (Knoxville). It was mixed by Mischa Goldman and mastered by Bob Katz of Digital Domain.

The album is available here.

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