Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

IMPROMP2: JAZZ-HOP OR HIP-JAZZ?

IMPROMP2
IMPROMP2 IMPROMP2 IMPROMP2

I remember the first time I heard Impromp2. Then-Motown executive Steve McKeever (now head of Hidden Beach) played me some tracks in his office with a view to having me write a bio for his newly-signed duo who would be among the first acts signed to the MoJazz imprint.

Even before I met Johnny Britt and Sean Thomas, I was hooked on the innovative fusion of jazz, hip-hop and R&B that would become Impromp2âs trademark. Discerning music lovers â particularly in Europe â were immediately responsive to tracks like 'Enjoy Yourself,' 'Get Me Off' and 'Summer Nights' on that first CD, 'Youâre Gonna Love It' and vocalist/trumpeter Johnny (a former musical director for The Temptations) and his rap partner Sean looked set to make a real impact. Such are the travails of being with major labels: a second album, 'Canât Get Enough' disappeared when MoJazz was dissolved while a third LP, 'Definition Of Love' didnât get the kind of attention it deserved.

Being committed to their craft and to their distinctive brand of music, the Impromp2 guys didnât give up and longtime fans are being rewarded with a new album, 'It Is What It Is,' released on their own JCS label. Notes Johnny, âWe took a break for about three years to spend time with our families and we started working on the record officially last October. Itâs funny how the record evolved. Sean would come over and things started flowing musically and the next thing we knew, we had ten songs. It happened organically. Once we started, we didnât stop creatively and the great thing was we had time. There was no pressureâ¦â

Sean picks up the story of the albumâs creation: âWe asked each other, âwho are we going to get to play on the record?â and âwho do we want?â We didnât worry about how it was going to happen and before we knew it, we had Wah-Wah Watson (on guitar), Freddie Washington (on bass) and special guests like Boney James, George Duke, Harvey Mason, Norman Brown and Wayman Tisdaleâ¦â

Brown and Tisdale were among the duoâs labelmates at MoJazz, hence one of the key cuts on âit Is What It Isâ named after their former label. âItâs actually a tribute to another great musician who was at the company, J. Spencer,â says Sean. âIt was like a âMoJazzâ reunion.â In keeping with the flavour of their earlier albums, the new record has cuts like âI Wanna Know,â reminiscent of âSummer Nightsâ from their â95 debut while âGood Thangâ hearkens back to âEnjoy Yourself.â Keeping the Impromp2 trademark sound alive are tracks like âKeep Doinââ and a great reading of Marvin Gayeâs classic âYou Sure Love To Ballâ which Johnny notes was suggested by partner Sean.

The L.A.-based duo is heartened by the response theyâve received for the new album: âItâs been phenomenal, much more than we expected,â says Johnny. âWeâve had a lot of comments from people who say this is our best record and thatâs very gratifying, especially since weâre re-entering the marketplace after a few years. Weâve had orders from the UK, Denmark, Japan, Italy, Australia... Now we just have to find a promoter who can bring us over to Europe to perform!â

Reflecting on why they chose to call the album, âIt Is What it Is,â Sean says, âWe have a unique sound and thereâs a misconception that we are a jazz group. People try to describe it. Is it hip-hop? Is it jazz? We just say itâs good music so why put a label on it? Whatever you want to call it, so be it! The bottom line is, âdo you like it?ââ For Impromp2 peeps whose passion for the groupâs music goes back to that first album, the answer is apparently a resounding âyes.â For those who havenât yet caught on, we can only echo the name of that first set: youâre gonna love it!
Words DAVID NATHAN

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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