Saxophonist Eric Darius has released his fifth disc with much anticipation, and it lives up to those expectations. With the exception of one Herbie Hancock tune, On A Mission
is all new material for this young musician. The remarkable energy he brings to his live shows comes across on this release as well. The mix of five different producers keeps this one very entertaining through all ten cuts.
Right out of the gate he’s in your face with the up tempo “Settin’ It Off.” This one sets the stage for the rest of the disc with an infectious hook and unbridled energy that has become a Darius norm. The layers here make for a great chorus while he does some good solo work as well. “Soulful Stride” has an electronic intro followed by a more deliberate pace than the first track. He hits his stride early with an overage of background claps and continues that stride the rest of the way with a cleaner sound that shows off his abilities. He picks up that live sound again with “Let’s Go.” The added vocals to the mix has this one sounding like one you will like right away. The thumping bass line is a nice contrast to Eric’s soaring sax. It reeks with excitement and is sure to be an instant hit. Says Darius, “I want people to be able to close their eyes and feel like we’re playing right in front of them.”
“Uptown Swagger” seems to be one of my favorites so far. Hear it a couple of times and you can’t get it out of your head. Repeating a fun hook gives it a live feel and makes it one you will remember for quiet a while. There’s substantial playing between the chorus as Eric shows off his chops once again while bringing in some nice keys, as well. Let’s rewind and hear this once more! Rex Rideout adds a nice touch to “Jean Marie’s Groove.” The sound here is different than anything yet. It comes across cleaner with a more pure sound. If you really want to hear Eric’s sax ability, this is the one for you. He lets loose for some nice solo work that is above and beyond some of the layered chorus heard in various parts. There is a reggae feel to “Kingston’s Flavor.” That puts you right down on the beach which is a good thing this time of year.
Darius chose to record Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly” which includes Rick Braun. It is one of the more serious songs on the disc. Braun’s muted trumpet plays off this hypnotic classic. Having this as one of Eric’s favorite Hancock’s shows through in his playing. “Move To It” is another Otano/Barkulis influenced tune (as were the first two) that gets the pace going again with a slick production that is a sharp contrast of the previous song. The energy is ever present with a driving back beat, and soaring solos. He finishes up with the soulful “My Prayer For Haiti,” says Darius who has family there, “I wanted to write a tribute not just for my family, but for all the Haitian people.” You can feel the raw emotion here, and it is a nice one to finish the “mission.” Wow.
The work of this artist continues to grow with each new release. He brings the energy of his live shows into the studio, and that’s not always easy to accomplish. This one is not only going to perk up your stereo, but your ears as well. Check out On A Mission soon and see where it takes you.