“Talk about an album well worth the wait! Earnest Walker, Jr. took his own sweet time to come up with an exotically tinged smooth jazz concept album for the ages with the uniquely titled IFATOBA. Celebrating everything from glorious family bonds to the foundational culture and rhythms of Africa, the multi-talented saxophonist explores a wide range of sensual and funk-filled in the pocket urban jazz territory, but with numerous unexpected twists and powerful emotional expressions that showcase an ever-deeper artistry. Radio hits aside, it’s inspiring to see an artist so boldly incorporating family members and his heritage into the mix via compelling interludes that help tell his dynamic story”.
Jonathan Widran is a veteran music, entertainment and business news journalist who has been a regular contributor, feature writer and columnist for more than 15 years to numerous publications and websites, including Music Connection, Jazziz, All Music Guide, Wine and Jazz, Downbeat, amazon.com, and the Los Angeles Times. Jonathan is also currently a voting member of The Recording Academy.
Since the American saxophonist's debut "Raindrops in the Sun" appeared 20 years ago, Earnest has been back in the spotlight. At the age of nine he started playing the guitar, but a year later he exchanged it for saxophone. After performing in several states with the Air Force, he settled down in Philadelphia and became a member of the smooth jazz band Blind Date during the 1990s. In 2003 he chose Miami again. "Ifatoba" means in Old West African, the king has arrived. Earnest composed 12 of the 13 tracks himself, and usually played all the instruments himself. The up-tempo funky song "Party Time" invites you to dance, followed by the equally funky "Check One Two". Earnest of course plays sax on Ordinary People, but all other instruments are provided by Bryan Williams. This is followed by a short "Kalimba Interlude", while "NuJazz E" brings exactly that. "Palm Avenue" is a soft smooth jazz track, followed by a spoken "Chakaya & Khalil Interlude". With "Bourbon Chill" the soft smooth jazz returns, while "Chandelle Drive" takes us on a funky trip. While "Sweet Dreams" wishes you a good night, "Soraida Interlude" is a spoken piece. On the danceable "Dimensions" it becomes funky again, after which "Chakaya’s Eyes" closes. A nice introduction to this saxophonist!
--Patrick Van de Wiele