The change in lineup and structure doesn’t change Manricks’ compositional approach, which combines subtly complex rhythms with harmonies that are rooted in tradition but modern in scope. Yes, the music is soulful, but this isn’t soul-jazz any more than the prior record was.
Yahel is the organ guy to call up when you need just the right cadence, the right feel coming from that Hammond B-3, and not just a bunch of Jimmy Smith licks. Though he barely takes a solo on this Finnish hymn converted into a mood piece “Ystävä Sä Lapsien,” it’s the moan and dirge-y sound he gets from his organ that makes the song. Manricks often calls for a lot of swing, and Wilson ably supplies it on such finger snapping tunes like “Cloud Nine,” Any Minute Now” and “Take The Five Train” (YouTube below), which borrows some chords from Coltrane’s “Countdown” and makes it into a less tense, more swingin’ affair. Adams’s soft fluid lines work well with Manricks; “Take The Five Train” and “Cry” contain spotlight moments by him.
Weiss’ cameo occurs on one of the ballads, “Alibis And Lullabies,” where both he and Manricks turn in exquisitely understated solos. In case there needed to be any reminder whose record this is, Manricks performs “Secret Pilgrimage” all by himself, showing impressive technique, real emotion and unwavering vitality.
I’m not gonna lie to you, stocking the roster with all-stars at the peak of their own careers makes the record better, heck, it’s almost an unfair advantage. But Manricks definitely belongs in that group. With his fourth album now under his belt, Manricks is coming along right on schedule, and I get the feeling we haven’t even heard the best from him yet. Meanwhile, Cloud Nine is an enjoyable stop on the way up to the top.