‘Oozing with soul and overflowing with emotion, it makes us love every side of Ashton’s music.’
Re-intro to The Ashton Jones Project
Earlier this year I introduced you to an artist called
Ashton Jones. Full of funky musicality, the opening track on his self-titled debut EP ‘Good Thing Guaranteed’ completely lived up to the name. Equally, following it up with the shamelessly impressive, process-reflective ‘Hard Work, Dedication’ made it clear that this wasn’t a one off. So, on getting to hear his debut album ‘Toast’ prior to release today, I knew I simply had to feature a track from it. However, with every track being as strong as the next, how would I choose? The answer was to ask Ashton himself. Luckily for me, and now for you, the suggestion of ‘I Need Love’ turned out to be the perfect musically sublime choice.
Taking us a world away from the burning powerhouse sound that fills the vast majority of ‘Toast,’ a romantic, down-tempo and luscious sound awaits us. Sandwiched between the seduction of Sadie Marie and the amusement of Aaron’s Call, it makes for a most welcome addition to the album and captivates us instantly. Beginning with syncopated piano, free-flowing hammond-organ set melodic lines and seductive horns, it feels effortless, chilled and incredibly delicate. As I said, a world away.
Delivering the opening lyrics of ‘When it’s cold outside and I’m all alone’ in a Luther Vandross-esque tone, Ashton’s vocal is buttery smooth and surrounded by warming accompaniment, we are taken away from the cold just mentioned. Built on selective fragments, the myriad of musically interlocking ideas generate an atmosphere that is more jazz club than jazz-funk. It’s truly beautiful and with gentle portamento taking us into the chorus, it becomes stunningly so.
Keeping very much in the restrained area that has been, the softness continues through the title centred chorus. With effortlessly husky vocal harmonies working in the background and half-time rim shots balancing freedom and regularity, the musical refinement is second to none. And it as this moment – well actually a few moments later – that you realise the sheer quality of what you are actually hearing. Bringing a real sense of vulnerability as he moves to his falsetto, you realise Ashton isn’t just an artist that can do full-on groove-inducing funk, I mean sure he can, but he’s an artist that has the power to move you emotionally too.
Transitioning seamlessly into the second verse via the most wonderful of harmonised horn phrases – composed by Ryan Jason and performed by Henry Lawry – the lyricism remains thought-filled and incredibly clever while the delivery starts to subtly shift gear. Sitting above the ever-gentle accompaniment, Ashton is soon to become more impassioned. But, showcasing just how well he knows when to push it and when to not, even on the fully projected lines of ‘I can’t find reality’ and ‘take away the pain’ it never fully overpowers and as such, the connection is effortless.
Taking the hints of strength from the preceding verse, on moving through the chorus for the second time, both the instrumental and vocal phrases turn more dominant. Growing throughout, it is a real testament to the stylish nature in which Ashton writes his tracks, and feeling like it is heading somewhere, our connection with the track moves to anticipation of where it may go. Think you’ve heard some special musicality already? It’s nothing compared to what’s around the corner.
Transforming the atmosphere completely, everything that has been kept restrained bursts into life. Full of power, the sound suddenly and completely drowns us in a heavenly stylistic texture filled with endlessly evolving rhythms and melodies. Each accented cross-rhythmic drum beat brings something new. Each harmonic horn melody is more luscious than the one before. And, just like both of those, each and every vocal element brings new inflections, interest and showmanship. Honestly, it’s hard not be get completely overwhelmed by it. It’s a good job then that a brief moment of calm is come.
Segueing perfectly thanks to Ashton’s final line of the bridge being synchronised with crashing drums and accented horns, out of the power comes the most wonderful of instrumentals. Backed by selective bass, delicate guitar and gently swelling chords, this improvisatory piano-led interlude by Matt Carter is an absolute delight. Every note feels romantic and emulating the early vocal moments of the track, it transports us to the place of being moved once more. But we are not – or should that be Ashton isn’t – done.
Generating a final resurgence of powerful, yet stylish musicality, the sound recreates the atmosphere of the bridge we loved so much but centres on the chorus lyrics. Blending these elements together, it gives us the perfect chance to hear them with the earlier restraint completely cast aside. And what a treat it is. Oozing with soul, overflowing with emotion and containing countless showcase moments, it makes us completely fall in love with all sides of Ashton’s music.
The Ashton Jones Project’s debut album ‘Toast’ is available to stream on all platforms from today and you can purchase tickets for his London and Cambridge dates here.
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Listen to and watch The Ashton Jones Project on: Spotify and YouTube
Find out more about The Ashton Jones Project on: Track Review: The Ashton Jones Project: Good Thing Guaranteed.