Recently in an article, I mentioned that I had been spending time listening to music I hadn’t heard for a while. One of the albums I was listening to, was the one this article is about, Jazzyfatnastees debut album The Once and Future. When I was listening to the album, I was thinking back to when I purchased the album. I’d been in Glasgow, shopping for some new music. The last shop I visited was the old Tower Records shop. It was always a great place to buy something different, imports, old soul and funk records and the latest dance music releases. To me it was music heaven. Back then, Glasgow had some wonderful places to buy music. This particular day, I saw the Jazzyfatnastees album and thought I’d take a risk, and buy it, knowing nothing about the group or their music. This can be a dangerous thing to do. You can end up buying a brilliant album, but just as easily, you can end up with the proud owner of the worst album ever recorded. Thankfully, this album fell into the first category. When I heard the album, I was smitten, I loved every track on the album, and since then I’ve listened to the album many times. Maybe once you’ve read this article, you too, will want to hear this fantastic album.

Nowadays there are only two members of Jazzyfatnastees, Tracey Moore and Mercedes Martinez. That wasn’t always the case. When they formed in 1992, they were originally a quartet. In 1993, the group signed a record deal with Tommy Boy Records. Sadly, this wasn’t the great start to their career that it should have been. By 1995, the record deal had fallen through. This lead to the quartet becoming a duo. For several years, their career stalled, it was going nowhere. 

Eventually, they found themselves in Philadelphia. It was while they were there, that they landed another record deal. They’d known various members of The Roots for a while, and had been their support act several times. Jazzyfatnastees signed a record contract with The Roots record label Motive Records, which was part of MCA Records. The duo started recording their debut album The Once and Future. They wrote and produced the album themselves. When the album was released, it was innovative, ahead of its time. It was one of the first Nu Soul albums. Critics liked the album, and welcomed the freshness of their music, which was a wonderful blend of sun kissed soul, and laid back hip hop.

Since their debut album released in 1999, they’ve released one further album The Tortoise and the Hare in 2002. A third album The World Is Coming was only released for limited downloading. It still hasn’t been released as an album. I find it hard to believe that since such a good debut album that Jazzyfatnastees career has not been more successful. Back in 1999, having heard the album and read its reviews, a great future was forecast for Jazzyfatnastees. When you hear this album, you too will wonder why they haven’t been more successful.

The Once and Future opens with The Wound, a track that open with hip-hop beats sitting in the background, a guitar plays gently, then suddenly a vocal emerges, Tracey Moore’s voice is strong, confident and dripping with soul. Harmonies accompany the vocal, both Moore and Martinez singing in unison. A keyboard meanders in the background. Even though the vocal is strong, at the front of the mix, the backing vocal are sweet, a perfect foil for Moore’s vocal. The track has a lovely summery vibe, one that is perfect listening on a long hot summer’s day. It’s a great way to start the album, and makes you long to hear the rest of the album.

Drums loud and crisp sit proudly at the front of the mix, a guitar sitting behind the drums, quietly playing a lovely melody. Mercedes Martinez takes over the lead vocal, her voice every bit as good as Tracey Moore’s. She has the same strong voice, and can handle both high and lower notes. When she sings, her voice veers between strong and sweet. The vocal harmonies are wonderful, Moore and Martinez’s voices combine masterfully, producing a track that is one of the album’s highlights. It’s an outstanding slice of soul for the 21st century.

Breakthrough has a very different start from the previous two tracks. It’s a much slower track, one with an old fashioned jazzy feel and sound, which the duo add their own unique twist. Their rendition of the song is both heartfelt and dramatic. From the opening bars, this is apparent. When you hear the opening of the track, the tempo is much slower, and Tracey Moore sings the song really slow, her vocal is dramatic, full of feeling. The harmonies intertwine beautifully with her lead vocal. It’s a song with a lovely melody, beautiful harmonies and a stunning lead vocal.

Unconventional Ways starts with a keyboard playing a lovely melody, against a backdrop of crisp, slow drums. The melody meanders and Mercedes Martinez sings the vocal. She sings the song slowly, her voice soft, understated. As usual, the harmonies are exquisite. Moore and Martinez’s voices blend perfectly. The song has a real laid back vibe, and like all the song’s on the album, has some great lyrics, which Moore and Martinez cowrote. They also produced the album.

When you hear the start to Hear Me, you think the laid back vibe will continue. Wrong. After starting slowly, it builds up gradually, the song opens out and gets faster. Not too fast, just a mid tempo song. The lyrics have a strong narrative, and are full of social comment, about the problems facing urban America, and the problems facing children and women, especially the way women are being treated badly by men. When Tracey Moore sings the vocal, her voice is full of passion. There is almost anger creeping into her voice. It’s a heartfelt performance, of a great song.

Sail the Seas begins with a piano and cello playing. The sound is minimalist and spacious, before Tracey Moore sings. Her voice is gentle, her delivery slow. Behind her strings play, smoothly, quietly, understated but effective. This allows Moore’s vocal to shine. When she does, the lyrics are beautiful, tinged in sadness. For most of the song she’s only accompanied by a piano, which make the song all the more powerful. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful song.

Related To Me, like Sail the Seas, begins with a piano playing. However, the comparisons end there. Mercedes Martinez vocal is just so sweet, the arrangement the lushest on the album. As soon a you hear the song, you’re smitten. It’s a glorious and romantic song, one with lovely lyrics. The song is melodic, loaded with hooks. By the time it ends, you’re wondering why didn’t this album do so much better?

At the start of The Lie, a cello plays, the sound slightly dark and moody, hip-hop beats accompany it. Then, the sound changes, it brightens. Drums still sit at the forefront of the mix, crisp, loud and proud. The vocals are sweet as ever, the harmonies tight, mixing melodically to produce a sound that is tight, at one. Here, the lyrics are dark, bathed in pathos, describing the damage drugs can do. Although the subject matter is dark, Jazzyfatnastees performance, arrangement and production are of the highest standard.

Why is another song with a strong narrative. It reads like a mini drama. It tells the story of a woman who has been cheated on, and tells how she turned a blind eye whilst her partner cheated on her. She tells how badly she was hurt, and how the experience nearly broke her. When you hear the bright opening of the song, you wouldn’t know that you’re about to hear a song of hurt and heartache. Mercedes Martinez sings the song with her usual delivery. In doing so, her delivery verges upon the defiant. It’s as if she’s saying that was me then, now I’m a strong and independent woman. The arrangement is uptempo, the song upbeat. If you didn’t take the time to listen carefully to the lyrics, you’d be totally unaware that this was anything other than a pleasant sounding song. Thankfully, it’s more than that, it’s a song that’s well written and well sung by Martinez.

The Once and Future ends with Let It Go. It begins with the by now familiar, crisp and crunching drum beats that sit right at the front of the arrangement. A rhodes keyboard subtly plays in the background, picking out a melody that meanders beautifully. Moore and Martinez share the lead vocal. Their voices compliment each other perfectly, one filling the spaces left by the other. They harmonize beautifully, both possessing voices they must have borrowed from angels. Let It Go is a strong, soulful song, one that is a great way to end the album. 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending time listening to Jazzyfatnastees and their debut album The Once and Future. I had almost forgotten just how good an album it is. Each song is of the highest standard, there is not one bad song on the album. Picking the best tracks is hard to do, such is the quality. Moore and Martinez both have beautiful voices, their ability to harmonize incredible. For a debut album, it’s a highly mature album. it’s the standard of album you’d expect a group to make by their second or third album. What is even more impressive, is that Moore and Martinez also wrote and produced the album. They’re truly two highly talented women, who deserve much more success than they’ve had so far. if having read this article, you think that you’d like to hear this album, I urge you to go out and buy it straight away. You won’t be disappointed. So good is the music that, like me, you’ll be left shaking your head wondering why Jazzyfatnastees aren’t a much bigger success than they already are? Standout Tracks: The Wound, Breakthrough, Sail the Seas and Let It Go.


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