“On the Block”, the first solo album of Robert was released in 2012! On this album he had the privilege to work with a group of musicians and singers/ songwriters with whom he has worked throughout his career, and who inspired him as a bass player and songwriter. The songs are a mix of funk, jazz and R&B – also known as smooth jazz.
Play that funky music, white boy!
author: Nienke van Ketel
I bought Robert Kramers’ first solo album and am happy I did, even though ususally I don’t listen much to smooth jazz or funk. However, I don’t know any music lingo… so in this review you won’t read how This is kick-4ss bass line, or That riff is heavenly (in fact I had to google to learn a few words in bassguitarese), nor do I know any of the bassplayer legends so have no one to compare Robert to. What I do know is how music makes mefeel and the pictures it makes me see.
Welcome to the tour:
- The first track, “Back to Now” ironically takes me away from now and backto the TV shows of the seventies and early eighties. I can just see TomSelleck, aka Magnum PI, slide his sunglasses up his nose, jump into his nifty lil’ red Ferrari and cruise down the Hawaiian coast. Without his shirt on.
- “Wond’ring ‘bout you” shows me the New York night skyline and scenes from “Moonlighting” – up to the 03.27 mark where Robert picks up the phone and calls his lady love. This changes the feel of the track from wiseguy private detective-y to a mellow beach partyish.
- “Can’t live like this” – play on headphones! All elements fit perfectly. Christina Garai’s performance is amazing, she has a very rich, multi-faceted voice. I expected her to be an African-American soul singer in her thirties but no, ladies and gentlemen, she’s Hungarian and 23 years old. However, imho the lyrics don’t really fit the fullness of her voice and the maturity of the instrumentals – full of teenage angst and existential insecurity. A good song that would have been a great song but for the lyrics.
- “Black and White” reminded me of Prince and the New Power Generation. Go figure. Now,
- “Sand Mountain Joy” is my absolute favorite. It’s one of two tracks that doesn’t have that late seventies/early eighties feel to it. You know how there are songs that just seep into your soul, make you forget about the world for a while, and you just sit and stare out the window – this is one of those songs. It’s simply stunning. Oh all right, I can’t resist.
- The riff in “Take Off” is heavenly. Miami Vice this time – shiny white motor boats filmed from a bird’s eye view with scantily clad ladies on board, sipping cocktails, Don Johnson in his pastel pink jacket at the helm.
- “Omage” – the other odd one out. A butt-wiggle happy dance catchy tune. White beaches, blue seas, stiff drinks in coconuts, musicians in white tuxedos with pencil moustaches… you get the picture.
- “Balaton Beauty” is a funky lovesong and an amazing duet between the sax and the bass.
- “Gimme the Beat” starts out as a typical come-hither song with Christina Garai inviting her man to rock with her all night long. Melody is danceable and catchy – so far, so good. And then Robert steps in and takes the song to a higher level with a hilarious rap, giving advice to the guy who is invited to rock with his lady all night long… Awesome.
- “Stars” is a collaboration with another female vocalist, Lizzy Koster. Nice and mellow, a perfect final song. Throughout the songs one thing is perfectly clear: Robert and the other musicians’ shared passion for music. Some artists make me feel like their music is the soundtrack to their egos but Robert has the gift of getting out of the music’s way. Music is played through him, not by him, which takes a lot of talent and a lot of hard work. It makes for an amazing album.
Patrick Van de Wiele:
“Robert has been working on his first solo album for five years. He wrote or co-wrote nearly every song on the CD, played the bass, did additional & drum programming, sang backing vocals & raps, played the guitar and produced the set. On this album he worked with a number of befriended musicians who inspired him over the years. Opener ‘Back To Now’ is very melodic smooth jazz, with keyboards and sax, but the bass stays on top. ‘Wond’ring ‘Bout You’ is the only cover. Robert played on this song on I.P. Wenzel’s album ‘Switched On’ and covers it here with keys by Wenzel and sax by Ric Alexander. Robert added his rap, and it works, because the track is number one on the www.cdbaby.com jazz funk and smooth jazz play lists! ‘Can’t Live Like This’ is sung by C. Garai and is very soulful. Funk reigns on ‘Black Or White’ with funky organ & horns, and Robert’s rap in the intro. He does it all by himself on fretless bass on ‘Sand Mountain Joy’. He returns to smooth jazz with ‘Take Off’ which has some fantastic bass playing followed by the great Latin track ‘Omage’. The Spanish guitar of Zs. Rimes, who also wrote the track, is lovely. Deep bass playing dominates ‘Balaton Beauty’ with muted trumpet and sax. This is nice jazz funk! ‘Gimme The Beat’ is again sung by C. Garai in a funky, lazy way. The closing track is ‘Stars’ with vocals by L. Koster. I of course prefer the melodic smooth jazz tunes, but on the other tracks Robert delivers some fantastic bass as well. Recommended!”
No Solo Smooth Jazz (Spanish website):
Estamos seguros que “On The Block” será uno de los discos a destacar en este año 2.012.
“Robert Kramers debut On The Block will absolutely enthuse lovers of bass and beyond. Captivating melodies with high potential.” Read the whole review at the above link
Best heard this week, March 18, 2012
“Robert Kramers – On the Block : You have to respect a jazz-funk album featuring bass that also has some very listenable rap. Robert pulls all this off and more in this tasty offering. It’s got a little bit of everything, and Robert’s truly impressive playing doesn’t hurt a bit.
Funk it up.”
“Sometimes I’m not proud to be a Dutchman but this is different cake, now I’m proud as a chicken with seven cocks. May I introduce to you an other fellow Dutchman Robert Kramers. Robert Kramers is an outstanding bass player and writer as well producer. Kramers just released his first solo album ‘On The Block’ on his own independent label ‘Robert Kramers’. The album consist of ten tracks which he all produced. The styles on this album are Smooth Jazz, Jazz Funk, Rap, Soul.
Robert was inspired by bands like ‘Earth Wind And Fire’, ‘Commodores’, ‘George Benson’, Motown Bass Legend ‘James Jamerson’ and an other old school bass hero ‘Marcus Miller’. When you hear Robert play he just sounds like Miller and that is a very big compliment and i really mean it. That’s why I’m so proud. The album sounds very fresh because the mastering is very good, sounds like an American production.
- The opening track ‘Back To Now’ is a killer instrumental smooth jazz tune. Superb bass play, check the bridge. On top of the bass you hear beautiful strings. It has a nice melody and some great ‘seventies/blaxploitation’ sounds like the organ and synths. What a track .
- The same is also valid for the instrumental ‘Wond’ring ‘Bout You’. The bass is not that present but it’s exchanged for the Alto Saxophone, beautifully played by Rick Alexander. When you hear this track for the first time then you probably think it’s George Howard, or Najee.
- The soul track ‘Can’t Live Like This’ is a vocal track done by Christina Garai. The bridge/bass line (2:06) has some influences of ‘Settle Down’ by ‘Lillo Thomas’. Robert must create an extended version of it;-)
- ‘Black Or White’ sounds very seventies. This sound is created by the Organ play of Henne Reijs, and by the chants of the different Horns (James Brown). Robert Raps on top this what creates a nice blend of new and old school music.
- On track five ‘Sand Mountain Joy’ Robert Plays on his fretless Bass, no other instruments are presents.
- He continues with the next track ‘Take Off’ in the same style as the opening track. Fabulous bass work with great strings, fender Rhodes and nice background chants. Also a killer instrumental smooth jazz track.
- The Latin influenced track ‘Omage’ with great percussion work with great ‘Spanish’ guitar play by Zsolt Rimes, who also wrote this song.
- The down-tempo smooth jazz track ‘Balaton Beauty’ is indeed a beauty. Very deep bass with on top the sax, hmm this sounds like more.
- The last track on this album is ‘Gimme The Beat’. It starts with the beat followed by that pumpin’ bass of Robert.
- The vocals of L. Koster finish the song.
This album is worth every penny. Great Job Robert, go for the next one .”
Pieter de jong:
“Is erg erg gaaf geworden je CD! Ik heb hem net per post ontvangen. Hij klinkt te gek, mooie composities, strakke hoes – gewoon VET-VET-VET. Tevens een pluim voor Frans Vollink – ik begrijp dat hij ook een belangrijke bijdrage heeft geleverd als masteraar.”
“Al enige dagen in de cdspeler. Ga ‘m kopen, want dit album van deze nederlandse topbassist klinkt geweldig!! Smoothjazz op z’n best! ”
“Amazing artist and incredible CD! Robert Kramers is easily one of the grooviest, funkiest bass players out there. This CD is everything I wanted it to be from. Robert, soulful, funky, jazzy and groovy. All the things he does best rolled into one cd. Robert Kramers is simply the bomb!!. ”
“Heb je cd al de hele week loeihard in de auto (100W met 200W subwoofer) op staan. Krijg er voorlopig nog lang niet genoeg van :-). M’n complimenten voor een mooi product.”
“Niets te veel gezegd! ON THE BLOCK … helemaal te gek!!!! ”
“Hee Robert, ik draai je cd de hele week en ik vind het echt een topcd. Nogmaals mijn complimenten.”