Like Lee Field’s Faithful Man (an earlier honorable mention from this year), They Shall Inherit, the debut album by Lance Ferguson’s Menagerie project, explicitly tries to recreate a sound and style from the past. In this case, Ferguson has looked to of some of the best spiritual jazz and jazz-funk fusion of the early 1970s. He is unbelievably successful at this endeavor. The title track, which is split into three parts consisting of a drum, bass, and piano groove with alternating horn solos on top, punctuated by people singing “they shall inherit,” recalls Detroit’s legendary Tribe collective. The next song bears an uncanny recreation of the unmistakable sonic stamp of the Mizell Brothers’ work for Blue Note, most notably on Donald Byrd’s Black Byrd and Bobbi Humphrey’s run for the label. Roy Ayers, perhaps the most important sonic influence on this album, is featured on the amazing “Leroy and the Lion,” which features an incredibly funky guitar solo reminiscent of Grant Green circa Alive! This band clearly has an affinity for the Blue Note, Black Jazz, and Strata-East catalogs, and this deep sense of musical history, along with the effortlessly funky performances, is the album’s most impressive quality. On the other hand, I’m not so sure that this album manages to rise above just being a combination of influences. Regardless, it’s an extremely enjoyable record that has great replay value, and I’m excited to hear what this band is going to do next. The Pete Rock of 1994 would have had a field day with this album.
Menagerie - "They Shall Inherit"
Menagerie - "The Chosen"