“[Terrace] Martin chases commercial success with a few too many slick soul tunes that create discontinuity in his juicy sound bites”
Terrace Martin is an incredible producer and saxophone player. His contributions to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly gave it the jazz-fusion aesthetic that set it apart from the rest of the hip hop albums released that year. On his new solo album, Velvet Portraits, Martin tries to display his production and saxophone playing prowess in many different settings with mixed results. Although some of the songs succeed at implicating juicy production into dance-able funk grooves, Martin chases commercial success with a few too many slick soul tunes that create discontinuity in his juicy sound bites.
The front side of the album includes long-form jam tunes such as “Valdez Off Crenshaw” and “Curly Martin.” Martin succeeds at creating grooves that support the improvisations of his band. Also, his pieces are made more interesting with his production details. Processed vocals are added into the backdrop and Martin uses electronic manipulation to subdue his Saxophone lines in the mix resulting in a modernized take on the sounds of 1970s jazz/funk fusion.
Unfortunately, the more soul influenced songs come across as unnecessary reiterations of songs of the past. The slow, 6/8 groove of “Patiently Waiting” combines with the slick vocal work of feature-artist Uncle Chucc resulting in what sounds like a Ray Charles tribute track with very little originality. Also, the song “Push” models the fiery dance vibes of Tina Turner a bit obviously. The song “With You” also stuck out as excessively retro sounding, only succeeding at sounding dated.
The root of the problem with this album is the lack of subtlety. When faced with the task of adding sounds to Kendrick Lamar’s vocal work, Martin manages to add one element that makes the album work even better, but when left entirely to his own devices, Martin tries to use too many immediately satisfying sounds culminating in a few too many slick pop tunes.