The story behind Love Pages is a fascinating one. It dates back to the New Orleans-based Essence Music Festival of 2000. Clarence, on a musical high from the event, enlisted musician/producer and friend, Duke Jones to recruit a band from the festival to play on a cruise ship he was chartering for a trip from New Orleans to Mexico. Having listened back to the nightly sessions they recorded on the ship, both Clarence and Duke realized that this simply had to be heard by the masses. Duke, who has been a staple in many classic R&B bands from the 70's onwards, was given the enviable task of assembling a line up that would bring the band's name and album concept to life. He responded by enlisting some of the most respected names in both jazz and R&B; George Benson, Peabo Bryson, Glenn Jones, Vesta, Christopher Williams, Jon Lucien, Maysa (of Incognito fame), not to mention the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section among the many noted musicians. He also summoned up long time friend and fellow musician/producer Norman Connors (who discovered R&B legends Phyllis Hyman and Jean Carne), in whose band Duke had been a mainstay for many years, to help steer the ship.
Love Pages is anchored by the Café Soul All-Stars, who are comprised of an equally stellar cast of renowned session musicians; Duke Jones - trumpet, Chris Albert - trumpet, Bobby Lyles - keyboards, Kaspar Galli - guitar, Steve Williams - drums, Rene McLean - sax and Alex Blake - bass. The end result is a riveting collection of songs that segues effortlessly from radio friendly, soulful R&B jams such as the first single, "What You Gonna Do" featuring Glenn Jones and "Used To Be" featuring Christopher Williams to Vesta's heartfelt vocals on the superlative, "One More Bridge To Cross." New offerings from Peabo Bryson (his powerful delivery on "Don't Make Me Cry" is a standout) and George Benson (singing the melancholic title track, "Pages") remind us why they remain two of the most important names in the last quarter-century of urban music. Round this out with the sensual sound of Café Soul All-Stars own Bobby Lyle and the steamy fusion brew, "Urban Jungle" (featuring Roy Ayers and Kenny Garrett) and it should be readily apparent why Love Pages is destined to become a staple in every true R&B lover's collection.
"When you consider the range and level of creative talent present on Love Pages, I felt Norman would be the perfect person to help bring it all together" says Duke. "I also believed his prior experience putting together concept albums would be invaluable to our efforts." It was a wise move. The end result is a CD that brims with the best there is in Soul and Jazz, allowing musical connoisseurs and casual fans the chance to revel in legendary names performing new material that will remain, like their older works, timeless.
Asked how he made the transition from magazine publisher to record executive Clarence Smith is pragmatic: "I believe there's a huge, untapped market for music whose appeal focuses on consumers who are 25 and over. I started YOU Entertainment, in part, as a vehicle to address this need because I believe the success of contemporary artists whose appeal fits this profile like Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott and Kem, to name a few, is not accidental. Although the medium is different, Essence was created with a similar fundamental belief: that high-quality content targeted towards an underserved and upwardly mobile consumer-base would resonate. I believe YOU Entertainment's timing is perfect to fill that void in the market."
Duke Jones concurs, while offering a further take on the project's origins: "We called our collective Café Soul, because in most cultures, a café is typically a destination point that allows diverse people to come together, relax, and immerse themselves in music, without fear of conforming to commercial stereotypes or restrictions. This is the conceptual vibe we sought to create and thankfully Clarence Smith gave us the green light to do that. Hopefully, listeners will appreciate the quality and sense of musical freedom that makes this album what it is. It was an incredible environment in which to create and be creative." The results speak for themselves.
Urban Jungle (Instrumental)
Pier 69 (Instrumental)