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Album review: Reach - Live at recordBar

Album review: Reach - Live at recordBar

(Photo by Brian Slater)
It’s been a hot minute since I have come across a live album from a Kansas City local act. In all actuality, I haven’t come across many. Sure, a live track here and there, a live demo album, and so on. But a real, full-length live album? If there had to be one to listen to, it would be from local emcee Reach.
I have only seen Reach perform live on one occasion—last year at the Midwestern Audio Vol. 1 release show at recordBar, where this live album was recorded. During the set I saw, Reach played with jazz group Diverse backing him—something that is entirely different than hip-hop artists, who often perform with just a DJ. Reach’s Live at recordBar album is similar to his Midwestern Audio performance. Having a live jam band—Mouth—and adding three talented backup singers (Schelli Tolliver, Vance Ashworth, and Sausha Brooks) and DJ Ataxic sets Reach apart from the rest.
Right off the bat you are hit with the feeling that you’re actually standing in recordBar. Reach introduces his band to you, the eager showgoer, before seamlessly sliding into “Burnin,” the opening track of his just-over-an-hour performance. The 21-track, 1.2-hour-length album is quite impressive when taking into consideration the amount of energy the emcee exudes. The tempo set by the band gives no hints that the set is mellow, and Reach has a persistent energy through the duration of the album.
High-tuned, riffy guitar sets the mood of each song. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes urban, sometimes unbelievable drums build the backbone, while plucky and prominent bass lines fill out the body. The ambiance created is done with the work of the backup vocalists, beautifully harmonizing and occasionally soloing. Everything is stitched together with the flawless flow coming from Reach himself.
The sounds and content of the songs seem to take you back to the original hip-hop ethic. Selfless lyrics about trying to support his child and live life as humbly as possible fill out his repertoire. Reach writes lyrics about earning his respect, and proving that he has worked for what he has. He doesn’t get caught up discussing his swag or his game; they are occasionally mentioned, but the majority of his songs are light-hearted, with tinges of seriousness.
Emcee Reach’s flow is undeniable. He doesn’t miss a single beat while performing his extensive set. Slow songs, fast songs, and even a freestyle are not too much for Reach. The participation of the crowd drives the energy of the album throughout.

--Steven Ervay

You can catch Reach at recordBar once again on January 8, where he will host the second installment of Let The Beat Build, a collaborative, improvisational urban jam session. The opening session will include Approach, Lou Rip, Les Izmore, Brad Williams, Nate Holt, and Reach, and the following two sets will be open to the public. This is a great opportunity for artists of different styles, from emcees to poets to musicians. Facebook event page. 

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