Yes, Taylor McFerrin is the son of Bobby McFerrin and actually Early Riser, whilst a debut album, has been around – or bits of it have at least – for quite some time. So this is more a case of the end-result; an album that’s been honed, sat on. The fact that it’s part of the ever-expanding Brainfeeder label might overhype it – you see this is more Robert Glasper than Flying Lotus. Actually, the silky jazz of Already There (featuring Glasper and Thundercat) is a highlight. It’s one of many tracks that show McFerrin’s great skill as a producer – harnessing an innate jazziness. The vocal tracks – such as Decisions (featuring Emily King) and The Antidote (featuring Nai Palm) – while nice, sound at best unremarkable, often close to dated. Sometimes just sedated.
His famous father makes an appearance for the loping, sloped-off beat of the title track, McFerrin Senior’s voice still an amazing instrument, sounding here about as good as it ever has in fact. It’s laconic though – I could have done with this playing out through several moods, and certainly for longer.
Early Riser is never a bad album but it’s also never as exciting as I hoped it would be. The sound – the sonic – is lush, warm, sometimes actually a little too perfect. But it isn’t until the album’s closer, PLS DNT LSTN, that we get the full grasp of McFerrin’s jazz/fusion feel – it’s as if he’s splicing DJ Shadow treatments up against material from Jaco Pastorius’s great self-titled debut. By then, the great wonder that that is – and one or two other ‘nice’ tracks – it’s too late. And the filler-fodder that dictates will have any serious-minded beat-junkie heading for the hills, looking for a sound that’s more exciting, more interesting than most of what’s here.