Like most things in 2020, the concept of contemporary jazz keyboardist Patrick Bradley’s fifth album slated for release on January 15 took a dramatic turn when the pandemic hit and racial strife erupted. Although ideas for the eleven-song set were already sketched out, when he and producer Darren Rahn wrote the uplifting title track, “Exhale,” which drops as a single on January 4 on the Patrick’s Song Factory label, the composition seemed to encapsulate exactly what Bradley was feeling and believes that we are all in need of: expel the fear, worry and division gripping the nation and inhale unifying hope and peace.
“It’s kind of a musical release from all the tension and difficulty of 2020. I thought the album title was going to be ‘Providence’ until we wrote ‘Exhale.’ That became the clear title track of the album. It also played into where I was at mentally with 2020, which has been a pretty rough year for everybody. Knowing I was going to release (the album) in January, it seemed perfect to call it ‘Exhale.’ That’s the motif of the album and all the songs are kind of in that vein. I want to inspire, help and bring hope,” said Bradley, whose last album, “Intangible,” scored two Billboard top 10 singles – “Tailwind” (No. 5) and “Dear Friend” (No. 8) - and the title track was a top 20 single.
Bradley recorded “Exhale” during quarantine without ever being in the studio with Rahn, who produced nine tracks for the project, or GRAMMY winner Jeff Lorber, who produced a pair of tunes. After recording three albums produced entirely by Lorber, Bradley felt the need for change as he enters the next phase in his recording career. Both Lorber and a friend, sax sensation Dave Koz, recommended Rahn.
“It’s always different when you enter a new situation not knowing if it’s going to work, but with Darren, things fit together perfectly both as a producer and a songwriting partner. I brought the bones and DNA of the songs into the project, but Darren’s creative input really helped get the songs to where they are now,” said Bradley.
For the faith-rooted keyboardist, the majority of songs have a spiritual connection. While the entire album is instrumental, Bradley’s messages are intentional. He wrote “Reinvention” prior to the pandemic, but the purpose of the song was galvanized by the impact of COVID-19 along with the civil protests.
“I was at a point where – pre-pandemic but came to light during the pandemic – I was blown away where the country was, where people were and how, even my friends - close friends and acquaintances - saw things around the country so completely different than one another. That, coupled with all the racial unrest, made me question what my role is in this. What do I do? How do I become a better person in this situation? How do I help lead and change what I can change? I don’t want to just sit back and do nothing. It was one of those moments like ‘Reinvention, man. Boy, could I use one.’ The world and everybody individually as well. We could all get into a different space,” said Bradley, who also serves as Regional President of the Southern Pacific Region of Whole Foods Market.
Bradley embarked on this recording project with a clear vision and an intentional mindset.
“I had a specific goal and strategy in mind. Every song is really intentional; every note is really intentional. I definitely wanted to explore a bit more, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure that I had four or five songs that were easily accessible for a larger audience. The other side of it is, I wanted the rest of it to be more exploration – more fusion and rock, where my real inspiration comes from. If you listen to the album in sequence, it actually goes that way. It starts off with a lot of accessibility and as it progresses, it gets into more of the progressive, jazz fusion-type songs. I was probably more intentional on this album than any other album as far as how it plays.”
The “Exhale” album is a contemporary jazz amalgam constructed of jazz fusion, rock, R&B, blues, funk and pop. The melodies are lush and indelible, fragrantly blossoming amidst soulful grooves. The fusion excursions stretch beyond and across borders. The production deftly melds the warm organics of live instrumentation and the modernity of synthesized sonics. The musicianship throughout is top shelf. With Bradley playing piano, organ, keyboards and synths, he was accompanied by Rahn (saxophone, keyboards, synths & programming), Lorber (keyboards, synth bass & guitar), guitarist Michael Thompson, horn player and arranger David Mann, bassist Mel Brown, percussionist Christian Teele, and drummers Tarell Martin, Gary Novak and Dave Weckl. Rahn, chart-topping trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Allen Hinds are featured as soloists.
Bradley hopes that listeners will discover “Exhale” and be receptive to feeling and receiving his musical messages as we put 2020 behind us and start fresh.
“I know we’re going to get through this. It might be different on the other side and I don’t know what it’s going to look like next year,” said Bradley, who debuted in 2007 with the album “Come Rain or Shine.”
“This is a special project and I’m hoping people get that when they listen to it because it’s almost like there’s some of my DNA in there. I’m hoping people really get the sense of hope and peace that’s in this thing. We all need it. We’ve all had a hard year – whether it’s COVID fatigue, political fatigue or whatever. I’m hoping people will listen to the album and it will give them some sort of release, a sense of hope, and that somehow it’s inspirational.”
Exhale track listing
“Song Of May” featuring Darren Rahn
“Sip‘n the Breeze”
“Cat Man Blues” featuring Rick Braun
“Meant To Be” featuring Darren Rahn
“Lighthouse” featuring Allen Hinds
“In the Heart of the Seas”
“Walk with Me”