Igor Prado’s artistic vision seemingly knows no bounds. When the Igor Prado Band made its recording debut a dozen or so years ago, the focus was on expertly played vintage-oriented music: Charlie Christian swing and related jazz styles, urban and jump blues, a hint of roots rock. As time passed, the scope widened to encompass a broad range of blues, from the most low-down to the jazzier edges of the genre, and classic R&B and soul. Along the way, the guitarist and singer collaborated with some of the finest musicians on three continents:, including Ari Borger, keyboard maestro Raphael Wressnig, Lynwood Slim, J.J. Jackson, Junior Watson, Mitch Kashmar, Kim Wilson, Mike Welch, Curtis Salgado, Whitney Shay, and others.
In 2018, Prado made several bold moves. He recorded as a leader for the first time without the Prado Band, releasing a single (“You’re Gonna Have a Murder on Your Hands” b/w “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind”) with Justgroove that mixed slamming hard funk with silky urban soul and heavy blues guitar – something like Albert King meets Rick James at Bobby Womack’s house. His singing, which had grown stronger with each release, was dynamite.
His most recent release, the single track “Lay Around & Love On You, “ carries the music to new places. This cover of a late-period Ray Charles tune incorporates disparate elements into a modern soul-blues masterpiece. Prado lists the building blocks: a rock and roll rhythm guitar part, direct from Chuck Berry; a Bill Withers-inspired groove; funky bass; angular piano that (almost) nods to “Sex Machine”; super bad hip-hop beats from Brazilian legend, Sorry Drummer; with an Afro-Brazilian feel underneath it all. To that mixture, Prado adds sound effects; sweet, layered background vocals; a relaxed, super-soulful lead voice (with touches of auto-tune, guaranteed to blow blues fans’ minds); and, naturally, tough, straight-ahead blues guitar.
The result is like nothing we’ve heard before…or nearly so. The nearest analogue is Rick Holmstrom’s Hydraulic Groove. That genre-bending 2002 album, widely regarded as a masterpiece, proved in the end to stand alone as an object to be admired, rather than a significant influence on other artists. Until now, that is. Prado’s “Lay Around & Love On You” takes the Holmstrom soundscape – funky drums, deep grooves, great guitar playing, and the judicious application of sonic tricks and flourishes – and supercharges it with really killer vocals and a deep soul sensibility. Whether this is the beginning of a new tradition or merely a fantastic mash-up, Igor Prado has a created a challenging, jaw-dropping work of art. I can’t wait to hear what he does next.