On the cover of Must Be Nice, the Vermont duo comprising Soule Monde—drummer Russ Lawton and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski- stand in wintery repose on the grounds of a lifeless grey mansion. Paczkowski looks off into the distance while a smiling Lawton holds the sarcastic title card; two trespassers delivering the musical antidote to a cold, bleak, and uninviting place.
The notion of a 44-minute album solely consisting of drums and a Hammond organ might appeal to a limited audience. But Must Be Nice, the latest record from local funk duo Soule Monde, has more crossover flavor than might first appear. Composed of two noted local musicians, organist Ray Paczkowski and drummer Russ Lawton, Soule Monde are a block-party dance-athon and a refined, creative musical experiment. Verily, Must Be Nice has something for everyone.
Conceived and produced by guitarist Tim Weston, Wouldn't It Be Nice: A Jazz Portrait of Brian Wilson (Blue Note CDP 7243 8 33092 2 1; 65:39) is not your average tribute album. Employing an impressive array of musicians, from Jeffrey Osborne and the Yellowjackets to Dori Caymmi and Shelby Flint, the album is an eclectic and disarming exploration of Wilson's compositions, often bringing out shades of meaning bubbling below the well-traveled surfer anthems. The range of approaches alone is impressive: Don Grusin gives a swinging, semi-gospel read (with Tollack Olestad on harmonica) to "Surfer Girl," Eliane Elias takes a meditative solo piano look at both "Our Sweet Love" and "Friends," and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" is given a dark, emotional read with the combination of Osborne's deep vocals and Ralf Rickert's mute horn breaks.