“Live In Brookyln” x Tiger Speak : A Review

Earlier this month Tiger Speak released their long-awaited live album titled Live in Brooklyn, which was recorded in Brooklyn’s Shapeshifter Lab.

To anyone who unfamiliar with the band they can be best described a cross between The Robert Glasper Experiement and The Roots.  The band consists of eight formally trained musicians (many of whom attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music), who draw heavy influences from the closely related worlds of jazz and hip hop.  Portions of their music contain cleverly written horn arrangements, as well as lengthy improvised sections (hence my comparison to Glasper), however the band also fronted by an emcee, Ryan Easter, who is also one of the band’s trumpet players (hence my comparison to the Roots). Just liked those aforementioned artists, Tiger Speak is at their best when performing before a live audience.

While their debut self-titled release is definitely worth a listen, it didn’t accurately capture the bands energetic sound.  Without a doubt, Live in Brooklyn does.  The album contains revamped versions of many of the songs of the previous LP, as well as a few new songs, and new guest appearances.

The album begins by revisiting 3 songs that appeared previously on their debut album.  Whether it can be attributed to the individual improvements that each band member has made in the past 2 years or the differences in recording, each live track is noticeably better than their studio-recorded counterparts.  The band sounds tighter, the vocals are delivered more confidently, and the live atmosphere electrifies each song.

As a fan, I would have wanted to hear a full album of new material, however the do provide fans with 5 new songs .  The varying dynamics in “Share All,”  dramatic tempo changes in “All We Are,” and the tight pocket in “If The Words” (the first verse of which was apparently freestyled) all demonstrate growth that the band has made in musical compositions and overall chemistry.  As a frontman/lead emcee Ryan Easter  does a great job maintaing the band’s high energy.  Upon first listen many of his lyrics sound almost nonsensical. However, with each listen I was able to pick up on some of his punchlines, and decode a few more of the similes and metaphors that are laced through his verses. The lovely vocals from Raquel Rivera strengthen the band’s hooks and melodies, which were a bit lack-luster on the first LP.   The two additional raps from MoRuf! also add an enjoyable amount of energy and stylistic variation.

Ryan Easter and Raquel Rivera live at Shapeshifter, BK

On the instrumental side of things,  the new drummer, Ian Barnett, can be credited for the tighter and more rhythmic sound that the band displays on this live recording.  Guitarist Eitan Akman and tenor saxophonist Jared Yee provide some stand-out solos that on “Share All” and “87,” respectively.

In my opinion, the album’s true highlight is the revamped version of “87” that concludes the album.  The song proved to be the most memorable from the first LP, and the band’s familiarity with song is instantly noticed as the horn section confidently belts the melody and Ryan an MoRuf! spit their verses with an intensity that is reminiscent of The Root’s “Esaaywhuman” (#hiphopNerdReference)

Overall I highly recommend this album.  It’s hip hop, it’s jazz, it’s musical, it’s lyrical, and will surely satisfy any music lovers who still appreciate the commitment that goes into mastering a musical instrument.  Tiger Speak has definitely taken a step in the right direction.  Anybody who gives this album a listen should be excited to hear new things from the band down the road.

Check out the album below, and jump over to their bandcamp to grab a copy of it for your collection if you’re feelin’ it.


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