Carl Joe Williams’ Soul Euphoric by: Denise Frazier
If “euphoria” is indeed as its definition promises, then the “normal course of human experience” is soon to be heightened by the soothing, melodic psychoactive tonic of Carl Joe Williams’ hip hop recording label Soul Euphoric. Williams, renown New Orleans artist and sculptor, infuses the sounds of his musical mistresses: jazz, hip hop, r&b, and soul in a delectable sip that recalls images of smoky juke joints with plush couches in rich, warm tones, dark liquor and a red-lipped modern-day sultry Billie-type with locs in the form of Zena Moses, crooning brassy interludes by trombone player Jeremy “Mojo” Phipps mixed with New Orleans hip hop dexterity provided by Brandon “B Spitta” Johnson, and the up and coming John Michael Bradford on the trumpet. Like Williams’ art, nostalgia and innovation cross paths and mark time in the syncopated rhythmic search of what is the “new” New Orleans sound.
This might be a surprise to some of his art fans, but Williams has been making music as long as he has painted and sculpted. Doing this music is just like painting. It feels like it is coming from the exact same place. There is a certain amount of freedom that I have in music that I don’t have in art. It’s this thing where I don’t have to worry about explaining anything! It’s like a purer kind of expression. Williams found this freedom at the tender age of 14 where the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts cultivated his thirst for artistic freedom, and he found it in music making. I had so many people that I grew up with that were musicians. It was like all my friends were musicians. I was the only artist. I was surrounded by musicians! It was a wonder that he was able to keep his music making secret from his friends. It was only after a synergetic conversation with the internationally celebrated New Orleans sculptor John Scott that Williams’ love for music came out of hiding. When I was being mentored by John Scott, he was telling me, “You know what, I’ve been having conversations with Ellis.” You know Ellis Marsalis and him were friends. John Scott was a real prominent artist here in this city, and he passed away shortly after Katrina and he was my mentor. Scott later revealed to Williams that Marsalis was also interested in composing the exact same type of musical blending as Williams had always imagined. Come to find out we were working on the exact same thing. And that stuck with me for years. I saw John Scott as a teacher; he inspired me to continue with this exploration. Being mentored by John Scott while being on the same sonic wavelength as New Orleans music legend Ellis Marsalis was a sign to Williams.
Once I could express my ideas musically, man, it just opened up a new pathway in my brain and I was at it. So, when the technology started getting better, it just made it easier. Yeah, that’s kinda how I started. Inspired by friends and motivated by the hotbed of creativity that was his NOCCA experience, Williams quietly began to work on beats, listening intently to his musician friends, and playing the dual role of the music producer dressed in artist’s clothing. He states: The idea that there was a link between music and art stuck with me for years. I saw so many serious musicians who had mastered trumpets, mastered basses and guitars and all that stuff. I hadn’t mastered anything! But, I could sit there and play that keyboard and compose, arrange and listen. And I actually had my own method of composing and arranging music, because I couldn’t read it, but I had to figure out some kind of way of organizing it. So, I had my own little way of remembering what was going to come after this and how to arrange it.
Fast forward after high school, new burgeoning technology for music production, Katrina, a stint in Atlanta, and the rise of Williams’ artistic presence in the Crescent City, “Neo-Gumbo” is the latest musical product of Williams’ Soul Euphoric, and it’s ready to be passed around! The new album features some of the silky rhythms of New Orleans smooth jazz as it mixes and combines hip hop elements and r&b vocal stylings. Williams’ line-up of musical influences offers a “Neo-Gumbo” that packs a gentle and pleasing punch upon first auditory savoring. “Fly Instrumental”, for instance, is one of those few tracks that makes you feel cooler just from listening to it. The mournful trombone reaches heights of personification and almost appears to second line with the melodic piano licks. And then a refreshing interlude from a lilting chorus of voices transports a hint of inspiration, amidst the inherent soulful and introspective personality of the song. The irrepressible bass provides a stabilizing agent to the improvisation of the horn. Another ear pleasing track, “Soul Searcher”, provides a perfect poetic counterpoint with thought-provoking lyrics that also make you bop your head.
Neo-Gumbo’s full-bodied, mature sounds entice the listener to imagine how an artist paints with musical notes. And with Carl Joe Williams as the chef/music producer of this melodic gumbo, we are sure to hear more soulful, beautiful colors and lines with Soul Euphoric’s work.