Cover Art heralds the NEXT Collective: Seven musicians—Logan Richardson (flute and alto saxophone), Walter Smith III (bass clarinet and tenor saxophone), Matthew Stevens (guitar), Gerald Clayton(piano and Fender Rhodes), Kris Bowers (Fender Rhodes), Ben Williams(bass) and Jamire Williams (drums) —whose debut quite capably bears up under the heavy "young lions of jazz" mantle. Bassist Williams won the prestigious 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition; drummer Williams has extensively recorded with trumpeterChristian Scott, who guests on several Cover tunes, and he appeared with Stevens on Scott's 2012 landmark Christian aTunde Adjuah (Concord Jazz).
Like Charlie Parker carved out his bebop breakout "Koko" from the chords of the orchestral dance tune "Cherokee," NEXT Collective presents a debut completely assembled from the pop(ular) music of their rock, rap, RnB, hip-hop and pop contemporaries, and even though there's not one "jazz tune" on it, Cover Art is most certainly, and most pleasingly, jazz. It opens with two horns playing simultaneously (another great jazz tradition) atop a rolling snare drum, welcoming the piano that lays down the melody to "Twice" (Little Dragon). The saxophones seem to seek out and connect to the drummer until Stevens' melodic guitar lines tie the entire tune together.