September 28, 2020. And now for something a little different. Since 1975, David K. Mathews has been a sideman for some of the biggest names in jazz, funk, soul and R&B, playing keys most notably for Tower of Power, Etta James and, for the past decade, Santana.

But being a leader on an album is something a little different. Inclined to produce something that reflected the breadth of his musicality, Mathews soon realized this couldn’t be accomplished with just one record. That’s how he finds himself in the midst of a five-volume project, one that began with the release of 2018’s The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol. 1, an acoustic set devoted to standards.

His latest, the second “Fantasy Vocal Session” and last to be recorded at the recently shuttered Fantasy Studios in Berkeley where Sonny Rollins, Mingus and Beat-era icons like Allen Ginsberg and Lenny Bruce all recorded, is being marketed as a collection of jazz-inspired arrangements of soul, pop, and R&B tunes.

By my standards, it’s much more of the latter than the former.

That said, if you’re looking to have a relaxing dinner, maybe a little dancing to familiar tunes with creative adaptations, this album might just be for you. Most of the cuts here are tunes either written or defined by Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and James Brown, but the focus from Mathews’ perspective as an arranger is to showcase Bay Area mainstays like vocalists Amikaela Gaston, Tony Lindsay,