Maze tonight at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (7/21/2012)



MAZE Maze maestro and magus Frankie Beverly is tagged as keeper of the smooth-but-gritty Philly soul flame. In truth, his roots go deeper and wider. Beverly apprenticed in gospel and doo-wop, bypassing the ’70s City of Brotherly Love soulster factories that spawned the Stylistics, Delfonics, et al. Launching Maze under the tellingly descriptive moniker Raw Soul, his muse hews closer to acid jazz prophet Roy Ayers and the stylish R&B of Marvin Gaye. Gaye proved to be mentor as well as influence, a debt Beverly acknowledges with his signature tune “Silky Soul” which pays heartfelt tribute to Gaye and “What’s Going On.” Though his robust vocals recall the master, Beverly is no mere Gaye copyist. Maze is to the Motown visionary what a post-punk outfit like Gang of Four is to the Sex Pistols, a refinement that revels in its roots. Influences like the syncopated deep blues of Taj Mahal and the blistering funk of the Isley Brothers abound, but Maze never strays far from raw soul, eschewing the disco and hip-hop bandwagons embraced by contemporaries like Earth, Wind & Fire. The move may have cost Beverly a broader audience, but he proves that consistency needs not mean soul-sucking mediocrity. With Patti Labelle, The O’Jays, and Kenny 'Babyface’ Edmonds. $50-$145. July 21, 6 p.m. Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. 704-549-1292.

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