THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE


Avenue H--Off the Floor

Want a groove with a solid persona? Enter Avenue H…and step aside as they motor through with quite a head of steam. Their debut release, Off the Floor, has a mighty and confident strut to it, and the group is here to put it front and center. Crisp, searing sax work by Dan Leonardo, accompanied by Sam Hobbs and Conor Miller, who share keys and guitar work, put a huge “Q” in quality here. By the way, Sam Hobbs on bass is simply extraordinary.

In my opinion, Off the Floor offers so much of what smooth jazzers seek that you have to be very thankful that these guys decided to cut this debut and share it now on the national level, especially at a time when there are murmurings (in some corners, shouts) that smooth jazz is dead or dying.  However, I do understand that the gravity of this spectacular group has not been lost on some choice media, like radio station KTWV, the WAVE, in Los Angeles. Great sense of smell and taste, guys!  Nothing about this album spells “ho-hum” in any language. The smokin’ hot opening firecracker, “Straight Up the Middle” has bass chops to die for, and I understand that one of the group’s driving influences is bassist Marcus Miller and the heat he brings.  They do him proud here!  Then, there’s the captivatingly soulful “Silk to Sand” and the splendid cover of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.”  Talk about charisma.

Every tune is played with a sense of urgency, the sense that it must be felt by all who listen. The album speaks to the need to have listeners understand and experience good, solid, well-executed smooth jazz that often plays with some of the complexities of the dynamic fusion between jazz, world, and funk. Great examples of the fusion element can be found on the last four tracks, “Down the Strip,” “Pinky,” “Resolution,” and “Trade Winds.”

Overall, this production is destined to open many a jazzer’s eyes in acknowledgement of the length and breadth of its appeal.  While only the MP3 version of the album is available through Amazon, for those who still prefer the good ol’ CDs, the CD is available via cdbaby.com.  Do yourself a big favor: Check out this one, and enjoy the energy.  I suspect we’ll be hearing much more from Avenue H. -- Ronald Jackson