THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE

George Anderson--Positivity

It’s not news when an artist spins off from a group to do his or her own thing. It is news when that artist can create a really personal signature touch and has such a magnetic appeal with the material he has written to identify and introduce himself as a solo artist.  In this case, that person is the bassist for British acid jazz group Shakatak, George Anderson.  His solo debut album, Positivity, is of the stuff I wish I could hear constantly in smooth jazz.  A genuine blend of smooth charisma, dirty funk, top-shelf vocals by one Debby Bracknell (a name to remember!), and instrumental mastery is just what any music doctor would order for a so-called ailing genre (and “ailing” is what smooth jazz has been depicted as being lately).  When you hear Anderson’s material, you have to seriously wonder how bad off is smooth jazz these days…really?  The music is here in abundance; the commitment to quality and the drive are so alive and well! This album should serve as a recruitment tool—or, at the very least, a serious hit of encouragement--for those in doubt of our beloved genre’s direction and/or fate, the rationale of many radio stations notwithstanding!

Anderson opens with a very melodic and catchy track called “Lay Ur Hands On Me” that does the set-the-mood trick easily.  A mellow, seductive “What I Gotta Do” follows with tender vocals by Bracknell.  Then, there’s the acid jazz mover called “It Ain’t Over,” that sparkles with the type of fast-moving fusion that’s approached with a bit of intellectualism and pride.  Track 4, “Beauty Inner Smile” has all of the markings of Shakatak (a group toward which I hold an undeniably favorable bias) , with Bracknell again  leading the way with her magnificently alluring vocal style (it is truly uncanny how much like Jill Saward she sounds, yet still maintains her own full-throated identity!).  “All 4 U,” with its hypnotic vocals and keys, and a mighty hook just spells lust, romance, wine, starlight, candles, and so much soul that it makes one tremble.  To put that much energy and spirit into a tune speaks volumes about how well an artist understands the depth of his own music.  Before one can settle back and savor the tastiness of that tune, in comes a George Duke-ish funkster, “Cool Operator” (oh, no, certainly not  “Smooth Operator”—taking nothing away from that sexy and smooth classic).  This one sports funk so brazenly that it pulls—no, snatches-- you into its state of mind, dancing and grooving unmercifully and delightfully. There’s even the strange attraction of some sassy rap thrown in to get your juices flowing. This one covers all of the bases (hmm…is there a slight play on words here somewhere?).  The mood adjusts again with the chilled “Run 2 Me,” dripping in melodic sweetness with Bracknell’s vocals.

So it goes with this sterling production by a bassist who can hold his own and then some. There are just too many tunes here that qualify as favs for me, including a stomping, rhythmic groove called “I Want U” and a nod to keyboardist/producer extraordinaire Herbie Hancock with the up-tempo and kickin’ (what else?) “Herbie.” 

Anderson has done himself great honor and a huge favor by stepping out with this debut.  It will surely capture the attention of any serious smooth and/or acid jazzer. --  Ronald Jackson