Jay Soto--Mesmerized

One thing that can definitely be said about the style of guitarist Jay Soto: There is always enough bounce and ambience to go around, and his latest release, Mesmerized, is no exception to this observation.  His constantly smooth, tangle-free delivery seems to aim high and hit its target with each release since he landed on the scene back in 2005 with his debut album, Long Time Coming.

Not one to shy away from crafty, catchy hooks and melodies, the guitarist demonstrates his adeptness on the fretboard again with satisfying results.   Backed up here by guitar ace Freddie Fox and noted bassist Mel Brown, Soto’s easily likable phrasings and rhythms are matched with tight riffs, as is evidenced on tracks like “A Love Like Mine,” the snappy and funky “Groovalicious,” “Diggin’ It,” “Sunday Smile,”  and the title track, which features sunny backing vocals by Jodi Light.  To add variety to this spice,  Soto switches gears in between all this with the sweet and soulful “Together At Last” and the (obviously) bluesy “Bayou Blues” before finishing with “Cacophony,” the driving finale.

Not straying much from what has worked for him in the previous two releases, there’s just enough flair and polish here in Mesmerized, this latest chapter in the continuing Soto story, to keep his fans “right there” without reservation.

I think it’s safe to say that, after two in-the-groove albums that have caught the attention of many a smooth jazzer, Soto has the hang of it in a big way and will be a name we’ll hear over and over as the motor of smooth jazz keeps on running solidly, regardless of the premature news of its demise.  Count on artists like Soto to keep it alive. -- Ronald Jackson