THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE


The Sax Pack--The Pack Is Back

You know, I happened to look over the latest tracks for the latest offering from the Sax Pack (Kim Waters, Steve Cole, and Jeff Kashiwa), entitled The Pack Is Back, and I realized that my review could almost be summed up by a few of the track titles. Let’s try that out:  Say these titles in your head: "Are You Ready," "The Pack Is Back," "Smooth As Silk," and "Here To Stay."  Works like a charm, especially once you’ve heard the CD!

The Pack Is Back sets out to continue the fine work of the debut self-titled release by these master saxes, who are truly committed to theirs being a working band and not just a project or two. Since the band’s inception via the vision of former Rippington Jeff Kashiwa, it has consistently worked to impress, inspire, and invigorate its fan base and all who appreciate good smooth jazz.  Its record in doing so is, so far, impeccable.  The guys have been on a hot 5-year tour as a band, delighting fans everywhere with memorable live sets.

In this sophomore release, the grooves fit just right. Nothing is too heavy or too light to wear the “Made By” label of this group. One of the most alluring characteristics of this band is its use of the sweetest harmonies and phrasings between the horns. Like listening to a vocal group such as the Temptations or Supremes, it all works and dances together in a great show of class.  You’re never very far away from serious jazz influences when listening to the arrangements here, despite the strong call to boogie down. Just listen to the tight runs and scales of all three, and you know that this was the right trio to have assembled for the productions they’ve cranked out.  Of course, the funk is alive and kicking here. Just check out “Are You Ready” with the weight of Andre Berry’s bass and the insistence of Brian Dunne’s drums. This one is polished to a sheen and yet still maintains that dirty-funk edge. Undoubtedly, these guys were all having big fun here.  Other tracks of note include the get-on-the-dance-floor title cut, followed by the romantically soulful “All That I Am.”  Another dose of smartly choreographed horns.

Yes, the Pack is back and, as it was with the Rat Pack, the Sax Pack seems to have the right formula to make theirs a longstanding success story. -- Ronald Jackson