WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE! * WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE! * WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE!

Duncan Millar – Fresh Air

Feb. 4, 2013

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard anything from keyboardist/pianist Duncan Millar, but Fresh Air, his upcoming release (Feb. 12) on his own new label, Warmday RecorDuncan Millards, makes the wait worth it because it’s so very interesting.

With clean, crisp, and finessed tracks, Millar has returned on a mission…to establish a somewhat new direction. On his previous recordings, he chose the road most travelled — though it’s a road loved by so many –, that rhythmic, funky, high-steppin’ groove we fondly call smooth jazz. While Millar is still in the smooth jazz ballpark, he has adjusted the mood here to one of a softer, romantic, often exotic atmosphere, a lot of it being just right for lovers.

Millar piles up track after tasteful track on this album that displays a decent amount of savvy. Lots of upfront, cool keys.

There are lots of moods here, but they all suggest chillin’ out. For example, there is the smooth and bouncy “Southern Sky” which offers one mood while “Belmondon” offers romance and reflection.

Interestingly and ironically enough, the track “Blue Cool,” which could have been an appropriate title for the album, has a bit of a sassy edge to it. You could probably say the same, but to a lesser extent, about “Subcontinental,” a handsomely melodic piece indeed.

Another mood might be the title track with its subtle funk and bounce. Then, there’s also the exotic path on “Buenas” displaying a bossa nova twist with saxman Jaco Peake adding some punch with his tenor sax. More of that Brazilian cool is found on “Ilhabela,” a tune as gentle and swaying as the island breezes, again with Peake offering some sharp sax work.

Millar ends this otherwise chilled-out eclectic jazzy project with an up-tempo feel-good piece called “Get What You Give.”

An album full of nice surprises — if you’ve kept up with Millar — this is an appealing, chilled-out change that most can embrace, I’m sure. – Ronald Jackson