Jeff Ryan — Embrace

July 13, 2018

As you have probably personally experienced more than once, there are debut releases from artists who show much promise and, with a little more focus and work, just might make it as a recognizable name in this business. There are also one-shot wonders who quickly fade away…and then there are those artists who simply blow off the doors upon entering the scene, their sound and style being so commanding and solid. New saxman Jeff Ryan belongs in the latter group. So taken was I by his debut release Embrace that I had to literally sit in my car listening until the last track, frozen in a satisfied awed state.

Packed with tight, clear sax runs, catchy irresistible melodies and hooks, funky up-tempo grooves and sexy, romantic serenades, this album has it all and everything to pave the way to the top of the charts. Reminding me of the authority with which sax giant Euge Groove and other biggies in the biz presented their own debut releases, Ryan follows suit in this expressive chatty sax set.

Grabbing you immediately with that snappy confident feel one often associates with the likes of the iconic Richard Elliot, Ryan lights into “Up and Up” and sets out to immediately claim a slice of the c-jazz territory as his own with this majority self-penned project that includes only one cover (a magnificent handling of Bruno Mars’ “Versace On the Floor”).

With every track being a strong entity with a full-bodied presence all its own, the saxman offers such appealing numbers as the slick, melody-rich, mid-tempo “Blue Wave,” the easy flowing, soulful, head-boppin’ “Dusk to Dawn,” the funky, feel-good “Sweet Spot,” and much more to totally seduce your musical senses.

Joining Ryan here are guitarists Adam Hawley and Darrell Crooks and keyboardist/producer Greg Manning (who, by the way, produces this jewel). They must have had such fun recording this with Ryan. It certainly feels like it.

This is the album all smooth jazzers seek from newcomers, I’m sure. It’s full of everything that makes you appreciate the genre so much more when such feeling, soul, and creative spirit are poured into its making. This will prove to be one album you simply cannot easily stop playing. This cat and his material are just that good. Get this one, and let it embrace you. – Ronald Jackson