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Paula Atherton – Enjoy the Ride

July 16, 2012

Since becoming familiar with this marvelously talented saxophonist/flautist/vocalist a few years ago, I have become completely enamored of her stylish, sleek, and energetic talents. Paula Atherton is one of those sweet, powerful entities in jazz who certainly deserves a place at the table of the heavyweights in this genre. Her new release, Enjoy the Ride, is proof positive of that. This CD comes bloated with loads of sass, brass, and class.

This latest demonstration of this comely artist’s skills (including having written all of tracks here) pushes her strengths beyond sax as she opens on flute with a hefty and funky throwback track called “Herbie” (undoubtedly in tribute to the late great flautist Herbie Mann, I’m sure).

Taking off from there like a bird in flight, she soars on with such finesse and ease as she dives confidently into such tracks as “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind,” a sexy, seductive look at another of her strengths– top-tier sexy and seductive vocals sung with charm and clarity totally suited for contemporary jazz and her silky style. Intent on capturing every possible mood, that tune is followed by  the stompin’ groove, “Sassy Strut,” featuring the smooth Chicago “windy cat” guitarist Nick Colionne.

Capturing the Latin mood, she cooks up a mean dish of “Rice and Beans” with lots of spice and rhythm with the help of very competent accompaniment, including the lovely trumpeter Cindy Bradley who always manages to light up any track on which she appears.

If you’re into serious vocals, you have plenty to enjoy here (in addition to the previously mentioned “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind”) as Atherton croons sweetly on tracks “Let It Be,” the determined “I Won’t Give Up,” and the swaying, soulful “Try It Again.”

Before she closes with the instrumental version of “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind,” we are again treated to the stirring, funky side of the saxtress as she leaps into a mid-tempo number called “Turn It Up.” Full of phat presence, to say the least.

To say that Paula Atherton has the right formula for success as a competent force to reckon with in smooth jazz would obviously be an understatement. If her previous releases — including “Groove With Me,” her last release before this project—haven’t brought you on board yet, hop on this groove vehicle. You’re truly bound to enjoy the ride. – Ronald Jackson