Paula Atherton–Groove With Me
Sashaying forward with all of the sexiness and melodic charm of one who’s been on the national scene for decades, Paula Atherton, a striking and relatively new saxophonist with a swagger just meant for smooth jazz unveils a gem here that keeps you in the highest of gears. The title of this latest endeavor, Groove With Me, isn’t so much an invitation as it is a teasing command. As you listen to the album, you have no choice but to do just as the title states, so compelling is it in its approach and appeal.
While not being among the most recognized names in smooth jazz today (and, trust me, that will quickly change!), Atherton is no complete stranger or newcomer to smooth jazz, having released her debut, Let Me Inside Your Love, in 2004 and having a track (“I Long For Your Love”) from that album included on a 2006 compilation, Ladies of Jazz, which also featured Candy Dulfer and Natalie Cole. This sophomore release should definitely leave an indelible mark on the genre and its legions of fans.
With tunes like the cool island opener, “Marimba Island,” followed by a soulful track “There Ain’t Nothin’,” which is reminiscent of the sensuous Earth, Wind & Fire tracks of our youth, then followed by a light, rhythmic groove, “Block Party,” featuring guitarist Chieli Minucci, Atherton sets out to prove that the ladies of jazz are still comin’ and wasting no time carving their presence and stellar skills into this delightful music. Now is definitely the time to be a smooth jazz fan.
Adding some slinky funk to the mix, Atherton ventures into “Whenever You Come Around,” showing off some sharp vocals, as well. An obvious tribute to the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, follows in the movin’ and shakin’ “JB,” with a handsome horn arrangement featuring trumpeter Greg Adams. Get on the good foot!
Taking the pace down a couple of notches, Atherton then places the emphasis on her vocals in a slow, soul-rich piece called “Send Down An Angel.” A yummy piece, indeed. That’s followed by more hard-hitting funk in “Say It Baby.” Lots of bottom here.
Perhaps my favorite tune here is the deliciously swaying and melodic Latin-flavored track called “Winds of Change (Yes We Can).” Hmm…I wonder what that title implies or to whom or what that refers…
What’s also notably refreshing is the fact that, out of the 12 tracks plus a bonus track (the vocal version of “There Ain’t Nothin’”), Atherton includes only one cover, Ashford & Simpson’s “You’re All I Need To Get By,” and that’s tastefully presented. Everything else reflects the imagination and originality of Atherton.
This CD is truly a delightful ride. I can comfortably predict that Paula Atherton–should she stay on track with such songwriting, vocal, and sax skills–will be quite an impressive force in this genre. Groove With Me should serve as proof of that. Just listen. — Ronald Jackson
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