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Smooth Jazz CD Reviews

Our reviews of various smooth jazz CDs. TSJR does not engage in negative reviews. All CDs presented here are releases that we accept as being quite worthy--even outstanding, in many cases. If a release does not warrant such an assessment in our view, we will simply decline to review it.


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Reza Khan — Dreamwalker

Nov. 26, 2013



Guitarist/keyboardist Reza Khan has come out blazing with a fresh set of diverse grooves that he calls collectively Dreamwalker. Full of vibrancy and meticulous attention to the details of the album’s character and drive, Dreamwalker takes you places where you just feel you should be going at the time you’re listening to this gem.

From the cranked and funky opening track “Night Watch,” with its mix of world flavor tossed in, to the funky and driving title track to the moderate and only a bit more laid-back “Facelift” on through to heavy and pointed funk/jazz/World finale “Unsigned Victory,” Khan lets it be known that he intends to have this project recognized by all who truly appreciate great music in general and his brand in particular. Read full review

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Art Four Sale — Four the Holidays

Nov. 26, 2013

As most of us know, the rapidly approaching holiday season brings us a great variety of Christmas music and an even greater variety of interpretations of these always wondrous classics.  Well, a very jazzy quartet of most talented and imaginative artists collectively known as Art Four Sale (how witty and apropos) has released a collection of holiday goodies guaranteed to capture your attention and toss you right into that feel-good state you always seek during this time of year. It’s called Four the Holidays.

The heavily guitar-based project is quite catchy. The band, by the way, consists of Paul Buono (guitars and vocals), Dougie Keebler (bass), Guy Lemon (keyboards, percussion, drums), and Ryan Pruitt (drums and percussion). Read full review

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Spyro Gyra – The Rhinebeck Sessions

Nov. 5, 2013

When someone asks “Have you heard the latest Spyro Gyra release?,” and it’s one I haven’t yet heard, I immediately brace mysSpyro Gyra; Read reviewelf for some great contemporary jazz and fusion with some traditional jazz flavorings tossed in for good measure. That is exactly what you get with this latest gem from one of the longest performing iconic groups out here today. Plenty of professional polish, imagination, and great melodies and phrasings can be found in abundance on their latest, The Rhinebeck Sessions, the band’s 30th album and its first ever album written in the studio over the course of three days of improvised sessions in Rhinebeck, NY. Thirty quality albums in 40 years. Simply phenomenal.

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Marqueal Jordan — Catalyst

Nov. 5, 2013

Saxophonist Marqueal Jordan carries a really cool distinction about him. He just happens to have worked with and appeared with many marqueal jordanof the who’s who in this biz, including keyboard wiz/producer Brian Culbertson and vocalist Jill Scott.  Offering up some solid chops on this solo release entitled Catalyst, he makes it clear why he’s appealed to Culbertson and others.

Along with silky smooth and infectious jazz/R&B melodies, the saxman brings some serious vocal chops with him, as well (check out “Between the Sheets,”  “When You Smile,” and “Love So Beautiful”). There’s even a small bit of rap for flavor. Read full review

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Najee – The Morning After: A Musical Love Journey

Oct. 22, 2013

Najee, the masterful saxman/flautist of that charismatic state of contemporary jazz, is back with another alluring string of warm and vibrant tracks on his latest release, The Morning After: A Musical Love Journey.Najee CD

Pulling no punches, the veteran artist zeros right in on the stirring elements, melodies, and what makes the music of this genre so fundamentally right for the lover in all of us who patronize it.

Joining the worldly and polished Najee on this latest endeavor are bassists Bill Sharpe (who served as  Dave Koz’s right-hand man for so many years) and the prolific Brian Bromberg, vocalist Meli’sa Morgan, and writer/producer/ keyboardist Demonte Posey, among others. Read full review

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Jef Kearns — Soulfisticated

Oct. 17, 2013

Flautist Jef Kearns steps forward with a very appealing R&B/hip hop/jazz release that packs a lot of intensity and soul-stirring melodies throughouJef Kearnst the album. The release, Soulfisticated, draws on the musical cultures mentioned above and strives to present them in melodic, almost dramatic, fashion.

As you listen to the heavy backbeat of the drums on nearly every track, you get the profound sense that this was done intentionally to drive home the very soul of Kearns’ music here. Message received. The music has body and life.  Often presented lyrically through the strong and convincing vocals of Maya Killtron, Slakah the Beatchild, Divine Brown, Aria Zenua, and Karen Jewels, the project breathes that intensity I referred to earlier.
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Hiroshima – J-Town Beat

Oct. 14, 2013

With melodies as exotic and mystical as Japan itself, one of the most iconic cornerstones in contemporary jazz, Hiroshima, is back with a new set of hypnotic tracks that immediately capture your heart and imagination. This time, the gift of exoticism comes in thHiroshima J-Town CDe form of their new release J-Town Beat, a totally refreshing approach to the genre that offers a different direction for the band in some ways but still maintains the essence of their attractiveness.  As leader Dan Kuramoto (saxes, flutes, shakuhachi, keys, percussion, and composer/co-composer) says: “J-Town refers to Japan Town USA. It’s a microcosm of all the multi-cultural communities that make America the most diverse country in the world, and how best to reflect that than in music?” When you listen to this latest project from the longstanding group (original instrumental members still intact, by the way!), you clearly understand what the always musically passionate and creative Kuramoto means. Read full review

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The Aston Grey Project – Chill Lounge

Oct. 14, 2013

A sexy, slow groove.  A setting with soft talk, candlelight or moonlight, and red wine. The funky dance party. That’s the picture painted here on this totally eclectic project with some focus on the chilled and romantic vibe. The album is called Chill Lounge, and it’s offered by Aston Grey Project CDThe Aston Grey Project, a group that is the brainchild of Platinum Vybe CEO and musician Chris Clay.  The album is one that’s quite effective in the many moods it explores.

The album contains hints of straight-ahead, lazily seductive tracks in the beginning, and then morphs into more contemporary jazz-influenced offerings. The real common denominator here is very well-conceived music…period. Read full review

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Joel Del Rosario & Surewill – Side By Side

Oct. 7, 2013

Two years after laying it on us with Coast to Coast, guitarist Joel Del Rosario joins forces with his good friend Surewill who delighted us with his own 2010 release called Out of the Shadows. Together, they’ve put together a project called Side By Side, Joel & Will CDa reference to their longstanding friendship, and it takes off on its own wings right from the start.

Combining the sweetness of Del Rosario’s chords and runs, the equally competent piano chops from Surewill, and great melodies, the album has no place to go but up and, no doubt,  its ascent has already started.

These two make the phrase “making great music together” as literal as can be. The time they have spent as close friends actually dates back to before their mutual respect for one another’s music, and with a strong foundation like that, this album couldn’t have come at a better time. Suave, charismatic, well-composed, arranged, and phrased, it’s the consummate demonstration of what a couple of really talented artists can do with each other’s musical ideas.  Chemistry. You can’t overstate it. Read full review

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Jonathan Butler – Merry Christmas to You

Oct. 1, 2013

We’ve all heard most of the traditional Christmas songs, but I’ll bet you my last dollar that you’ve never heard them the way you’ll hear Jonathan Butler Xmas CDthem on veteran smooth jazz/R&B guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Butler’s new release simply titled Merry Christmas to You. This wonderfully creative and uplifting version of these classics bears all of the Butler energy and joy so apropos for the season. Forget about how infectious and inspirational an artist he is in the first place. This album casts yet another new glow on his irresistible charm and talent.

When an artist brings out a collection of holiday music, I’ll bet there’s always someone who will groan a little and mutter “Oh, not another Christmas album. How many ways can you sing ‘The First Noel?’” Let me tell you, you will gladly welcome yet another version when it’s so incredibly laced with the heart, soul, passion, and creative character of one such as the effervescent South African guitarist with the glowing smile. Read full review

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