Smooth Jazz CD Reviews

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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Paul Taylor — Prime Time

May 14, 2011

It’s obvious that, when hearing a Paul Taylor tune, the master saxman places a tremendous amount of attention and emphasis on melody.  Good, definitive melody.  Not just something to throw on top of some chords.  I have always dubbed him one of the truest masters of the sweet melody because, when I hear that alto soar into the stratosphere and grasp a piece of heaven, I am reminded of why the wonderful keyboardist Keiko Matsui chose him in the first place to complement her magical sound and why Kazu Matsui chose to help propel to fame as a solo artist this wonderful saxophonist with such an ear for what touches.

Since those early days and that debut release, On the Horn, Taylor has captivated, sexed up, revved up, and turned out more jazzers than one cares to count. Like a pied piper of smooth jazz, he strolls along the music-lined avenues of contemporary jazz, fans in tow, and once again delivers, this time with co-writer Dino Esposito, on Prime Time, due on the streets June 14.

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Boney James — Contact

May 4, 2011

Ahhh, who provides a more recognizable, refreshing, household sound representative of smooth/contemporary jazz that is so NOT “elevator music” than our beloved and personable Boney James? Well, he’s back in Contact with us with his latest release by that very name.

Never one to disappoint in my opinion, the master saxman comes out of the chute with gusto, vigor, and everything that has always been so irresistibly appealing about the man!  Knowing hooks and melodies and rhythms and seductive passages like knowing his own name, he delivers here on pieces like the driving opening and title track, followed by the soulful “Close to You” with Donnell Jones on vocals fit to charm any young lady right into the arms of a romantic setting.

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Patrick Bradley — Under The Sun

April 16, 2011

There is music for music’s sake and then there is music with a purpose, a concretely set path that you feel throughout the project. The latter is the case with this sophomore release from keyboardist/pianist Patrick Bradley, a jazz fusion artist who instills a taste of spirituality in his smooth grooves on this album, Under the Sun.

The album is due for release on April 26, a most significant date for the artist as it is his birthday and the anniversary of his father’s passing (I might note here that it is also my own departed dad’s birthday; so, this project is truly and profoundly inspirational from a personal standpoint).  Bradley’s mom passed away 11 months to the day after his dad. Talk about brow-raising events. However, Bradley converted his sorrow into this masterful display of hope, adventure, and spirituality via his faith in a very special way, slightly atypical when you think of the usual spiritual or inspirational projects. Full of laughter, joy, and serenity, Bradley lets go on some of the sweetest melodies and uplifting up-tempo grooves you could ever hope to hear on a well-done contemporary jazz production.

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Vincent Ingala — North End Soul

April 16, 2011

Hailing from Waterbury, CT, here is yet another young phenom stepping forward to reassure us that the appeal of smooth/contemporary jazz is not lost on the young among us. Seventeen-year-old multi-instrumentalist Vincent Ingala has a style and maturity about him that sets him apart from the run of the mill musician by far.

This young man has not only written and recorded his own material for his debut release, North End Soul, but plays all of the instruments (sax, drums, guitar, and keyboards – yes, really plays them!). Six of the tracks here are his very own, and they are of standout quality.
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Blue Soul Groove — Turn Back The Time

April 13, 2011

Scottish musicians Neil Warden (guitar) and John Burgess (sax & flute) step forward in the tradition of fellow Scots like The Average White Band to flaunt a funky, clearly soulful and jazz-filled sound as Blue Soul Groove on this, their debut release, Turn Back The Time.  This is a very satisfyingly solid project of hard hitting, powerful jazz/soul/funk cleverly arranged with lots of smart guitar and sax/flute stylings.

Guitarist/founder Warden is no stranger to the jazz music scene, having spent 25 years with blues/jazz singer Tam White. Deciding to round up some seriously competent help in Burgess (and others who contribute handsomely here but may or may not be permanent members), Warden appears to be offering up something quite promising.

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Drew Davidsen — Spin Cycle

March 19, 2011

Without a doubt, “the journey” for guitarist Drew Davidsen from his native Maryland to the contemporary smoothness of his brand of jazz has been a most pleasant one, from the standpoint of this writer.  I’ve written about Davidsen on a couple of other occasions, and my opinion is always the same. The guy not only plays with style and class, but he understands the nuances and sweetness of the type of melodies and hooks that reach people. His latest, Spin Cycle, is further proof of that.

Stroking with certainty, purpose, and the assurance to his fans that he remains rooted in what makes Drew Davidsen’s music Drew Davidsen’s music, the treats continue here.

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Groove Skool Band — Limited Edition

March 8, 2011

Cool and smooth, with a distinctive funky edge where it’s called for, the Washington, DC-based Groove Skool Band truly lives up to its self-description of providing the “smooth sound of hybrid jazz,” that suave mix of R&B, Latin, and contemporary jazz that has become so accepted universally now.  This, the band’s debut release, entitled Limited Edition, provides smart hooks and light, seductive melodies, as well as funk-driven rhythms to make this project quite well-rounded. 

Headed by bassist Christian de Mesones, who struts his low-frequency talents in more than a few spots (though he modestly states that this is not a bassist’s album, he gets his fine chops in very effectively), this band proves that it is capable of taking you to a few very pleasant places.

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Tony Adamo – What Is Hip?

March 2, 2011

Veteran crooner Tony Adamo, with his own jazzy/bluesy style of successfully taking a tune to whatever level he chooses, does a wonderful job of doing just that here with his latest, What Is Hip? Why that title? One guess. You got it! He’s recruited a couple of members of the notorious Tower of Power to help out on a few tracks on this project. Can’t do a thing but help, right?

The rhythm is snappy, bluesy, jazzy, bright, and full of character that Adamo always brings to every studio visit. One listen to the lead track, “Cold Duck Time (Groove On Line),” Rhythm of Your Love,” Grover’s “Make Me a Memory,” TOP’s poppin’ classic “What is Hip?,” and the oh-so-smooth-and-melodic “Ecstasy,” and you’ve got the picture. 

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Planet Zu Featuring Daniel Baraszu — In the Light of Day

Feb. 25, 2011

This debut release from Planet Zu Featuring Daniel Baraszu, In the Light of Day, is one that admittedly caught me a little by surprise when I first saw the cover art and heard the band’s name. Hmm, what have we here?? What we have is some really tight, melodic, well-structured contemporary jazz with girth. Be it a cover or an original, guitarist Baraszu and Co. do it justice here.

The band is comprised of musicians who, upon hearing this project, prove that they, as individuals, can easily stand on their own merits.  Reading their press sheet, their credentials prove that convincingly. In fact, one member, bassist Joseph Patrick Moore was featured here when he released his album To Africa With Love in May 2010, a powerful fusion project.  So, Baraszu chose well in pulling this band together.
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Elan Trotman — Love and Sax

Feb. 12, 2011

Since Elan Trotman decided to venture away from the beautiful paradise island of Barbados where he honed many of his musical tastes and skills, the talented saxman has wowed and wooed many.  There are those who profess to know the players, the movers, and the shakers in the world of good smooth jazz. They claim they are familiar with the special and really balanced blend of jazz and R&B, but they’ve yet to experience the essence of Elan Trotman.

If albums like This Time Around didn’t catch your ear (and I honestly would think it would), his latest, an aptly titled romantic feast called Love and Sax  (due out early March) surely will! Here is a project meant for lovers reconnecting, making the connection firmer, or just getting acquainted for the first deep time. It’s meant to make that all the experience it can be. The melodies are alluring, soft, and seductive, the hooks unrelenting and memorable.

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