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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Grover Washington Jr. — Grover Live

May 5, 2010

 Oh, how sweet it is and has always been with Grover Washington Jr. releases.  This latest release, Grover Live, is a generous 18-track live recording made back in June of 1997 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peerskill, NY.  The master of smooth jazz only made one other live recording, Live at the Bijou, 20 years prior to this one at Philadelphia’s Bijou Café; so, this one will surely be welcomed with open arms by all Grover fans (and what smooth jazzer isn’t a Grover fan???)
The recording is chock full of sweet and funky grooves alike, with the classic (well, weren’t they all classics, really?) “Winelight” setting it all off in regal fashion.  Followed by the mighty “Take Another Five” and enhanced by the legend’s happy, teasing, cajoling interaction with the fans, which will surely bring smiles and tears alike to many eyes and hearts.

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Jonathan Butler — So Strong

May 1, 2010

Besides the fact that smooth jazz guitarist/vocalist/producer Jonathan Butler is one of the best experiences to ever come out of South Africa and the fact that he is such a household name in the genre, the man holds convictions and, through his music, obviously pledges excellence and his best with each recording and performance. That’s just simply a heartfelt commitment. That may be stating the obvious, but we all know that there are some who let the quality slip simply because of an established name and following. That can often backfire.  Butler takes no such chances with his music, it obviously being a genuine part of his overall identity.  Here with his upcoming release, So Strong, scheduled for release on May 11, that commitment comes through loud and clear.

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Joseph Patrick Moore — To Africa With Love

May 1, 2010

 Packed with a repertoire that absolutely requires a demanding bass with thunderous bass lines, bassist Joseph Patrick Moore storms forth with a very heavy jazz/funk/rock blend that’s sure to capture even the casual listener’s attention.  To Africa With Love, due in stores on May 11, brings everything needed to be considered complete and totally satisfying.

This is fusion of an extraordinary variety. It brings intensity, light, and sophistication. Oh, this is not some erratically conceived project that was thrown together in hopes of making a few bucks off the undiscerning.  This is material for the serious aficionado of good fusion, good funk, very good bass playing, and quality music.

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Elizabeth Mis — Forever & Ever

Apr. 21, 2010

The arrival of young people to smooth jazz as performing artists is steadily increasing and very exciting and encouraging to me.  We marveled (and still do) at the likes of saxophonists Eric Darius, Jackiem Joyner, and Jessy J.  Now we’re getting an earful from young saxophonist BK Jackson and the subject of this review, a young soprano saxophonist by the name of Elizabeth Mis (pronounced “miss”) who, like BK Jackson, may not have even cleared 20 years of age yet.  I’m lovin’ this. It speaks volumes about the appeal of this music which had been-and is still being-written off as dead by many. I believe this is the new talent, the fresh material, and the new energy about which so many artists have spoken to me, stating that they believe those are the ingredients that will determine whether the genre remains an effective force in music.

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David Benoit — Earthglow

Apr. 12, 2010

Artists from all walks and of all sorts always have special moments and special places that serve as their catalyst and motivation for their respective creations, be they writers, producers, musicians, etc. Five-time Grammy-nominated renowned contemporary jazz pianist David Benoit found the ultimate in his own peace of mind by retreating to the mountains near Saratoga, CA, to spark the first two tunes of his upcoming latest release, Earthglow, scheduled to hit the streets on April 20.

Full of the energy and shine that have always defined the artist as one of the most acclaimed for well over 20 years, Benoit was able to pen the opening track, the rousing “Botswana Bossa Nova,” and a cut he says was influenced by the Black-Eyed Pea will.i.am, “Will’s Chill” (the latter also bearing a nice Latin/bossa touch). Those two tracks served as the launching pad for this delightfully sharp and tasteful endeavor, one that he claims is a first for him, as it shines a light on a global music concept. Read full review


Jake Glasgow — Keepin' On

Apr. 12, 2010

This sophomore release from a pretty impressive sax man, Jake Glasgow, has a lot of polish and great ideas on winning melodies. A Berklee grad who studied sax with Fred Lipsius of the famed Blood, Sweat & Tears band, Glasgow obviously took the time to consider how to make his sax speak a language not alien to smooth jazz but clear and distinct. His debut, Hangin’ With Mister G, was no slacker by any means, and this follow-up, Keepin’ On, just adds testimony to the man’s ability to groove with the best of them.

After opening with “A Tip of My Hat” a kickin’ tune not unlike many jammin’ smooth jazz openers (although he has his own catchy nuance and solid hook), Glasgow rolls into “Delray,” a poppin’ mid-tempo piece with a bit of attitude. The title track, which follows, is a nice, snappy little choreographed dance with the horns, helped along by a serving of lead guitar with a touch of sting and distortion. There are many other examples of that horn choreography, nowhere more pronounced than on “Sweet Tea,” and it adds such pop and tingle to the overall project. Very well-conceived and executed. Also, a lot of this material has a strong hint of that old school funk, as is evidenced in “Bump,” “Corduroy Jacket,” and “The Taker.” Read full review


Steve Oliver — Global Kiss

Apr. 7, 2010

My very early bottom line: Global Kiss could well be the Steve Oliver CD for me (i.e., the best from him to date, and that includes his magnificent debut, First View, in 1999 and the inimitable sophomore release, Positive Energy, in 2002).

Here on Global Kiss, the body, the substance, the fabric, and diversity are all so vibrant and warm. As the title implies, Global Kiss expands Oliver’s repertoire with its world-music energy while retaining the lyrical melodies and song hooks that have made him a stand-out fan favorite for over 10 years. As he says, “The concept is of global influence and world music, how you can put that flavor into jazz and R&B tunes,” says Oliver, who, by the way, commissioned contemporary jazz saxophonist and graphic artist Marion Meadows (yep, Meadows is a graphic artist, as well!) to design the CD’s bright and inspiring cover. “The CD touches on different cultures, from Brazil, India, the Middle East, America, Europe. I’ve always loved taking different styles of music and blending them into a cohesive vibe. That’s always attracted me as a listener, as well.” Read full review


Agnieszka Iwanska — All That I Am

Apr. 5, 2010

Here’s a new jazz vocalist who definitely has impressive pipes. On her debut release, All That I Am (a CD of all original material, I might add), Polish songstress Agnieszka Iwanska demonstrates the ability to really stroke a tune with her oft sultry vocals.

Iwanska weaves into this brand of contemporary jazz the vocal stylings of the likes of, say, Basia, yet still sports her own rather pure, clean, and convincing delivery (as well as the ability to scat a bit). One can easily find some real comfort in that. Read full review


Paula Atherton — Groove With Me

Apr. 5, 2010

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. Read full review


Steve Raybine — In The Driver's Seat

Apr. 5, 2010

Vibraphonist Steve Raybine sets out here on his latest release, In the Driver’s Seat, with the intention of showcasing how all-encompassing vibes can be, especially in the jazz, blues, and even Latin arenas. This album is an attractive collection of grooves, containing both original compositions and well-interpreted covers.

Raybine, for those who may not know, has been respected in many circles as an accomplished vibist who’s worked with artists ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Rick Braun. He’s released two other releases since 2000 (Balance Act and Bad Kat Karma), and, if this latest is any indication, the man is well-rounded in his tastes. Read full review