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Urban Jazz Coalition – One Step Closer

July 11, 2013

The seasoned contemporary jazz band, Urban Jazz Coalition, has just released a solid project called One Step Closer. Let me tell you: I’ve periodically heard this band referred to as a great jazz/R&B group. While there may be some evidence to that R&B effect, these guys do not short-change you on the contemporary jazz element…at all.

On this latest album, you are treated to the intricacies and nuances associated with good - powerfully good – contemporary jazz. From the totally adept handling of the keyboards by Brandon Howard to the tight rhythms laid down by drummer Rico Adams and percussionist Hector Maldonado to the thick and potent bass lines of bassist Phil Raney to the slick guitar action of Duane Tribune and stirring sax work from Richard Rudolph, these guys are not fooling around. They have a firm grip on what should always be at the root of good contemporary jazz: quality melodies, jazzy chords and progressions, strong hooks, and that intangible element of spirit that truly stands out in real contemporary jazz music. Of course, these cats have never lost sight of those characteristics since their beginning as a group.

From the driving, snappy lead track, “Coburg Street”(a track written by keyboardist Brandon Howard who, by the way, is all over it and other tracks throughout the album) to the rich and colorful mid-tempo groove, “My Sunshine,” featuring the spirited vocals of Janeen Holmes (who has some major vocal chops), all the way through the funky finale “Uptown Gruv” (a track on which each musician had a part in writing),  you are always aware that these guys are grooving in the jazz vein with you, the listener, in mind. The album is meticulous in its delivery, its smoothness, its funkiness, and the band’s mission – to present a truly top-shelf effort.

There are no weak tracks here, in my opinion.  With just one (very well-done) cover, Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go,” the band’s creativity and originality is the central focus here. If you want that tight, groove-rich contemporary jazz sound that dares you to be an unengaged, passive listener, you’ll be delighted with this one.  - Ronald Jackson

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