Smooth Jazz CD Reviews

Our reviews of various smooth jazz CDs. We also review certain Latin & World music releases. 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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Kayla Waters — Apogee

Feb. 20, 2017

It is true that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” as young keyboardist Kayla Waters, daughter of the iconic Pied Piper of Love–saxman Kim Waters– proves beyond any shadow of a doubt. Her new release, Apogee, takes one on a true, well-defined journey through the heart, spirit, and mind. This is not music for those seeking only music created for music’s sake; this is music that demands your intellectual and spiritual attention, even as many of the grooves take you to the dance floor. It is an album with a story, a deep theme that calls you to explore the deepest depths of your understanding as to how music can shape almost anything through it’s magnificent power. An example is the album’s title: Apogee. The album’s liner notes get very much into why she so named this journey. Read full review


Nathan East — Reverence

Feb. 15, 2017

From Ronald Jackson’s Dictionary (Smooth Jazz edition) – BAADD (adj.) — A one-word description of the super-prolific, always stellar, top-tier bass master Nathan East. Yes, I think I like that. East remains one musician – no, artist – who never fails to leave me in speechless awe of his work.  Having gone pro at age 16, this ever-personable cat has worked with some of the biggest names EVER in music (Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Anita Baker, Babyface, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, and, of course, the standalone supergroup Fourplay – for starters), netting him over 2,000 album credits. That his two solo albums (the 2014 self-titled debut and this latest called Reverence) have moved the musical terrain like a massive earthquake comes as no surprise to me at all. Read full review


ThaSaint– Touch

Feb. 8, 2017

Keyboardist/composer/producer John ThaSaint, while admittedly new to me, is certainly no stranger to the world of smooth jazz & R&B, having released 8 albums, including this latest Touch release, and having spent a quarter century performing, recording, and honing his skills as a competent contributor to this colorful and melodic side of life.

Touch is an encompassing album of funky up-tempo grooves, soft and soulful caresses, and reflective, unspoken messages — all but one solely performed, recorded, and produced by the keyboardist. It’s a project inspired by the loss of personal and public influences, and it does often have that respectful and deep feel. Read full review


Daniel Chia – In the Moment

Feb. 1, 2017

Contemporary/smooth jazz has always had such a wonderful open door policy and such a wide umbrella that it never ceases to amaze me how much talent passes through its doors, some only for a brief time, others becoming huge hits and digging in their heels for the long haul. Young saxophonist Daniel Chia from Singapore shows here on his debut release In the Moment that he may well be one of those who takes up residence inside that C-jazz house since passing through its doors.

With a smooth and sure-handed handling of the sax, coupled with nice melodies and contributions from none other than guitar master/producer Paul Brown, saxman Darren Rahn, and another great Paul Brown find, vocalist Melina. Read full review


Rick Braun – Around the Horn

Jan. 31, 2017

Rick Braun always manages to revitalize the C-jazz market whether it’s in a temporary slump or not. His fresh approach to each project is always providing that promise that the genre is in great shape with new ideas, new moods, and new shapes and colors. His vibrant and handsome new release, Around the Horn, is a testament to that as he ushers in new originals and integrates them with innovative covers.

Here on Around the Horn, the veteran trumpeter offers sweet, pure richness on each track. Leading off with “So Strong,” a lively, rhythmic Brazilian-tinged tune co-written by Braun and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist John Stoddart (who also co-wrote a number of other songs here), Braun again mixes a delightful batch of musical goodies including smooth and alluring covers of Charlie Puth’s and Selena Gomez’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” Alicia Keys’ “In Common,” and Coldplay’s “Yellow,” as well as infectious originals like “Love Take Me” featuring the sensuous vocals of up-and-coming vocalist Lindsey Webster, the silky “I Love You More” featuring Stoddart on vocals, the snappy, melodic title track, and the exotically becoming “Vila Vita” featuring one of our favorite guitar guys, Peter White. Read full review


Southern Avenue – Southern Avenue

Jan. 31, 2017

It’s been a bit of a musical drought for a spell here lately, but I happily see now that the creative juices are again flowing with our artists. Today, I was presented with a brand new young quintet going by the name of Southern Avenue. Their self-titled debut on Stax Records, scheduled for release on Feb. 24, possesses that good old school Memphis soul & gospel flavor mixed in with some hard-driving blues and even clever rock chops.

This noteworthy band is comprised of powerful vocalist Tierinii Jackson and drummer Tikyra Jackson, two Memphis-born, church-bred sisters, Israeli-born guitarist bluesman Ori Naftaly, bassist Daniel McKee, and keyboardist Jeremy Powell. Together, they grab that feel-good vibe by the soul and never let go. Read full review


Horn & Holland – Steps of a Good Man

Jan. 31, 2017

Horn & Holland are a couple of guys who bring that light and romance element to the genre, that champagne and dim lights air, that come-let-me language with their debut release Steps of a Good Man. Silky vocals and seductive sax dominate this sultry and smooth collection of R&B-laced jazz gems.

Everything here glides and saunters tastefully, replete with charming melodies and graceful voicings. From the catchy and sexy lead track “Thank You” to the mid-tempo luscious groove of “Oh Love” to the call of the tender “Miracle” and “Through It All” to the instrumental version of the finale and title track, this is a fine 7-track CD made for the romantic in you. Read full review


Rob Zinn – Yesterday Again

Jan. 13, 2017

Delaware-based trumpeter/flugelhorn player Rob Zinn treats us to his very well-produced debut album Yesterday Again, a cool mix of a bit of straight-ahead charm cleverly intermixed with that sexy combination of funk, Latin, and pop.

There is a keen swell of his calling trumpet and flugelhorn that clearly has that nightingale’s beckoning and which definitely complements the colorful melodies displayed here.

The lead track, “Back Where We Started,” leans on his affinity for the straight-ahead element while “Noche Caliente” captures that hot Latin feel that places one at the fiesta a la playa – the same feel one gets from the title track that immediately follows. Read full review


Al DeGregoris – Time and a Half

Dec. 7, 2016

Again with the “Time” theme, keyboardist Al DeGregoris puts on another display of how to mix sophisticated classy and intricate jazz fusion with that always-appealing funk spice with his latest release Time and a Half. al-degregoris

Featuring household names like Nils, Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Andy Snitzer, and Steve Cole, this project is totally coated with the elixir for the jazz soul. Full of body, character, and swagger, it’s a true clinic on how to do this groove right.

Leading off with a spirited and innovative cover of the great Sly & The Family Stone classic “Everyday People,” the album constantly picks up steam as it rolls through to its finale. Read full review


Lawson Rollins – 3 Minutes to Midnight

Dec. 7, 2016

As one of those guitarists who first captured my attention with his Latin-infused and Nuevo Flamenco guitar style quite awhile ago, Lawson Rollins continues to provide awe-inspiring melodies and riffs on his latest release, 3 Minutes to Midnight (wonder what’s the inspiration lawson-rollinsbehind that interesting title?), scheduled for release in January 2017.

Pushing through this album with the richness you’d expect from one who knows this Latin jazz subgenre all too well, Rollins again puts on display his mastery of the exoticism of the music that has so captivated those of us who have been sufficiently exposed to it to know it holds so much mystique and elegance. Read full review