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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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Roberto Vazquez – Matices

Apr. 23, 2017

Keyboardist/pianist Roberto Vazquez returns with a project, Matices, that is so smooth and exotic that it dares you to turn your ears away from its warm appeal.

Vazquez’s 2012 Between Two Worlds release was pretty solidly steeped in the smooth jazz groove exclusively while this release unleashes the exoticism of the Latin sound on a few tracks like the lead track “Rumba Que Retumba,” a hot and lively number, the soft & sexy “Thru Her Eyes” (one of my faves), and the easy yet snappy “Bahia” that teases the Latin vibe and folds it in with distinctive jazz inflections. Read full review

 

Sylvia Bennett – For You

Apr. 21, 2017

I have heard a few of vocalist Sylvia Bennett’s musical offerings in the past, and they’ve always been of the quality that jazz purists highly appreciate. Her soft, sultry vocals serve to complement the material in almost majestic fashion. Here on For You (her latest release), she delves into a really contemporary, smooth style as she presents some very creative originals and smartly interpretative covers, turning the latter into something smooth jazz can own despite being birthed by traditionalists.

Bennett first caught my ear when she released her 2011 Sonríe album, a seductive and exotic Latin jazz endeavor, sung entirely in Spanish. Being such a trademark in straight-ahead music, this was the first real departure of sorts into a world she hadn’t extensively explored prior to the album. Needless to say, she knocked it out of the park. Now, she sets out to do the same with this new smooth album that will find many smooth jazzers doing a double take. Read full review

 

Valeriy Stepanov – New Beginnings

Apr. 21, 2017

It’s always so heartwarming to sit back and reflect on how we smooth jazzers have always embraced the wonderful musical delights and talents of international artists (England’s Peter White & Oli Silk, France’s Philippe Saisse, U-Nam, & Marc Antoine, Croatia’s Igor Gerzina, and, of course, the lovely and mega-talented Japanese princess of World and smooth jazz music Keiko Matsui for starters). Now enters Russian keyboardist/pianist/drummer/composer Valeriy Stepanov with his impressive debut release entitled New Beginnings. Sporting smooth and funky rhythms and melodies, the album makes one marvel at how easily our genre fits into the soul, style, and psyche of artists like him. His style is very fluid and almost second nature, fitting so comfortably in the folds of the both soothing and exciting allure of our beloved music. Read full review

 

Norman Brown – Let It Go

Apr. 7, 2017

Going well beyond the usual superior musical gifts and prowess he shares so graciously with us with each album, the very personable, well-grounded guitar guru Norman Brown (someone who’s one of guitar legend George Benson’s favorites – what higher honor can one receive??) opens another door with his latest release Let It Go, a door that allows us a glimpse into the innermost being of a man who is deeply reflective and philosophical when it comes to life and all it offers. This is one project that somewhat differs from the guitarist’s typical grooves in that one is riveted for reasons more profound than that. Yes, Brown remains one of the funkiest, smoothest, most adept Grammy-winning artists around, but this sober, reflective, deliberate side is as appealing as any of his music. Read full review

 

Mitchell Coleman Jr. — Perception

Apr. 7, 2017

I knew when I reviewed bassist Mitchell Coleman’s debut release, Soul Searching, back in December 2014 that this was going to be one powerful artist from whom we would hear much more solidly charged material. His latest release, Perception, proves me right as it struts onto the scene with heavy, funk-filled grooves and demonstrations of how very skilled and perceptive Coleman is at his core.

Cutting no corners on quality, the bassist lays it down confidently and with much body. Nothing here suggests anything but power, style, and a serious commitment to shedding light on jazz/funk as it should be offered. Read full review

 

Ty Causey – Tyangles

Apr. 7, 2017

Veteran singer/songwriter/producer/composer Ty Causey first appeared on the music scene in the late ’90s as a vocalist for the iconic smooth jazz saxophonist Najee. Since then, the singer has produced smooth, slick-steppin’ album after smooth, slick-steppin’ album – all loaded with well-arranged and well-written R&B/jazz grooves. A unique master of that sexy, romantic vibe in whatever tempo he chooses (often mid- to up-tempo but also offering that slow “let’s get busy” groove and an occasional funk layer tossed in for good measure). His latest endeavor, Tyangles, is unsurprisingly as polished a work as he’s ever done. Read full review

 

Geoff Alpert – Open Your Heart

Apr. 7, 2017

Trombonist Geoff Alpert makes his entrance with his debut release Open Your Heart with a nice splash of smooth and a lot of impressive endorsements by virtue of their respective contributions to this classy, silky recording (co-producer/musical director/keyboardist Gail Jhonson, the L.A. Collective – guitarist Adam Hawley, keyboardist Greg Manning, and drummer/percussionist Tony Moore –, and featuring guests like saxman Michael Paulo and flautist Althea Rene).

Open Your Heart is flush with real jazz influence and some R&B grooves which include cool renditions of a pair of covers (Michael Jackson’s high-steppin’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Don’t Ask My Neighbors,” the classic Emotions-recorded, Skip Scarborough-written 1970s track to round it all out. Read full review

 

Julia Fordham – The Language of Love

Apr. 7, 2017

While we are not in the habit of focusing on traditional or straight-ahead jazz, and certainly not projects chock full of covers, some projects simply command attention with their novel approach. In this case, vocalist Julia Fordham lends her silky, charming pipes to an album that merges the class and sophistication of straight-ahead with the magical and popular appeal of soft rock/pop, easy listening, and R&B classics, as well as some melodically sweet originals, with her latest release, The Language of Love. The result is a very pleasant and innovative perspective on tunes we have known and embraced all the way back to the ‘60s combined with the lovely original compositions heard here. Read full review

 

Sean U — Electrify

Mar. 28, 2017

When I’m checking out pianists and keyboardists, I’m always looking for that “it” factor – that funky and/or sweet melodic thang that courses through their veins and very souls and manifests itself in their respective styles. Keiko Matsui has “it,” Jeff Lorber has “it,” Brian Simpson has “it,” Brian Culbertson has “it,” Candy Dulfer’s sidekick Chance Howard has “it,” and the wonderful late great George Duke and Joe Sample had “it.” Al DeGregoris and Patrick Bradley also come to mind.

In my humble opinion, we can now add the infectious style and chops of Sean Uliasz (aka Sean U), a totally in-the-groove young man from Southwick, MA who’s making his entrance into the world of smooth/funk jazz by way of his exciting debut EP entitled Electrify. This initial project from the pianist/keyboardist/composer who’s been performing live throughout CT and MA tells me that the young artist will be among our most noted in no time. That “it” factor screams from his piano/keys in ways that refuse to let the dance, the head bop, and the foot tap in you resist. Most recently, Sean performed as a first place winner for the Crescendo International Piano Competition at Carnegie Hall in New York City, giving up a quick and sure signal of where he’s headed. Simply put, if you haven’t yet heard, him, grab a listen to this EP. Trust me, you will stand convinced. Read full review

 

Selena Albright — Conversations

Mar, 28, 2017

Yes, I’m sure that many of us knew this was inevitable and were anticipating when Selena Albright, this nightingale daughter of one of the most gifted and personable musicians around today (Gerald Albright) would release her debut album. Well, it’s here – entitled Conversations – and well worth the wait.

With a healthy coating of R&B, the comely vocalist lays into an array of originals and one cover (Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy”) with the emotion you’d expect from one who grew up watching and listening to her dad tear it up in the studio and live on numerous occasions. With her clever, mature, and classy handling of the material here –which, by the way, fit her strong and becoming voice to a tee – she is practically guaranteed to woo listeners far and wide. Read full review