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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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Lowell Hopper – Playing It Cool

Mar. 21, 2017

Virginia-raised Air Force vet (many, many thanks for his service, by the way) Lowell Hopper has been laying down his buttery, silky smooth jazz guitar melodies and riffs since 1993, releasing a total of 13 albums (two in 2016 alone – not counting a 2016 remastering of some out-of-print earlier material!). His latest, Playing It Cool, clearly proves why he’s still a staying force in the business that he so obviously loves very much. His style is as cool as a summer breeze and as soulful as any of the soul masters of decades past could have preferred in a guitarist. Read full review

 

Threestyle featuring Magdalena Chovancova – Smooth Ride

Mar. 13, 2017

With their can’t-miss custom blend of delicious smooth jazz, the constantly escalating German-based duo Threestyle, featuring sexy Czech saxtress Magdalena Chovancova and her super smooth guitarist partner Robert Fertl, are back once again (you can count on these two producing some great original grooves every year or two) with their latest release, Smooth Ride, a very appetizing, seductive charm-filled album of the stuff that keeps smooth jazz so appealing.

This collection of originals (and one cover – Al Green’s immortal “Let’s Stay Together”) finds the duo drawing help from such luminaries as bassist Jimmy Haslip and guitarists/producers Nils and Paul Brown, as well as bassist Roberto Vally and drummer/drum programmer Jeff Carruthers and a host of others. Together, they put together a recipe of smooth jazz that’s too palatable to resist. Read full review

 

Jeff Lorber Fusion – Prototype

Mar. 13, 2017

A quote from keyboardist/producer/composer/fusion legend Jeff Lorber regarding his latest Jeff Lorber Fusion release, Prototype: “I came up with the name Prototype because we are always trying to up our game and come up with new exciting music that could be a prototype or innovative harbinger for the future of our musical style.” In addition to this saying it all, his press sheet points out all too accurately that this new release is an example of Lorber’s “irresistible finger-poppin’ grooves and intricate rhythmic sense.” The full-bodied, sophisticated, groove-laden project is another work of art from one who always relishes the appeal of the new “polish” of creativity with each work. This is jazz with substance and shine – the stuff jazz neophytes live to learn how to naturally produce. Read full review

 

Brian Simpson — Persuasion

Mar, 2, 2017

One of the most respected and talented keyboardist in the smooth jazz genre is Brian Simpson, whose new release Persuasion clearly explains why. With solid self-sustaining grooves of the bouncy and suave varieties, he again produces –along with guitarist/producer Steve Oliver and Oliver Wendell—another smash surely to find its way to the top of the charts in no time.

In addition to his co-producers, the cool keyboardist is joined here by the one and only notorious saxman Boney James, bassist Alex Al, percussionist Ramon Yslas, and other hotshot artists who all converge on this project with the idea of making it . Mission accomplished. Read full review

 

Paul Brown – One Way Back

Feb. 25, 2017

In my review of guitarist Marc Antoine’s Laguna Beach, I mentioned a technical snafu that snatched away my previously penned review of that release. Here is one more (and hopefully the last that fell victim to the mishap).

Guitar master Paul Brown has been a figure in smooth jazz larger than life ever since his studio session work and producer-only days to his debut release Up Front back in 2004 and to date with his latest One Way Back. This latest album is solidly packed with full-bodied C-jazz and danceable grooves as only he can produce them. Read full review

 

Marc Antoine – Laguna Beach

Feb. 25, 2017

Marc Antoine’s latest album Laguna Beach (one I’m again reviewing here due to a technical snafu that apparently erased it from our pages) is another of the French guitarist’s smooth and rather exotic projects on which his light shines brightly.

Joined here by guitarist/producer Paul Brown, keyboardist/producer Philippe Saisse, trumpeter Rick Braun, bassist Roberto Vally, and saxman Greg Vail, Antoine sets the wheels in motion for slick-grooved tracks throughout.

Kickin’ it off with the finger-snappin’, horn-driven “Why Not” — a track that has a bit if that 60s/70s Memphis feel, the album sprouts a life of its own as it confidently struts through with tracks like “This and That” featuring Brown and his very distinctive guitar work, the coolly funky and picturesque title track, the cool summer breeze called “Minority,” the Latin-tinged “Romantico,” and the snappy and catchy “High Five,” among others. Read full review

 

Brendan Rothwell – Time On My Hands

Feb. 25, 2017

Brendan Rothwell may or may not be a bassist with whom you are familiar, but he certainly should be. His approach, at least on this album Time On My Hands, is at its very least quite interesting as his is a laid-back yet highly competent style of bass playing. The melodies are rich and pleasant; the playing pretty introspective — and maybe a bit too much so for those seeking that funky in-your-face slap bass style.

Playing the instrument as if trying to convey some deep discovery or observation, his approach seems almost cerebral, again not something simply for the groove-seeker. It is more a lesson in how to massage the bass (“wake it” and “let it breathe,” as he says) and speak through it, which is honestly the reason why I chose to review this project. You can hear that on the lead track (“Intro (Wake the Bass)”) and “The King.” Read full review

 

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