Smooth Jazz CD Reviews

Our reviews of various smooth jazz CDs. We also review certain Latin, World, & blues 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 Restuccia — When the Smoke Clears

Aug. 18, 2017

Roberto Restuccia is a UK based guitarist who studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. His early influences were guitarists such as Slash and Prince. Later, he discovered smooth jazz through the music of George Benson and Ronny Jordan.

When the Smoke Clears, his sophomore album, opens with the solemn gentle and understated “Mei.” Restuccia picks his way beautifully through the soft misty, piano and drums backing before some light strings that drift in, then evaporate to reveal a gutsier attack from Restuccia. It’s a beautiful opener to a good album of laid-back, thoughtful, smooth, charm-filled jazz. Read full review


RK Dawkins — Journey

Aug. 18, 2017

As one who is rather old school in this way, I don’t usually favor one-man bands using the electronic magic of the keyboard/synth to create the effect of a full band (with the exception of Paul Hardcastle and Rick Kelly (aka Soul Ballet), both of whom have worn that signature technique and sound well for a very long time), but this debut solo project from RK Dawkins entitled Journey brings some very appealing supple sounds from his sampling library via his keyboard to your ears. There is a lot going on here to enhance your listening experience and stroke your sense of melody. Read full review


Carl Cox – Feelin’ Fine

Aug. 18, 2017

Ok, so just who is Carl Cox, you ask? Well, he’s a freelance touring saxophonist/recording artist/educator from Southern Jersey. He is also the full time Music Director at Deptford High School and Adjunct Professor of saxophone at Rowan University. He’s one dynamic, passionate, and soulful saxophonist who has nurtured his sax skills and plotted out how they would fit in the contemporary jazz world. It appears that he may have found the path.

Cox has performed with a number of who’s who in the biz including Gerald Veasley, Jeff Lorber, Billy Paul, the late Chuck Loeb, Maysa, and Brian Culbertson, to name but a few. Venturing out on this debut 5-track EP entitled Feelin’ Fine, the saxman does a wonderful job of impressing. His material has a confident stride, lots of body, and a genuine feel for the groove that has worked for so many. Read full review


Boney James — Honestly

July 29, 2017

Now, there’s probably not a soul who’s listened to music in the last quarter century that doesn’t know of the thunderous impact one particular saxophonist – Boney James — has had on not just the world of smooth or contemporary jazz but R&B, as well. Album after album has been a smash, increasing his fan base to some crazy, almost infinite, number. It’s all been very justified, and that justification is advanced by the release of his 16th album, Honestly (release date: Sept. 1), an inferno-hot masterpiece of jazzy, soulful, funky, in-your-face tracks guaranteed to cause some to offer that this may well be his hottest to date. Read full review


Jonathan Fritzen — Ballads

July 29, 2017

Swedish keyboardist/pianist/composer Jonathan Fritzen stills works his charm on us as effectively now as he did 9 years ago when he happened onto the smooth jazz scene with his debut album Love Birds, and his new release Ballads serves as a reminder as to why his style and sense of what works still works for us.

This album is abundantly stocked with some of the sweetest melodies I’ve heard in years in this genre and puts on display Fritzen’s skill, professionalism, and total musicianship. There are soft caresses and the total embrace of you the listener. It’s so serene that the occasional spark of edginess found in tunes like “Today” and “Let It Go” in the form of distortion guitar comes almost as a surprise when taking the entire album into account. As its name implies, this is an album of slow, romantic, soul-stirring sensuality, charisma, and beauty. No finger-popping, foot-tapping, head-bopping grooves here — and it works out perfectly. Read full review


Michon Young – Love, Life, Experiences

July 29, 2017

Should one try to pigeonhole this album, the artist reminds us that, oftentimes, it simply can’t be done. As she says, “I have always believed that music is love. It is universal. It can soothe the soul, bring tears to your eyes or simply just place you in a reflective state.”

So, with that in mind, and while one might try to classify this as R&B for whatever purpose, this debut release from vocalist/composer Michon Young entitled Love, Life, Experiences was too compelling for us to ignore because it is, first and foremost, music. Good music. If you simply must identify with a specific genre, keep in mind that this is not your typical neo-soul or modern day or even old school R&B. This album comes packed with plenty of eclectic vibes (gospel, soul, and even a touch of poetry) and body. Its thick and melodic persona is clearly not to be disregarded. The vocals, at times, a bit reminiscent of early Leela James, are strong and strike directly at your core. Again, this is music. Read full review


Najee – Poetry In Motion

July 29, 2017

Iconic saxman/flautist/composer Najee is once again working his woodwind magic as he presents his latest stylishly soulful and jazzy release Poetry in Motion, an album that is actually, among other things, a finely honed homage to two other iconic entities– the late one-of-a-kind crooner Al Jarreau and the consummate musician, the late Prince.

Here on Poetry in Motion, the saxman includes the essence and character of these world-renowned artists and offers other slick, smooth, very textured and enticing tracks that lead you along the path that he has effortlessly traveled for more than three decades, dazzling and wooing fans with his trademark soul-appealing sound. Read full review


Michael J Thomas — Driven

July 29, 2017

This latest release from saxophonist Michael J Thomas, entitled Driven (release date: Aug. 18), opens with a vocal track, “My Love’” that echoes the late Michael Jackson. Thomas’ vocal is the nearest thing to MJ that I have heard in a long while. The track itself is a gorgeous piece of mid-tempo, soulful pop music punctuated with some delightfully breezy horn playing. In contrast, the next track, “Baby Coffee,” is a sultry funk-infused number that features Thomas’ velvet tenor sax playing around a bouncy chorus. That breaks down in true old-school style to roll on out of here. Read full review


Carol Albert – Fly Away Butterfly

July 25, 2017

Ahh, we are again treated to the wholesome, all-embracing musical charm of the lovely vocalist/pianist/composer Carol Albert who has reemerged with her at once enticing and alluring offerings here on Fly Away Butterfly, an album of intensely satisfying melodies and lyrical colors.

The mesmerizing seduction of this music starts at track one (the title track) and never lets up as she takes you by the hand and leads you along this plush horizon of musical bliss with delicate caresses and high-spirited exoticism and finger-poppin’ grooves like that heard on her covers of the late Al Jarreau’s “One Way” and the classic “Mas Que Nada.” Read full review


Darryl Williams – Here to Stay

July 25, 2017

Bassist Darryl Williams needs no introduction among the many smooth jazz giants he’s backed over the years. Now, rolling out his own Here to Stay, he demonstrates why he’s so highly regarded among those giants. This is one album that gets off the ground in a flash and heads directly for the stratosphere with a huge display of power, charm, melody, and, of course, that inexplicable thang that moves all C-jazzers.

Fueled by the presence and contributions of such luminaries as guitarists Paul Brown and U-Nam; keyboardists/pianists Jonathan Fritzen, Greg Manning, Scott Wilkie, and the prolific and iconic Jeff Lorber; saxmen Michael Lington, Elan Trotman, Marcus Anderson, and Euge Groove (the latter also serving as co-producer of this fine project, Williams beats a solid groove path from the infectious title track to the slick and polished mid-tempo lure of “Now or Never” to the up-tempo dancer “Do You Remember” to the soulful and easy “Reflections” to the mid-tempo finger-snappin’ “Harveston Way” and beyond. Read full review