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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Soweco — Keep On

Oct. 10, 2017

Swedish group Soweco’s latest release, Keep On, opens with one of those old skool “boof-dap’s” that we used to enjoy way back. You know, one of those drops that makes you leave your seat or quit hugging the wall. Makes you get to your feet ‘n’ go have a ball, do that two-step shuffle like you do once more!

This album could be a lost gem from the nineties. A time when soul music was a little more “composed” then it is today. Keyboardist Mattias Roos and drummer Peter Gustafsson put the Soweco collective together back in 2011, and here on their second release, they have crafted an album of good old-fashioned soul music. This album is packed full of delightful two-steps, gentle boogies and delicate, sad harmonies that make it hard to believe this comes from a group of Swedish musicians! Read full review


Will Downing – Soul Survivor

Sept. 21, 2017

The Prince of Sophisticated Soul, Will Downing, pours his seductive and charming style of soul all over your ears once again here with his latest gem Soul Survivor, a collection of sharp, clever covers and originals meant to captivate and woo in that familiar Downing way.

Teaming up on select tracks with the mega-talented and sultry vocalist Avery Sunshine, the queen of killer vocals Maysa, vocal giant and all-around good guy Phil Perry, household sax name Najee, and others, the vocal maestro takes us on another full-bodied journey of soul in the smooth lane with tunes like the lead and title track, the hot dance track “I Just Wanna Say Thank You,” “I’m Feeling the Love” with its sexy swagger and funk and those stellar Avery pipes, and the reminiscent Motown flow of which you are reminded with “Since You’ve Been Gone,” taking you back to those lovely duet years of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (though this is not a duet) and featuring some solid sax chops in the appropriate places. Read full review


Johannes Linstead — Azul

Sept. 21, 2017

Nuevo flamenco/World guitarist Johannes Linstead is again inviting us on another of his exotic and captivating journeys across the musical landscape he has come to conquer so well, this time with a beauty called simply Azul (“blue” in Spanish). With its flavorful and colorful flair, red should have been added to the color scheme for this one as the guitarist lights it up from an island perspective or as he offers up a new feel (for example, the style most will recall on Carlos Santana’s Supernatural album, in particular on track two’s “Cha Cha Chu,” which so reminds me of that super-hot “Smooth” from the Mexican icon’s CD. Linstead ignites that flame with the experience of one totally familiar with the value of hot guitar work to set a certain tone. The blending of hot electric oil with cool acoustic salve throughout the album is wildly refreshing. Read full review


The JT Project – Another Chance

Sept. 21, 2017

Saxman/flautist/composer/producer Todd Schefflin and keyboardist/bassist/composer/producer Jason Webb – aka The JT Project – have to be a source of pride for the Trippin N Rhythm record label. Not wishing to let their musical groove subside for even much more than a year (having released their previous release, Moments of Change, in March 2016), the duo now releases Another Chance, a silky ride along that cool stretch on Smooth and Charismatic Ave., located there in your town. You know the place. You’ve spent enough time there to recognize this familiar style of jazz and meet the sounds of groups like this. This is snappy, relaxing, and classy buoyancy coupled with casual rhythms that conjure up images of island breezes, walks along the beach, cruises along long, winding roads, and dining in jazz-influenced settings similar to N’Orleans, as well as chic New York lounges and Brazilian hangouts. Yep, it’s all here. Read full review


Patrick Yandall — A Journey Home

Sept. 9, 2017

Guitarist Patrick Yandall has been at this making-music-smooth-and-beautiful thing for many a year, often with great projects that don’t get the recognition that I personally feel they should. Here’s a man with not only killer guitar skills in several genres including smooth jazz, blues, R&B, fusion, and funk, but with a clear knowledge and understanding of the mechanics and intangibles of each and how they move that inner you to join the groove.

With 20 albums dating back to the early 1990s, Yandall has not only staying power but is remarkably prolific, oftentimes never letting more than a couple of years pass without offering a brand new release. Read full review


Unleashed Dreams — Dare to Dream

Sept. 9, 2017

As most of our regular patrons are already aware, we periodically review other projects other than smooth jazz if they are well-done and worthy of a review. That includes new age, World, Latin, and blues. Because of the universal beauty of music, it would be a travesty not to embrace all great music. Here, we are reviewing an absolutely refreshing and beautiful new age project from a duo calling itself Unleashed Dreams. The moving, motivational consciousness-raising debut release Dare to Dream is full of spiritually soothing offerings that are bathed in celestial melodies and mood. This is truly time-out music that calls upon one to reflect and engage in abundant introspection. Read full review


Patrick Bradley — Intangible

Aug. 18, 2017

And here we go on a ride of musical excellence in the form of great fusion, funk, and snappy smooth jazz brought to you by the gifted fingers of Patrick Bradley, an artist who just keeps delivering quality on each and every one of his releases. Intangible is the latest gift from the keyboardist/composer. The heat starts quickly; so, brace yourself, and let the groove take over.

Again working with keys giant/producer and co-writer of this strong project, Jeff Lorber, Bradley adds even more flair with guitarists Paul Jackson Jr. and Adam Hawley, bassist Jimmy Haslip, hornman David Mann, guitarist Michael Thompson, trumpeter Andrew Carney, and drummer Gary Novak. Yes, the talent is top-tier and wired for that Bradley vibe. Read full review


U-Nam – The Essential Collection

Aug. 18, 2017

While we seldom, if ever, offer reviews of “best of” collections, guitarist U-Nam’s latest release The Essential Collection bears repeating a quick analysis of some of the grooves offered here and does also offer two completely new and hot tracks.

Drawn from numerous previous projects, the majority of tracks here should be familiar to U-Nam fans and should certainly capture new fans, as well. Included are tracks from his albums Back From the 80s, Surface Level, C’est Le Funk, Unanimity, and Weekend in L.A. (A Tribute to George Benson). If you missed picking up any of these gems, tracks like the romping lead track, a cover of The Crusaders’ classic “Street Life,” the supercharged, party-hearty “Going for Miles,” “Something’s Up,” “Throwback Kid” (definitely one of my faves), “Groove Paradise” (another of my faves), the hot and steamy groove “Shine On,” and the powerful “Back In Style (yep, another fave of mine – but then, so many are!) should convince you to grab this album to catch up (at least, to some decent extent). Read full review


Marvin Thompson Jr. – Kind Words

Aug. 18, 2017

Keyboardist/writer/producer Marvin Thompson Jr. has led a wonderfully productive and pretty prolific musical life. Writing music for numerous musicals and short films, Thompson has also released several instrumental projects, including an earlier album entitled In Focus and his current release Kind Words, both on the December Sky music label. He has served as Musical Director for several stage plays, including Torn Between Two Loves and the Plowshares Theatre production of Soulfest and Spunk. He wrote and scored the music for the independent film, Guilty Innocence for the Swift Winds Media production company. He’s also the writer and producer of the hit stage musical, City Square. Read full review


Ben Tankard – Full Tank 3: CanTANKerous

Aug. 18, 2017

Chock full of that uplifting, spiritual goodness that comes with the Ben Tankard brand of smooth & funky jazz, the former NBA baller and keyboardist explodes on the scene again with his third installment of the Full Tank groove – this one aptly titled Full Tank 3: CanTANKerous. Oh, don’t even think about sitting this out. The electrically charged vibes bouncing from this one won’t allow that, anyway.

Jumping right at you from the start with the mega-funky lead track in honor of the late great Wayman Tisdale, simply entitled “Remember Wayman” (how could you not after getting a dose of this one?), Tankard loads up on such goodies as the gospel-influenced “Like the Dew” featuring the ever-popular and talented Gerald Albright, the catchy and hoppin’ lead track featuring one of the genre’s masters of melody, saxman Paul Taylor, and the finger-poppin’ sexily striding “Goodness Gracious” featuring the cottony harmony of vocal sensations Take 6 (aw, yeah is the appropriate response here, I’d say). Wait, there’s so much more. Read full review