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Tony Exum Jr. — Finally!

Oct. 28, 2010

Refreshingly funky yet measured and controlled in that soulful and driven kind of way that is so reflective of much of today’s–and even a lot of yesterday’s–smooth jazz, saxman Tony Exum Jr. steps forward to toss in his own pizzazz in the form of a quality debut production entitled Finally! (a very telling title indeed).  While compared in some ways to the late great Grover Washington, the late great George Howard, and the young, gifted Jackiem Joyner, the artist certainly carries enough firepower to ignite his own identity with no problem whatsoever.
 
Having co-written many of the tracks here, Exum shows that he is no stranger to the fine art of contemporary jazz and how it’s often used to relate to R&B, funk, and other influences.  From the title track’s introduction, a short piece that draws on fusion influences in a big way, to the actual title track with its nice hook (although I think I would have preferred a little less tampering with the keys and vocal production on this one) to the crisp and popping “Sweet Conversations”  to the sweetly melodic “T.E. Heartbreak” and on through the finale, “Seven,” a smartly-timed  fusion-fused little number with character, the material constantly makes a gallant effort to reach out and touch.  I think it does so successfully and with taste.
 
Exum has done a really commendable job here of presenting a palatable blend for his debut. Good tune choices, decent phrasings, and standup skill. Obviously an excellent combination and a clear prerequisite to achieving staying power in this wonderful genre.  I think Exum has tapped into that formula, and this project clearly indicates that he plans to stick around for a minute —
Ronald Jackson