A Slight Smooth Jazz Detour

On occasion, TSJR will be presented with a project that veers a bit off the beaten path of smooth jazz but is worthy of a review. Such projects may be in other genres (World, New Age, Latin jazz, etc). We hope that you too will find their inclusion here very appropriate and worthy. Note: Certain smartphones may not support the audio players found here.

Peggy Duquesnel — All I Ask For Christmas

Oct. 28, 2013

No, we don’t regularly feature straight-ahead jazz or country here, but here’s a project from the attractive pianist/vocalist with the bubbly Peggy Duquesnel CDsmile, Peggy Duquesnel, that transforms many of our beloved Christmas carols into seriously bopping and strolling jazz numbers sprinkled with a healthy amount of country influence. The album, due out on Nov. 5, is called All I Ask For Christmas, and it warrants a good listen.

Now, granted, some of the renditions may take you by surprise, and you may or may not prefer the version of one or more of your personal faves as presented here, but overall, it’s a wonderfully innovative take on the classics. Read full review


Chris Jasper — Inspired: By Love, By Life, By the Spirit

Oct. 7, 2013

As many of you know, we do not typically review solely R&B/gospel projects. However, should any really impress us, you Chris Jasper CDwill find them here in our Slight Detour page.  Well, I am honored to have this opportunity to review such a quality project from a former member of one of my top 5 vocal groups of all time  — keyboardist Chris Jasper of the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Isley Brothers.  Jasper’s new project on his own label (Gold City Music) is called Inspired: By Love, By Life, By the Spirit and is both original and reminiscent of the years he spent with The Isleys. It also provides me with a journey down memory lane with the stylings of that wonderful group. Read full review

Slang — Gut String Memoirs

Oct. 7, 2013

This project, Gut String Memoirs, from an artist who resides in the Philippines and is simply known as Slang, is a nice blend of Latin and a bit ofSlang CD World music. Slang shows here that he is quite knowledgeable about the nuances of flamenco music and proves that his instrumental skills are up to the task (he plays all instruments except the Hammond B3 organ which is played by one Pierre Grill, a Hawaiian resident and a popular figure there).

I wouldn’t consider all of this material as exotic, melodically pleasing, or as fiery as I like my flamenco/Latin music, but Slang does shine on many tracks that possess a decent melodic flair. Of course, there are those who will find the entire project most appealing. Read full review

Nocy — Live at the Bellagio

June 25, 2013

Flamenco guitarist Nocy (who also plays other styles) likes to say that “If your heart is touched, my music has spoken.” Here with his first live album called Live at the Bellagio (due for release on June 30), it’s not hard at all to feel the touch of many of these tunes.

From the melodic up-tempo opening track (“Amor Mi Amor”), you know that it’s time for the fiesta. As a show of true eclecticism, the guitarist then launches full blast into a raw 12-bar blues tune (“Blues 66”) that is as much fiery as it is anything else.

From smooth Brazilian flavors to the irresistible flame of flamenco, the entire CD breathes exoticism. Among my faves would be the lead track, “Blues 66,” “Arabica,” the cozy and romantic “Imagine You’re In Love” with the lovely vocals of Felice Hernandez (in fact, her vocals are laced throughout the album, adding some additional color to Nocy’s already colorful guitar), “La Vida,” “Noce Time,” and the fiery “Ya Madame,” just to name a few. Read full review

David Arkenstone & Charlee Brooks

May 22, 2013

To me. some of the most alluring and beautiful music in the world (outside of my obvious loves) is Celtic, New Age, neo-classical, and World music. One of the well-regarded icons in this David Arkenstonefield is composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist David Arkenstone. His new release, Loveren, is another masterpiece that I’m sure is headed for yet another GRAMMY nomination.

On this journey, he features the golden-voiced Charlee Brooks and a full orchestra. Featuring Brooks turns out to be one of the best things Arkenstone could have done. Her celestial, all-enthralling, and lilting voice carries you on gossamer wings through the wonderful world and imagination of this 3-time GRAMMY-nominated master of sound and mood. Read full review


Lawson Rollins — Full Circle

May 22, 2013

I stand convinced that, in order to be a truly effective Latin or flamenco guitarist, one must be somewhat well-travelled. Just take a look at the world travels of Jesse Cook, Ottmar Liebert, and Johannes Linstead. All are great guitarists with enormous vision. Well, add to that list, guitarist Lawson Rollins who always brings a refreshing pLawson Rollinserspective to his music and transfers that perspective to his fans. The guitarist now brings us what could be considered a commentary on his travels and music: His latest release entitled Full Circle.

Rollins brings to light the beauty of all the world as he offers World-influenced gems here while never relinquishing the Latin flair that yours truly has come to know and love so well. Rollins says, “’Full Circle’ is somewhat of a return to my roots in a sense, with the focus shifting to a sound that is more centered and grounded in the instrument I know best—the nylon string Spanish guitar. I was determined and indeed excited to create a cohesive, guitar-focused album. I had to reign in my instinct to apply layer upon layer of sound to any given track. That’s not to say that ‘Full Circle’ does not have some adventurous musical rides, but the heart of the album can be found in concise musical statements…’Full Circle’ is perhaps the most accurate, pointed expression of my guitar style and approach to melody and songcraft to date.”  Personally, I have always felt that Rollins’ approach to melody and songcraft have been dead on, but, of course, being the perfectionist that he clearly illustrates that he is, who can argue with the man’s assessment? Read full review


Terra Guitarra — Dragonfly

May 4, 2013

This nuevo flamenco-based project called Dragonfly from guitarists Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli –aka Terra Guitarra — has a really nice flair to it that can and probably Terre Guitarrawill capture and hold your attention for the duration of the album.

From the enticing and rhythmic lead track, “Janvier” onward, you are treated to much diversity. While the first few tracks are clearly Latin-influenced, the duo ventures out around the world to create a cornucopia of brilliance and sound. As Hecksel says, “…Julie and I have immersed ourselves in world music and global ethnic folk so the Nuevo flamenco style evolved very naturally for us. People from all over the world come up to us at our performances and tell us how they hear the music culture represented in Terra Guitarra, be it Greek, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Columbian, or any number of other countries.”  Yes, this offering of pure aural delight certainly proves that the pair truly wanted to share its cultural experiences through its music. Read full review

Arun Shenoy — Rumbadoodle

May 4, 2013

With strings, loads of spirit, and quality songwriting, GRAMMY-nominated producer/songwriter Arun Shenoy shakes it up pretty well on his most appealing World musiArun Shenoyc debut release Rumbadoodle. If nothing else, looking down at a CD in front of you with that title should drive your curiosity to pick it up and pop it in your player. Doing so will produce some very interesting results, I’m sure.

Shenoy grabs various elements of World music influences and wraps them around a rumba flamenco theme that is most prevalent. Rumbadoodle is an album chock full of rich melodies, the adept phrasing of instruments, solid, happy rhythms, and little surprises such as the rock vibe found on “Rock and Rigmarole”and “Blue Sky Happiness” (both “Part I” & “Part II”).  In other word, this album has personality. Read full review


Delilah — Sweeter Life

Apr. 16, 2013

Here’s a cool project that features R&B as the headliner, splashed with a bit of jazz, pop, and soft rock sway and swagger – along with the nostalgDelilahia of house music and disco.

Hailing from Hungary, the lovely vocalist Delilah is making headway into the world of diverse musical tastes with her latest release Sweeter Life.

Moving the needle on infectious music, Delilah introduces her brand of seductive vocals and backing harmonies, driving rhythms, and truly catchy melodies.

The vocalist has been working closely with guitarist Jim Peterik (of Survivor fame – “Eye of the Tiger,” “Vehicle”).  He says of the vocalist, “Once in a great while, you find a voice with a certain ethereal quality that speaks to the soul. When I first heard Delilah sing I felt that. It’s been a joy working with this gifted singer and her musician partner Dave Sereny…I’m looking forward to the world discovering this great artist.” Read full review


Sweet Honey In the Rock: A Tribute (Live Jazz At Lincoln Center)

Mar. 17, 2013

There must be a million ways to sub-categorize the fine, wide world of jazz. There’s Latin jazz, traditional jazz, contemporary jazz, funk jazz, acid jazz, soul jazz and on and on. However, the rich, cultural sounds of Sweet Honey in the Rock should have a totally separate category. Let’s call it “Sweet Honey Jazz,” shall we? This wonder of the world taps into every aspect of jazz in its own beautiful way. From a cappella teeming with earth-shattering and firm vocal harmony to soul-rousing gospel to the ethnically rich sounds of Africa to blues-jazz, this mighty group comes bearing the gift of a live helping of their riveting style on Sweet Honey on the Rock: A Tribute (Live Jazz at Lincoln Center).

This wonderful 2-disc work includes the diversity and fullness of jazz, a powerful gospel-tinged/civil rights theme, blues, an Abbey Lincoln medley, and more.  It was conceptualized by the need to pay tribute to some truly iconic ladies of songs: Odetta, Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone, and Abbey Lincoln.   Vocally consisting of the soon-departing Ysaye Blackwell, Aisha Kidd, Nitanju Bolade Casel, and original members Louise Robinson and Carol Maillard, these stunningly talented ladies knock it out of New York with this sterling performance. Each song as rousing and riveting as the one before it, I can only imagine the emotionally charged atmosphere of love and respect at the Center that evening.  Read full review

Joe Collado — Latino Groove Project

Jan. 27, 2013

Nuyorican (New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent) percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Joe Collado sets out on his sophomore release (the debut being Solo Joe) with all the heat and passion found in good Latin music. This latest offering, Latino Groove Project, gets the rumba, salsa, merengue, and cha cha vibe going full steam ahead with all of the exoticism you’d expect from one who knows the vibe well.

As I have often said, percussions and the trumpet (the latter always gives this music such a rich and majestic feel) paint a collage of beauty and brilliant colors. This album is no different.

Collado’s passion for percussions comes through loud and clear on this project of happy tunes. The artist also holds his own on keys and piano. One particular track puts all of these talents on display – the spirited “JoJo’s Swing.”

Collado’s competent accompaniment includes Jose Raul “Lips Morales Jr. on all horns and offering vocals, as well; Joseph Armando Collado on flute; Galo Rivera on electric guitar and cuatro); Edgardo Crespo on bongos and cowbells on one track.   Read full review


Jamie Bonk — Necessity

Jan. 1, 2012

The new album, Necessity, from talented guitarist Jamie Bonk has that smooth, soothing, and unobtrusive feel you might get from a certain Acoustic Alchemy tune in many ways.

That said, there is more of a country/light southern rock slant than you’d hear from AA, but it’s not a slant that should make most uncomfortable.

The melodies here are also catchy and often caressing in that Allman Brothers Band “Blue Sky” kind of way (if you’re aware of that iconic southern rock band, you’ll get my analogy), and the tracks aren’t overly lengthy. Bonk gets in with his musical delivery and “message,” then gets out.

The opening track, “Backbone,” has a lot of spark and presence, probably a bit more than the rest of the album, I’d dare to say. It’s a nice way to open the album, nonetheless. Read full review

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