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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Norman Brown — The Highest Act of Love

Feb. 24, 2019

Clearly, no one has a better grasp on the power of contemporary jazz in the hands and soul of one who understands its very concept and appeal than the one and only guitar virtuoso Norman Brown, and he demonstrates that on his latest release The Highest Act of Love. Flowing with fluid melodies, pronounced spirituality, and masterful chops, the album puts on display why the personable Brown stays atop the world of c-jazz and is so loved. Even the masterful guitar icon George Benson has given Brown his stamp of approval as truly among the best in the business, but then, we all know that, don’t we? Read full review


Rod Tate – Sunshine & Lemonade

Feb. 24, 2019

Veteran indie saxman Rod Tate has been a satisfying force in jazz for about two decades now, finding a home in c–jazz, R&B, and gospel to the delight of so many. Here with his latest release Sunshine & Lemonade, the artist offers velvety smooth melodies and rhythms and incorporates a bit of that bossa nova touch as he embraces eclecticism in a way that only one with a diverse background and a real handle on the genre can embrace it.

From the catchy lead track “Sea Breeze” to exotically jazzy tracks like “Bossa De Amor,” “It’s All Good,” and “Revived” with their island rhythms – some subtle, some not so subtle-to romantic, whispery sweet tunes like “St. Louis Nights” and the soulful “Until Next Time” to the finger-poppin’, head-boppin’ “Road Trip” and “Cool With Me,” Tate provides all you want in a jazz environment, touching on all of the savory elements that make jazz what it is today. Read full review


The Allen Carman Project — Carmanology

Feb. 24, 2019

Here’s a fun, funk-filled album from bassist Allen Carman. The album, cleverly titled Carmanology, is the bassist’s debut release and features some pretty stellar artists like saxman Andy Snitzer, keyboardist Philippe Saisse, guitarists Marc Antoine and Nile Rodgers, and trumpet legend Rick Braun, among others. It’s an album packed with that kick-in-the-door drive that announces one has arrived with some much sought-after musical “goods” – and does it ever deliver. Read full review


U-Nam – Future Love

Feb. 9, 2019

One of the busiest producers and among the most prolific c-jazz artists around, guitarist U-Nam is again presenting a colorful collection of original pearls worthy of inclusion in any jazz lover’s library. Future Love is abundant with a solidly generous feel-good jazz vibe that surely stays with you.

Here with many of the artists signed to his Skytown record label (saxman Andrew Chmut, saxtress Shannon Abiteboul, keyboardists Valeriy Stepanov and Mattias Roos, and others) and bassist Alex Al, drummer Michael White, and a host of other contributors, the guitarist comes loaded for bear to deliver that unmistakable U-Nam groove. Read full review


Keiko Matsui — Echo

Feb. 1, 2019

Keyboardist/pianist Keiko Matsui, the lovely mega-talented pride of Japan and the princess of innovative c-jazz and World music, is at it again, releasing yet another of her top-tier incomparable projects for our endless listening and feeling experience. This time, we are treated to Echo, an album so full of all musical things elegantly beautiful and containing that Keiko jazz/jazz fusion element (listen to the lead track “Unshakable” for an example) with mind-blowing runs, timing innovations, and more. This is Keiko surpassing her own past Picasso-like work, delivering with such stellar contributing musicians as the great and personable saxman Kirk Whalum, bassists Marcus Miller, Jimmy Johnson, Rico Belled, & Kyle Eastwood, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, saxman Brandon Fields, and others. Read full review


Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy — Cappadocia

Feb. 1, 2019

(New Age)

As I have written here many times before, the beauty and magic of a well-done new age album or track is a thing to behold with deep wonder and appreciation. There are so many moving intangibles that stir, excite, soothe, caress, and whisper to the soul. Such is the case with the latest release called Cappadocia by keyboardist/percussionist/vocalist Jeff Johnson and guitarist/bassist/percussionist/vocalist Phil Keaggy. This is a musical voyage beyond any earthly destination. It soars to the heavens and to the tender places in the heart that cannot be reached by any means other than a great melody. Read full review


Timothy Wenzel – Running Away

Feb. 1, 2019

(New Age)

Another exercise in the beauty of new age music comes from one of the 21st century’s truly talented and prolific keyboardists/pianists Timothy Wenzel. His latest release Running Away is chock full of charming melodies and runs that are bound to steal your heart and soul in their breathtaking delivery.

Some in the c-jazz world may ask, “So, who is Timothy Wenzel?” Briefly, this American-born artist has written and performed a great deal of electro-acoustic Contemporary Instrumental/New Age/Celtic music since 2012. His debut album, Mountains Take Wing was selected as a Best New Age Album of 2012 by New Age Music World. His second album, A Coalescence of Dreams (October 2012) received widespread airplay and acclaim, climbing to #6 in the international radio airplay chart by Zone Music Reporter in 2013. His third album, River Serene, also jumped into the top 10 at ZMR. His fourth album, Summon the Wind, was released November 20, 2014 and reached #6 on the international ZMR charts. His fifth album Distant Horseman was released in February 2016 and immediately rose to #3 on the ZMR charts. Read full review


Jazz Funk Soul – Life and Times

Jan. 19, 2019

On their first release without their beloved comrade, the late great guitarist of universal fame Chuck Loeb, the Jazz Funk Soul ensemble enlists the mega-talented Paul Jackson Jr. who does a marvelous job of stepping in to carry on the legacy of quality guitar previously offered by Loeb.

This new release, Life and Times, is another superbly written, produced, and performed recording of top-tier caliber. The fused elements of the genres embraced by the group’s name are on full and powerful display here with tons of stellar jazz leading the way with heavy soul and jazz inflections.

Wasting no time getting to your groove zone, Lorber & Co. ignite the fire with the full-bodied and exciting up-tempo “Exotic” featuring Everette Harp’s mighty sax work accentuated by multi-instrumentalist Lorber’s always-commanding keys work. Read full review


Patrick Yandall — When It’s Hip

Jan. 19, 2019

Super-talented and eclectic indie guitarist Patrick Yandall hasn’t built his reputation and the ongoing respect he receives among his peers and fans alike by being a mediocre peddler of weak and unimaginative recordings. His projects always have a knack for catching one’s ear because of their undeniable presence and melodic richness.

Here on his latest release When It’s Hip, the guitarist pays homage to artists from Tower of Power to Pink Floyd in that unique, full, jazzy Yandall manner.

A true master of expressive guitar, his skill is again demonstrated on tracks like the uptempo and sunny title track, the equally shiny “King James,” his stirring version of the Isley Brothers’ classic “Who’s That Lady,” the sweeping Santana-like “Soul Instincts” and “Makai.” Then, there’s “The Groovefather” (which offers that Tower of Power vibe), a spot-on cover of the Pink Floyd rock classic “Money,” “Heartland” (which puts his fluidity and speed on display and possesses that dual guitar harmony of The Allman Brothers Band era), the appropriately-titled “Bring the Funk,” and a wonderfully innovative but short tune called “Star Prelude” that precedes his creatively bluesy cover of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Read full review


Mel Holder — Magnificent

Jan. 19, 2019

A sweet balance of soul-stirring gospel music intermixed with the funk and groove of c-jazz marks this latest release from saxman Mel Holder, offering up a spectacular array of satisfying gems, good for whatever ails you and guaranteed to uplift and inspire on his latest release Music Book Vol. III — Magnificent.

With a host of solid musicians backing him – and featuring jazz/gospel keyboardist/producer Ben Tankard and keyboardist/producer Bob Baldwin on select tracks – Holder firms up this project nicely with rich, flavorful, and full-bodied melodies and hooks that will surely stay with you long after you’ve stopped playing the album. Read full review