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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Brian Culbertson – Colors of Love

Feb. 17, 2018

As if keyboardist/pianist/producer/composer Brian Culbertson hasn’t already done enough to cement himself in the hearts, minds, and souls of more fans than I even care to estimate, the music wiz goes a step further with his latest release, which is dedicated to his wife Michelle with whom he’s just celebrated two decades of marriage. The album, released on Valentine’s Day, appropriately is entitled Colors of Love and features some of the sweetest soul-stirring acoustic melodies you could ever imagine. Mind you, while his piano lines are acoustic, he still offers his usual heavy and powerful trademark funk (albeit in a slower or more mid-tempo cadence), turning to synth bass, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 organ, drum programming, and more. So, you get the best of both BC worlds here. Read full review


Rob Zinn – Walk the Walk

Feb. 17, 2018

Seldom do artists come along with a debut solo album one year, follow that up with the sophomore release less than two years later, and both turn out to be wonderful and filled to the brim with well-produced, well-conceived tracks. Seldom will I go out on a limb and proclaim that such an artist will be among the elite artists in no time flat. Well, such is the case with trumpeter Rob Zinn, an artist who clearly has a vision and a knack for catchy, delicious melodies, strong hooks, and a solid body of work. Read full review


Wayne Gutshall – Spicy!

Feb. 17, 2018

Hey, how about some “Bossa Love?” Yep, that’s my term for what you get to experience here. Saxman Wayne Gutshall has pulled together some great originals and awesomely interpretative covers for this album simply called Spicy! “Refreshing” would definitely be the descriptive word here. Nothing flashy, frenetically up-tempo, or necessarily funky (well, except for one hot bluesy track called “The Wayne Blues” featuring a smokin’ guitar solo by one Mitch Farber). This is just mostly an album of superb, exotic, laid-back, romantic grooves reminiscent of Antonio Carlos Jobim and other Brazilian music geniuses. Concocting his own additions to this pot of goodies, Gutshall has turned this production into the one hybrid you could find yourself in love with in no time. Read full review


Lin Rountree – Stronger Still

Feb. 7, 2018

Veteran groovemaker/trumpeter Lin Rountree is back at the helm of another solid production again, this time with Stronger Still, his latest collection of sassy, high-steppin’, jazz-filled tracks tailor-made to get your “engine” started.

Rountree’s consistently strong grip on what pushes the genre is, yes, stronger still as he struts through with standout trumpet melodies, runs, and sophisticated blends of jazz & R&B grooves.

Joined here by guitarists Adam Hawley and David P. Stevens, keyboardist Skinny Hightower, saxman Marcus Anderson, and vocalist Jessica Jolia, Rountree sets up a masterfully colorful collage that takes one on a wonderful odyssey of musical fluidity and charm. Read full review


Phillip “Doc” Martin – Pocket Love

Feb. 7, 2018

Since we have begun to accept for review recordings done more than a year ago, if the quality and attractiveness are there, and if we feel our audience would “miss out” if we didn’t share the material, I’m more than happy to offer my take on saxman Phillip “Doc” Martin’s 2016 release Pocket Love – an album with much more than a touch of richness.

A solid saxman born in Indiana and now residing in the Washington, DC, area and a most personable individual, Martin knows his way around a sax and a good melody. With a stirring presence in each tune, he proceeds to offer the kind of classy smooth jazz that we aficionados of the genre respect and love. This is take-notice material from the first note. Read full review


Eric Valentine & Velvet Groove – Velvet Groove

Jan. 26, 2018

There is a lot to this drummer who’s supported so many of the luminaries in contemporary jazz. For starters, the Washington, DC native (one of my own homeboys) doubles on so many other instruments most competently (keys, synths, bass, percussion) and can carry a mean tune vocally, as well. This is all borne out on his latest release Velvet Groove (to be released, appropriately, on Valentine’s Day, of course) where he outshines even himself with offerings that embrace a bit of jazz, R&B, funk, and fusion masterfully.

Tracks here are laced with character, personality, and imagination and include such names as guitarist Adam Hawley; keyboardists Brian Simpson and Greg Manning; saxmen Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot, and Elan Trotman; trumpeter Rick Braun; percussionists Ramon Yslas and Lenny Castro; and bassists Darryl Williams and Dwayne “Smiity” Smith. Oh, there are others I’m sure I’ve inadvertently omitted, but suffice it to say the album is stacked with quality, and Valentine came not only to play but to thoroughly impress. Needless to say, he was wildly successful in this writer’s opinion. Read full review


Alexandra Jackson – Legacy & Alchemy

Jan. 25, 2018

While it is our policy to steer clear of an album of covers, this EP is so incredibly stocked with creative interpretation and insight, it is uniquely stirring and clearly warrants this review. Vocalist Alexandra Jackson pours out such moving vocals on this wonderfully produced EP (courtesy of Robert Hebert and Larry Williams) entitled Legacy & Alchemy which pays tribute to samba music and the very culture of Brazil as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the popular dance and music. Read full review


Daniel Girόn — Prisma

Jan. 25, 2018

“When I talk about colors, I mean the sound of my guitar when music passes through it,” says Colombian-born, now Tampa, FL-based guitarist Daniel Girόn.

His newest release, Prisma, comes a decade after his debut album Classical Guitar but appears to have been well worth the wait as he charms and serenades with his take on flamenco guitar, drawing from his influences Paco De Lucia, Vicente Amigo, and the ever-popular Jesse Cook.

Yes, the exoticism of flamenco does appear here in abundance, and the colors are certainly vibrant, allowing you to clearly see them in your mind’s eye, as well as feel them. Read full review


Gary Palmer – Coast 2 Coast

Jan. 25, 2018

This sophomore album from saxophonist Gary Palmer entitled Coast 2 Coast is packed with lots of very soulful, jazzy jams, including romantic and sassy grooves for the incurable romantic in you. It all shows the artist’s growth in the genre and the breadth of his network as he features artists like guitarists Kay-Ta Matsuno, Nils, and David P. Stevens as well as keyboardists Bob Baldwin and Tim Watson and vocalist Kevin Foster– each of whom, by the way, not only performs but penned his own contributions here.

A perfect follow-up to his debut release, the album features get-down-in-your-soul bluesy, jazzy, sexy grooves like David P. Stevens’ “One More Time” (one of my faves) – not sure who’s on vocals here, but he pushes that soul element to the max with such intensity and emotion, much like you’d expect from the old Dells recordings. Moving. Read full review


Under the Lake – Jazz, Groove & Attitude

Jan. 25, 2018

With the colorful combination of David Evans’ tenor sax, John Monk’s trombone, and Jayson Tipp’s hearty keyboards leading the way (along with some seriously competent guitar work from Evan Mustard, the get atcha thick bass lines from Kenny Franklin, and Brian Foxworth’s hefty, steady drums), Under the Lake parades out its fourth release entitled Jazz, Groove & Attitude.

Marrying jazz and funk in that dancing, jubilant manner often associated with the hard-driving, bottom-heavy persona of that musical hybrid, this album guides you through a solidly-structured house of groove with a balanced approach of melody, musicianship, and catchy hooks. Read full review