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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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


Chris Godber — Momentum

Jan. 13, 2018

Saxophonist Chris Godber is not only an accomplished and insightful artist, but his is a most intriguing and compelling story. You see, the saxman has had to battle the respiratory culprit asthma and was once told by doctors that he’d never play sax due to the severity of his illness. Being one of those admirable artists who believe more in themselves than in a diagnosis, Godber defied the prognosis and, to his credit, has been playing and captivating audiences now for over two decades. Oh, and not only is he a solid saxman; he doubles as a Respiratory Therapist and often entertains his patients with his sax prowess. Talk about drive and determination. Read full review


Terra Guitarra — Spirit Wheel

Jan. 1, 2018

Terra Guitarra has become a TSJR favorite duo to critique. Their Latin-laced fluidity and exotic texture is always musically exhilarating. This time, with their new release called Spirit Wheel, they have steered a bit in a new direction, highlighting not just the always-satisfying Latin guitar touch but moving into more “spiritual, healing, meditational, transformational, trance/chill” compositions “designed to help listeners explore internally first and their place in the universe.” Deep, but it works as their music continues to be almost ethereally melodic and all-encompassing. Read full review


Willie Bradley – Going With the Flow

Dec. 29, 2017

Charismatic, smooth jazz trumpeter master Willie Bradley is back on the scene with a brand new release entitled Going With the Flow. Packed with much of the funk, charm, and sophistication that came with his debut release Another Day & Time, a blockbuster introduction to the effervescent artist who possesses as much showmanship and professionalism as you could ever hope from an artist on his way up the smooth jazz ladder of success.

Joining Bradley here on select tracks is an array of top quality artists including keyboardist/pianist/producer Bob Baldwin, guitarist Adam Hawley, multi-instrumentalist Greg Manning, and Manhattans lead singer Gerald Alston. Read full review