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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Patrick Yandall — A Journey Home

Sept. 9, 2017

Guitarist Patrick Yandall has been at this making-music-smooth-and-beautiful thing for many a year, often with great projects that don’t get the recognition that I personally feel they should. Here’s a man with not only killer guitar skills in several genres including smooth jazz, blues, R&B, fusion, and funk, but with a clear knowledge and understanding of the mechanics and intangibles of each and how they move that inner you to join the groove.

With 20 albums dating back to the early 1990s, Yandall has not only staying power but is remarkably prolific, oftentimes never letting more than a couple of years pass without offering a brand new release. Read full review


Unleashed Dreams — Dare to Dream

Sept. 9, 2017

As most of our regular patrons are already aware, we periodically review other projects other than smooth jazz if they are well-done and worthy of a review. That includes new age, World, Latin, and blues. Because of the universal beauty of music, it would be a travesty not to embrace all great music. Here, we are reviewing an absolutely refreshing and beautiful new age project from a duo calling itself Unleashed Dreams. The moving, motivational consciousness-raising debut release Dare to Dream is full of spiritually soothing offerings that are bathed in celestial melodies and mood. This is truly time-out music that calls upon one to reflect and engage in abundant introspection. Read full review


Patrick Bradley — Intangible

Aug. 18, 2017

And here we go on a ride of musical excellence in the form of great fusion, funk, and snappy smooth jazz brought to you by the gifted fingers of Patrick Bradley, an artist who just keeps delivering quality on each and every one of his releases. Intangible is the latest gift from the keyboardist/composer. The heat starts quickly; so, brace yourself, and let the groove take over.

Again working with keys giant/producer and co-writer of this strong project, Jeff Lorber, Bradley adds even more flair with guitarists Paul Jackson Jr. and Adam Hawley, bassist Jimmy Haslip, hornman David Mann, guitarist Michael Thompson, trumpeter Andrew Carney, and drummer Gary Novak. Yes, the talent is top-tier and wired for that Bradley vibe. Read full review


U-Nam – The Essential Collection

Aug. 18, 2017

While we seldom, if ever, offer reviews of “best of” collections, guitarist U-Nam’s latest release The Essential Collection bears repeating a quick analysis of some of the grooves offered here and does also offer two completely new and hot tracks.

Drawn from numerous previous projects, the majority of tracks here should be familiar to U-Nam fans and should certainly capture new fans, as well. Included are tracks from his albums Back From the 80s, Surface Level, C’est Le Funk, Unanimity, and Weekend in L.A. (A Tribute to George Benson). If you missed picking up any of these gems, tracks like the romping lead track, a cover of The Crusaders’ classic “Street Life,” the supercharged, party-hearty “Going for Miles,” “Something’s Up,” “Throwback Kid” (definitely one of my faves), “Groove Paradise” (another of my faves), the hot and steamy groove “Shine On,” and the powerful “Back In Style (yep, another fave of mine – but then, so many are!) should convince you to grab this album to catch up (at least, to some decent extent). Read full review


Marvin Thompson Jr. – Kind Words

Aug. 18, 2017

Keyboardist/writer/producer Marvin Thompson Jr. has led a wonderfully productive and pretty prolific musical life. Writing music for numerous musicals and short films, Thompson has also released several instrumental projects, including an earlier album entitled In Focus and his current release Kind Words, both on the December Sky music label. He has served as Musical Director for several stage plays, including Torn Between Two Loves and the Plowshares Theatre production of Soulfest and Spunk. He wrote and scored the music for the independent film, Guilty Innocence for the Swift Winds Media production company. He’s also the writer and producer of the hit stage musical, City Square. Read full review


Ben Tankard – Full Tank 3: CanTANKerous

Aug. 18, 2017

Chock full of that uplifting, spiritual goodness that comes with the Ben Tankard brand of smooth & funky jazz, the former NBA baller and keyboardist explodes on the scene again with his third installment of the Full Tank groove – this one aptly titled Full Tank 3: CanTANKerous. Oh, don’t even think about sitting this out. The electrically charged vibes bouncing from this one won’t allow that, anyway.

Jumping right at you from the start with the mega-funky lead track in honor of the late great Wayman Tisdale, simply entitled “Remember Wayman” (how could you not after getting a dose of this one?), Tankard loads up on such goodies as the gospel-influenced “Like the Dew” featuring the ever-popular and talented Gerald Albright, the catchy and hoppin’ lead track featuring one of the genre’s masters of melody, saxman Paul Taylor, and the finger-poppin’ sexily striding “Goodness Gracious” featuring the cottony harmony of vocal sensations Take 6 (aw, yeah is the appropriate response here, I’d say). Wait, there’s so much more. Read full review


Demetrice Everett – Life

Aug. 18, 2017

In 2012, drummer Demetrice Everett released an EP featuring four tracks, as far as I can tell, entitled Demetrice “Meat” Everett. A single from the set, “Still Alive” was a precursor to the gems found on this new release entitled Life, one truly worth picking up.

Life actually counts as his debut full-length album, and it’s a good one. I love albums like this. Smorgasbords of sound.

This album opens in a gentle, unpressured way with a nice percussion, flute, and vocal ensemble piece, “Jungle,” that hints at what’s to come. However, it’s with “Dreaming of You” that one really begins to get a glimpse of the pleasures in store. Man, these cats swing time around like it’s a nothing but a weight on the end of a string. One moment, it’s swaying gently to and fro; the next, they have it at arms-length, spinning mad circles, twirling, laughing without dropping the melody. Then, just when you think the groove can’t improve, they just stop and drop some nasty guitar/synth combo break in your ears before they bring in the sweetness! I love music like this. It’s all over the place and beautifully put together. Read full review


Roberto Restuccia — When the Smoke Clears

Aug. 18, 2017

Roberto Restuccia is a UK based guitarist who studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. His early influences were guitarists such as Slash and Prince. Later, he discovered smooth jazz through the music of George Benson and Ronny Jordan.

When the Smoke Clears, his sophomore album, opens with the solemn gentle and understated “Mei.” Restuccia picks his way beautifully through the soft misty, piano and drums backing before some light strings that drift in, then evaporate to reveal a gutsier attack from Restuccia. It’s a beautiful opener to a good album of laid-back, thoughtful, smooth, charm-filled jazz. Read full review


RK Dawkins — Journey

Aug. 18, 2017

As one who is rather old school in this way, I don’t usually favor one-man bands using the electronic magic of the keyboard/synth to create the effect of a full band (with the exception of Paul Hardcastle and Rick Kelly (aka Soul Ballet), both of whom have worn that signature technique and sound well for a very long time), but this debut solo project from RK Dawkins entitled Journey brings some very appealing supple sounds from his sampling library via his keyboard to your ears. There is a lot going on here to enhance your listening experience and stroke your sense of melody. Read full review


Carl Cox – Feelin’ Fine

Aug. 18, 2017

Ok, so just who is Carl Cox, you ask? Well, he’s a freelance touring saxophonist/recording artist/educator from Southern Jersey. He is also the full time Music Director at Deptford High School and Adjunct Professor of saxophone at Rowan University. He’s one dynamic, passionate, and soulful saxophonist who has nurtured his sax skills and plotted out how they would fit in the contemporary jazz world. It appears that he may have found the path.

Cox has performed with a number of who’s who in the biz including Gerald Veasley, Jeff Lorber, Billy Paul, the late Chuck Loeb, Maysa, and Brian Culbertson, to name but a few. Venturing out on this debut 5-track EP entitled Feelin’ Fine, the saxman does a wonderful job of impressing. His material has a confident stride, lots of body, and a genuine feel for the groove that has worked for so many. Read full review