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Smooth Operation – Ah Yeah

Nov. 19, 2012

Ah Yeah, the debut release from the group Smooth Operation may well be the shortest CD I’ve ever reviewed. It has a total of 4 songs, the last of which consumes most of the album’s time (10 minutes). Still, there is so much to like (maybe even love for a variety of reasons) about this album with its strong material bearing lots of “oomph” and up-tempo funk. The smoothness and funkiness share equal time with some pretty solid fusion. This is a CD worthy of serious consideration.

The lead track “Z” leads you into that funky party room complete with a rap element and hearty rhythm. The high-steppin’ and rhythmic title track which immediately follows is a cool fusion piece that has some very interesting phrasing, keys, and guitar work.

One of the main tunes of note on this project for me is the cleverly arranged interpretation of the Gershwin classic “Summertime.” Here and there, I could hear some of the late Billy Stewart’s vocal phrasing. For those who are familiar with Stewart’s version, I’m sure you will agree that to say it was unique is a gross understatement. Apparently, Smooth Operation also thought so as it seems that they couldn’t resist adding just a touch of that phrasing in the piece. Simply put, the powerful vocals by Bernard Jackson and overall instrumentation are above average and most appealing.

Now, we come to the 10-minute journey into fusion on the finale, a great cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage.” Beginning as a sweet, well oiled keys, guitar, and bass piece with that revered Hancock melody–combined with some impressive runs on the mentioned instruments–it later morphs into an elaborate piece with a lot of synth presence. Truly a remarkable show of creative interpretation.

On this album (or should I say “mini-album?”), you never end up where you started if you use the previous track as a compass, but I personally believe you will enjoy the places where this work takes you.  My only complaint: Don’t tease us, guys! Give us more.Ronald Jackson