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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fo/mo/deep — Syzygy

Sept. 13, 2019

I have been following this eclectic groove machine known as fo/mo/deep since 2010, and I have to say that, with each of its colorful releases (including the current Syzygy — interesting title), the band has given me plenty of reason to continue following it.

Operating as a trio these days (Ron “FatKat” Holmes on all basses, Andre Scott on drums and percussion, and Robert Mason on piano/keys) and continuing in the vein of eclecticism (as one of its albums is titled, by the way), the group gives nods to the funk/soul groove while still holding up high the contributions of the masters of the traditional jazz persuasion. Read full review


Althea Rene — Flawsome

Aug. 30, 2019

With the launch of her eighth album, soul-jazz flautist Althea Rene shows not only her staying power, tenacity, and appeal, but her depth of feel as a c-jazz artist.

This charming release from a charmer of a musician whose bio is as impressive as her skill (she was once a deputy sheriff in Texas and counts Jethro Tull flautist/frontman Ian Anderson, Yusef Lateef, Hubert Laws, and her dad Dezie McCullers of the famed Motown Funk Brothers among her chief influences) is truly a pleasure to behold. Read full review


Rick Braun — Crossroads

Aug. 10, 2019

The renowned and beloved veteran trumpet master Rick Braun is back at it again, releasing another groove-filled full-bodied collection of goodies for c-jazzers to wrap their hearts and ears around – Crossroads. It’s a tight, well-oiled, and well-produced work that we have come to expect from one so polished and adept in the art and its nuances.

Working together with such household luminaries/buddies as Richard Elliot, Philippe Saisse, Peter White, Nate Phillips, Greg Phillinganes, Chris “Big Dog” Davis, Lenny Castro, and a host of others, Braun brings the sunshine and the lure of great quality jazz right up to the shores of our souls and coaxes us into that familiar dance of joy and adoration with this music. Read full review


Dave Bradshaw Jr. — Flipside

Aug. 10, 2019

Keyboardist Dave Bradshaw Jr. delivers a really smooth and balanced album here with Flipside, an album that embraces that feel-good vibe like a lover. This is a polished, very melodic bit of musical bliss as the keyboardist dances through some truly classy material with definition.

Bringing along the Earth, Wind, & Fire horns, saxtress Jessy J, and the mixing and mastering skills of saxman Darren Rahn, Bradshaw—who also composed and produced all of the material—places his finger right on the pulse of what moves, excites, and soothes the c-jazz fan. Read full review


Cal Harris Jr. — Soulful

July 31, 2019

This well-produced, solid project, Soulful, by pianist/keyboardist Cal Harris Jr. sparkles with originality and character with a sizable emphasis on real c-jazz combined with just the right amount of R&B and funk to make it one of the best well-rounded albums I’ve heard to date.

Bringing along with him such contributors as the legendary keyboardist/producer/composer Jeff Lorber, bassist Mel Brown,  producer/programmer/ keyboardist Lew Laing Jr., and others who sport their A game, Harris puts on quite the display of eclectic, thick, full-bodied jazz grooves to put any c-jazz lover in the right mood at the right time. Read full review


Kim Scott – Free to Be

July 10, 2019

I have so enjoyed following and reviewing this lovely flautist and her very becoming work since her 2011 Crossing Over release. The vibrancy, the brilliance, and the feel-good vibe that one gets from her lilting, quality c-jazz offerings are not to be understated. Here again on her latest Free to Be release, she puts on a great display of her musicianship with top-tier playing and writing skills.

Artists like Kim Scott bring an exuberance to an art form long prophesied to be a thing of the past in short order by critics. When you listen to the Pied Piper-like allure and magic of her style, you come to the conclusion that those critics couldn’t be farther from the truth. Read full review


Julian Vaughn — Supreme

July 9, 2019

Continuing his funky lead bass party, Trippin N Rhythm artist Julian Vaughn lays out some new and phat grooves on his latest release Supreme that have become an essential component of his own “it” factor, that indelible signature that he can call his own.

Wasting no time introducing you to this powerful collection of originals (and one cover track recorded by After 7 and written by Babyface), the bassist jumps on the high road and kicks it all off with the up-tempo lead track “Flash Back Friday” followed by a mid-tempo and the thick and funky “Black Dynamite” which features a really nice horn arrangement with Donald Hayes on sax. Read full review


Ron Hutchens – Date With Destin

July 3, 2019

This EP, Date With Destin, by pianist/keyboardist (and, really, multi-instrumentalist) Ron Hutchens, is a beautifully melodic collage of c-jazz in its more tranquil, laid-back mood (for the most part). With only guitar help on select tracks, Hutchens pulls together yet another tasteful example of class and musicianship.

With four of the seven tracks (“Tranquility Bay,” Okaloosa Moon,” “Dolphin Run,” and “Been Too Long”) being tailor-made for that relaxing evening at the beach, allowing one’s mind to experience the romance, waves, and just-rising moon whispering as a perfect backdrop, they escort you to a place of bliss and good vibes. Very much the stuff caresses are made of. Read full review


Mark Allen Felton – Soul Real

June 11, 2019

This is my first exposure to Chitown saxman Mark Allen Felton who’s actually been on the scene since 2002 when he recorded his first album, a gospel production called Gospel Stroll. Since then, he’s released 4 other albums (including this one) ranging in style from Gospel to R&B/funk/jazz, tossing in a bit of the hip hop flavor on his latest Soul Real release.

With a clearly diverse style, Felton’s creative and powerful approach to soul-deep grooves is equally as moving as his style. This is what defines eclecticism with oomph and soul. Read full review


Mark Harris II – Interstellar

June 11, 2019

So, being relatively new to the c-jazz scene and having released his debut EP Imagine in 2015, I would imagine there are some who would ask “Exactly who is Mark Harris II?” Well, he is a seriously talented keyboardist (multi-instrumentalist, actually) hailing from St. Louis, MO who has worked with Tiffany Elle, Rhoda G., and the house band at St. Louis’ Cafe Soul.

One of the most diverse productions I’ve heard lately, his new album, Interstellar, is loaded—really loaded—with eclectic grooves ranging from techno effects to fusion to typical c-jazz with some R&B intonations. I am a fan of most of his compositions and journey here, although a couple of the deep fusion tracks (i.e. the lead track “Black Gold” and the title track) left me a bit dissatisfied. Still, those aside, Harris delivers a solid, creative vehicle to transport one to a very well-rounded place of delicious grooves. Read full review