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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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Spyro Gyra – Vinyl Tap

Oct. 10, 2019

Wow. If you ever need a measurement tool to gauge good—no, great—jazz arrangements based on originality and the guts to go where no man has gone before in terms of imaginative covers of classic vinyl originals, Spyro Gyra’s new Vinyl Tap is it. Simply put, I was blown away by the innovative approach found on this recording.

This is such mind-blowing stuff that words can do it little justice. Grab a listen to such classics as Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” The Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” (penned by Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins), War’s “The Cisco Kid,” the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” and others including the rousing finale – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s “Carry On.” Each track is transformed into a Spyro Gyra original. Totally impressive. Read full review

 

The Justus Brothers – The Justus Brothers

Oct. 10, 2019

Welcome to the c-jazz/soul scene a group of guys who’ve performed or recorded with everyone from Booker T. Jones to ZZ Top to Solomon Burke to Neil Young – and that’s just a small sample of the who’s who with whom they’ve done work. Meet The Justus Brothers, a Memphis-based soul/jazz band that’s hit the music scene with a huge bang. Here with its debut self-titled release, the band offers tasteful, funky originals and covers that are guaranteed to grab and hold your attention. Read full review

 

Ty Causey — Hypnotic

Oct. 10, 2019

(R&B)

While I have steered away from projects that are strictly R&B/soul as opposed to being integrated with at least a touch of c-jazz, Ty Causey is one artist I’ve found to be an exception to my rule, only because of the texture of his music and the way it can easily strike a c-jazz chord in many a jazzer’s heart. His latest release, Hypnotic, is built on that same smooth foundation that compelled me to write reviews on his previous Tyangles and Down II Earth releases. There’s a sweet sway and bounce to this music that reaches you – wherever you live in the worlds of R&B and c-jazz. Read full review

 

Nicholas Cole – The Weekend

Sept. 24, 2019

I’ve absolutely loved Nicholas Cole’s style ever since hearing his first release. The fluidity, the soulfulness of one so young at that time, the genuine feel for the genre and how to reach people where they “live” were and are all the things that make his music magic to me. On this latest release The Weekend, I was able to again marvel at his skill, his imagination, and depth of perception.

I must admit that there are three tracks I can live without, and I guess that plays into artists trying something new in this time of change in the genre to incorporate “different.” It also speaks to the appeal some feel that covers like “PYT” have to not only MJ fans but to all who just wanna dance and feel the groove. That’s all good. Personally, the Nicholas Cole I have so come to admire is simply a solid, gifted, perceptive keyboardist/composer who has gained a throng of admirers via the character of his music and his grasp of the c-jazz groove. I like that – a lot. Read full review

 

Lisa Addeo – Listen To This

Sept. 24, 2019

If you’re into seductive, sleek, funky, c-jazz, pianist/keyboardist Lisa Addeo has you covered on this exquisite display of musicianship, class, and loads of melody called Listen to This.

With grooves as smooth as silk and with punch, the veteran pianist–who has several recordings under her belt since the 1990s–grabs you with the magnetism of this production.

Comprised of all originals on which she is the co-author on most of the tracks along with guitarist Nils (one rack is co-written by guitarist Adam Hawley, and one is written solely by Addeo), this album moves down Groove Lane confidently with a mixture of bounce and stroll. Read full review

 

Rainforest Band – Peace to the Planet

Sept. 24, 2019

Here is a very honorable, noble project about which I must plead complete ignorance – until now. Let me preface this review with an introduction to the project as I’m sure many others may have to join me in this new discovery.

Back in the 1990s, keyboardist/composer Merl Saunders had a vision brought about after witnessing the devastating destruction in the Amazon rainforest from which he had just returned. Assuming some responsibility to speak out in some form against this, he organized some like-minded artists and musicians—like the late, iconic Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead—and created a new genre called Environmental Earth Music. Via this genre, an album called Blues From the Rainforest – A Musical Suite was created. Read full review

 

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