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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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The Allen Carman Project — Carmanology

Feb. 24, 2019

Here’s a fun, funk-filled album from bassist Allen Carman. The album, cleverly titled Carmanology, is the bassist’s debut release and features some pretty stellar artists like saxman Andy Snitzer, keyboardist Philippe Saisse, guitarists Marc Antoine and Nile Rodgers, and trumpet legend Rick Braun, among others. It’s an album packed with that kick-in-the-door drive that announces one has arrived with some much sought-after musical “goods” – and does it ever deliver. Read full review

 

U-Nam – Future Love

Feb. 9, 2019

One of the busiest producers and among the most prolific c-jazz artists around, guitarist U-Nam is again presenting a colorful collection of original pearls worthy of inclusion in any jazz lover’s library. Future Love is abundant with a solidly generous feel-good jazz vibe that surely stays with you.

Here with many of the artists signed to his Skytown record label (saxman Andrew Chmut, saxtress Shannon Abiteboul, keyboardists Valeriy Stepanov and Mattias Roos, and others) and bassist Alex Al, drummer Michael White, and a host of other contributors, the guitarist comes loaded for bear to deliver that unmistakable U-Nam groove. Read full review

 

Keiko Matsui — Echo

Feb. 1, 2019

Keyboardist/pianist Keiko Matsui, the lovely mega-talented pride of Japan and the princess of innovative c-jazz and World music, is at it again, releasing yet another of her top-tier incomparable projects for our endless listening and feeling experience. This time, we are treated to Echo, an album so full of all musical things elegantly beautiful and containing that Keiko jazz/jazz fusion element (listen to the lead track “Unshakable” for an example) with mind-blowing runs, timing innovations, and more. This is Keiko surpassing her own past Picasso-like work, delivering with such stellar contributing musicians as the great and personable saxman Kirk Whalum, bassists Marcus Miller, Jimmy Johnson, Rico Belled, & Kyle Eastwood, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, saxman Brandon Fields, and others. Read full review

 

Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy — Cappadocia

Feb. 1, 2019

(New Age)

As I have written here many times before, the beauty and magic of a well-done new age album or track is a thing to behold with deep wonder and appreciation. There are so many moving intangibles that stir, excite, soothe, caress, and whisper to the soul. Such is the case with the latest release called Cappadocia by keyboardist/percussionist/vocalist Jeff Johnson and guitarist/bassist/percussionist/vocalist Phil Keaggy. This is a musical voyage beyond any earthly destination. It soars to the heavens and to the tender places in the heart that cannot be reached by any means other than a great melody. Read full review

 

Timothy Wenzel – Running Away

Feb. 1, 2019

(New Age)

Another exercise in the beauty of new age music comes from one of the 21st century’s truly talented and prolific keyboardists/pianists Timothy Wenzel. His latest release Running Away is chock full of charming melodies and runs that are bound to steal your heart and soul in their breathtaking delivery.

Some in the c-jazz world may ask, “So, who is Timothy Wenzel?” Briefly, this American-born artist has written and performed a great deal of electro-acoustic Contemporary Instrumental/New Age/Celtic music since 2012. His debut album, Mountains Take Wing was selected as a Best New Age Album of 2012 by New Age Music World. His second album, A Coalescence of Dreams (October 2012) received widespread airplay and acclaim, climbing to #6 in the international radio airplay chart by Zone Music Reporter in 2013. His third album, River Serene, also jumped into the top 10 at ZMR. His fourth album, Summon the Wind, was released November 20, 2014 and reached #6 on the international ZMR charts. His fifth album Distant Horseman was released in February 2016 and immediately rose to #3 on the ZMR charts. Read full review

 

Jazz Funk Soul – Life and Times

Jan. 19, 2019

On their first release without their beloved comrade, the late great guitarist of universal fame Chuck Loeb, the Jazz Funk Soul ensemble enlists the mega-talented Paul Jackson Jr. who does a marvelous job of stepping in to carry on the legacy of quality guitar previously offered by Loeb.

This new release, Life and Times, is another superbly written, produced, and performed recording of top-tier caliber. The fused elements of the genres embraced by the group’s name are on full and powerful display here with tons of stellar jazz leading the way with heavy soul and jazz inflections.

Wasting no time getting to your groove zone, Lorber & Co. ignite the fire with the full-bodied and exciting up-tempo “Exotic” featuring Everette Harp’s mighty sax work accentuated by multi-instrumentalist Lorber’s always-commanding keys work. Read full review

 

Patrick Yandall — When It’s Hip

Jan. 19, 2019

Super-talented and eclectic indie guitarist Patrick Yandall hasn’t built his reputation and the ongoing respect he receives among his peers and fans alike by being a mediocre peddler of weak and unimaginative recordings. His projects always have a knack for catching one’s ear because of their undeniable presence and melodic richness.

Here on his latest release When It’s Hip, the guitarist pays homage to artists from Tower of Power to Pink Floyd in that unique, full, jazzy Yandall manner.

A true master of expressive guitar, his skill is again demonstrated on tracks like the uptempo and sunny title track, the equally shiny “King James,” his stirring version of the Isley Brothers’ classic “Who’s That Lady,” the sweeping Santana-like “Soul Instincts” and “Makai.” Then, there’s “The Groovefather” (which offers that Tower of Power vibe), a spot-on cover of the Pink Floyd rock classic “Money,” “Heartland” (which puts his fluidity and speed on display and possesses that dual guitar harmony of The Allman Brothers Band era), the appropriately-titled “Bring the Funk,” and a wonderfully innovative but short tune called “Star Prelude” that precedes his creatively bluesy cover of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Read full review

 

Mel Holder — Magnificent

Jan. 19, 2019

A sweet balance of soul-stirring gospel music intermixed with the funk and groove of c-jazz marks this latest release from saxman Mel Holder, offering up a spectacular array of satisfying gems, good for whatever ails you and guaranteed to uplift and inspire on his latest release Music Book Vol. III — Magnificent.

With a host of solid musicians backing him – and featuring jazz/gospel keyboardist/producer Ben Tankard and keyboardist/producer Bob Baldwin on select tracks – Holder firms up this project nicely with rich, flavorful, and full-bodied melodies and hooks that will surely stay with you long after you’ve stopped playing the album. Read full review

 

Bob Baldwin — Abbey Road and The Beatles

Dec. 22, 2018

The genius of pianist/keyboardist/producer/composer Bob Baldwin is never to be underestimated. Whether he’s performing original smooth or funky jazz originals or revisiting compositions by others, his distinctive touch and style always adds a brilliance to the material.

Here with a collection of most innovative covers of material by The Beatles, Baldwin brings a tingly magic to this project entitled Abbey Road and The Beatles. You will hear originals by the Fab Four as never before covered as the keyboardist/pianist adds that slick, peppy jazz flavor (and even incorporates his affinity for Brazilian music on “Yellow Submarine.” Can you imagine that tune as a breezy Brazilian jazz thang?) Read full review

 

Fabio Mignola — Encantado

Dec. 1, 2018

After almost a decade’s absence from the scene, guitarist/composer Fabio Mignola brings his exotic style of Mediterranean and Brazilian charm back to us with his latest offering Encantado, a project thick with the lure of Brazilian beauty with a smooth delivery that’s also laced with the equivalent of a good glass of Caipifruta.

Nothing here suggests a wild and crazy ride on a funk or R&B train, but true tropical music lovers will definitely identify with the easy and deliberate stroll of Encantado.

From the lively, appropriately-titled lead track “Cheer Up” to the slick and gentle title track to the melodic and romantic “Your Smiling Eyes” to “Brazilian Breeze” which invites you to feel that breeze to the jazzy and bright “Sweet Whim” to the catchy and easily adorable “Jacaranda” to another romantic goodie called “Silky Lips,” and beyond, Mignola paints an irresistible picture of the beauty of Brazilian music and everything resembling it. Read full review