Jeff Lorber Fusion — Impact

September 3, 2018

Sept. 3, 2018

Now into his 41st year of banging out hit jazz record after hit jazz record, master keyboardist/producer/composer Jeff Lorber nails another great one with the Jeff Lorber Fusion’s Impact album — a year after grabbing his first Grammy win for the group’s remarkable work on its previous album Prototype.

Still doing it majestically with sidekick/key collaborator Yellowjackets founding member bassist Jimmy Haslip, saxman Andy Snitzer, and drummer Gary Novak, Lorber tosses in the fanciful guitar work of Paul Jackson Jr. and Adam Hawley, horn arranger and performer Dave Mann, and others to spice up a recipe that’s always kickin’ anyway. This is jazz fusion the way it was always meant to be. Read More

Jake Shimabukuro – The Greatest Day

September 1, 2018

Sept. 1, 2018

Ukulele artist Jake Shimabukuro has truly established himself as a master of the instrument over the few years that he’s been on the scene. I first caught him as one of the new up-and-coming artists aboard The Smooth Jazz Cruise a few years. I found the choice of instrument to be a curious one but was truly impressed with his command of it and his choice of covers to demonstrate his prowess.

Back then, he included a few of The Beatles’ tunes, and, on his newest release The Greatest Day, he still pays a small homage to the Fab Four as he competently covers “Eleanor Rigby” and a live and lengthy version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Read More

Smooth Operation – Ah Yeah

November 19, 2012

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. Read More

Kyle Eastwood — Metropolitain

July 16, 2010

Nov. 5, 2009

 Here’s a slice of hot and cool fusion jazz you’ve gotta thoroughly enjoy, even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool smooth jazzer.  Kyle Eastwood, actor Clint Eastwood’s bass-wielding son, should have you fully engaged and acknowledging the quality, poise, and eloquence of his compositions here on Metropolitain by record’s end.  Maybe it was the melodies; maybe it was the sheer power.  Whatever it was, this album caught and held me fast.  Clearly an artist with magnificent and laudable skills on bass, complete with stylish chords and harmonics, Eastwood’s writing is as superb.  Ordinarily, I focus my reviews on the world of smooth jazz, but this one drove me to such a state of sheer appreciation that I felt I would be totally remiss—not to mention grossly unfair– to ignore the tightness, the clarity, and the boldness of the splendid piece of fusion going on here.

This latest effort was recorded in Paris and co-produced by Miles Davis’ son, Erin, as well as Eastwood’s writing partner, Michael Stevens.  There, Eastwood formed collaborations with some of the artists he admires most on the current scene, including drummer Manu Katché, trumpeter Till Bronner, French vocalist Camille, and Pianist Eric Legnini. This team put together some of the most savory sounds a purist–or a fusionist–could seek.  With offerings like the steamy and melodic “Bold Changes,” brought forward with some superior Bronner trumpet work and a crisp sax contribution by Graeme Blevins, as well the smokin’ tune, “Hot Box” (you’ve gotta check out Andrew McCormack on electric piano here, as well as awesome runs by Eastwood) that hints at some of the stuff Herbie Hancock might conjure up (think “Actual Proof” from Thrust), Eastwood sets out to add even more definition to both straight-ahead and fusion jazz with a serious spirit.  Knocking it out of the park with the funky “Rue Perdue” and capping it all off with the finale, “Live for Life,” which is quite an atypical piece of funk for this particular CD (complete with some sassy rap, no less!), coupled with the fiery vocals of Nigerian-born Toyin (it’s the album’s only vocal-led track),  Eastwood’s got the stuff here to make even the strictest of smooth jazzers sit up and take notice.  It is, after all, what should cause all jazzers to celebrate the vastness of the world of jazz and to appreciate all of its diversity and radiance. Well done, indeed. — Ronald Jackson