Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. When, back in 2002, I reviewed Jason Weber’s album Something Blue I described it as “a far above average example of good smooth jazz with quality sax playing throughout and a consistently compelling beat that holds the listener firmly in place over each of the thirteen self penned tracks”.
Now he has built on all of that for his fifth solo release, the most confident and powerful to date, Can U Feel Me Now? Written and produced by Weber this is a high octane chunk of funk that is off the chain from the get go and stays that way.
Weber gained a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin before relocating to Southern California where he is now firmly part of the music landscape. Indeed since moving to the San Diego area his reputation has grown and his playing is now much in demand. When not fronting his own band he is often called upon as a sideman for some of the major stars of the genre. This has, in recent years, given Jason the opportunity to open for or perform with the likes of Boney James, Dave Koz, Richard Elliott, Kirk Whalum, Marc Antoine, David Benoit and Arturo Sandoval.
As said Can U Feel Me Now? is an album that pulls no punches and opens with a bang courtesy of the big and funky title track. It features Morris Pleasure on Rhodes, who has played with, among others, Earth Wind and Fire, Janet Jackson and Boney James, and is a cut that really rocks from start to finish.
Amid an ocean of funk there are several tracks that really catch the attention. ‘House Is A Home’ is perhaps the CD’s most radio ready tune. With a nice hook it starts out mid tempo but really gets on a roll with an excellent guitar break from Mike DeRose and notable drumming throughout from Rodney Zinnen. Equally good is ‘(Just Another) Urban Legend’ which again is funky but where Weber gets a Euge Groove sound going and Michael Leroy Peel, who has played with Richard Elliot, Stanley Clarke and Ronnie Laws, contributes great keyboards.
‘Brainfreez’, more up tempo funk with Weber blowing up a melodic storm, is arguably the best track on the album while ‘Spirit Unbroken’ has that big Jason Weber sound with a melody running through it and wailing guitar from Patrick Yandall. Also featured is drummer Steve Ferrone who can be found on six tracks in all. Ferone has played with the Average White Band, Eric Clapton and also Patti Austin with whom he contributed to what I consider to be one of the best fusion numbers of all time, ‘Hurry Home’ from her 1994 release on GRP That Secret Place.
With Can U Feel Me Now? Jason Weber is making a statement that it’s OK for smooth jazz to be loud and funky. What he has to offer plays well on record and promises to be exceptional in a live setting. He can be found playing solo every Monday at Crivello Ristorante Italiano, Wildomar CA and every Friday at the Ritz Carlton – Laguna Niguel, Dana Point CA. However in order to register the total impact of Can U Feel Me Now? check him out with his full band on August 25 at the Promenade Mall Jazz Series in Temecula CA, on August 28 at Humphries By The Bay in San Diego CA where he will be part of the KIFM Lites Out Night and on September 3 at Romano’s in Riverside CA.Posted by Denis Poole at August 11, 2005 4:40 PM