December 11, 2006

Ken Navarro - The Meeting Place

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. The Meeting Place is guitarist and composer Ken Navarro's brand new CD and his seventeenth in a solo career that dates back to 1990. His discography is generously scattered with gems of contemporary jazz and there is none more so in this respect than his 1997 release Smooth Sensation. More recently Love Coloured Soul, the 2005 CD that included his stunning take on the Laura Nyro classic ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’, climbed to #6 on the national charts. Now based in Baltimore Ken began his recording career in Los Angeles as a premier session guitarist, performer and composer. After performing and recording with artists as diverse as Doc Severinsen and Dave Koz he established his own musical identity with the formation of Positive Music Records and the release of his debut album, The River Flows. Through the label, Ken has been responsible for launching the recording careers of saxophonist Brandon Fields, guitarist Grant Geissman and keyboardists Gregg Karukas and Marcus Johnson. In 2002 he briefly switched to Shanachie where he released Slow Dance and stayed on through 2003 for the follow up, All The Way. In 2004 he picked up the production reins for youthful sax sensation Eric Darius and his highly acclaimed Narada debut, Night On The Town. Now back in his own Positive Music stable, and at the very top of his game, he brings us The Meeting Place, a tight, accessible 11 song collection that includes 10 of his own new compositions plus a superb version of the Pat Metheny classic ‘Lakes’.

KenNavarro_TheMeetingPlace.jpgThe Meeting Place is replete with the melody and rhythm that helps define what contemporary jazz should be. The cool sax that Rob Holmes provides throughout is kept in scale by Navarro’s silky production and this is perfectly exemplified by the mid tempo and pleasing ‘Lucky’. Equally melodic and in a every respect a piece of smooth jazz that hits the spot is ‘Just Like That’ while even better is ‘Did Your Hear That?’ With a melody out of this world and Navarro’s usual tight groove this is sunshine filled jazz and then some. The ‘Language Of Peace’ has a Caribbean thing going on and is totally evocative of the milky white beaches and mountainous green vistas that are at the heart of those wonderful islands. Conjuring up different emotions is ‘I Wish I Knew’. A little more reflect and a lot more Latin, this really is top notch smooth jazz.

The sophisticated and groovy way in which Ken carries off his version of the Pat Metheny tune ‘Lakes’ is indicative of why he considers Metheny to be one of his major influences. Here the generous contribution of Jay Rowe on piano adds value and he is also right in the pocket on ‘No Other Way’ where a moody and soulful intro paves the way to an earthy smoker. Navarro shows just how eclectic contemporary jazz can be by using the title track to flirt sensationally with something akin to 80’s jazz fusion and then by taking a big and expansive route to the complex yet melodic ‘The Challenge’. Staying tightly in the groove for over six minutes of high octane playing Ken tops it off with a guitar solo where he really cuts loose. The title track is also strident and funky. It’s a mid tempo foot tapper that checks all the right boxes and also funky but always controlled is ‘That Time Of Evening’. A contender for best track on the album it has more excellent sax from Rob Holmes and a great vibe that reaches back to the days when contemporary jazz was always played with an edge.

However, just shading it as Secret Garden killer cut is ‘My Beautiful Girls’. Kicked off by a tight and uplifting intro, it morphs into the delicious melody that is the hallmark of Navarro’s playing.

The Meeting Place is an intoxicating collection that is way above the average. Ahead of its national retail release date of January 23, 2007 it is currently and exclusively available at www.kennavarro.com. Check it out if you can and also read Ken’s blog that can be found there. It is one of the most entertaining, interesting and insightful journals on the web.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at December 11, 2006 5:47 PM