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. Thinking Of You is the brand new CD from soulful vocalist Victor Fields and it is testimony to his talent and professionalism that some of the biggest stars in smooth jazz have hurried in to perform on it with him. This is Fields fourth solo release and represents a further step on the journey to discovering his true musical identity. It has been an adventure that began in 1998 with his debut album Promise and which passed a significant milestone in 2002 when he forged a partnership with producer Chris Camozzi. This collaboration led to the release of 52nd Street, a recording which found a place on the Billboard’s jazz album chart and featured guest performances from Chris Botti, Jeff Lorber and Gerald Albright. Three years later Fields and Camozzi returned with an expansive collection of love songs. Simply titled Victor it ran the gamut of traditional and contemporary jazz, through R&B to theatrical Broadway like themes. Now, with smooth vocals shimmering over funky tracks, Thinking Of You takes Fields through a further evolution and moves him from being a jazz vocalist with overt urban tendencies to the real smooth jazz deal.
For the most part Fields uses Thinking Of You as a vehicle to re-imagine some the coolest R & B cuts of the last thirty years. However, the depth to which he delves for some really rare and diverse examples means that this is far from simply being a collection of covers. The mellow ‘Butterflies’ that was made famous by Michael Jackson is a case in point and very much in the same mold is Fields exceptional take on ‘For The Cool In You’. Originally from the acclaimed Babyface album of the same name it’s a wonderful example of what might be termed urban smooth jazz. In fact a smooth jazz vibe is never too far away and the featured guitar of Chris Camozzi for the Marvin Gaye classic ‘What’s Going On’ really gets the job done. The excellent Blackbyrds hit ‘Walking In Rhythm’, with Fields gentle tones gelling faultlessly with soulful sax from Richard Elliot, is equally compelling and Elliot’s ARTizen stable-mate Rick Braun maintains the contemporary jazz mood with his atmospheric flugelhorn on the Stevie Wonder composition ‘Creepin’. Fields makes this former Luther Vandross hit feel as smooth as smooth can be but ratchets up the soul factor for his version of the Gap Band's ‘Yearning For Your Love’. With wonderful sax from Vince Lars and picture perfect backing vocals from Nicolas Bearde and Sandi Griffith this is one of the albums standout songs while just as good is ‘When Somebody Loves You Back’. Taken from ‘Life Is A Song Worth Singing’, the 1978 breakthrough album by Teddy Pendergrass that moved him to true solo stardom, this new rendition glistens with a sumptuous and understated horn arrangement plus more great backing from Bearde and Griffith.
Fields restrained handling of the Bill Withers classic ‘Lovely Day’ benefits from the cool Fender Rhodes of Jeff Lorber and it's Lorber who also contributes two original songs to this smoothly soulful collection. The mid tempo ‘Its In Your Vibe’ is in the pocket from the get go and generates, as the title would suggest, a hugely hypnotic vibe. It’s a contender for best track on the album but just shading it is the title track for which Lorber also provides a writing input. With Lars again massive on sax and a haunting chorus that gets in your head and won’t go away this sensuous chunk of chilled out mood music is a modern day quiet storm classic in the making.
As smooth jazz continues to evolve and adapt there is every chance that the vocal component will play an ever more significant part. That being the case Victor Fields is well placed to take the genre to a new and exciting level.
For more on Victor Fields go to www.victorfields.com.Posted by Denis Poole at March 11, 2007 9:11 AM