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. Producer, songwriter and musician John Bolden (AKA J. Dee) is best known for his production and arrangement credits that include Grover Washington Jr.’s 1992 album, Next Exit. Now as a solo artist Bolden steps out with the stage name of J. Dee for his debut project entitled Tippin' on the Edge of Funk. Laden with true urban, jazz, funk and soul grooves it’s a hugely accomplished first outing that shows off the multiplicity of his talents. As well as writing ten of the twelve tracks he also produces and plays both sax and keyboards. In doing so he paints a lavish picture of urban jazz which pulses with a light and shade that at times is tender and at others addictively funky.
Tippin' on the Edge of Funk opens up dramatically with ‘Jah Jah Can’. With a clanking reggae style thing going on, a loping rhythm and soprano sax from J. Dee that is full rich and melodic this is a track that is different enough to get noticed. Switching moods for ‘Esta Noche’ J. Dee brings the listener into the world of ‘in your face’ Latin jazz that’s a great example of the genre while ‘Slo Yo Roll’, with its distinctly big band feel and a vibe that’s both repetitive and compelling, is completely on the money. The title track is every bit as funky as its name suggests it should be. Tight and mid tempo, J. Dee never lets it get out of control and he shows that same classy restraint with the first of the albums two covers, the Michael Franks masterpiece ‘Rainy Night In Tokyo’. His mellow and sensitive treatment of it is perfect to chill to and equally soothing is ‘A Black Tie Affair’. This laid back tour de force glistens with the evocative vibes that are released through J. Dee’s magnificently melodic playing.
When J. Dee plays smooth jazz he has all the rhythm and melody necessary to make it sound fresh funky and different. Tracks such as ‘Ya Dah’, which is underpinned by a kicking beat, and the extremely edgy ‘Kickin High’ are set apart from the crowd by the high caliber of his production and are in complete contrast to the big bold and funky ‘Wednesday On The Westside’. This ability to changes moods and tempo’s is a sheer delight and adds hugely to the overall quality of the album. The CD’s one true vocal cut is the controlled and soulful ‘Loves Gonna Getcha’. J. Dee’s sensitive sax and Claude J Woods lead vocals that are backed in fine style by Latesha Thierry, Dionne Knighton and Rich Figueroa make this a wonderful illustration of the best in smooth R & B. Woods is back, this time with backing vocals, for J. Dee’s instrumental interpretation of the Smokey Robinson classic ‘Quiet Storm’. As smooth as velvet, J. Dee makes it completely his own and goes one better with the albums standout track, the breathtakingly beautiful ‘Mellow Nights’. Shimmering with a sumptuous quality that will draw you in and leave you longing for more this is contemporary jazz at its outstanding best.
Tippin' on the Edge of Funk checks virtually every box on how contemporary jazz in 2007 should sound. Look out for it, buy it and enjoy.Posted by Denis Poole at June 30, 2007 8:41 AM