D E N I S * P O O L E
‘Every X You R Near’ by Soul Ballet from the CD Lavish. Hypnotic in the extreme Rick Kelly uses tight percussion and subliminal vocals to lay the foundation for an increasingly urgent beat that glistens with lavish strings and cool yet compelling guitar.
'Movin On' by Jeff Kashiwa from the CD Play: With the excellent horn section of David Mann, Barry Danelian and Michael Davis, this uplifting slice of smooth jazz really hits the spot. Kashiwa shares writing credits with Miles Gilderdale who also features on acoustic guitar. The result is a brass driven masterpiece that is seriously addictive.
‘Sunny’ by Justin Young from the CD On The Way. This accessible mid tempo track finds Young completely in sync with Rod Long on keyboards with whom he seems able to routinely produce picture perfect pieces of in the pocket smooth jazz.
‘Shine’ by Blake Aaron from the CD Desire. With Paul Brown providing creativity as producer and performer, neat programming touches from Browns pro tools guy DC, the excellent Roberto Vally on bass, stunning flute from Jessy J and Aaron at his melodic best, this could well be one of the standout smooth jazz tracks of the year.
‘Haven’t You Heard’ by Tom Braxton from his CD Imagine This. This Patrice Rushen smash originally appeared on her 1980 release Pizzazz which featured the then fledgling session musicians Gerald Albright and Paul Jackson Jr. Here it is given a new lease of life by Braxton who in doing so fashions what is likely to remain as one of the best covers of 2007.
J O N A T H A N * W I D R A N
Eric Marienthal, Just Around the Corner (Peak)
Kirk Whalum, Roundtrip (Rendezvous)
Brian Simpson, Above The Clouds (Rendezvous)
Soul Ballet, Lavish (ARTizen)
B E V E R L Y * P A C K A R D
George Benson, Breezin’ (Warner Bros., 1990)
The Mann Brothers, Mann to Mann, Early album by David Mann on Saxophone and brother Ned on keyboards.
Grover Washington, Jr., Mr. Magic (Motown, 1995)
Jay Soto, Stay Awhile (NuGroove, 2007)
B R I A N * S O E R G E L
Najee, Rising Sun (Heads Up): Strong CD from the veteran saxophonist.
Rick Braun and Richard Elliot, RnR (ARTizen): A complete winner - smart, catchy, jazzy.
Brian Simpson, Above the Clouds (Rendezvous): Dave Koz's musical director makes great piano-led smooth jazz.
Kirk Whalum, Round Trip (Rendezvous): The best saxophonist in smooth jazz remakes some classics and throws in some spoken word and rap.
P E T E R * B O E H I
Marcus Johnson - The Phoenix (2007)
Keyboard player Marcus Johnson hits the nail on the head with this new release full of memorable melodies, funky grooves and most of all outstanding playing of all involved. Superlative stuff!
Joey Sommerville - Like You Mean It (2007)
Trumpet player Joey Sommerville definitely moves up to the top ranks of the smooth jazz scene. On this very entertaining album he is joined by Wayman Tisdale, Phil Perry, Bob Baldwin, Rhonda Smith and Mike Phillips yielding some great results. Very recommended!
Keiko Matsui - Moyo (2007)
Being on her own again after splitting up with Kazu Matsui hasn't affected her artistry at all. This album is full of uplifting, spirited music in her inimitable style boasting top-notch musicianship. This woman doesn't stop to amaze and enlighten her audience.
Jay Soto - Stay Awhile (2007)
This guitar player must be the next smooth jazz superstar waiting to break through. This is an outstanding release full of top-drawer smooth jazz that epitomizes the genre, ably supported by Jeff Lorber, Paul Brown, Michael Lington, Euge Groove, and Jeffrey Osborne. It doesn't get much better than this!
Neil Larsen - Jungle Fever (1978)
This is a great classic record from back in the day featuring the outstanding guitar work of Buzz Feiten with "Sudden Samba" being an all-time favorite of mine. Get this one on CD and add the High Gear album on Japan Import while supplies last!
J E F F * D A N I E L S
Maysa, Feel the Fire (Shanachie 2007)
Jeff Lorber, He Had a Hat (Blue Note 2007)
D O R E E N * H A Y W O O D
SOMETHING NEW: To remind me not to despise small beginnings
Jeanette Harris Band – Reflections (J & M Records, 2007)
SOMETHING CONTEMPORARY: To keep me forever young
Blake Aaron – Desire (Innervision Records & Entertainment, 2007)
SOMETHING FEMALE: To keep me bonded with my sisterhood
Janita – Seasons of Life (Lightyear, 2006)
SOMETHING FROM AFRICA: To nourish my cultural heritage
Abdullah Ibrahim – Best of Abdullah Ibrahim (EMI Music, 1999)