October 3, 2007

Les Sabler - Sweet Drive

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. If there is a magic formula for making top notch smooth jazz then guitarist Les Sabler has surely found it. His brand new CD release ‘Sweet Drive’ not only features his own picture perfect playing but also includes some of the best contemporary jazz talent around. Rather than marvelling at just how Sabler has managed to assemble so many great performers in the same place at the same time, its more than enough to simply delight in the artistry on show. From the solid foundation provided by the percussion of Alex Acuna, drums from Vinnie Colaiuta and acoustic bass from Brian Bromberg (who also produces), to the soulful heart provided by a horn section to die for, everything about ‘Sweet Drive’ is just right. Those horns, billed here as the Seawind Horns, in fact come courtesy of Jerry Hey, Gary Grant, Bill Reichenbach and Dan Higgins. When the flute of Gary Meek is factored in, plus keyboards from Jeff Lorber and guest performances on sax from Mark Hollingsworth and Eric Marienthal, ‘Sweet Drive’ is an album that just can’t fail.

With four choice covers blending with eight originals, this terrific concoction is quickly up and running with the Stevie Wonder composition ‘You’ve Got It Bad Girl’. The velvety tones of the Seawind Horns merge with stunning vocals from Toni Scruggs and Rahsaan Patterson to create a gorgeous backdrop against which Sabler does his mellow thing. Scruggs and Patterson are delightful and recurring features of the whole album and Scruggs is particularly outstanding when combining with Richard Jackson on Aretha Franklin’s ‘Daydreaming’. As dreamy as the title suggests it ought be this wonderful interpretation is blessed with a subtle string arrangement from Tom Zink and when Zink returns with Scruggs and Jackson for ‘Can You Stop The Rain’ the result is a deliciously fresh take on this haunting Peabo Bryson classic.

The title track is quite simply as fine an example of great smooth jazz as you will hear anywhere. Composed by Allon Sams, it has a cool sax solo by Eric Marienthal at its centre and handsome Hammond B3 from Ricky Peterson while more ‘in the pocket’ contemporary jazz is on the agenda with ‘Club Street’. This is the first cut lifted for radio play and as Gary Meek switches to sax his interplay with Sabler, Lorber and Bromberg makes it really special. ‘Food Chain’ is Sabler’s own composition and, complete with horns and Hammond B3, has all the attributes necessary to recall the golden age of 80’s jazz fusion. Another funky horn arrangement, this time from Mark Hollingsworth, sets up ‘Twenty Two’. It’s a jazzy mover that often threatens to explode but in fact stays tightly in control and when Sabler changes moods for the mellow ‘Who I Am’ he demonstrates a sensitivity in his playing that is perfect for the occasion.

The mid tempo ‘Struttin’ has Sabler laying down his groove amidst more luscious horns and in ‘Could You Be’ he may well have created the kind of sultry stunner that gets in your head and wont go away. Sabler and Marienthal are totally in sync for the familiar David Pack melody ‘Biggest Part Of Me’. Here Patterson and Scruggs again work their vocal magic and when they return for ‘I’m Not The Same’ they contribute to what is arguably the albums stand out track. This soulful smoker has spine tingling guitar from Sabler and a gentle melody that blossoms in the care of Gary Meek on sax.

‘Sweet Drive’ hits record stores across the USA on September 25 and is not to be missed. For more go to www.lessabler.com

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 October 3, 2007 8:47 AM