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. Grady Nichols cites his upbringing in rural Arkansas as the reason why he got into smooth jazz. He fell in love with the instrumental music that he heard played on the Weather Channel and contacted the broadcaster for its play list. Now, a few years and five solo albums later the rest, as they say, is history. Nichols latest offering is the eclectic Take Me With You which looks set to cement his position as one of the best young saxophonists around. It includes notable contributions from Jeff Lorber and is, in every respect, the real contemporary jazz deal.
A case in point is the hugely accessible title track that features vocals from Jenny Labow. It has a catchiness about it that is compelling and when, later in the album, it is reprised as a ‘house mix’ the result is equally good. Take Me With You strikes a nice blend of original music and well crafted covers. Among the latter is the tender interpretation of the Robert Palmer classic ‘Every Kind Of People’ that is built around a picture perfect vocal from Leigh Nash and is, without doubt, a clear contender for ‘best cover version of the year’. Right up there with it is Nichol’s turned down instrumental take on Kylie Minogue’s hypnotic ‘Cant Get You Out Of My Head’ and when Nichols switches to his own compositions he comes up with ‘Nashville’ which has appropriately ‘country’ undertones, a pleasant melody and good smooth jazz credentials.
‘Bad Attitude’ offers up more edgy mid tempo jazz sax that drives to a thumping crescendo while in complete contrast is the thoughtful ‘Slow Motion’. Here Nichols is perhaps closest to discovering a mellow vibe but he does not stay there as with ‘Ascent (Something For The Common Man)’ he delivers a number that is in the best traditions of ‘feel good’ jazz anthems. It’s the sort of tune that is sure to delight legions of festival goers in the coming year and another winner comes in the form of ‘After The Rain’ which is blessed by soulful and uplifting vocals from Tony Mason. One of three collaborations that Nichols enjoys with Jeff Lorber it is, in this regard, in the company of the zesty ‘Runaway’ for which Lorber makes a significant contribution on keyboards and also ‘Give Love’ where down and dirty vocals from Toni Estes sets the scene for a jazzily funky concoction.
‘Bellisimo’ is a wonderful chunk of textbook mid tempo smooth jazz with a nice vibe and a title that describes it to perfection whilst even better, and Secret Garden selection for ‘album’s best track’, is ‘Dove’. This tight and urgent rendition of what was one of the best club classics of 2003 takes contemporary jazz into an area where it might just engender a new generation of listeners.
Grady Nichols has already been described by no less than Jeff Lorber as “the awesome new sax-star for a new millennium”. With Take Me With You he is one step closer to making that a reality.Posted by Denis Poole at December 21, 2008 6:26 PM