December 28, 2008

The Secret Garden Top Ten Covers Of 2008

The smooth jazz cover has, in recent years, become something of an art form. Far removed from a straight forward copy of another artists work, these re-imaginings have breathed new life into music that, typically, originated in the classic soul era of the 60’s and 70’s. Even these boundaries have, of late, been frayed so, by way of paying homage to the very best that this sub genre has to offer, here is my very personal choice of Secret Garden Top Ten Covers of 2008.

‘I Stand Accused’ by Gerald Albright from the CD Sax For Stax. Albright takes this spine tingling Isaac Hayes classic and makes it entirely his own. The original, from the Isaac Hayes Movement, was an eleven minute plus odyssey but here Albright condenses it into the sexiest five minutes of instrumental R & B you will hear anywhere.

‘She’s Gone’ by Bradley Leighton from the CD Soul Collective. This Hall and Oates smash finds flautist Leighton in collaboration with sax icon Tom Scott to incredible effect. The fact that the tune generates a luscious horn driven warmth is due in no small part to the excellent trumpet and trombone of former Tower of Power mainstay Mic Gillette.

Read on for the remainder of this year’s top ten covers.

‘September’ by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band from the CD Act Your Age. The band’s spectacular take on Earth Wind and Fire’s seminal ‘September’ features Lee Ritenour on guitar and the wonderful Patti Austin on vocals. Quite simply it has never sounded better.

‘Holding Back The Years’ by Al Williams from the CD Heart Song. This beautiful rendition of the Simply Red worldwide hit ‘Holding Back the Years’ demonstrates to perfection the melody filled finesse of this ultra smooth saxophonist.

‘Let’s Stay Together’ by guitarist Jim Adkins from his CD City Streets. The way Adkins caresses this Al Green anthem into a tranquil delight is totally indicative of his art.

‘Whole Lotta’ by Don Immel from the album Long Way Home. Something of a show stealer, this slow and sultry overhaul of the Led Zeppelin classic is a joy from beginning to end. As the exquisite singing voice of Chandray Moore weaves its special magic the initial trepidation experienced by seeing a Zeppelin number on the track listing is quickly dispelled.

‘Imagine’ by Danny Lerman from his CD Meow Baby. Paul Jackson Jr leads the way on guitar, Bobby Lyle is on keys, Larry Kimpell plays bass and with picture perfect backing vocals by Lynne Fiddmont and Kenya Hathaway this soulful interpretation of John Lennon’s timeless song checks all the right boxes. Howard Hewitt on lead vocals is nothing short of awesome.

‘Mountain Dance’ by David Benoit from his homage to his own musical greats, Heroes. Given how the music of Dave Grusin impacted my own contemporary jazz education and the fact that ‘Mountain Dance’ is the theme tune to one my all time favourite movies (Falling In Love starring Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep), the inclusion of this one was never in doubt.

‘Can You Stand The Rain’ by Roger Smith from the CD Sittin’ In. It’s always elating when Tower of Power keyboard player Roger Smith releases a solo album and this sensitive song that originates from First Edition’s 1988 release Heartbreak fits his soulful style to perfection.

‘End Of The Road’ by Michael Manson from the album Up Front. Manson turns to sax man (and fellow Chicago cat) Steve Cole for his tender version of this ‘Babyface’ Edmonds tune. It’s a track where Manson proves he can play mellow bass with the best of them and, when the full sounding vocals of the soulful chorus kick in, it is obvious he has created a dazzling example of smooth R & B.

Well, that was my top ten! If you have your own list of favorite covers from 2008 why not e-mail it to me at denis.poole@yahoo.com. Happy New Year!!

Posted by Denis Poole at December 28, 2008 10:43 AM