April 5, 2009

Paul Brown + Marc Antoine - Foreign Exchange

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Foreign Exchange by Paul Brown and Mark Antoine hits record stores across the USA on April 7 and captures the wonderful chemistry of acoustic and electric guitar in a way not seen since 1987 when George Benson and Earl Klugh got together to record the classic Collaboration. Indeed Antoine’s penchant for irresistible melodies coupled with Brown’s propensity for funk enriched smooth jazz has ensured an eclectic collection of the highest order yet the fact the album was ever made owes something to good fortune. Having performed together at Paul Brown’s Guitar Night in 2008, two time Grammy winner Brown, who was in the early stages of producing a follow-up to his 2007 smash White Sand, invited Antoine to play on one of the songs. The initial session sparked a creative flow which developed into a dynamic new partnership and, in turn, the aptly titled Foreign Exchange. With outstanding support from some of the genre’s biggest hitters, plus top rated session men Roberto Vally, Dan Lutz and Lenny Castro, this is a project that cannot fail.

Recorded at Brown’s Funky Joint studio in Sherman Oaks and Antoine’s facility in Madrid, Spain Foreign Exchange is in many ways a contrast between two musical entities. The first hinges on the guitar by-play between these two great players and the second, although still having Brown and Antoine left, right and centre, is given a totally different feeling by input from Brown’s regular horn section. This world class line-up of Bill Richenback on trombone, sax-man Dan Higgins and the legendary Jerry Hey on trumpet makes its presence felt with the decidedly seductive ‘Sweetness’ while at the other side of this musical divide ‘Feel The Love’ finds Antoine and Brown joined by the always excellent Jeff Carruthers on keys. It’s a tune that is blessed with a melodic lilt and subtly Latin aroma whilst when Philippe Saisse takes over on keyboards for ‘Bridges Of Paris’ his distinctly French interventions are complemented by distinctive flute from Jessy J. This compellingly beautiful number sums up much of what Foreign Exchange is all about and in this respect is in the good company of both the Latin tinged ‘Flight Of The Conchords’ and the extremely catchy mid tempo groove of ‘Wine Night’. Each serve to further showcase the wonderful musical fit that Brown and Antoine have found and, in addition, feature more great keyboards from Philippe Saisse. He stays around for the jazzily intense ‘On The Low Down’ for which Brown gets a real Wes Montgomery thing going on and again for ‘What About Bob’ which turns out to be a melodic joy.

In an album that glides seamlessly from one outstanding cut to the next it’s difficult to choose favourites but, suffice to say, the horn infused ‘French Connection’ is right up there. With many of Brown’s typical production touches and a delicious ‘in the pocket’ vibe it is a stunning example of what great smooth jazz should be yet even better and Secret Garden top track is the sensational title tune. Infectious in the extreme, as captivating as they come and with horns that are once more to die for this will, without a shadow of doubt, prove to be one of the top cuts of the entire year.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at April 5, 2009 6:36 PM