September 6, 2009

Art Sherrod Jr - Seasons

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. Seasons from sax-man Art Sherrod Jr is his second CD and follows All 4 Love that was released in 2005. It represents a significant step on a musical journey that began in his native Texas, continued in Maryland and, along the way, has allowed him to share the stage with such smooth jazz luminaries as Natalie Cole, Angie Stone, Will Downing, Marion Meadows, Norman Connors, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Kim Waters, Najee, Roy Ayers, Pieces of a Dream, Everette Harp and Bob Baldwin. In fact Seasons includes contributions from several of these A-list performers but rather than puzzling at just how Sherrod has managed to assemble so many great artists in the same place at the same time, it is adequate to luxuriate in the sublime artistry his musicality so effortlessly engenders.

Seasons opens with the strident ‘To The Floor’ that finds Sherrod at his jazzy best. With up coming French guitarist U-Nam also providing some groove drenched interventions this is a track that is sure to enliven even the most tired of dancing feet while much the same can be said of ‘East Coast Steppin’. Although not strictly a ‘steppers’ anthem this intoxicating number has the potential to become seriously addictive and when Sherrod turns his attention to a silky smooth interpretation of the Earth Wind & Fire blockbuster ‘That’s The Way Of The World’ he provides what clearly will become one of the best covers of the year.

Underpinned by a tight and hypnotic beat ‘Just Chillin’ features smooth sax superstar Gerald Albright and when guitarist Chuck Loeb steps up for the intricate yet infectious title cut the result is a rhythm and melody filled throwback to old school contemporary jazz. In fact Sherrod steers a capable course between instrumental smooth jazz and more overtly urban elements. A fine example of the latter is ‘You’re The One’ that is bolstered by vocals from former Pieces of a Dream songstress Tracy Hamlin and shimmers with Sherrod’s cool playing. It’s in the good company of ‘Thinking Of You’ which despite mellow beginnings picks up some sassy attitude that is helped in no small part by a hip vocal from Will Downing. Indeed by judicious use of some of the best backing vocals you will hear anywhere Sherrod delivers a sequence of spine chilling gems that sit somewhere between smooth R & B and urban jazz. A case in point is the gospel themed ‘We Fall Down’ where Sherrod’s impassioned playing is off the chain while totally different but just as good is the warmly inviting ‘Sunday Morning’.

Marcus Johnson has long been one of the edgiest keyboard players around and his interplay with Sherrod on the compellingly mid tempo ‘Smooth Groove’ is one of the highlights of the collection. In fact standouts abound and although the sultry ‘Everything Will Be Alright’ has sensuality dripping from every note it is just shaded as Secret Garden top track by the wonderful ‘Anytime’. Featuring vocalist and keyboard player Frank McComb this turned down chiller takes Sherrod, with sensational consequences, deep into quiet storm territory.

Seasons by Art Sherrod Jr is out on the excellent boutique label Pacific Coast Jazz and comes entirely recommended.

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Posted by Denis Poole at September 6, 2009 3:33 PM