January 22, 2010

Chris Standring - Blue Bolero

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. Already described as extremely cinematic, Blue Bolero by Chris Standring is sure to be one of the most talked about releases of 2010. Although the distinctive vibe that has marked out Standring as one of the most soulful smooth jazz guitarists around remains clearly discernable, for Blue Bolero he adds to it with compositions, arrangements and choice of instruments that show off a different side to his musical persona. A case in point is the eight minute six second ‘Overture’. In the way striking string arrangements blend with enticing guitar and flashes of acoustic bass this is a tune that can be rightly regarded as a metaphor for the entire album while the title song, with acoustic bass from Larry Steen and violin by Barbra Porter, demonstrates, perhaps for the first time ever, how contemporary jazz can fuse with classical influences in the most perfect of ways.

In fact the variety that Blue Bolero provides is astounding. The intense ‘Please Mind The Gap’ owes much to the beat that is laid down by Andre Berry on bass and Eric Valentine on drums. Together they provide a platform from which Standring’s edgy playing flourishes and where Katisse Buckingham is able to provide delightful interventions on alto flute. Berry and Valentine stick around for the smoky ‘March Of The Bowler Hats’ that has a catchy vocal chorus from Standring and a fabulous Fender Rhodes solo from Mitch Forman while elsewhere ‘Sunrise’ is as reflective as the title suggests it might be. It’s a track that glistens like light on water and with ‘Lost In Angels’ Standring produces an orchestral expansiveness that could have been taken right out of an Oscar winning film score.

The melodically Latin ‘Bossa Blue’ features great production touches and keyboards from Standring that rival his terrific work on guitar. Rico Belled is exceptional on bass while Dwayne ‘Smitty’ Smith is equally so for the easy grooving ‘Sensual Overload’. However, when Standring breaks things down to the very bare bones for the chilled out ‘Contemplation’ the sparks really start to fly. His interplay with Steen is magical yet his solo guitar for the fifty eight second ‘On Second Thoughts’ proves just how minimalistic he is prepared to go. The outcome is wonderful and he remains in deconstructed mode for ‘Regarding Tetchwick’ where his mellow playing dovetails handsomely with Porter’s sensitive violin. That said the real sensation is the way the tune segues into ‘Fast Train To Anywhere’ which, without doubt, is the album’s outstanding track. Clever production and superb playing from Standring and Porter make this unusual but totally accessible cut a real winner.

As Blue Bolero glides serenely to its conclusion the charmingly reflective ‘At The End Of The Day’ builds a bridge to a parting encore of ‘Bolero’. Much like the entire CD the drama of the piece is stunning and leaves the listener to contemplate just how different this collection really is. This is not smooth jazz built to a formula or where guest artists have been included simply as a commercial imperative. It is however music for grown ups that demands to be heard and, above all, to be appreciated.

Blue Bolero is Standring’s sixth solo release and due out on March 2. Look out for it and for more go to www.chrisstandring.com

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

Posted by Denis Poole at January 22, 2010 6:18 PM