March 4, 2010

Bickley Rivera -- Chillin' After Five

Oh, the innovativeness of many smooth jazz artists. You’ve gotta love it! Here’s an artist whose vocals and keys skills might well have been enough to get her on the smooth jazz radar screen, but Bickley Rivera has taken it a step further and combined an abundance of tenor steel pan in a way that is quite interesting. Here on her debut CD, Chillin’ After Five, there’s not just a Caribbean flavor with the steel pan, but, as she puts it, she knew that “the steel pan had more to say than just Caribbean island notes…the instrument’s acceptance as a solo instrument has begun, and it’s time for fans to experience its full beauty.” Well, while there are noted steel pan artists (Andy Narell comes to mind), Rivera plans to ensure that the instrument gets its just due in this genre. This project is a good start.

With a little guest sax help from Praful and Ed Calle, along with comely melodies and hooks and a groove that just says “chill,” this new, attractive young artist shows us that she knows her way around not only the pans and keys but how to comfortably intermingle her style with the type of magnetic magic that has propelled other artists with a vision to produce a solo signature touch (e.g., Hardcastle and Soul Ballet’s Rick Kelly – though, obviously, with different styles).

Rivera easily captured my attention with the opening and title track and kept me riveted throughout this melodic excursion through her creativity. Certain tracks just take on a life all their own. Cases in point, in addition to the charming title track, would be the Brazilian-influenced “Groovin’ in Rio,” the near-gritty “Pan Funk” (oh, you just have to feel this one), the island-flavored “Sending My Love” with a soothing chorus, and several others (“Caress” does just that to the mind and soul. Just what the doctor ordered after a hard day at the office).

Bickley Rivera should prove to be a really welcome addition to our SJ family, as she tightly and warmly embraces what we hold dear, and vice versa. Chillin’ After Five sounds like a good idea, and with this album in hand, I’d say it’s a great state of mind.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at March 4, 2010 8:23 PM