Vibraphonist Steve Raybine sets out here on his latest release, In the Driver’s Seat, with the intention of showcasing how all-encompassing vibes can be, especially in the jazz, blues, and even Latin arenas. This album is an attractive collection of grooves, containing both original compositions and well-interpreted covers.
Raybine, for those who may not know, has been respected in many circles as an accomplished vibist who’s worked with artists ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Rick Braun. He’s released two other releases since 2000 (Balance Act and Bad Kat Karma), and, if this latest is any indication, the man is well-rounded in his tastes.
In the Driver’s Seat flirts with smooth jazz, blues, and Latin in an unpretentious way. The album starts with a blues-influenced mid-tempo track, “Step It Up,” that has the vibes front and center, along with a bright array of horns featuring saxman Michael Paulo leading the smooth seduction with his tenor and alto solo offerings. The groove is clearly laid out here for the rest of the album, but one mustn’t make the mistake that it’s the only direction the CD takes, as a Latin gem, “Hummingbird,” pleasantly cha-cha’s its way through just before a flavorful smooth jazz popper called “Coffee Break.” Raybine then heads further down the blues trail with the up-tempo “Strut Your Stuff” and the hot and smoky “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” with sultry vocals by Jennifer Hill. His cover of Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” is refreshing, as are his covers of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” the Gerhswin/Heyward classic “Summertime,” and Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love.”
There are a few times when a certain atypical instrument just doesn’t “fit” in a particular style. As has been evidenced by fusion/funk vibist Roy Ayers, the vibes have a home here. Raybine does a great job of punctuating that point with this release.