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.
Gary Honor is a sax-star in the making and if the CD Heads & Tales is anything to go by that stardom is not too far away. It marks his debut on Trippin n Rhythm and includes one well-chosen cover plus twelve original compositions that Honor has written in collaboration with label-mate and producer Oli Silk. Make no mistake, Heads & Tales is the real smooth jazz deal and seems a lifetime away from 2004 when Honor journeyed from his native Australia to Fort Lauderdale for a vacation aboard the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise. Whilst on board Gary entered the cruise ‘star search’ which had been created to find smooth jazz talent from amongst the paying passengers and under the watching gaze of some of the finest musicians the genre has to offer, he duly won. After a spell in the United Kingdom (where he first hooked up with Silk) Honor progressed to work on a whole range of musical projects both in the USA and in Australia. Now with Heads & Tales he is all set to take his career to an exciting new level.
The album is quickly up and running with the zesty title cut that not only captures the innate feeling Honor has for silky smooth contemporary jazz but also demonstrates how he can get funky with the best of them. Talking of funky it doesn’t really get more so than with the big, brass driven ‘Don’t Push It’ or for that matter the equally high octane ‘Cor Blimey!’ for which it is inconceivable that cheeky English chap Oli Silk did not have an input into this extremely ‘London-centric’ title. ‘Chatswood Chase’ is another track where Gary has his foot firmly on the gas. It is embellished by a nice guitar solo from Mark Jaimes while in similar vein is ‘Rock The Jazzbah!’ where Jaimes again plays a part and something comparable to a disco beat makes the whole piece fizz.
When Honor switches to flute for the delightfully easy grooving ‘Southern Exposure’ the effect is akin to being wrapped in a warm comforting blanket and he stays with flute for ‘Dreamweaver’ that is bolstered by a multiplicity of world rhythms. ‘Way Back When’ reverberates to a big anthem like hook which serves as a delicious backdrop to Honor’s fine playing and although ‘Island Pearl’ finds him in romantic mood he quickly shifts gears for the hugely jazzy and percussive ‘Under The Influence’ where is a strong bass-line from Orefo Orakwue grabs the attention.
Oli Silk’s distinctive piano tones herald in the moody ‘Leave Tomorrow Behind’ which is right up there with the best Heads & Tales has to offer. In terms of personal favourites it is in the good company of the tremendously accessible and mid-tempo ‘Juan Step Ahead’ which complete with nice production touches from Silk has radio ready written all over it. It must have been a clear contender for the first track to be serviced to radio but instead that particular accolade goes to ‘Close To You’. Not to be confused with the Carpenters song of the same name this is in fact a swaggering reimagining of the Maxi Priest blockbuster and features vocals from both Briana Cowlishaw and Troy Anthony-Smith. As cover versions go this one is right up there and is one reason among many why Heads & Tales deserves close scrutiny.
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.