Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole�s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that�s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Throughout the week of the 2007 Smooth Jazz Cruise the contribution of Brian Simpson was nothing short of immense. Shifting roles effortlessly from Musical Director to sideman to headline artist he consistently hit all the right buttons and in doing so showed himself to be an engaging, amusing and downright entertaining performer. Indeed Simpson demonstrated these talents perfectly during the late evening show he played in the intimate jazz club atmosphere of the Queens Lounge. Here, only minutes after stepping from the main concert stage where he had directed music and played keyboards for Jonathan Butler, he kicked off a really outstanding solo set with �It Could Happen� from his 2005 run-away success It�s All Good. Fittingly, Simpson�s co-writer of this one, bass player Andre Berry, was there with him as was Randy Jacobs on guitar and Dave Hooper on drums. This well practised trio was joined from time to time by the excellent Jimmy Roberts on sax and the predictably tight combination provided the perfect backdrop to Simpson�s virtuoso playing. As well as delivering a ton of funk, Roberts, a long time member of Rod Stewart's touring band, also brought with him a huge slice of blues and this was an attribute he employed to particularly good effect while playing his part on the bands rendition of the old Jimmy Smith number �The Chicken Shack� which, purely for cruise purposes, Simpson jokingly dubbed the �Zuiderdam Blues�.
It�s All Good was one of the few genuinely �complete� albums of 2005 and as such the packed house would have been delighted had he simply played every number from it. Although he did enthral them with the seductive �Waiting� and the albums two radio hits, the hip �Saturday Cool� and the chart topping title track, he also provided a reminder of his first album, Closer Still. Released in 1995, a full ten years before It�s All Good, this sumptuous piece of buried treasure is an almost definitive example of what smooth jazz should be. In fact, after tempting his audience with �Brazilia�, which he composed during his first tour in Brazil with George Duke, and his sensational cover of the Janet Jackson hit �Because Of Love�, the copies of the album on sale in the ships record store sold out within hours. Fortunately Brian Simpson�s rapidly growing fan base will not have to wait ten more years for his next offering. His new CD is now eighty percent complete and is expected out in early summer. He used the tune �One More Time� as a sneak preview of what is to come and if it is anything to go by then Brian Simpson is set for quite a 2007.