Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole�s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. In the world of innovative contemporary jazz 2008 may well prove to be the year of the flute. Its spine tingling vibe has the ability to take the art form to another place and one protagonist with the potential to do just that is the extraordinary Bradley Leighton. His brand new album, the aptly titled �Soul Collective�, is replete with a deliciously soulful vibe and it is testimony to Leighton�s growing stature within the genre that a galaxy of stars have come out to collaborate with him.
There is none more in this respect than the legendary Tom Scott who adds his distinctive sax to the succulent �Wake Up Call�. With his hip, brass adorned backdrop creating the ideal canvass for Leighton�s intricate yet rhythmic playing they together create four minutes of magic that is a sensation from beginning to end. When Scott returns to lend a hand with the Hall and Oates classic �She�s Gone� his interplay with Leighton is a pure delight. The fact that the tune generates a luscious horn driven warmth is due in no small part to the excellent trumpet and trombone of Mic Gillette. This Bay Area icon and former Tower of Power mainstay is also called upon to play a part in the two numbers for which Leighton joins forces with Pacific Coast Jazz label-mate Tom Braxton. The first of these, �It�s On� is a tremendously zesty slice of smooth jazz while the Latin infused �Caf� Con Leche� is a wonderful showcase for Leighton�s talents.
The restrained yet jazzy �Undercover� is one of five tracks composed by Allan Phillips who also arranges, produces and plays keyboards throughout. It features another of Tower of Power�s exclusive alumni, trumpeter Greg Adams, plus guitar from Fattburger stalwart Evan Marks. In fact Marks makes a contribution to seven of the nine cuts. When he gives way to Sherrod Barnes for Leighton�s re-imagining of the Bobbi Gentry hit �Ode To Billy Joe� it�s the keyboard and production touches of Jason Miles that faultlessly complement Leighton�s picture perfect playing. Rhonda Smith also features on bass and, with the addition of Katreese Barnes on vocals, it�s this same Miles, Sherrod Barnes and Smith partnership that holds down the groove for Leighton�s take on Wayne Henderson�s �Keep That Same Old Feeling�.
If ever there was a doubt that the flute could be funky then the totally compelling �Rock Me Softly� proves it for all time. The tune is another welcome chance to enjoy the muted trumpet of Greg Adams and when Leighton brings him back one more time the result is the retro tinged �That Man�. Written by Paula Prophet, who also provides the distinctly 5th Dimension like vocals, the track is further blessed by more magnificent sax from Tom Scott.
�Soul Collective� follows Leighton�s 2006 album �Back To The Funk� and is his fourth in all. It has the red thread of joyous warmth running right through it and is sure to be one of the highlights of 2008.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com