Althea Rene -- No Restrictions

Althea Rene instantly became one of my favorite artists when I first heard her In the Moment album, a rich, happy, rhythmic, and sexy offering a couple of years ago. I had the great pleasure of reviewing that one. Since that first listen, I have witnessed her rise on the smooth jazz scene to become one of the clear frontrunners with style and class that demand to be witnessed.

This latest project, No Restrictions, is again loaded with all sorts of aural goodies that consists of crafty hooks, sexiness, soulfulness, funk, exoticism, and more. Accompanied here on this collection of originals and covers by such notables as saxophonist extraordinaire Candy Dulfer, keyboardist/producer/vocalist Kendall Duffie (of Kloud 9), guitarist Freddie Fox and the prolific producer Rex Rideout, this flutist who acknowledges Donald Byrd and Ian Anderson as being among those who influenced her the most, dives into equal amounts of flair and grit with an abundance of confidence. Her handling of the Gershwin classic, �Summertime,� is uniquely soulful, jazzy, rhythmic, and romantic.

Working backward from that finale, examples of her fine touch are displayed on the saucy and tender �Island Breeze,� the catchy and melodic �Never Givin� Up,� which just sways with each note and practically hypnotizes with its character. The key change just propels it into another realm of taste and technique. Very well done, to say the least. Did I mention that it�s one of my favs? I guess it�s obvious. Another favorite, �Do You Like Dat?,� is a funky, sexy-hot teaser, complete with her sexy murmurings (e.g., �Let me blow this in your ear�) and an exoticism that smacks of some Egyptian undertones. Interesting and undeniably attractive mix. Then there�s Tamara Jones�s tight vocal offering on the nice-paced �Come My Way.� Did I forget to mention the very original rendition of the cover of �Wishing On A Star?�

All in all, Althea Rene�s emergence onto the smooth jazz circuit is certainly a pleasant and welcome one. This latest album is further evidence that she is a bona fide playmaker in this arena, and I, for one, certainly hope she�s around for a very long time.