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. Perhaps best known as the 'go-to' sax-man for the likes of Diane Schuur and Bobby Caldwell, Andrew Neu can be heard on Peter White's current CD Here We Go, on Steve Oliver's project World Citizen and on Bobby Caldwell's highly rated collection House of Cards. His latest solo album is titled Everything Happens For A Reason for which Neu has assembled a formidable horn section, a full orchestra and the production skills of Bobby Caldwell, Brian Bromberg and Steve Oliver. Also included are Rick Braun, Jeff Lorber and Alex Acuna for eleven top-notch songs that get right to the heart of the sophisticated side of contemporary jazz.
Take for example the silky smooth 'What Would I Do' with instantly recognizable vocals from Bobby Caldwell. Neu prefaces the track with a spellbinding one minute thirty-six second orchestral prelude that is beauty personified and later, when he reprises the tune as an instrumental featuring Brian Bromberg, the result is just as good.
In addition, Caldwell arranges a unique take on the jazz classic; 'Take Five' which, with the subtle inclusion of soul and Latin elements, proves to be a joy from start to finish. It also enjoys an underpinning big band vibe and this is hardly surprising as of late Neu has been leading an all star big band in Los Angeles with trumpeter, Anthony Bonsera.
Elsewhere 'Dreaming Of Lions' combines Neu's mellifluous playing with a tantalizing world beat and when, with 'Hit Me Up', he finds a tenderer groove, its electric piano from Jeff Lorber that serves as the icing on the cake.
Lorber stays around for 'Date Night', which, with an uplifting disposition, may not be like any date you have recently been on, but sure is a great piece of music. Much the same can be said of the horn drenched title cut and when Rick Braun steps up for 'Bring It On' he helps Neu deliver a zesty rhythmic number of the highest order.
In fact rhythmic and compelling could both be descriptors of the whole album and a case in point is 'Night Of The Mojito' where Braun again lends his considerable weight and Lorber keeps things fizzing as only he can. 'Vespa', despite its mellow beginnings, soon gets on a sumptuous Latin roll that owes much to the guitar of Ramon Stagnaro and bass from Brian Bromberg yet the tune that best sums up Everything Happens For A Reason (and a firm personal favorite) is the splendid 'Poolside'. With an infectious smooth jazz hook, guitar from Steve Oliver and the most velvety horn section you will hear anywhere, this one really hits the spot.
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.