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. UK born and based writer, producer and keyboard player Oli Silk was first noticed at Trippin N Rhythm in 2004 as the producer of the self titled album by British sax player James Vargas. His own 2006 solo debut, So Many Ways, on the same label became an instant success and garnered the massive radio hit 'Easy Does It' that hung around for more than six months on the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio across the USA. The Limit's The Sky followed in 2008 and All We Need was released two years later. Now he is back with the highly accomplished Razor Sharp Brit. It's an interestingly eclectic project that signposts Silk's growing musical maturity; He writes or co-writes all eleven tracks and the collection is enhanced by featured performances from some of the most significant talents in contemporary jazz.
Take for example the deliciously intoxicating 'The Prestige' where Silk's jazzy interplay with guitarist Chuck Loeb really turns out to be something special or 'Larson's Blues' for which Oli's wonderfully expansive keys prove to be a perfect complement to Paul Brown's distinctive guitar licks.
The first single being offered to radio is the zesty 'At Your Service' where bass from label-mate Julian Vaughn and the horns of Marty Duck and Gary Honour (for whom Silk produced the 2012 CD Heads & Tales) all combine to deliver what can best be described as text-book smooth jazz with an edge. It's the sort of easy grooving number on which Silk has built his considerable reputation and another is 'I'm In, Peace Is (The La La La Song)' where subtle vocal interjections from Paula Lewis add to this energetically rhythmic cut.
Rising sax star Elan Trotman joins Oli for the mid-tempo 'In The Thick Of It' and although 'Strings For Somebody' evolves into an enchanting one minute twenty four second interlude, it's Kirsten Joy (who in the UK is known for her appearances on that countries version of The Voice) who offers up a sumptuous vocal to the distinctly upbeat 'Like A Whisper'. Here the horns of Duck and Honour are again significant and its Holly Petrie who takes the vocal accolades for the R & B tinged 'Every Single Way' that is right up there with the best that Razor Sharp Brit has to offer.
Several of the tracks find Silk in partnership with British guitarist Mark Jaimes and one of them, 'Shepherd Spy', shimmers with a delightfully retro vibe circa Brian Auger while 'Supersize' fizzes along in fine style. However, of these Silk - Jaimes collaborations, a personal favourite is the highly evocative 'All Roads Lead To Home' where Jaimes wistful guitar is a high point and Silk on piano really gets the job done.
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.