Jonathan Butler - Living My Dream

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.

Over time and over a discography now spanning twenty one recordings, the magic has always been in speculating just which Jonathan Butler will turn up next. Will it be the Jonathan Butler that celebrates his South African roots or will it be the Jonathan Butler that is anchored firmly by his faith? Indeed will it be the Jonathan Butler who is perfectly at ease with R & B tinged smooth jazz? Well, with his latest CD, Living My Dream, that will be released June 24 on Mack Avenue's Artistry label, Butler is firmly back in contemporary jazz territory with eleven original tunes that he uses to tell the story of his life and his loves.

Living My Dream opens with 'African Breeze' which is not only the first single to be released to radio but also a zesty reworking of an instrumental that he wrote 30 years ago for the soundtrack of the movie, "The Jewel of the Nile".

Closing out the album, and providing wonderful symmetry, is the haunting 'A Prayer' while elsewhere 'Heart and Soul' proves to be a big, and mellifluous horn driven ballad for which Butler's vocals are a joy. Although he retains that same brassy backing for the super-smooth instrumental 'Catembe', it's the flash of Hammond B3 from Tim Carmon that affords a sensational opening to the urban inclined 'A Night To Remember' which also features Butler's daughter Jodie (plus Antonio Sol and Aaron Gutierrez) on backing vocals. When they return for the agreeably mellow 'All About Love' they help deliver a song right up there with the best that Living My Dream has to offer.

Love is also on the agenda for the bouncy, street-wise 'Song For You' and the tempo stays high for the soulful title cut where Butler's vocals are in perfect sync with the input of horn player (and occasional Down To The Bone contributor) Katisse Buckingham.

With the varying influences that Butler always crams into his music it is easy to forget just what a fabulous guitar player he really is. The velvety 'Sweet Surrender' is a timely reminder of this as is 'Be Still' that and finds him in delightful collaboration with the late George Duke. It was co-written by Butler and Duke during a five-hour visit to Duke's wine cellar and also includes a contribution on bass from the incomparable Marcus Miller. Miller sticks around to co-write the easy grooving instrumental 'Let There Be Light' where flashes of sax from Elan Trotman simply adds to the pleasure. This track is already a firm personal favorite and another reason among many why Living My Dream should become part of your music collection.

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.