It's been some time since I introduced Smooth Jazz to the UK and since then the jazz/funk/RnB fusion genre has tended to become in some instances so watered down for US radio consumption that some commentators have been known to call it 'Elevator' music!. All is not lost however, as this newish release from HAY has all the ingredients that first appealed to me.
This multi-instrumentalist music professor out of Washington State University who has played with amongst others The Temptations and Norman Brown brings together some really funky grooves in this, his debut release. Best of all though for me it features two great soulful vocalists who are not as prominent as they should be on some original tunes. First up is Johnny Kemp who had a reasonable hit in the 80's with Kashif's 'Just Another Lover' and is now well immersed in session singing. His rendition of the catchy two steppin' 'Heart Desire' is an album highlight as is the inclusion of ex Tower of Power lead vocalist Brent Carter. If you want an example of how to really sing soul just find Brent singing with Tower of Power on the classic ballad 'Willing to Learn' on You Tube. Here he makes his mark on the upbeat 'That Kind of Girl' with a powerful sax break by HAY himself.
Other tracks of note include the hip happening rap chant led 'Let's Lounge' - just try and get the chorus out of your head! - and the gospelish 'Glory to his name' with great acoustic piano. The inclusion of the traditional 'Danny Boy' is a bit of a downer as is for me the cover version of Luther's 'Dance with my Father,' which though sincere is lyricless and is left somewhat bereft because of it. Overall,though this is an album which shows that all is not lost with the smooth jazz genre and is well worth checking out for the groove and soulful bits!!
A JL Review