The Smooth Jazz Alley - Been a Long Time Comin' (2016)

The Smooth Jazz Alley
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The Smooth Jazz Alley – Been A Long Time Coming

Guitarist Stan Evans and keyboard player Marco Montoya have known each other for a while. Both musicians grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and both were members of the Latin fusion band Grupo Caribe. Basically, Evans and Montoya have been jamming, practicing, performing and creating together for years, and it would seem that such a connection would lead to a project such as their new album, Been a Long Time Coming, dropped under the name The Smooth Jazz Alley.

However, as the title suggests, moving from the demo of “Stan’s Groove” to the 10 tracks heard on Been a Long Time Coming, took a while. The pair originally recorded “Stan’s Groove” during the Bush administration and now are releasing the full project in the final months of second term of the Obama administration.

The Smooth Jazz Alley – Been A Long Time Coming

Guitarist Stan Evans and keyboard player Marco Montoya have known each other for a while. Both musicians grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and both were members of the Latin fusion band Grupo Caribe. Basically, Evans and Montoya have been jamming, practicing, performing and creating together for years, and it would seem that such a connection would lead to a project such as their new album, Been a Long Time Coming, dropped under the name The Smooth Jazz Alley.

However, as the title suggests, moving from the demo of “Stan’s Groove” to the 10 tracks heard on Been a Long Time Coming, took a while. The pair originally recorded “Stan’s Groove” during the Bush administration and now are releasing the full project in the final months of second term of the Obama administration.

So, what took so long? Both artists say creating art can be a long process, although most album began to take shape over the last five years or so. Was it worth the wait? The answer to that question is a definite yes.

Evans and Montoya establish rapport that comes from those years of working together, and that allows them to avoid the snares that often bedevil smooth jazz/instrumental R&B projects. Listeners won’t find any elevator music ready renditions of whatever’s popping on R&B stations or that umpteenth instrumental remake of a 70s ballad such as “Always and Forever.” There’s actually a track on the album titled “Always & Forever,” but it’s a mid-tempo number that features some funky thumping from KennyKen, who provides a bottom for instrumental conversation between Evans’ guitar and Montoya on the 88s.

Evans and Montoya avoid another smooth jazz trap by creating arrangements that vary in tempo, and they display a comfort with genres ranging from jazz to the neo-soul funk of “Midnight Groove.” The pair also show that they are not allergic to vocals by inviting singers Lawrence Beamen and Mona Attia to sing on the funk infused ballad “Why,” while the Latin tinged “Christina” provides Evans and Montoya with a chance to return to the Latin music that performed as members of Grupo Caribe.

It would not be surprising if Montoya and Evans wondered if the project would ever reach completion. However, it is best to not rush some things, and the care both artists took in crafting Been a Long Time Coming gives fans of smooth jazz and instrumental R&B an album that is right on time. Solidly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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