Your basket is empty

Categories :

Albums

From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | GRP

From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2012 | GRP

On Dreams, Brian Culbertson attempts to dig further into the vein he opened on 2010's XII, where he seamlessly married adult-oriented R&B to contemporary jazz. In fact, Dreams feels like a bookend of sorts. He employs an alternating cast of studio aces who include Alex Al, John "Jubu" Smith, Eric Marienthal, Michael Stever, Ray Parker, Jr., Rex Rideout, and Rob "Fonksta" Bacon, as well as a trio of vocalists: Stokley Williams (Mint Condition), Vivian Green, and Noel Gourdin. There are some stellar numbers here, including the Williams vehicle, "No Limits," a midtempo babymaker. Culbertson's acoustic piano, Smith's guitar, and some pronounced loops ride atop the bassline to frame the singer's mellifluous tenor. This cut is the sweet spot where neo-soul, adult R&B, and contemporary jazz create a classy pop sound. Green's moment, "Still Here," juxtaposes her taut vocal against acoustic piano and Rideout's fat synth bass with an insistent loop. The result is dramatic. Opening instrumental "Later Tonight" features some nice horn work from Marienthal, Stever -- and Culbertson on trombone -- and very fine guitar from Bacon. Its melody is instantly recognizable with the horns being used sparely but effectively in the mix. "In the City" may be the strongest of the instrumentals, with a deep bass groove and chugging, almost dubwise, rhythm. Here too, the horns fill the backdrop as Smith's guitar accents the bassline. All of these cuts are in the first half of the album. "You're My Music," sung by Gourdin, is a nice soul-pop bubbler and the title track, with its infectious melody and contrasting acoustic and electric guitars, offers a wonderful palette of textures. The three closing instrumentals, however, are less distinguishable. They seem to blunt the impact of the set's previous cuts rather than provide the kind of balance -- one suspects -- Culbertson was looking to create. As "Chapter Two" of XII, this works well, but as an album, Dreams doesn't reach its predecessor's heights. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Jazz - Released January 1, 2012 | GRP

Download not available
From
CDkr177.59
XII

R&B - Released January 1, 2010 | GRP

Given the widespread critical acclaim and commercial success Brian Culbertson garnered from 2008's retro Bringing Back the Funk, it would be understandably tempting for him -- or any musician -- to revisit it wholesale. However, Culbertson throws a changeup on XII and comes up with a set of collaborative originals with stellar guests that relies more on modern adult R&B than funk, and more on sophisticated pop than it does on contemporary jazz. He's got real star power on this set; it's a groover that includes everything from club to go-go funk, up- and midtempo R&B, and polished bedroom ballads, and it all holds together seamlessly. The set opens with "Feelin' It," which features some comedy from Sinbad in the intro and outro, but more importantly, Chuck Brown's vocals are the centerpiece -- Culbertson's piano line quotes liberally from Brown's classic "Bustin' Loose" (he gets a co-write). Ray Parker, Jr.'s guitar and Alex Al's bassline turn it into a monster. Next up is a soulful stepper in "Another Love," with vocals by Kenny Lattimore. Club makes another appearance in "Out on the Floor," with Brian McKnight laying down his brand of smooth groove above a killer string arrangement and a lockstep funky backbeat. Nu-soul balladeer Avant sings on the hit single "Skies Wide Open"; with Randy Bowland's guitar playing an excellent counterpoint to his vocal, it is among the standout cuts here. Faith Evans fronts Culbertson's band on "Don't U Know Me by Now," a midtempo attitude strutter. Parker makes a fine yet minimal vocal appearance on the simmering babymaker "I Wanna Love You," compensated for by killer guitar work and the spoken word bit from Floetry's Natalie Stewart on set closer "I Don't Know." Of the four instrumental tracks, the most notable are "It's Time" and the transcendently joyful contemporary jazz number "That's Life," co-written by Culbertson, Parker, and Earl Klugh, who also plays on it. While nothing on XII breaks new ground, one suspects that this wasn't Culbertson's intention: he was looking to write and record an album that had "quality" stamped all over it. For its diversity, imagination, and execution, he gets high marks: XII stands among his best. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1979 | GRP

From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2009 | GRP

In smooth jazz, there can be a major disparity between how artists sound in the studio and how they sound on-stage. Smooth jazz musicians who provide stiff, formulaic, unimaginative studio recordings for radio programmers often sound a lot more spontaneous and inspired when they're in a live setting; the improvisatory instincts that they go out of their way to repress in the studio are more likely to come out in front of a live audience. Brian Culbertson is a perfectly example. The keyboardist/trombonist has recorded more than his share of forgettable background music in the studio, but on-stage, Culbertson is a lot more loose and spontaneous. And his better instincts often prevail on Live from the Inside. This 2009 recording didn't actually take place in a nightclub or amphitheater, but rather, at Capitol Records' Studio A in Los Angeles. Culbertson favors a live-in-the-studio approach, and most of his performances have the sort of spontaneity he would bring to a club or amphitheater gig. Instead of burying his chops under layers and layers of needless production, he frequently lets them flow and allows his edgier side to come out. That said, no one will mistake Live from the Inside for hard bop; R&B and pop considerations are a big part of the equation on "Always Remember," "So Good," and other groove-oriented tunes. This is commercial music, without a doubt. But it's commercial music that, for the most part, has some guts. A few of the lighter tracks are a little too syrupy for their own good. But all things considered, Live from the Inside is one of the more substantial releases in Culbertson's catalog. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2009 | GRP

When the late President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the world lost not only a prominent politician, but one who truly championed the arts and civil rights. In February of 1967, Oliver Nelson recognized Kennedy's contributions and assembled a big band to play music in his honor, with taped segments of his speeches as preludes. The result is a heartfelt yet eerie combination, perhaps a bit off-putting, but absolutely relevant decades later. The music is reflective of the changing times as identified by Nelson, ranging from commercial movie score-type music, to soulful or straight-ahead jazz, bop, and the modern big-band sound that the leader, composer, and orchestrator owned. Kennedy's most famous speech about fellow Americans, asking what they can do for their country, is folded into the last track "John Kennedy Memory Waltz" with a string quartet and the regret-tinged alto sax of Phil Woods. The 34th President's oratorios on human rights act as prelude to the soft clarion horns, 7/8 beat, flutes, and vibes, giving way to the modal and serene passages of "Let the Word Go Forth," or the cinematic, military, harpsichord-shaded, plucked-guitar-and-streaming-oboe-accented "The Rights of All," which is also reflective of the immortal spiritual song "Wade in the Water." Where "Tolerance" has a similar verbal tone, the mood is much more ethereal between the flutes, oboe, and strings, while the two-minute etude for the first lady and widow, "Jacqueline," has a loping stride. "A Genuine Peace" is an anthem for all times in a soul-jazz mode that parallels Aaron Copland's Americana moods, while "Day in Dallas" is the expectant, ominous, foreboding calm before the chaos. Nelson's straight-ahead jazz exercise is "The Artists' Rightful Place," a spoken word tonic for musical troops in a bop framework that has the horn section jumping for joy. As always, Nelson surrounds himself with the very best musicians -- Woods and Phil Bodner in the reed section, tuba player Don Butterfield, bassist George Duvivier, and pianist Hank Jones -- and all produced by Bob Thiele. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released July 2, 1962 | GRP

This 1962 effort was Freddie Hubbard's first recording under his own name for Impulse! Fellow Jazz Messenger Curtis Fuller and newcomer John Gilmore color the proceedings with added trombone and tenor saxophone, respectively. These rock-solid post-bop horn players are backed by the formidable rhythm section of Tommy Flanagan on piano, Art Davis on bass, and Louis Hayes on drums. Hubbard's shimmering style and clear tone show a clear debt to the late Clifford Brown and a nod to the bold sonic curiosity of John Coltrane. These are some hot young players pushing a classic format forward. The opening track is Duke Ellington's intoxicating "Caravan." The horns play the theme loosely above the dark undercurrent of Davis' and Hayes' playing. The piece explodes into a Hubbard solo that shows why he was the most talked-about young trumpeter of that era. The exceptional quality of his tone and range are amply displayed in his Latin-tinged version of the tender Gershwin standard "Summertime." On the closing track, "The 7th Day," Hubbard and his sextet ride a sultry cool jazz groove for all it's worth and build patiently to some bold exchanges, bowing out with a slow fade. © TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | GRP

In the 14 years since the Illinois-born and bred composer, producer, and keyboard whiz released his debut Long Night Out at the age of 21, he's evolved from a shy kid writing cheerful pop songs in a bedroom studio to one of contemporary jazz's most electrifying A-list performers. His fan base is large enough that he would have made a killing even had chosen to simply follow the easy grooving candlelit approach of his last non-holiday CD It's on Tonight with something similarly low-key and seductive. Fortunately for everyone who had been complaining that smooth jazz artists had been getting way too predictable in the latter 2000s, he had the pull and the wherewithal to make his dreams come true and seriously bring back the groove with just about every heavy hitting funkateer from the '70s. The cover shot of "little Culby" sitting and listening on headphones says it all -- he was a tyke when his guest list was defining all that was cool and happening. The luminaries included one-time James Brown bassist Bootsy Collins and Phelps "Catfish" Collins plus members of the Rubber Band and the Horny Horns (all out of P-Funk); Larry Graham (the slap bass great of Sly & the Family Stone and his own Graham Central Station -- no laid-back "One in a Million You" happening here!); Larry Dunn and Sheldon Reynolds (Earth, Wind & Fire); Greg Adams (Tower of Power), Tony Maiden and Bobby Watson (Rufus), Michael Bland, Cora Dunham, and Rhonda Smith (from Prince's bands), solo stars Ray Parker, Jr., David T. Walker, Ronnie Laws, Gerald Albright, Tom Scott, Paul Jackson, Jr., Perri, etc. Modern neo-soul was well represented as well, with Ledisi swaying dreamily through horn accents and multiple keyboard flavors on Bill Withers' lightly obscure gem "The World Keeps Going Around" and Musiq (Soulchild) slammin' it with urban sax god Gerald Albright, a sea of crunching horns and Culbertson's bright chordings on "Hollywood Swinging." Culbertson's choice of covers, which includes Candy Dulfer and Prince vocalist Chance Howard's urgent command from TOP that "You Got to Funkifize" (featuring Adams on trumpet), is inspired, but he also co-wrote a batch of gems that stand proudly alongside the classics. Reynolds and Collins are among the co-writers of the bright, brass splashed "Funkin' Like My Father" that comes across like an invitation to the party with a series of vocalists connecting past to present. The EWF-inspired Culbertson-Reynolds co-write "Always Remember" shows that no matter how crazy he gets with the production, Culbertson is still a joyfully melodic jazz keyboardist at heart. Other original highlights include the simmering gospel-blues number "The House of Music" (Graham and Laws are the billed stars, but Ricky Peterson's Hammond B-3 carries the soul), and the buoyant piano and horn section dance dubbed "The Groove" Parker (who cut his teeth on R&B sessions a decade before "Ghostbusters") chimes in on the percussive, two-minute interlude throw down "Excuse Me...What's Your Name?" which features Culbertson on the trombone, trumpet and Mini-Moog. An even more powerful party all night affair than Dulfer's magnificent Candy Store was the previous year, Bringing Back the Funk is Culbertson's masterwork that took contemporary urban jazz to a whole new level in 2008. © Jonathan Widran /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released September 8, 1992 | GRP

When Motown released Norman Brown's Just Between Us in 1992, the occasion marked not only the guitarist's first effort, but also the first release on Motown's new contemporary jazz imprint MoJazz. Ultimately, the guitarist fared better than the label did. Brown's debut hit the street at a peak of sorts for the contemporary/smooth jazz genre. The music recorded in music studios that concentrated on creating easily identifiable grooves over improvisation for the pleasure of listeners who also liked funk and soul had become a highly marketable brand and was achieving record numbers in sales. Critics hated it -- for the most part -- and referred to it as "elevator music with a beat" or "the new disco" (as if the latter were a bad thing). Brown's obvious gift on his instrument caught jazz critics by surprise. This man could not only groove, but he was a monster player and improviser. It was obvious from the first notes of "Stormin'," the album's opening cut, that Brown had been deeply influenced by George Benson, but also some of the other revered soul-jazz players of the past, like Billy Butler and George Freeman. What they didn't take into account was that Brown knew a lot about making records coming into the process. He arranged the majority of the material here and had spent considerable time with the album's chief producer, drummer, composer, and recording artist, Norman Connors, who had enjoyed a string of hits after coming out of the "spiritual" soul-jazz era" of the '70s to become a major chart player. Brown's sound may have owed to Benson, but there was so much soul in his playing, and it was also so deeply rooted in adult urban soul of the period, that it transcended the club and youth scenes and appealed to adults. Brown and Connors worked up an album that stands almost as tall as his commercial breakthrough, and indeed primed him for it. After the Storm was huge, it remained on the Top 200 chart for two years. The strange thing is that Just Between Us may be the better album musically. Brown wrote eight of the set's 11 tracks, and each of them was a potential single. Whether it was the deep groove consciousness of "Stormin," the slippery, blessed-out romantic interlude that is the title track, the tough but polished funk that is "East Meets West," with beautifully textured dual keyboard lines and some wonderful hand percussion by Paulinho Da Costa, or the lithe, uptown soul vamp at the heart of the album's closer "Inside"; all of his melodies were infectious and memorable. What's more, Brown's guitar had an edge in its tone that bit harder than Benson's (at the time, anyway, because Benson was singing a lot more than playing). He used it as a human voice: it literally sung, whether playing the raw sensual melodies or offering small flights of fiery streetwise fancy in his solos. Brown's touch was golden and offered a new possibility in the smooth jazz arena for individual musical expression inside a rather narrowly defined format corridor. It may have taken him another album to break it wide open, but all the elements are here and assembled properly. In addition to his own fine tunes, Brown worked with Stevie Wonder on the arrangement for the latter's "Too High," complete with Boyz II Men as a backing chorus and the songwriter on lead vocal. The arrangement is way funky -- check the bassline by Richard Patterson as it grounds Brown's taut guitar work playing all through the grooves. The beautiful "Love's Holiday" by Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White and Skip Scarborough is also here, with an excellent backing female chorus to insure radio crossover to the urban stations at the time. The end result is an album that, although surely a product of its time in terms of production, is musically timeless. Its sense of balance between composition, arrangement, improvisation, and its various genre blends is still a blueprint for contemporary jazz in the 21st century. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1951 | GRP

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Satchmo at Pasadena provides an enjoyable but incomplete presentation of Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars recorded live on January 1, 1951. The Pasadena Civic Auditorium concert found Armstrong fronting an edition of the All-Stars with trombonist Jack Teagarden, clarinetist Barney Bigard, pianist Earl Hines, bassist Arvell Shaw, Cozy Cole on drums, and vocalist Velma Middleton on two tracks. At the time of this concert, musicians began to take advantage of the new LP format that allowed them to bypass the usual three-minute time constraints of 78 rpm and stretch out a bit. Armstrong was no exception, and even though Satchmo is more of the ringleader/vocalist/showman on this set, the All-Stars provide some heated improvising, especially Hines on "Honeysuckle Rose" and Bigard's clarinet solo on the otherwise knockabout version of "Just You, Just Me." To properly capture what a well-rounded performance this is, it should be heard in its entirety, exemplified by the out of print four-CD compilation The California Concerts, which included the complete Pasadena set and a gig at the Crescendo club in L.A. the following evening. Since this reissue is an exact reproduction of the 1951 Decca LP, the songs are not only out of sequence but numerous tracks are omitted. It's too bad Verve didn't simply reissue the entire concert, which would have been preferable over the lavish attention paid to reproducing the original packaging. © Al Campbell /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | GRP

By the time Oliver Nelson and his big band had recorded Fantabulous in March of 1964 for Argo, the great composer, saxophonist, conductor, and arranger was a man about town in New York. He had released some truly classic dates of his own as a leader in smaller group forms -- Blues and the Abstract Truth and Full Nelson among them -- and had done arrangement work for everyone from Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Hodges, Nancy Wilson, Frank Wess, King Curtis, Etta Jones, Jimmy Smith, Jack Teagarden, Betty Carter, Billy Taylor, and Gene Ammons, to name more than a few. For Fantabulous, he took his working big band to Chicago for a gig sponsored by Daddy-O-Daylie, a famous local disc jockey. He had also worked with a number of the players on this date before, even recording an earlier version of the tune "Hobo Flats" that opens this set a year before on an album of the same name. Altoist Phil Woods, baritone roarer Jerome Richardson, trumpeters Snooky Young and Art Hoyle, bassist Ben Tucker, and drummer Grady Tate are a few of the names on Fantabulous. Nelson holds down the tenor chair, and Patti Bown is on piano with additional brass and reed players. Another Nelson original, "Post No Bills" features killer alto work from Woods, and a brief but smoking hot baritone break form Richardson on the same cut. This program is compelling in that it provides an excellent meld of all of Nelson's strengths-as an advanced, colorful harmonist who insisted on the hard swinging esthetic, as an excellent tenor saxophonist and a killer conductor. Another highlight is "Daylie's Double," (which bears a similarity to Nat Adderley's "Work Song"") named for the aforementioned DJ, with smoking tenor breaks from Nelson, and big fat soulful chord soloing from Bown. Likewise Billy Taylor's "A Bientot," it opens in true big brass Ellingtonian elegance, and unravels itself as a gorgeous bluesy ballad with echoes of "I Only Have Eyes for You" in its melody. The subtle shades of flute and twinned clarinet are a nice touch before the entire band arrives to carry it out on a big yet tenderly expressive lyric cloud. That said, there isn't a weak moment here, there isn't anything that doesn't captivate, delight, and even astonish, as in the smoking, striated harmonic bop head on "Three Plus One." It's almost amazing it took more than 20 years before this appeared on American shores on CD, but at last, here it is in excellent sound at a budget price as part of Verve's Originals series. This is for those who are fans who don't have it yet (and who are unwilling to pay high collector's fees for good vinyl copies or the wages of Japanese import insanity), and those wondering where to begin with Nelson the arranger. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | GRP

An above-average R&B singer who sometimes ventures into jazz. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | GRP

An above-average R&B singer who sometimes ventures into jazz. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | GRP

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Ramsey Lewis staked his claim to fame with The In Crowd, an instrumental version of Dobie Gray's Top 40 hit. He also was one of the first soul jazz icons of the mid-'60s, based on the strength of the sales of this recording, done over three days during a club date at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, D.C. What is not readily acknowledged over the years is that bassist Eldee Young is really the star of the show. He's the one who gets the crowd revved up with his vocalizing in tandem with the notes he is playing. It's on his Ray Charles-like take on "Tennessee Waltz" and a similar treatment of Gale Garnett's minor pop hit "You Been Talkin' 'Bout Me Baby" that gets the patrons off. Of course the quintessential hip shakin' introductory title track gets the groove in motion, but it's Young that lights the fuse. His stellar work with drummer Redd Holt bolsters the style of Lewis, and takes it further for the upbeat bossa "Felicidade." Of course, Lewis is the bluesy centerpiece on "Since I Fell for You," another cover of a pop hit that at the time Lenny Welch did so well. The variant is the dramatic "Theme from Spartacus," which has an up-and-down dynamic more suited for a concert hall than a smoky nightclub. This is the moment where Lewis shined the brightest, the "in crowd" at the club was verbally into it, and the time for this music was right. © Michael G. Nastos /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2007 | GRP

Although Lifeline captures Roy Ayers in creative freefall, his commercial prospects never looked brighter. The record's clear highlight, "Running Away," proved a monster club hit, galvanized by Ayers' eccentric vocal, an infectious melody and an absolutely killer bassline, but the remainder of the LP settles for tepid hooks, bland arrangements, and more cheap cosmetics than a two-dollar hooker. Absent the ambition and ingenuity of early Ubiquity efforts, Lifeline is virtually indistinguishable from your average disco record, a shocking decline for a musician of Ayers' caliber. Overbaked production smothers by-the-numbers entries like "Sanctified Feeling" and "Gotta Find a Lover," while the title cut relies on electronic gimmickry in favor of organic energy. Worst of all, far more disappointing Ayers efforts were still to come. [The CD was also released with a bonus track.] © Jason Ankeny /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2007 | GRP

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the singing of Etta James is not her versatility -- she has tackled and excelled in gospel, blues, R&B, soul, rock, jazz and pure pop -- but the way her singing stays unmistakably the same in all genres, always conveying strength, emotional honesty, and a subtly nuanced streak of defiant pride that allows her to make any song, no matter how strongly it might be associated with another artist, completely her own. This collection places her in the realm of jazz, compiling a dozen standards she recorded between 1960 and 1970 for the Argo and Chess imprints. Each of these sides features orchestral string and horn arrangements that give off the illusion of smooth mellowness, but it is only an illusion, because James brings all of her vocal guns to the table, and she is as taut as a garrote wire in her phrasing and every bit as sure of the outcome, approaching jazz with the same deep soul fervor she brings to everything she sings. Her take on Harold Arlen's "Stormy Weather" is a case in point. Lena Horne's signature version of the song is full of a languid and haunting resignation, but James tackles it with the defiance of a person used to removing all obstacles from her path and it becomes a persistent hymn to personal survival. Same song. Same lyrics. Different result. Or take James' rendition of the jazz standard "Misty." She fills it with barely restrained gospel fervor, turning its ethereal center inside out and giving the song a kind of stubborn sturdiness that is startling. Remarkably, she always sounds like herself, even when bathed in a backdrop of lush strings and calculated horns. This set doesn't prove that James is a jazz singer so much as it proves that James can sing jazz if and when she chooses to do so. No surprise there. She is, after all, Etta James. And thank God she is. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2007 | GRP

One of the many compilations issued in the wake of James Brown's passing in 2007 is this rather strange and necessary one produced by Alan Leeds and Harry Weinger. There's no irony in the title, and it's only a little misleading. Brown loved all kinds of music throughout his lifetime and made no secret of it. This set compiles 12 cuts, all of which Brown originally produced, that accent the jazzier -- and sometimes near all-out jazz (though everything on this baby has more than a little soul grit mixed in) -- side of the Godfather. The coolest thing about this set is that it contains numerous unreleased alternate mixes, extended versions, single edits, and literally unreleased versions and tunes that span from standards and soul-jazz cuts to '70s-era pop tunes. Ranging from 1964's reading of the Adderley Brothers' "Tengo Tango" (never before issued in any form) to a 1970s alternate mix of "For Once in My Life," this is perhaps among the most ambitious of Brown recordings to be released in quite some time. Released gems here include Brown on a killer B-3 take of Jimmy McGriff's "All About My Girl" in 1966 and his version of Joe Zawinul's "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)" from 1967. In between, there are hip mixes of standards like "Cottage for Sale" and "That's My Desire." The sequencing here is not stale either, since it's not chronological. In fact, since it bookends in the year 1970, with the 1960s material sandwiched between, it's rather wonderful aesthetically. Recommended. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | GRP

Mindi Abair has been a force in pop and jazz since she moved to Los Angeles. When she signed to GRP she really made her mark as a solo artist. Life Less Ordinary is her fourth recording under her own name since 1999. She has toured tirelessly, played on dozens of sessions, and been a regular on smooth jazz radio and pop stations. Life Less Ordinary is the most diverse things she's issued. There's the taut, sheeny groove jazz she's become famous for on the funky opener "Do You Miss Me," with a vocal chorus and trippy keyboards and programming by producer Michael Hager. "Long Ride Home" is the album's standout track. One can plainly hear the influence of David Sanborn, Tom Scott, and Michael Brecker on her playing. It's a simple vamp that gives way to a slippery chorus. It's more a song than a jazz jam. The piece is tightly composed and arranged, and its groove is undeniable -- especially in the multi-tracked saxophones. The album's first surprise happens in her cover of Rickie Lee Jones' "It Must Be Love," from her Magazine album. Abair's treatment makes it sound like it came off a slick Nashville country version of Ghostyhead! With programmed loops by Hager, very hushed and nocturnal. Abair apes Jones' vocal -- including her phrasing -- but she doesn't have the voice and sounds flat. Michael Landau's guitar playing is utterly tasteful and beautiful and Keb Mo's brief dobro solo are the strongest parts of the cut, though Lalah Hathaway's backing vocals are fine as well and steal the show from Abair. "The Joint" is solid; a tough, blues-influenced groove which, with muddier production, could have appeared on a Blue Note soul-jazz record from the late '60s, or one of the Crusaders early sides with Larry Carlton. "Slinky"'s fractured, slow, sexy funk is in-the-pocket and backbone-slipping. "Ordinary Love," along with the Jones' tune -- both attempts at singles -- is simply awful. The melody, with its Latin undertones, is nowhere, and the vocal would be forgettable if it weren't so in-your-face bad. "Bloom" should have been the album's closer with its infectious, sing-able lyricism and its euphoric choruses and bridge, but the semi-orchestral "Far Away" (not Carole King's tune) gets that honor, and it's a fine piece of new age jazz if that's what moves you. In all, there are great moments here. Abair has a great funky jazz record in her somewhere, but she, her manager, or her producers need to reign her in. She is aware of her strengths, it seems, but not her weaknesses. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
From
CDkr177.59

Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 2006 | GRP

One of smooth jazz's funkiest and most popular artists, Brian Culbertson has engaged the genre's audiences for years with a perfect mix of lively funk, jazzy piano and keyboard energy, and a softer intimate side that earned him one critic's designation as "the Barry White of smooth jazz." Faced with trying to find new ways to skin the cat of holiday songs that have been done a million times, Culby exceeds all expectations, bringing every side of his charismatic magic touch to standards you won't mind hearing just one more time. He gets off to a rousing, big-production start, jamming wildly on an in-your-face bluesy, jazzy, gospel take on "Joy to the World" (complete with a gospel choir), then seeks Dave Koz's help in creating a sweet, subtle arrangement of "Deck the Halls." The vibe rides like a roller coaster from there, starting with a rousing, slightly stride-influenced "Jingle Bells" (which breaks into a fun, Ramsey Lewis-flavored traditional jazz verse and includes a big-band segment featuring Culbertson's other instrument, the trombone). It's incredible what happens when he enlists Jeff Lorber and Peter White to help him arrange two other classics -- Lorber helps Culby get even funkier and White brings out that intimate side. Amid the sizzle and cool are some unique and unexpected vocal treats -- Michael McDonald on the soaring, original power soul ballad "All Through the Christmas Night" and a stunning, crystalline pop classical vocal by wife Michelle Culbertson (who in 2006 released the inspirational album Be Still My Soul) on the lesser-heard "Some Children See Him." Culbertson also creates a trippy, off-meter percussion vibe on "Little Drummer Boy" that creates a fascinating impressionistic feeling. Calling this work A Soulful Christmas is a good marketing idea, but soul is only the beginning of a collection that truly captures the many emotions of the holidays -- and the artist at his most creative. © Jonathan Widran /TiVo

Label

GRP in the magazine