Jay Rowe: Red Hot and Smooth (2006)
This is smooth jazz; but those who fear Kenny G need not worry; these tunes are all originals and expressed with original style. However, purists beware. This album jumps but in spots gets lazy, like taking a hit off a bong.
Jay Rowe's style is very intense, full of rich chords and finger-work dancing up and down the keyboard. The compositions can, at times, sound repetitive but are resolved satisfactorily. But this album is all about Mr. Rowe. He's got some fabulous, nationally-known talent and could have adjusted his arrangements so that their work shone a bit more. The arrangements seem somehow not spontaneous enough; and among all of the musicians, particularly saxophonist/trumpeter Bill Holloman, guitarist Rohn Lawrence and drummer Andre Webb could have really been given a few more solo minutes.
Timmy Maia's single vocal on "You Make My Life Complete" is unremarkable but technically proficient. Hopefully it will get radio airplay, as it has the potential to do well. But it's R&B; not jazz.
Now for the high points: Lawrence's guitar magic shines on rhythm as well as lead on the absolutely ready-for-radio catchy "Stars in Her Eyes." Rowe's piano becomes funkier and more minimalist; Holloman's horns provide just the right background; but Lawrence steals the spotlight from the ensemble in a shining and funkalicious solo that bears repeat listens.
The first track, "Bumpin' on Hollywood," is by far the finest demonstration of what this talented ensemble can come up with. It's a testimony to Rowe's ability to write a catchy melody that if promoted correctly will get a lot of radio airplay, satellite and digital media exposure for a long time to come: it's that complex and exciting. Funk lovers must also hear this demonstration in the art of understatement.
The tempos on the disc aren't the typical "Okay, but kinda like molasses instead of maple syrup. It jumps. Both "Bumpin' on Hollywood" and "East Coast West Coast" are even danceable. This is a wonderful disc to put on while driving, as it forms an enjoyable soundtrack to nearly whatever comes into view as well and is a guaranteed road rage preventative. Everything's alright and groovy.
Thanks to the miracle of modern electronics, the disc was put together from myriad tracks (some recorded in the artists' basements) and mixed down expertly by producer/engineer Ken Navarro. The sound is clear, rich and extremely fat. The bass guitars are saturated perfectly and show off the talents of the two bassists in a funk-laden style without harmonic distortion. It's amazing how conspicuously absent any sort of harmonic distortion or clipping is, while achieving a sound that will please audiophiles. Piano has always been a difficult instrument to mike and mix, so kudos to the engineer for carefully doing a fine job.
Track Listing: Bumpin' on Hollywood; Red, Hot and Smooth; East Coast West Coast; Kristen's Rainbow; Bryan's Song; Stars in Her Eyes; The End of Summer (featuring Ken Navarro); Every Loves Mia; Time to Go Home; You Make My Life Complete (featuring Tommy Maia).
Personnel: Jay Rowe: piano, keyboards; Gary Grainger: bass (1-3 5-8); Andre "Blues" Webb: drums (1-3, 5-8); Kevin Prince: percussion (1-3, 5-8); Ken Navarro: electric rhythm guitar (3), acoustic rhythm guitars (5, 7, 8), acoustic lead guitar (5, 7, 8); Rohn Lawrence: electric rhythm guitars (1, 2, 6), lead guitar (2, 3, 6); Bill Holloman: saxophones and trumpets (1), trumpets (2, 6), trumpet solo (7); Timmy Maia: lead vocal (10).