CDs purchased in the past two months or so:
Spyro Gyra: The Deep End
Spyro Gyra: In Modern Times
David Benoit: Best of David Benoit 1987-1995
David Benoit: Right Here, Right Now
Chris Botti: Night Sessions
Those of you who are familiar with the jazz scene may take a look at those CDs and realize...they're all "smooth jazz" or something close to that. I know that smooth jazz is something often shunned by "real" jazz musicians, but I can't ignore these talented musicians.
For the record, the only completely "smooth jazz" CD I bought is Chris Botti. The other two possess something...different. Spyro Gyra are not actually a smooth jazz band, they were just taking fusion to the next level, way back in 1979 when they released their HUGE hit "Morning Dance". They were credited with starting "smooth jazz", but, as evidenced by their recordings, are definitely not a "smooth jazz" band. David Benoit is definitely a "smooth jazz" artist, but his recordings possess a fire and flair that do not lend themselves well to Wal*Mart background music. For those not in the know, David Benoit is an excellent, excellent pianist. The reason I don't classify his stuff completely with smooth jazz is that his recordings absolutely reek of soul and R&B flavourings, and I love it! The fire that you can feel in the early bebop recordings is there, and that's what sets David Benoit apart.
The CD that I want to review here is Spyro Gyra's The Deep End. Ever since purchasing The Very Best of Spyro Gyra, I've been hooked. I was pointed to Spyro Gyra by my friend Meagan Reimer, and I've been hooked since early this spring. The bandleader, sax player Jay Beckenstein, is absolutely amazing, but the band is not just about him - the rest of the members are incredibly important as well - the group is not a dictatorship, or a democracy, but it is communism in its purest form - everyone contributes what they have, and strengths balance weaknesses.
My favourite track on The Deep End has to be Monsoon. This is track #3, and it starts with a somewhat Eastern-flavoured groove, and turns into what I call a slow burn, a slow rock feel (MM=75-ish) that sits and just simmers. You can feel the energy, but it's simmering, not boiling. The first time I heard this, I was blown away by the pure passion and emotion that lies in this chart - it's most evident in Beckenstein's sax playing, but it's always easiest to project emotion into an instrument that is fueled by breath and air than one powered by strings, skins, or electricity. Anyways, I can't even begin to describe how powerful this tune is - you have to check it out for yourself. In fact, buy the whole CD. There is not a single track that I dislike, and it's varied enough to keep you coming back for more every time. My other favourite tracks are Summer Fling, Eastlake Shuffle, Wiggle Room, and Chippewa Street, although if I could write all of them down, I'd do it. I'm just too lazy to write them.
Anyways, I haven't had a chance to listen to all of my new CDs (In Modern Times, Right Here, Right Now, Night Sessions were just purchased today), but I will try to remember to review them when I have time.