I Happened To Hear…
… The Jazz in Me by Eric Copeland
5-track EP taken from the album of the same name comes from Christian
singer, composer, pianist and producer Eric Copeland. It contains the
lyrically very clever ‘The Jazz in Me’ which grows on me the more I hear
it with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Michael Franks, and some
There’s a funkier feel on ‘My Steps are Ordered’ with some very nice
piano sounds. ‘Come to Me’ is a mellow piano-led song with gospel
undertones and surely has the potential to be a radio hit – I wish the
guitar/vocal scat break had been a bit longer…
The Latin feel on the vocal ‘Have Thine Own Way’ is enhanced by the
sweet acoustic guitar. The elegant production on this song lets the
Christian lyrics speak for themselves.
The instrumental ‘Softly and Tenderly’ certainly has plenty to please
jazz fusion fans and some lovely soloing on bass and guitar augments
that warm piano sound. This is one of the classiest things I’ve heard in
2009, to be honest. It’s the standout song for me on a sampler that
certainly makes me want to seek out Eric’s earlier albums.
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… VIP by Jonathan Fritzén
remember being very excited when I heard Jonathan’s debut CD
Lovebirds. From the first track on his follow-up, the title track,
it’s obvious that he’s aiming to consolidate his place as a major smooth
jazz artist. It’s got a groove, it’s got a hook and his honey-coated
piano sound. It can’t fail.
There’s an infectious groove on ‘If You Want It’ with phat synth bass
holding it down. The head-nodding will continue with the simple ‘In
The urban groove gets deeper on ‘Fading Away’, an instrumental ballad
with a very contemporary feel. Michael Lington’s alto sax adds a lot to
this song, but in an understated way.
For me, the ‘money’ song on this CD has to be ‘The New Vibe’ which has a
synth bass and mechanical drum track – so for me that should be a
turnoff, but it isn’t. It’s a compulsive foot-tapper and as usual
Fritzén’s production is so uncluttered that the piano speaks out
strongly. He’s deep into Brian Culbertson territory here.
‘Stay’ has a bassline that old-skool funkers will appreciate and
background vocals that will make Patti Austin fans smile. If you like
your ballads sexy and your funk mellow and invigorating, seriously check
this CD out.
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…Wild Soul by The Sunnie Paxson Band
think it’s fair to say I raved about Sunnie’s ‘Groove Suite’ CD on this
site http://www.smooth-jazz.de/Chris/Happenth/10292002.htm. A few months
ago, I took the disc out and played it again and its impact had not
diminished. I decided to contact Sunnie to let her know and she sent a
copy of her fine debut album. The albums share some tracks so I’ll focus
on the ones that appear only on ‘Wild Soul’.
‘MP3 Blues’ is really a straightahead jazz number which really flies
along and features some very muscular acoustic piano from Sunnie and
Doug Webb’s confident sax. It’s in very stark contrast with the lovely
ballad ‘Peppermint Road’ with some truly lovely vocals, both lead and
I really like the blues shuffle ‘Heart on Hold’ with more strong vocals
and some nice Larry Carton-style blues picking by Rohan Reid. ‘Feelin’
Mellow’ is soothing piano-led instrumental with a Latin feel and maybe
it’s too soulful for ‘smooth jazz’ radio but I’d love to hear someone
play it on the radio – maybe I’ll do it.
Rohan Reid is to the fore again on the startling fusion instrumental
‘Lightning Rod’ showing off his killer licks on fretless bass, while
Sunnie gets all ‘Dukey’ on us and stretches out on a great
There are some real surprises on this disc. If you can track it down, I
hope that you enjoy them like I do. A conversation I had with Sunnie
suggested that her partnership with old buddy Stanley Clarke continues
and I’m excited to think a recording featuring them both could see the
light of day soon…
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…Bajo El Sol by Russ Hewitt
didn’t just happen to hear this really. This incredibly talented guitar
player contacted me out of the blue. I think he had heard some tracks by
Acoustic Alchemy on my internet radio station.
And it’s for sure that fans of Acoustic Alchemy and Jesse Cook would be
drawn to ‘Bajo el Sol’. From the opening bars of the sexy and strutting
title track I was utterly hooked. On Russ’s website he talks about his
music as a blend of Latin, jazz and Flamenco – and I can’t come up with
a better description.
You can feel the sun on your shoulders and the irresistible urge to move
on any of the following songs: ‘Lydia’, ‘Palma de Mallorca’, ‘Inger’ and
‘Ojos Bonitos’. That’s not to say there is anything simplistic about
them: it’s just that while Hewitt has respected the traditions in the
music, he reinforces the point that this music tells a story through
His bow to tradition goes even further on the haunting ‘Simatai’ and on
the fiery ‘Byzantine’, where the Moorish influence is probably at its
most tangible. There are moments that I would describe as ‘dark’ in this
song and that’s where I feel the depth of Hewitt’s love for Flamenco
most: a yearning and a passion that can sometimes only be expressed in
music and dance.
This CD has truly been one of the surprises and delights of summer 2009
for me. I hope that I am hearing Russ Hewitt’s music for many years…
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