After several personal changes over the years, Urban Knights producer Frayne T. Lewis has ensemble a talented cast of players that could very well find themselves as frontrunners on the bumpy terrain of the smooth jazz genre! Frayne T. Lewis with his father Ramsey Lewis in the executive chair team up to produce Urban Knights (VI). Now, at this stage of the game some might argue that UK (VI) is the best of their six recordings, some might say otherwise. However, what I found most interesting and daring on behalf of producers and record executives on this project is the opening track “School Days,” originally recorded by the legendary Stanley Clarke in 1976. “School Days,” no doubt made this “old school playa” jump for joy and singing a wealth of praises to Urban Knights and their production team for stepping out of the smooth cube and kick some serious butt! Dittos, to bassist Maurice Fitzgerald and drummer Quinjuan Anderson for delivering the funk on “School Days”!


The Players are: Quinjuan Anderson ~ drums, Nick Bisesi ~ saxophone, Robert BobbyBroom ~ guitar, Maurice Fitzgerald ~ bass, Kevin Randolph ~ keyboards, with Ramsey Lewis ~ Steinway Grand Piano on “Close Your Eyes and Remember and Memorias Belas,” Asaleana Crawford ~ vocals, Keith Henderson ~ guitar, Lambert Waldrip ~ programming and Alejo Poveda ~ percussion.


 Richard Rudolph and Charles Stepney scored the next selection “Close Your Eyes and Remember,” originally for Minnie Riperton’sCome To My Garden” in 1971. Ramsey also, covered this selection on his 1999 trio release “Appassionata.” Lewis is the guest & featured artist on the piano, his grace, finesse and style glistens with excellence! 

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t like the next track “My Boo,” when I first heard it. I know it very possible that some of you dig R&B sensation Usher, like many of you I adore the beautiful and talented “Alicia Keys” (she’s also one of the co-writers of My Boo). In all reality, I didn’t like the original cut either! However, after cruising thru the city with the sunroof back and the moonlight beaming down and the jammin’ urbanized grooves of UK (VI) on my box “My Boo” began to sound a little more inviting. If, the more assertive Urban Adult stations would step out of the cube and listen to “My Boo” it’s very possible they’d discover this track would blend perfectly into the mix of “UAC” format.  

Urban Knights covers Come Back Jack,” by Meter’s guitarist Leo Nocentelli. You can find this track on Ramsey’s Electric Collection,” 2001 and also saxophonist Donald Harrison performs this piece on his “Nouveau Swing” release back in 1997. On this special occasion the guys of Urban Knights work this groove with perfection and it’s definitely funky up in here! 

My Love is True,” co-written by Fred Crawford & Asaleana Crawford is the only vocal selection on the cd featuring Asaleana. It’s difficult to measure Asaleana vocal prowess. However, she reminds me somewhat of R&B vocalist Ashanti on this selection. Stay tune … to see if Frayne calls her back to the studio for future projects as lead vocalist. 

 To hear UK ‘s rendition of Wayne Shorter’s classic “Footprints,” positively sends goose bumps up and down my spine. I love it when young musicians take on classics of this magnitude. I’m assuming, (no credit given in the liner notes) woodwind artist Nick Bisesi is playing the flute on “Footprints,” and his tonality is simply stunning. Kevin Randolph solos on the Rhodes piano are noteworthy! 

The African and Latin influenced “Brazilica,” penned by Yarbrough and White originally recorded by Ramsey Lewis on his release titled “Salongo” in 1976. In this case, son Frayne (much like his father) interweaved his on soulful flavor and vibe into this classic with unconditional love, which certainly brought a huge smile of appreciation to my face! 

Saxophonist Nick Bisesi scored “Fall Forward,” which falls into the 8th spot. This track should generate a buzz from listeners and radio programmers alike. It’s mid-tempo grooves and melodies offer a perfect balance of hooks and catchy vibes.  

The multi-facet Ramsey Lewis scores “Memorias Belas,” and plays the piano effortlessly as well. This breezy Brazilian flavored piece sizzles with brilliant colors and textures shaping each note and melody with the dexterity that you’ve come to expect form Lewis.   

Sly,” scored at the 10th spot by guitarist Robert “Bobby” Broom (the groups elder statesmen) is truly a bright moment on this project. These cats interactivity as players illustrates they’re having fun keeping the groove tight & in sync to final bar. 

Keyboardist Kevin Randolph pens “Onnikah,” the last selection on UK (VI). “Onnikah,” is a jewel that’s definitely hidden deep on this project but one of my favorites on VI as well.  

On this project, Urban Knights plays it safe and zeroed in on they’re target to audience with UK (VI). Nonetheless, producer Frayne T. Lewis added a refreshing twist to the mix diversifying this palette to what could have been the usual dose of blasé, blasé smooth jazz. It was brilliant on Frayne’s behalf to rework a few classics in from his father’s massive record archive on this project. Yes, there are a few notable tracks to embrace while you listen (School Days, Footprints, Brazilica, Close Your Eyes and Remember, Come Back Jack, Memorias Belas, Sly and Onnikah) that could easily garner a respectful amount of attention beyond the box for music lovers everywhere. The inclusion of veteran guitarist Bobby “Clean Sweep” Broom is a definite plus for the group and project, this no way diminishes or discounts the remaining talented cast of players because their input as artists was represented exceedingly well throughout! Kudos to Frayne Lewis and the Urban Knights crew for servin’ up a tasty mix of urban flavored jazz that sizzles from the beginning to the end!




Total Tracks – 11


1.      School Days (Stanley Clarke)

2.      Close Your Eyes and Remember (Richard Rudolph, Charles Stepney)

3.      My Boo (Jermaine Dupri, Alicia Keys, Adonis Shropshire & Manuel Seal)

4.      Come Back Jack (Leo Nocentelli)

5.      My Love is True (Fred Crawford & Asaleana Crawford)

6.      Footprints (Wayne Shorter)

7.      Brazilica (Martin Yarbrough & Maurice White)

8.      Fall Forward (Nick Bisesi)

9.      Memorias Belas (Ramsey Lewis & Frayne Lewis)

10.  Sly (Bobby Broom)

11.  Onnikah (Kevin Randolph)


Total Spin Time – 54:02


Produced by Frayne T. Lewis for Narada Jazz © 2005


Visit Urban Knights here: http://www.narada.com/images/AlbumPage/UrbanKnights/urbanknights_page.htm


Reviewed by Rob Young 4 the AG Music Group