I look back with nostalgic feelings to the 80's and 90's when Mark Sakautzky and Michael Weisser released on their label IC/Digit (Independent Composers/ Innovative Communication) many smooth jazz albums of artists like Dancing Fantasy, Terry Marshall, George Bishop, Blue Knights, Teekay, Freeze Frame and others. A real treasury in Germany. IC tried to create a new kind of music besides New Age and New Instrumental called "Light Jazz Urban Grooves". Mark Sakautzky had a proneness for US laid back music which was later indicated as smooth jazz. His innumerable visits to NY, LA and the beaches of Malibu and Venice were blueprints for many creative musical ideas. "Life is a beach - life is music“, was the motto. After the retreat of Mark Sakautzky and later Michael Weisser IC/Digit stopped their activities in this genre. 

To my great delight most of the artists are still active. After "A Balanced World" (1999) Freeze Frame has just released a new album called "Transition". The man behind Freeze Frame is Ray Bach. He is supported by Lars Slowak (vocals, bass), Stephan Gade (guitars), Nils Karsten (horn) and Tom Hapke (drums). Ray Bach explains the album’s title: ” I have chosen the title “Transition” because it clearly reflects the progression from the first album “Moviescores” right through to the present day. You could divide the album into three parts. The first six tracks are real songs, some pop-oriented, and some have more jazz elements. The next four tracks are typical Freeze Frame smooth jazz titles. The last two tracks bring back the feeling of the early Freeze Frame. It’s like going back in time. Even if the direction of the material is somewhat different, ranging from west coast pop to jazz and ambient. But it’s still Freeze Frame music and that’s why “Transition” is the best description I have.”

The piano introduction of
Life Is What You Make It reminds me at Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is". The combination of piano play and vocals is well-arranged.

Two Of A Kind is a melodious ballade featuring Lars Slowak's smooth vocals. The instrumental roots of this song base on Ray Bach's New Age experience.

Never Want To Say Goodbye has an impressing guitar feature by Stephan Gade. Ray Bach stakes everything on the vocal elements. It's rather difficult to sell a pure instrumental album in Germany. Pop sells.

Love Comes From The Heart, Only Human and Pictures Get Blurred are further ballades in this lyrical style.

My heart beats for smooth jazz and heaven gates open with Lincoln Park. While the American smooth jazz music is now strongly influenced by Urban music and Hip Hop rhythm. The independence of European musicians of these influences is somehow refreshing.

Olympic Boulevard adepts some Asian contributions. Ray Bach offers us a great variations of his electronic assets. Superb!

Now we are a special street in Santa Monica: Ocean Avenue. As Ocean Avenue overlooks the ocean, many tourist hotels, restaurants, and expensive real estate can be found here. OA is often cited in smooth jazz titles. Ray Bach adds a more moody relaxed version.

Santa Monica Boulevard starts off of Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. As the densely urban commercial street reaches L.A. the street-traffic is more intense. Parallel with that local fact this tune is more vivid and uptempo.

The current gray whale population numbers 21,000. An impressive 94 percent of that number pass within a mile of the Point Reyes in the first two weeks of January. Standing on a bluff in the cold, you can see gray spouts out at sea. Californians make their own seasonal migration to greet them, and call out their support. Dance Of The Whales is a homage to the whales in the style of Eric Serra (" Le Grand Blue") and also Freeze Frame.

Inside Of The Wave is exactly that what the title says. Melodious Synthipop outside of the techno scene. Don't miss the secret piano solo tune at the end of the album

Freeze Frame is back. A great see again for the old fans and a big hello to the smooth jazz scene. This album is a good reason to discover Ray Bach's previous work. I can assure it's worth while to take up this quest. 





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  • Title: Transition
    Artist: Freeze Frame
    Year: 2006
    Length: 0:47:16
    Genre: General Pop/Smooth Jazz

    01 Life Is What You Make It [3:31]
    02 Two Of A Kind [3:52]
    03 Never Want To Say Goodbye [3:44]
    04 Love Comes From The Heart [3:11]
    05 Only Human [4:02]
    06 Pictures Get Blurred [4:08]
    07 Lincoln Park [3:50]
    08 Olympic Boulevard [3:38]
    09 Ocean Avenue [4:06]
    10 St.Monica Boulevard [3:29]
    11 Dance Of The Whales [4:02]
    12 Inside The Third Wave [5:43]