encounter with Craig Sharmat reveals a personality of a special kind.
Influenced by artists like Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny and George
Benson he soon had the lucky opportunity to share the stage with
platinum selling jazz saxophonist Ronnie Laws and the not little-known
jazz singer Randy Crawford. Although he arranged and programmed for
chart topping trumpet player Rick Braun's album Yours Truly and
arranged strings on Peter White, Mindy Abair and Rick Braun's 2007
Christmas Album he wasn't caught by my smooth jazz radar screen.
The reason is simply explainable.
Mainly he is fostering merits as a brilliant film composer. So he
composed trailers for movies like King Kong, Ghost Rider,
Eragon, Anchorman, wrote songs for the TV series like
CSI Miami, Without A Trace and many more. His credits are
overwhelming. Certainly enough to review his debut album So Cal
Drivin, which was just released October, 2009.
The album presents his band Comfort
Zone (John Balbuena, keys, Chris Mostert, sax, David Chamberlin, bass,
Rich Diamond, drums) furthermore guest artists
including Rick Braun, Greg Matheison, Mike White, Philippe Saisse,
Dino Soldo, Billy Hulting, Steve Billman, Andy Suzuki and more. We
should not forget Craig, who plays on all tracks electric guitar and
in addition on some tracks keys, percussion and programming.
Blinded by such a great list of illuminates I approach Craig's album
with a certain respect. So Cal Drivin, a song about Drivin'
along the coast of Southern California, transmits the spirit of
relaxed freedom, we all want to internalize, when we stuck in the
middle lane of a So Cal freeway flailing our arms in frustration about
the dense traffic. Turn your radio on and let Craig's guitar music
The sensitive ballade Song For
Colleen, dedicated to wife and life partner Colleen, lets Craig shine on his guitar with all nuances and
finesse, an experienced guitarist can create. My favorite for a film
score. On Spud Nutts
Greg Matheison (piano), Andy Suzuki (sax) and Greg on guitar join
forces to a heavy jam session.
Brisa is a north-easterly wind which blows on the coast of South
America and the title of the following song featuring humming singer
Mary Durst. The intriguing Samba combines Brazilian elements with
contemporary jazz to a fascinating elixir.
The Badger is an amplifier of
Suhr. Tonally, the Badger imparts a distinctly British flavor with the
EL-84 output section, but it doesn't quite sound like any of classic
UK vintage amps. Craig Sharmat highlights a more jazzy side of this
amp and contributes this song to the new generation of amps.
Walking in late night bars, drinking
your favorite drink and talk to the beloved person. What do you need
more? Right, good music and Midnight Jass is the stuff for
that. Fish Fry is a horn driven tune with an excellent
contribution of Rick Braun (trumpet) and Andy Suzuki (sax). When you
can progress without difficulty, we call it Smooth Sailing.
Applied to music we admire the ease of John Balbuena's piano play.
" I can say without hesitation that
Toots is one of the greatest musicians of our time. On his instrument
he ranks with the best that jazz has ever produced. he goes for the
heart and makes you cry. We have worked together more times than I can
count and he always keeps me coming back for more ...," wrote Quincy
Jones in the liner notes of his album Jook Joint. Blues For
Toots shows that Jean Toots Thielemans is still in the memory of many jazz
aficionados. Famous saxophonist Dino Soldo performs the harmonica on that track.
Sharmat's affinity for gentle ballades
finds its echo in the songs Perfect Life and Dad. Dad
features Craig on acoustic guitar supported by a wonderful orchestral
arrangement. With this heartfelt melody he articulates the great love
to his father and closes the album with his own emotional approach.
Craig Sharmat's debut album prefers the
mellow tones and opens the path to another more personal view of
Buy the album at
Title: So Cal Drivin
Artist: Craig Sharmat
Genre: Smooth Jazz
Label: Scoredog Music
01 So Cal Drivin [3:47]
02 Song For Colleen [4:06]
03 Spud Nutts [3:34]
04 Brisa [4:49]
05 The Badger [3:44]
06 Midnight Jass [2:07]
07 Fish Fry [4:10]
08 Smooth Sailing [4:39]
09 Blues For Toots [5:11]
10 Perfect Life [4:02]
11 Dad [2:44]