Michael Fair - How Close Are We?


The trumpet is certainly a popular instrument in smooth jazz. Everybody knows trumpet player like Herb Alpert, Chris Botti or Rick Braun. Michael Fair is a new name, a musician who deserves your attention. 

His new album "How Close Are We?" (2003) is his second solo album after "Love Me Like That", which was released in 2002. Both album are basing on a collaboration between Michael Fair and Brandon Barnes. Brandon Barnes is a music genius like Brian Culbertson. While Michael is concentrating on trumpet and flugelhorn, Brandon Barnes is playing keyboards,  guitar and programming. Brandon Barnes is a multi Grammy nominated writer. He has co-written some of Brian McKnight's biggest hits including The Way Love Goes, Goodbye My Love, One Last Cry, Never Felt This Way, Last Dance, 6 8 12, What's It Gonna Be, and Still just to name a few. Brandon also wrote songs for Kim Waters, Kirk Whalum, Art Porter, Alicia Keys, Take 6 and a lot prolific artists more. Now he has co-written 11 songs of the new album too.

Herb Alpert has influenced Michael Fair's music. He began playing the songs that he heard his parents listening to by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. There is no great difference to this master of trumpet. Nevertheless Michael Fair prefers the silky side of smooth jazz. 

Michael Fair likes to play his trumpet with some reverb, while the other instruments are mainly staying in the foreground. With this acoustical effect both players are creating a stage in the soundscape with Michael's trumpet in the center. You will never overhear that this is a trumpet album. It's absolutely the lead instrument on this album. 

How Close Are We? is a groovy piece with programmed rhythm and keyboard layers like a carpet of synth strings. Michael's playing is easy and sovereign. The title song introducing in this album is a veritable enjoyment.

Running Scared is very rhythm orientated. The programmed rhythm always stay on the same level while Michael is performing variations of the song motif. Brandon Barnes also adds some keyboard sounds and a synth bass.

One Last Cry was written by Brandon Barnes, Melanie Barnes and Brian McKnight. This song is getting a classic. It was already covered by Kim Waters ("It's Time For Love"), Michael White ("Side By Side") or Marty Q ("Sentimental Christmas"). Michael Fair's version has its own character.

New Shooz New Attitude has some freaky contemporary elements like scratching as a rhythm component. Michael's approach to Herb Alpert's modern albums like "Colors" is phenomenal. I also like Brandon Barnes' Hammond B3 throw-in. 

Well, Brazilian Sunrise has a certain retro-appeal. Some Cha-Cha rhythms and acoustic guitar slicks are a wonderful frame. The syncopated rhythm breaks are salt and pepper right in time. Awesome the piano solo, which could really be longer.

Four Chord Pileup has a disco rhythm which is standing in contrast to Michael Fair's sustained trumpet sound. Looks like both artists have used some over-dubbing features.

The title Midnight Groove is typical for Smooth Jazz and the music behind this title too. The attributes slow, dreamy and snugly caressing may characterize the atmosphere. 

Sunday Afternoon Drive provokes the association of a coastal drive near Santa Barbara, the sunny California beach.

The slow A Fool Again shows up Michael Fair's love to bar music. Jazz brushes and some jazzy guitar chords intensify this impression.

Beach Front Hideaway is finally my break through. Catchy melody and performance are absolutely convincing.  

East Or West? is another hooky song, which stays in mind.

The contemplative Nylon Samba is a worthy closing of this matured project.

Fans of Smooth Jazz especially of trumpet music will like this album with a silky touch. 

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