every outstanding band or artist you find professional sidemen.
Freddie Ravel (Al Jarreau), David Garfield (George Benson), H.B.
Barnum (Barry White) are some of these musicians. Al McKenzie is
musical director of the Temptations, the soul legend. He performed
among others with The Spinners, The 4 Tops, Mary Wilson, Penny Wells, The Supremes,
The Contours, Etta James, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Holiday, Kim Weston,
Anita Baker, Martha Reeves, O.C.Smith, Esther Phillips, Marlena Shaw,
Dave McMurray and Marion Meadows. His debut album as solo artist was “Is it
love” (2001). On his new album "A Reason to Be" Al
McKenzie is working with excellent musicians like Mike Fowler
(guitar), Penny Wells (vocals), Darrell (Peanut) Smith (bass), Ron
Otis (drums) and more. It's a contemporary mixture of smooth jazz and
Paige One sounds like a good old r&b tune
of the 80's. There is a little bit of Babyface, Gerald Alston and
Chris Jasper. Orchestral hits and strings, drum programming, chorus
refrains and all other ingredients of that time. A real flash back.
On Angel Al McKenzie shows his mastership in
piano and keyboards. Fantastic his easy touch and trills of the keys.
A Reason to Be is an awesome ballade
featuring the lovely Penny Wells. Al McKenzie has founded his own
label AMAC Records. Al has
already released a solo project with Penny Wells: "Shine". A
Reason to Be is a perfect appetizer for more music of this attractive
woman with this sultry voice.
Ain't No Half Stepping was written by Rod
Temperton for the album "Too Hot To Handle" of the funk
group "Heatwave" ("Boogie Nights"). Al McKenzie
has made a refurbished contemporary interpretation, still in the
spirit of Heatwave.
Sparkle is a further jewel for friends of
piano and chorus. Wonderful harmonies. Hot hip hop Malik Alston has a
smooth side too. Together with the graces Penny Wells and Joan
Crawford he is performing a splendid chorus.
With Just Me Al is starting the second part
of his album, a part with drummer Ron Otis and this sounds far better.
On the bass he is supported by Darrell (Peanut) Smith, who I had the
privilege to see in London-Hammersmith together with Dave McMurray and
Bob James. The door to heaven opens when Keisha Lanae adds her lovely
The Band Played On has a nice scatting swing.
More is certainly the song which
convinced me to review this album. This is smooth jazz at its best. A
laid-back tune with a divine chorus-line. Al is shining on the piano
Mr. Magic was composed by Ralph MacDonald,
percussionist of Harry Bellafonte. He wrote the song for his album
"Sound of a Drum", on which Bob James, Grover Washington Jr.
and Toots Thielemans were spotlighted. Later Grover made the song on
various of his albums to a classic. What Grover did for the sax, does
Al for the piano. It's magic.
Since EWF I love the Kalimba sound. Special Occasion
has that vivid Kalimbra timbre and with the spoken Brazilian words of
Indira Sharpe the song offers an exotic charm.
Rap in a mild version can be accessible. Christopher
McKenzie proves it on Only You.
The cover version of the Bee Gees song How Deep
Is Your Love is certainly a radio-friendly tune. Al's intention is
Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)
is an awesome tune especially in Al's interpretation. Originally the
tune was composed by dream team James Harris and Terry Lewis for
Janet Jackson's album "Control" (1987). The quality of the
songs of this album are often underestimated. By the way Stanley
Clarke did also a cover for his album "If This Album Could Only
Don't let you fool by the classic intro of Perfect
Peace. It's a groovy song with r&b and gospel elements
featuring excellent singer Penny Wells.
This album is defintely a winner. Al McKenzie is a
fantastic musician, composer and arranger. I am wondering that "A
Reason to Be" is just Al's second solo project. I know time is
difficult for new albums especially in this niche of music business.
Nevertheless I pray that Al will continue his way.
- Al McKenzie - Website
- Buy the album at
- Title: A Reason To Be
Artist: Al McKenzie
Genre: General Jazz
Label: AMAC Records
01 Paige One [5:31]
02 Angel [3:32]
03 A Reason To Be [4:35]
04 Ain't No Half Stepping [4:33]
05 Sparkle [4:09]
06 Just Me [4:14]
07 The Band Played On [1:47]
08 More [5:08]
09 Mister Magic [3:47]
10 Special Occasion [4:51]
11 Only You [2:46]
12 How Deep Is Your Love [3:56]
13 Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun) [4:40]
14 Perfect Peace [5:13]