In 1996, when Down to the Bone’s From Manhattan to Staten shook the doldrums off smooth jazz, this new sound was fresh, funky and just plain fun. It still is. DTTB, led by British producer Stuart Wade, is now a veteran of the groove-jazz genre, whose dance staples are hip enough to be packaged into many smooth jazz discs.
DTTB works like this: Wade hums a melody, hears what instruments might come into play, and, along with his mates in his regular band, recruits session musicians who help fine-tune melodies and rhythms. Guests include Hammond B-3 player Brian Auger and Brazilian jazz vocalists Flora Purim and Guida de Palma. The creative process works for Wade, who will admit to anyone that he can’t play a lick of music. Scoff, but the proof is in the jam.
As a true jam band, DTTB’s music often dulls the senses with its repetition, as on “I’ll Always Hold You Close.” But wait, that’s a good thing. Your mind wanders for a few minutes, then flits back to the groove when Auger’s Hammond work tears through the speakers. Same with “Timeless,” which offers a tasty acoustic guitar lick, something the band hasn’t tried before. Elsewhere, Purim’s Carioca vocalese is perfectly suited for “The Flow,” where a horn riff blows over a festival-like rhythm. “Crossing Boundaries” and “Dancing to a Samba” also have a Brazilian flavor, and are driven by percussion that shakes like dancers at Rio’s carnaval.
Although most of DTTB’s songs are fairly busy (“LA Shakedown” is inspired by Blaxplotation movies and has a great Chic-like guitar riff), once in a while the band shows it can make a tight single as well. Exhibit A is “You’re the Only Reason,” an in-the-pocket groove with some tasty Hammond work and simply stated bass-and-drum line.
Visit Down to the Bone and Narada Jazz on the web.
Personnel: Stuart Wade (programming); Neil Angilley (keyboards); Neil Cowley (keyboards); Richard Sadler (bass); Shilts (tenor saxophone, flute); Ian Crabtree (guitar); Andy Watson (trombone); Lee Vivian (trumpet); Martin Gray (saxophone); Brian Auger (Hammond B3); Flora Purim (vocals); Guida De Palma (backing vocals); Matt Coldrick (guitar); Martin Shaw (trumpet); Julian Crampton (bass)