Alto saxophonist Warren Hill impresses immediately with the opening title track, a bewitching groove over spacey keyboards, featuring Chris Botti on trumpet. (Hill’s notes indicate that Botti, off from his tour with Sting for a few days, was exhausted during the session, but the trumpeter gives an incisive, committed performance.) Up next is “Mambo 2000,” with Tim Pierce’s Santana-esque guitar, and Hill’s fluid sax floating over a horn section that includes Eric Marienthal on tenor. This guy knows how to keep good company!
Hill also pays tribute to contempo jazz icon Grover Washington Jr., with the late saxophonist’s signature tune, “Mister Magic.” With the horn section returning, and a low-key, respectful rap from Sean “Novacain” Holland, Hill turns in a gutsy solo, in an arrangement redolent of the glory days of 1970’s soul-jazz. Keyboard and drum programming are subtler arts than jazz purists will admit, and Hill’s cohorts in this area, Dain Noel and Michael Eckart, prove their mettle on several cuts. “Sax In The City” is one such, with rainy-day atmospherics and echoing footfalls, backgrounding a thoughtfully funky solo journey from Hill.
Aside from being a solid player, Hill is also a worthwhile songwriter. Check out “Master Thief,” a veritable soundtrack of moods, which draws, again, on the talents of Botti and Novacain, as well as pianist Mike Garson, who contributes some deep jazz runs against Tim Pierce’s lightly wah-wah’d guitar. The closing “Olivia (World of Smiles)” is a touching, beautifully-written ode to Hill’s daughter, that truly deserves a wider audience. This guy’s got the goods.
Track Listing: Love Life Mambo 2000 Can't Get U Out of My Mind Mister Magic Easy Why You Got To Worry? Sax In The City Doesn't Get Any Better Scenic Route Master Thief Olivia (World of Smiles)
Personnel: Warren Hill - alto saxophone, vocals Tim Pierce - guitar Michael Garson - piano Vail Johnson - bass Curt Bisquera - drums Luis Conte - percussion Dain Noel - keyboards Michael Eckart - drum programming