How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Bassist Harvie S (formerly Harvie Swartz) has made a New Beginning by producing an album that uses a variety of Latin rhythms to enliven what is essentially the sort of smooth Jazz that one must endure on so many radio stations these days. That's not to say there's no substance here; the ensemble plays well together, and Harvie's tunes (he wrote all of them except "African Heartbeat") are not devoid of charm or interest. But everything is scrupulously middle-of-the-road and unadventurous, in spite of guest appearances by tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker ("New Beginning," "From the Ashes"), trumpeter Ray Vega ("Luna Romantica," "From the Ashes") and guitarist Haru Takauchi ("Mothership"). As one would expect from any album with a Latin substructure, percussionist Renato Thoms plays an important role, and he and drummer Adam Weber keep the rhythm percolating while Harvie's resonant bass lends the music its unwavering pulse. Harvie's "Bright Moment" is especially enticing, thanks in part to excellent work by Thoms and pianist Daniel Kelly. The steady "Heartbeat" was written by violinist Gregor Huebner who adds a brief but amiable solo, although he's not listed as one of the performers on that particular track. "Mothership" marks the most radical departure from the ordinary, with a number of special effects undergirding its brash rhythmic makeup while Huebner and guitarists Takauchi and Bruce Arnold provide some further ethereal touches. This is Eye Contact's second CD; the first, Havana Mañana, we're told in the liner notes, received "rave reviews." And so might this one, as anyone's response to music is, after all, a matter of opinion, and one listener's trash may be another's treasure. To our ear, New Beginning lies somewhere in between; others must appraise its worth by listening for themselves.
Contact: www.cdbaby.com; www.amazon.com; www.mp3.com/Harvie S
Track Listing: New Beginning; En la Batalla; Chump Change; Luna Romantica; African Heartbeat; A Bright Moment; From the Ashes; Tres Mundos; Mothership (60:48).
Personnel: Harvie S, acoustic bass; Bruce Arnold, guitar; Daniel Kelly, piano; Adam Weber, drums; Renato Thoms, percussion; Gregor Huebner (3, 4, 5, 9), violin. Special guests ? Michael Brecker (1, 7), tenor sax; Ray Vega (4, 7), trumpet; Haru Takauchi (9), guitar.