Guitarist Phil Sheeran's latest,Orchid, on his own Passage label, is a varied, well-rounded program of contemporary stylings. Keyboardist Gregg Karukas shares the producing and arranging duties, as well as the rhythm track programming on three cuts (the rest have live rhythm section). The album opens with the bluesy title cut; near the end of the disc "She Likes the Blues" obviously revisits blues territory. "Ste. Tropez" is more solidly in the contemporary jazz vein, as is the energetic "Jungle." The lone cover tune, Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love," is slowed down slightly for a more introspective reading. Luis Conte's percussion adds color and Brandon Fields' flute adds a breezy lightness to "Riding the Wind." On the soft and sensitive "First Dance," Eric Marienthal provides nice sax counterpoint to Sheeran's guitar lines. Sheeran and Karukas duet on "In My Heart" and "The Winds of Time," with Karukas multi-layering the various background tracks. My personal favorite is the exotic "Sacred Ground," on which guests Andy Narell on steel drums and Richard Wagner on bamboo flute provide a welcome sonic contrast from the standard guitar-keys-bass-drums-sax format. Overall, a competent and enjoyable outing.
Tracks: Orchid; Ste. Tropez; The Look of Love; Riding the Wind; In My Heart; First Dance; Sacred Ground; Jungle; She Likes the Blues; The Winds of Time.
Phil Sheeran, guitar; Gregg Karukas, keyboards; Eric Marienthal, sax; Keith Jones, bass; Harvey Mason, Will Kennedy, drums; Luis Conte, percussion; Andy Narell, steel drums; Brandon Fields, flute; Richard Warner, bamboo flute.