Ray Alexander: Down to Earth (2004)
There is one “smooth jazz” radio station here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the music in trumpeter Ray Alexander’s debut album, Down to Earth, would be right at home on the playlist. Not, as Seinfeld would say, that there’s anything wrong with that. But it must be noted that smooth jazz, with its syrupy melodic contrivances, tedious rhythmic patterns and irksome synthetic props, is definitely an acquired taste, one that I’ve thus far managed to elude.
Alexander, on the other hand, seems to have come to it naturally, having worked in the showrooms of various Las Vegas hotels accompanying pop stars Tony Bennett, Nancy Wilson, Robert Goulet, Lou Rawls, Mitzi Gaynor, Julio Iglesias, Natalie Cole and many others, toured with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Temptations, the Spinners, Mary Wilson and Harry Connick Jr., and served as horn contractor and interim music director for the Four Tops. He may be a fine trumpeter, but one could never verify the assumption by listening to this hodgepodge, on which his horn is ordinarily submerged beneath a rising tide of acoustic and electronic clatter. Not that there’s anything wrong with that...
Two of the songs, “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “People Make the World Go Round,” are performed by a fourteen-piece ensemble, the others by groups ranging from sextet to tentet. Alongside the usual pop residue are standards by Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Michel Legrand and Don Raye/Gene DePaul, but each of them has been infected by the smooth Jazz virus and is unable to swing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that...
Fans of undemanding jazz (and there are many) should find Alexander’s otherwise sleep-inducing themes quite agreeable. The rest of us must content ourselves with jazz that engages rather than numbs the mind.
Track Listing: All of You; Pieces of Dreams; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Little Things; Maxine; Never Can Say Goodbye; Star Eyes; Turn Your Love Around; You