James Vargas: James Vargas (2003)
Vargas couldn’t have picked a better song than “Curtain Call” to open the disc and his career as it offers a killer hook on alto—his instrument of choice—and a drum line that’s surprising at first but becomes more welcome with each listen. There’s a lot to be said by not “filling in all the spaces” while playing sax, but Vargas proves that filling pretty much all the spaces can work as well, especially on the romantic “One Fine Day” and the fast-paced “Push Da Button.” On the CD’s best vocal track, “Say You Will,” Vargas wraps his soprano lines around Yvonne John-Lewis’ soulful singing on a Quiet Storm treat that works to perfection, while on other tracks the vocal refrains are unobtrusive and fit in. On “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever,” Vargas plays a pretty soprano duet with acoustic guitar by Yuzuru Matsuda.
Like another smooth-jazz newcomer, saxophonist Grady Nichols, Vargas seems to have a bright future ahead of him. He’s a commanding presence on the sax—he does some real playing but never lets that get in the way of a good song—and has no problem finding radio-friendly melodies. It’s no surprise that Trippin ‘N Rhythm, which also boasts Paul Hardcastle, Roger Smith, Joe Fuentes and Thom Rotella, snatched Vargas. Get ready for a new British Invasion.
Track Listing: Curtain Call; Say You Will; Sitting Pretty; Whenever, Wherever, Whatever; Won't Be a Fool; Push Da Button; Prelude; Lasting Impression; Galveston Bay; One Fine Day; Portmeadow; Speakeasy
Personnel: James Vargas (saxophones, vocals); Oli Silk (keyboards, programming); Yvonne John-Lewis (vocals); Matt Park (guitar); Yuzuru Matsuda (acoustic guitar); Danny Sugar (bass); Spy (bass); Sheena McSween (background vocals)