Jeff Kashiwa: Peace Of Mind (2004)
There's clearly a decent market for albums like Peace Of Mind, the fifth solo album by former Rippingtons saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa, since so many of these smooth jazz soundalikes are occupying bin space at music stores. And a small part of me was rooting for this to stand out in the crowd, largely because he's one of a relative handful of players who dabbles at times with a sax-like synthesizer known as an electronic wind instrumentsomething I've owned and loved for years.
But it just isn't happening.
With eleven tracks clocking in between 3:45 and 5:15, this is obviously a commercial radio-friendly recording, so points won't get deducted for that on the assumption listeners know what they're getting. Unfortunately, it doesn't exactly run up the score based on merit.
The main problem is it's way too middle-of-the-road, essentially the perfect cookie-cutter guide for Smooth Jazz Albums 101. Take simple hooks, base most of the song on them, and let the lead player and perhaps a guest take a brief crack at some not-terribly-adventurous noodling. The beats in general are a bit heavy for mood music and not intense enough to provide a fusion thrill ride. One gets the feeling that if these songs were run through the music industry's new computerized hit-o-matic (a real machine that analyzes songs for commercial viability) it would emerge with flying colors.
Some moments are better than others. The title track elevates things a bit with a bit of exploration on an interesting soprano hook. "Deep Blue" is a decent low-tempo horn-laced composition. "Stride" isn't terribly intense, but it's about as exciting as the more upbeat songs get, and Kashiwa takes a bit longer to deliver some reliable solo chops toward the end. The "bonus" track at the end, "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" featuring the Sax Pack, is a different enough R&B-ish tune to stand out and, while nobody solos for long, everyone contributes a few catchy ideas.
Guitarist Russ Freeman is listed as a contributor, by the way, but those hoping for a Rippingtons-like flair on this album will be disappointed. Other guests and featured producers include Jeff Lorber, Dan Siegel, Brian Bromberg, Mike Ricchiuti, Chuck Loeb and James Lloyd.
I played this a number of times trying to find something to draw me in enough to go back and hear it again butperhaps in the spirit of its title Peace Of Mind almost defies intense listening, sliding effortlessly into the back channels of consciousness. That's terribly unfortunate because Kashiwa, like a number of smooth jazz sax players, at times shows considerable talent (the Rippingtons' Live In L.A. album and his own "3-Day Weekend" from Simple Truth are good examples). It's tough to recommend this to an audience beyond his fans, but that group will probably be satisfied with this outing.
Track Listing: Wait And See; Here And Now; Ecstasy; Homeward Bound; Peace Of Mind; My Fantasy; Stay With Me; Deep Blue; Stride; Falling; My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)
Personnel: Jeff Kashiwa, saxophones. Other players and contributors include Melvin Dave, Dave Hooper, Allen Hinds, Dave Kochanski, Jeff Lorber, Dan Siegel, Russ Freeman, James Lloyd, Brian Bromberg, Mike Ricchiuti, Chuck Loeb, Kim Waters and Steve Cole (specific credits not available).
Record Label: Native Language