Brian Lenair: The Journey (2004)
Brian Lenair is a new name on the R&B saxophone scene, and he shows his chops on this fourteen-song CD, featuring nine that he wrote. His first single, "Gone Ridin'," is a toe-tapping soprano sax ride that sounds a bit like Kim Waters. It's a good song. The challenge for smooth sax players with R&B leanings is making their sound stand out from others, but it's a challenge not many too players are willing to take. Lenair is in this group, but that doesn't mean the music here isn't worth listening to. It's just that you know what's comingsome funk show-stoppers, afterglow ballads and plenty of background vocals.
Lenair draws inspiration from others before him, especially on the throaty sax work of "Forever." Likewise, he channels Dave Koz on "Love," another winner. Over fourteen songs, however, it all starts to sound a bit too much alike, and can make for a tough listen all the way through. There are some good moments here, but Lenair needs more hooks and a lot more originality. He also shouldn't be afraid to solicit help from top smooth jazz producers and writers, but that's easier said than done. Everybody wants these guys.
Track Listing: A Long Time Comin'; Tell Me (What Cha Gonna Do); I Love You; Sleep Walkin'; Gone Ridin'; Forever; Love; Kickin' Back; I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You Are Near); Sign of the Times; Love (Interlude); The Journey (Lenai's Song); Take a Look Inside; A Long Time Coming (Reprise)
Personnel: Brian Lenair, saxophone; Allyn Johnson, keyboards; Eric Valentine, bass; David Dyson, bass; John Stoddart, various instruments;