Smooth jazz, the New Adult Contemporary music, has taken over the radio airwaves. Around the world, smooth jazz offers the listener something easy on the ears. Some improvisation enters into the picture, but the focus remains on melody. These are catchy melodies that you can hum along with and return to after several interruptions. Let your attention lapse to avoid a reckless driver and you can still return to the melody afterwards. It’s still there. The music never occupies your full concentration, but still takes you to far away places through these popular artists’ best-selling titles, such as “Coral Reef,” “Under Northern Lights,” “Rain Forest,” “Afternoon in Brazil,” “Island Lady,” “Cancun Beach,” “Desert Paradise” or “Tierra Verde.”
Baatin uses this popularity to his advantage by overdubbing dozens of vocal and instrumental tracks himself for each song. His arrangements average four and a half minutes, making them suitable for smooth jazz radio airplay. Unfortunately, that calls for abrupt fades on nearly every track. Just when the music seems to be turning a new corner, it’s abandoned quickly for the sake of timing. The fades come quickly, unannounced, and all too soon. Characterized by keyboard drones, smooth guitar licks, a rumbling electric bass pulse, between-the-notes hand percussion and a steady back beat, Baatin’s smooth jazz features one solo voice at a time. Sunday Brunch features his vocals, flute, piano, guitar, alto sax and soprano sax – one solo voice to carry the melody and improvise. In this case, it’s a one-man show. Samples of his music are available at Baatin’s web site. All 10 tracks from Sunday Brunch are represented.
Baatin features his flute on “Sunday Brunch” and his saxophones elsewhere. “For Grover” offers a thoughtful tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. Featuring both flute and soprano saxophone solo work, the piece stands out as the album’s high point. “Play 2 Win” works out in a hip hop setting with overdubbed vocalist Portia Jackson as cheerleader. Baatin sings “Whatever it Takes to Make You Happy” surrounded by an arrangement designed to make the piece resemble Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Baatin’s light, baritone voice lends itself well to Anita Baker’s song, however, emphasizing another of the album’s high points. Several other tracks include vocals. But it’s not the vocal lines or Baatin’s improvised instrumental solo spots that sell this album. Smooth jazz radio format listeners will remember each track for its ear-catching melody that reaches out, whether you’re driving down the highway, preparing dinner at home, cleaning up your living area (just a little), or just having polite dinner conversation with a friend. The music won’t interrupt you, but will instead offer a relaxed setting for whatever you’re doing.
Personnel: Baatin- vocal, flute, soprano sax, alto sax, guitar, bass guitar, piano, keyboards, organ, synth, Intergalactic Funk Joystick, other instruments; Wesley Muhammad- percussion; Portia Jackson- background vocals on