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Various Artists: 10 New Smooth Jazz Releases from Instinct Jazz

Robert Spencer By

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Just when you think the music can't get any slicker, or groovier, or smoother, Instinct Jazz does it again. Smoothie jazz fans, get on your dancing shoes and lower the lights; it just doesn't get any smoother than these ten.

Bill Sharpe,State of the Heart, Instinct 426

Keyboard sharpie extraordinaire Bill Sharpe lets the rhythm take you high on eight originals plus two from fellow keyboard wiz Don Grusin. The grooves are jumping but as smooth as they can be, with a delicious Latin vocal tinge to "P'ra Voce Amor (for you, my love)," "Hermanos De Luxe," and "Brazilian Dawn." Sharpe has a marvelous ability not to overstate his case, but to lay down just as much as is needed to create the smoothest mood possible. Guitarist Carlos Rios adds an unexpected electric zing, and percussionist Paulinho DaCosta has plenty to do to keep things rolling joyfully.

Various Artists,Sweet Emotions, Instinct 419

Another boffo collection, featuring Sharpe and other smooth luminaries, including Nite Flyte, Shakatak, Soundscape UK, Exodus Quartet, and more. Every track on this disc, of course, is a dance monster with the heaviest groove imaginable. But don't miss especially Camelle Hinds' funky Smokey Robinson vocal on the Chris Bangs Project's "State of Mind." Shakatak's "Magic," meanwhile, sparkles with the passionate vocals of Jill Saward over the shimmering keys of Sharpe and sensitive sax from Dave Bishop. On "Reasons," Les Sabler and Tony Campbell contribute a tremendous guitar/bass blend, over a letter-perfect cool funk background. And all that is just the beginning!

After Hours,Miles Away, Instinct 421

If you're still on your feet after the first two, this one will send you into the stratosphere. Another collection, this one is harder and funkier than Sweet Emotions, and even nods to the Miles of the title in tunes like Taran's monstrous "Caffiene Effect," which simulates a taciturn horn over delicious vibes and a mile-wide late Miles groove. The spare horn is back elsewhere too. Don't miss, for example, the sensual stimulation of DJ Com's "Pure Pleasure," another step toward the grand union of hip hop, glitter funk, sampling, and smooth licks. An astounding track from an astounding disc.

The Chris Bangs Project,Dazzle, Instinct 429

If you long for the slick white-fedora soul grooves and chunky horns of the likes of Isaac Hayes and Earth, Wind, and Fire, you shouldn't go another minute without the Chris Bangs Project. Drummer Bangs has the perfect vocalist in Camelle Hinds, and he even goes in for a bit of the raised consciousness of those days, in tracks like "A Chance for Peace (Give Peace a Chance)." (Don't worry, it's smooth as glass, and bears only a slight vocal resemblance to the Lennon bawler.) Meanwhile, Bangs' drumming hand is steady enough to be machine made, and gives this music plenty of power to get funky.

Various Artists,The Best of Smooth Jazz Blues, Instinct 425

Martin Fuss. Gota. Soundscape UK. Yada Yada. Espirito. Brian Tarquin. Nite Flyte. How does Instinct do it? Never mind. Just get out on the floor. The blues emphasis of this collection gives it a bit of a rougher edge than usual, but nothing is lost in the groove department. Fuss' "Vienna Soul Station" features Peter Legat of Count Basic and a blistering electric guitar solo; and there's raw guitar and wailing sax pounding out over all ten of these grooves like raw meat thrown to the wolves. Tarquin's on "Lately" is sweetened by an especially acute funk vocal. A monument of smoothie blues.

Martin Fuss,Nightlife, Instinct 431

Martin Fuss is an Austrian saxophonist, flautist, and composer; he penned seven of these ten numbers and shows enormous promise as a fount of smoothitude. His sax is a tremendous form on this set, sweetening the grooves with a slyly romantic feel and never selfishly or exhibitionistically getting in the way of the massive grooves laid down by drummer Oliver Gattringer, bassist Uwe Urbanowski, and keyboardist Aaron Wonesch, who are so perfect for this music they could have been sprayed out of a can. Plus there are a few special guests, most notably trumpeter Niki Friesenbichler on "Down at the Club." Elegant, intelligent, smooth. Unmissable.

Various Artists,More, More, More! Smooth Jazz Plays the Disco Hits, Instinct 420

Oh man oh man. This is the one you've been waiting for. This is the one you've been longing for. This is the one that bridges the great worlds of Seventies Disco and Nineties Smooth Jazz. They're all here, and they've never sounded better: "Got to Be Real," "Boogie Wonderland," "More More More," "The Groove Line," "How Deep is Your Love," "Don't Leave Me This Way," and more. With Shakatak, Nite Flyte, Soundscape UK and other greats doing the rendering, you know the grooves will be firmly in place and the music as astoundingly smooth as it can possibly be.

Various Artists,Jazz Steppin', Instinct 423

Beautiful. The best of the best. Nite Flyte's "Lift Off (Time to Step Mix)," adapted from the original version on their classic Ascension. You know when these lads say it's time to step, it is time to step. Plus Shakatak's "Space Dance (Steppers Get Ready Mix)", transformed from the track on their Shinin' On. Even the gaunt smooth giant Gota is here, observing that "It's So Different Here," newly glistening with a 12" remix. Then there's Atlantic Starr's "You," Nite Flyte's "Coast to Coast (Chicago Club Mix)," and they just keep coming. If it all weren't so smooth, it'd practically be too much to bear.

Yada Yada,Fingalikkin' Good, Instinct 430

The most acidic of acid jazz, brought to you by Mick Talbot (Wurly, Hammond, Rhodes 73, Clav, Moog, and Dodgy Midi Boxes - and all that they imply), plus the one and only Chris Bangs (credited with "breaks and beats and funky things," and you know he's up to all his oldest and best tricks), Nigel Wallace Price (guitars and midi bass); Andrew Ross (saxophones and flute); Dave Priseman (trumpet); and Ira Jay (vocals on "Won't You Come Back 2 Me"). It's dynamic, it's provocative, it's smooth, it's funky. Talbot can play greasy and he can play clean, and he pulls out all the stops on this one. Don't miss it.

Shakatak,Magic, Instinct 422

Last but not least there comes the illustrious Shakatak, including once again Bill Sharpe and Co., bringing us in the leadoff position a tasty smoothing of Boz Scaggs' "Low Down," featuring the monster bass of George Anderson and the ever-precise saxing of Dave Bishop. These folks are dead-on smoothies and nary a beat is out of place. A worthy summation of an enormous ten discs.

| Record Label: Instinct Records | Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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