Mississauga native Rob Tardik was named 2010 Canadian Smooth Jazz Guitarist, among other accolades that he has won for his musicianship; it is easy to understand why, listening to B.E.L.L (Balance, Energy, Laughter, Love) . Although, technically speaking, it falls in the smooth jazz category, it is far from ambient, background music. Instead it is highly melodic and rewards a close listen.
As with his previous two releases, on this, his third as a leader Tardik spans different styles including Latin and flamenco, pop, R&B and blues. Here, however, there is thematic structure to the different genres. Each set of three tunes falls under the setting of one of the four elements of the title.
"Balance," for example, encompasses the funky "East meets Wes," featuring an atmospheric guitar duel between Tardik and Paul Brown over a bed of groovy keyboards and drum. The vocal ballad "The Right Time" showcases South African vocalist Francois Mulder's smooth baritone, as does contemplative "Kimberly's Song," marked by Tardik's flowing and intensely romantic, melody.
"Enegy" includes the hit radio single "Shakin' the House" with its repeating danceable vamps, the bossa-flavored "When It Comes To Lovin' You"that again features Mulderand the danceable "Frolic," with its sparring match between Tardik and keyboardist Davor Jordanovski.
The lighthearted "Laughter" showcases Tardik's mastery on nylon strings, the cool sounds of alto saxophonist Warren Hill and the loosely swinging and infectious "Smile," featuring Jaared's gritty saxphone.
The final segment, "Love," starts with the nocturnal ambience of "Blue Midnight," as Don Breithaupt's bluesy piano and Tardik's virtuoso guitar echo each other over Gabriel Mark Hasselbach atmospheric muted trumpet. Hasselbach's flugelhorn contributes to the soundtrack mood of the electric "Waiting for Love" that is followed by the flamenco-like final track, "Corazon Contento" (Happy Heart)," a three-way musical conversation with Tardik, accordionist Jordanovski and percussionist Gino Mirizio.
Although short on improvisation, this highly polished album is a testament to Tardik's immense talent as a composer and instrumentalist, and these dozen pieces, with their rhythmic hooks and catchy melodies, are never monotonous and always enjoyable even after several spins.
East Meets Wes; The Right Time; Kimberley's Song; Shakin' the House;
When It Comes to Lovin' You; Frolic; La Buena Vida (The Good Life);
Sunday Morning; Smile; Blue Midnight; Waiting for Love; Corazon
Contento (Happy Heart).
Rob Tardik: guitar, programming; Davor Jordanovski: keyboards,
accordion, percussion, programming; Paul Brown: guitar, percussion;
Francois Mulder: vocals; Curtis Freeman: bass; Carson Freeman: tenor
saxophone; Rich Brown: bass; Mel Brown: bass; Darren Rahn: tenor
saxophone, programming, keyboard, piano, Hammond B3, percussion;
Don Breithaupt: piano, synthesizers, programming; Eric Sooster: bass;
Gino Mirizio: percussion; Warren Hill: alto saxophone; Tony Moore:
drums, programming; Jaared: alto and tenor saxophones; Jeff Salem:
percussion; Gabriel Mark Hasselbach: trumpet, flugelhorn.
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