Playing jazz in America would serve as a great cover for someone in the witness protection program. A musician can labor at jazz for years and put together a nice body of work, but the music industry, the media, and the public may barely notice in their search for the next teenage pop star.
Chris Standring has never made an album quite like Blue Bolero. Standring could have stayed in a smooth jazz comfort zone of safe and innocuous music. Low risk can mean high reward, but Standring chose to go a different, riskier and far more ambitious route. The result is an album he should be both pleased with and proud of.
Standring doesn't abandon his pop proclivities as much as expand upon them. His guitar playing is fluid and expressive and he's never sounded better or played with more confidence. The term "labor of love" defines Blue Bolero as he plays off against Barbara Porter's robust violin, Dave Karsony's subtly restrained drumming and several other guest musicians providing ample support. What's different is while Standring has always been a professional, he imparts a greater degree of both joy and passion here. He raises the bar from competency to mastery and nails it on each and every minute of Blue Bolero.
The eight-minute 'Overture" that opens the album is a gorgeously lush piece of music as the interplay between Standring's guitar and Porter's violin is dazzling. The album drifts seamlessly between the quiet ("Contemplation"), the busy ("Fast Train to Everywhere"), and the romantic ("Sensual Overload").
There are signature moments in a musician's career when they make an album that both defines them and sets the course for their future. Herbie Hancock had his with Head Hunters (Columbia, 1973), Weather Report reached their summit with Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977), and George Benson took off with Breezin' (Warner Brothers, 1976). Whether or not Blue Bolero belongs in that kind of distinguished company is a judgment call, but it is the best album Chris Standring has made yet.
Track Listing: Overture; Blue Bolero; Please Mind the Gap; Contemplation; Sensual Overload; Regarding Tetchwick; Fast Train to Everywhere; On Second Thoughts; Sunrise; Bossa Blue; Lost In Angels; March of the Bowler Hats; At the End of the Day; Finale (Bolero Reprise).
Personnel: Chris Standring: keyboards, programming, vocals, guitars; Dave Karsony: drums (1, 9, 11, 13, 14); Rodney Lee: Fender Rhodes solo (1); Larry Steen : acoustic bass (1, 2, 4, 9, 13, 14); Barbara Porter: violin (1-3, 5-7, 9, 11-14); Eric Valentine: drums (3, 12); Andre Berry: bass (3, 12); Katisse Buckingham: alto flute (3); Dewayne 'Smitty' Smith: bass (5); Tim Landers: bass (7); Rico Belled: bass (10); Mitch Forman: Fender Rhodes (12).