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James Vargas is a British saxophonist (alto, tenor and soprano) who has echoes of Walter Beasley, Steve Cole and other contemporary sax players on his debut, a winning collection of twelve songs firmly rooted enough in the sax- led smooth jazz tradition. After scoring gigs in clubs around in London, Vargas drew the attention of Oli Silk, the force behind the soulful British smooth-jazz group Sugar and Silk, who invited him to play on a recording. Silk and Vargas collaborate on the majority of the songs here, which are suitably funky-smooth and show an amazing grasp of sax skill.
Vargas couldn’t have picked a better song than “Curtain Call” to open the disc and his career as it offers a killer hook on alto—his instrument of choice—and a drum line that’s surprising at first but becomes more welcome with each listen. There’s a lot to be said by not “filling in all the spaces” while playing sax, but Vargas proves that filling pretty much all the spaces can work as well, especially on the romantic “One Fine Day” and the fast-paced “Push Da Button.” On the CD’s best vocal track, “Say You Will,” Vargas wraps his soprano lines around Yvonne John-Lewis’ soulful singing on a Quiet Storm treat that works to perfection, while on other tracks the vocal refrains are unobtrusive and fit in. On “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever,” Vargas plays a pretty soprano duet with acoustic guitar by Yuzuru Matsuda.
Like another smooth-jazz newcomer, saxophonist Grady Nichols, Vargas seems to have a bright future ahead of him. He’s a commanding presence on the sax—he does some real playing but never lets that get in the way of a good song—and has no problem finding radio-friendly melodies. It’s no surprise that Trippin ‘N Rhythm, which also boasts Paul Hardcastle, Roger Smith, Joe Fuentes and Thom Rotella, snatched Vargas. Get ready for a new British Invasion.
Track Listing: Curtain Call; Say You Will; Sitting Pretty; Whenever, Wherever, Whatever; Won't Be a Fool; Push Da Button; Prelude; Lasting Impression; Galveston Bay; One Fine Day; Portmeadow; Speakeasy
Personnel: James Vargas (saxophones, vocals); Oli Silk (keyboards, programming); Yvonne John-Lewis (vocals); Matt Park (guitar); Yuzuru Matsuda (acoustic guitar); Danny Sugar (bass); Spy (bass); Sheena McSween (background vocals)
Title: James Vargas
| Year Released: 2004
| Record Label: Unknown label
I love jazz because of Elmer Bernstein's score for the 1957 American film noir Sweet Smell of Success, which I first saw as a teenager in the '70s. As a playwright/screenwriter, I write to music and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate it into my work; the most recent example being Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Big Noise From Winnetka, which became the signature theme for my last stage play The Gift of the Gab
I love jazz because of Elmer Bernstein's score for the 1957 American film noir Sweet Smell of Success, which I first saw as a teenager in the '70s. As a playwright/screenwriter, I write to music and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate it into my work; the most recent example being Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Big Noise From Winnetka, which became the signature theme for my last stage play The Gift of the Gab. My late great pa-in-law--the actor Keith Michell--wins the contest hands down however, as he co-starred in the 1962 movie All Night Long rubbing shoulders with Dave Brubeck, Keith Christie, Bert Courtley, John Dankworth, Ray Dempsey, Allan Ganley, Tubby Hayes, Charles Mingus, Barry Morgan, Kenny Napper, Colin Purbrook and John Scott! Wish I could have been a fly on the wall of that soundstage!
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