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The raison d'être behind Brian Simpson's Just What You Need is not as audacious as to reshape jazz as we know it, but to provide some easy listening while we're waiting. The ambitions here are a bit more modest as Simpson, who is best known as Dave Koz's bandleader, brings together an accomplished crew of studio veterans in a setting where they can groove with each other. There are few surprises and fewer risks taken and while everything is certainly pleasant enough the overall accomplishment may not linger in the memory.
Whether or not the world needs another version of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "The Girl From Ipanema" it gets one with Simpson joined by his main man, Koz who plays some very pretty tenor sax. Simpson likes playing with horns as half of Just What You Need features tenor saxophonists (Koz, Gerald Albright and Elan Trotman ) and with Ron King accompanying on trumpet, they add to the overall cool mood of the album. Guitarists Jonathan Butler and Marc Antoine drop by to infuse a bit of six-string juice to the proceedings.
As a pianist, Simpson is competent and professional, if not particularly dazzling and "competent and professional" are the watchwords here. Jeff Robinson adds some warm and heartful vocalizing on "What You Need" and Simpson picks up on the upbeat mood with a spirited solo and steps up his game beyond simply being an efficient craftsman.
By the standards of smooth jazz Simpson and company deliver the goods with cool professionalism, and while Just What You Need is enjoyable it never veers into being essential. It's like the cool refreshment of an ice-cream cone on a hot summer's day; satisfying without being substantial.
Track Listing: Wherever You Go; Just What You Need; Emerald City; Soul Embrace; A Love Like This; The Girl From Ipanema; D'Groove; In the Rain; Castaway; You Gotta Be
Personnel: Brian Simpson: piano, keyboards; Jonathan Butler: lead guitar (1); Nicholas Cole: keyboards, programming (1, 3); Darrell Crooks: guitar (1, 3), Alex Al: bass (1-3, 5-9); Brian Kilgore: percussion (1-9); Elan Trotman: tenor sax (2, 5); Ron King: trumpet (2, 3, 7); Michael Broening: keyboards, programming (2); Yarone Levy: guitar, acoustic guitar (4, 6); Nate Harasim: keyboards, programming (4); Dave Koz: tenor sax (6); Michael White: drums (6); Gerald Albright: tenor sax (7); Gerey Johnson: guitar (7); Mark Antoine: acoustic guitar (8); Oliver Wendell: keyboards (9); Jeff Robinson: vocals (10); Ray Fuller: guitar (10); Larry Kimpel: bass (10); Ronnie Guitierrez: percussion (10)
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me. Try as I might, I was never able to achieve a high enough level of competency to perform at the level I was first and subsequently exposed to. Regardless, I was hooked on jazz and remain so to this day.