268

Turning Point: Matador

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Turning Point: Matador While smooth jazz has evolved into a kind of horrifying "S word for a lot of jazz fans, it grew out of a kind of contemporary post-fusion sensibility that, at least in its earliest days, still valued strong playing and enough diversity to keep things interesting. Matador—Phoenix-based Turning Point's sixth release and first for the Native Language imprint—harkens back to a time when it was more than programmed grooves and saccharine solos, when groups like the Crusaders and guitarists like Larry Carlton and Robben Ford were putting out records that, despite their easygoing veneer, still had some substance underneath the cover.

Not that Turning Point doesn't veer perilously close to the kind of generic material that would be better termed "pop instrumental than jazz—smooth or otherwise—but what separates the group from so many of the artists looking for a way into a growth market is its clear intention to deliver more than simple sonic wallpaper. Sure, tracks like the soul ballad "Turn Down the Night and the pasteurized Caribbean island rhythms of "Despues De Mañana go down a little too easily, perhaps. But equally, tracks like the opening "Lickety-Split, with turntables and a dirtier funk groove that's a little like Brecker Brothers Lite, gain added credibility with guitarist Thano Sahnas' Ford-informed blues-centricity and keyboardist Steve Culp's skirting on the edge of "out.

Equally the album's closer, "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, might start out on the fence, but by the time Sahnas fires into his solo halfway through the tune, it's more Warren Haynes than Brian Hughes; and brother Demitri on bass and John Herrera on drums pack enough punch and to dispel any impression that this is nothing more than a chill band.

The two Sahnas brothers also make sure that their own Mediterranean heritage is represented, with an intriguing take on Chick Corea's classic "Spain where the familiar a capella theme is broken up by Thano's surprising banjo-influenced classical guitar figure—think Paco De Lucia meets Béla Fleck. Guest Charlie Bisharat's violin solo and Culp's Rhodes keep the heat up, even as Demitri and Herrera prove that they're as comfortable with an upbeat samba as a backbeat.

There's no doubt that Turning Point is aiming for the smooth jazz market—the group's first single off Matador (how many jazz records have a single, anyway?) is an easy-on-the-ears and lightly funky take on the Latin Grammy-winning song by Alejandro Sanz, "Quisiera Ser. But even when geared for the "S audience, the group keeps things real enough, with solid playing and collective engagement lifting it above the more nameless material heard on most contemporary jazz stations these days.

Turning Point may not win over any jazz purists—or even those whose tastes, while not traditional, lean more to the edgy and experimental—with Matador. But it does prove that it's possible to function within the contemporary jazz space without sacrificing your soul.


Track Listing: Lickety-Split; Spain; Gospel Brunch; Turn Down the Night; Quisiera Ser; Matador; Despues De Manuana; Rhapsody for Priapus; Suburban Safari; Soldier's Lullaby; Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.

Personnel: Thano Sahnas: guitar; Demitri Sahnas: acoustic and fretless bass; Steve Culp: keyboards; John Herrera: drums, percussion. Guests: Charlie Bisharat: violin on Spain; DJ Meister: turntables on Lickety-Split; others not listed.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Native Language | Style: Contemporary/Smooth


Shop

More Articles

Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Flux" CD/LP/Track Review Flux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 18, 2016
Read "Song of the Free Will" CD/LP/Track Review Song of the Free Will
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 16, 2016
Read "Split Kick - Live In Sweden 1972" CD/LP/Track Review Split Kick - Live In Sweden 1972
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 14, 2016
Read "Buoyancy" CD/LP/Track Review Buoyancy
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 14, 2016
Read "Live In The South Bronx" CD/LP/Track Review Live In The South Bronx
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 31, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!