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Album Review

Richard Elliott: Metro Blue

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Richard Elliott: Metro Blue
Richard Elliott, 45, was born in Scotland and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was a child. In his early career, he toured with Natalie Cole and the Pointer Sisters. He spent time with a fusion band, Kittyhawk, followed by recording sessions with Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops, and the Temptations. After spending five years as a full-time member of Tower of Power, Elliott became a solo artist, releasing four #1 albums.

On Metro Blue, which Elliott co-produced with Rick Braun, the tenor sax specialist delivers a nice mix of smooth jazz and soulful grooves. All but one song were composed by Elliott and Braun, including several that involved other writers. The lone cover is "People Make the World Go Round, written by Thom Bell and Linda Epstein and popularized by a 1970s soul group, the Stylistics.

"Inside Out opens the album with flair, sure to get dancers on their feet. Often in smooth jazz, programming can be the difference between an exceptional album and a boring one. In this case, Braun, Rex Rideout, Greg Karukas, Jeff Lorber, Brian Culbertson, and Phil Davis serve up programming that melds nicely with the other instruments. On "Inside Out and "Say It's So, Rideout's and Lorber's programs supplement rather than replace the drums. And on the other tracks, the drum synths are distinct enough that the listener is free to enjoy the whole song, rather than focus on how similar the program sounds to previous recordings.

In addition to flugelhorn and trumpet, Braun contributes some elegant string synths—including plucking—to give "People Make the World Go Round an orchestral feel. Nate Phillips adds a funky bass line to enhance the groove of "Say It's So. Elliott delivers his best performance on the album with the ballad "Mystique, supported by Peter White on nylon string guitar and Lenny Castro on percussion, among others.

Throughout the disc, Elliott efficiently puts his tenor through the paces, whether as lead instrument, soloist, or accompanist alongside Braun. Whether on an up-tempo groove or a tranquil ballad, Elliott, Braun, and the others have put together a fine album that will please fans of smooth jazz as well as those who prefer soulful jazz.

Track Listing

Inside Out; Camella; Coastline; People Make the World Go Round; Say It

Personnel

Richard Elliot: tenor sax; Dwight Sills: guitar; Lenny Castro: percussion; Nate Phillips: bass; Ronnie Garrett: bass (6); Michael White: drums; Rick Braun: trumpet, flugelhorn, keyboards (10); Jeff Lorber: piano (5); Rex Rideout: piano (7); Peter White: nylon string guitar (7); Brian Culbertson: keyboards (9); Red Rideout: keyboards, programming; Jeff Lorber: keyboards, programming; Gregg Karukas: keyboards, programming; Phil Davis: keyboards, programming; Rick Braun: keyboards, programming; Brian Culbertson: keyboards, programming.

Album information

Title: Metro Blue | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Artizen Music Group

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