Rather addictive, this. Nocturnal hits so many pleasure points that the listener feels as if mind and body have been opened up. If that sounds psychedelic, so be it: The range of ideas brought to the creative table here starts with Funk and Smooth Jazz, and extends to the trippier complexities of Dub, Minimalist Trance, and Progressive Rock. Like the best Funk, it's luminously to-the-point, nailing all kinds of rhythmic nuances with precise economy. Like Smooth, it has an attractive surface sheen, and makes inspired use of keyboard instruments.
As in the other musics mentioned, strong moods and colors are evoked. Sounds are allowed to resonate, leaving vapor trails that open up all kinds of new spaces; rhythms are allowed to flex, and breathe. "Wake and Bake" creates an almost palpable atmosphere through muted trumpet, echoing flute, and soulful electric piano, while "Wait It Out" uses low-toned sounds with the sensitivity of a Sun Ra, its melody recalling the classic Dan and Dale instrumental, "Sleepwalk" apropos, given its dreamlike groove. "Viaduct" is so smooth, you may feel as if you're riding a chocolate cupcake; a minute and a half in, and the frosting turns into a magic carpet, Jon Stewart's gutty, smoky tenor work your guide for the ride.
For all its occasional abstraction, it's also endlessly funky, working the body as much as it does the brain. Sonically, Nocturnal is a real treat, with creative use of the soundstage, and fine attention to such details as dynamics and tone. Whether your idea of Direction in Groove is Digable Planets, Weather Report, or Fred Wesley and His Horny Horns, Nocturnal will take you to a whole 'nother level.