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Alexander Zonjic is a fine flutist who typically surrounds himself with top-notch talent. His latest recording, Seldom Blues , is no exception. It features brothers Kirk and Kevin Whalum, Angela Bofill and Earl Klugh, among others.
However, its shortcoming is a formulaic approach to the rhythm tracks. There's nothing wrong with using modern tools to enhance one's musical efforts, but there are times when it can become trite. Seldom Blues unfortunately does just that. With Bob James given partial programming credit, Zonjic also employs the talents of Pieces of a Dream's James Lloyd. Like former Warner Bros. maestro Paul Brown, Lloyd's rhythm tracks seem to be cut from a mold. Zonjic's play over the top is excellent throughout, as well as the vocals and solos of the other musicians, but the technology-created rhythm tracks definitely convey a sense of "I've heard this before," which detracts from the overall quality of the album. It makes one question the process. Is it economics, a case of doing it on the cheap? Or is it done this way because producers really think audiences like these electronic sleeping pills?
More bad news: A look at the run time shows this album fits neatly into the textbook smooth jazz package. All but one of the ten tracks is between 4:16 and 4:37. That's a variance of 21 secondsfor nine songs. Amazing! Only "Quantum" breaks the mold, clocking in at a modest 5:03. It conjures up images of a corporate timekeepercell phone in one hand, stop watch in the othergoing: "Hurry it up! We got a press conference in 30 minutes, and a pre-release party for radio execs an hour later."
All that doesn't necessarily make for a bad song. However, it does shut the door on the musicians' opportunity to do what they do best: play.
Of course, none of this is to say that this is a bad album. Each song, weighed on its own merits, has a nice groove and can be played to suit many moods. Among the highlights are the Latin-influenced "Isabela," an excellent cover of War's "Spill the Wine" with Kevin Whalum providing the vocal, and Bofill contributing beautifully to "Under the Moon and Over the Sky." But a good product could have been made much better if it wasn't constrained by radio-friendly time limits or muddied by programmed rhythm tracks that get you thinking you've heard them before... on albums by other artists.
Leave It With Me, Seldom Blue, AZ Does It, Isabela, People Make the World Go Round, Spill the Wine, Sweat, Under the Moon and Over the Sky, Quantum, Britters
Alexander Zonjic, flutes; James Lloyd, Bob James, keyboards and programming; Jeff Lorber, horn arrangements, programming, percussion, keyboards and guitar; Kirk Whalum, tenor sax; Earl Klugh, Michael Ripoli, Paul Pesco, Peter White, guitars; Rayse Briggs, trumpet; KEM, lead vocal; Kyle Whalum, bass; Lamar Carter, Bobby Colomby, drums; Kevin Whalum and Sherrie Kibble, background vocals; Angel Bofill, vocals on "Under the Moon and Over the Sky"