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V/A: Sketches of James

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Fitting somewhere between the classical tributes to prog-rock, the Us3/Guru’s Jazzmatazz borrowings and Producer Tim Weston’s previous tribute to Brian Wilson, this collection of ten interpretations of one of the most beloved songwriters of our time flies all over the greater jazz spectrum while keeping its Taylored center. Kickin’ it open is Tower of Power, whose "Steamroller" is a hot and smooth crusher indeed. Les McCann’s "Nobody But You" and Robben Ford’s "You Make It Easy" swim more on the blues side of the Delta, but Gerald Albright’s Sanborn-y sax shot through "Your Smiling Face" snaps firmly back into the smooth jazz range. While in the elevator, stay and enjoy Mitchel Forman’s gentle and fluid "Something in the Way She Moves," Pancho Sanchez’s hot and cool "Fire and Rain" and Oscar Castro Neves’ reedy "New Tune." While Flora Punim’s reading of "Only a Dream in Rio" seems transliterated at times, there is no denying that Shirley Horn knows "The Secret of Life."

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