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Chris Standring: Sunlight

Jeff Winbush By

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When building a house, who's more important? The architect who designs it or the working stiff that puts hammer to nail? Trick question. They're both important and when it comes to playing that guitar thing, Chris Standring is a working stiff.

The world needs working stiffs. The world can't run on dreamers alone. It needs doers too. It needs workhorses, not just show horses. Chris Standring is a workhorse.

Sunlight is the 11th album by the Great Britain-born turned Los Angeles-based guitarist. That's what Chris Standring is: A Guitarist. He's not a stylist, an innovator, a wizard, shaman or guitar god. He just plays and writes and produces and composes and makes music that isn't fancy or fussy or pompous or pretentious because there's nothing wrong with being a meat and potatoes kind of musician and God bless 'em.

Take a track like "The Revisit" featuring Bob James soloing on piano. Objectively, it's just a nice little bit of nothing probably patched together in a couple of home studios and passed around between parties until they got four minutes of usable music. Which is not to say its bad. It's just nothing extraordinary and that's okay because there should be more to music than simply filling time before the solos kick in.

It's only been eight years since Standring made his magnum opus, Blue Bolero (Ultimate Vibe, 2010) and five albums later he hasn't come close to matching the heights of his formidable skills as an composer, arranger and musician. Since then Send Me Some Snow (2011), Electric Wonderland (2012), Don't Talk...Dance! (2014), Ten (2016)—all on Ultimate Vibe Records—and now Sunlight have followed. They aren't bad records but they're not as good as Blue Bolero was.

It's understandable. Blue Bolero was a labor of love and big expense for a solo artist running his own record label and handling every aspect of producing music out of his own wallet. Standring might well wish to return to some similarly ambitious project, but without a major label to foot the bill for the studio and talent, the cost of such an undertaken is likely prohibitively high. That's not to say Standring makes his album on the cheap, but he can't throw money around either.

Standring's brand of smooth, soulful jazz is never bad, but when its not inspired, it can be a bit perfunctory and what he brings to the table here is pleasant, but it is memorable? Regretfully, it is not.

Which means Sunlight isn't necessarily the Chris Standring album we deserve, but its the Chris Standring album we got.

Track Listing: Static In the Attic; Aphrodisiac; Love Street; The Revisit; No Explanation; God Only Knows; Like Paradise; Moon Child; Do Not Adjust Your Set; The Principle of Pleasure; Static In the Attic (reprise).

Personnel: Chris Standring: guitars, keyboards, programming, arranging, talk box; Rodney Lee: Fender Rhodes; Andre Berry: bass; Chris Coleman: drums; Mitchel Forman: Fender Rhodes solo (2); Bob James: piano solo (4); Mica Paris: vocals (5); John Novello: piano solo (6); Roberto Vally: upright bass; David Karsony: drums; Pete Christlieb: tenor sax (section) (9); Brandon Field: tenor sax (solo) (9); Hans Zermulen: keyboards (9, 10); Jimmy Haslip: bass (10).

Title: Sunlight | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Ultimate Vibe

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