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Sunlightsquare: Urban Sessions

Jeff Winbush By

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Every few years jazz seems to develop a new sub-genre. If smooth jazz wasn't smooth enough it's spawned a evil twin: "chill." What makes it chill is that the songs are locked into one long groove with little to no soloing or improvisation.

Chill is for those people who feel smooth jazz is too raucous, and Urban Sessions makes for perfect background music. The vocalists are pretty non-descript. There is an experienced rhythm section in veteran sidemen Steve Gadd and Will Lee. One wonders if they enjoyed their European vacation. There's a little trip-hop there and some electronica here, but none of it makes much of an impression.

Mix two American studio pros with three British-based black vocalists, throw in a Italian pianist/producer, and what do you get? An album that is so busy straddling categories that it forgets to find its own individual voice. The music on this album falls into the category of "not quite." It's not quite jazz and it's not quite soul. It's not quite hip-hop and it's not quite terrible. It's just not anything that stands out as distinctive, memorable or deserving of repeated listenings. This is drab, desolate, anonymous machine music.

Sunlightsquare is primarily the brainchild of keyboardist and producer Claudio Passavanti, who wrote all the songs. While they're pleasant enough, it's doubtful he planned on creating aural wallpaper—but that's what this is. This kind of music knows its audience and they will probably find this kind of tepid stuff perfectly acceptable. Real jazz fans will crave fare a bit more substantial.

Did you ever get on a elevator and hear piped-in muzak of a catchy pop tune, then find yourself humming along despite yourself? Once the elevator reaches your floor, you're not going to stay on it to finish hearing the song. You're going to get off and go about your business. That's what this album is like. You might find yourself humming along or tapping a toe, but an hour later you won't remember a thing.

Track Listing: From the Cosmos; Nu Bossa; Summer Night; Never Felt So Good; Dub-o-matic; Mr. Reeves Remix; Bust A Freakin' Goal; Ab Three; Wicked; Lively Kind Frozen Poem.

Personnel: Sharlene Hector: vocals; Joy Malcolm: vocals; Steve Gadd: drums; Will Lee: bass; Massimo Cusato: percussion; Roberto Gallinelli: bass, synth bass; Mauro Borrini: guitar; Cristiano Micalizzi: drums; Davide Mantovani: double bass; Dave Temple: saxophone; Flexie, Z-Star, M.C. Vision: vocals; Claudio Passavanti: piano, rhodes, theramin, keyboards, programming.

Title: Urban Sessions | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Sunlightsquare Records


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