Friday, May 7, 2010

REVIEW - The Smooth Jazz Ride

Often, Click to buy or listenit has been said that, to preserve smooth jazz, we need to redefine what it is.  It has been suggested that, perhaps returning to what it was, as contemporary jazz, is the answer.  If so, I have the "Rx" right here for whatever may ail the genre. It's called Urban Vacation, and it's offered by Norwegian saxman Terje Lie (pronounced “Terry Lee”) who, along with contemporary jazz/fusion icons Jeff Lorber and Jimmy Haslip, firmly place the genre in the comfy place where it and its fans have longed for it to be for quite some time. This is solid with a capital “S.”

Lie and friends take us on such a remarkably tasteful journey here that you can easily envision the studio and live settings for this production.  Lorber hovering over his chatty and funky keys (and providing a little guitar work, as well), Haslip confidently laying into some of the most defined and authoritative bass lines around (and check out his scatting on the opening track), and Lie providing the brilliance and substance of a very well-played sax to it all clearly is a picture (and audio) we true smooth jazzers can really appreciate.

The writing is sharp and professional with each composition unabashedly bearing its own soul and characteristics.  From the popping opening track, “Bail Out” to the funky “Crazy Groove” to the frenetic yet carefully crafted mover called “Dance On the Water” another cleverly timed funkster titled “Blue Funk” to the sweet, mellow, and hook-rich “Sedona” (kudos to Mike Landau for the acoustic guitar solo here, by the way) to the monstrously funky Roy Ayers Ubiquity tune “Red Black and Green” covered here with tight backing vocals and superior sax work by Lie, all the way through the lazily seductive finale, “Tonight,” this is music of magnificent quality.  If you’re a true aficionado of what colored smooth jazz in its early years and what should ignite contemporary jazz today, Terje Lie's Urban Vacation has the formula.  --  Ronald Jackson