As far as I'm concerned, the modern genre of smooth jazz really started with Grover Washington's Mister Magic and even more so with Feels so Good, a 1975 release arranged by the oft uncanny Bob James. Sure, Hank Crawford was working the groove for quite some time, and the inimitable Lonnie Liston Smith had involved himself with lush funk-ambientalist jazz for a couple years, but it was Grover's two LPs that really made people sit up and take notice. We've since seen that too much of what followed was pretty deplorable, Washington's not to blame for that, but there was also a sector of true musicians who took the new mode, infused fusion sensibilities greatly sublimated to fit the style, and produced a lot of dynamic music: Spyrogyra, Yellowjackets, the Rippingtons, Hiroshima, and etc. Well, saxist Jeff Kashiwa can be confidently tossed in among that bunch 'cause this guy has a very clear compositional sense.
The titular opener, Let It Ride, and the half-way point, Hot Tin Roof, show his high side best, the first with its almost surreally fusion-funky swirling background and the second with an insistent kick-it jam that never lets up, punctuated by Tom Schuman's bouncy be-bopping organ and Allen Hinds' spacey Holdsworthian guitar. Let It Ride is an organically pulsey hybrid experiment in multi-fusion while Hot Tin Roof is a jazz-rock rave-up. There are also a couple of ballads present as well, One More Day one of them, a slow Romantic exposition in which Kashiwa spins out restrained passions taken up by Dave Benoit's piano and expanded.
Besides Schuman and Benoit, Let It Ride features sit-ins by Russ Freeman and Chuck Loeb, both of whom turn in great performances, but I'm telling you now: watch this Allen Hinds cat. Kashiwa knew what he was doing in choosing the guy for his main axehandler. He can put an edge on Kashiwa's sax with his electric or lay satin beneath with an acoustic, and always know exactly what to do for each case in between. Jeff possesses a Sanborn / Washington / G / Beckenstein sound that can't help but snag the ear, and it's no mistake his last few CDs all debuted in the top 10 in Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart. This is road/dance/concert music to make you cast aside your worries and boogie.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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