Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scott Allman Generations 2011

I have to admit that I have not always given the smoother side of jazz a fair shake. A critic that admits a bias is somewhat rare but so is an artist that is as genuine and sincere as Scott Allman. Smooth jazz is a sub genre or to be factually correct a radio format that carries with it some musical baggage best left on the curb. I resigned my membership is the pseudo-intellectual jazz elite club with the intent on focusing on the music at face value. With smooth jazz I have come up with the "Three Bears" litmus test based on reader feedback.

Scott Allman is a relative newcomer to the contemporary scene. Allman is a promising keyboardist and composer and is joined by Darren Rahn on the 2011 release Generations. "Flurry" opens the release with a nice moving bass line and a infectious lyrical development. Allman lets the tune develop all most organically as nothing seems forced or remotely approaching the self indulgent vibe often associated with this side of the contemporary jazz street. A somewhat emotionally charged piece with Darren Rahn turning in a spot on performance. A release of texture and depth, an intriguing three dimensional sonic depth of field has Generations on a slightly different harmonic path than the usual smooth jazz offerings served up for critical batting practise. "Mag Mile" makes nice use of the ensemble cast and has Scott Allman performing in what might be considered somewhat of a throwback mode to the early days of Bob James or Ramsey Lewis but still has Allman expressing his own unique voice. There is a more defined contemporary edge that occasionally creeps in with guitarist John Kregor. The pretentious latte-driven vibe of what used to pass for the smoother side of jazz is dialed back to the point of virtual non-existence. "Renaissance" is another tune where Allman shows off his keen sense of melody and harmonic development. An incredibly solid ebb and flow allows Generations to develop as a more conceptualized release and less like a dozen instrumental cuts desperately seeking commercial airplay.

So the "Three Bears" test?
1.) Too much in the way of vocal tracks that seemingly have no place.

None. There are no vocal tracks.

2.) Too overly programmed to aid the rhythmically challenged.

Minimal use of programming and what you find is used to great effect to enhance the recording, not cover it up.

3.) Too generic, bland and boring.

A multi layered release of texture with a captivating ebb and flow - highly entertaining.

Long story short - This release is just right!

Tracks: Flurry; Camille's Joy; Mag Mile; Thin Ice; Home Again; Song For Leah; Reunion; Always There; Renaissance; Anniversary.

Personnel: Scott Allman: piano, keyboard, synth programming, drum programming; Danya Thompson: drums; John Kregor: electric guitar; Rick Cruz: background electric guitar (10); Darren Rahn: saxophone.

Available on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon.