I am certainly not known as part of the pretentious latte driven smooth jazz vibe nor do i need computer driven rhythms to chill...Then again, the pseudo intellectual vibe of the straight ahead aficionado can be equally annoying as you can be a technical wizard but be artistically bankrupt.
Jackson Rice is the real deal!
Jackson Rice is a trumpet player, producer and composer from the great Northwest. A legit jazz triple threat and while I tend to keep all things smooth at arms length - I dig this record from the incredibly cool cover art to the righteous groove and deceptively subtle edge that Rice and his band lay down throughout this recording. I am however just a tad irked that a mid December release date has caused one of the better contemporary releases to sit relatively unnoticed. When you have some artists on SmoothJazz.Com which is based primarily on spins with rankings in the top ten think about this. You can spin an artistic flat line 100 times and it will not get any better and half the artists charting there are struggling with units sold and there is a not a sheet of paper in difference between the top ten. Now I feel better...And here is the difference -
Jackson Rice's debut offering The Firefly is a trumpet guided - not driven - walk down the smoother side of the contemporary jazz street with some neat twists and turns to keep things interesting. Mark Wilson can bring that fusion edge to his guitar that some of us remember from the early 80's. Everyone in my cultural circle knows Latin is my musical sweet spot and Rice pulls off an eclectic hybrid of a reggae meet Latin jazz collective while still keeping an edge to the sound. The Firefly works because of great musicians to be sure but also the production values are spot on. This record does not die a self indulgent death in post production, programming is kept to a minimum and not done as a crutch and...no lame lead vocals! While I mentioned Mark Wilson going for a more fusion edge in spots, there are huge props for his ability to dial the intensity down to cover the more laid back "Out Of Town." The title track "The Fire Fly" has a slight funk opening that leads into a more world music vibe something slightly past Latin for an intoxicating flavor and texture you are hard pressed to find on other recordings. "Why Wait" while being somewhat more of the Rick Braun meets Chris Botti variety has a slight straight ahead lyrical presentation of Lee Morgan meets Freddie Hubbard. Call it CTI put on fast forward about 35 years.
There are about a half dozen contemporary/smooth jazz releases for 2012 that are simply incredible. The only negative with this release is that it was technically put out in mid to late December of 2011. Every artist out there needs to know that past Oct. 1st is simply a waste of a release date and a potential album killer unless your doing a riff on Christmas.
The Firefly is going to get a honorary bump to 2012 cause after all - it's my site. Everything is spot on. Lyrical intensity in the playing of Jackson Rice. Variety and a nice edge from Mark Wilson on guitar. The rhythm section of Kevin Blackwood on drums and Marc Miller are simply fortified funk that is good for the soul. Chris Attwood makes a killer appearance on trombone for more of that texture and vitality along with John Morton on guitar for the tune "Why Wait."
Tracks: 180 Degrees; Sweet Brown; Luc i.e.; It's All Good; The Firefly; Otra Serreza; When You Think Of Me; Why Wait; Out Of Town; Blue Ridge Sunset; Just One Minute
Don't believe me? Check the link to CD Baby and test drive it yourself!