Saturday, September 22, 2012

Phil Denny Crossover Off-Sheet Music 2012

Most people that hang in my cultural inner-circle know that at times I can run hot and cold when it comes to smooth jazz. To begin, I much prefer the genre label of contemporary instrumental music and so do most of the artists I speak with.

Phil Denny is an Independent artist that plays the smoother side of the jazz street and does it with flair, finesse and spot on phrasing. In short, I dig this cat he can blow! The latest release Crossover works incredibly well for a variety of reasons including the blatantly obvious that in the overly crowded field of smooth jazz saxophonists whose difference can be measured by the thickness of a sheet of paper, Denny stands out. Call it vibe, chill or anything else that makes you sleep better at night but when you take the mad skills of Denny's natural talent and toss in the artistry of Grammy nominated Nate Harasim as producer then the bar has just been raised for the others to follow. The lovely and talented Cindy Bradley stops by for a go on "Playin' Coy." A nicely textured ambient feel punctuated with Bradley's signature sound and Denny's infectious lyricism. Phil Denny works so well as he understands how to play within himself and let the music simply lead the way and he is but the vehicle. Nate Harasim handles the keys and programming like a champ. Normally programming has me reaching for the stop/reject button quickly, Harasim hears sounds differently and uses them to great effect. A dialed down blowing session between Bradley and Denny is a thing of beauty. "Be There For Me" again features a more ambient warmth than most smooth jazz recordings that hit the compression so hard the release feels sanitized for your protection. A debut recording of all original material can be a huge roll of the dice but Denny does not roll snake eyes. Joining in on "Be There For Me" is guitarist Frank Selman who is a cat that I promise you will be hearing more from. "Push" is a vibrant tune featuring Harasim doing his own thing on piano and oddly reminiscent of a young Bob James. So who does Phil Denny sound like? Phil Denny of course. Musical frames of reference are inherently dangerous and often unfair to the artist but Denny has the control and phrasing of Grover Washington Jr. and the lyrical chops of a Stan Getz had he walked the more contemporary side of the street. The number one pet peeve of most smooth jazz fans are out of place vocals on a predominately instrumental release. "When I Think" features vocalist Anna Stevenson, a lady I would personally love to hear more from!

Crossover works on every imaginable level from sophisticated cover art to a non pretentious approach to where contemporary music should be heading. The contemporary market has been flooded with great releases this year and as one that normally keeps all things contemporary at a healthy distance this release is as close to flawless as one could get. Technically proficient and artistically gifted, Phil Denny's music stock should be an arrow pointing straight up.

Tracks: Traffic Jam; Give A Little; Playin' Coy; Be There For Me; Push; When I Think; Crossover; When We Were Friends; Til We Meet Again; Suite Party.

Personnel: Phil Denny: tenor sax; Nate Harasim: keys, piano, programming, aux. keys; Matt Godina: acoustic and rhythm guitar, additional programming, bass, rhodes piano, guitar solo; Frank Selman: rhythm and lead guitar; Terrance Palmer: bass, "p" bass; Cindy Bradley: flugelhorn, muted trumpet; Gerey Johnson: acoustic guitar; Anna Stevenson: vocals; Nils: rhythm guitar, guitar solo.

(Photos creatively acquired via

From Feb. 2012 Via You Tube.