Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vincent Lyn Wing Sing Budo Records 2012

Multi-tasking comes difficult for some of us and fortunately Vincent Lyn is not one of those individuals. Having started his formal musical education at the Royal College of Music in England, Lyn move on to study at Yale University Music School, was accepted at the prestigious Boston Conservatory of Music and then expanded his jazz horizons at the Manhattan School of Music.

Lyn achieved a rare opportunity to open for Dizzy Gillespie at Yale University. During his musical studies Lyn never lost sight or focus for his love of acting. Ultimately Lyn wound up in South China where he appeared in nineteen of the most successful films during what is considered the Golden Era of Honk Kong cinema. Lyn starred alongside Jackie Chan in the international hit "Operation Condor," he also composed Canto-Pop for Polygram Records - two of which cracked the Asian charts' top ten.

In 2011 the release of Heaven Bound gained wide spread critical acclaim having been nominated for two Grammy Awards which include Best Instrumental Jazz Album Of The Year and Best Improvisation Jazz Solo for Oscar Peterson's Nigerian Marketplace. Now we have the latest from Lyn titled Wing Sing with an October 23rd street date. While some artists working the smoother side of the jazz street are either rethinking their market position not to mention their presentation or simply leaving the radio format driven sub genre, Lyn seems to embrace the more lyrical side of Smooth Jazz with an easy flowing R&B influence.

"Red Sun" opens Wing Sing and is perhaps one of the better examples of smooth jazz piano with purpose I have run across. The nuances of percussionist Urbano Sanchez Jr. combined with drummer Gil Hawkins Jr. place the trio at the head of the smooth jazz pack almost immediately. Real men making real music without the need of programming and other production crutches that seem to allow for a difference that is razor thin at best between some artists. To cover a Burt Bacharach tune takes skill, a keen ear and some guts. While Lyn has all three the reharmed version of "Walk On By" is good but not great. The background vocals are essentially not needed and the arrangement could be brought up to date with the addition of some horns. The vocal track "That's What You Do To Me" is a beautiful ballad where the vocals work, an R&B influence that fits well in the ebb and flow of the release. John Gerardi's guitar is a welcome addition on "Take Flight" and will hopefully be around for a few more numbers on the next release. The trio setting of "Be Mine Tonight" is one of the better tunes on the release showcasing not only Lyn's lyrical sense of purpose and harmonic base but what would seem to be an obvious chemistry with bassist Curtis Long and drummer Gil Hawkins Jr. Far too often in a smooth jazz session you wind up with a room full of hired guns that while they can play the notes, they fall short of making the music. Not here. Guest musicians are kept to a very workable three in number and each is there for a very specific purpose. The release works well because it is not overly commercial. A label has not simply thrown a big wad of cash at an artist and said, " here now make it happen" but instead Lyn plays to his strengths for an incredibly entertaining release. A couple of very minor hiccups along the way but no harm done. I normally approach smooth jazz at arms length but Wing Sing is far better than the average smooth jazz release.

Smooth jazz fans looking for music that has not been over produced i.e. died a self inflicted death by compression in post production would do well to check Wing Sing out. Something tells me the smooth jazz charts will feel Lyn's impact in the coming weeks and for good reason. A rock solid effort but a virtuoso type talent. The cream does indeed rise to the top.

Tracks: Red Sun; Walk On By; Don't Say Goodbye; Cote D' Azur; See You In Rio; That's What You Do To Me; Be Mine Tonight; Wake Me Up; Take Flight; The 4 Crazies; Cantowood; That's What You Do To Me (Reprise).

Personnel: Vincent Lyn: piano, keyboards; Curtis Long: bass; Gil Hawkins Jr.: drums; Urbano Sanchez Jr.: percussion; John Gerardi: guitar.