Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dennis Angel Timeless Grooves Timeless Grooves Records 2012

My on again off again love affair with the smoother side of jazz if picking up steam due largely in part to the custom fitted, funk infused, retro reharms of trumpet player Dennis Angel and Producer Jason Miles. This is a sleeper...A perfectly paced well executed release walking a sonic tightrope between what is commonly considered contemporary smooth jazz and a retro fusion approach that makes old school turn new cool in a flash.

I'm old school. I start reviewing from cover art and I look at every possible aspect of a release keeping in mind, "Is there a commercial viability here?" Will a significant number of people care about this release five years from now. Sorry Occupy Wall Street but music is a business and the light bill is not paid with "Hope" and "Change."  Instead of pretty little tunes with commercially laden hooks we have a warm earthy sound of modern jazz and some classic pop reharms executed to almost sheer perfection. A true collaborative team effort with Angel enlisting the well respected producer Jason Miles and then turning over the arrangements to Gottfried Stoger. Sometimes a musician much like some writers need the objective guidance of someone outside their comfort zone and both Miles and Stoger combined their vision with Angel's for what I consider to be one of the sleepers of the year in contemporary instrumental jazz.

As a former disc jockey and those that fall in my age bracket would agree with no intentional disrespect intended to the prolific genius of pop icons Lennon & McCartney, most of us could sashay off this earthy happy campers if we never heard another Beatles tune. Over a four year time period I played one Beatles tune every forty five minutes per six hour shift for a minimum of six days a week. Do the math...Here a dated and somewhat shop worn classic is given new life with an amazing reharm that captures a contemporary feel without mangling the original melody which is quite lovely when taken at face value. What makes Timeless Grooves work so well is the open ended riff, an almost fusion lite approach that allows for the lyrical flow of smooth jazz but the more distinctive contemporary edge from old school fusion. Stoger more than holds his own on soprano sax and the addition of acoustic guitarist Romero Lubambo adds a deceptively subtle manipulation of ebb and flow where Angel's flugelhorn takes flight. Tweak the harmonics with a first rate band and you get far more than a passable cover. Four of the ten tracks are vocals which was where those pesky preconceived notions of conjecture and the search for that elusive pot of gold that is a cross over hit at the end of the sonic rainbow. "A Song In Harmony" features vocalist Rebecca Angel whose pristine vocals are elegant and when combined with an intoxicating tone and impeccable phrasing the more highly evolved radio outlets should sit up and take notice at this tune. Another intriguing original is "I Did All This" which is a ballad with that cinematic scope that takes a simple melody and stays true to the apparent conceptual idea of patriotism and love of god, country and family is where real unity begins despite what the current administration in Washington may have one believe. It would be hyper-critical to jump on the band wagon that the release could have been better without vocals, that is not necessarily true as taste is subjective and the tunes work hand in glove with the somewhat conceptualized notion of a throw back sound. To say anything negative would simply be taking the hyper-critical approach just because one can and that is not how I roll. From Lennon & McCartney to a bright and breezy samba this is an incredibly solid effort.

From the opening funkalicious grooves of "Forever Funk" to a more retro theatrical throwback to "I Did All This" we find trumpet and flugelhorn virtuoso as the real deal. A legit jazz triple threat as instrumentalist, lyricist and composer with the chameleon like ability to change sonic colors, dynamics and harmonics at will. Dennis Angel goes all in with this release and the potential that is shown here alone is worth:

An artist I want to hear more from. Incredibly entertaining and one of those rare heartfelt releases that makes the sonic transfer with ease.

Tracks: Forever Funk; Vegas Vibe; Norwegian Wood; Rio On My Mind; A Song In Harmony; When Love Is In The Air; I Did All This; The Breeze; Can't Help Falling In Love; From Bebop to Hip Hop.

Personnel: Dennis Angel; trumpet, flugelhorn; Gottfried Stoger: tenor & soprano saxophone; Jason Miles: keyboards & synth bass, vibes and percussion; Dean Brown: electric guitar; Brian Dunne: drums; Amanda Ruiz; electric bass; Will Bernard; electric guitar; Romero Lubambo: acoustic guitar; Nick Moroch: electric guitar; Joel Mofsenson; acoustic piano; Emily Birdinger: backup vocals; Rebecca Angel: vocals; Gil Parris: acoustic guitar; DeForest Raphael: vocals; Mike Campenni: drums; David Shaich: acoustic bass.