9 Mile Road is the best of Woodward Avenue Records!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
Let's get right to it, 9 Mile Road is a great record. Back when Blue Note and Verve were still fully invested in releasing the very best in improvisational music they were also dropping the finest compilation releases available. Compilation records are normally feast or famine and while my personal tastes don't run down the smoother side of the jazz street, 9 Mile Road is as solid a record as you will find with an eclectic set of tunes while keeping that contemporary edge some of their competitors are still trying to find.
Take musicians like A-list bassist Roberto Vally along with Ricky Lawson and horn great Jerry Hey and you are just scratching the surface of the session players on this wonderful release. Add tunes from Paul Brown, Jonathan Fritzen, and Nate Najar and you are talking major league talent that serves up consistent and engaging music every time out. The Grace Kelly track "Sweet Sweet Baby" was a tune that I featured on my best of 2012 list as best female vocal despite the fact she is a prolific alto saxophonist! Andre Delano and Michael J Thomas turn in stellar performances with "Help Yourself" and "I Think About Amy" respectively.
As stated earlier these types of records can go bad quick and serve as nothing more than filler for some second rate talent and a way for a label to make some quick cash on only the three of four "good" tracks included. Woodward Avenue serves it up fresh, contemporary and inventive. An A&R rep that handles a smooth jazz label once told me that a good review from me meant something for any smooth jazz artist given my rather outspoken views on the dead radio format. Good music is good music and writes it's own review.