A few short weeks ago I gave the distinct impression that smooth jazz would be taking a hiatus from this site largely because of what appeared to be a lack of reader interest. In reviewing the numbers the more accurate interpretation might be that Boney James sells himself and no amount of input on my part would shine a new, different or interesting aspect of either James or his music. I will be focusing on the fringe artist, that Independent talent lurking just on the outside of breaking into a genre in desperate need of a sonic jump start. Such is the case with Demetrius “Krayon” Nabors and his latest offering A Journey Within Part 1.
I have to admit I am old school and a great many of the old school cats have tremendous problems taking some of the smoother side of the jazz street seriously and that is simply a walking contradiction on the history of jazz itself. Wes Montgomery had in fact crossed over and was making ( for the day ) commercially accessible and what might be referred to today as cross-over hits with a smoother highly formulated sound that artists today are ridiculed for. Smooth jazz simply put is nothing new. Today smooth jazz has taken a beating thanks to a handful of artists that are essentially reformulating the same sound with the instrumentation altered slight to simply protect the guilty. Nabors is a contemporary hybrid of smooth jazz, contemporary, gospel, rhythm & blues and some very subtle straight ahead playing. In short…A Journey Within Part 1 holds your attention for longer than ten minutes and is a far cry from the same reformulated sound some artists still continue to make a living off of today. Nabors is the real deal. Demetrius Nabors is the cultural end result of his own experiences or as I like to say – he makes old school new cool. Solid tunes, great arrangements and a nice ebb and flow of variety without killing the record by either over doing a self indulgent trip in post production or getting caught up in the vibe of the music. Nabors is contemporary smooth jazz but presented in a more organic fashion. Real music, not just pretty tunes.
Credibility is another issue that Nabors sidesteps as his musical resume includes Trippin N Rhythm greats Randy Scott and Tim Bowman just for starters. “Croydon Road” features Lin Rountree on trumpet is a delightful way to open a stellar musical journey as you let the tune marinate and prepare you for the additional flavor on the way. Nabors gives a virtuoso performance which highlights his abilities as instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer. Rountree is first rate and a perfect fit for this project. “Ridin’ & Groovin'” has a subtle blues infusion and an infectious Bob James throwback sound for those old school cats such as this critic. Randy Scott handles the alto and tenor duties and bassist Terrance Palmer adds just the right pop for a vitality that allows this tune to develop to a harmonic crescendo of texture and flow. Randy Scott shows up again on “Is There A Chance” a tune that is fortified with a deceptively subtle funk without every crossing that line of the self indulgent.
Bottom line – a first rate top of the line contemporary release. I have a few pet peeves that drive me insane with smooth jazz and these include but are not limited to incredibly lame vocals in what would appear to be a desperate attempt to strike cross over gold or a tune that has been so beaten down with programming that the only possible reason could be to help the rhythmically challenged.
There are no vocal tracks on this release and the programming is done with great care unless you read the liner note you would probably miss it as the release is so well presented.
Sample the release and see if you agree.
Tracks: Croydon Road; What A Day; Journeying Through Time; A Flowing Interchange; Into The Night; Ridin’ & Groovin’; Is There A Chance; Just When I Thought; So Into You; Full of Peace & Strollin’ Down Blaine.
Personnel: Demetrius Nabors: piano, rhodes, drum programming; Lin Rountree: trumpet & flugelhorn; Robert Skinner: bass; Kris Johnson: trumpet; Mike Harrington: bass; Daryl Dixon: electric guitars; Tim Bowman: solo guitar; Terrance Palmer: bass; Ron Otis: drums; Al Turner: bass; Tom Stoepkera: guitar; Gentry Shelby: alto sax; Myron Bell: drums; Kris Kirzawa: guitar; Randy Scott: alto & tenor saxophone; Nate Winn: drums; Damon Warmack: bass; Jesse Kramer: drums; Ben Rolsten: acoustic bass; Alekos Syropoulos: tenor saxophone.