Signed to the N-Coded label after leaving Blue Note, guitarist and composer Ronny Jordan is apparently reconsidering his past directions. Where Jordan fiercely applied and defended his gritty fusion of smooth jazz, funk, and hip-hop throughout the '90s, it appears that After 8 backs off from the ferocity of his earlier music. Gone are the duets with Mos Def and the presence of DJ Spinna, and in their place is elegantly played, stylishly wrought, sheen-filled smooth jazz. The drum loops are still present, but their jagged edges are glossed over and rounded. While it's true that Jordan was going for a late-night groove sound, one that employed more traditional jazz elements like horns ("7th Heaven"), he waters these things down so much that they are of little to no effect in the overall picture. On "Search to Find," Jordan goes acoustic with a female vocalist warbling the title as a chorus. It feels more like a new age cum blanched soul experiment than anything else. Only on "Steppin' Out," with its popping bassline, slippery loop, and edgy guitar, does Jordan comes close to being the monster stylist he created over a decade ago. His version of the standard "I Remember You" sounds like dentist-office jazz. The album's closer, "Bahia Magic," driven by a burning samba rhythm by composer Dario Boente, generates some heat, with its alternately programmed and played drums and a beautiful wordless choral layer, but this track is almost all Boente, with Jordan filling the edges with a solo and some chord progressions. Listeners can't blame N-Coded for this set, because in the liners Jordan claims the entire idea was his. That's too bad. Perhaps now that this is out of his system, Jordan will return to his particular brand of restless beat musicology; After 8 just doesn't cut it.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek