Alfonzo Blackwell

Alfonzo Blackwell

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On his warm, slick and silkily melodic self-titled sophomore effort, Alfonzo Blackwell makes a case for not judging a developing saxman until hearing the disc in its entirety. His potent horn prowess is never in question, but as he and pop-soul producer Preston Glass wind through a series of breezy covers by Seal, Gamble & Huff, Mariah Carey and R. Kelly, it's as if he's sacrificing his potential identity for mainstream acceptance. His snazzy straight-ahead riffing on "Killer Joe," however, assures us that beneath the cry to be noticed, an inventive visionary like Joshua Redman could be lurking. Backtrack through the safety, and there's even some hearty originality in his own few tunes, which touch on world beat chants and classical influences. Many of the familiar pieces (including the relentless Baywatch Nights Theme) are irresistible and show a dynamo at work. But to stand tall in the packed field of funky saxmen, Blackwell needs to focus on intensity over cool while working harder on his own vision.

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