Doc Powell

Cool Like That

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The veteran R&B sideman and popular smooth jazz guitarist usually lets his listeners know the vibe based on his album titles, from the Grover Washington, Jr.-influenced blues-soul of Inner City Blues to his most popular, Laid Back. On his critically acclaimed Heads Up debut, 97th and Columbus, the native New Yorker -- who titled the disc after the location of the classic Manhattan club Mikell's, where he did some serious shedding in the '80s -- paid homage to his eclectic roots, fashioning a tribute to, among others, chief influences Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Chet Atkins, and Ramsey Lewis. Focusing on touches of hip-hop, old-school soul, and slick in-the-pocket grooves, Cool Like That blends elements of his past successes with a love for classic rock (via a modern twist on the Beatles' "Let It Be"), a taste of East Coast jazz fusion ("To the East"), and a spiritual and densely percussive, African-tinged journey with lyrics in the Kenyan language ("Hatujambo"). He always surrounds himself with the best on the L.A. studio scene -- this time, that roster includes saxmen Michael Lington and Ron Brown, keyboardist Kevin Toney, trumpeter Mark Ledford, bassist Reggie Hamilton, and percussionist Munyungo Jackson. Also appearing on the opening track, "Push," is longtime pal Kirk Whalum.

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