Kevin Toney

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This master of elegant funk piano seems poised to carry the torch that Joe Sample lit long ago. He works with fatter grooves, here programming his rack most of the time to create a shuffling retro-soul hip-hop mix. But Toney's weaving of melodic lightness on his feet in some spots with darker tonal shifts in others is unmistakably Sample-esque. Typical of the up-tempo hi-tone approach is "How 'Bout That," whose bass-driven groove gallops underneath a playful skittery dual piano and Rahmlee Davis' trumpet melody. On the other side of the coin is the graceful ballad "Hush," which begins with a lush synth string intro before easing into a moody chord progression beneath the melody tradeoff between Toney and Gerald Albright. Toney rarely stretches beyond the genre parameters of what picture perfect light funk with brief but irresistible piano improvisations (enhanced in spots by Ray Parker, Jr.'s guitar and Kirk Whalum's trusty sax) is supposed to be, but his one leap of percussive faith is a memorable one. "Get up on It" throbs along with exotic, jungly rhythms by Bill Summers (credited with playing the "bottle" as well) and a thick wall of bass by Sekou Bunch. This tune goes through various movements as it pushes along, leaving Toney an opportunity to switch from an acoustic melody to a synth-created electric piano run. One publication quote on the CD jacket says that Toney's "one of the tastiest artists on the planet." Tall order to fill, but Toney seems willing to add a little more spice every time out.

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