British electric guitarist Chris Standring launched his Stateside career playing edgy fusion in Los Angeles clubs, but he came upon a better path for himself when he met keyboardist Rodney Lee while touring with pop singer Lauren Christy. Blending Standring's bebop nurturing and Charlie Parker/Wes Montgomery influences with Lee's heavy R&B leanings, the two released the dual acid jazz dual Solar System in 1996. Finally confident of where he was headed, Standring found his footing on Velvet and comes into his own by on the far funkier, thickly blues-based and more self-assured Hip Sway (Instinct Records). Even without the ultra-cool poses and sharp, bleeding image cover photography of Kimo Easterwood, Hip Sway beautifully invokes a sense of old-school jazz sensibilities mixed with the acid-jazz ambience and powerful soul of co-producer Lee. The title track finds Standring echoing his muted Wes-bound melody with wah-wah punch lines, then duetting casually with the eager tenor of Richard Elliot before exploding into an irresistible brassy hook -- all over Lee's moody blue synth harmony. "Glamour Girls" features a propelling "Sidewinder"-like vamp under Standring's note-for-note duet with tenorman Dino Soldo, which builds after each verse to a rousing, brassy crescendo (synth-created); Lee does double duty on this tune, playing a Hammond B-3 solo over the vamp. Fast forwarding to the present, Standring invokes a bit of ambient master Brian Eno on "What Is Is," as he and Lee exchange distant, distorted melody lines over a spaced-out synth wash as Dave Karasony's train-track drum patter continues to hypnotize. Ditto the gentle hypnosis on a cover of 10cc's mystical "I'm Not In Love"; Standring doesn't do much improvising with the melody, but his alternating guitar tones and the enveloping atmosphere -- complete with barely audible synth horns -- are just like, well, Velvet.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran