Andrew Neu

In Clear View

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Like most up and coming smooth jazz saxophonists, this popular Philly based performer is a well-established sideman. He performs regularly with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops and at top city venues like Zanzibar Blue, and has a résumé a mile long of top names he's recorded (Sister Sledge, Manhattan Transfer) or shared stages with (Elton John, Patti LaBelle, the Four Tops, the Temptations). Trying on this engaging, highly melodic, and mostly easy grooving independently released collection to get into the smooth jazz big leagues, Andrew Neu worked with some top contemporary jazz names, beginning with primary producer (and bass great) Brian Bromberg. Other all-star contributors are Jeff Lorber, Kevin Toney, Gerald Veasley, Doc Gibbs, and the one-two drum punch of Dave Weckl and Vinnie Colaiuta. But check this. The disc ambles along in a friendly manner, playing it sweet but ultimately safe, with all the big guns playing and writing tunes they think radio will smile on (particularly typified by the opening cover "Celebration," which is fun but hardly fresh). Then, suddenly, we get a blast of fresh, horn-splashed funky energy on "Seven Mile Bridge" -- which happens to be the first Neu composition. Despite having the same title as an Andy Gibb disco hit, "Shadow Dancing" is another vibrant, high struttin', brass drenched gem featuring exciting interaction between the saxman and the Bright and Tight Horns, a four-piece section (featuring Neu and brother Peter Neu on trumpet) that puts the best tracks on this project (including the thumpy, jazzy closer "Easy Pass") in overdrive. The moody and mysterious "Sob City" is another cool mold-breaker with some of his best playing. And even when Neu is just sitting pretty, as on "I Heard It In the Night" and "Night Lights," there's still something fresh and crisp in his delivery that the tracks by Bromberg and Toney lack. Neu's nine originals stand out from the pack and he can be forgiven for seeking compositions from top names in the genre. Unfortunately, he also gave into the mid-2000s kick of including senior prom-style pop cover songs that come across as vanilla in the midst of the much more impressive originals.

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