Andrew Neu

Inspire

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This solid, easy-to-listen-to, and high-spirited instrumental saxophone CD was released by the artist himself; the fact that it's nearly as good as any sax album put out in 2001 by a major label is proof that smooth jazz sax is a crowded field. But Andrew Neu deserves a chance, if this impressive debut is any indication of what he can achieve. The bluesy, brassy, alto-driven kick-off tune "Shadow Dancing" is dreamy, funky, and retro all at the same time, and features the type of horn doubling that's been popular with Steve Cole and Ed Calle. "A Little Minor Groove" is a bit bluesy and retro too, a strong soprano tune that has subtle horn section inflections; no reason this couldn't be a genre radio hit as well. The doubling effect works even better on the gospel-flavored title track, and "Midnight Buffet" is the most clever name for a festive tropical tune in quite some time; after all, some of the best action on a cruise takes place at that time, and the balmy breezes are still blowing. Neu even has the requisite soulful vocal track (by Yvette Miles) and the modern R&B standard "I Live for Your Love." No fan of Memphis soul will be able to resist "Warts," a strangely titled but irresistible horn band song.

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