Eric Darius

Night on the Town

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Sneer if you must, but the simple fact is that smooth jazz hath charms to soothe the savage beast (if not the snobby music critic). At its best, it can offer the perfect combination of velvety, cake-like sonic textures, sweet melodicism and sturdy funk beats. If you're looking for flights of virtuosic improvisatory fancy, you'll want to consult the Young Lions or dig into your old vinyl collection, but let's be honest: the average listener cares less about the solos than about the mood and the melodies, and smooth jazz provides both in spades. Saxophone wunderkind Eric Darius (just 21-years-old and still a college student) cites Earth, Wind & Fire, Jeff Lorber and Stevie Wonder as major influences, which will give you some idea what to expect here: soulful grooves, expert arrangements and a general approach that is maybe just a bit too professional. The funky title track is especially attractive, though, and "In the Pocket" is built on a nicely strutting rhythm over which Darius bounces and weaves with effortless grace. The world could probably have waited a while longer for yet another cover of "Love TKO," but this is a fine album overall.

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