Considering the overly corporate approach taken in the 2000s to smooth jazz playlists, you've got to give indie troopers like this San Diego-based guitarist credit for hanging in there. No matter the brilliance or raves given to Patrick Yandall's five previous releases, he's still not quite a household name in the genre, but each time out, he easily surpasses himself compositionally (all-important in this hook happy genre) and as a performer. Though the title of this collection might inspire visions of grooving on a charming Pacific Island, the music on Samoa Soul is all hip, mostly electric, deliriously funky (when its not cool and laid-back), and in-the-pocket smooth jazz with hints of gospel and Latin. Yandall's also showing exciting chops as a producer, surrounding his snappy melody on the opening title track with horn sizzle and a moody retro-soul ambience. The bluesy approach and crisp mix of acoustic and electric strings on "Fade to Black" brings to mind Larry Carlton, while he applies a sizzling Latin authenticity (and some incredibly rich, melodic keyboard work) to Tom Browne's oft-covered "Funkin' for Jamaica." Joining the more mainstream smooth jazz selections (and somewhat superfluous cover of "Sailing") are more adventurous tracks like the Brazilian-lite "Who's the Bossa" and the playful, happy rocker "The Beat Generation." With any luck, Samoa Soul will be Yandall's long-awaited breakthrough onto the A-list of smooth jazz stars. It's one of the best indie releases of the genre in 2006.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran