Tony Gable & 206

Seven Hills

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Ask most music aficionados for their take on the "Seattle Sound, " and they'll offer murky images of grunge, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Kurt Cobain. But with their self-titled 1993 debut, Tony Gable & 206 created an infectious, soulful yet lighthearted "alternative to alternative, " reaching out from the Pacific Northwest and into the Top 5 of all New Adult Contemporary airplay charts nationwide. Gable, who gained world-wide fame and exposure adding exotic textures to the touring and recording bands of superstar saxman Kenny G, once again gathers some of the city's brightest jazz players (many of whom also played with the G-man) for the spirited and eclectic Seven Hills, which captures the positive aspects of the West Coast cool in a vibe that gives new meaning to the term "ensemble action." "Live" and "smooth" are the operative words as the collection winds through numerous variations of jazzy soul and soulful jazz, keeping melody and playfulness foremost in mind. The sonic fusion jumps out immediately on the opening gem "Rob's Groove," which features a trademark, funky Lorberesque groove complemented by Raymond's snappy electric guitar, while the funk eases into bluesy and even Latin territory on the fiery "Jet City," with standout keyboardist Ben Fleck and tenor saxman Darren Motamedy holding court over Gable's congas. "Luna Park" keeps the Latin beat alive with a throbbing drive time riff. The general romance meets rhythm vibe of the disc is typified by "The Best of Times," which begins drenched in cool and ends up like an angry rocking dragon. A harmonic cover of "How Long," sung Take 6 style by labelmates 2nd Nature, adds an appealing texture as well.

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