Rob Whitlock

Sketchin', Vol. 2

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The veteran keyboardist fully embodies the art of independent jazz-making on this engaging and wildly eclectic project, which involved a series of exciting recording sessions that took place over a two-year span with a high-pedigree supporting cast. This includes Michael Brecker (whose feisty tenor adds punch and fire to the downtempo bluesy moods of "2nd Service"), Vinnie Colauita, Anthony Jackson (contrabass guitar), Scott Henderson (whose electric guitar does a slow, blistering burn through "Gotta Insulator"), Othello Molineaux (whose tropical touch on steel pans drives "2nd Service" before Brecker takes over), Cliff Almond (drums), and Pat Kelley (electric guitar on the romantic, late-night smoky ballad "Do I Love You"). As a follow-up to 2005's Sketchin', the new collection has a bit of an edgier and "retro" feel to it, but the results are always engaging and provoke a wide range of emotions. The mix also offers some cool surprises. Just as you're being seduced by the Spyro Gyra-like flavors of the opening track, Amber Whitlock's graceful vocals on the gently swinging jazz standard "Them There Eyes" puts you in a whole other traditional place. You're riding the funky highway of "Gotta Insulator," and the always wild and bluesy fun of Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time" comes along and spins you in a whole other rhythmic direction (with Henderson leading the way into a fusion neverland, of course). Following that, "At Freedom Chicken Dance" is the ultimate crazy-maker highlighted by more shenanigans from Henderson and scorching horn accents. The much gentler closer, "The Colours of Life," was the soothing radio track, but it seems like a slight letdown, being so simple and straightforward after all of the exciting oddities and fun that came before it.

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