Alex Bugnon

Soul Purpose

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Alex Bugnon displays a variety of influences on Soul Purpose, his second album to be marketed as a contemporary jazz release. The title track, as its name suggests, borrows from '60s Memphis soul, even if much of it is played on synthesizers. In his sleeve note for "EWF," he writes, "Learning every Earth, Wind & Fire song was a big part of my musical education." Actually, that tune doesn't sound much like Earth, Wind & Fire, but "" (nominally a Brazilian number) and "Changes" certainly do, though Bugnon smoothes out the band's familiar funk rhythms. He attempts to show off his jazz chops on a cover of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" that sounds more like a studio goof, lasting only a minute, but his version of Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" actually shows reverence. These differing genre exercises are the most notable aspects of the album, but they really just provide variety to what is otherwise a fairly pedestrian set of contemporary jazz pieces. As is de rigueur for the genre, a steady, smooth-but-slightly-funky rhythm track underlies a couple of repetitive melodic patterns on each song, over which Bugnon solos on acoustic piano, sometimes adding a Hammond B-3 organ or Fender Rhodes track. His improvisations have narrow limits, and the pieces simply roll along for about four minutes each before fading out. A couple ("Around 12:15 AM," "Can't Get You out of My Mind") have rudimentary vocals consisting of a line or two. It's a formula designed to appeal to smooth jazz radio and is as anonymous as most of what is played on such stations. The Ellington track indicates Bugnon is capable of more, but the blander stuff no doubt pays the bills.

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