Richard Elliot

Take to the Skies

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The name of this collection is as applicable to Elliot's real life piloting skills as it is to his flourishing solo career. As with his three prior releases, his tenor and alto saxes give you everything -- soul, passion, heat -- Elliot established himself with releases like these as the James Brown of contemporary jazz. Elliot is not as rambunctious as he was on the previous year's The Power of Suggestion, but he made strides toward finding that unique "Elliot sound." He succeeds most of the time here, most noticeably with a soaring, heart-searing rendition of Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman," which became a trademark concert tune and one of his legacies on smooth jazz radio. He starts to let loose on the perky "The Grip," then turns on the smooth for "4:00 a.m.," "In Your Arms," and the tropical flavored "Down to the Keys." In place of rockers, Elliot goes for that midtempo groove, but you can't argue with success. What can be argued is the necessity of the two vocals he includes. Neither "In the Name of Love" (sung by Bobby Caldwell) nor "Moonlight in Your Eyes" do any justice to Elliot's formidable talent. In all honesty, he's often given a greater and more pleasurable role as a sideman. Fortunately, eight out of ten isn't bad, and this collection is otherwise a solid, streamlined package of chops.

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