Sylvan Street

The Perfect Leaf

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Hailing from Tucson, AZ, with their recording studio housed at the University of Arizona, Sylvan Street are a small ensemble that could easily be identified as a studio band from Los Angeles. Using their calling card as that of a jazz, rock, funk, and Latin band, the combo has specific allegiances toward none of those elements. In the attractive horn charts they use, or the static underpinnings provided by electric bass guitarist and leader Jay Rees, Sylvan Street can lay claim to the melodic and rhythmic aspects of those genres. As the group leans more on the pop side with vocals by drummer Andrew Hix, or the louder fusion end with electric guitarist Frank Browne, it would be difficult for even the most astute radio programmers to find a home for all of these tracks, but bar patrons might find this music entertaining, if not all that substantive. At the band's best, the title track starts out in a fast, concentrated 5/4 beat, close to a road song, as the soprano sax of Kelland Thomas slides along the rails of this slick fusion idea until the late-arriving, incidental vocals of Hix. The band is good on the funky Latin "Rub the Buddha" with a somewhat interesting horn chart, but is better when laying back on the breezy contemporary samba "Marafé" or the acoustic "T.E.'s Blues," where Thomas and the very good trumpeter Chad Shoopman get to stretch out a bit. "Millie's," for a legendary diner in L.A., is a typical neo-bop shuffle that sounds more like it was cooked up in N.Y.C., while the two-and-a-half-minute "Waltz for Wendy Sue" is pleasant enough. Unfortunately, "Scary Monkeys" pits swaying hard rock against the electric guitar and horns, and the staccato trumpet and sax clash unfavorably against steely guitar and a funk beat during "Licorice & Cigarettes," while the Al Jarreau wannabe vocals of Hix during "Me 'n You" are pretty boring. What passes to some as new music here is extremely derivative or unoriginal, and there's little real excitement. You can pass Sylvan Street for Seventh Avenue South or Hollywood and Vine, where the real action is in contemporary jazz.

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