While the fervor of the acid jazz craze has long since chilled, a few bands pursue the funky jazz muse that powered it. New York City-based Topaz is one of those who continue to delve into the genre's intricacies, with passion and nimble chops. On their third album, The Zone, tenor sax player Topaz and his bandmates turn their sights toward the more soulful areas of the genre, mixing funky grooves with smooth arrangements. The Zone reaches such heights of cool that you almost believe you're sitting in a red velvet-draped lounge, highball in hand, cooing sweet nothings into the ear of your prospective mate. Though the band is named after Topaz, he generally lets his bandmates steer the music. Ethan White's electric piano drives a percussive melody on "Minha Mente" and provides a solid lead in almost all the songs; Mark "Tewar" Tewarson's guitar noodles front "Walkabout," which has a darker vibe than most of the album's upbeat tunes. Trombone player Squantch really impresses with his range of hot and cool emotion on "I Can See It in You," laying down some nasty blues tones. But the highest praise for the band is that the deft layering of each instrument in the arrangements makes it difficult to determine who is leading on any song. Each voice sounds integral to the whole groove machine. The lone jarring note on the record comes from the vocals: Topaz opts for highly repetitive lyrics that are often chanted more than sung. While you get used to them after a while, they get in the way a bit too much. Topaz has plenty of beautiful instrumental voices here; they didn't need to add another.
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AllMusic Review by Mike Gowan