Jimmy Sommers

Time Stands Still

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A skilled and charismatic, very melodic and lyrical saxman, Sommers takes a unique detour from his usually hip and funky, progressive urban jazz excursions with this elegant concept collection of old and newer standards which, true to the album's title, are timeless. While his more pop-oriented dates find him rising to the challenge of some of R&B's top groovemakers, here his intention seems to be to lie back, chill with the sweet, elegant arrangements of pianist Bill Cunliffe and vibe with the likes of trumpet stars Chris Botti and Rick Braun, and other L.A. studio legends like Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitar) and Doug Webb (flute). There's nothing overly unique or innovative about Sommers' approach, but somehow by toning down, focusing on melody without histrionics and letting the songs breathe, he makes many of them fairly irresistible -- most notably on the balmy, tropical "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Besame Mucho," and the dreamy, atmospheric take on Carlos Santana's "Europa." The true highlights are the vocal tracks, with Eric Benet's soulful rendition of "Over the Rainbow" ringing particularly lush and exquisite, and Gloria Loring's sly, playful, and swinging interaction with Sommers on "Fever" doing Peggy Lee proud. Dena Deadly's passionate take on "At Last" is a keeper, too. Moving forward, Sommers, who at times has struggled with making commercial breakthroughs, may have to decide whether he wants to stick with the urban cool or go the Botti route, mixing elegant interpretations of standards with duets with famous vocalists. He's obviously adept at both and would be welcomed by fans of either style.

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