Urban Knights

Urban Knights, Vol. 5

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The is the fifth album from the rotating smooth jazz all-star showcaseUrban Knights, and it continues with much the same flavor as the group's previous releases: a mix of post-bop jazz influences and straightforward R&B. The album opens with an instrumental version of Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" featuring bandleader Ramsey Lewis covering the main vocal parts with his piano. Two collective originals follow, leading into Michelle Williams' soft vocals on "Will You Still Love Me?" "On the Up" is an original with a thick electronic funk thanks largely to Kenny Garrett. Another group original follows in the same vein, although the collective takes on Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" yield mixed results, holding Steve Zoloto's sax over the top of a groove. Some contemporary R&B pokes through on "No One," and Orbert Davis invokes a bit of Miles Davis on his trumpet over the funk of "The New Funktier." After another short R&B romp, the album finishes on a pair of Hans Zimmer numbers from the Gladiator soundtrack. As far as smooth jazz goes, this is an outstanding collection from the all-stars of the genre, complete with some thoroughly worked-out funkiness at the hands of Lewis as the need arises. For the mix of originals and covers, the album, overall, does quite well. Both newcomers to the genre or old Ramsey Lewis fans should give it a listen .

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