John Tropea

A Simple Way to Say I Love You

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A new smooth jazz indie artist looking to make his way among the established throng needs all the advantages he can get marketing wise, and what better a selling point could this electric guitarist have than having top flight all-stars on his debut? Mixing up easy funk, mid-tempo blues and instrumental power ballads, Tropea bounces off the fresh creative input of bassist Will Lee, keyboardists Paul Shaffer Ricky Peterson, drummer Steve Gadd and saxman Tom Scott. Peterson contributes a punchy blues harmony beneath Tropea's crisp melody lines on "I Want You," while Shaffer trips between outer space and elegant piano sounds on a faithful reading of the old soul hit "Sideshow." For all the all-star energy (including Lalah Hathaway's smoky vocals gracing "I Want You"), however, too much of this collection falls into the just okay category--nice, but nowhere as thrilling as it could have been. The album cover features a red rose and Tropea seems determined to be Mr. Romantic, but his atmospheric love songs like "The Beauty In You" are a bit bland. The one track that redeems the set is "Funky Duck," which features a hypnotic Moog synth bell effect, retro soul scratches and a nice mix between wah-wah and silky electric lines. This tune also features Lou Marini honking a colorful sax solo over a shuffling groove. Not a bad spin, but could have been way more adventurous considering the talent involved.

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