Kofi Wilmot

A Touch of Ebony

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The album cover features this supermelodic, often adventurous keyboardist standing before a cutout of Africa wearing a suit with gaudy Middle Eastern touches, leading you to believe he might be inviting you on some sort of exotic tour. That's misleading, but in place of far travels, we're treated to a Tower of Power-like horn blast in the harmonies of the lively funk jam "A Touch of Ebony" and to numerous improvs that show a bebop skill in a pop context. On that same tune, he breaks at one point to impress you with his Latin piano riffs (okay, so there is a touch of exotica, but that's about it). "Elmina" is pleasant, perky smooth jazz stuff, while "Encore" bounces along a thick, retro-funk track complete with Richard Nance's clicking wah-wah and the fiery sax of Chris Vadala. "Kalahari" brings to mind the soaring new age fusion approach of Steve Haun, while "Sunday Jazz Jam" is the perfect background music to a brunch featuring some very bubbly champagne and orange juice. A thoughtful cover of "Harlem Nocturne" closes the eclectic set. A very likable set, and we may assume that the Africa cutout refers to Kofi's continent of origin (though the liner notes tell nothing). The copyright dates on this material indicates that these are reworkings of songs that were originally released over ten years ago; fascinating, then, that they hold up and are at least as engaging as anything new in smooth jazz in the last few years.