Dan Siegel

Along the Way: The Best of Dan Siegel

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The release of this collection is a somewhat bittersweet reminder that, due to label hassles, one of the great architects of the playful, melodic funk that became smooth jazz in the late '80s didn't play enough of a role in the genre's growth later on. In the '90s, Siegel released a few solid discs -- including the largely unappreciated but brilliant worldbeat project Hemispheres in '95 -- but, for the most part, radio just kept playing older Siegel hits like "Rhapsody," "Northern Nights," and other songs that helped launch the format way back when. Although the few early- and mid-'80s tracks on Along the Way are synth heavy, their great melodicism and infectious grooves define what smooth jazz was like in the early days. "Dee-ah," from 1991, lets us in on the fun Siegel had when he worked with live horns and allowed himself to draw on a straight-ahead jazz background for some giddy soloing. Fortunately, this 18-track collection is more than just nostalgia. The disc's five new tracks show that Siegel has returned in style, eager to see what the future holds. And he's joined the retro-soul generation. On "What Gives," Siegel textures his speedy piano melody with a throbbing, percussive groove and insistent wah-wah guitar licks from Allen Hinds. Rob Bacon's guitar adds subtlety to "From the Heart," a track that recalls Siegel's best piano-sax interactions of yore. For long-time Siegel fans, this collection will prove a good gathering of golden oldies. Surely, though, new fans will join the flock once a few of the new cuts get airplay.

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