Aaron Bing

Always

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    8
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Smooth jazz saxophonist Aaron Bing has a beefier sound than the terminally weedy Kenny G, but he's less soulful than Grover Washington, Jr. Those two players define the rough parameters of Bing's full-length solo debut. These 11 tracks are utterly smooth jazz-pop ranging from the contemporary R&B-influenced "Aaron's Groove" to a reworking of Bing's 2001 debut single "Softwinds" that hearkens back to smooth jazz's late-'70s creative heyday, complete with an appealingly old-fashioned synthesizer line (think solo Steve Winwood) that occasionally answers Bing's mellow solos. Many albums in this general style of music are easily dismissed as dentist office Muzak, but for anyone not constitutionally opposed to the very idea of smooth jazz, Bing is clearly a young master of the form. Well arranged and richly produced but never merely anonymous, and skating right on the edge of slickness without falling over, the sound of Always is simultaneously lush and soothing, and Bing is a fairly gifted songwriter and soloist who writes pleasant, appealing tunes and then performs technically astute but not flashy solos on top of them. Always won't win over those with a predisposition against this kind of music, but it should certainly appeal to fans of the style.

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