In a time when many artists' truest musical hearts are sacrificed to the notion of "mainstream success at all costs," Lincoln Adler has made the bold decision to return to his roots. Smooth jazz fans in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles and throughout the country know the saxophonist best for his longtime leadership of Rain-bo Tribe and his well-received mid-'90s solo albums The Dream and Short Stories. But those recordings only tell part of Adler's story, as his vibrant new release Are You in There? reveals. Blending such diverse jazz influences as Stanley Turrentine, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Eddie Harris, and his childhood teacher Joe Henderson with his melodic, groove-intensive leanings toward funk bands like Parliament and Earth, Wind & Fire, Adler creates a sly mix of straight-ahead, blues, retro-soul fusion, and worldbeat sounds. Adler's seen tremendous growth within himself as a jazz player over the past two years, attributing much of that to his ongoing gigs with actor/pianist Jeff Goldblum as part of the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. Playing regularly at L.A. venues Lucky 7 and the Argyle Hotel on Sunset, as well as this year's annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, the gig has been written up in various magazines and has enjoyed guest appearances by top jazz and R&B talents like Tom Scott, Randy Crawford, Barbara Morrison, Eric Benet, Anthony Wilson, and actors Peter Weller and Jim Carrey (who sings on occasion!). Adler launches Are You in There? with a Latin-flavored blues rush, winding his smoky tenor sax around a light funk blues keyboard harmony by John Beasley on "Listen Up." Adler slyly blends a bass clarinet harmony line around a straightforward sax melody on the moody and seductive "Mysteriosa," which heats up at one point into a brassy big-band arrangement. After accompanying soulful vocalist Moira Dahling on the subdued late-night ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is," Adler jams with Beasley's Fender Rhodes on the explosive title track which joyfully explores both the Latin and bebop sides of his personality. The Latin vibe provides a cool thread through the exotic "Freedom Belly Dance," which combines a galloping percussion groove, punchy sax melody, and some riff trading between Adler's multiple horns and Rick Musallam's flamenco guitar.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran