Ronny Jordan's first effort for N-Coded after a pair of winners on Blue Note is a déjà vu of sorts for anyone who was interested in the initial modern-day groove jazz ushered in by George Benson with Breezin'. Not that Jordan's fine At Last sounds anything like Benson's album, or that the two have anything in common besides Wes Montgomery -- it's more vibe than anything. At Last is the album where Jordan is relaxed enough to prove he has nothing left to prove. He's not only arrived, but he's not going anywhere either. The ten tracks here are mature, progressive, and steeped in summery groove. The hip-hop evident on his forays into the genre has virtually evaporated. The harder-edged, funky sounds on the Blue Note records are largely absent and his journeys down R&B and soul paths forged by the O'Jays and others have been set aside in favor of a return to jazz. Jordan's playing here is in the tradition of Montgomery and Grant Green, to be sure, though the vibe is an update of the soul-jazz sound Benson patented. But it's a thorough update. For the most part, Jordan plays sweet, shimmering, chorded leads over keyboards and drum programming by Joel Campbell. But there are tracks such as the opener, the stunningly beautiful title track, where Elliot Mason solos on both flugelhorn and trumpet with backing by the pair that makes for stunning sonic and textural contrast. Elsewhere, such as on "Rendezvous" and "(In) The Limelight," Mason's brother, Brad, adds the warmer brass sonority of the trombone to the groove essentials. On the former, Jordan adds a layer of acoustic guitars to the mix and the rhythm tracks slip toward the back of the mix; on the latter, he plays a single-string lead throughout over chunky, phased, echoplexed chords over a skittering drum'n'bass loop as the horns play unison harmonics on spare charts that add depth and mass to the rhythm section. Crystal Lake makes an appearance on a gorgeous duet with Jordan. She is a soul singer first, but given the shiny jazz atmospherics, she comes across more like Monday Michiru. On "St. Tropez," the album's closer, we get a club mix. Jordan departs for the first time from the patchwork quilt of pure silky black he's woven over the course of the album. It won't be everybody's thang, but it keeps the sexy, summery vibe even if it gives up the jazz groove for a funkier heartbeat. In sum, this is easily Jordan's most consistent date as well as his most mature compositionally, musically, and soulfully. At Last is the summer smooth jazz record of 2003.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek