J. Spencer

Blue Moon

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Twenty-something jazz saxophonist J. Spencer creates an engaging mix of solid, contemporary, straight-ahead jazz with a hip-hop sensibility delivered with a youthful spark. On his second MoJazz album, Blue Moon, Spencer continues to develop his sassy mix of jazz and hip-hop idioms. On the mellow title cut (not to be confused with the standard of the same title), in a staid tone, Spencer recites statements that may or may not have a deeper meaning: "my mother, my father...once in a blue moon/unconditional love...once in a blue moon." "I Want U" is silky and romantic with seductive vocals by Will Davis and James Pugh. The smooth "Bells" opens with a rap by Father Dom that includes a marriage proposal and fresh backwards vocals. The first single was the radio-friendly cut "U Should Be Mine," with lead vocals by Stokley of the group Mint Condition. The music video of the song occasionally airs on BET's Midnight Love. Often in a bid for much-needed airplay, contemporary jazz artists cover pop tunes. Most of the covers amount to the aural equivalent of bland wallpaper; devoid of any real personality and invention. Such is not the case with Spencer's cover of Sade's "Cherish the Day," with its soft, funky groove and snappy licks by John "Jubu" Smith. Spencer blows solid lines on his cover of the Stylistics' "Hurry Up This Way Again," and the softly elegant "Reggae Vibe." "Close to You" (an original tune, not the Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach/Hal David standard) is great for enjoying with that special someone. As he did with his first MoJazz album, Chimera, Spencer closes his album with an inspirational track. "Lord I Need You" has vocals by gospel great Walter Hawkins. J. Spencer proves again that contemporary jazz need not be uninvolving.

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