Some people like to lump new age and pop-jazz/smooth jazz together, but there are major differences between those two markets. Whatever your feelings about new age -- whether you love it, detest it, or are indifferent -- you have to acknowledge that most people who are seriously into new age culture are sincere. But many of the pop-jazz and instrumental pop artists who cater to NAC radio lack sincerity; in many cases, they would rather be playing fusion or hard bop but decided to go for the bucks instead. Meanwhile, Ken Davis is an example of a new age artist who becomes less believable when he jumps on the smooth jazz bandwagon. Ranging from new age and ambient music to radio-oriented pop-jazz and instrumental pop, Celebration of Life is very much a mixed bag. The CD's more disposable tracks fall into the smooth jazz category, while the more memorable ones tend to favor a new age or ambient approach. If you have nothing kind to say about folks like Richard Elliot, Kenny G, and Dave Koz, you won't have anything kind to say about "Said You Were Wrong" or "Sugar." But if you like Davis as a world music-influenced new age/ambient artist, you might have an easier time getting into "Incantation," "Spacial Jazz," or the South American-influenced "Shaken Not Stirred." Celebration of Life indicates that Davis should stay away from a Kenny G/Dave Koz-type of sound -- and that he should stick to the type of new age and ambient music that he does a better job with.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson