Marion Meadows

Dressed to Chill

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Soprano saxist Marion Meadows has been a crown prince in the smooth jazz court for so long, it's easy to wonder if he remembers his days woodshedding with Joe Henderson and Norman Connors' Starship Orchestra. He's been wildly successful, and his time with the Heads Up label has hardly been wasted; his rep is deep and wide, and his records move. Unlike a better selling counterpart on the same instrument, Meadows has a keen sense of rhythm and pitch, and his tonal control is top-notch. Given the tunes here, interchangeable deep relaxing grooves that borrow on everything from trip-hop to jazz, and house to Wes Montgomery's early experiments -- check "Remember Me," for evidence of the latter -- it's easy to forget the individuality Meadows possesses not only on soprano, but also on tenor and flute (he employs all three on "Coco Flow,") as well as alto on the opening title track. He duets with himself on soprano and tenor on "Bounce" and "Remember Me." Meadows' key collaborator here is composer, programmer, and keyboard whiz Mike Broening. He's the guy who comes up with the skeletal, wispy rhythm loops -- leaving the need for a drummer non-existent. There are three tracks with vocals here, "Miss Know It All," an urban soul ballad with Will Brock doing his best Terence Trent D'Arby, and "1000 Dreams" with Caji Da Bahia, an overblown sunstorm of loaded overdubbing. The cover of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" is an understated ballad with some beautiful phrasing by Meadows, even when the all too familiar chorus kicks in. When the backing vocalists -- Vanessa and Lori Williams and Raymond Reeder -- enter, they are so utterly masked by production technique, it's hard to tell they are real singers. But it works, especially in the bridge when Meadows actually plays some blues lines. Meadows is a seriously gifted if unchallenged musician. He could use a new writing partner, but that doesn't mean that Dressed to Chill won't satisfy fans; it most certainly will.

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