The Smooth Jazz All Stars

Fred Hammond Smooth Jazz Tribute

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Ouch! This Fred Hammond Smooth Jazz Tribute is a great idea in theory. Hammond's gospel song structures lend themselves well to circular rhythm, extended harmonies and melodic improvisation as well as groove-ridden basslines. That said, the "Smooth Jazz All Stars" on Copy Cat Records are nearly atonal in places, their sense of time is simply off in some places, and not there at all in others. The lagging tempos and strictly un-funky arrangements (even in a restrained way) stink. Let's face it, the greatest practitioners in this genre, from the late Grover Washington, Jr., and George Howard, and even to Bob James and Dave Grusin have got some of that going for them. When a rocker like "Lord of the Harvest" is played with a wooden, lifeless-sounding off-key lead saxophone line and it's overdubbed, what do you think you get? Elsewhere, as in Hammond's truly soul-stirring "I Will Find a Way," the drummer sounds more like an old toy department drum machine that needs its batteries changed. Simply terrible.

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