Gregg Karukas


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While naming an album after your initials might indicate a lack of imagination, it also may be taken as suggesting that the contents are representative of the artist. Pianist Gregg Karukas once called a CD You'll Know It's Me, and GK is another collection that's easy to identify. Although he is a smooth jazz player, Karukas doesn't go in for the most contemporary styles of the genre, preferring, for instance, a live rhythm section (here including bassists Eric Baines, Melvin Davis, and Karukas himself, drummer Oscar Seaton, and percussionist Luis Conte) over programmed rhythm tracks. And his antecedents are clear, his music recalling the mid-‘60s soul-jazz of Ramsey Lewis and Cannonball Adderley. Opening tune "Manhattan," in fact, sounds like a rewrite of the 1966 Bobby Hebb hit "Sunny." And Karukas prefers that his guest soloists, here including Rick Braun (flügelhorn, trumpet), Russ Freeman (guitar), and Jessy J (saxophone), only punctuate the proceedings for the most part; although the guests are heard here and there, Karukas' fingers are never far away from his keyboards for long. Of course, it's his playing that really defines the music, and he rolls along, coming up with endless riffs and ripples without really rocking the boat. This is music that is lighthearted and, to an extent, lightweight, relying on textures and colors more than any flashy playing. Whether it turns Brazilian ("Jamba Samba") or funky ("Napa Road"), it remains subtly swinging.

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