Nearly 30 years and 15 albums deep into one of contemporary jazz's most consistently melodic and funky careers, Bobby Lyle continues to take a Hands On approach to creating a perfect balance of elegance and groove. On his Heads Up debut, the versatile pianist -- who has been musical director for Bette Midler, Al Jarreau, and Anita Baker, et al., between solo projects -- is intent on grabbing the listener right away with three jamming and danceable, synth brass-flavored tracks that also lightly showcase his inventive and playful sense of improvisation. He sandwiches a gleeful, bouncy version of the familiar disco hit "Best of My Love" with the seductive "Passion Drive" and the title cut, on which Lyle floats a light-on-its-feet melody over thoroughly modern crunchy, thumping beats. Amidst this rhythmic overdrive are a handful of cuts that perfectly capture Lyle's trademark romantic vibe: the balmy, tropically tinged "Poinciana," the reflective closer "Beth" (which showcases his sweet ivory magic at its most poignant), and "Lost in Love," an irresistible ballad written and performed by Lyle and the always captivating Peabo Bryson. Longtime Lyle fans will also enjoy the heavy mix of old-school synth and acoustic piano on "Return of the Genie," which recalls the cool vibe of his debut album, The Genie. It's a perfect way to chart his growth as an artist over the years and to show that the charm was there from the beginning.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran