Joseph Diamond

Island Garden

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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran

Simply stated, this disc is loaded with fun and captures the true essence of both traditional and smooth jazz in a Latin and Caribbean context. Because it's an indie release by an artist who the average fan of any of those genres has never heard of, it feels okay to borrow an old cliché from his last name. Discovering this marvelously inventive, melodically gifted, and improvisationally astute keyboardist/composer is like finding a diamond amidst lots of rocks that are much better hyped. The liner notes state that Diamond spent many years performing in the Caribbean, and the festive, frolicsome island spirit infuses his musical point of view. "Montoya Mambo" is typical of his inventive multi-movement approach. Blending with Adam Niewood's tenor and a choir of soothing, soaring voices creates a smooth effect, but the percussion is intense and the groove is up and funky -- perfect for rhythm and jazz until the jumpy Latin piano solo kicks in two minutes in and transforms the piece entirely. Diamond takes the same basic approach on "Anytime" -- easy as he blends with Bruce Williamson's flute in spots, then more aggressive, bouncy, and tropical in other sections. His playing is much like that of David Benoit, another master of all trades who switches easily between salsa/mambo intensity and the straightforward kick back smooth jazz. "L.A." is perfect for that format, while "That's Not a Good Idea" is back in the island-hopping mode. Diamond also has a sensitive side on occasion; on one of the few ballads, "Someday It Will Be Okay," he stirs up a blend of hope amidst the melancholy, duetting on most of the melody passages with the moody bass of Leo Traversa. All of this only offers the highlights -- there are 13 tracks in all, one more engaging than the next.

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