Nick Colionne

Keepin' It Cool

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Emerging from its early days as a new age and world music mecca, Narada is quickly becoming a haven for veteran and up-and-coming smooth jazz artists in the mid-2000s. While famous names like Ramsey Lewis and Jeff Lorber provide an anchor for the bunch, funky and melodic cats like this Wes Montgomery-influenced, Chicago-based electric guitarist bode well for the genre's soulful future. He pays homage directly to his guitar hero on the breezy, atmospheric, and decidedly retro "John L," whose solos amidst the trippy soundscapes seem like spiritual meditations. The hook on that track is as irresistible as the ones that shine throughout, and that, after all, is -- along with catchy grooves -- the mark of a successful song in this genre. While it's clear he can jam, Colionne is intent on creating memorable pieces a listener can hum for days, and succeeds right off the bat with the brash "Can You Feel It" and the sexy, moody title track. Others like "If You Ask Me" and "Liquid" tap into a rich blues influence -- which in the future he should definitely explore even further. If there's one minor drawback, it's that he's so conscious of radio airplay time that he doesn't stretch as much as you can tell he wants to. Though they're buried at the end of the collection, it's worth getting through the first ten tracks to hear his rich vocal cover of "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "High Flyin'," the exciting 2004 hit that established him as a presence in smooth jazz.

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