Warren Hill

La Dolce Vita

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Pop superstar Natasha Bedingfield wasn't the only artist bringing a "Pocketful of Sunshine" to the musical landscape in 2008. Thanks to veteran contemporary jazz saxman Warren Hill's equal penchant for colorful vocals, his vibrant and romantic singalong "Sunshine" is an early highlight on his compelling, melodically and groovingly irresistible Koch Records debut, La Dolce Vita. Hill is so optimistic that even when the clouds come, they pour out a graceful soprano ballad full of balmy acoustic guitar harmony and "Warm Rain." Like a lot of artists in his genre who have been around since NAC became "smooth jazz," Hill's a survivor, heading to smaller labels when the majors jumped ship and always finding a comfortable home to funk around in. Song for song, this collection is as high-spirited, sensual, and colorful as any he's ever done, starting with the cool struttin' "Mojo" on down through the seductive horn-doubling extravaganzas "Daydreamer" and "Gimme Some," and digging down and dirtier on the old-school jam "Skinny Dippin'." Nearly 20 years into his career, Hill was still enjoying a little balmy exotica among his in-the-pocket can't-miss radio-ready tracks; here, he shuffles down to Rio on the moody, cosmopolitan, and vibes-kissed "The Jive Samba" and mixes Jamaican "industrialism" with sensual Latin dance grooves and horn snazziness on the appropriately titled "Hill Be Jammin'." The erstwhile rock & roller also keeps his longstanding history of doing classic rock tunes alive with a smoothed-out, dreamily hypnotic twist on "Light My Fire." As the title implies, Hill plays with a lot of sugar, as in instantly catchy ear candy. But there's enough blister and edge to make this a rich artistic triumph as well. Along for the ride are some of smooth jazz's always dependable "usual suspects," including Nathan East, Paul Jackson, Jr., and labelmates Jeff Golub and Philippe Saisse.

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