Affirmation

Lost Angeles

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Originally released by the Inner City label 20 years ago, this digitally remastered album fuses not only elements of rock and jazz, but the diverse backgrounds of the members of the group. Prior associations include stints with the Shirelles, Earth, Wind & Fire, Frank Zappa, and Burt Bacharach. One might say this group -- knowingly or not -- helped set the stage for the smooth jazz movement 20 years ago. With the use of keyboards, synthesizer, and other electrically driven wizardry, they create that seamless, undynamic, rarely pausing smooth jazz feel, but still allow some room for improvisation. The major credit for that goes to the jazz viola of Jimbo Ross. He swings with emotion on "Essence," driven by Mike Fisher's percussive implements. Ross' tone and agility help put to rest that snide remark about the "oversized violin" (viz., "if you don't want your violin stolen, put in it a viola case"). As for the play list, virtually all the tunes are written by either keyboardist Thom Teresi or guitarist Joe Gaeta. "Catch as Catch Can" has Ross and Teresi dancing around the melody line. The title tune also provides an opportunity for some clever improvising. But for the most part, while pretty, the pieces rarely rise above the level of the ordinary and sound alike. It's too bad, because one senses the musicians wish they had something more substantial to put their teeth into.

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