When the producers of Fox-TV's Melrose Place were searching for source music to complete the ambience of The Upstairs Jazz Club, "owned" by Heather Locklear's character Amanda, they knew that the growing Windham Hill Jazz label was the best one-stop shop. Melrose Place Jazz is a 16-track collection featuring brand new or recent material from contemporary jazz, newcomers, and jazz/R&B female vocalists. In a clever contrast to the uppity nature of most of the show's characters and the hyperbole of their dramatic situations, the recording's best tunes feature magnificently restrained efforts by Etta James, Diana Krall, and Patti Cathcart of Tuck & Patti. James hits a soulful chord greeting "The Man I Love," while Cathcart marvels, her rich husky timbre soaring above the eloquent electric guitar lines of Tuck Andress, at the power of love's deliverance on the plaintive "Takes My Breath Away." Most of the instrumental tracks are pretty straightforward and mellow, even a bit on the bland side; the kind of amiable ballads and midtempo tunes smooth jazz radio devours but which are more of a primer on the genre than of any innovative significance. Only a few cuts rise above this sugary, rhythmically easy approach -- Tom Scott's Latin brass punch playing cat and mouse with Buzz Feiten's rocking guitar on the "Melrose Place Theme," and Ernie Watts' bop-laced tangent on Don Grusin's "Solaria." Also jaunting above the pack is the revelation of vocalist/saxman Johnny Reno, whose blues-drenched, "Route 66"-influenced dash on "Martinis at Eight" captures the hip timelessness of the recent swing explosion.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran