Ray Obiedo

Modern World

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One of Windham Hill's core jazz guitarists long before the label became a smooth jazz haven, Ray Obiedo jumps ship to a new label but offers up the same appealing mix of in-the-pocket radio-ready niceties (the bubbly and melodic "Carousel") and more aggressive and exotic Latin extravaganzas like "Sunset." While Obiedo is effective at communicating easy pop-oriented messages, he's at his best when challenging himself. "Sunset" finds him in a note-for-note duet with the unmistakable Caribbean steel pan sounds of Andy Narell as wordless female vocals -- and some dense percussion provided by Pete Escovedo and others -- soar and swirl in the background. Narell then carries the tune further alongside the amazing flute of Norbert Stachel. What's amazing about Obiedo is that, despite his crack electric guitar ability, he loves sharing the spotlight with his all-star guests. Chief among these is harmonica legend Toots Thielemans, who carries the middle verses of "Slow Hot Wind" -- a meditative arrangement of the Henry Mancini classic -- on a lazy but passionate breeze. Obiedo also kicks back on the title track and lets it become a playground for saxman Bob Mintzer and flutist Stachel to bounce off of each other. That song also features a honking trumpet solo by Bill Ortiz. Although on some tracks you might wonder just whose disc this is, Obiedo returns to the sort of unique experimentation (within a melodic framework) that characterized some of his best Windham Hill recordings.

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