To a hardcore classical snob, the very idea of a non-classical tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is offensive and insulting. People who feel that way insist that the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, or any other European classical legend should be off limits to all rock, R&B, jazz, blues, and folk artists -- period. But those who are more broad-minded would counter that yes, Mozart's music can, in fact, be interpreted -- that it doesn't have to be placed under a sheet of glass and treated like an exhibit in a museum. Released in 2000, Mozart: Rhythm & Romance finds instrumentalist John Lee Sanders putting a 21st century spin on Mozart's work. This CD isn't always easy to categorize, although much of the material is either new age or jazz-pop. And while classical snobs will be horrified that Sanders would even think of recording this type of project, parts of Mozart: Rhythm & Romance are fairly creative. Instead of generalizing, it is best to evaluate the disc on a track-by-track basis. There are a few throwaways; "Heart of Hearts," "Someone to Cling To," and "Au Revior Salzburg" favor a boring NAC/instrumental pop sound along the lines of Kenny G or Richard Elliot -- these tracks are totally forgettable. But Sanders is more creative on the Brazilian-flavored "Samba Amadeus" (which is based on Symphony No. 4 in G Minor) and "Mozart in Mississippi," which is influenced by soul-jazz and contains hints of Hank Crawford and David "Fathead" Newman. Meanwhile, "Memory in the Mist" favors a Celtic/new age blend -- nothing remarkable, but pleasant enough. Mozart: Rhythm & Romance is definitely a mixed bag, but even though some tracks are disposable, the CD's more memorable offerings demonstrate that Mozart's melodies can be relevant to 21st century tastes.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson