It's taken a long time, but he finally nailed it. Everette Harp is a bona fide star in the smooth, or "contemporary" jazz genre. As a saxophonist, his talent is undeniable. One can hear everyone from Junior Walker to Grover Washington, Jr to Stanley Turrentine, Cannonball Adderley, and David Sanborn in his playing, which is forceful, song-like and emotive. He cops to it in the liner notes, and that's just fine; that honesty is what frees him up to make the kind of music he wants to and acknowledging those influences places his own music in a direct line from his predecessors. That said, while some of his records have been very good, he's never gotten exactly what he needed from a label or a producer -- or an engineer for that matter -- to really make it all come together in a way that knocks the ball out of the park. Until now, that is. With his move to Shanachie Records in 2006, Harp found a new creative freedom, to let his jazz chops shine right along with his soul and funk grooves. Harp brought in a bunch of old friends for this date, George Duke is here, as is Jeff Lorber and James K. Lloyd from Pieces of a Dream, but he's done that before. What really gets it here is that the band he put together on this set is tight, sympathetic, and ready to punch it up a notch. Harp wrote seven of these ten tunes, with one each by Lloyd and Lorber, and there's a nice little cover of "Don't Look Any Further." Lloyd's "Juke Joint" opens the set, and it's pure funky J.B.'s funk all slicked up with a slippery backing groove, punched up horns, and a melody that exists because the groove is so pronounced. The Rhodes solo by Lloyd is smokin' but it's Alex Al's rubbery bassline and Harp leading off a three-piece horn line that makes it pop. The production on this tune is a bit compressed, but there are enough raw edges to really make it pop. Harp's "All Jazzed Up (And Nowhere to Go)" comes right out of the '70s CTI catalog . This could have appeared on either Washington's Feels So Good or Mister Magic LPs, and that's a very high compliment. The composition is seamless with an elegant soulful melody line, and the keyboard work by Rex Rideout and Harp is perfect, moving like a snaky Bob James in his prime, with Harp finding the right solo for the groove. The doubling of A. Ray Fuller's guitar, Teddy Campbell's neat cowbell touches on the drums, and percussion by Lenny Castro all over the sound is superb, but it's the larger horn section that's pushing Harp out front in his solo, and he goes for it without ever leaving the tough yet romantic funky party line. This is one of the hippest tunes Harp has ever written or cut. The ballads are fine, too, as "In My Time" illustrates; its lithe Rhodes lines by Rideout and Harp's melodic invention and vamping on the melody move the tune into a spacious groove. The guitar fills by Fuller are simply superb. "Old School" is exactly what it claims to be: pure, funky, silky soul-jazz that emerges from the late-'70s/early-'80s school complete with CTI-style synth-string arrangements. Lorber and Harp's "Funky Palisades" is in the pocket, tough, lean and mean with startling breaks by Campbell on the drum kit. "Wait 4 U" is a beautiful little stepper of a mid-tempo ballad with nice interaction between Fuller and Harp. The tight percussion on "Don't Look Any Further" is another neat little Washington-Creed Taylor touch. Lenny Castro kicks in the groove, and Harp handles melody, dynamics, and the unique texturing of the tune with some neat wordless backing vocals and an elegant nylon string guitar solo by guest Dwight Sills. The set closes with the title tune, a ballad that one assumes was written for Harp's father, who passed away earlier in 2007. It's a vocal tune with Harp singing, and it's heartfelt even if it comes off as an odd choice on this kind of a groove-fest. It's one of those tunes he just had to do, and he should be respected for it. It's tacked on at the end of the album. Someone with a larger ego and less taste would have made it first. It's a quiet thank you and tribute even if it departs significantly from the rest of the material here. It's pleasant, but doesn't need to be heard more than once or twice -- unlike the rest of the set, which is addictive. Make no mistake, this is the one where all the previous bonds come off and Harp emerges full of ideas, his trademark chops intact, and despite his obvious nods to his heroes, he's a player, composer, and producer firmly in his own right. Great.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek