Ken Navarro

Old Friends: The Best of Ken Navarro

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This Maryland-based guitarist is probably not the first name you mention when you think of popular smooth jazz artists. Yet, while vets like Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton always get more glory and recognition, Navarro has slowly built one of the most consistently exciting and appealing catalogs in the genre over the past decade plus. Recording for his own label, he's done 12 CDs (including the explosive live date Ablaze in Orlando) and toured the country many times over. This retrospective, featuring 13 digitally remastered classics and two newly recorded songs (a new take on his well-known cool funk tune "Imperfect Things" and the hip-hop flavored acoustic groover "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"), perfectly captures his mix of fiery electric energy and lighthearted picture-perfect acoustic melodies. His genre of choice doesn't exactly encourage wild fusion excursions, but Navarro rebels slightly on the very hooky electric gem "When Night Calls," which features a blistering distorted solo along with keyboardist Jay Rowe's stellar improvisations and the powerful sax of Eric Marienthal. Another standout is the elegant ballad for Navarro's son, "Eric's Dream," featuring the seductive sax of Brandon Fields. Most of the other tracks fall somewhere in between these two modes, jarring the smooth jazz fan's memory very easily. The liner notes convey the joy Navarro had doing the original recordings and then rediscovering his "old friends" while remastering them for this can't-miss project.

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