Steve Oliver

Radiant

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This buoyant smooth jazz guitarist and vocalist was once described by Jazziz Magazine as having a personality that was genuinely "Disneyland all the time." Many genre greats balk at having their music called "happy jazz," but Oliver would no doubt take that as a compliment. His deepening production textures show that he can do more than simply create playful, upbeat, instantly hummable melodies, but he's always focused on making sure the listener has a great time. His second recording was called Positive Energy and the title of this disc sums up his ongoing vibe and mission even more succinctly. While his previous recordings included numerous tracks featuring "big" productions and all-star guest artists like Harvey Mason and Eric Marienthal (who both guested on his previous project, 3D), he committed this time to a slightly scaled-back approach that focuses more intimately on his guitar and voice -- which truly has the power to create a multi-layered "orchestra" all its own. Oliver brought back Spyro Gyra keyboardist Tom Schuman -- who co-produced 3D -- to co-produce the graceful and sensual "Across the Water" and the lush, inspirational closing vocal track, "Radiant Dreams," but on the other nine tracks sought the fresh perspective of co-producer, keyboardist, and programmer Michael Broening. Like Oliver's previous albums, Radiant thrives on the thrilling sunshine of lively, playful nylon string-driven tracks like the opener (whose title says it all), "Feeling Good"; "Tradewinds" (which begins in a dreamy, swaying mode before evolving into a funky jam); "Good to Go," a Latin/world music fusion explosion featuring a sizzling, full-throttle offering of Oliver's guitar, "vocalese," vocal percussion, and trippy production ambience; and the brassy and bluesy, R&B-flavored "Cool." The musician's first two recordings featured all original songs, but his success in "Oliverizing" John Lennon's "Imagine" -- which has become a popular staple of his live shows -- inspired him to rework in his own inimitable way (this time vocally) another chestnut from the same era, Stephen Stills' classic 1966 track with Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth."

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