Rayford Griffin

Rebirth of the Cool

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Longtime studio musician Rayford Griffin steps out on his own with Rebirth of the Cool. Conceptual conceits aside -- this ain't no Birth of the Cool -- Griffin has crafted an average smooth jazz album that occasionally features more hardcore jazz improvisation than one might expect on a similar album in the genre. A drummer by trade, Griffin also takes lead vocal duties, showcasing his pleasant laid-back style on the title track -- a cute history lesson of bop-era aesthetics. Despite an all-star cast of musicians including tenor saxophonist Branford Marsalis, trumpeter Michael "Patches" Stewart, and bassist Stanley Clarke, this is unfortunately fairly tepid stuff -- trite lyrics and synth-heavy production -- that holds few surprises for most jazz fans. This isn't to say it is a total waste of time; on the contrary, Stewart's extended improvisation on "Lids and Squares" is reminiscent of '70s-era Donald Byrd, and many of the other tracks evince an improvisational edginess uncommon in most jazz-pop releases.

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