George Cables of the New York Jazz Assembly applies a very Samplesque ivory touch to the variety of moodswings found on Return to Paradise; he's laid-back and subtle on ballads like "I Fall in Love Too Easily," and much more aggressive skating over the samba grooves of "Last Night While We Were Young." While Cables' shifts between straightforward piano melodies and often arpeggio'd improvisations set the tone of most of the songs, on some his energy level perks up at the urging of the throbbing rhythm section. On the wacky Latin jam "CTA," Cables offers a lively recurring motif to break up a host of powerful percussion fills by Ray Armando. Then a bouncy melody zips along, trying to keep pace with John Heard's spunky basslines, before a new, faster piano melody responds to an even speedier percussion line. Ironically, for all of that red hot action, the NYJA divides its time with gentle acoustic reflections that ring sweet but ultimately drag due to an extremely slow tempo. Best to focus on the fun ones. Skirting the line as Sample does between cool acoustic jazz and more funky, pop oriented spurts of musical fury, they create a sound equally appealing to smooth jazz and straight-ahead fans.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran