Tony Windle

Right There

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Like fellow up-and-coming smooth jazz keyboardist Scott Wilkie, Sacramento-based Tony Windle has wised up tremendously by turning away from overly synthetic keyboard sounds and playing more acoustic piano on Right There, the far superior follow-up to Unframed Picture. He gives into such electro temptation on the first cut, bouncing a cutesy flute-flavored synth line off the rich soprano melody of Jeff Kashiwa on "4th Avenue," then exploring a series of other quirky tones. A bass-heavy funk cover of Michael Jackson's "Baby Be Mine" forms the bridge to the more organic tunes, opening with a swirling synth circus before easing into a playful piano melody. "Spring's Hope," the first smooth jazz tune Windle ever wrote, borrows seriously from the classic David Benoit sound, elegant, angst-free and ultra-melodic. Throughout the rest of this compelling album, Windle creates a unique balancing act between emotional balladry and hardcore R&B with a wistful piano melody on top. The lush, orchestra-enhanced "Up Home" enters Windle into the ring for a future film composing duty, blending simple emotional statements with harmonic ideas touching on his Irish heritage. Following this with the slamming, percussive "Shuffle Shack" -- on which Windle blends dancing piano lines, Hammond B-3 harmonies, and the searing soprano sax of Scott Reams -- is a jolt, but at least there is some diversity. A similar contrast is created by juxtaposing the power ballad "Never Never Land" (featuring a Richard Elliot-like tenor fire by Greg Vail) and the jubilant Latin jam "Shaker Kids." Windle seems a bit all over the map, but as long as he's stroking the ivories and resisting the machinery, he's all pleasure.

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