Various Artists

Smooth Jazz Essentials

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In the early days of smooth jazz, labels would regularly release samplers to introduce listeners to their artists, which worked both artistically, and as a marketing tool. The practice is a bit less common in these times, but the success of this all-star collection proves that it's still an effective way to promote artists. Most of the artists here are or have been on the Native Language roster, and a good handful of the tunes have been huge radio hits, including Jeff Kashiwa's instant classic "Hyde Park (The 'ah ooh' Song)," Steve Oliver's infectious "High Noon," and Everette Harp and Brian Bromberg's likeable cover of "Rock With You." It was good logic to lead with a great cut from Dan Siegel's just-released label debut. Juan Carlos Quintero's samba "Jobim" shows that the label isn't afraid to take risks outside the mainstream of the genre. The real joys here, however, are three stellar tracks that we haven't heard before -- keyboardist Theo Bishop's lush "Tonight's the Night" (from a forthcoming album), bassist Jennifer York's brass-splashed funkfest "405 Jam," and the urban intensive "Big City," Marc Antoine's track with label owner Joe Sherbanee. These tracks have all been, or will at some point, be essential to the smooth jazz format.

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