Smooth Urban Jazz


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Smooth Urban Jazz Review

by Jonathan Widran

The lines between urban pop music and hip-hop/R&B-styled smooth jazz with cool background vocals become thinner over time, and Shanachie -- a label that keeps finding creative ways to create all-star concept projects using their roster -- has no problem finding the joys of the gray area here. While a little cheap on the tracking at nine cuts, this disc offers funky smooth jazz arrangements of urban chart-toppers by Aaliyah (the bouncy, hypnotic "Rock the Boat," featuring vocalist Maysa Leak), Jay-Z (a bluesy, moody reworking of "Izzo (Hova)," led by the gospel organ excitement of Moe Daniels), Usher ("U Don't Have to Call"), and others like Shaggy, Missy Elliot, and D'Angelo. Although Ken Navarro (whose balmy guitar smooths out "After Party") and Maysa are billed as featured artists, this is most often a showcase for the impressive soprano work of one of the label's most popular saxmen, Kim Waters. This will be an open door for smooth jazz fans to embrace some slick street sounds, and it should help Waters reach a larger audience, which he has long deserved.

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