Darren Rahn

Speechless

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As of this release, his fourth solo album since 2005, saxophonist Darren Rahn had unfortunately not yet leaped onto the rarefied A list in the contemporary urban/smooth jazz world -- the top sellers who get all the top festival and tour bookings. But he had of late done a lot of touring with guitarist Paul Brown, another genre powerhouse producer of others who slowly amassed a solid solo catalog. Appropriately, they often tagged themselves as "The Producers." Considering its infectious swirl of old-school, hooky funk-driven jams (à la "Revelation," "Into the Light," and "Studio 54," a delightfully disco-fied romp duetting with with Najee's flute) and candlelit slo-jams like "Give 'n' Take" (featuring Brown's cool electric strum), there's no reason Speechless couldn't be the set to get Rahn over the "I'm a producer who makes my own albums" hump. He deserved to be respected as the great evolving saxophone artist he is. Other highlights that perfectly represent Rahn's likable melodic charms include the jangling, back-in-the-day-styled R&B vocal track "Magical" (featuring vocalist and co-writer Joshua), the hypnotic and sensual soprano-laced vocal tune "Speechless" (featuring Maxine Hardcastle), and the super progressive, delightfully synthy and thumping "Euro Trippin'." Speechless is so chock-full of gems that bear repeated listening that it might take a while to get to the playful dual groove on "Flashback," featuring Dave Koz, a genre legend whose sound Rahn is clearly influenced by. While the terrestrial smooth jazz format in 2012 was not what it once was, Rahn's sense of groove and melody perfectly represented the genre (whatever one chose to call it) during this era.

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