Les Sabler

Sweet Drive

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    5
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AllMusic Review by

The list of well-known Los Angeles-based musicians who Canadian guitarist Les Sabler employs on Sweet Drive is impressive. Keyboardist Jeff Lorber, saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Gary Meek, bassist Brian Bromberg (who produced this 2007 release), trumpeter Jerry Hey (of Seawind fame), drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and percussionist Alex Acuña are among the participants. With such an all-star cast, Sweet Drive should have been excellent. But regrettably, this 60-minute CD is dominated by formulaic, radio-oriented smooth jazz that will probably appeal to NAC program directors but isn't terribly memorable. The problem with most of Sweet Drive is not a lack of chops on Sabler's part; the Montreal native is a capable and talented, if derivative, player whose direct or indirect influences include George Benson, Lee Ritenour, Wes Montgomery, Larry Carlton, and Earl Klugh (among others). Rather, the problem with most of Sweet Drive is that the more Sabler panders to radio, the less inspired he sounds. But gratefully, Sweet Drive does contain some tracks that show listeners what he is actually capable of. Sabler lets loose on the assertive "Food Chain," the dusky "Struttin'," and the funky "Twenty-Two"; those tracks are closer to fusion and prove that Sabler can be an exciting improviser when he gambles with inspiration instead of giving smooth jazz/NAC radio programmers the type of elevator music that they crave. Although frequently disappointing, Sweet Drive definitely has its moments -- and one hopes that in the future, Sabler will spend less time catering to smooth jazz/NAC radio and more time living up to his potential.

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