Ron Haynes / Urban Knights

The Chicago Project

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The Chicago Project Review

by Matt Collar

Three artists who've worked prominently with Ramsey Lewis' Urban Knights group take center stage on The Chicago Project. Trumpeter Ron Haynes, guitarist Fareed Haque, and keyboardist Kevin Randolph under the production guidance of Urban Knight Frayne T. Lewis have concocted a funky and slick offering sure to please most smooth jazz aficionados. While these beat-heavy selections contain all the hallmarks of radio-friendly instrumental pop-jazz, there is the aura of something new here. Perhaps it's the Chicago post-rock, avant-jazz connotation of bands like Tortoise and Isotope 217 that lends a progressive edginess to this "project." Or, maybe it's the odd, angular keyboard background flourishes that add a forward-thinking, protean future feel to this otherwise mainstream production. Truthfully, though, there is little to compare on The Chicago Project with the experimental noodlings of the likes of John McEntire or Rob Mazurek. Primarily this is hip, danceable, studio-perfect music that references the best of European acid jazz. Highlights include pianist Randolph's blissed-out Rhodes solo on "All the Way" and Haynes' Harmon-muted feature "On the Block," which he opens up sans mute halfway through in true Donald Byrd fashion.

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