In 2004, when longtime smooth jazz producer Paul Brown unleashed his more personal guitar artistry via his solo debut, Up Front, and its hit airplay track "24/7," he created an interesting future dilemma for himself: he might someday be competing for radio time and sales against some of the superstars he'd helped to the top. The oft-imitated but never equaled producer, composer, and arranger has been the primary architect of the genre's urban sound for close to 15 years, scoring over 40 number one airplay hits for genre stars like Boney James (who duets with Brown on "Old Friends" and the title track), Rick Braun, Peter White, Kirk Whalum, Euge Groove, Norman Brown, Patti Austin, Larry Carlton, and legendary labelmates Al Jarreau and, in a cool full-circle career twist, Brown's chief jazz guitar influence, George Benson. Opening with the quirky and infectious "Cosmic Monkey," which features wordless vocals by Jeffrey Osborne, Brown gets even looser and funkier on this brilliant follow-up, inviting you into a whole new type of grooving playground. It's refreshing to hear tunes in this genre that sound so organic and uncontrived; the strutting, jamming, and funk-drenched "Las Vegas," written with guitarist Chuck Loeb and featuring the blistering sax of Michael Paulo, was created specifically for a New Year's Eve gig he did in Sin City. The collection also features some immediately identifiable crowd-pleasers -- a moody, retro chill-flavored cover of Grover Washington, Jr.'s trademark classic "Winelight" -- and other tracks that draw on Brown's deeper rock, soul, and jazz influences. The gentle, bossa nova-flavored "Hello Again" will bring to mind the Benson influence, while the thumpin' and crunchin' "Jumpin' Uptown," featuring some of Brown's most intense guitar licks -- textured with cool chill effects -- is the guitarist's throwback to the classic "Bumpin' on Sunset" by another chief inspiration, the legendary Wes Montgomery. He also adds a blast of Tower of Power-flavored brass intensity to "Reel Mutha for Ya," a classic '70s guitar rock-funk tune by Johnny "Guitar" Watson. One of the best smooth jazz dates of 2005.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran