In film director's lingo, the term "magic hour" indicates the last stretch of daylight providing optimum conditions for shooting before the sun goes down. Picture perfect imagery is the goal, and every second counts. Steve Allee, who combines a graceful Joe Sample acoustic piano sensibility with jazzy edges over a shifting rhythmic playground, touches on such moments with a blend of romance and frolic. While the dynamics and sonic hues are constantly shifting under the direction of Allee and producer/saxman Tom Borton, the numerous charms of The Magic Hourcome in three basic patterns--urban, pop/jazz and lush balladry. Allee's R&B inspirations chime in on the punchy and percussive title track, the hip-hoppy "Quantum Soup," and the lively trip to "Cucamonga." Well-versed in big band (he once played with Buddy Rich's orchestra), his sense of straight ahead and brassy textures is solid as well, as evidenced on "Shake It," which features Bob Sheppard's wild tenor solo). Borton's soprano eloquence helps elicit the smooth on the disc's most effective ballad "Gold Coast." Also on hand lending brass support is Allee's former classmate Jerry Hey on trumpet. Roll camera, we've still got a few minutes left.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran