A. Ray Fuller

The Weeper

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A. Ray Fuller, a veteran jazz/R&B jack of all guitar situations (David Foster, Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Whitney Houston), finds it appropriate to call his solo smooth jazz/funk debut after his George Duke-originated nickname. Yet happily, the proceedings are anything but melancholy as he celebrates life, love, picture-perfect melodies and the all-important groove with a great party of supportive friends. The fun part of a longtime studio and touring cat emerging from the shadows is the all-star guest list, and while Fuller's crisp, precise electric strings drive the collection, it's clear that he's enjoying interacting with the company. The most notable contributions come from longtime employer Duke, whose brimming Fender Rhodes harmonies are so vibrant on the spiritual-minded "Speak Brother" that Fuller brings him back for an encore of the song as the closing track. More typical of how the guitarist works with his guests is the mid-tempo cool vibin' "Weeper's Thang," which brings Everette Harp's sax along mostly for a doubling role on the chorus. He works with Eric Marienthal on the bouncy "Free Spirit" much the same way. For all the star wattage (Phil Perry, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ricky Lawson), the guests who stand out strongest throughout are keyboardist Dave Kochanski and bassist Larry Kimpel. Fuller complements his irresistible originals with a nice mix of covers of tunes by a wide array of icons, from John Coltrane to Teena Marie.

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