It's ironic that on Ramsey Lewis' Urban Knights II (GRP), the one holdover from the first Knights project is only featured half the time. Needless to say, that's the more riveting, jazzier half of this Maurice White-produced exercise in easy funk and potent, machine generated urban grooves. Lewis' slowly simmering, coolly rhythmic piano jaunts add flair to middle of the road silky pieces like "The Promise," but are best enjoyed on the two playful solo interludes which create an organic contrast to the slicker fare they complement. The pianist also adds an avant-garde edge to the heavily soundscaped "Brazilian Rain." Aside from Lewis, this all-star affair features some spirited gospel keyboard and vocal flavors surrounding Najee's soprano sax and flute, as well as a "South African Jam" celebration hosted by Jonathan Butler's happy vocals and guitar. While a positive effort overall, for the inevitable Urban Knights III, White would benefit from ditching the machinery and letting his stars jam more spontaneously.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran
feat: Urban Nights II