Brave New World


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It's not clear whether the sax-keyboard duo Todd Nystrom and Chuck Henry called their attractive musical marriage Brave New World because they felt they were being innovative or simply to express their affection for the recent Rippingtons album of the same name. Either way, Worldwind is as strong as melodically exciting, hip-hop oriented smooth jazz gets, with hip modern and retro effects ranging from loops to Fender Rhodes and even an out of the blue insertion of a big-band sample on "Buttermilk Sky," which has the effect of a tried and true blast from the past over modern machinery. While a few numbers with a real rhythm section would have added more variety, the duo gives us more than enough to latch onto and get involved with sonically. The essential setup on most tunes is a Nystrom soprano or alto sax melody (which is often doubled on the hooks to create a sassy horn section effect) over a shuffling groove and a variety of keyboard harmony sounds. On tunes like the Sanbornesque opener "The Way to Your Heart," Henry's vibrant piano solo lets us know he's more than just a groovy technician. While BNW is mostly a self-contained unit, guitarist Jason Bowen makes a few grabs for the spotlight. His subdued acoustic matches Nystrom's gritty horn note for note on "Buttermilk Sky" while his dark, soulful, Memphis bass solo provides a brooding counterpoint to Nystrom's sugary soprano musings on the umpteenth (but still agreeable) smooth jazz cover of "Holding Back the Years."

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