When in June 2007 I reviewed ‘Tippin' on the Edge of Funk’, the debut album from producer, songwriter and musician John Bolden (AKA J. Dee), I commented that it checked virtually every box of how up to the minute contemporary jazz should sound. Laden with an amalgam of urban, jazz, funk and soul grooves it proved to be a hugely accomplished first outing and placed him with the likes Boney James as someone with the ability to build bridges between smooth and urban jazz. Now he is back with the brand new ‘Smoove On The Move’ for which, as well as writing twelve of the thirteen tracks, J Dee also produces and plays both soprano sax and keyboards. The outcome is a lavish concoction of urban jazz which pulses with a light and shade that at times is unbelievably tender and at others outrageously addictive.
‘Smoove On The Move’ is a collection of contrasts and ‘Boom Ba Boom Boom Boom’ shows off an understatedly funky side to J Dee’s persona. With a throaty vocal delivered by Claude J Woods this languid smoker really rocks and when Woods returns to lend a hand on the sunshine filled ‘Ask Myself’ the synergy between the performers proves to be nothing short of breathtaking. The mellow and romantic ‘Coast Rollin’ allows J Dee to get jazzy in what is a decidedly smooth sort of way and he keeps the vibe gentle for the title cut where the ‘tick tock’ beat might just get in your head and not go away.
‘Zoom Zoom’ features J Dee in funky mode and reverberates to a chorus heavy with influences from The 5th Dimension while the doo-wap interlude of ‘Get Gone’ affords him the opportunity to shift gears and slide into quiet storm territory for the atmospherically soulful ‘Keep It Movin’ Baby’. This deconstructed gem is really special and J Dee remains on vocals for the mid tempo groove of ‘Too Hip Fa Seafood’. When later in the album the track is reprised, ostensibly as an instrumental (but with the retention of a smattering of the amusing lyrics) J Dee’s silky sax is again truly memorable. Stevie Wonder’s classic ‘Don’t You Worry Bout A Thang’ is the album’s only cover into which J Dee injects a delightful Latin twist whilst the zesty ‘I’m Bout Ta Bust A Move On Ya!’ finds him taking a catchy riff and embellishing it for all it’s worth.
As a soprano sax player J Dee will inevitably draw comparisons with Kenny G and for ‘Is This Cool Or What’ his playing has all the smooth edginess that the great man displayed in his 1983 ‘G Force’ phase. It is clearly one of the CD’s outstanding tracks and another winner is the tasty ‘It’s On And Crackin’ where J Dee provides a superbly phrased melody and more rhythm than you could ever need. That said, in the final analysis, the Smooth Jazz Therapy top tune is ‘Lets Walk’ where J Dee’s own take on the dance phenomenon of ‘steppin’ is sensational. With a great ‘instructional’ rap from Big Hos and a luscious veneer of horns this one will enliven even the most tired of dancing feet.
Prior to carving out a solo career J Dee was perhaps best known for his production and arrangement credits that include Grover Washington’s 1992 album, ‘Next Exit’. However that was then and this is now. ‘Smoove On The Move’ is taking him one step closer to the glittering prize of contemporary jazz stardom. It comes highly recommended.