With a magical combination of neo soul and urban jazz, Smooth Jazz Therapy favorite and flautist extraordinaire Ragan Whiteside is back on the scene with her brand new project ‘Evolve’. It follows her 2007 recording ‘Class Axe’, which at the time I described as finding the sweet spot where contemporary jazz meets smooth R & B, and in common with this previous release benefits hugely from the input of Bob Baldwin and Dennis Johnson. Perfectly demonstrating the talents of Whiteside, not only as a sublime flute player, but also as a songwriter and vocalist, ‘Evolve’ is right up there with the best contemporary jazz albums of 2012.
Take for example the magically mellifluous ‘Livin Doll’ that was co-written by Whiteside, Johnson and Baldwin. It’s the sort of tune of which you will never tire and much the same can be said of the CD’s only cover, a real hip swinging version of the Ohio Players 1975 smash ‘Sweet Sticky Thing’ where Phil Hamilton on guitar and Baldwin on keys complement Whiteside’s contribution on both flute and vocals.
‘Sun Up In My Sky’ is another free flowing, soulful number and the first single to be offered to radio is the wonderfully zesty ‘Off Kilter’ which features Chieli Minucci on guitar and has all the attributes necessary to bring the flute back into mainstream focus. In fact ‘Evolve’ provides a delicious blend of vocals and instrumentals. In this latter category ‘Until Next Time’ revolves around a tuneful duet between Whiteside and sax-man Marion Meadows that really is something to savor while, right up there with the best of the vocal tracks, the hypnotic vibe of ‘Mean To Me’ offers another opportunity for Whiteside to show off her prowess as a bone fide soul singer.
Elsewhere, the title cut is jazzy, percussive and intense whilst in similar vein is ‘Eight Thirty Seven’ where Whiteside’s soaring flute dazzles like light on water. Much the same can be said of her performance with the languidly mellow ‘Memories Of You’ and a real standout in a collection crammed full of them is the superbly soulful ‘On The Dance Floor’. It finds Whiteside in a glorious duet with Porter Carroll Jr yet just as good is the easy grooving ‘Feelin’ Free’ where Bob Baldwin takes a featured spot on keys.
Check out ‘Evolve’ now. You wont be disappointed.