Smooth Jazz Therapy has admired the music of the wonderfully soulful Ragan Whiteside since 2007 and the release of the highly acclaimed ‘Class Axe’. Not only did it mark her out as a leading exponent the smooth jazz flute but also glistened with production touches from Bob Baldwin and Dennis Johnson. This collaboration was again on sensational show for Ragan’s 2012 project ‘Evolve’ and has carried on to her brand new CD ‘Quantum Drive’. Not only that, with an all-star roster featuring Baldwin, Patrice Rushen, Frank McComb and Althea René, this is a collection that merits closer scrutiny and which has already been described as soulful, daring, sultry and edgy.
None more so in this respect is the zesty flute-fest of ‘Soul Biscuit’ that has both Baldwin and Johnson contributing on keyboards and when she notches down the tempo for the beguiling Bob Baldwin composition ‘Like The First Time’, the result is just as good. In fact Whiteside's connection with Baldwin predates her ‘Class Axe’ debut as even before she had won the 2006 Capital Jazz Challenge, Ragan had already caught his attention. She played flute on Baldwin’s 2004 album ‘Brazil Chill’ and a year later Baldwin included her on his follow up, ‘All In A Day’s Work’. In fact, for ‘Quantum Drive’, Baldwin writes (or co-writes) seven of the twelve tracks that, complete with a smattering of intro’s and interludes, are all fine examples of hugely relevant R & B tinged jazz.
Ragan’s trademark rhythmic style is front back and center of the of the sparking ‘Valentin Dream’ which features Baldwin on piano and he is again around for the easy grooving ‘Indrani’ that in every respect is beauty personified.
Whiteside was recently voted Flutist of the Year at the 2014 Black Women in Jazz Awards and someone else in the shake-up for that particular honor, smooth jazz flautist Althea René, joins her for a duet on the seriously grooving ‘Wing And A Prayer’. From start to finish it is a complete delight and much the same can be said of ‘Gentle Touch’ for which the title betrays the sexy vibe of this sumptuous song.
Later, the hard driving yet mellifluous title cut owes much to Whiteside’s prowess on flute and vocals while elsewhere the decidedly jazzy ‘Smokey Room’ includes a keyboard solo from contemporary jazz heavyweight Frank McComb.
One of the highlights of ‘Quantum Drive’ is the funky dance groove of ‘Work It Out’ that has rising hip-hop star Bo Valentine stealing the show whilst in terms of personal favorites, Ragan’s exciting cover version of Patrice Rushen’s silky smooth ‘Remind Me’ is right up there. With Rushen guesting on keyboards and Whiteside combining flute and vocals like only she can, this one is a real winner.