I have always considered smooth jazz superstar Brian Simpson to be at his immaculate best when interpreting his own music. It is an approach that has served him well and along the way garnered a discography typified, with only a few notable exceptions, by a succession of sumptuous original compositions. A case in point was the wonderful 2015 project ‘Out Of A Dream’ and another is his latest recording, ‘Persuasion’, that was released this past Friday on the invariably excellent Shanachie label.
With ten brand new contemporary jazz numbers (four of them co-written by Steve Oliver) ‘Persuasion’ is an unadulterated delight and a ready-made Christmas gift for smooth jazz lovers everywhere.
The album is quickly up and running with the funky groove of the title cut that, as well as being the lead single, also features sax from Boney James. Also delivering all the rhythm and melody you will ever need is ‘Take It Up’ while elsewhere the horn driven intro of ‘Surreal Theme’ paves the way to contemplative piano from Simpson that is in magical contrast to the foot tapping chorus line.
‘Wonderland’, complete with an urgent shuffling beat and more great work on keys from Simpson, is the second song to have been serviced to radio and although he keeps it zesty with ‘Supernatural’, it is ‘Starbound’ that proves to be a rhythmic extravaganza totally indicative of Simpson’s smooth jazz style.
Make no mistake ‘Persuasion’ is stacked with contemporary gold and none more so than the wonderfully mid tempo ‘One And Only’ for which Simpson is at his superb best and Steve Alaniz on tenor sax adds an urgency that is sublime. Equally good is ‘Need You Now’ where stunning percussion from Ramon Yslas and sensational bass from Alex Al complement Simpson’s ultra edgy playing. The threesome also combine for the decidedly hypnotic ‘Always Here For You’ that is right up there with the best that ‘Persuasion’ has to offer yet in terms of personal favourites ‘Lost In Love’, where evocatively tranquil playing from Simpson gels to perfection with Peter White’s unmistakable guitar, is nothing short of heavenly.