Here we are at the end of another contemporary jazz year and, despite it being another good twelve months for new music, the phenomenon that is the smooth jazz cover continues unchecked. No doubt it has a unique place within the genre and although being regarded as both a blessing and a curse, it has now pushed beyond the familiar territory of vintage soul to take in a wider spectrum of popular music. There is no doubt that the cover version is here to stay so, looking back on what this year has delivered, here is my very personal top ten Smooth Jazz Therapy covers of 2016.
‘Woman’s Gotta Have It’ by Steve Cole from the CD ‘Turn It Up’. Cole is well known for his fulsome trademark sax sound and this ‘full on’ interpretation of the Bobby Womack classic fits him like a glove.
‘Reasons’ by Michael C Lewis. Not only one of the greatest Earth Wind & Fire tracks of all time but also possessing perhaps the best riff in soul music ever ‘Reasons’ is a colossal tune, a heavyweight masterpiece of the like that only comes along once in a lifetime. Consequently to take it on as a cover version is a very big ask indeed yet this single by trumpeter Michael C Lewis was a very worthy attempt indeed.
‘The Sound Of Music’ by U-Nam from the CD, ‘Surface Level’. This blockbuster from the early eighties can be found on the album ‘Feel The Music’ from the band Dayton and which here U-Nam delivered as an eight minute funk epic with the help of guest artists such as Bob Baldwin, Tim Owens, JFly and Bill Steinway.
Read on for the remainder of this year’s top ten covers. If you have your own list of favorite covers from 2015 why not e-mail it to me at email@example.com. Happy New Year!!
‘Summer Madness’, by Bob Baldwin from his ‘Brazilian American Songbook’ collection. This blockbuster reimagining of the Kool & The Gang smash was right on the money.
‘Do I Do’ by Peter White from his CD ‘Groovin’. Arguably the most globally recognized of any (and I mean any) smooth jazz artist, guitarist Peter White delighted his fan base in 2016 with the release of ‘Groovin’, his third collection of hugely personal interpretations of timeless hits. If his previous efforts (‘Reflections’ in 1994 and ‘Playin' Favorites’ that followed twelve years later) are anything to go by this will be a crowd pleaser for many years to come.
‘Cantaloupe and Watermelon’, by trumpeter Bill McGee from his CD ‘Still Bill’. After a nine-year absence made a spectacular return to the recording scene with the appropriately titled ‘Still Bill’. Many of the eleven tracks were a reflection on his early life as a young trumpet player and the time he spent learning songs such as ‘Watermelon Man’ and ‘Cantaloupe Island’. Consequently it was no surprise that the lead single from the album was ‘Cantaloupe and Watermelon’, Bill’s tribute to Herbie Hancock and a well crafted ‘mash-up’ of these two classic tunes.
‘I Put A Spell On You’, by Antoine L Collins from his debut jazz album ‘Somewhere Along the Way’. This beautifully jazzy interpretation of the much-covered Screamin Jay Hawkins classic really hit the spot. Collins, a lawyer turned entertainer was born and raised outside of Chicago in Gary, Indiana. Although a product of the foster care system he went on to thrive in a loving family environment, surrounded by music, theater, and the arts.
‘People Make The World Go Round’ by Tom Braxton from the CD ‘The Other Side’. This album, recorded by Braxton with trumpeter Robert Sanae (as the Sanae Braxton Collaboration) marked a welcome return for this most reliable of contemporary jazz sax-men who, not surprisingly did a wonderful job with a moody take on this Stylistics 1971 smash.
‘Lovely Day’ by Gerald Albright from his CD, ‘G’. This, Albright’s his very first independent release includes this cool remake of the Bill Withers classic ‘Lovely Day’, with the one and only Michael McDonald on vocals.
‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face’ by Bennett B from the CD ‘Midnight Passion’. Taken from what was a masterful collection Bennett conjured up some mellow magic with a rendition of this Lerner and Loewe standard.