Album: Forever, for Always, for Luther

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Album:

Forever, for Always, for Luther

Artist: Various Artists
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Label: Grp Records

This star-studded smooth-jazz tribute to Luther Vandross adds credence to the idea that the saxophone is the instrument that comes closest to mimicking the human voice. The passion that these reed players—including Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Mindi Abair, and Dave Koz—pour into their respective tracks makes it seems like they’re speaking right from the heart. Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. does a very funky turn on “Never Too Much,” and two of the most underrated singers in contemporary urban music, Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi, also provide highlights. But the sax…

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This star-studded smooth-jazz tribute to Luther Vandross adds credence to the idea that the saxophone is the instrument that comes closest to mimicking the human voice. The passion that these reed players—including Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Mindi Abair, and Dave Koz—pour into their respective tracks makes it seems like they’re speaking right from the heart. Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. does a very funky turn on “Never Too Much,” and two of the most underrated singers in contemporary urban music, Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi, also provide highlights. But the sax players steal the show, trying to match Vandross’s fiery intensity, while much of the rest of the cast seem content to offer basic remakes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; co-producer and keyboard whiz Rex Rideout has delivered a thoroughly enjoyable listen from beginning to end, allowing smooth-jazz fans to sing along with Vandross’s very familiar catalog. —Mark Ruffin

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