Honor roll: Jazz albums

Each of these Jazz albums has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Album:Pure

Pure

Boney James

The man who made R&B safe for smooth-jazz saxophonists has another possible Soul Train award winner featuring slick vocal excursions by Debi Nova and Dwele. There’s also a real groove-a-thon with Bilal titled “Better with Time” that, like the lyrics state, is like an old soul record. Keyboards also stand out among these 10 tracks. Joe Sample delivers one of his patented short piano solos on the aptly titled “Stone Groove,” and while Billy Preston’s organ and Bobby Lyle’s piano are not out front on “You Don’t Have to Go Home,” the aural picture they frame for the…

Album:Saxophonic

Saxophonic

Dave Koz

Album:25th Hour: Original Score

25th Hour: Original Score

Terence Blanchard

Spike Lee’s powerful rumination on the last 24 hours of freedom of a young convicted felon (Edward Norton) before he serves a seven-year prison sentence that will forever change his life is charged with melancholy regrets—and slim hopes of redemption. Longtime Lee collaborator Terence Blanchard’s haunting score was deservedly nominated for a Golden Globe for the stark, sophisticated way it colors a challenging story with music that’s at once haunting and achingly introspective. Blanchard’s orchestral music here may at first seem like his most obvious bowing to…

Album:Night Divides the Day

Night Divides the Day: The Music of the Doors

George Winston

George Winston cites the Doors as a seminal influence on his music in the liner notes for the 20th anniversary edition of Autumn. Winston is a voracious musical explorer, and the Doors are among several musical tributes Winston has rolling around in his head. He’s already paid homage to pianist Vince Guaraldi with Linus and Lucy. Winston’s take on the acid-rock shamans is sometimes magical, sometimes regretful. It’s no secret that George isn’t a great technician, and you can hear the flaws whenever he remains true to the melody, especially…

Album:Wishes

Wishes: A Holiday Album

Kenny G

Kenny G’s 1999 Faith album was an unexpected triumph of content and creativity. The album was largely driven by the long “Millennium Mix” buried at the end of the CD—an inspired soundbyte tour of the last century’s historical triumphs and tragedies, with the alto sax man playing “Auld Lang Syne” underneath, it’s emotionally moving and timely. The Kenny G of Wishes lacks the vision he displayed with Faith. Among the 10 tracks, two secular medleys (“Frosty the Snowman”/”Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Deck the Halls”/”The Twelve Days of…

Album:Christmas Message

Christmas Message

Kirk Whalum

Album:Paradise (Kenny G)

Paradise

Kenny G

Album:Ride

Ride

Boney James

It’s no wonder Boney James is a winner of a Soul Train music award, and that his music is heard on urban radio almost as much as he’s heard on smooth-jazz radio. From his first album, and on up to Ride, his eighth, James always has had a degree of funky soul and light pop mixed in his sax playing, which is a smooth-jazz staple. But here the lines are drawn more clearly and distinctly. There’s no doubt that he’s staking a claim in the retro-soul R&B movement with several potential hits, including “Something Inside,” with its gospel-drenched Dave…

Album:Aart

Aart

Acoustic Alchemy

Aart is Acoustic Alchemy’s second album on Higher Octave and sees the consolidation of the new, more commercial “drivetime” direction taken with The Beautiful Game (2000). The hour-long set delivers 14 numbers filled with catchy tunes, uplifting rhythms and idiosyncratic details: a surprising electric guitar hook on “Cactus Blue”, the Indian percussion on “Love at a Distance”. Following the death of original duo partner Nick Webb, co-founder Greg Carmichael has had the painful task of rebuilding the act and has chosen to develop Acoustic Alchemy…

Album:Smooth Jazz Christmas

Smooth Jazz Christmas

Dave Koz, Various Artists

Cohesiveness is what separates this all-star Christmas release from the others. During the last four years, Dave Koz, vocalist Brenda Russell, pianist David Benoit, guitarist Peter White, and trumpeter Rick Braun have hit the road spreading holiday cheer among the smooth-jazz masses and their collaborative ease is palpable throughout these 14 tracks. Benoit is featured on “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” while Koz adds one of his best solos. Braun has the spotlight on “Little Drummer Boy,” where Benoit shines too, and White highlights “Silent Night.” All five…

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