On the Beach
Detroit-based saxophonist Edgar Wallace Jr. takes the editing reins along with the keyboard controls for On the Beach (Lightyear/1st AMG), dressing some interesting melodic ideas in smooth-jazz motifs that have been played out so often they begin to feel a little stale. The layers of melodramatic synth strings, mechanized-sounding snap-tracks and sing-songy chord changes do Wallace's songwriting-and sax performance-a great disservice. Wallace belts some first-rate bustling tenor on the fast-paced "Chene Park," for example, which is softened by fluffy keyboards and ringing smooth-jazz accents. "Close to Me" finds his soprano horn skipping lightly over a pleasing, hooky melody, but the slap-percussion and overdrawn info distract, preventing a distinctive impression. "The Dress" is layered to the point that the soprano sax sounds somewhat compressed, placing the focus not on the soloing melody, but on the atmosphere and groove. That said, Wallace's ear for melody and adaptable sax chops make an impression, and hold solid promise for future offerings.