With its wide variety of guitar stylings set over an assortment of grooves and rhythms, Chieli Minucci's Night Grooves (Shanachie) is a fine example of the popular smooth-jazz guitarist's extraordinary range and technical finesse. Minucci invests the funky opener, "Kickin' It Hard," with plenty of attitude, lets his romantic side shine through on the haunting, Latin-flavored ballad "You're My Reason" and layers a laidback melody over Jerry Brooks' powerfully funky bass line on the title track.
In addition to his multiple careers as solo artist, leader of the contemporary jazz outfit Special EFX and sought-after sideman, Minucci has composed for television and film and, not surprisingly, exhibits a talent for creating dramatic compositions. "Without You" opens as a lyrical ballad, escalating in intensity into a fervid outpouring of intense emotion. With its intricate combination of live and programmed rhythms, its vocal accents and Minucci's moody guitar, the evocative "Nasir di Nuevo" is a sort of aural collage that illustrates the guitarist's eagerness to expand his artistry beyond the constraints of smooth jazz.