Kickin' It Up
Saxophonist Gerald Albright is blessed with a soulful, expressive sound, and on Kickin' It Up he displays it via a collection of R&B-inflected tunes that will surely delight his fans and smooth-jazz radio.
Albright's muscular, multitracked saxes ride a funky groove on "To the Max," a tune that manages to be funky and smooth simultaneously, while "Walker's Theme," which is dedicated to soul great Junior Walker, is a rousing slice of swinging soul-jazz. The title track shape-shifts from assertive funk to smooth-jazz, with George Duke turning in a nimble piano solo, and Albright's take on the Gamble and Huff chestnut "If You Don't Know Me By Now" starts out easygoing and builds into a soaring power ballad.
Peter White guests on "Why Georgia," and his acoustic guitar gives this John Mayer cover a bit of a folky feel. On Albright's cover of Brian McKnight's "Condition of My Heart," Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman ably channels McKnight, but Albright, who offers a too-brief solo and some tasteful fills and accents, isn't quite enough in evidence. It would have been nice to hear more interaction between vocalist and saxophonist, but this is a mild stumble on an otherwise very engaging album.