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June 2004

Maximum Grooves
Coast to Coast
Telarc

Maximum Grooves' Coast to Coast recalls the best CTI records from the '70s, a period when first-rate jazz soloists such as Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Turrentine and George Benson among others were able to cut records that were unquestionably pop-based yet still had musical integrity.

Producer/keyboardist/composer Jason Miles enlisted two sharp rhythm sections for this project, opting for a great R&B drummer (Steve Ferrone) and fine pop and smooth-jazz percussionist (Gene Lake) matched with an excellent groove bassist (Will Lee) and one better known for mainstream and hard-bop fare (James Genus). Then he brought in the all-star horn men, guitarists and assorted extras and began mixing and matching.

The results are mostly good, although these songs aren't nearly as memorable melodically as the best CTI stuff. But the truly hot numbers, among them "You Da Mann," "Attitude" and "Krazy Eyez," offer enough opportunity for talented players to briefly stretch out and extend themselves beyond the beat. Michael Brecker's an old hand at taking disciplined, soulful solos, and he demonstrates his proficiency on "Krazy Eyez." Guitarist Derek Trucks throws some blazing licks into "You Da Mann" and Walter Beasley demonstrates far more edge and range during his soprano-sax solo on "Attitude" than he often does on his smooth-jazz radio hits. Another revelation is Gerald Albright, an outstanding alto saxophonist in concert whose reputation has taken a hit due to overly restrictive, musically conservative records. He shows his roots in vintage R&B and blues on "When I Get There," soaring despite working in a less than ambitious musical framework.

Still, there's lots of good party music on Maximum Grooves. Indeed, if there were more songs like these being aired on the smooth-jazz airwaves, more of the jazz faithful might give them a try.

Originally published in June 2004
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