Urban Knights VI
In 1995, Urban Knights debuted on the scene as a smooth-jazz superband headed by keyboardist Ramsey Lewis and produced by Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White. The band's membership constantly rotated, including well-known players like Grover Washington Jr., Dave Koz, Omar Hakim and Jonathan Butler over time. A decade later, Lewis is still involved, but Urban Knights have jettisoned the guest artist idea in favor of a stable lineup of Chicago-based players, with Lewis' son Frayne at the helm. The ensemble brings its own fresh energy to the band's R&B-infused sound on Urban Knights VI (Narada Jazz). Lewis appears on a lush remake of his tune "Close Your Eyes And Remember," and the group offers a pretty, soft-textured, flute-led take on Wayne Shorter's "Footprints." The album also includes the infectious, funky originals "Come Back Jack" and "Brazillica." It would be nice to hear more from Lewis, who only appears on two tracks, but his son is proving to be an effective leader for this popular group's updated incarnation.