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May 2006

Gerald Albright
New Beginnings
Peak Records

Instrumental covers of disco hits are de facto today. But when veteran saxophonist Gerald Albright returned to 1980 to recapture the magic of the Whispers’ “And the Beat Goes On,” he traveled straight to the source: twin brothers Walter and Scotty Scott, whose vocal interplay defined the megahit. Remarkably, the duo’s interplay remains intact after all these years, clear and funky, and Albright’s throaty alto chugs to the groove. That said, this particular track seems suspiciously like a record-label request as the rest of Albright’s 10th solo CD is much purer and closer to his jazzy-R&B heart than previous efforts.

That may be a result of Albright’s departure from GRP after two CDs and “new beginning” with Peak, a label cofounded by Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons. Throw in Albright’s recent relocation to Colorado after many years in Southern California, and New Beginnings indeed sounds like a rejuvenation. Albright is on the smooth-jazz team, but he possesses gutsier, bluesier chops than many of his contemporaries. “Deep Into My Soul,” for example, launches as a nice little number with requisite must-have hook, but by its conclusion the saxophonist’s gone balls-out with his riffs.
Albright’s fans will enjoy the blues of “Georgia on My Mind,” a staple of his live shows. Hot trumpeter Chris Botti adds a solo to “Big Shoes,” while elsewhere Albright gathers contributions from Groovin’ for Grover tourmate Jeff Lorber, high-school classmate Patrice Rushen, gospel vocalist Luther Hanes and R&B vocalist Chuckii Booker. This is good, melodic music with some bite.

Originally published in May 2006
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