You never know what you’ll dig up when you reach your hand into the Jazzhole, but for the past few years the ’holes had a surfeit of soul, as on the band’s newest album, Poet’s Walk. Founding members Warren Rosenstein, Marlon Saunders and John Pondel have written 10 tracks built on even, steady rhythms. Glints of guitar and fat keyboard chords create laidback harmonies as Saunders sings soulful, yearning lyrics in his tender falsetto while dancing around barlines with jazzy imagination.
The best tracks on Poet’s Walk carry you away into a lusher life: Saunders’ ebbing and flowing duet with pure-voiced Michal Cohen over the lush groove of “It Would Have Been Enough,” lyrical paeans alternating with deft keyboard solos by David Sancious on “Timeless,” the jittery-quick percussion giving an edge to Saunders’ langor in “Jonesing.” On some other tracks, unfortunately, Jazzhole falls into familiar neosoul traps: the pileup of lyrical clichés on “All the Ways,” or “The Slipping of Time,” whose groove is so relaxed that it seems to fade away before your ears. Even on these tracks, though, the detailed arrangements and precise playing, along with Saunders’ mercurial yet engaging phrasing, will provide plenty of pleasure to those who like their jazz laced with soul (or vice versa).