Not quite “smooth jazz,” but pretty easy listening nonetheless, tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson’s Now recalls the 1970s heyday of producer Creed Taylor’s CTI label, when Taylor put an R&B or funk-pop sheen on recordings by some of the top jazz musicians of the day, aiming for a wider audience through emphasizing groove and melodic content. Jackson’s playing here is in the same vein as that of Stanley Turrentine or Grover Washington Jr.’s recordings for CTI. Another star of the label, Ralph MacDonald, is represented by his most famous composition, “Where Is the Love,” replete with vocal embellishments by Lisa Fischer echoing Roberta Flack’s hit recording.
Mellow grooves and funky backbeats dominate the rhythms, supplied by bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Greg Hutchinson, aided and abetted by the CD’s other two solo voices: guitarist David Gilmore and B3-organist Dr. Lonnie Smith. On the shorter tracks—between three and six minutes—Jackson’s smooth, soulful tenor dominates, but there’s some nice stretching out by Gilmore and Smith, especially on the leader’s “South Side Eddie,” the CD’s best track and a tribute to the late Eddie Harris where Jackson channels Harris’s pungent tone. Kenny Garrett’s “Chief Blackwater” and a funky James Brown tune (“Give It Up or Turn It Loose”) are other highlights.