New-on-the-scene saxophonist Marcus H. Mitchell created one of the most memorable smooth-jazz singles in the past year with “Saturday Night,” a midtempo, shuffling groove that changed tempos, evoked different moods and displayed his skills on the horn. It didn’t hurt that it also boasted a Jeff Lorber Rhodes solo. But would the rest of the 23-year-old’s sophomore CD hold up? A clue emerged on the song following “Saturday Night”: “Summer Breeze.” No, not the Seals and Crofts chestnut, but an original. Good call. And while the chunky R&B beats of “Groove Lounge” and “Diamond in the Ruff” clearly show Mitchell has an eye toward radio, what sets them and the rest of the 11-track CD apart from similar urban-sax projects is Mitchell’s ear for melody and freshness on his instrument. Mitchell hones in on plenty of hooks, but also takes chances with extended solos.
Vocal tunes are a given on an urban-sax CD. The originals here are nothing to get too excited about, but they certainly don’t sink the CD. The best is “When We First Met,” which spotlights the exciting and sultry girl-group chorus of Black Buddafly, an up-and-coming act from Germany that sounds decidedly, and soulfully, American. Much like Mitchell.