Here’s what you’ll skip if you click and download this CD: a hint at the actual content within. Audio Caviar’s name is certainly telling, as is the CD’s messianic, far-Eastern quality. The cover is vintage 1970s Earth, Wind & Fire, and there’s a reason for that. Drummer and vocalist Ralph Johnson, an original member of the seminal R&B band, assembled Audio Caviar along with keyboardist, bassist and flugelhornist Morris Pleasure and guitarist Steen Kyed. Along for the trip are original EWF guitarist Al McKay and current EWF members Verdine White and Philip Bailey. The EWF horn section is here, as well.
Given the pedigree, you’d think Transoceanic would be a rollicking ride, but remember the name of the band. This CD, originally released exclusively in Europe in 2002 but now offered in an expanded worldwide version, is a relaxing cruise filled with contemporary and smooth jazz, Latin, blues and world elements. Pleasant surprises abound, as Kyed shows that he’s got the smooth jazz acoustic guitar chops to match the best in “Now That I’ve Found You.” That tune segues nicely into Jonathan Butler’s classic “Jodie,” which Pleasure gives a new arrangement to by replacing the original sax solos with keys. Miles Davis’ “All Blues” centers on solos by Pleasure and saxophonist Gary Bias, while Ivan Lins’ “The Island” features the great Brazilian vocalist himself along with George Duke on piano. That one tune alone justifies the delicacy of the group’s name.