The L.A. Chillharmonic
University professor and guitarist Richard Smith makes a triumphant return with a new group of top-flight musicians, who are all on first-call in L.A. and also successful solo artists. This is positively a Richard Smith CD, as he arranged all the music and has plenty of electric and acoustic guitar solos. But, inspired by funk, R&B, jazz and even big-band sounds, Smith surrounds himself with an all-star cast: pianists Jeff Lorber and Gregg Karukas, saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Michael Paulo, trumpeter Greg Adams, bassist Brian Bromberg, vocalist Patrice Rushen, percussionist Alex Acuña and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.
It’s nice to hear underrated pianist Rushen and her gorgeous vocalese on “Gift,” while unique to discover the interplay of guitar and sax during the familiar vocal melody of Brian McKnight’s “What We Do Here.” Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman” is the show-off song, giving everyone a chance to play on a full-fledged romp. Don’t forget the last two songs: “Agrigento” is a laid-back ballad inspired by Smith’s frequent trips to Sicily, while “Alvinator” is a tune from Smith’s days growing up with pianist Dan Siegel in Oregon, a slice of fusion fruitfully brought into the present with a shiny new arrangement.