Pianist Roger Smith wears many hats. He’s a smooth-jazz artist. He’s a member of Tower of Power. He fronts Jazz Rosco, a funky and loud fusion band that tours and also has a well-received CD. Sittin’ In, while a solo project, deftly combines all the elements and influences of Smith’s music. No doubt, though, Smith is happiest in jam-band mode, throwing out piano, organ and synth riffs a-plenty.
But Smith, who has survived serious health challenges over the past few years, also has a part of him reserved for soulful R&B ballads. Both “Just Friends” and “Isn’t It Love”—the latter with the sumptuous vocal harmonizing of La Jon Walker and Carol J. Toca—are fully realized nuggets of Quiet Storm nirvana. There are more vocal tunes than normal for Smith here, and that just may be because he’s in charge of his music now, not a label, and he can gratify his muse. Hey, he’s sittin’ in, right? There’s enough for his fans to enjoy though, even on two covers: “Can You Stand the Rain” and an instantly captivating adaptation of Steely Dan’s “Bad Sneakers.”