January/February 1997

Tim Cunningham
Right Turn Only
Atlantic Records

Economically arranged and thoughtfully executed, saxophonist Tim Cunningham's Right Turn Only (Atlantic 82832-2; 52:43) stands out as a strong effort among the glut of R&B/pop-jazz efforts on the market. Cunningham deftly swerves to avoid "smooth jazz" clichés, allowing his earthy playing to carry fluid melodies like "Can You Stop the Rain."

Cunningham proves a versatile player as well, high-stepping on doubled soprano and alto for the appropriately airy "Pacific Coast Highway," and pleading in tenor tones on "You Should Have Told Me." His wise arranging choices are particularly apparent on Right Turn's funkier tracks, like the soprano-piped " To the M.A.C.K.S.," which is given plenty of breakdown space, and the Brian Culbertson-penned "Drastic Measures," which layers funk guitar with an explosive horn section. Combined with Cunningham's strong lead voice, these arrangements help Right Turn Only leave the cookie-cutter, clichéd efforts choking in the dust.

Originally published in January/February 1997
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