Alan Hewitt Project): Noche de Pasion

Keyboardist/composer/producer Alan Hewitt steps out as a leader on Noche de Pasion (215), a collection of tunes that are sure to appeal to smooth-jazz radio programmers. Some of the tracks feature well-known smooth-jazz artists; Hewitt’s keyboards combine well with Euge Groove’s saxophone on the Latin-flavored title track, and Jonathan Butler offers wordless vocalizing, guitar and other instruments on his composition “Sweet Thing.” The anthemic “Love Feeds the Fire,” which Hewitt cowrote with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, is a big, soaring production featuring a strong star turn by saxophonist Michael Lington, but Hewitt stumbles on “U Touch Me”; saxophonist Mindi Abair’s tuneless performance doesn’t match the graceful Latin rhythm.

In addition to Hewitt, the album’s breakout artist is saxophonist Gerald Spikes, who gives assured performances on the expansive “Captured” and the pretty closer “Reminisce.” At under 40 minutes, Noche de Pasion is a bit short for a contemporary CD, but it’s an effective introduction to a promising new artist on the smooth-jazz scene.