Alex Bugnon: As Promised

Keyboardist and song craftsman Alex Bugnon delivers soul-stirring retro R&B with a liberal dusting of contemporary elegance on …as promised (Narada 70876-13296-2-9; 51:07). While Bugnon clearly delights in recognizable details like wah guitar, purring organ and sharp-edged horns, he balances these funky textures with his own brand of light piano tripping on tunes like “Onward, Upward” and “Won’t Be a Fool.” The result is a unique mix of visceral rhythm and blues and heady modern romance-with a notable absence of smooth jazz cliches. Old-soul purists will enjoy the authentic bass-pumping strut of “His Coolness,” while the more dewy-eyed will appreciate Bugnon’s center-stage, warm piano melody on the album’s title track. Meeting squarely in the middle is a track like “Chasing Spirals,” with dark piano falls and driving percussion pushed by alto sax into a uniquely funky mystery piece. The keyboardist also doesn’t skimp on talent here, employing such luminaries as Branford Marsalis, Lalah Hathaway and Victor Bailey to deliver the message.