THUG Jazz: The House of Urban Grooves

Kevin Toney is prominently featured on T.H.U.G Jazz: The House of Urban Grooves (Peak), on which smooth-jazz meets hip-hop. The album is similar in concept to projects such as the Hidden Beach label’s Unwrapped series, but here the twist is that most of the tunes are originals rather than covers, and the grooves are harder and edgier than on projects like Unwrapped. The tracks flow seamlessly into one another, and standouts include “Hey Shorty,” with its rap vocals and synth, sax and flute solos. “Jak Ghetto” is driven by jazzy guitar and anthemic horns and features rhythmic violin, while “Howard’s In” is led by Toney’s haunting piano work. En Vogue member Cindy Herron sings on the cinematic, sultry track “Enemy,” a remake of a song by a neosoul singer named Lina, and Patrice Rushen’s Rhodes powers the flute- and vibes-accented “T.H.U.G. Theme.” Because there’s a fair amount of grit in the grooves, this album might not appeal to fans of mellower smooth-jazz, but hip-hop and hip-hop-soul fans may want to check it out.