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Alex Bugnon: Free

Swiss keyboardist Alex Bugnon has loyal fans in the tightly controlled smooth-jazz niche but not the name recognition of, say, David Benoit or Brian Culbertson. It’s unfortunate that Bugnon gets lost in the shuffle. His ninth CD is filled with great pop-jazz songs, but Bugnon’s all about the melody, with minimal flash, which may explain his obscurity.

Working with Atlanta-based keyboardist and producer Phil Davis, as he did with 2003’s Southern Living, Bugnon offers ballads, midtempo numbers and occasional dashes of funk. But key to his sound is the kind of smooth-jazz piano that Joe Sample, Bob James and others created and many others have imitated.

You never forget that Bugnon wants to give you a piano CD; no extended sax solos or Quiet Storm vocal asides. Following Bugnon staples such as the light-funkiness of “Fingertips” and “Carrera” and the ballad “In Your Eyes”–the latter a simple song with some Samplelike flourishes on a too-short solo away from the main melody–Melvin Miller’s brief muted trumpet flourishes on “Downtime” are a jolt.

Bugnon is certainly in a mellower mood here than on previous CDs, but he does crank it up a bit on the CD’s closer, “Out There.” Perhaps reflecting the New Yorker’s love of Atlanta and the South, the good-time-boogie tune offers Bugnon on Rhodes and Vincent Henry on harmonica.

Originally Published