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Brian Simpson: It’s All Good

If you were listening to smooth-jazz radio a decade ago, you might have heard a little gem of a ditty called “Closer Still” by pianist Brian Simpson. But Simpson hadn’t been on the radio until the release of this top-to-bottom winner and its No. 1-charting title song. Simpson’s excuse? He’s been a session groupie for top smooth-jazz artists and took on the weighty responsibilities of being saxophonist Dave Koz’s music director.

When Simpson decided it was time to record another CD, he conveniently had an in with Koz, who just so happens to be the cofounder and senior VP for creative development at Rendezvous Entertainment. Koz liked Simpson’s demos, and the result is a 10-track CD of laid-back piano jazz that’s one of the year’s best.

Simpson draws on the talents of Rendezvous labelmates Koz, guitarist Marc Antoine and saxophonist Michael Lington, but it’s his knack for melody and hook that drive the CD. With the title track and “It Could Happen,” he shows that a decade behind the scenes hasn’t dulled his gift for bright and uptempo grooves. “Here With You” and “Waiting” prove that he knows a thing or two about radio-friendly ballads. In fact, the first eight songs could be exhibits A through H in smooth-jazz class.

Simpson does draw on his love for straightahead jazz on the CD’s last two tracks, but smooth-jazz fans will enjoy these as well: “Blues for Scott” is an original song Simpson wrote for his son, but it expresses the enjoyable melody of jazz classics you’ve heard and loved before. Finally, “Au Contraire” is a swinging bopper with a galloping bass line and Perry Hughes’ funky electric-guitar soloing.

Originally Published