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Chicago Project: Urban Knights Presents: The Chicago Project

Ramsey Lewis’ Urban Knights-once a collaborative smooth-jazz supergroup-is now an exciting, bona fide development center for emerging Chicago-based talent. Lewis and the gang continue the welcome direction of Urban Knights IV with The Chicago Project, this time spotlighting the work of Urban Knighters trumpeter Ron Haynes, guitarist Fareed Haque and keyboardist Kevin Randolph. Though the urban-funk focus is there, this Project provides more opportunities for solo stretches and dazzling technical skills, tailored to best exploit the talents of each player. Randolph’s deft range, for example, is displayed in the many underlayers of the atmospheric “All the Way,” and the distinctive elastic-funk strains of “Tight Rope.” Haque, fleet-fingered and soulful on “Bombay Streets,” plays spindly Latin figures on the dramatic “A Place in Time.” Haynes sets a dusky, sophisticated tone for Stevie Wonder’s “That Girl” with cool, understated mute play. The ensemble also gels nicely, whether working through the jamming, ticking-time-bomb pace of “Three’s Company” or building a loping, romantic atmosphere on the mesmerizing “Myths and Legends.”

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