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Eddie M.: Eddie M.

A soul-pop veteran who has worked with Prince, Stevie Nicks and crossover mentor Sheila E., among others, singer/saxophonist Eddie M. makes an impressive entry into the urban-jazz genre with a self-titled indie debut (Gold Circle, GC-5006-2A; 49:04). As a writer and player, Eddie sidesteps bombastic genre cliches in favor of memorable melodies and lyrics, elegant, well-crafted arrangements, economical though emotive musicianship. “Baby Leave the Lights On” provides an instant example of this critical difference: with a sweet, romantic lyric instead of eye-rolling seduction cliches, and lithe warm melodies in both saxophone and vocal leads. Eddie’s gentle vocal reflects complicated emotions, like the wonder and sadness of the ballad “My Love Goes with You,” and his sax work never overemotes, as evidenced on the soprano-driven “In My Dreams,” which is also flavored by a nice horn chorale background effect. Craftsmanship goes a long way here: from the clustered, boogie licks driving the stomping funk of “Zip Code” to the cornered sax licks and warm piano propelling the uplifting “Hey J.J.” A wistful interpretation of Christopher Cross’ oft-covered “Sailing” is dressed in soul garb here, broken down into a great vehicle for Eddie’s piping, speaking soprano.

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