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Jango: Closer to Home

The smooth jazz rank-and-file often use the adjective “soulful” to describe typical, preprogrammed, slick-synthesized, light R&B ballads. On Closer to Home (Samson GC-0210-2; 50:19) energetic quintet Jango proves soulful in the good way: with bustling rhythms, deep bass, jamming horns and jangling guitars layered to appealing effect. This feel-good soul attitude anchors tunes like the breezy, funky “Diamond Drive,” the gentle “Sweet and Lowdown” (which lets each instrument break out and soar) and the earthy “Soul Casserole.” Vocalist/saxophonist Steve Nieves brings two interesting voices to the equation: a straight-toned tenor vocal celebrating the legendary Curtis Mayfield (“that sweet and silky magic voice/can make the saddest heart rejoice”) on “Joyful Caravan,” and offering bittersweet musings on “Pink Flamingos,” a tricky, Steely Dan-feeling piece. The versatile band also spotlights keyboardist Steve Le Gassick, who offers tough-toned Fender Rhodes and purring organ in addition to more traditional keyboard sounds, and guitarist Nick Kirgo, whose acoustic work shines on the gentle “What Your Heart Tells You to Do.” An engaging work with unique instrumental and lyrical insights to offer, Closer to Home offers heart, as well as soul.

Originally Published