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Jay Soto: Stay Awhile

Jay Soto can play guitar, that’s a given. But as the latest overnight sensation trying to crack the smooth jazz charts, can he write memorable songs? The answer, happily, is yes, and he has justifiably earned his way onto the charts with the bluesy “Slammin’.” He’s 2007’s version of Nils, a guitarist who entered the smooth-jazz club in 2005 with the number one song of the year, “Pacific Coast Highway.” But “Slammin'” isn’t even the best effort on the 12-song CD, Soto’s second. That effort belongs to both the title track, built on a catchy hook and a relaxed rhythm spiced by aggressive soloing, and “Just Like That,” on which Soto employs the sliding chordal tones so popular in contemporary jazz.

Soto grabbed some pretty big names for help, as several songs are produced or mixed by Jeff Lorber and Paul Brown, who are tops in the genre. Lorber also co-wrote three songs, while Brown penned “Jaywalking,” which offers Brown’s in-the-pocket jam. Saxophonists Euge Groove and Michael Lington-he on Stevie Wonder’s “Send One Your Love”-add their familiar flavorings, and Jeffrey Osborne slips his aged-to-perfection vocals around the lovers’ groove of “Love Has Found a Way.”

Like many smooth jazz efforts, Stay Awhile suffers from sameness over the long haul, but the glimmers of a star-in-the-making make it a worthy companion.

Originally Published