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Jeff Kashiwa: Play

Who knew? Saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa’s last CD was so tepid he almost played himself out of the contemporary-jazz genre and lost whatever momentum he’d crafted over the years. With Play, Kashiwa has not only crafted a superb CD but one that will certainly be at the top of best-of lists for 2007. It’s that good.

So what did Kashiwa do to reinvigorate his sound? Three things. First and foremost, he plays the horn with abandon and with a true jazz sensibility. Even when Kashiwa digs around and finds a melody among the R&B, gospel, funk, jazz and reggae-inspired tunes, he’s still playing instead of recycling rote riffs, as in the past. Second, Kashiwa relies solely on his tenor for a deep and rich tone throughout. No wimpy soprano. Third, he seems to be saying to fans and radio programmers that the days of polite eight-bar solos are over. In other words, take the music or leave it. Kashiwa’s tunes are the better for it and hopefully will signal a new resolve among pop-jazz players to create accessible music with chops.

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