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Jimmy Sommers: 360 Urban Groove

Many entrants into the smooth-jazz genre glop on the R&B layers to the point where the soloist literally disappears. A skillful producer will find a way to build around the central performer, creating tight, purposeful and still dense arrangements. Such is the case on saxophonist Jimmy Sommers’ 360 Urban Groove, a collection of highly stylized, often seriously busy arrangements that highlight its central voice. Sommers shows range and emotion on the sax: his muscular alto riffing shines in a complex mix of funk keyboards and bad-boy strutting horns on the album’s title track, while his sumptuous soprano work glides through the swirling, shimmering tropical feel of “James Cafe.” Sommers likewise sings out on the memorable melody, “Promise Me,” pushed forward by bubbling bass, light guitar riffs and an otherwise dominating slap groove. A few silly genre contrivances-annoying vocals on “Menage-a-Trois” proclaiming “three of us” over and over, and the pedantic lyrics of “Let’s Go Party”-detract from the action, but overall, Sommers’ sax charisma and tight arrangements make 360 Urban Groove stack up well in its genre.

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