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Ken Navarro : The Grace of Summer Light

Veteran smooth jazz guitarist Ken Navarro hinted at things to come on his last CD with “Lakes,” a cover of the complex Pat Metheny composition. For the most part, though, The Meeting Place was quintessential Navarro, pleasant ditties on the nylon string. Navarro’s new CD, then, comes as a mild shock. It’s still Navarro, warm and inviting. But The Grace of Summer Light is a statement, a positive statement, from a musician setting the bar high for future releases.

Many of Navarro’s songs have had a radio-friendly feel, seemingly written with that medium in mind. But now Navarro has harkened back to the best of the true jazz-fusion days, done up in 2008 style. There are odd, but not jarring, time signatures with the title track and “On My Way to Somewhere.” The latter is one of several Metheny-esque treatments, complete with soaring vocalese; another is the eight-minute “Nomad” and its sampled harmonica playing. Even the radio hits are inviting; listen to Navarro’s long version of “Daddy-O” and compare it to the chopped-up version for radio, which still sounds pretty nice. Throw in some solo acoustic work and the delightful electric guitar rock excess of “We Might as Well Dance,” and you’ve got a sure entrant for one of 2008’s best.

Originally Published