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Noel Webb: Satin Sheets

Classical violin prodigy Noel Webb (first noticed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at age 14) brings a unique voice to the smooth jazz set with his electric five-string. Whether soaring and crying in elegant lines or digging into intricate, impossibly fast changes, Webb captures emotional subtlety and spins melodic hooks with ease. Webb’s absorbing lead voice is about the only source of inspiration on Satin Sheets (Labrador Records 2000; 43:54), an otherwise cliche-filled set of derivative light R&B arrangements anchored by the relentless thwack of urban-beat percussion programs and uninspired keyboard chords. Melodic hooks like the lightly driving, warm “Love in the Afternoon,” the rhapsodic “Take Me Away” and an interesting cover of Seals & Crofts’ pop chestnut “Summer Breeze” are undermined at every turn by the same arrangement problems, making Sheets a frustrating listen. Hope for the future of this talented artist lies in “Walkin’ at Midnight,” which ditches some of the “smooth” trappings in favor of a swaying tropical flavor-an easygoing complement to Webb’s lightly swinging melody.

Originally Published