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Paul Hardcastle: The Jazzmasters V

On the fifth installment of his Jazzmasters series, first introduced 15 years ago, U.K.-based instrumentalist and producer Paul Hardcastle brings back longtime vocalist Helen Rogers, who’s certainly popular with his fans. But Rogers also brings a been-there, done-that feel to the CD, especially after the wonderfully emotive and husky vocal debut of Maxine Hardcastle-Paul’s daughter-on last year’s Hardcastle 4. Rogers’ tunes are certainly listenable, as always, but connoisseurs of Hardcastle’s instrumental music will be pleased to know that eight of the 11 songs are instrumentals.

The first single, in fact, is the sublime and very Hardcastle-like “Free As the Wind.” As saxophonist Snake Davis’ sax, uh, snakes in and out of the melody, the gentle and bright piano lines run over the in-the-pocket groove. It’s another winner. “Chime” could be another hit, its whistling melody a charm, but the real treat in “Chime” is the old-school synth sound that brings back memories of Art of Noise’s groundbreaking “Moments in Love.” The whole CD is a winner, filled with various moods, but Hardcastle rewards persistent fans a bonus with “World in Action,” which goes on for almost 11 glorious minutes.

Some may think Hardcastle programs sameness with his music, but that’s exactly its appeal. The dancehall bass hooks, crisp piano lines and abundance of synth sounds create a warm and inviting retreat.

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