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Phillipe Saisse: Next Voyage

In the promotional material for his Next Voyage (Verve 314 537 416-2; 66:33), the usually rather avant garde keyboardist/producer Phillipe Saisse talks about reaching for urban and hip hop textures. Accompanied by a stellar group including Kirk Whalum, Andy Snitzer and Jeff Beal on horns, what Saisse comes up with is an artfully executed, yet surprisingly unexciting effort. Saisse’s piano work here is stuck for the most part in R&B molasses -pre-programmed, repetitive grooves like “Land of the Flying Funk” are dull and lifeless compared to his lead voice. The mid-tempo, late-night pieces (“Riviera” is a good example) fare worst, with that put-you-to-sleep urban pop quality at the heart. Saisse and friends show more signs of life on the dreamy, atmospheric “Native Son,” with its squealy synthesizer threads, and the shaky, hesitant funk licks of “Miracle.” These pieces show more of the unique character we’ve come to expect from the normally adventurous composer.

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