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Streetwize: Work It!

Smooth-jazz meets hip-hop on Work It! (Shanachie), the second release by the superband Streetwize, which is led by saxophonist Kim Waters. Here, hip-hop and R&B hits are softened into smooth-jazz tunes. Most of the arrangements feature an instrumental verse with a sung chorus, which feels repetitive after a while. There are high points, though: On the title track, Randy Brecker’s smooth flugelhorn is laid over chanted vocals and a buzzing groove (there’s also a second version without the vocals), while Waters’ spiky soprano weaves around singer Maysa’s silken crooning on India.Arie’s “Little Things,” and guitarist Chuck Loeb gives LL Cool J’s “Luv U Better” a jazzy twist. Some songs just don’t work in a smooth-jazz context, though, like Erykah Badu’s “Love of My Life”: Waters solos around the sung hook, but his performance doesn’t take the song anywhere new or interesting. Fans of smooth-jazz covers-and there are many of them-will love this album; those who like their R&B and hip-hop with more edge will probably opt to stick with the originals.

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