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Ultrablue: Ultrablue

New York keyboardist John Smatla’s Ultra Blue project is probably going to get lost in the shuffle of the hundreds of instrumental pop CDs of 2006, but it’s a classy and vibey disc that’s worth numerous spins. Following the group’s Dusk 2 Dawn debut in 2004, this 10-song collection has a sophisticated, late-night feel to match the nighttime Manhattan scene on the CD cover. A cross between hip, mellow music and dreamy smooth jazz, you can easily imagine a trendy New York City club piping in this stuff.

The languid “Shiver” is the most “smooth jazz” song here-and it’s the CD’s weakest song. But after that it’s all sublime, especially Philip Hamilton’s floating wordless vocals in “One Night With You” and the light-Latin vibe combined with Hamilton and Giovanna Moretti’s Portuguese singing in “Guilty Pleasures.” Other highlights: Pete Belasco’s smoldering sax in Michel Legrand’s “The Summer Knows” from Summer of ’42; Randy Brecker’s trumpet and the vocals of R&B group Allure on the samba-ish “Soul Candy”; Nestor Torres’ flute in the funk-filled “Jungle Fever”; and Gabriela Anders’ sweetly hushed vocals in “Destiny.”

Smatla closes the CD with the beautiful “The Sound of Goodbye.” A string section enhances the soundtracklike soaring.

Originally Published