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Vernon Neilly and G-Fire: G-Fire II

Vernon Neilly is a Southern Californian guitarist who runs his own label from the Inland Empire town of Rialto. He’s one of the growing number of smooth-jazz musicians who use their own wile and pluck to get their music heard-and his music is worth hearing. Neilly released this CD online a while back, but it’s only now started to make the charts as it’s been redistributed and become more widely available.

Neilly’s first CD was marketed simply as G-Fire and featured him and other longtime studio and touring guitarists Miguel Mega, Kevin Chokan and Morris O’Connor. On G-Fire II, Neilly gets more credit: Mega and Chokan play on a few tunes, but O’Connor is gone and in his place is respected jazz guitarist Mark Whitfield, who really leaves his mark on this project. Some songs feature Whitfield exclusively, while Neilly gets the spotlight on others. They don’t play on the same songs.

The CD features a nice mix of guitar styles. Whitfield, for example, lays down some Benson-like lines on the CD’s opener, “LFO,” while Neilly comes back on the next track with the easy-listening “Por Mi Amor.” While the CD’s groove is firmly rooted in smooth jazz (none better than “Smoov Soul”), several musical styles come into play. For example, both “Sweat” and “Twinkle Toes” give shout-outs to reggae and are infectiously upbeat. With the marvelous “Afternoon Drive,” Neilly gets to show his vocalese skills à la Benson while programming some wonderfully quirky drum sounds.

Originally Published