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Warren Hill: Life Through Rose Colored Glasses

On his fifth release, Life Thru Rose Colored Glasses (Discovery Records, 61:35), saxophone romancer Warren Hill finally breaks the mold established by his sappier contemporaries, busting through the spit & polish of smooth jazz to let his unique lead voice shine through. Hill also serves as producer on the collection, punching up the sinewy showcase alto on soulful tunes like “Turn Out the Lights,” and gentle, but frill-less soprano for romantic tracks like a cover of Hall & Oates’ “One on One.” Hill’s lead voice is supported by an interesting mix of settings as well, from the gospel motion of “Let’s Fall in Love,” and the popping rock/funk of “Strange Town,” to the stripped-down, hymn-like quality of “Coco’s Song”, a simple, heartfelt melody. The thoughtful production also keeps the more pop-centered tunes like the anthemic “Where Life Leads You” from crossing the line into melodrama. Although there are a few clunky moments (Hill’s breathy George Michael impression on “Why Did It Have to Feel This Way” is one song spoiler), for the most part Rose Colored Glasses shows an artist in his prime, who is now independent enough to play to his musical strengths.The trio of Stephen Watts, Michael Friedman, and David Watts known as Dotsero, serves up another batch of hooky melodies alive with unexpected colors and textures on Jumpin’ Thru Hoops (Ichiban International D2 24960-2; 56:56). Although this is the second record this month to have a difficult time spelling the word “through” (what’s up with that?), the song content here features great technical execution on a variety of styles. Where “Home Again” features a hip-boppy, lumbering shuffle groove serving as a march tempo against Watts’ piping sax melody, “If You Only Knew” offers a darkly Latin feel through rotating, thick percussion and acoustic piano. The trio always builds a curve ball into its arsenal to keep things interesting: Friedman’s resonant, singing bass, gives the mid-clip ballad “Portrait of Amy” a unique feel, for example. These contrasts and twists are most evident on the wide-open, upbeat anthem “Me and Jesse Lee,” which while featuring lots of keyboard and echoing percussion, is smeared with some searing electric guitar in the background. Dotsero also strips out the verses of this unique tune to emphasize the spirited sax and rocking drums, a prime example of the trio’s unique awareness of the motion of a melody.

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