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Warren Hill: Love Life

A commanding voice in the world of pop-jazz saxophone, Warren Hill breaks out of some of the smooth-jazz conventions on Love Life that have previously held him back. The album includes some of Hill’s most exciting and adventurous work to date, starting from the title track. This atypical arrangement proves a true modern romancer, with intriguing, flickering electronica and muted trumpet adding a unique counterpoint to Hill’s sensual long-lined playing. Hill turns another cliche, the modern Latin walk, on its head for “Mambo 2000,” which opens with melodrama, before sparking up into a rocking fireball, complete with dramatic horn chorus hits and searing rock guitar work surrounding Hill’s authoritative wail. Another surprise comes in the form of a straightforward, almost gospel-toned read of the Commodores’ “Easy,” which happily sucks the sap right out of the tune. Hill branches out into some equally interesting, if slightly less appealing, territory with the organic R&B feel of “Mister Magic” (which includes a rap vocal by Novacain) and the piano-rag noir frolic “Master Thief.” Hill does lapse back to the conventional for cluttered pieces like “Can’t Get U Out of My Mind,” and chooses to feature his own ragged vocals on a few pieces (“Olivia”‘s pretty piano-hook melody would benefit from the soaring pipes of a George Michael or Richard Marx type), but overall, Love Life shows a welcome shift in direction.

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