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Zachary Breaux: Uptown Groove

With a prickly, doodling jazz chorusey style, the late guitarist Zachary Breaux could fit comfortably into the Earl Klugh light-and-breezy smooth jazz mold-but his willingness to experiment on his strong recording, Uptown Groove (Zebra ZD 44002; 64:40) set him apart. Breaux, a well-traveled sideman whose touring credits included a stint with Roy Ayers, is all over his instrument, hitting light, high-toned chords on “Cafe Reggio” and trading soulful licks with flutist Hubert Laws on “I Told You.” The multi-talented Breaux also sings in an emotive baritone on a dark, urban-contemporized read of B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” and proves a creative arranger on an edgy cover of Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” using harmonica and his own pinging, cornered melody to lend a soulful feel. Likewise, his elastic-ranged spiraling solo work on “Uptown Groove” is given an unexpected ’60s soul lift by the backing of a killer horn quartet. With an elastic, easygoing guitar technique recalling George Benson, combined with arranging instincts diverging from tried-and-true commercial formulas, Zachary Breaux was clearly a very promising talent.

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