3rd Force: Gentle Force

Smooth-jazz collective 3rd Force, consisting of producers William Aura, Craig Dobbin and Alain Eskinasi, enlist some friends for its sixth CD, Gentle Force. Higher Octave guitarists Craig Chaquico, Grant Geissman and Brian Hughes, along with nonlabel pals saxophonists Jimmy Sommers, Paul Taylor, Brian Savage and Boney James, trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Peter White aid with the trio’s airy, easy-flowing soundscapes. Vocalist Rebecca Carlish further enhances the grooves with sultry chants, choruses and scat textures.

Unquestionably, 3rd Force’s slow-tempoed, nonobtrusive music is intended to take you somewhere without it being the sole focus. A gentle seduction, an office party, a friendly conversation or a zoned-out respite seem perfect for this collection of tracks. But all of Gentle Force can’t be written off as just prefab musical fodder, and some tunes take surprising twist and turns. The thematic “Hands Across the Ocean” is underscored by John O’Connor’s slide-guitar work and Braun’s trumpet choruses, while the longest composition, the transcendental “Journey to Now” (8:30), featuring Carlish’s meditative vocals, goes well beyond the customary radio-friendly boundaries. Another long piece, “Aquamarine” (6:30), featuring Geissman’s tasteful playing, is an uncomplicated, moderate-tempo funk groove that’s adorned with Celticlike interludes and sensual vocal forays.