Gerald Albright doesn’t try to do too much-just kidding. With his aptly named new CD, Albright simply burns on his soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes, while also playing flute, bass, keys, drum programming, synth and the EWI. Like all of his solo work, Pushing the Envelope is a deeply satisfying, diverse collection of jazz, funk, blues and R&B. Albright can play, of course, but more important are his instincts for groove and musicianship, both of which go a long way in contemporary jazz.
Tributes don’t get much better than “What Would James Do?,” a funk ‘n’ stomp with a James Brown-like guitar punching up the groove. (Brown would have enlisted Fred Wesley to play trombone on the song, which is precisely what Albright does.) The funk-soul-disco continues with “Get On the Floor,” Marc Cargill helming the strings and Albright inviting his daughter Selina for background vocals.
Ballads “Embrace the Spirit” and “From the Soul” are worthy of your downtime, as is the spirituality and uplift of “The Road to Peace (A Prayer for Haiti),” where Albright is joined by George Duke on acoustic piano. Guitarist Earl Klugh guests on “I Found the Klugh”; a cheery, island-flavored groove propels “Capetown Strut”; and the Bacharach/David standard “Close to You” gets its definitive contemporary jazz treatment. It’s all good.