Tom Schuman gets some spoken-word help from a few of his heroes on the Spyro Gyra keyboardist’s fifth solo CD. The late Joe Zawinul extols music’s virtues on “A Quote From Mr. Z,” a fusion bopper with Schuman’s trippy organ runs and Sennie “Skip” Martin’s long trumpet lines. There’s Al Gore, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and others on “God Please Bless America,” which Schuman originally offered during the 2008 presidential election; it’s an optimistic piece punctured by David Becker’s soaring guitar. Finally there’s an excerpt from a Dick Cavett interview with Jimi Hendrix on “Hooked on Rockin’,” its brassy, driving tempo highlighted by Andy Wasson’s soaring guitar.
The album features a blending of various jazz stylings, from hard bop to fusion and funk, all anchored by Schuman’s electric and acoustic keys. And there are further surprises, such as “Dat’s Wassup!,” a plea for world peace featuring Martin’s lyrics and vocals. Guitarist Jay Azzolina’s quiet electric guitar lines are featured in “Sofia’s Eyes,” and Schuman joins the “Giant Steps” club with a virtuosic reading of the masterpiece.