Drew Davidsen: Around (Again)

Every year it gets increasingly difficult for new artists to break on through to the smooth-jazz charts, but Maryland-based electric guitarist Drew Davidsen has done it with the rollicking “Astro.” (Its title and inspiration come from Davidsen’s late father, who pioneered satellite technology for NASA.)

Produced by keyboardist Eric Copeland for his Nashville-based Creative Soul Jazz label, the album also features Nashville session players and veteran smooth-jazz stalwarts like bassist Gerald Veasley and pianist Jay Rowe of Special EFX. Major keys and chords dominate on tracks like “Island Blues” and “Road Trip,” and Copeland’s vocals add texture to “Plus 12” and the ballad “Only 4 U.”

It’s a respectable entry into the smooth-jazz-pop canon-think Larry Carlton or Lee Ritenour-and the best of the bunch here are the ballad “Friend,” where Davidsen conveys genuine emotion, and “Smile,” where his Metheny influences are successfully put to the test.