Artist: Jay Rowe
Genre: Smooth Jazz
Release: 2006

Jay Rowe, piano, keyboards
Gary Grainger, bass on tracks 1,2,3,5,6,7,8
Andre "Blues" Webb, drums on tracks 1,2,3,5,6,7,8
Kevin Prince, percussion on tracks 1,2,3,5,6,7,8
Ken Navarro, electric rhythm guitar track 3, acoustic rhythm guitars on tracks 5,7,8; Acoustic lead guitar on tracks 5,7,8
Rohn Lawrence, Electric rhythm guitars on tracks 1,2,6; Lead guitar on tracks 2,3,6
Bill Holloman, Saxes and trumpets on track 1; trumpets on tracks 2,6; solo trumpet on track 7
Timmy Maia, Lead vocal on track 10
Produced and engineered by Ken Navarro

Track Listing:

  1. Bumpin' on Hollywood
  2. Red, Hot and Smooth
  3. East Coast West Coast
  4. Kristen's Rainbow
  5. Bryan's Song
  6. Stars in Her Eyes
  7. The End of Summer (featuring Ken Navarro)
  8. Every Loves Mia
  9. Time to Go Home
  10. You Make My Life Complete (featuring Tommy Maia)

All tunes Jay Rowe's Funhouse of Music, ASCAP; except You Make My Life Complete Jay Rowe's Funhouse of Music ASCAP and Maia Music SESAC

The genre listing of this record is smooth jazz but genres must be listed with brevity. If there was a genre called "Soulful, funky, pretty, relaxing, creative jazz" this album, not Mr. Rowe's first, would be categorized thereunder.

Let's get the critique stuff out of the way. It's always nice to dedicate songs to one person or another, however, when an artist does it four times (thank goodness in print on the jacket and not on the tracks themselves) on an album of ten songs, I feel like blindfolding myself before listening, as if the dedication and its meaningfulness (is that a word?) will sway me one way another about a cut. This is smooth jazz; but those who fear Kenny G need not worry; these tunes are all originals and expressed with original style. However, purists beware. This album jumps but in spots is like taking a hit off of a bong.

Mr. Rowe's style is very intense and full of rich chords and finger-work dancing up and down the keyboard. The original compositions can, at times, sound repetitive but are resolved satisfactorily. But this album is all about Mr. Rowe. He's got some fabulous, nationally-known talent playing on this album and could've adjusted his arrangements so that their work shines a bit more. I also think that the arrangements seem somehow not spontaneous enough; and I know that among all of the musicians, particularly (Jeff Lorber-pal) Mr. Holloman, Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Webb could have really been given a few more solo minutes.

Mr. Maia's single vocal on "You Make My Life Complete" is unremarkable but technically proficient. I hope that it gets some Lite radio airplay - it has the potential to do well. It perplexes me that a budding vocalist and song collaborator chose SESAC, the Country-Western clearinghouse that's been strong-arming everyone from juke-box owners to major music venues for a piece of the royalty pie. Shame on them. And a pity for Mr. Maia. The song's not going to be played in my ASCAP/BMI-only covered venue thanks to SESAC's utterly shameful and distasteful tactics that resort to virtual legal threats.

Now for the high points: Rohn Lawrence's guitar magic shines on rhythm as well as lead on the absolutely ready-for-radio catchy "Stars in Her Eyes." Rowe's piano becomes funkier and more minimalistic; Holloman's horns provide just the right background; but Lawrence steals the spotlight from the ensemble in a shining solo that I actually kept rewinding and playing over and over again, it was just funkalicious.

Of course, (perhaps in an effort to sell records) the first track, "Bumpin' on Hollywood" is by far the finest demonstration of what this talented ensemble can come up with. And it's a testimony to Mr. Rowe's ability to write a catchy melody that if promoted correctly will get a lot of airplay on radio, satellite and digital media for a long time to come. It's that complex and exciting. Funk lovers must also hear this demonstration in the art of understatement.

Tempos on the entire track aren't the typical "okay but kinda like molasses instead of Maple syrup". It jumps. And it's even danceable ("Bumpin' on Hollywood," "East Coast West Coast"). This is a wonderful disc to put on while driving; it forms an enjoyable soundtrack to nearly whatever comes into view. I also recommend it as a guaranteed road rage preventative. Everything's alright and groovy.

Thanks to the miracle of modern electronics, the disc was put together from myriad tracks (some recorded in the artists' basements) and mixed down expertly by Producer/Engineer Navarro. The sound is clear, rich and extremely fat. The bass guitars are saturated perfectly and show off the talents of the two bassists in a fat and funk-laden style. It amazed me how conspicuously absent was any sort of harmonic distortion or clipping, while achieving a sound that's an audiophile's dream. And the piano's always been a difficult instrument to mike and mix - kudos again to the engineer for carefully riding audio (perhaps even following the charts, aware of what was to come).

The album and other works by Mr. Rowe are available at Pick it up; it's nice music to come home to.

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this review after having heard Mr. Rowe and Rohn Lawrence play together with some other amazing musicians. I also was privileged to perform a vocal ("Georgia on my Mind") with them, live. It was a thrill but the fact that I'd done this makes me feel a little guilty about my critical words about Timmy Maia, the vocalist on the record.

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