"It's About The Melody", by Saltman Knowles Quintet, brings tight jazz harmonies and elegant lyrics together in a pleasing, sophisticated fashion. By combining compelling, interesting jazz arrangements and a sense of poetry in a friendly, non-pretentious manner, the group offers a comfortable program of songs that is sure to be in step with listeners and contemporary jazz radio formats world wide.
The ten songs on the cd were composed alternately by bassist Mark Saltman and pianist William Knowles and have a fresh, contemporary jazz feel about them with a hint of Latin grooves lurking throughout. Lori Williams vocals are sensuous and romantic: her clarity of annunciation skillfully brings out the irony of the lyrics in "The Joke's On Me", and the wistful spirit of "My Secret Lullaby". Ms. Williams' warm and inviting stylings are particularly evident on "What About April", which is already getting significant airplay around the country.
Charles Langford's sax work is thoughtful and laid back. His lines deftly shadow the vocals and add counterpoint to Knowles' piano work, while drummer Mark Prince plays tasteful grooves that pull the entire effort together.
Reviewers have described The Saltman Knowles Quintet as "rhythmically infectious" and "colorful", and have mentioned the band always "has the whole house swinging." Saltman and Knowles concur that "we want to be musically challenging ... but entertaining as well."
The Saltman Knowles Quintet has superbly melded together the three main elements that make a great musical experience: good writing, good musicianship, and good lyrics. "It's About the Melody" is just that and more.
On My Way Home is the long awaited solo release by drummer/vocalist Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson. It is a swinging tour de force of a cd echoing the spirits of the hard bop era while remaining firmly entrenched in contemporary jazz.
Jimmy Jackson's association with jazz is a profound experience in itself. For over 20 years Jackson toured the world with legendary organist Jimmy Smith, and during the course of this prestigious tenure he also performed with other such masters as McCoy Tyner; George Benson; Carlos Santana, and Christian McBride (who refers to Jimmy as "swinging Jimmy Jackson"). Having shared the stage for so many years with these and other giants of jazz - and the list is extensive - makes Jackson a icon in his own right.
On My Way Home features arrangements inspired by a 1961 collaboration between Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson. There are several original tunes as well that keep the musical dialogue between past and present alive and intact. There is also a previously unreleased track recorded live in Tokyo featuring the late Jimmy Smith.
Whereas many musicians who have spent their careers as sidemen have difficulty shifting their status to center stage, Jackson's soulful vocals and commanding personality allow him the opportunity to front his talented quintet as well as maintaining his status as a world class drummer. "The collaboration between Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson, was a record that really set me on fire about playing jazz when I was young," says Junebug, now 49: "On My Way Home is my way of paying tribute to them and all the other great artists who've inspired and guided me over the years."
A well meaning journalist once asked a famous trumpet player to define jazz. The response was "Man, if you don't know by now, you ain't never gonna know!" A definition of jazz is indeed elusive, but On My Way Home, by Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson, is jazz. Period. It displays a sense of timelessness and universality, a link between past and present, and that is what great art is all about.