Some jazz purists believe that smooth jazz musicians are playing smooth jazz because they don't have the chops to play straight-ahead jazz, but the problem with most smooth jazz musicians isn't a lack of chops. Actually, many of them have fine chops but purposely dumb their recordings down because they would rather make money than struggle, which is not to say that commercial appeal and artistic integrity are mutually exclusive. Some smooth jazz releases are devoid of integrity, while others make an effort to balance commercial and creative considerations -- which is what saxophonist/flutist Horace Alexander Young often does on Acoustic Contemporary Jazz. Offering both smooth jazz and soul-jazz, this 61-minute disc is a mixed bag. Young is at his worst when he goes out of his way to pander to smooth jazz/NAC radio; his saccharine cover of Luther Vandross' "Dance with My Father," for example, takes him into Kenny G/Dave Koz/Richard Elliot/Najee territory. Acoustic Contemporary Jazz, which Young produced with keyboardist/bassist Travis Milner, has a few other throwaways as well; the more Young plays elevator music, the more he sells himself short. But when Young lets loose, improvises, and doesn't pander to smooth jazz/NAC programmers, listeners can hear what he is capable of. Young brings good soul-jazz instincts (of the Hank Crawford/David "Fathead" Newman/Stanley Turrentine/Grover Washington, Jr. variety) to the table on Milner's gospel-flavored "Glory to His Name" and Abdullah Ibrahim's "Joan-Capetown Flower." Another high point of the CD is "Danny Boy," aka "Londonderry Air," which includes some bagpipes (thanks to E.J. Jones) and successfully fuses Celtic music and soul-jazz. This is definitely an uneven album, but it has it moments -- and if Young can forget about Kenny G, Koz, Najee, etc., and concentrate more on the Crawford/Newman/Washington/Turrentine side of things, he just might deliver an album that is consistently strong instead of erratic.
|Label:||Pacific Coast Jazz|