Manuel Valera Trio – The Seasons

Does Manuel Valera ever get tired? If the pace of his releasing new music, or joining another artist’s session, is any indication, the answer to that is an emphatic no.

Six albums of his own in just four years, not counting other projects. And he’s done them in various configurations: solo piano, his groups New Cuban Express and Groove Square. Now, in trio format, he presents The Seasons (Mavo Records, 2017).

Accompanists are Hans Glawischnig, bass; and E.J. Strickland, drums.

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Jamhunters – Nightclub

They are coming from Denmark, Jamhunters are Lars Fabiansen (guitar) and Peter Michael (keyboards). Smooth Jazz is their main style and they are professionals in serving the perfect groove. Their debut album Jamhunters (2006) was soon followed by their sophomore album Music Speaks Louder Than Words (2008). Their third project was Driftin’ (2011), followed by Colortones (2015).

After a longer hiatus they are returned with Nightclub (2017). A live in Studio recorded album of 9 original songs in the usual smooth Jamhunters style. Get the album at CDBaby.

Roberto Restuccia – When The Smoke Clears

Inspired by great contemporary jazz guitarists like George Benson, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Chuck Loeb and the late Ronnie Jordan UK based guitarist Roberto Restuccia makes after his debut album Exposure (2016) with When The Smoke Clears (2017) the second step of his solo career.

On his sophomore project guitarist Roberto is performing a PRS Hollow Body 2 and a Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster. He is supported by Roger Inniss (bass), Russ Wilson (drums), James Johnson (keyboards), and Rock Hendricks (saxophone). All tracks are written and produced by Roberto.

After this compact package of facts let’s concentrate on the album, which starts with the song Mei. This is a tribute to a beloved person, a musical dialogue between guitar and piano. The guitar sound is inspired by Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), coherent on many levels and a real soul filler.

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Tom Kennedy – Points of View

“Behold. The master at work,” says Ben Vereen of bassist/composer Tom Kennedy. He’s not exaggerating, as Kennedy exhibits his mastery of the instrument and of composition with Points of View (2017).

Kennedy plays electric bass, acoustic bass and keyboards. Personnel are Dave Weckl, drums; Bill Evans, soprano sax; Charles Blenzig, piano; Karla Harris, vocal on “New July”; Wes Ritenour, drums; Chuck Loeb, guitar; Bob Fanceschini, soprano sax, tenor sax; Lee Ritenour, guitar; Obed Calvaire, drums; Nick Marcione, trumpet; Randy Brecker, trumpet; Mike Stern, guitar; Richie Morales, drums; and Bob Malack, tenor sax.

Weckl and Kennedy begin “The Dark” in emphatic fashion, injecting a slight Weather Report touch. After the intro, the mood changes to something more mellow. Evans takes lead, setting the mood for an evening of romance. The tenor expresses freely, with Weckl and Blenzig offering support. Kennedy evokes memories of Jaco Pastorius when playing in the background. During his middle solo, he makes the instrument talk, much like a suitor saying sweet nothings to his darling. At just above eight and a half minutes, it’s the second-longest track in the set. That gives the listener ample time to enjoy each musician individually, and the quartet as a whole.

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Konstantin Klashtorni – Smooth Jazz IV

Multi-instrumentalist Konstantin Klashtorni is known by his projects Kool & Klean, Chillaxing Jazz Kollektion, Love Suggestions and Smooth Jazz. His newest album of the latter is Smooth Jazz IV (2017).

The front photo indicates Konstantin’s musical main weight, the saxophone. In order to avoid a false impression, Konstantin plays all his instruments himself, composes all the pieces and produces them. Releasing more than 30 tracks each year makes him to the most productive artist of the smooth jazz scene.

Listening to the first track If I Told You immediately comes Grover Washington’s The Two Of Us into mind. The soul searing beauty of the melody can compete with the great inspiration. With Hills and Valleys Konstantin not only presents a catchy melody but also invests time and efforts in a sophisticated rhythmic background.

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Bob Dowell – Mississippi Slide!

After years recording and performing in large ensembles, or as a sideman for an array of artists in various genres, trombonist Bob Dowell celebrates his new home and the inspirations it provides with Mississippi Slide! (2017).

Accompanying musicians are Art Edmaiston, tenor sax; Tony Thomas, Hammond B3 organ; Tim Goodwin, bass; and Tom Lonardo, drums.

The title song has a cool blues vibe. The organ introduces the piece, followed by a brief melody by trombone and tenor. Dowell quickly gives way to a tenor solo that’s right out of the 1950s or ‘60s. Edmaiston plays clean, bright and – cool. Dowell follows with a smooth solo of his own. Thomas, Goodwin and Lonardo stretch out plenty in the background. After Thomas’ brief stint, Dowell and Edmaiston blend for the closing melody and fade.

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Jaee Logan – Sun Rider

Smooth jazz multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer Jaee Logan‘s new album Sun Rider is featuring Verdine White (Earth Wind & Fire), Bill Summers and more. Recommended if you like Earth Wind & Fire, Ramsey Lewis, Norman Connors.

This album is on sale at iTunes.