Archive for July 6th, 2018

Skinny Hightower – Retrospect

While we fans of smooth jazz love the music our favorite artists create for our enjoyment, we sometimes don’t stop to think about the pressure they must feel to keep generating those good vibes in ways that don’t simply copycat what they or others have done. This is especially true of artists like composer, producer, keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Skinny Hightower, who scored a smash hit right out of the box with his #1 radio smash “Taboo” from his Trippin ‘N’ Rhythm debut Emotions. A musical risk taker by nature with an intense, military service enhanced work ethic, Hightower knew he had to create a follow-up that would not simply match, but surpass the magic of that album.

Hightower’s process of creating the amazingly diverse, dynamically melodic and richly textured 15 tracks of his new album Retrospect shows a fascinating progression from his initial instincts to the soulfully developed urban jazz masterpiece it became. He originally wanted to go way outside his comfort zone and produce a hip-hop/traditional jazz hybrid. Soon realizing that developing his solo career depended on his ability to resonate with listeners, he delved deeply into the work of his heroes (among them Joe Sample, Bill Evans and Quincy Jones). The keyboardist cites the diverse modal qualities Sample trademarked as the chief inspiration driving the vibe on Retrospect – most obviously on the opening track “Sample That,” which features deeply funky Crusadersesque chords and colorful riffs flowing freely throughout the soulful and buoyant tune.

The Sample influence is simply the foundation for an album that has all the pocket urban jazz sensibilities we love – lush, infectious melodies, sprinkles of cheerful improvisation, lighthearted grooves galore – but takes all those out into explorations that defy easy categorization. Driven by his mastery of his Yamaha MX and P115 keyboards, Hightower artfully and playfully builds on his piano and synth foundation with organ, Fender Rhodes and flute textures, explosive horn and string arrangements, bass and deep percussion textures.
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