Seasonal greetings from Smooth Jazz Therapy; The love of music is all about preference and since 2006 I have been sharing what I identified at the time as being my Top Twenty Tracks of the year. As I reported last year, the search for great new music becomes increasingly fraught with each passing year. Less albums and more singles are both contributory factors yet with an eye firmly on quality rather than quantity I am delighted to reveal, in no particular order, my Smooth Jazz Therapy Top Twenty Tracks of 2022.
‘Step Into Love’ by Brian Culbertson from the CD ‘White’. First there was red. Then came blue. Finally it was white and Brian Culbertson’s three-phase odyssey that tells of the ups and downs of a long-time relationship was complete. The first single from it was the sultry ‘Step Into Love’, which, with a killer beat and moody trumpet from the always-excellent Patches Stewart, was classic Culbertson and then some.
‘What You Do To Me’ by Nick Colionne. When, on News Day 2022, the death was announced of contemporary jazz guitarist Nick Colionne the smooth jazz community was shaken to its core. At the time of his sad demise Nick had just completed the recording of what turned out to be his final album and the first single from it proved to be ‘What You Do To Me’. A slice of sumptuous easy grooving contemporary jazz it instantly became a Smooth Jazz Therapy favourite.
‘Summer In Blue’ by writer, producer and keyboard player Michael Broening After two decades of making hits for a veritable who’s who of smooth jazz talent writer, producer and keyboard player Michael Broening is finally stepping out of the shadows. His debut album is expected in early 2023 and offering it some early publicity was the truly sensational ‘Summer In Blue’.
‘Too Close For Comfort’ by Chris Standring from the CD ‘Simple Things’. It is one thing to be hijacked by a pandemic that refused to go away and then by the small matter of a heart attack but Standring went through all of this and more before arriving at his latest recording ‘Simple Things’. The wonderful ‘Too Close For Comfort’ simply illustrated why the wait was more than worthwhile.
‘Dreamland’ by guitarist Blake Aaron. This was everything that smooth jazz circa 2022 should be. Aaron’s outrageously dexterous playing gelling to perfection with co-writer Adam Hawley on rhythm guitar and keyboards, Eric Valentine on drums, bass player Mel Brown, sax-man and horn arranger David Mann, plus trumpeter Trevor Neumann. The result was a scintillating summer smash of the highest order.
Read on for the remainder of this years top twenty and if you have your own list of favorites from 2022 why not e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy New Year!!
‘Bring It Back’ by Boney James from the CD ‘Detour’. ‘Detour was James’ eighteenth solo album and followed his 2020 outing ‘Solid’ which became his twelfth #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Album chart. The first single was the moody ‘Bring It Back’ that featured composer, conductor, orchestrator, arranger, and trumpeter, Dontae Winslow.
‘Can You Feel The Love’ by Mattias Roos from the CD ‘Cali Dreaming’. This one found Roos in superb collaboration with regular members of his supporting entourage, sax-man Greger Hillman, guitarist Ingemar Åberg and Wictor Persson on drums. Add in ‘go to’ bass player Dwayne ‘Smitty’ Smith and here was a combination with what it took to capture the trademark groove that Mattias has very much made is own.
‘Feel Like Making Love’ by the Bob James Trio from the album of the same name. Perhaps James’ biggest ever cross over hit in what continues to be an illustrious career was his version of Roberta Flack’s 1974 smash ‘Feel Like Making Love’. It carries with it an interesting story in that James played Fender Rhodes on Flack’s original before including an instrumental of it on his own ‘One’. Almost fifty years later he made it sound just as good.
‘Joy Dance’ by sax-man composer and producer Kim Waters from the CD ‘That Special Touch’. Since 1989, and the release of his debut recording ‘Sweet & Saxy’, Waters has been a constant on the urban-jazz landscape. With a reputation for being one of the most technically gifted players around his latest recording featured the easy grooving yet jazzy single ‘Joy Dance’ that found Waters at his sophisticated best.
‘Easy Livin’ by Norman Brown from his current CD ‘Lets Get Away’. This wonderfully feel good number came complete with a top-notch horn arrangement from Greg Vail. Indeed the entire album, a fine amalgam of jazz, R&B, pop and blues, was delivered with the sort of style that has become Brown’s calling card.
‘Untethered’ by Mark Etheredge firm the album ‘Love Planet’. This was a real musical highlight of 2022 and with the likes of Jay Gore and Paul Brown on guitars, Roberto Vally on bass, Lenny Castro on percussion and Joel Taylor on drums plus Ron King and Greg Vail on horns was not difficult to see why. The Smooth Jazz Therapy favorite was the extremely easy on the ear ‘Untethered’ that shimmered with dazzling interplay, which fizzed between Etheredge and guitarist Steve Oliver.
‘Make A Wish’ by the Billboard chart-topping guitarist, and multi-platinum producer, U-Nam. Reminiscent of the stellar work U-Nam was doing back in the nineties with some of the biggest R & B acts around, but with the addition of silky strings to bestow a veneer that is both sophisticated and soulful, this exuberant slice of up-tempo smooth jazz proved to be the perfect accompaniment to the long hot summer days to come.
‘A Midnight Rendezvous’ by David Benoit from the album of the same name. Supported by a plethora of guest artists including Shanachie label mates Jeff Lorber and Eric Marienthal Benoit really hit the spot with this one and none more so than the splendid title cut. Co-written by Benoit and bass player Roberto Vally it was a fabulous taster for what ‘A Midnight Rendezvous ‘ had to offer.
‘Say What’ by sax-man Jackiem Joyner. The sort of silky smooth number that we have come to identify him with, it put down a marker that despite twenty years on the scene Joyner is still going strong.
‘Wavelength’ by Paul Hardcastle from the CD ‘Hardcastle X’. Providing exactly what his legion of fans expected him to, this was textbook Hardcastle and then some.
‘Elegance’ by Paul Brown from the album ‘Promised Land’. This warmly inviting track included input from Jeff Caruthers on bass, keys, drums, percussion and wah wah that was as far reaching as it was sublime.
‘In My Groove’ by Hilary Mwelwa (aka Hil St. Soul) from the CD ‘Back In Love’. Constructed over a three-year period, and very much a labor of love, Hilary collaborated with producers Regi Myrix, Lorenzo Johnson and Prince Damon to release a series of singles that all found their way onto ‘Back In Love’. Take for example the easy grooving ‘One Life’ that has been described elsewhere as an instant classic or ‘In My Groove’ that has quickly become a Smooth Jazz Therapy favourite. Both were originally released in 2020.
‘Bounce’ by Najee from is current CD ‘Savoir Faire’. This contemporary jazz master class, orchestrated by Najee and added to by joint composers and performers Paul Brown on guitar, Roberto Vally on bass and Leon Bisquera on keys was among the best that ‘Savoir Faire’ had to offer.
‘New Day’ from sax-man Patrick Trahan. Although Trahan has, from time to time, been active in the genres of straight ahead, smooth, and Latin jazz, this easy grooving cut left little doubt that Patrick certainly has a feeling for what contemporary jazz should be all about.
‘Bottle Up Magic’ by vocalist Rebecca Jade from the album ‘A Shade Of Jade’. Walking an exciting line that took a neo soul vibe and spliced it with contemporary jazz Rebecca Jade was one of the finds of the year. The simply wonderful ‘Bottle Up Magic’, with a sumptuous groove and lyrics that beguiled, was topped off by picture perfect sax from Eric Darius.