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Walter Hill — Popjazz
(Native Language PJZ-0951-2 C, 2005, CD)

by Jeff Melton, Published 2006-05-01

Popjazz Cover artThere are a few important reasons to consider why slick jazz is still popular, emphasizing passionate sax lines and comfortable grooves. One is that the best session musicians are on tap to record a sexy lead line performing under familiar circumstances with good charts and after a few takes a new marketable platter is ready for play by a mid-day schedule DJ. That’s not quite the case with Hill’s ninth record in fourteen years. Despite the fact the album was done with Apple computers most at home, the cool vibe is still personalized and emotive without being cheesy. Arranging a well known Beatles track such as “Come Together” in a creditable fashion is no mean feat and Hill together with long time colleague Andrè Berry do up a comfortable rendition that stands true. The best pieces on the disc are where the tempo is slowed and a bit more personal performance is allowed to manifest as heard in the acoustic guitar “Interlude” leading into “Under the Covers” which is a classy light romantic ballad that works well. Brian McNight’s hit single “Back at One” scores some bluesy overtones where Hill demonstrates easy mastery of lyrical interpretation. Another strong reason for the continued popularity of pop jazz is the consistent support from fans (comparable to that of country and western fandom). The slower tempo cover of “Play That Funky Music” works as a snaky strut and no doubt would go down well to an endearing summer festival live audience. Walter Hill’s claim to fame may have been long established in the niche against higher profile players such as Dave Koz and Kenny G, but this recording could be the one that puts him into the echelon of the sales bracket.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 33, 2005 releases

Related artist(s): Walter Hill

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