Time for another Smooth Jazz Sunday Mix. This time around, it’s back to multiple artists as opposed to just one artist on all the tracks. Featured today are: The Rippingtons, Lee Ritenour, Pieces Of A Dream, Boney James, Grover Washington, Jr., Norman Brown, Ronny Jordan and Spyro Gyra. There isn’t a theme, unless you consider the fact that the word “moon” is featured in the beginning and ending songs. But that’s mostly a coincidence, and the way I wanted the songs to line up.
As always, the songs in the playlist are listed below. If you cannot hear any of the songs, you can seek them out.
- “Moonlighting” by The Rippingtons
- “This Is Love” by Lee Ritenour
- “For You” by Pieces Of A Dream
- “Boneyizm” by Boney James (feat. Rick Braun)
- “Winelight” by Grover Washington, Jr.
- “Lydian” by Norman Brown
- “Closer Than Close” by Ronny Jordan
- “Weswtood Moon” by Spyro Gyra
Today’s mix starts with the title track from the album Jazziz magazine cites as the greatest smooth jazz album of all time. This album celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, and was actually the first album released under the Rippingtons name. Not bad for an “group” composed of session musicians who figured the album to be a one-off project.
Ritenour’s “This Is Love” uses the classic “Is This Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers as its spine, which gives the song a bit of instant familiarity. But Captain Fingers steps away from there to give us some great guitar work. This was the from the first album Ritenour released after he left the smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay.
Pieces Of A Dream have the distinction of being mentored early on by the artist with the fifth song on this playlist. Grover Washington, Jr. helped the young Philadelphia musicians get started in the business. Now a duo of James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon, the act has been active for almost forty years. The smooth ballad “For You” is one of their best songs.
Boney James and Rick Braun seem to have a knack of working well together. A couple weeks ago, I featured the pair on Braun’s track “Notorious.” “Braun returned the favor by working on today’s track “Boneyizm.” The two must have realized that their creative chemistry was good; they would combine on the fine album Shake It Up the year after Boneyizm was released.
Washington Jr. was a smooth jazz and fusion legend. Today’s song is the title track from what might be the saxophonist’s best album, Winelight. That album is famous for “Just The Two Of Us,” which many people believe was Bill Withers’ song. He did help co-write it, and of course he sang on it, but the song was included on Washington’s album. Today’s song will just have to settle for being the one that kicked off a great album.
Norman Brown was compared to George Benson when he first came on the scene, and his sound on today’s song reminds the listener of Benson’s skills on the guitar. “Lydian” has been one of my favorites for years; this was recorded during Brown’s time on the short-lived MoJazz label distributed by Motown Records. Brown has also worked with Braun and saxophonist Kirk Whalum as part of the trio BWB.
Ronny Jordan was one of the first smooth jazz artists who came from the acid jazz movement in the 1990s. His “After Hours (The Antidote)” was featured on one of my previous Smooth Jazz Sunday posts. Today’s track, “Closer Than Close” was one of the standouts from his Light To Dark album which ranks as one of his best. Sadly, Jordan passed away back in 2014.
Closing out the playlist is the legendary group Spyro Gyra with “Westwood Moon.” Though the band’s music places Jay Beckenstein’s saxophone out front, the big solo on this track belongs to keyboard player Tom Schuman. That’s not to say Beckenstein doesn’t have his moments; he does some fine blowing on the choruses, and on the fade out. The group has been around now for forty years as of 2017; here’s hoping some new music is on the horizon.
I hope you enjoy today’s Smooth Jazz Mix, and as always, thanks for reading and listening.