As is usual with Earl Klugh's recordings, Journey features the guitarist's pretty tone on melodic and lightly funky material. His backup band sounds very anonymous and none of his sidemen display an original personality. However Klugh's musicians do their job well, providing a safe background for the guitarist as he interprets ten of his original melodies. Earl Klugh collectors will most likely enjoy this effort due to his sound and the peaceful vibes, but those who prefer more adventurous music will not be converted.
Earl Klugh's long-awaited solo album showcased his pretty sound on the acoustic guitar, giving two- to three-minute melodic readings of superior standards. Some of the pieces (notably, "I'm Confessin'") found Klugh playing a relaxed stride similar to some of the guitarists of the '30s.
Mosaic Records, known for its historic compilations of Blue Note recordings in either box sets or the Mosaic Select series, introduces its Contemporary line with this reissue of Earl Klugh's 1985 recording. At the least, it is a curious anomaly to all the label's other packages. At best, fans of Klugh will be happy to revisit tunes they may have only owned on vinyl. It's primarily the same syrupy orchestrations by Don Sebesky, the same lugubrious after-hours tempos, and Klugh's laid-back, mostly acoustic guitar framing movie themes, ballads, and an occasional standard. The solo acoustic takes of the swing evergreen "Ain't Misbehavin'" and an always bluesy "See See Rider" are still the standout cuts, flute beautifully leads and identifies the wondrous, poignant "Nature Boy" and "A Certain Smile," while oboe fronts the "Theme from Picnic."
Back in the '70s, when Earl Klugh was launching his career with easy grooving, melodic solo albums like Finger Painting and his Grammy winning One on One collaboration with Bob James, he probably had no idea he was helping lay the foundations for the later smooth jazz phenomenon. Throughout the '80s and '90s, tracks by the 13-time Grammy nominated Detroit-born composer and acoustic guitarist became staples of that format – but he took a sudden leave of absence after his single Windham Hill Jazz date, Peculiar Situation, in 1999. Emerging in sweetly eloquent style from a six-year studio hiatus, he gets back to his warm-toned basics on his Koch Records debut – which will easily remind longtime fans of his one previous stripped down, standards-heavy gem, 1989's Solo Guitar.
This is the perfect setting for acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh, playing strong melodies (including such standards as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Laura," "Mona Lisa," and "Two for the Road") while joined by strings and several horns in an orchestra arranged and conducted by David Matthews. As usual for a Klugh session, the guitarist sticks mostly to the themes and does not improvise much, as he never considered himself a jazz player; but the overall effect is quite pleasing.
If there's any mystery about how to sustain an instrumental career over nearly two decades, just ask Earl Klugh for the solution. Judging from the well-traveled acoustic guitarist's body of work, it seems to lie in staying true to a certain sweet sound but continually changing the rhythmic and production trappings. After a few ambitious jaunts into the orchestral realm, Klugh on Move shakes up the formula with a mixed bag of logical twists: exotic percussion, African chant vocals, odd vocal effects, swinging rock-blues, and urban-flavored grooves. The result is an inspired new freshness. While sticking to his slick, melodic string style, Klugh infuses more aggressive energy into the pot. A few times, he even lets a harmonica and sax take the lead voice. Klugh's warm flavors have never gone out of style, but it's nice to get a visit from an old friend bearing new and unique gifts.
Keyboardist Bob James and acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh struck gold with this session, recently reissued on CD. The formula hasn't changed much in succeeding years. Both Klugh and James are capable musicians; they demonstrated on this collection of light, innocuous melodies and occasionally interesting backbeats a high degree of professionalism. Klugh is a first-rate guitarist whose solos are concise and nicely delivered, but frequently sound thin. James' piano and electric keyboard playing is a puzzling combination of flawlessness and lifelessness.
Hot on the heels of his commercial breakthrough Touchdown, which contained the monster hit "Angela (Theme from Taxi)," Bob James teamed up with acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh for the first of two hit duet albums. One on One is not strictly a duet side, however. The pair is accompanied by a band of crack studio types that includes James' former CTI mates acoustic bassist Ron Carter and drummer Harvey Mason and a host of others as well as string and woodwinds sections. The fare is light, breezy, and barely there in places. Out of these sessions came "The Afterglow," which lit up the charts right after "Angela" did, making James the hottest jazz commodity on the scene.
Windham Hill's eagerness to become one of smooth jazz's top labels has led them to sign a handful of influential masters of the form. They couldn't have placed a surer bet than on Earl Klugh, whose snappy acoustic style first hit the airwaves in the mid-'70s. While he's experimented a few times in recent years with orchestral projects, his Peculiar Situation finds him for the most part mining familiar and friendly territory. The sharp crisp melody over a thick, rolling bass groove on the title cut (with the occasional synth flourish at the end of the chorus part) characterizes his overall funk approach, while the graceful high-toned melody that leads "Southern Dog" is classic Klugh balladry. One of his more unique traits is how he modulates his strings; the melody line on the title track features a high tone, and his solo improvisation delves into the lower registers.