This double CD is most notable for its second half which has a strong outing from Chick Corea's Elektric Band, his pacesetting fusion band with guitarist Frank Gambale, altoist Eric Marienthal, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. The first CD is of lesser interest since it contains three routine vocals by Diane Schuur and some dull R&B jams with guitarist Lee Ritenour, keyboardist Dave Grusin and saxophonist Tom Scott. This set is worth buying for Corea's contributions if seen at a budget price.
Following the major sales and airplay successes of Benoit's previous GRP outings, Shadows is a more conceptual album, a collection that perfectly fuses the hip-hop grooves introduced on Inner Motion's popular track "M.W.A," with a lush orchestral approach. All without losing sight of the spirited composing and playing style that made him one of smooth jazz's biggest stars. Helping bring Benoit and co-producer Marcel East's chemistry to life are friends old and new to the Benoit studio fold: guitarist Pat Kelley; bassists Neil Stubenhaus, Nathan East, and Jimmy Johnson; saxophonist Michael Paulo; drummers Jeff Porcaro and John Robinson; and percussionists Chris Trujillo, Michael Fisher, and Fattburger's Tommy Aros.
Its hard to think of another jazz musician, outside of George Benson, who has released as many high level pop jazz recordings as Ramsey Lewis. Ramsey is probably one of the top pianists of the modern jazz era, but he has always been more of a crowd pleaser than an adventurer, but that doesn’t mean his playing is light weight at all. “Ivory Pyramid”, released in 1992, is typical of Lewis’ repertoire with masterful renditions of tunes he wrote plus a few covers.
Eric Marienthal has always had limitless potential. Primarily known as an altoist but also an excellent player on tenor and soprano, Marienthal came to fame with Chick Corea's Elektric Band and tends to sound at his best when teamed with players of that caliber. Many of his own projects suffer from overproduction, a lack of spontaneity and commercial material, but that is not true of Crossroads. In groups ranging from quartets to sextets, Marienthal is challenged by the material (all group originals), matching wits with the likes of keyboardist Russell Ferrante (from the Yellowjackets), bassist John Patitucci and, on three selections, Chick Corea. Crossroads contains some of Eric Marienthal's finest playing outside of the context of the Elektric Band.
As he was developing his formidable career in the early era of smooth jazz, the saxman proved an invaluable sideman of Chick Corea's Elektric Band, David Benoit's touring ensemble and a studio player for projects by such artists as Keiko Matsui and Mike Garson. Yet as a solo artist, he spent his first three albums searching for an identity that ranged from pop (Round Trip) to electronic mainstream jazz (Crossroads). With Oasis, his search came to a diverse, exciting, and highly enjoyable end. Marienthal applies his stellar blowing techniquest to styles ranging from folk to gospel, but the overall attitude he conveys is sweet and soulful R&B, as in the hoppin' grooves of the funky opening tracks "Hustlin'" and "Seafood to Go."
This album was released on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the North Sea Jazz Festival. It contains live recordings of John Patitucci, Spyro Gyra, Russ Freeman & The Rippingtons, B.B. King, Chick Corea, Robben Ford and Gary Burton. All songs were recorded live during various editions of this festival.