‘Slam Dunk’ is sax man Gerald Albright’s fifteenth album as a leader. As a veteran of the smooth jazz scene, then, you’d expect the long player to be a polished example of the genre…. and it is. Amongst the 12 tracks are quality, foot-tapping, soul-based instrumental grooves, romantic Quiet Storm moments, imaginative cover versions and a smattering of vocal offerings.
The set’s big vocal moment is a lovely ballad called ‘Where Did We Go Wrong’ and to help him deliver Albright has enlisted his old friend Peabo Bryson. The song itself sits perfectly in the legendary tenor’s catalogue and the whole production is as you’d expect… a sophisticated but heartfelt slice of smooth, romantic soul. The album’s other vocal offerings aren’t full on; rather, they’re the kind of tracks where the vocal is limited to the hook or chorus – so typical of the smooth jazz thing. First up there’s Albright’s tribute to Phil Collins – ‘True Colors’. Here the cooed vocal is down to Gerald’s daughter, Selina; on the gentler ‘Because Of You’ Albright himself takes to the mic and does a great Philip Bailey impression.
Of the instrumentals, the LP’s title track is the strongest. It’s quality smooth jazz with a great melodic hook delivered by a bright brass section. Albright includes his own bass solo and indeed he’s plays bass (and occasional flute) throughout. That popping bass is most prominent on ‘Fiesta Interlude’ which, as the title suggests has a hint of Latin and his flute playing is a real focus too.
The album’s big cover is a solemn treatment of James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World’. Albright claims that the Godfather was an inspiration and mentor, as too was George Duke, to whom the cut,’ The Duke’, is included as a homage. It’s another lazy, smooth jazz meander and will no doubt delight Albright and Duke fans.