Born in Fresno, California, Jeanette Harris is a classically trained saxophonist, but after graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston she chose soul and jazz as her musical pathway. In-demand, she’s worked with Norman Brown, Gerald Albright, Howard Hewett, Deneice Williams, Babyface and the great Phil Perry, and until the singer’s sad passing, Jeanette was a key member of Teena Marie’s band. Those experiences have paid dividends, ‘cos on this – the player’s fourth album – there are plenty of soulful grooves while the smooth jazz influence of people like Albright and Brown are self-evident.
Brightest of the soul grooves are ‘Just Keep Holding On’, ‘The Ride’ and ‘Oh So Good’. The latter would be a sensational modern soul tune had Jeanette or her producer Chuck Cymone had the foresight to add a vocal. As it is they leave the vocals to the LP’s two closing cuts – ‘Thankful’ and a second version of the album’s title tune. Featuring the voice of Joel Bowers, the cuts just lack a little impact and adding a vocal to ‘Summer Rain’ brings nothing new or remarkable to the original instrumental version
‘Muy Caliente’ is the album’s obligatory Latin tune while there are plenty of quiet storm moments – notably ‘Chilin” and the Kenny G-flavoured ‘Take Me There’ (some nifty guitar from Darrell Crooks here). Biggest disappointment is a version of Luther Vandross’ ‘Here And Now’. Always stately (as befitting a top “wedding song”), Jeanette slows it down further and it becomes almost funerary.
‘Summer Rain’ is a good, workmanlike smooth jazz set. It ticks all the boxes that the genre throws up and smoothies will love it. Critics of this jazz-lite though will simply nod sagely, knowing that they hold the musical higher ground.