KIM WATERS: The Shakedown (Shanachie)

Sax man Kim Waters has been at the top of his game for almost 30 years and despite the current crisis he’s just released this, his 24th  album as leader. Indeed he sees it as a sort of duty to continue to make music… no matter what: “Music is the one thing that everyone can turn to during this pandemic. It brings joy in these trying times,” is how Kim explains the reasoning behind this concise 10 tracker. And, indeed, ‘Shakedown’ will bring joy to those who admire classy, smooth, soul-based urban jazz…the kind of music that Georgia-based Waters has been peddling for three decades.

Over that period Mr W has learned how to please the genre’s fans and on ‘Shakedown’ he gets to tick all the boxes that those fans need ticking. First up there’s plenty of solid, soul-based grooves … ‘Feels Like Friday’ is possibly the best example, though ‘On The Streets’ offers plenty more of the gritty soul based playing  that people like David Sanborn made so popular. The album’s title cut is a little lighter. If we’re looking for references I’d compare its jauntiness to the sound of Grover Washington. Whilst we’re name dropping, then the Caribbean flavoured ‘Nina In Tortola’ take us into Kenny G territory… not to everyone’s taste, sure, but there is a place in, smooth jazz for MOR moments, and this is this album’s such moment.

Quiet Storm is another smooth jazz album prerequisite and here Kim offers us ‘With Open Arms’ – sweet and slinky, like the CD’s big cover – a version of Ella Mai’s US hit ‘Boo’d Up’. Not quite a vocal, this one, but sweetly cooed interjections add just the right amount of subtle shading. It’s a classic slice of contemporary smooth jazz – indeed that’s the best way to describe the whole album. ’Shakedown’ is never going to set the music world afire… Kim Waters never intended it to. He simply wanted to bring some solace and sweet joy to troubled times… he’s succeeded.

(BB) 3/5