WARREN HILL: La Dolce Vita (Label: Koch)

WARREN HILL: La Dolce Vita

Warren Hill is one of a newish generation of smooth jazz sax players, but such is his standing within that close knit community that he can call in some big names to help him put together his music. So here on this – his latest 11 tracker – you can enjoy the collective talents of players like Greg Philinganes, Nathan East, Paul Jackson Jr., Ricky Lawson, Dean Parks, Phillipe Saisse, Jeff Golub and Luis Conte… all top men – and it shows. The music’s slick and glossy and it seems as if little expense’s been spared to ensure that that’s the outcome. However, no matter how much money’s thrown at a project or how “professionally” the players play, you can’t always guarantee musical magic… and though much of this album is fine and perfectly acceptable (even good in places), there’s a distinct lack of magic. In fairness, I wasn’t excepting fireworks – that’s not the nature of smooth jazz – but with so many talents on show I was expecting something out of the ordinary. Maybe the cover of the Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ would be it? But no…the classic is treated to a respectful “lite” retread and it’s so inoffensive that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it used with a voice over on some cheesy radio station or as the soundtrack to a TV ad. What about the two vocals then? Smooth jazz sets usually offer some soulful vocals – but here Hill tackles ‘Sunshine’ and ‘We’ll Survive’ himself. Both will make you realize why the man’s regarded as a top sax player rather than as a singer. So where’s the “good” I’ve just mentioned? Well, the opener ‘Mojo’ has a real bite and is driven by real drums while the sweet and sassy title cut reminds you of just how good smooth jazz can sometimes be. Elsewhere a version of Nat Adderly’s ‘Jive Samba’ offers some complexity and ‘Hill Be Jammin’ is loose and almost funky … but not quite. Still if – since the demise of Jazz FM – you still crave regular fixes of new, decent smooth jazz, this could be for you. Currently available via Universal’s Import Music Services.
(BB) 3/5