LES SABLER: Flying High (New Vista)

Canadian-born, but Nashville-based LES SABLER is a US jazz guitarist. His last album, the Paul Brown-produced ‘Tranquillity’, won plenty of critical acclaim and the set’s lead tune, ‘Esselle’s Dance’ scored on the jazz charts. So, when it came to record a new LP, it was a no brainer for Sabler to hook up with Brown again and the duo are all set to release the 11 tracker that is ‘Flying High’ on February 3rd.

The album is a 7/4 mix of originals and covers and it’s the covers that attract the immediate attention if only to hear a new interpretation of the familiar. Here the two most familiar tunes are ‘Windmills Of My Mind’ and ‘Summer In The City’.  Sabler and Brown give the theme to the ‘Thomas Crown Affair’ a gentle Latin make over – the gentleness accented by the guitarist’s deft nylon string work. We’re told that it was Dusty Springfield’s version of the song that was the inspiration here while the impetus for covering The Loving Spoonful song  was the Quincy Jones 1973 take. This new version is a big production with tasteful brass underpinning the guitar and helping build the tension.

The album’s  two other covers are versions of Gene McDaniels’ ‘Compared To What’ and Thad Jones’ ‘A Child Is Born’. The  former is given a foot-tapping, beefy, brassy soul jazz treatment while the latter is gentle and reflective as befits the sentiment. Sabler has recorded it in homage to one of  his guitar heroes, Kenny Burrell who cut the tune back in 1971.

Of the originals, the opener, ‘Over the Top’ proffers  clever interplay between guitar and flute but the track chosen as the lead single is a pleasing ‘New Bossa’ – the title says it all. What guitar-led smooth jazz album doesn’t have  its Latin moments? A  classic ploy and indeed the rest of this album’s originals, which mix tempos and style of guitar, add to that classic smooth jazz recipe.

(BB) 3/5