JAY SOTO: Mesmerized (Label: Nu Groove)

JAY SOTO: Mesmerized

Jay Soto is an up and coming smooth jazz guitarist with roots in the church. Indeed he’s the musical director of his local church in Glendale, Arizona. ‘Mesmerised’ (his third album), however, owes more to George Benson and Norman Brown than the Winans or the Sounds Of Blackness. Indeed ‘Breezin” era George Benson is the best point of reference for this 11 tracker and, yes, music has moved on since 1976, but there are still plenty of people out there who dig those clean, crisp, clear guitar tunes and they’ll find plenty to enjoy here. Indeed in ‘Sunday Smile’ they’ll discover a tune that’s firmly built around the same template as ‘Breezin” itself. Mid-tempo and ultra-catchy, it’s perfect smooth radio fodder and ideal for those long, Summer Sundays – if they ever materialize. ‘A Love Like Mine’ and the title tune offer more of the same, while ‘Together At Last’ is a dreamy slowie. ‘Groovalicious’ is more complex (featuring Hammond from Ricky Peterson and brass courtesy of Jason Rahn); ‘Cacophony’ is looser in feel, while ‘Bayou Blues’ has a deeper groove and a smouldering feel of Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late’ about it. For contrast ‘Dreamsville’ has a chilly vibe, while ‘Diggin’ It’ is based around a loping bass line from Mel Brown. They offer just enough variety to make the album worth a recommendation but I can’t help thinking that one big vocal track would lift the album. The LP’s title cut, for instance, has tight beats and a great modern soul groove to it – but it just needs a little more than the whispered backing vocals to make it really, really special… food for thought.
(BB) 3/5