Trumpeter Rick Braun is a member of the smooth jazz aristocracy and when he comes to make his records he calls on his fellow peers to help him out (just as they regularly call on his services too). The result is always a set of professionally crafted music with no rough edges… classic smooth jazz if you would. And if someone asked you to define the genre, you could do worse than choose a couple of cuts from ‘Can You Feel It’, Braun’s new 11 tracker. The tunes I’m thinking of are ‘Back To Back’ and the obviously-titled ‘Silk’. The former features some lovely piano fills from Brian Culbertson while the latter is truly slinky but on both there’s not a note or beat out of place… slick and shiny, and, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sales figures for Braun in particular and smooth jazz in general indicate that there’s a big audience out there, so why not give the folk what they seem to want.
What else is there then on ‘Can You Feel It’ to excite those legions of smooth fans? Well for starters there’s the obligatory vocal. Here Rick chooses to have a stab at Al Green’s ‘Take Me To The River’. He enlists Euge Groove’s sax to help him re-create that chugging Hi brass sound while vocalist Eliot Yamin works up a head of emotion towards the end, but it all just lacks the earthy feel of Al’s original and I guess that’s the nature of the beast. Similarly with the other energized cuts. ‘Dr Funkenstein’ is a big band romp rather than funky (‘Delta’ is the cut that gets nearest to funk) while ‘Get Up And Dance’ isn’t as energetic as the title suggests. The slower tunes have a lot to offer. ‘Mallorca’ is a sweet homage to the Spanish island; ‘Another Kind Of Blue’ is a melancholic lament featuring Philip Saisse on piano; and ‘The Dream’ is as gentle as the title suggests.
That really leaves the title cut. It’s another smooth jazz classic, maybe a bit busier (wilder?) than any of the other cuts. Interestingly Braun plays the valve trombone here giving the cut an unusual and intriguing flavour, moving it towards classic Crusaders territory.
Smooth jazz? Yep, it’s all here.