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The Neo-Jazz Project is a Detroit three piece – bassist Anthony Beauford, guitarist Duane Fuller and vocalist Patti Bijou and though their collective backgrounds are partly in jazz, their music is far from classic jazz. If anything we might call it smooth jazz – sometimes dubbed “lite jazz” but there’s nothing “lite” about this 12 tracker – chiefly because in Patti Bijou the outfit posses a wonderfully expressive and soulful singer who combines the emotion of Anita Baker with the sensitive phrasing of Carmen Lundy. The two guys know she’s literally the jewel in their crown ‘cos they construct songs and settings that allow her to shine. There are three cuts in particular that are very Baker-esque. They are the opening pair – ‘Solitude’ and ‘We Got To Hold On’ and a live studio recording, ‘What Was It’. That one is particularly strong with some deft piano touches from guest musician DuWayne Smith. Smith embellishes the first two too; both are melodic and catchy and have that hard-to-perfect restrained attack about the vocal… quite lovely. Elsewhere ‘Uncertainness’ has the air of an old school soul ballad about it, while ‘A Cool Breeze’ is built around gently shifting Latin rhythms. Bassist Beauford steps up to the mike for spoken word additions to ‘Power And Vanity’ which add an edge to the cut. Gentler again is ‘Love Surreal’… a song built around an understated rolling guitar figure from Fuller. The cut, we’re told, has been picked up by the Soul Unsigned label for one of their acclaimed compilations … in truth the Soul Unsigned people wouldn’t have gone wrong by picking any of the tunes. For more information on the Neo-Jazz Project go to

(BB) 4/5