Urban Funk are a US band whose music isn’t quite the funk that their name implies. Rather, the sound of Urban Funk is the sound of smooth jazz. On this 13 tracker you could make comparisons with outfits like Spyro Gyra and the Rippingtons, though in fairness these Urban Funksters offer, in places anyway, a little more bite and attack. Throughout it’s all pleasing, pleasant and polished and like most classic smooth jazz sets the repertoire is a mix of originals and covers with a smattering of vocals thrown in for variety.
Indeed two vocal covers are the album’s highlights – probably because of their familiarity and accessibility; they are Marvin Gaye’s ‘Mercy, Mercy Me’ and Bobby Caldwell’s ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ – two great songs to begin with and Urban Funk don’t stray too far from the originals. In vocalist Tommy Lepson, though, they’ve found a real talent… no histrionics – just honest soul singing. The other covers are takes on Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’, Christopher Cross’s ‘Sailing’ (both very light), Steely Dan’s ‘Josie’ (some great, driving sax from Wayne Sulic), Chick Corea’s ‘Spain’, Santana’s ‘Samba Pa Ti’, the film theme ‘Black Orpheus’ (all chosen to show the band can “do” Latin properly) and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Ribbon In The Sky’ ( great keys from Steve Long here).
That leaves a quartet of original tunes of which the opener, ‘Urban Phunk’ is the strongest. It rides a great soul groove and features catchy rifffing from the three piece brass section. ‘Under The Sea’ is another goodie – more flavours of Steely Dan… clearly the band dig Becker and Fagen. More established smooth jazz outfits would be rightly proud of these two cuts and you can find out more about the album on www.saxmanpro.com , while the album is currently available from CDBaby.