Chris Cortez, |
Hold It Right There
(Blue Bamboo, 2003)
Chris Cortez recorded this collection of jazz/blues standards as a tribute to great musicians like Wes Montgomery, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and many others who have inspired him over the years. It's an extremely smooth, very polished set; Cortez's vocals and all the instrumentals are delivered with consummate ease and panache. This is archetypal smooth jazz, which is ultimately easy on the ears, doesn't demand intense concentration from the listener -- in short, it's music to relax to and will be enjoyed by those who like their music nice and easy.
Cortez plays guitar (his guitar work is first rate) and provides vocals on 10 numbers (the remaining three are instrumentals). He's accompanied by Tommy Sciple on bass, Jeff Mills on drums, Jay Webb on trumpet, Dean Fransen on piano and Larry Panella on sax and clarinet. Pianist Sam Bruton and sax player Reggie Murray also guest on several tracks.
Some readers will remember Cortez as a member of smooth jazz outfit Groovopolis. There are nice instrumental touches throughout (especially on guitar and piano), though for me the whole sound is just too smooth, too gentle -- the music doesn't challenge me enough. However, you understand the reason for this when you learn of Cortez's intentions when he set out to record it: "This album is a homage to a different era when it was possible to lay down a great groove and put a nice solo over it without trying to change the world with each song." There will be many who enjoy Cortez's interpretation of these old standards.
A favourite of mine is James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," and I also enjoyed the Latin rhythms of the instrumental track "Tico Tico." There's a new (satirical) lyric to "Benny's From Heaven," too (based on "Pennies From Heaven"). The collection also includes Cortez's personal favourite, Arlen & Koehler's "Stormy Weather" -- he learned the song when 9 years old and used to perform it alongside his mother.
Overall, this is a highly polished but very undemanding album. When you listen, it's a bit like putting on a pair of your comfiest slippers and taking a quick trip down memory lane!