There has been a lot of discussion on the social networking and industry websites about the future of the genre we call "smooth jazz." Let's face it, over the last 10 years or so this music was gutted in the name of smoothing it out. It's hard to rise out of the ashes and make a statement album that lets us peek into a much more exciting future when industry culture still clings to the old ways. That's probably why this album had to come out as an independent project. It's a fearless one that takes the best elements of the accessible fusion/contemporary sound of the late 80s and melds it with a post-smooth intensity and 21st century production. A lot of reviewers have been calling this smooth but I don't see that because it breaks every smooth rule and it is not background music. He and collaborator/co-writer Jeff Lorber have taken it above and beyond smooth. Patrick Bradley's second CD, Under the Sun
, is energized, complex, entertaining, uplifting and downright fun to listen to.
Look at the supporting cast on this project. Bradley and longtime friend Jeff Lorber have pretty much collaborated on this set. All the songs are Bradley originals with Lorber co-writing 8 of them. The perform as a duo on every track, trading licks from every kind of keyboard - piano, synth, Rhodes, Clavinet, Organ, and more - on what is obviously a keyboard driven album but gives you a good shot of guitar pyrotechnics and dirty horns too. The noticeable difference between this and traditional smooth keyboard music is that both men play with a powerful touch, they don't overload the songs with grace notes and lightly caressed keys, that "tickling of the ivories" sound that can make smooth piano projects sound draggy. They brought in Dave Koz, Eric Marienthal and David Mann, who did the horn arrangements. Rick Braun, guitarists Dwight Sills and Michael Thompson, studio heavy hitters Alex Al and Nate Phillips and fusion drum hero Dave Weckl.
The song Weckl plays on, "Time and Chance," "A Message," and the progressive rock tinged anthem "Empress of Dalmatia" sum up the adventurous spirit of this album. "A Message" percolates over a catchy little loop with Mann's horn section jumping in between the keyboard driven melody line. “Time and Chance” starts out smooth, segues into a bouncy rhythm,then Lorber and Bradley trade keyboard lines, bassist Alex Al gets to solo and the keyboards go retro fusion with some Chick Corea influenced riffing on Rhodes and Moog (!). There is a lot of rock guitar towards the end of this album, mostly delivered by Dwight Sills. He has a crunchy solo on “Rush Street,” brings Jeff Beck flavor to the beautiful song Bradley wrote for his late father, “Tears In The Sky,” and powers it up in “The Empress of Dalmatia.” This song is incredible. It brings instrumental rock into the contemporary/(gasp)smooth soundscape in all its pyrotechnic glory. Guitars and keyboards soar throughout as the song builds toward its majestic finale. The more conventional fare is equally tasty, especially the opening track, “Straight Path,” a Bradley-Lorber showcase and “Slipstream” which gives Braun a chance to cut loose and play the way he does at his live gigs.
There is a strong spiritual foundation to this album. It celebrates Bradley's Christian faith, his parents' legacy, his family, his music, the outdoors, and life itself. There is also a very spirited foundation to this album. These musicians sound like they are having a grand time playing these songs! Lorber sums it up best in his liner note blurb where he thanks Bradley for “being so open to trying a lot of things with your music to make it better. It was a blast.” When you hear Under The Sun you will be saying the same thing.
Visit Patrick Bradley's website: www.patrickbradley.net