Release Date:
February 23, 2009

Reviewed by:
Shannon West

How does someone who plays and writes this well, and has one of the most powerful and charismatic live shows out there continue to hover under the radar?  This is Will Donato's third CD, and again he has put together a collection of strong songs that are tightly arranged and played with heart, soul, and attitude.  Like Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons, the song may be fast, slow, bluesy, funky, smooth, pop, or rock, but the focus is always on melody and harmony.  These songs have hooks, memorable choruses, and melody lines so strong you find yourself humming along, or even making up words to sing along with them.  The market has been flooded with some strong releases by up and coming sax players recently.  What makes Laws Of Attraction a standout is Donato's ability to write songs that sound instantly familiar without resorting to musical clichés and the way he seasons them with a heavy dose of old school funk flavor without sounding like he's rolling with the retro tribute trend.  That's where his instincts as a writer and arranger kick in.  He's a hard working musician who still plays classic soul and funk in some settings, original contemporary jazz in others, and sometimes gets to mix them up.  That cross-pollination is second nature for him and really comes to fruition on this album. 

As for the Ripps connection, it is less than six degrees of separation and more of a trickledown effect.  Steve Reid's Bamboo Forest was a Rippingtons spin-off.  Reid started doing solo gigs with a backup band composed mostly of Ripps and former Ripps.  Bamboo Forest's lineup gradually evolved into a separate entity with Donato replacing Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Oliver and Blake Aaron both doing stints on guitar, and Christian Poezach on drums.  Reid produced "Will Power," Donato's fabulous but under-marketed/underrated solo debut.  Oliver, Aaron, and Poezach are all featured on Laws of Attraction.  The openers - the title track and "Head Over Heels" - are immediate grabbers.  Most smooth jazz songs have a fairly long intro, then kind of build.  Donato's songs kick in immediately, sounding like he has brought the chorus to the front of the song then let it open up from there.  He lays down some AWB flavored funk on "Dial It In," underscored with Abie Perkins' B3 keyboard effects, wah-wah guitar, and horn section blasts and "No Stress Express" has the feel of one of those groovin' summertime R&B songs from back in the day.  Most of the songs on this album have a bouncy, joyous, spirit to them.  The only pure ballad in the set is one of its showcase songs.  "Do You Remember Me" was written for Donato's mom, who has Alzheimer's.  It is simply beautiful - haunting and expressive - the kind of song that breaks barriers and makes the kind of connections that music can do so much better than words. 

Laws of Attraction has all the elements of a commercial, even radio-friendly, collection of songs but every one of them ventures into territory that has become forbidden in the land of smooth.  There are blaring horn sections, some sizzling electric guitar solos, and when he gets funky he doesn't “lite”-en it up, he gets down and dirty.  He mixes it up so well that it could sneak past the gatekeepers but he still delivers the goods for the fans who have seen him tear it up live.  The consensus among those who have been lucky enough to see him perform or get our hands on his previous CDs is that this guy should be headed for stardom.  You couldn't ask for a more consistent, enjoyable set of songs.