Richard Elliot's fifteenth release, Metro Blue, is his first for the new label ARTizen that he and trumpeter Rick Braun launched earlier this year. Braun is along for the ride through most of the disc, and there are a lot of nice surprises as many visitors stop by.
“Inside Out” is the first track and is heavy with horns. Written by Elliot, Braun and Rex Rideout, this one is deep with catchy hooks that make it a great one to begin with. Braun's trumpet is evident throughout as they collaborate in more ways than one. It's almost as if it's a sendoff for the label as well as the disc. “Camella” slows the pace down a little and displays Elliot's soulful side. Co-written with Jeff Lorber and named for Elliot's wife, Braun joins once again with flugelhorn in hand. Another keyboardist is brought in for “Coastline.” Gregg Karukas' influence is evident here along with Braun's trumpet background. Elliot's tenor plays off the back rhythm as he displays a lot of what has made him a popular artist over the years.
The Epstien/Bell cover of the Stylistics' hit “People Make The World Go Round” sets for an interesting stop as the fourth song. There's a reflection of all the great artists on this disc
and shows the song title rings true.
Braun and Elliot share the limelight playing the chorus, and you'll be singing the words as you listen along. “Say It's So” hits you between the eyes with its horns right away
away and through the rest of the song.
There's a good mix of horn and Elliot's soaring sax as Lorber joins again on keyboards for a rousing solo. “Chill Bill” could have easily fit into his earlier work on Chill Factor, but the group effort here is a nice touch for Metro Blue. It's heavily influenced by Ronnie Garret's bass and the keyboards of Phil Davis.
“Mystique” is the one you'll probably be hearing a lot from. This mid-tempo song features his fellow Jazz Attack musician, Peter White. White's guitar is a great counter to Elliot's tenor. They play the melodies together giving way to Elliot's lead. “Mango Tango” is heavy on Lenny Castro's percussion and Braun's trumpet. You'll be swaying as Elliot joins the mix. His tenor is thick and heavy in places before it soars to searing heights. Those throaty growls from his sax have been one of his trademarks over the years, and his fans won't be disappointed here. Brian Culbertson gets “Maxi's” going with a great back beat. You'll be toe-tapping to this one as it pushes it way along. Elliot's sax lies on top of this mix and keeps the fun going on and on. The title track closes out the set. It's a sharp contrast to the previous song. Braun is on keyboard, and Elliot's tenor is reflective and soulful. Braun's influence shows up again as several of his releases end in similar fashion.
Metro Blue will become one of your favorite discs this summer. I'm very pleased with it's offering, and quiet amazed at the range of talent that is on display here. The artist list reads like a Who's Who of the smooth jazz world. Congratulations to the ARTizen group and to Richard on a fine, fine recording. We look forward to many more from this group.