Release Date:
March 31, 2009

Reviewed by:
Bonnie Schendell

Gregg Karukas has been in the music business for years.  And his latest CD, GK, is his 11th solo effort.  We all know his name from the production side of things, his days working with the Rippingtons, and a few mega hits from older CDs, but why does his music seem to stay under the radar?  Well, if any CD can break him out of that mold, this one will.  GK  is full of upbeat music and relies heavily on the true piano sound.  The cast of top shelf musicians on this CD also adds to musical layers that I always think of when hearing Gregg’s music.  Rick Braun and Lee Thornberg provide trumpet and flugelhorn.  Sax is offered up by Jessy J, Michael Paulo, and a “contractually anonymous” player who sounds suspiciously like Dave Koz.  Michael Paulo and Rick Rossi on flute, Melvin Davis and Eric Baines on bass, Oscar Seaton on drums, Luis Conte on percussion, and a host of unbelievable guitarists:  Michael O’Neill, Russ Freeman, Paul Brown, Ricardo Silveira, and Pat Kelley.

The CD kicks right into gear with the first released single, “Manhattan.”  This track is funky, yet light and breezy.  The piano leads the way with a subtle background sax added in just the right places to enhance the mood.  Michael O’Neill’s guitar is crisp and tight, as always.  “Daylight” is an upbeat, very radio-friendly tune (remember radio?).  Its melody is playful with a touch of sax again playing alongside the piano.  Back to total funky rhythms is “Napa Road.”  Gregg lets himself fly across the keys on this song, backed by horn section reminiscent of the old Chicago tunes.  A terrific flugelhorn solo is provided by Rick Braun.  “Floating in Bahia” slows the pace down and lets Rick Braun’s muted trumpet add the layer of smokiness. 

My favorite tracks on the CD has got to be the in-your-face “Wildwood” and “Coyote Party.”  They both let the combination of piano, organ, Wurlizter, and sax take you on a journey through old-time jazz.  Both have a total fun and funky sound.  The softer ballads, “Soul Kisses” and “Believe in Me” both show the diversity of this pianist.  Gregg slows the pace on these tracks to really let you feel the mood he is setting.  Both are beautifully arranged and delivered.  “Walkin’ In Time” and “Mesa Moon” are pure piano and what I would think of in terms of the Karukas sound.  Gregg fingers the keys with such finesse and gentleness.  The Latin flavored “Jamba Samba” gives Gregg the opportunity to branch out into a different tempo.  His piano gives way mid-song to allow the guitar of Ricardo Silveira take over. 

Whether you are a long-time fan of Gregg Karukas or experiencing his music for the first time, this will definitely be a stand-out CD.  Gregg has pushed forward with his creativity without losing his signature sound.  Definitely a CD worth adding to your rotation.