Jeff Kashiwa’s solo projects have always reflected both his musical evolution and personal perspective. The commercial, hit-driven sensibility of Another Door Opens, his third CD, but his first post-Rippingtons outing as a solo artist, was followed by the joyous and more organic sounding Simple Truth. His latest, Peace of Mind, is a project that evokes a sense of reflective maturity. Kashiwa followed his instincts for this one, and they led him to what he refers to as a softer and more peaceful place. What he has done so brilliantly is created that mood without sacrificing substance and edge. There is some deceptive simplicity at work here. Underneath these catchy and often beautiful melodies there is enough complexity and innovation to keep things interesting.
This is one of those CDs that reveals its most interesting elements with repeated listening. That is a tribute to the producers and session musicians; a "who’s who" of the artists who are bridging contemporary and smooth jazz. The majority of the songs were produced by Chuck Loeb or Brian Bromberg. Kashiwa
produced several, and James Lloyd, of Pieces of a Dream, produced one of the most intriguing songs on the CD, "Deep Blue." Jeff Lorber, Lenny Castro, Greg Mathieson, Russ Freeman, Dan Siegel, and up-and-coming keyboardist, Mike Ricchiuti, join long time band mates Alan Hinds, Dave Kochanski, Dave Hooper, Melvin Davis and Mark Stevens. The production never overwhelms the artist, and the solos never overwhelm the songs. That is the secret to bringing improvisational touches to a smooth jazz project.
Peace of Mind opens with the buoyant "Wait and See" and "Here and Now," a funky free-for-all with a flashy Loeb guitar solo. "Ecstasy" and "Falling" are lyrical and intimate. "My Fantasy," which features Russ Freeman, is a rarity; a subdued head bobber. The acoustic instrumentation and rolling melody of "Homeward Bound" give it an almost folk flavor, while the bass and acoustic guitar intro to the title track are reminiscent of recent Mindi Abair/Matthew Hagar collaborations. James Lloyd's "Deep Blue" is textural and jazzy, a sound we haven’t heard much from Kashiwa, and one of the standout tracks on the CD. The bonus track brings in Sax Pack band mates, Steve Cole and Kim Waters, for a rousing cover of En Vogue’s "My Lovin' (Never Gonna Get It)."
The amazing thing about Peace of Mind is the originality. There is a familiar feeling to some of these songs but there are no formula songs or sound-alikes. The production is state-of-the-art, but the sound is clean and warm. He covers a lot of musical territory here and has given us an enjoyable and totally individualistic CD. Peace of Mind is peaceful without being passive, and lyrical without being lite.