Jay Rowe is best known as the keyboard player for Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, but he is also an established solo artist in his own right. Over the years, Jay has released three CDs. Red, Hot, & Smooth is his fourth release, and it features Jay doing what he does best, playing acoustic piano. In a world filled with covers, standards, and tributes, it’s refreshing to know that all 10 songs on this CD are Jay Rowe originals. He wrote and arranged all the music. This is new music folks, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Song placement is important because if you don’t get the listener with your opening song, they may not stick around for the rest of the CD. “Bumpin’ on Hollywood” is the first song. It’s catchy, and has an upbeat melody which draws you into Jay’s music, thus making the listener want to hear what else is in store. The title tune, “Red, Hot, & Smooth,” has a steady groove and a melody accented by Bill Holloman’s muted trumpet. “East Coast, West Coast” is an early favorite on this release, not only due to Jay’s powerful playing on this one, but also due in part to the rhythm section, the W and the G from the group WPG, Andre “Blues” Webb on drums and Gary Grainger on bass. “Kristen’s Rainbow” is dedicated to Jay’s sister. This is one of two of Jay’s solo piano pieces. There is something about the sound of an acoustic piano that gives a song a certain depth and feeling, and you can hear all of that here. It’s playful, yet sophisticated. Listening to this, one can really appreciate the quality of Jay’s playing. Jay’s got several more songs here dedicated to his loved ones. “Bryan’s Song” is for his nephew. “Stars in Her Eyes” is for his wife Deborah, and “Everyone Loves Mia” is for his mother. “Stars in Her Eyes” features some soulful electric guitar work by Rohn Lawrence. “The End of Summer” is the first single from the album and features Ken Navarro on acoustic guitar. Again, the beauty of the acoustic instruments makes this song very pleasing. The other solo piano piece, “Time to Go Home,” is another gem by Jay. For me, this is where Jay truly shines, on the solo acoustic piano songs. If he were to throw in a few more of those on his next CD, I wouldn’t object. The last song is the only vocal. “You Make My Life Complete” features Timmy Maia and is a nice way to round out this musical experience.
This CD almost got by me. That would have been a mistake because it’s filled with beautiful, heartfelt songs with groove-able hooks and catchy melodies well worth experiencing. This is smooth jazz piano and keyboards done right. Jay Rowe is a solid and diversified player. You’ll enjoy his latest effort and anticipate his next one.
- Mary Bentley