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Buy this CD Before there was smooth there was contemporary, which encompassed the music that would become smooth jazz, but allowed a wider range of influences and more stylistic roaming. Along with the jazz influences and R&B flavor, there was a strong thread of pop/rock influence. The Rippingtons were the most high profile example. T-Square and Vital Information were too, and it showed up in specific songs on a lot of other artists' CDs.  Over the years the rock driven guitar solos, energized beat-driven funk, and more complex Latin/world flavors have been phased out. You won't know how much you missed them until you hear them again. They are all present in abundance on Turning Point's Matador.

Based in Phoenix, Turning Point has developed a rabid regional following over the last decade. Their fan base has spread through live performances, word of mouth, and their five previous indie releases. I discovered them through the "if you like the Rippingtons, you'll love these guys" buzz, as did a lot of other fans that are outside of their touring realm. Airplay has been sporadic because, at a time when most similar bands began to tone it down and streamline it, Turning Point continued to record music exactly the way they wrote and performed it.

Matador is indeed their finest hour. All their CDs have a lot of bright moments, but this one has some in every song. They have added a sax player, which brings them more into the smooth jazz realm, but the electric and acoustic guitars are still the foundation of their sound. "Lickety Split," the lead track, starts with a big dose of funky attitude and a horn section that recalls the soul funk bands from the 70s with some fusion tossed in. Their take on Chick Corea's "Spain" is both original and breathtaking with the flamenco guitar intro and Charlie Bisharat's soaring violin solo. "Matador" expands that theme with a driving guitar lead. "Gospel Brunch" starts with a deceptively smooth groove, then breaks into a rock tinged guitar lead with Jeff Beck overtones. "Turn Down The Night" opens with a Rippingtons/Kilauea groove but also travels a more adventurous path with some sneaky, tasty guitar riffs. The island flavored "Despues De Manana" at times recalls an updated, stretched out take on Spyro-Gyra's early hits. There are an equal amount of moments of absolute beauty; songs that are mellow or romantic, but never fade into the background. "Rhapsody for Priapus" is a rhapsody with a lyrical guitar lead. "Quisiera Ser" is an elegant acoustic ballad. "Suburban Safari" layers a bouncy guitar melody over a fusion driven keyboard line. Two powerful, heartfelt tracks wrap up the CD: "Soldier's Lullaby" and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow," an anthem-like tribute to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

A lot of these songs have elements that are an integral part of other artists' live performances that don't get recorded. Rippingtons similarities stand out, especially with the stylistic overlap between the equally Latin flavored Wild Card. But where the Rippingtons' went for subtlety, Turning Point has gone no holds barred. The cut-loose keyboard work Lorber and Ricky Peterson deliver onstage shows up here, as does a good dose of Jeff Beck/Jeff Golub styled guitar. In lesser hands, mixing this many influences, keeping the rock and funk elements intact, and allowing quite a bit of soloing could create an album that was too progressive to be accessible. Because of their songwriting skills, musicianship and creative discipline, that doesn't happen here.  Part of the magic of this one is in the sequencing of the songs.  The musical diversity is showcased as the songs segue from uptempo to mellow, rock to pop to smooth to Latin/Flamenco. This allows the quality of the musicianship to be what leaves you breathless, rather than a stylistic roller coaster ride. This is a project that doesn't just push the boundaries. It kicks down some walls, and does it in the most appealing way possible.

- Shannon West

CD Reviews return to home page interviews CD Reviews Concert Reviews Perspectives - SmoothViews State of Mind Retrospectives - A Look Back at a Favorite CD On The Side - The Sidemen of Smooth Jazz On the Lighter Side - A Little Humor News - What's New in Smooth Jazz Links - A Guide to Smooth Jazz on the Web Contact Us About Us Website Design by Visible Image, LLC