The goose bumps that showed up when the first track, “Earthshakin',” kicked in were old friends. They were the same ones that popped a long time ago when I heard the first track on a CD called Trust by a new artist named Boney James. There is a common thread between the two songs, the presence of Jeff Caruthers doing keyboards and programming. There is a common thread between the two CDs, too. They are both indie label releases from gifted sax players who are seasoned professionals and surround themselves with equally talented musicians, producers, and songwriters. This is not a comparison lightly made. Will Donato's Will Power starts out strong and never lets up. It's that good!
Donato is most recognizable to smooth jazz fans as the sax player on Steve Oliver's radio hit “High Noon," and as one of the members of Steve Reid's Bamboo Forest during their final tours. If you love Steve Oliver's CDs or were a fan of Bamboo Forest's Mysteries, a wonderful album that featured some of the same personnel, listening to Will Power is going to feel like a homecoming. A lot of the featured musicians worked on those projects: Steve Reid co-produced it; Steve Oliver was involved in the pre-production, co-wrote and plays on several of the tracks; drummer/percussionist Rogerio Jardin; Hans Zermuehlen on keyboards; and guitarist Blake Aaron were former Bamboo Forest band mates. Also featured are musicians from Donato's other two bands (this guy likes to work!) Redd Street and Art of Sax, as well as heavy hitter bassist Vail Johnson and Tony Guerrero, who has been flying under the radar recently and delivers beautiful trumpet lines throughout.
“Earthshakin'” starts out dark and funky then breaks out into a joyous sounding hook. "The Goddess" has a similar groove, understated and funky, with Donato actually delivering a bluesy soprano sound! “Will Power,” the first of three songs co-written with Steve Oliver has Oliver's trademark bright uptempo vibe and a soaring chorus. “Espana,” another Steve-O collaboration features Guerrero's trumpet and an elegantly textured arrangement, and the breezy “Illuminata” features Oliver's guitar and trademark vocalese. “Italia” is a passionate ballad with the feel of an updated take on Barbieri's classic “Europa.” There is not a single weak or haphazardly written/produced song on this CD, but the showpiece is one of the finest and most original cover songs out there... Donato's take on the Ephraim Lewis/Will Downing hit “Drowning in Your Eyes.” He so absolutely makes this song his own that it takes a minute to realize that it is not an original. The arrangement is shimmering and irresistible. This is a #1 song waiting to happen.
The industry climate has changed from when Boney's Trust arrived on the Spindletop label in 1992. At that time Smooth Jazz was emerging as a genre and building a fan base. Adults were seeking out this new music and radio playlists were more focused on new releases. A lot of us went nuts over that CD and went out of our way to share it on the air and in the music stores. The buzz was created and the artist deservedly became one of our stars. In 2005, Will Power arrives on Generation records and I can't think of anyone who has heard it and hasn't been thrilled. This is one of the freshest, strongest, and most original releases out there. Hopefully the word will spread, because Will Power is one that no smooth jazz fan should be deprived of hearing.
Hear song samples and purchase Will Power on CDBaby.com: cdbaby.com/cd/willdonato2
Will's website is www.willdonato.com
- Shannon West