Sy Smith, Conflict: Sy Smith is the underground queen of R&B and her fourth album will only solidify that reputation. Conflict is a fresh and exciting mix of new and old sounds. Smith’s production team drenches every track in a cool, electro-organic groove. Highlights include the live freak-out “Would All The People From Compton Leave?”; slow jams “Fly Away With Me” and “The Things I Do”; and the funky space-oddity “Reach Down In Your Soul”. For now the mainstream is behind Smith’s vision, but as soon as they catch up her career is going to skyrocket. (Psyko Inc) ~ 4 Stars.
Ted Nash, The Mancini Project: Henry Mancini was a composer for film and television in the ‘60s and ‘70s. On Ted Nash’s ninth release, his homage and love for his hero is deep and personal. His father and uncle played on Mancini’s original work so Nash’s arrangements are very connected with capturing that same intensity and passion that his forefathers lay down. Included in this set is The Pink Panther theme “A Shot In The Dark,” the Breakfast at Tiffany’s theme song, and the groovin’ “The Party.” Nash pulls out all the stops from high-flying solos to evocative interludes. The Mancini Project is the perfect introduction to Nash’s work as well as a classic composer that has forever changed the way musicians play music. (Palmetto Records) ~ 3 ½ Stars
Rachael Price, The Good Hours: Rachael Price’s third CD in a year, The Good Hours, is a set of songs from her live concert repertoire. Hours features Price’s rich and deep vocals that will remind many of k.d. lang, minus the raw emotion that only Lang can evoke. After all is said and done, this is just a collection of covers sung extremely well. In other words, it’s entirely run of the mill light jazz. (Claire Vision Productions) ~ 2 Stars.
Frank Catalano, Bang!: Since high school, Frank Catalano has been sought by the best of jazz musicians (Stan Getz, Tony Bennett and Miles Davis) and pop artists (Jennifer Lopez, Destiny’s Child and John Legend). An unorthodox collaboration with Ministry inspired him to create a MIDI keyboard that attaches to his sax. All that aside, Bang! is an awesome display of showmanship that will totally engulf you as Catalano takes you on a wild ride where jazz meets pop. Unlike many jazz records, Catalano keeps most of the songs under the four-minute range with bountiful hum-along pop melodies but then throws in experimental variations of that melody that will no doubt please jazz enthusiasts. (Savoy Jazz) ~ 4 Stars.