BY DENIS POOLE
September 24, 2012
With a magical combination of neo soul and urban jazz, Smooth Jazz Therapy favorite and flautist extraordinaire Ragan Whiteside is back on the scene with her brand new project ‘Evolve’. It follows her 2007 recording ‘Class Axe’, which at the time I described as finding the sweet spot where contemporary jazz meets smooth R & B, and in common with this previous release benefits hugely from the input of Bob Baldwin and Dennis Johnson. Perfectly demonstrating the talents of Whiteside, not only as a sublime flute player, but also as a songwriter and vocalist, ‘Evolve’ is right up there with the best contemporary jazz albums of 2012.
Take for example the magically mellifluous [‘Livin' Lovin'] that was co-written by Whiteside, Johnson and Baldwin. It’s the sort of tune of which you will never tire and much the same can be said of the CD’s only cover, a real hip swinging version of the Ohio Players 1975 smash ‘Sweet Sticky Thing’ where Phil Hamilton on guitar and Baldwin on keys complement Whiteside’s contribution on both flute and vocals.
‘Sun Up In My Sky’ is another free flowing, soulful number and the first single to be offered to radio is the wonderfully zesty ‘Off Kilter’ which features Chieli Minucci on guitar and has all the attributes necessary to bring the flute back into mainstream focus. In fact ‘Evolve’ provides a delicious blend of vocals and instrumentals. In this latter category ‘Until Next Time’ revolves around a tuneful duet between Whiteside and sax-man Marion Meadows that really is something to savor while, right up there with the best of the vocal tracks, the hypnotic vibe of ‘Mean To Me’ offers another opportunity for Whiteside to show off her prowess as a bone fide soul singer.
Elsewhere, the title cut is jazzy, percussive and intense whilst in similar vein is ‘Eight Thirty Seven’ where Whiteside’s soaring flute dazzles like light on water. Much the same can be said of her performance with the languidly mellow ‘Memories Of You’ and a real standout in a collection crammed full of them is the superbly soulful ‘On The Dance Floor’. It finds Whiteside in a glorious duet with Porter Carroll Jr yet just as good is the easy grooving ‘Feelin’ Free’ where Bob Baldwin takes a featured spot on keys.
Check out ‘Evolve’ now. You wont be disappointed.
About Denis Poole
Smooth Jazz Therapy is written and produced by that noted writer on smooth jazz and classic soul, Denis Poole. Seeking out rare records on import became a passion and then, in the nineties, with UK radio station formats becoming briefly more sympathetic to fusion, new adult contemporary and finally the newly termed smooth jazz, everything, for a while at least, became more accessible. Even so, smooth jazz pretty much remained a hidden genre in the UK but Denis was helped by the increasing opportunities he had to travel to the USA, first for pleasure then on business. These visits offered readily taken chances to access the network of radio stations dedicated to smooth jazz and to see the artists perform. Denis writes from the heart and with a passion for music of many genres. His work can be found at a number of specialist smooth jazz and soul web sites including www.smoothjazznow.com, www.soultracks.com and at www.smoothvibes.com where he has written The Secret Garden section since January 2000. In addition he is available to artists and publicists for the production of biographies, discographies and promotional material. Contact Denis Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org