Acoustic Alchemy – Roseland – Heads Up International HUI-33247-02, 56:00 [09/27/11] ****:
(Greg Carmichael – nylon string guitar; Miles Gilderdale – steel acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Fred White – piano, electric piano; Greg Grainger – drums; Julian Crampton – bass; Gary Grainger – bass; John Goldsby – upright bass; Ricky Peterson – Hammond organ; Sam Hobbs – drums; Snake Davis – saxophone; Fayyaz Virji – trombone; Malcolm Strachan – trumpet; Dan Mizen – drums; Ian Chalk – trumpet; Frank Mizen – pedal steel)
Thirty years ago the notion of a British smooth jazz ensemble was implausible. But Simon James on nylon guitar and Nick Webb on steel merged their vision for guitar-based contemporary jazz music. Renowned for their tight arrangements and touring bravado, the band named Acoustic Alchemy reached mainstream audiences. Greg Carmichael replaced James and the band released nine albums (three with jazz giant GRP Records and the remaining with MCA), developing various influences including straight jazz, funk, country, pop and even reggae. After Webb’s untimely death, the future of the band was in doubt. However, Miles Gilderdale came on board, as the group continued to record and tour. Their 2001 album, AArt was nominated for a Grammy.
Roseland, the first self-produced album marks their debut on Heads Up International (a division of Concord Music Group). Recorded at Gilderdale’s home studio, the album has thirteen original compositions that showcase melodic arrangements and expressive guitar play. The opening track, “Marrakesh” features a percussive rhythm that is propelled by Carmichael’s distinctive nylon string guitar. Layered keyboards and organ runs frame the arrangement. Bluesy riffs dominate “One For Shorty” with an infectious groove. Giderdale switches to electric and a soulful horn chorus adds swagger to the piece. Ricky Peterson also provides a tasteful solo on Hammond organ.
The ensemble play emphasizes diversity and flair. “State Of The Ark” employs a sweeping Middle Eastern vibe, while “Sand On Her Toes” has a jaunty bossa nova cadence. Both tracks are energized by the interplay between Carmichael and Gilderdale. A lithe reggae motif is cultivated on “The Ebor Sound System”. Closer to traditional jazz, “Right Place, Wrong Time” benefits from Fred White’s bop touch on piano. Key shifts and improvisation give this song a sharper context. An interesting change of pace is heard on the warm tones and crescendos of “Templemeads”. The layered sonic effects add depth to the song. Acoustic Alchemy creates intimacy on the country-tinged “Stealing Hearts” and the laid back “A Kinder Loving” which closes the album.
There may be numerous labels for this music (adult contemporary, smooth jazz, etc.), but they all translate to good music. Heads Up International continues to enhance its reputation as a premier label. Roseland is a welcome addition to the lineup.
TrackList: Marrakesh; One For Shorty; Templemeads; Marcus; The Ebor Sound System; State Of The Ark; Swamp Top; Sand On Her Toes; Roseland; World Stage; Stealing Hearts; Right Place, Wrong Time; A Kinder Loving
A bona fide jazz legend is celebrated with an all-star documentary soundtrack vinyl soundtrack.