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Album Review

The liner notes on this CD refer to tenor saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa's Play as "a new creative direction in contemporary jazz." Nice try, but this music could have easily been recorded in 1997 or 1987 or even by Stanley Turrentine in 1977 rather than 2007. "Way Out West" even has a disco beat. Kashiwa plays well, he always did, but he seems only able to express one emotion which is why this type of "smooth" music is often called "happy jazz." Everything is so cheerful, vacuous, predictable and safe. The liner note writer acts as if Kashiwa is taking a big chance in stretching out on these selections, saying that he is "resisting the call to hold back on his chops in exchange of the Faustian bargain of nearly four minutes of dial time on the radio." But if that is so, why does every performance other than the brief beginning and ending tracks (which are unaccompanied tenor spots) clock in between 3:55 and 5:17? To be fair, the musicianship is fine, one appreciates the absence of drum machines and pseudo R&B singers, and this type of moderately soulful and moderately funky outing is no worse than that of dozens of other equally dull "radio friendly" smooth releases. But why pretend to be anything else?


Born: Seattle, WA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

One of the most successful smooth jazz saxophonists, Jeff Kashiwa made his name as a member of the popular group the Rippingtons. Starting out on the clarinet at age ten, it would be two years before the Seattle-born musician switched to saxophone. Influenced early on by such smooth jazz progenitors as Chuck Mangione and Spyro Gyra, Kashiwa eventually moved to Boston to attend Berklee College and developed an interest in straight-ahead jazz -- a skill that often colors his live performances. His...
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Play, Jeff Kashiwa
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