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Free Your Mind

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Album Review

The frustrating thing about smooth jazz isn't an absence of talent or chops; actually, there are plenty of smooth jazz musicians who have chops galore even though their studio recordings don't reflect that. At smooth jazz concerts, it isn't hard to find artists who take a lot more chances on-stage than they do in the studio. But taking chances in the studio isn't conducive to airplay on commercial smooth jazz/NAC radio stations, which is why so many generic, unimaginative smooth jazz recordings have been flooding the market since the 1980s. However, not everything that Walter Beasley records is without merit — and Free Your Mind does have its moments. When Beasley takes some chances on this early-2009 release, the listener catches glimpses of what he is capable of. The veteran saxman lets loose on "Shirlitta" (which boasts an addictive Afro-Cuban-minded groove) and the appealing, Brazilian-influenced "DukeZillia" (named after pianist/keyboardist George Duke, who has made some fine contributions to Brazilian jazz along the way). Beasley is obviously quite fond of Latin music, and the influence of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music is a plus on Free Your Mind. Also noteworthy is "Barack's Groove," which was written for Barack Obama and offers a bit of a Central African flavor.


Born: May 24, 1961 in El Centro, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

An R&B-ish player whose music sometimes crosses over into jazz, Walter Beasley's sound is a perfect paradigm for defining "contemporary" or "smooth" jazz, and he a talented musician. After briefly playing trumpet, Beasley switched to saxophone when he was nine and was soon inspired by Grover Washington, Jr. He attended Berklee College and, after graduating at age 22, became one of the school's teachers. In 1987, Beasley released his first self-titled album and since then has recorded two sets for...
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Free Your Mind, Walter Beasley
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