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Try Something Neu

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Album Review

Clearly, the popular and versatile veteran Philly-based saxman was just having fun with his name when titling his third independently released CD, because we have heard every possible stylistic angle that a contemporary/smooth jazz-oriented saxman could take, right? The good news is, Andrew Neu actually does a few "neu" things that transcend what listeners usually hear on smooth jazz stations, mostly thanks to the stirring energy he creates with his three- or four-piece brass section called the Bright and Tight Horns (featuring the saxman himself and his brother, trumpeter and flügelhornist Peter Neu). As on Neu's previous releases, a lot of promotional attention was focused on the big genre stars that guested on this infectious collection, including Fourplay guitarist Chuck Loeb (the bright, bluesy funk opener "Chez Cool"), bassist Brian Bromberg (who adds bubbly coolness to the in-the-pocket, soprano-driven soul gem "Libra Rising"), keyboardist Dan Siegel (adding elegance to the lush alto tune "Open Mind"), and Bobby Caldwell, who turns in a picture-perfect vocal on "Next Time I Fall (In Love)," the song he co-penned for Peter Cetera and Amy Grant in the '80s. But all those fall short by comparison to the blazing heat Neu kicks up with a largely no-name cast (with the exception of producer/bassist Gerald Veasley) on the single track that takes the disc from "good" to "beyond great": the explosive, shuffling horn jam "No Hang Tonight." The powerful, hummable brass hook sells it, but it's the soloing that sticks — the wild key runs by Demetrios Pappas, the crackling trumpet of Chuck Gottesman, and the bubbling over by Neu himself. Harry "Butch" Reed's drums anchor the tune brilliantly and inventively. Everything else on the set is delightful, catchy, and well-played, but a little more of this kind of fire would have made this a potential classic. Of course, radio never plays "this kind of fire," so maybe to be really Neu next time, the saxman will just have to pretend airplay doesn't matter.

Try Something Neu, Andrew Neu
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