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Album Review

By the late 2000s, most of the big festival and cruise lineups in contemporary urban jazz (insiders didn't dig the format name "smooth jazz" after a while) were dominated by the same 20 or so A-listers. NuGroove may not have had any of these on their diverse roster, but genre fans knew they could count on great melodic and grooving joints from the artists they did have. Complementing popular American performers like Steve Oliver, Bob Baldwin, Darren Rahn, and Jay Soto was the popular Ukraine and Holland-educated saxman Konstantin, who brought a touch of sorely needed Euro cool to the mix with this label debut (his third project overall). Living up to the title of the disc, the urbane artist created a dreamy, easily funky world of in-the-pocket gems — nothing too innovative or edgy, but infectious, joyful, and likable nonetheless. As producer, Konstantin added some nice retro soul vibes and horn textures throughout, including the flügelhorn and trumpet of Adir Kochavi on the dynamic opening track, "Stylish Walk." While his playing is solid and his melodies pretty irresistible (a given for any airplay or sales success in the genre), it's his gift for horn texturing and love of ambient touches on tracks like "Autumn's Edge" and "Chica Timida" — not to mention the atmospheric trip-hoppiness of "Spinning Along" — that ultimately make Smoothing an intriguing listening experience beyond the mellowness promised by the album's title.

Smoothing, Konstantin
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