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Another Door Opens

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Album Review

Having quit his longtime gig with the Rippingtons in early 1999 to focus on his own career, saxman Jeff Kashiwa's Native Language debut, Another Door Opens, is a true sink or swim proposition. Fortunately, he's not totally a babe in the woods; he has a legion of loyal Rippingtons fans who might be curious to check out his new stuff, as well as the smaller following of his own band, Coastal Access, built over preceding years while doing numerous gigs in Southern California. More importantly, the saxman brings two crucial legacies from his tenure with the Ripps: first, the tutelage of mentor Russ Freeman and, second, the forging of an amazing creative partnership with Ripps keyboardist Dave Kochanski, who co-produced Another Door Opens and wrote four songs, including the brassy, swaying retro-funk-flavored "Hyde Park (The 'Ah, Ooh' Song)" on which Kashiwa winds a catchy lead melody over flowing brass embellishments, an infectious, soaring female backing vocals, and reoccurring snappy acoustic guitar licks from Marc Antoine.

While he's becoming a better sax player on all three saxes across the board, the real test of his solo future lies in his ability to compose strong melodies over today's popular urban shuffle grooves. On "Power of Midnight," he floats an emotional and wistful soprano melody over the thick, throbbing bass of Melvin Davis and clicking drums of Ricky Lawson. While most of his and Kochanski's writing here is pop-oriented and in the pocket (witness the enjoyable MOR ballad "Back to Love," composed with Brian Bromberg), the irresistible, simmering, and ominous blues vamp of Kashiwa's "Dream Within a Dream" makes a perfect bed for his tenor to fly off of. More impressively, the gently percussive soprano melody of the title track — while nothing innovative — rings with the kind of beauty Freeman brought to the Ripps' best ballads. Longtime Kashiwa guitarist Allen Hinds wrote the laid-back sashaying closer, "Best of Times," on which Kashiwa plays a Toots Thielemans-like "harmonica" on the EWI.


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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Another Door Opens, Jeff Kashiwa
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