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First View

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Album Review

Acoustic guitarist Steve Oliver knows another can't-miss smooth jazz secret: if you want to create a killer debut, work with a slew of past and present Rippingtons. First View reveals a strong melodic player and composer equally comfortable on sweet little gems like "I Know" and the slamming razor sharp funk of "Happy Feet"; Oliver was able to bring a fresh new hip-hop feel to the silly standard "Midnight at the Oasis." Another trademark is his remarkable soprano-voiced scatting ability, which he weaves seamlessly into his guitar lines. Still, it's got to be a secure feeling having percussionist Steve Reid, saxmen Paul Taylor and Jeff Kashiwa, keyboardist Dave Kochanski and bassist Kim Stone helping out. The Taylor driven bridge on "Happy Feet" thrusts along like a classic Rippingtons' riff. The one area of departure from that Rippingtons' feel which Oliver could feel free to explore more (lest he always be compared to Russ Freeman) appears on "East Wind," which finds him right at home exploring more hard-edged blues flavors. Even if his basic acoustic sound is of the cool and balmy variety, he likes to surround it with hard-hitting grooves at times; "Happy Feet"'s foundation, laid down by Stone and aggressive drummer Dave Hooper, provides the perfect balance for Oliver's lighter touch.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Playing sideman to Rick Braun, Larry Carlton, Gato Barbieri, the Neville Brothers, and many others introduced guitarist/vocalist Steve Oliver to smooth jazz fans, but it was with Steve Reid's band that Oliver found a following. It was 1996 when Reid contacted Oliver at the last minute to fill in for a canceled opening act. Oliver hit the stage as a solo act and Reid was impressed with the guitarist's vocalese skills and summery sound (Oliver is a California native and a true follower of the laid-back...
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First View, Steve Oliver
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