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Closer Still

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Album Review

The adage that many of contemporary music's most inventive and popular artists emerge from the ranks of first call session and touring musicians continues to prove precise, and indie label Noteworthy seemed committed in the mid-90s to making sure listeners didn't forget. On the simmering heels of Michael White's So Far Away arrived veteran keyboardist Brian Simpson, whose long-term association with some of the hottest icons in R&B and jazz have inspired the dynamic musings of Closer Still, one of the year's silky-smoothest and funkiest piano romps of the year. He only toured with Janet Jackson for a few months but was inspired enough to open the disc with the infectious, deliciously bouncy theme song "Because of Love," which features the tune's vocal harmony hook and several of Simpson's fellow Jackson tourists. His original material (some co-written with Oliver Wendell) ranges from the easy leanings of the breezy title cut to the sweeping romantic turn of the eloquent "April." More indicative of Simpson's potential as an urban heavyweight are the fiery, pop meets jazz jam "Someone Just Like You" and the throbbing "In Motion," which blend heavy piano and electric guitar chops with effective and soulful vocal embellishments. Three clever interludes, which feature exotic percussion and orchestral flavors, serve to tie the divergent paths into a unified and satisfying direction. It's smooth jazz's misfortune that Simpson never followed this up.

Biography

Born: Gurnee, IL

Genre: Jazz

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

Keyboardist and composer Brian Simpson is a sought-after studio musician and musical director who has regularly crossed from jazz to pop and R&B. Raised in Gurnee, Illinois, Simpson grew up in a musical family and eventually earned his music degree from Northern Illinois University. After graduating, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he found work performing with such artists as Boney James, Norman Brown, and Everette Harp. This led to stints touring with a variety of pop artists, including...
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Closer Still, Brian Simpson
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