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Looking Up

Gregg Karukas

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Album Review

From Gregg Karukas' prolific resume as a sideman for Boney James, Peter White, and Larry Carlton, among others, to a hot streak of radio hits dating back to 1987, this versatile keyboardist perfectly captures the joyful, optimistic, smooth jazz lifestyle. The title of his latest independently released gem, Looking Up, characterizes the uplifting nature of the disc, which features a slate of more irresistible keyboard melodies and a wide rhythmic palette that includes old-school soul, driving funk, samba (his Brazilian associations include Sergio Mendes and Dori Caymmi), reggae, and his first forays into the chill phenomenon. The disc opens with the vibrant and graceful, easy swinging light funk of "Girl in the Red Dress" (which features lush, retro-soul Rhodes harmonies), then takes us to the funky, old-school "London Underground," the disc's first single which includes B-3 organ harmonies. On the moody, chill-oriented title track, Karukas swirls his bright piano melody with cool, trippy ambient and rhythmic effects. Rick Braun's distant muted trumpet helps Karukas explore the more romantic side of chill on the soothing, lush ballad "First Flight Home," which is followed by "Show Me the Way," a tune that captures the "classic Karukas" sound — happy, swinging brass sizzling behind a bright, bouncy key melody. While more artistic- than consumer-friendly, the track that digs deepest is "Crossrhodes," a trippy, percussive excursion through classic styles that have been foundational in the keyboardist's musical evolution — Latin, blues and old-school soul. Karukas once again dares even the most confirmed musical skeptic to kick back with a glass of wine and smile through the dark times.

Biography

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

A talented keyboardist, Gregg Karukas has mostly worked in the commercial side of jazz. Although he noodled on the piano from age six, he did not start studying music seriously until he was a teenager. Karukas often played organ in R&B bands early on and at 17 he began a five-year stint with Tim Eyermann's East Coast Offering. After a period working as a studio musician in D.C., he moved to Los Angeles in 1983, where he became a major part of the pop-jazz scene, playing with (among others) Richard...
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Looking Up, Gregg Karukas
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