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Uncommon Denominator

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Album Review

Mike Phillips' second album is a bit more relaxed than his first, but it doesn't differ in any major way from that contemporary jazz release. Once again, Phillips works with a series of writer/producer types (Travon Potts, "JR" Hutson, Gary Haase, Jerry Barnes, Janek Gwizdala, Ivan Dupée, Rex Rideout) who specialize in creating rhythmic, percussive instrumental tracks on their synthesizers and computers, adding in an electric guitar part here, an organ fill there, and who could just as easily be working for Beyoncé. Phillips then solos on his saxophone over the track. That soloing is often quite inventive; he is not content simply to create and follow a simple, soothing melodic line like some of his competitors, preferring to dig in and wail or burble expressively, though, as ever, he is doing so essentially in a vacuum, since the prerecorded background just goes on endlessly regardless of his playing. Hidden Beach label head Steve McKeever, who produced and arranged a cover of Frankie Beverly's 1983 Maze hit "We Are One" for the disc, likes to write liner notes to each of his releases to muse about some aspect of the music business that interests him. This time, he talks about the ways that performances can be "fixed" in the digital environment after being recorded, and insists that Phillips resists the temptation to make such corrections. So, this is what authenticity has come to mean in jazz in the early 21st century, a saxophonist who refuses to smooth out the wave forms of his solos!

Uncommon Denominator, Mike Phillips
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