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Pushing the Envelope

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Album Review

Pushing the Envelope is an ironic title for a Gerald Albright album because quite frankly, pushing the envelope is something that the saxophonist hasn't done very much of during his long recording career. Nonetheless, some optimists will see that title and hope that Albright has given listeners another hardcore jazz treasure like 1991's Live at Birdland West, which remains the most essential album in his catalog (at least as of early 2010). But no, Pushing the Envelope isn't another Live at Birdland West. This is primarily a smooth jazz album, not the type of hell-bent-for-improvisation disc that he is still quite capable of delivering. The good news, however, is that as much as this 2010 release caters to smooth jazz radio at times, it is seldom embarrassing the way that some of his early releases on Atlantic were embarrassing (1987's Just Between Us, 1989's Bermuda Nights, and 1990's Dream Come True were among the worst offenders). There are definitely some likable tracks here. The lively "Capetown Strut," for example, combines pop-jazz and South African pop with infectious results, and equally catchy are the jazz-funk grooves that Albright provides on "Highway 70," "What Would James Do?" (an obvious shout-out to the late Godfather of Soul James Brown), and the Afro-Cuban-tinged "Bobo's Groove" (which Albright dedicates to percussionist Willie Bobo). Unfortunately, Pushing the Envelope does venture into elevator music territory on occasion; Albright's saccharine performance of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Close to You" is a prime example of why smooth jazz has such a bad reputation — even among the non-purist jazz commentators who have been strong proponents of, say, David Sanborn, Ronnie Laws, or Grover Washington, Jr. And equally forgettable is Albright's cover of Michael Jackson's "Get on the Floor," which he reduces to innocuous background music (although Jackson's original 1979 version from Off the Wall was certainly a gem). But despite the presence of a few weak tracks, Pushing the Envelope on the whole isn't a bad album. Anyone who owns a copy of Live at Birdland West knows that Albright is capable of a lot more, but even so, this disc has more going for it than a lot of the smooth jazz-oriented releases of 2010.

Customer Reviews

Another Hit Supreme!

I have been a fan of Gerald Albright’s since his first CD. He is one of the most prolific, dynamic, awesome, and incredible saxophone phenomenons in the music industry today. His moving and syncopated rhythms, urban sexy grooves and his profound compositions makes you forget about all of your troubles and find a “happy place” to be despite your challenges in life. I have been on top of this brother for several years, attended several of his concerts, followed his career and each of his CD’s have been consistent in their most outstanding musical presentations and awesome/soulful delivery. He is my contemporary Charlie Parker and least be it known this guy is one hell of a funky bass player that will keep your head bopping from side-to-side while cruising on the highway or riding on your bicycle through the park. This CD is FABULOUS and a must have in your jazz collection. It is another of of his Urban Jazz Masterpieces. Brother Gerald, I must say, you really were PUSHING THE ENVELOPE” in this outstanding CD. Continue to raise the bar and establish a new title page for the new 21st Century Jazz era. Take care, be well and God bless Maestro.

Top notch creativity

Song after song, this album is a true masterpiece. Just how many instruments, percussions, effects and melodies did I hear, all perfectly harmonized into these ten amazing tracks. That's what I consider a creative artist. Are you a smooth jazz lover? Then you'd have to be crazy not to buy this. This is one of those long lasting albums that you'll be listening year after year. Remembering that great summer of 2010 when you first bought it.

Classic Albright! You can't go wrong!

I have my favorites, and even then, they have their flaws. No one or no CD is perfect, but there is no denying 'Highway 70' and 'Close to You' are #1 stunnas! I tend to dismiss the rest of the album but the songs are ok to good. If you want to talk 5 star quality, these 2 tracks do it. They are right up there with the best GA offers. Keep dropping albums for 20 years to come.


Born: 1957 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Beginning in the late '80s, saxophone master Gerald Albright recorded numerous successful solo albums for Atlantic when he wasn't busy assisting an impressive, and mammoth, roster of popular R&B artists. Born in South Central Los Angeles, the saxophonist idolized James Brown and took much influence from Maceo Parker and Cannonball Adderley. He first made a name for himself within the music industry during the '80s, when he became a highly requested session musician. His revered reputation resulted...
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Pushing the Envelope, Gerald Albright
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