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Stay With It

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Album Review

Smooth jazz/NAC music has often been the whipping boy of jazz's hardcore fans, and in many cases, the attacks are justified — a lot of NAC artists do specialize in bloodless, uncreative, insipid dreck. But commercial pop-jazz doesn't have to be devoid of substance. Like David Sanborn, Joe Sample, and the late Grover Washington, Jr., Rob Ryndak realizes that a jazzman can be accessible to pop and R&B audiences without prostituting himself and throwing integrity to the wind. Stay With It, Ryndak's third Southport release, often falls into the "smooth jazz with a difference" category. Congenial, laid-back instrumentals like "Discovery" (which recalls George Benson's "Breezin'"), "Gentle Gubbio," and the Brazilian-flavored "Compassion" have a lot of pop appeal, but without being elevator music or sacrificing a commitment to improvisation. And even though much of Stay With It is pop-minded, Ryndak can also play straight-ahead — "Spiritual Renewal" and "Soft Spoken" are essentially straight-ahead post-bop offerings, despite the fact that the latter finds Ryndak on electric piano and sideman Richard Patterson on electric bass. Meanwhile, "Bliss" is a funky number that successfully combines a Jazz Messengers-like horn arrangement with a jazz-rock edge — if Art Blakey had invited Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, or Larry Coryell to sit in with his Jazz Messengers in the '70s or '80s, the results might have sounded something like guitarist John Mouler's contributions to "Bliss." As much as Stay With It has going for it, the CD is a bit uneven. Some of Ryndak's material is excellent, and some it is merely decent. But on the whole, Stay With It paints an attractive picture of the Chicago-based pianist/keyboardist.

Stay With It, Rob Ryndak
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