Since 1999, and the release of his debut CD ‘James Café’, Jimmy Sommers has been redefining the boundaries of contemporary jazz. The 2001 self produced follow up ‘360 Urban Groove’ garnered his smash hit cover of the Boz Scaggs classic ‘Lowdown’ and ensured that his smooth and soulful saxophone became a fixture on radio stations across the USA. However the power of Sommers is in his creativity and his ability to blur the genre into shades of R & B, Latin and dance. He is doing all that, and then some, with his brand new CD ‘Sunset Collective’ that was released on October 23.
The title track of Sommers 2003 album ‘Lovelife’ featured the distinctively sultry tones of Macy Gray and for the new album he reaches back to provide a sassy remix of this soulful tune. It’s a dance-floor filler in the making and, on that very subject, Paul Oakenfold, who to some is the godfather of modern dance culture, weighs in with two telling contributions. DJ, remixer and composer Oakenfold is a huge presence on the European club scene and beyond. Here he produces and shares writing credits with Sommers on the high energy ‘Vertical’ and the big, brassy and funky ‘House Party’. Both are indications of the lengths that Sommers is prepared to go to introduce variety into his music and he retains a dance groove for ‘What Am I Gonna Do’. This, another remix of a song from ‘Lovelife’, has overtones reminiscent of Incognito and features neo soul diva Rahsaan Patterson. She is again to the fore with the urgent yet sophisticated ‘Let Your Body Go’ while at the opposite end of the musical spectrum is Sommers tasteful interpretation of the timeless ‘Besame Mucho’.
Complex yet soulful, ‘The Now’ finds Sommers in a fine collaboration with songwriter, producer and singer Victer Duplaix. This same Sommers - Duplaix partnership also delivers both the rhythmic ‘Beginnings’ and the turned down ‘If I Knew’ for which Duplaix engenders a decidedly Michael Franks like vibe. The Jimmy Sommers, Michael Tello, Kenneth Crouch composition ‘The Islands’ sparkles with the warmth of tropical sunshine. Bolstered by superb trumpet from Gabe Johnson it is an outstanding example of cool contemporary jazz and when the trio of Sommers, Tello and Crouch again blend their writing skills the result is the wonderfully rhythmic ‘Out Of Nowhere’. It is right up there as one of the albums best cuts and shares this accolade with the Jeff Carruthers produced ‘Happy Hour’ which features Paul Brown on guitar. Every bit as accessible and joyous as one would expect from this lineup, it is already storming up the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio yet another cut surely destined to find its way to radio is the outstanding ‘Kickin’ It’. Written by Sommers and Brian Culbertson, who also produces and plays keyboards, trumpet and trombone, this massively catchy number includes the excellent Alex Al on bass and is in every respect one of the most commercial smooth jazz tunes of 2007.
‘Sunset Collective’ is a refreshingly different collection that places Jimmy Sommers on the very cutting edge of contemporary jazz.
Sax phenom Jimmy Sommers
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With sexy soulful style to spare, saxophonist Jimmy Sommers has been warming up the nights of smooth jazz lovers since his 1997 debut, James Cafe. With each successive release, the Chicago to Los Angeles transplant has carefully cultivated a fan base that appreciates classicism as well as the cutting edge. In 2007 – his ten-year recording anniversary - Mr. Sommers will serve both sides of their musical taste buds with two new releases: Jimmy Sommers: Sunset Collective (an excursion into modern techno lounge strains) and Time Stands Still (a loving assemblage of standards). Both of these outstanding projects will be available through Sommers’ own Gemini Records label (distributed via WEA).
Sunset Collective (in-stores October 23rd) marks Sommers’ on-going appreciation of musical trends and an extension of his already popular and personalized amalgam of smooth jazz. The origin of this new direction stems to a vacation he took in beautiful balmy Ibiza. “I was relaxing at a few clubs down there and saw some absolutely amazing sunsets. DJ/Producer Paul Oakenfold, my next door neighbor and best friend, started talking about a concept for my next record – the laidback yet danceable mood of a ‘sunset’ rendered with music from a very hip ‘collective’ of progressive musical talents.” Among those was neo soul vocalist/producer Vikter Duplaix, a master of the chill lounge vibe who contributed the tracks “Solace,” “If I Knew” and “Live in the Moment,” and the ubiquitous DJ Spinna with “What Am I Gonna Do.” And Oakenfold contributed the wicked James Brown-esque funk of “Vertical” and the lazy hip hop swing of “House Party.” Sommers also solicited some superstar friends in soul singer Rahsaan Patterson for the club thumper “Let Your Body Go” and keyboard wizard Brian Culbertson for the more traditional smooth jazz radio-ready “Kickin’ It.”
My man Jimmy… if there is nothing else I can count on from you, it’s a hip-jazz good time. Yes sir dude, I want to come to the next party… with your fine self… huh! Moving on, this is what I’m talking about; hitting me all in the face with the first track and I didn’t once back up because it felt sooo good. Out Of Nowhere is exactly that… whew. Why do you do us like this, Jimmy? Okay, I could see this coming a mile away, Sommers going full throttle with Sunset Collective, featuring twelve powerhouse tracks and 2 bonus tracks. With your boy Rahsaan Patterson on deck on Let Your Body Go, it was obvious the plan was to turn the listener every which way but loose. And at that moment, I decided I was in for the long haul. Bring it on Sommers… I gotcha. Sunset Collective is what’s up and I am loving it. Oh my, this techno-jazzed infused U.K. Soul sound is killer! If I Knew, with Victer Duplaix on vocals, is totally wrecking the house. Sommers, together with Macy Gray, ain’t no joke. I’m predicting Sunset Collective will be a strong contender, if not the best album 2008 will offer. Yes, I said it! So, check it out and thank me later. Other outstanding tracks are The Islands, Besame Mucho and Kickin’ It.
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