By Michael Marsh
In my humble opinion, "R n R", released by Rick Braun and Richard Elliot on August 28, 2007, on the Artizen Records label, is the best smooth jazz CD of the year. From beginning to end, "R n R" is one superb CD and I immediately fell in love with it with my very first listen. There aren’t many CD’s that I can say that I absolutely love from the very first listen, but this is definitely one of them. Rick Braun and Richard Elliot sound absolutely fantastic together, but as if that wasn’t enough, they also assemble an all-star cast of guest artists, to add to the mix. This CD project features such guest artists as Chris Standring and Dwight Sills on guitar, Gregg Karukas, Jeff Lorber, Rex Rideout, and Phillip Saisse on keyboards, and the one and only Lenny Castro on percussion.
The CD leads off with the title cut, “R n R”, which is a great foot-pattin’, throw-down, get-the-crowd-jumping jam. Braun and Elliot sound absolutely fantastic when they play their instruments in harmony, as well as when each jumps out on his own with a nice solo. Next up on the CD is the very sensuous “Sweet Somethin’ “. This one is just as advertised, as it is extremely sweet and sexy. It is definitely my favorite slow song on the CD. Braun’s muted trumpet is a sheer delight to the ears on “Sweet Somethin’ “. The pace picks up again at track three, with “Curve Ball”, another jump up and jam number. I also love the harmony between Braun and Elliot on this one, when they groove in unison. Next up on the CD is “The Stranger”, a mellow, easy listening piece, that will definitely put you in a relaxed mood. As you sit back and relax, as "The Stranger" plays in the background, the musical sounds that you hear will almost make you visualize a mysterious, shadowy figure, peering around the corner at you, engaged in some covert activity. Appearing at track five, “Da JR Funk” is just what its name implies, a funky number that will most definitely have your head bobbing from side to side, as you ride along with the funky groove. Dwight Sills’ guitar adds a very distinctive old school wah wah background on parts of this one, while Nate Phillips really tears up the funky bottom with his bass. The pace slows again at track six with “Que Paso”, a latin-flavored number with hand claps that provide a distinct Flamenco flair. "Que Paso" is followed by another funky, upbeat number, named “Better Times”. Ron Reinhardt accompanies Braun and Elliot on the keyboard on "Better Times", and although I had never heard of him before, he holds his own quite well as he plays right along with the two smooth jazz giants. Appearing at track eight is my favorite song on the CD, a lowdown, dirty creeper, appropriately named “Down and Dirty”. “Down and Dirty” captures that 70’s boogaloo sound that was popularized by Dr. Lonnie Smith, Lou Donaldson, and others, back in the days when my musical horizons were beginning to expand from pure R & B into the realm of jazz. “Two Heart Tango” follows "Down and Dirty", and Rick Braun once again gives us a taste of the sweet sounds that he can produce with his muted trumpet. The interplay between Braun’s trumpet and Elliot’s sax is absolutely wonderful on this cut. “Q It Up” appears at track ten, and provides us with the last jamming number on the CD. Since this is the last jam on the CD, Braun and Elliot definitely rock the house well with a very funky groove. Two mellow songs, “Sunday Night” and “Sao Paulo” finish this excellent project off. You will most definitely want to close your eyes and lean back into your favorite music listening chair on "Sunday Night". This one will definitely take you on a gentle mental trip through space and time, if you let it. "Sao Paulo" is more upbeat than "Sunday Night", but it too will keep your mental trip through space and time flowing smoothly along. Just keep your eyes closed and let it take you whereever your mind is able to go, until the ride is over.
All twelve cuts on this CD are incredibly strong, and that makes “R n R” another “can’t miss” purchase. You can tell that Rick Braun and Richard Elliot really enjoy playing together, and they are having an absolute ball on this CD. As a result, they provide us with sixty minutes of pure magic. "R n R" easily gets five and a half stars on a five star scale from me. Give it a listen and I’m sure you will agree.
Michael Marsh is the jazz reviewer for TNCP. To make contact, you may e-mail him at [email protected] for review.