Richard Elliot chose to go with the production expertise of Steve Dubin on his Chill Factor, but the silky, simmering soul influence of Paul Brown -- who produced the veteran saxman's previous hit, Jumpin' Off -- has stuck. Where Elliot once routinely went for the jugular and blistering approach to his tenor, he lives up to this disc's name by bringing out some of his best hooks in a gentler, restrained mode. In the past, you might never mistake an Elliot horn lick for one by the master of funky cool, Boney James, but he's in that zone from the first easygoing notes of the bluesy opening track "Moomba."
That's not to say he won't let out occasional gushes of the old intensity during certain break points in a tune, but it has to be the right occasion, like wrapping around Tim Heintz's bouncy Rhodes and Rick Braun's sassy flügelhorn on the title track. With other guests like Peter White, Elliot sets the example; rather than let White chime in with nylon string gymnastics, he instead asks the acoustic guitarist to simply embrace his gentle sax melody so tightly that you can hardly tell he's there. The most remarkable evidences of the new, more mature Elliot are the low bass tone he uses on the smoky ballad "Deep Touch" (what Gerry Mulligan might have sounded like on tenor) and the elegant, folksy duet "Mikayla's Smile," where he picks up his rarely used soprano and wraps a loving melody around the swaying acoustic guitar harmony lines of Dwight Sills. ~ Jonathan Widran