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Jumpin' Off (1997)

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Richard Elliot

One of contemporary jazz's most durable and popular saxmen, Richard Elliot has also been one of the genre's most self-sufficient. His 1986 debut album Initial Approach was produced by Henry Lewy (of Joni Mitchell Court and Spark fame), but Elliot took the reins on the eight subsequent albums that have made his tenor a smooth jazz radio staple. In Paul Brown, Elliot made the perfect decision for his first collaboration with an outside producer, both sonically, creatively and -- with an eye towards keeping himself viable in an everchanging marketplace -- commercially. The result of this collaboration, Jumpin' Off lives up to its title; this easygoing, slow-sizzling set is very different from his usual aggressive style, with tunes that slowly envelop rather than explode in your face. His longtime fans, however, will have no trouble taking the leap of faith. "Contents under pressure" might be a good way to describe many of the tracks. Elliot's trademark has always been his searing, gritty intensity and high and low dynamics, grabbing hold of a note and pushing it higher, then holding it for seconds at a time before reaching back down for the lower register. But on floating, free-flowing ballads like "One Last Kiss" and "All Night," he holds back and caresses the notes, rather than attack them. With hooks enhanced by subtle horn doubling, the bubbly, creamy effect is like go-down-easy Grover Washington, Jr.. ~ Jonathan Widran