If you’re not familiar with the playing of guitarist/composer Dean Grech – and I wasn’t before this album appeared at my house – I’m going to steer you to Dean’s website. If you’ll pardon me, I’m going to get into some great guitar jazz…

Anyone who’s been steeped in contemporary/smooth jazz for the last 15 years like I have will be seduced by the lazy pace of ‘Sunset’. The relaxed drum and percussion track leaves Dean lots of space to trade licks with Eric Marienthal and this song unfolds just right – just the way you want it to. Rick Shaw’s fretless bass sets the tone for the slightly offbeat ‘Funky Talk’, which is another chilled-out track and features Marienthal on tenor sax this time. Grech’s solo spans the chord changes beautifully – I already love his semi-acoustic tone, so I’m hooked.

‘Bumpin’ on 2nd’ shows Grech’s love of Wes Montgomery’s style – and if you’ve enjoyed two decades or more of Lee Ritenour’s music, especially the more straight-ahead outings, you’re going to dig this! As I grew up listening to Alan Haven, the organ solo on here delights me. Now, now, now – Mr Grech has got a bluesy voice that accompanies his bluesy guitar so, so well on ‘Take my Soul’. I’m sure that when I first listened to this CD weeks and weeks ago, I scribbled ‘Jamie Cullum’ as a shorthand to describe Dean’s tone. Andre Carney’s muted trumpet solo makes cold rain fall on a dark Manhattan street and our hero walks back to his empty apartment – get the idea?

‘Look Out’ is a lovely, swinging straight-ahead jazzer. Guitar and horn lines double on the verse and then Grech just blows, blows, blows. Increasingly I’m digging contemporary jazz albums that have players going back to the music’s roots. If your toes aren’t tapping, call for an ambulance! Acoustic bass and smoky tenor sax set the scene for the bluesy vocal ‘In Love Again’ – now this must have been when I scribbled ‘Jamie Cullum’. An original, classy composition which should be all over the radio – especially in the UK, where BBC Radio 2 should be championing this and other songs from this set.

The only non-original composition here, ‘Shadow of your Smile’, is played on acoustic and it’s utterly haunting. If a major TV channel gets Dean Grech on its screens and asks him to play this, the phones will be red hot the following day – I guarantee it. On the vocal ‘It’s Over’, Grech’s voice reminds me more of Michael Franks (again, a very good thing) and while the mood stays muted, the lovely guitar solo is on point.

I’m always impressed when sax and guitar lines are laid down side-by-side and it works well on the groovy ‘I Don’t Believe’. This is a real jazz tune, but there’s no showboating – for me, it represents what I’ve always loved about jazz. Scott Martin’s tenor sax solo is note-perfect, I mean note-perfect. If there’s a single from this album, ‘Everything’s Going My Way’ has to be it. It’s a gentle samba with great vocals and some sweet hooks in there.

Things stay sunny with the upbeat vocal ‘Seasons of Love’. We have the elegant simplicity of jazz trio with the addition of Hans Zermuehlen’s lovely piano tone, about which I’ve said little until now, but which I’ve hugely appreciated since the first bar of the opening song. The cynical lyric on the riff-heavy ‘Sacred Father’ will make you smile. This must work well live as it uses some very sassy brass, rhythm guitar and background vocals to underline the point. Blues fans, get ready to lap up ‘I’m a Sensitive Man’. The vocals and Eric Clapton-style picking are delivered with wit and I can’t help feeling that the tongue is kept firmly in the cheek throughout. It’s a great closer to this set – and I’m guessing to Grech’s live set also.

What have we heard then? A great guitar tone, turned to blues, funk and varying shades of jazz. We’ve heard some clever songwriting and some confident and hip-sounding vocals. The production is classy too – there is no point where it feels like “hey, I’m gonna make a guitar-players album”. This record is for everybody – it’s going to make a lot of friends.


Rocket Ride Records Producers – Dean Grech and Reggie Ashley