Chris Bangs was recently reviewed by
Paula Edelstein for Jazz
Review. He descibed the new album Soundscape UK -
"Uptown Groove" as followed:
"...we wanted to combine the
sophistication of smooth jazz with the raw groove of acid jazz
and urban groove."
Mick Talbot added:
"...To me the whole concept
for acid jazz as a term was that it freed you up from having
to fit anyone's preconceived ideas of what you had to sound
like. The whole point was to enable you to play funk or rock
or blues or just about anything really but express it with a
jazz feel that was more about vibe and attitude than following
what had gone before."
Bangs' projects are a
good starting point for our journey into Smooth Acid Jazz. Chris
really hit pay dirt as a musical trend -setter with the birth of
acid jazz as a producer and artist responsible for many early
recordings on Eddie Piller's Acid Jazz label and Gilles
Peterson's Talkin' Loud (producing Galliano's celebrated debut
album). As a producer and musician Chris is working in many
styles like Acid Jazz, Smooth Jazz, Chill Out, Pop, Dance (Rita
Campbell - Warm Weather 1999), Electronica and
trip-hop/dub-oriented work (Mr. Electric Triangle, Anthea,
13th Sign). Our focus is on Acid Jazz and Smooth Jazz. His first
releases appeared under the group name Quiet Boys like
"Can't Hold The Vibe" (1992), "Bosh" (1995)
and "Dazzle - Ultra Edition" (1998), which was
released at Instinct Records under The
Chris Bangs Project (1999). If you haven't obtained this
album, try to get the UK release with 4 additional tracks. My
absolute favorite track is "Everybody loves the
sunshine", a cover of Roy Ayers' former hit). Smooth and
groove are melting to a first highlight in the Smooth Acid Jazz
history. Dave Priseman on trumpet, Neil Cowley on organ and
keyboards and Camelle Hinds ' vocals are outstanding on
"Always Be The One".
His talents were soon spotted outside of the acid jazz scene
with Paul Weller utilising Chris's production skills. This
liaison led to a partnership with Weller's former Style Council-er
as Soundscape UK. They have released the albums "Life
Force" (1996), "Smooth With A Groove" (1998)
Groove" (2000). The album
"Smooth With A Groove" was released at Instinct
Records under the title "Surreal
Thing" (1997). Some titles are differing from the
UK release. Hardcore fans might buy both versions.
Those who love to listen to guitars
(Nigel Wallace Price) and saxes (Garey Spacey Foote) will be
pleased with "Life Force". The album is radio-friendly
in the Smooth Jazz style. But one can also discover some Acid
Jazz ("Inner Space", "Life Force", "The
Journey Within", "Riverside Jam"), some Latin
("Full Circle") and some Retro-Philly ("Cosmic
Evolution"). Be aware: the styles are even mixed on the
Their second album "Smooth With
A Groove" follows partly this successful mixture. Anew one
can listen to popular cover songs like "I'll be
around" featuring the wonderful voice of Rita Campbell and
"The Closer I Get To You". This time we have 3 sax
players on the album: Poli Cousée (1,5, & 6), Gary Plomley
(9) and Gary Spacey Foote. One can observe a more mellower style
as on the previous album. You can call it a smooth out. The Acid
Jazz flavor is reduced on this album.
When the third album "Uptown
Groove" appears in 2000, Soundscape UK is already called
"one of the leading acts in smooth jazz" (Jazziz).
This attribute is entirely justified. Read my review about this
great album here.
Obviously Chris Bangs aimed with this new album the American
smooth jazz market. Unfortunately American smooth jazz radio
stations are dominated by BA. If one observes the charts at RROnline,
the album had not the awaited and deserved success. Chris Bangs
travelled to USA to support his album, but the feedback was
unsatisfactoy. He decides to stop his smooth jazz activities in
2001. What a great loss!
But Chris Bangs has more strings to
one's bow: Yada
Yada. Yada Yada are Mick Talbot and Chris Bangs again. They
release the albums "Subculture" (1995), "Piktures"
(1997) and "Fingalikkin' Good" (1999). Instinct
Records writes on the cover of the third album "This is
acid jazz". I can specify: this is smooth acid jazz.
"Subculture" was produced in 2 versions, the UK
version and a Japanese with 3 additional tracks. The tunes are
more uptempo, lots of shuffle
play on the snare, some ripsticks and whistles, the guitars are
played clean and with many jazz/funk chords (9ths/11ths/13ths),
much trumpet lines, some flute pieces. But even on these records
we can listen to some smooth jazz tracks like the laid-back
"Summer's End" or the jazzy "Teapot" on
"Piktures". On "Fingalikkin' Good" one can
even listen to vocal tracks with an R&B flavor for example
the captivating "Won't You Come Back 2 Me" featuring
Ira Jay. "Summer Strut" has the same smooth jazz feeling like the
tunes of Soundscape UK.
"2 band names, nearly identical releases".
If you cannot get enough of Chris
I share this attitude: He released in 1999 "Takin'
Care Of Business" on the Onion label.
"Now after almost a decade of
making music he feels the time is right to release an album
under his own name taking in all his influence and with
Jazz-Funk as a major part to play in it", is written in
the liner notes.
My favorite track is the smooth jazz
version of "Warm Weather" featuring the lovely Rita
Campbell. Chris has made a video about this tune in Ibiza. He
had a lucky time there as always. If you want to know more about
the album, here
is my review.
On many albums one can find several
tunes with a Latin flavor. For example the awesome
"Sundance Paradise" on his album "Takin' Care Of
Business". The idea was born: Chris created the group
A mixture of Samba and Lambada, sounds Latin and is Latin or
better Smooth Acid Jazz with a Latin flavor. We can enjoy the
releases "Tropicale" (1998) and "Flame"
Sambada is Chris Bangs' cooperation
with the gifted guitarist
Nigel Wallace-Price, who also plays Bass and keyboards on these
albums. Absolutely thrilling is "Livewire" on "Tropicale".
Even the fastidious Jonathan Widram was fascinated by this tune,
which was also released on the sampler "This
Is Smooth Jazz: Love Bossa Style":
"This is a
strong introduction to new artists as well as a cool party
Besides these Latin influenced music one can
also listen to the typical Chris Bangs stuff. You will become
addicted! By the way Gota Yashiki plays the drums on most
It took some time until the second
Chris wrote in one of his newsletters:
"... at long last
there's a new Sambada album finished , nearly a year behind
schedule ... It's called " Flame " and should be out
in late summer on Baseline Records . The last album was on Thin
Air Productions but I just don't have time to run my own Jazz
label anymore ...maybe sometime in the future .. Anyway it's a
funky jazzy latin kind of album featuring guitarist Nigel Price
( Yada Yada , Quiet Boys etc ) and very nice it is too."
"It's a definite step away
from the smooth jazz sound of Soundscape UK and mixes gritty
beats with some fluid guitar playing from Nigel Price ( Quiet
Boys / Yada Yada ) . Taking in a lot of latin influences and
mixing them with a strong 1960's blue note / prestige kind of
vibe , thin air productions return with another quality album to
move and groove to ...", comments Chris this
Don't believe Chris: This album has
its smooth moments too. For example the "In The Thick Of
It" featuring the lovely Rita Campbell again. The album was
reviewed in Firstview
If you listen to soundsamples of the
above mentioned albums, you will have a first impression of
Smooth Acid Jazz.