Chris Standring - Groovalicious


Chris Standring is no unknown in the Smooth Jazz genre. Albums like Hip Sway, Velvet and Shades Of Cool paved as well-marketed projects his way to the tops. His success has a simple reason: He is playing good music. His new album "Groovalicious" is the consistent continuation of this strategy. 

Chris comments his new album:

"I try to make every record I do cohesive in a slightly different direction". "There's always an overall vibe in what I'm trying to do. The 70's vibe is the reference point here, but the fun was that we didn't set out to make it that way, it just happened as I got together with the guys and started writing. We played the new tunes live and they just started moving in that direction. Many of them were written in a real old school fashion, beginning with me strumming chords on an acoustic guitar, humming melodies and writing them down on manuscript paper. I'd bring them to Rodney's studio, and if he liked what he heard, he'd get working on the groove and we'd demo it. He's a huge influence on my sound. All the guys in the band are part of this sonic architecture.

"The feel for the bass and drums is a bit thicker and deeper and the groove and horn arrangements show the inspiration of a lot of our favorite 70s funk acts like Parliament, Cameo, Ohio Players, Average White Band and, of course, Earth, Wind & Fire," Standring adds. "We're creating environments where I can develop my own playing style, and it's great being open to new ideas each time out. I've never been interested in hashing the same things as I did the last time. Conventional wisdom says, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but I say, break it! It's important to push the envelope and myself to the far edges while also keeping things accessible. It's exciting to think of my fans out there, wondering where I'm going to go next. That keeps me inspired as well."

Chris stakes everything on the swinging groove. I Ain't Mad Atcha starts with a jingle-ring as we know from the late Jinda. The song gets a jammin' session character with background vocals of a bar (Jeff Robinson), an awesome brass section with Dino Soldo (soprano sax), John Fumo (trumpet), Steve Baxter (trombone), which was arranged by Chris, Rodney Lee on keys (with a Hammond B3 sound). In the foreground is the master himself. Chris plays a Benedetto custom archtop jazz guitar made especially for him by luthier Robert Benedetto. The sound is similar to the Ibanez used by George Benson. 

Miss Dowtown Sugar Girl  has a retro feeling with the typical soul choir and the hard stomping disco beat. "The feel for the bass and drums is a bit thicker and deeper and the groove and horn arrangements show the inspiration of a lot of our favorite 70s funk acts like Parliament, Cameo, Ohio Players, Average White Band and, of course, Earth, Wind & Fire," Chris comments.

All In Good Time is featuring the skillful flute player Katisse Buckingham. Great! Chris: "He is a local guy in Los Angeles. He is probably the best flute player I have ever heard, frankly."

The rhythm of Say What reminds me of some of Herbie Mann's hits like "Memphis Underground". Some flute tones and a thick Hammond B3 sound boost this impression. Dino Soldo's tenor sax solo deserves the approving cheers which were recorded as background vocals.

Hypnotize starts like "Dreamer" from the group "Supertramp". The guitar  melody on this midtempo tune is accompanied by swinging background vocals.

Gentle Persuasion is the right title which fits perfectly into the smooth jazz format. C.C. White whispers sexy tones. No doubt that this title is absolutely radio-like.

The first vocal song Come Back Home features the singer Ashely Ta'mar. She is a young 21 years old female singer who was introduced to Chris by Steve Harvey. Steve is the producer of this track and also plays on this tune keyboards. This Urban/R&B song will go to some Urban radio stations.

Fat Tuesday reminds of some Michael Jackson tunes of the 80s. As always a perfect arrangement and high-class performance.

Snowfall is featuring the trumpet player Chris Botti. A Smooth Jazz tune pre-selected for broadcasting.

The title melody Groovalicious demonstrates Chris vocoderized sounding vocals. Instead of a vocoder he is using a talkbox. A talkbox is a device that produces the classic "talking guitar sound". With it, the musician is able to produce vowel-like sounds, as well as consonants, words and/or phrases. It is not a vocoder (a unit that electronically blends speech with a musical instrument synthesizer), but achieves a similar effect via a much simpler and direct method. The talkbox works on the principle of of producing sound and directing it into the mouth of the performer. The performer's lips and vocal cavities (mouth, throat, and larynx) further modulate and shape the sound. The resulting "talking guitar" output is then fed through a microphone and from there is amplified through the PA system or sent to the recording console of the studio.

Ray Of Sunlight is a mellow tune with nice guitar and bass passages. Stan Sargent plays a warm syncopated acoustic bass. Surprising is the phone ringing in the background.  

The midtempo Shadow Dance and the slow Do What You Do are obviously designed for the Smooth Jazz market too.

If you are searching after a good guitar album with attractive tracks "Groovalicious" is first quality.