In 2017, Columbus’ own internationally-known smooth jazz powerhouse Urban Jazz Coalition celebrated its 22nd year as a band with the fittingly titled XXII. This 10-track release of original tunes plus a handful of choice covers, shows a band at the top of its game, with soaring melodies and burning grooves to spare. Urban Jazz Coalition maintains a busy year-round schedule of local, regional and international shows – upcoming events include high-profile appearances like playing with Jerry Green & Friends along with Norman Brown in Louisville on March 4th and a set with Phil Denny at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival in Panama City Beach, Florida on April 19th. Columbus fans will have ample opportunity to see them up close and personal in the coming months, including a “Live & Local” show at Notes on Saturday, February 24th at 9pm (tickets and more details here), their next monthly appearance at The Idle-A-While House Restaurant on Friday, March 2nd at 8pm (more details and future dates here). The band’s full schedule is here. Keep reading for my thoughts on XXII.
A crackling rendition of Al Jarreau’s “Roof Garden,” dedicated to the memory of the legendary vocalist who sadly passed away last year, sets things off with a live party vibe, with a rolling groove piloted by bassist Phil Raney, drummer Rico Adams, and percussionist Hector Maldonado, and a sultry melody by saxophonist Richard Randolph. Up next is second single “Let’s Get It,” which is hitting smooth jazz radio this week and strikes a sultry and spirited note using Duane Tribune’s velvety guitar and Randolph’s powerful saxophone in the forefront. Brandon Howard’s keyboards spice up “Soul Suite,” which employs a laidback feel before hitting an energetic chorus. Lead single “Better Days Comin’,” which hit the Top 10 on the smooth jazz radio charts, pairs Tribune and Randolph to electric effect, and both contribute passionate solo work. “Caribbean Sunset” offers another taste of the band’s romantic side with a waterfront ballad guided by Howard’s elegant keyboard and a catchy hook from Randolph, who leads the way on a sizzling conclusion. Mint Condition’s “What Kind Of Man Would I Be” is rendered with a smouldering groove, with Tribune’s smoky guitar helping the track cook before an anthemic climax. Before an outro signals the party is moving onto “The After Party” is an epic 10-minute live version of Marcus Miller’s “Run For Cover,” which starts with a jawdropping bass solo from Raney that lays the foundation before the band joins in and takes the audience on a fantastic journey powered by top-notch musicianship and unstoppable energy.
XXII, which is highly recommended for all smooth jazz fans and anyone who enjoys a variety of high-powered grooves, is available for purchase here. Check out a few highlights via video below.