(4 / 5)
Very, very pleasing 10-track smooth jazz album from US trombonist, composer, arranger and band leader Geoff Alpert. His debut solo release, and judging by the quality of the music this man makes here, doubtfully his last.
He teams up with keyboard player Gail Jhonson on this project, and they brought in a bunch of top line session guys, some of whom Geoff has worked with across the years in various studios on other people’s recordings. For some of these guys, it was the first time in 38 years that they had worked with Geoff together in a horn section.
No one better tell Geoff the record ain’t any good, by the way…the man is a very experienced and super qualified martial arts professional and teacher! But that is not likely to happen anyway, as this is a veritable smorgasbord of tasty musical morsels, kicking off with Gail Jhonson’s superb arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Heartbreak Hotel”.
The second cut in, Geoff’s “Shoreline Drive” has a sizzling horn arrangement Emilio Castilio and his Tower of Power chums would be proud of. The pace slows with Skip Scarborough’s “Don’t Ask My Neighbors”, a cut for sisters group The Emotions in 1977. Here, Geoff tips his hat to trombonist Raul de Souza, first instrumentalist to cover the song in 1978, produced by the late George Duke. Geoff ‘s restrained ‘bone solo is delicious. The classy backing vocals from Tamina Khyrah Joi, Aankah Neal and Maya Thomas adds great value.
Cool bass line from Darryl Williams on bass and piccolo bass, on “Zen Funk”. It has a Dave Grusin feel to it. The track written by Geoff and Gail Jhonson, and dedicated to the Ken Ka Kung Fu Club, the martial arts school which Geoff has been both student and teacher for four decades. The impressive rhythm section earning their keep on this track, and across the album. The L.A. Collective is Darryl on bass, Adam Hawley on guitar, Greg Manning on keys and Tony Moore on drums and percussion.
Horn section is sparkling on this record; Mitch Manker on trumpet, flugelhorn and E.V.I. , Steve Nieves on alto, soprano and tenor sax, and Micheal Parlett on bari sax, flute and percussion. Geoff Alpert plays trombone and baritone horn. Geoff and Gail Jhonson produced the album.
Geoff Alpert was inspired by the likes of jazz legend JJ Johnson, rock band Chicago’s James Pankow and fusion greats such as Wayne Henderson and Raul de Souza. Geoff studied music as a major at San Diego State University, supplementing his income by gigging near and far. But he walked away from music for 30 years in the early 80’s to be a husband and father. Following the painful passing of his wife from cancer in 2002, Geoff picked up his trombone again, easing back into the scene where he met bassist Darryl Williams and musical director and keyboardist Gail Jhonson. Both pushed and assisted him in creating a musical statement that spoke to his emotional life story, his undying passion for the art form and the spiritual Eastern martial arts disciplines that guided him along his journey.
“Open Your Heart”, places the trombone in a front and centre position it rarely enjoys in the present musical landscape. Floating between jazz, pop, r’n’b and latin sound signatures, it is a very relaxed and accessible listen. There’s a touching trombone and keyboard duet on Alpert and Jhonson’s lovely ballad “Thinking About You”, in memory of Geoff’s departed mother and wife.
His tone and abilities reminded me of the late and great Wayne Henderson across this album, who I once had the pleasure of working with along with the brilliant Wilton Felder. Especially on the beautiful “Aloha Nights,” penned by Geoff and Gail. Some gorgeous alto sax work from the mega talented guest, Michael Paulo. The Henderson vibes come to the fore again on the closer, “The Crusade”, a fitting tribute to The Crusaders, emulating some of the progressive sounds of the band’s evolution over five groundbreaking decades. Gail Jhonson’s piano skills get an airing on this cut, which has a very infectious hook on the chorus. You’ll be humming it for a while after first listen!
“This album, like my teaching of Ken Ka Kung Fu, is all about love, sharing and the willingness to open your heart”, Geoff explains. “Wherever you go in life, the center (sic) of your journey is always found within. Challenge yourself, maintaining your balance and focus as you navigate life’s obstacles on your way to becoming your truest, most humble best self, with honesty, integrity, discipline and respect”.
Bet he’d never have thought back at High School, when he’d saved up the cash to buy his first trombone from working a ‘paper round, that all these years later, he’d be celebrating the delivery of his own stop press news; this excellent debut album. Sounding more like album # five or six than a first solo effort. More……………..
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’