Personnel includes: Bobby Lyle (piano, organ, keyboards, programming); Lynn Mabry, Melanie Taylor, Damia Satterfield, Will Downing, Kevyn Lettau (vocals); Gerald Albright (soprano saxophone); Mindi Abair (soprano & alto saxophones); Wilton Felder (tenor saxopone); Fernando Harkness (saxophone, flute); Rahmlee (trumpet); Mike Daigo (trombone); Rex Rideout (keyboards); Gerald McCauley, Mikael Sandgren (keyboards, synthesizers, programming, samples); Mike Campbell, Doc Powell, Dwight Sills, Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitar); Nathan East, Alphonso Johnson (bass); Alex Acuna (drums, percussion); Michael White, Andy Korn, Ndugu Chancler (drums); Kevin Ricard, Bashiri Johnson (percussion); Donald Tavie (programming); Dred Scott (samples).
Producers: Bobby Lyle, Will Downing, Rex Rideout, Gerald McCauley.
Engineers: Greg Mull, Bob Tucker, Eddie Miller, Donald Tavie, Joe Schiff, Leon Askew, Mikael Sandgren, Gerald McCauley, Ronnie Foster, Mark Partis.
The elegant funk pianist dresses up his elegant playing, catchy melodies and familiar funk leanings with rhythmic excursions to Latin America, Brazil, and Africa. A sticker on the wrapping of the disc touts the pianist as one of the true pioneers of smooth jazz, but that tag oversimplifies his uniquely global approach. Certainly, an elegant cut like "Aruban Nights" and the easygoing, Will Downing sung cover of "Feel Like Makin' Love" fulfill adult contemporary radio's idea of easygoing adventure, but Lyle's percussive palette runs too wild to tame with such strict categorization. His travels include the opening track, "Timbuktu," with Lyle taking saxman Gerald Albright and guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. into a thick, jungle soundscape provided by the throbbing basslines of Alphonso Johnson and free-for-all percussion by Kevin Ricard. Lyle flys solo to Brazil on the jumpy rhythms and seductive synth-piano textures of "3 Minute Samba," and, along with trumpeter Rahmlee and guitarist Doc Powell, provides a lilting Latin canvas for vocalist Kevyn Lettau's romantic lyrics on "A Moment in Time." Guitarist Phil Upchurch and Lyle's organ performance add bluesy touches to the new agey "Checkin'," whose synth washes float above soft spoken word passages by Adwin Brown. Lyle then recalls the slick urban vibes of his last album, Rhythm Stories, with a hard-driving, bass pumping "Jubilee," featuring the brash sax conversations of Wilton Felder (tenor) and newcomer Mindi Abair (alto). Contemporary jazz-rap often gets a bad rap for being overly predictable, but Lyle edges towards being a true genre revolutionary on the most exotic track, "Midnight Creeper." Over bassist Sekou Bunch's thick and insistent groove, Lyle eschews the piano's melodic graces in favor of opening the lid of his instrument and using the strings inside as percussion instruments. He insists his explorations aren't all that newfangled, but anyone looking beyond traditional jazz masters and classical legends like John Cage might be hard pressed for a modern comparison. At least in the smooth jazz world. ~ Jonathan Widran