A contemporary jazz giant whose power and passion have made the soulful saxophonist into one of the genre’s most consistent chart-toppers in the 25 years since he released his solo debut, Richard Elliot salutes the instrumental jazz-funk legends from his formative years in the 1970s & 80s that influenced his brand of music on In The Zone, which was released yesterday by Artistry Music (Mack Avenue Records). Elliot wrote and produced his 16th solo album with fusion pioneer Jeff Lorber.
In The Zone is a continuation of Elliot paying recorded tribute to his roots. His 2009 release, Rock Steady, which debuted at #5 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz album chart, was a nod to the R&B artists from the 1970s & 80s that most inspired him. On the new collection, Elliot again revisits his seminal years, but this time casting appreciative eyes towards musicians such as Grover Washington Jr., Bob James and David Sanborn.
Lorber was also a young, cutting-edge adventurer during that era, and since he and Elliot have been collaborating on projects for the past ten years, the keyboardist became the perfect producing and songwriting partner for In The Zone. Together they wrote nine new songs and recorded a deep-pocketed version of the gritty Marvin Gaye topical protest anthem “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler).” Joining them in the studio were guitarists Dwight Sills, Michael Thompson and Tony Maiden, bassists Nate Phillips and Alex Al, drummers Lil’ John Roberts and Tony Moore, percussionist Lenny Castro, and horn player and arranger David Mann.
Losing none of his hallmark fervor and dynamic energy, over the years Elliot has matured and cultivated a sense of control, restraint and balance, qualities that emerged as he found peace and happiness in his personal life. “When things are dialed in and everything is clicking, be it on stage or in life, that’s what ‘in the zone’ feels like to me,” said the Scotland-born, Los Angeles-reared musician. “My original motivation for doing In The Zone was the opportunity to reconnect with my earlier self, the musician I was when I first started out back when I was 18. The songs remind me of listening to my heroes in those days and seeing them perform live, feeling incredible joy and enthusiasm about the possibility of following in their footsteps. The wonderful thing is, so many years after I began performing professionally, I still feel that excitement.”
Opening with a familiar dose of laid back jazz-funk, Elliot’s tenor sax percolates on “Island Style.” The first radio single that is presently sweeping the nation’s playlists, “Boom Town” grooves powered by sax, danceable guitar riffs courtesy of Sills and Lorber, and a taut beat laid down by Moore. Taking the tempo down a notch, “Metropolis” would have been at home on a Washington Jr. album. Tasty funk guitar riffing serves as an ideal counterpart to Elliot’s sax, which paints broad strokes while Mann’s flute and horn embellishments add warmth, depth and fullness to complete the picture. “The Lower Road” possesses the eloquent qualities of a singer-songwriter piece as Elliot articulates mellifluously through his sax. A funky flashback, “Bring It!” is an old school booty-shaker that contains a wicked Moog solo by Lorber, which helps transport the listener back in time. The ambience is chill on the seductive mid-tempo groove “Just A Taste.” Fierce and fiery hornwork by Elliot and Mann unite to blow the heck out of the muscular title track. “Panamera” maintains the driving intensity with throwback funk grooves accentuated by swatches of vibrant, 1970s-style radio-friendly hooks. Closing the collection with an emotional departure, “Golden Triangle” is a peaceful and pensive, soul-soothing exploration.
When Elliot released his 1986 debut, Trolltown, he was still a member of Tower Of Power. His solo material quickly found a home at a then emerging radio format – smooth jazz – where he has since amassed an impressive catalogue of #1 hits along with scoring four #1 albums. He is a consummate entertainer who pours his heart into his physical live performances, which helped him become one of the top concert draws in contemporary instrumental pop music. Elliot spent the summer and early fall co-headlining a U.S. tour with Grammy winning guitarist Norman Brown. He has a handful of concert dates scheduled for October to help launch In The Zone before enjoying the holiday season with his wife, Camella, and their five children at their North San Diego County home.
The songs contained on Elliot’s In The Zone are:
“Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)”
“The Lower Road”
“Just A Taste”
“In The Zone”
Source: Great Scott Productions