Jazz, as they say, is broad church, encompassing a variety of influences, styles and approaches. To be a critical success in this form in these modern times, it would sometimes seem that you have to be one of two things: distinctly odd, or oddly distinct. New York trumpeter Dennis Angel is neither of these. What he has delivered with ‘Timeless Grooves’ is, as the title suggests, a mainstream jazz album; an easy on the ear, post be-bop, accessible and melodic record, with competent soloing a-plenty and some solid grooves underpinning it all.
And pretty good it is too. As well as being a fine trumpeter, Angel’s compositional skills are also to be admired. The album’s opener, the Herbie Hancock flavoured ‘Forever Funk’, shuffles along delightfully, as does the fat riffing which propels ‘Vegas Vibe’. There is some cool blowing on the highlight track, ‘When Love is in the Air’, which sees Angel’s flugelhorn and his saxophonist (and the album’s principle arranger) Gottfried Stoger’s soprano sax trading luscious melodies. Their combined reading of The Beatles standard ‘Norwegian Wood’ gives it an invigorating freshness that makes the melody sound as if it were newly minted, rather than penned over forty years ago.
Whilst the band is cooking throughout, with the excellent Amanda Ruzza splendidly holding down bass duties, this album is not without its flaws. In particular, the six instrumental tracks are far superior to its four vocal numbers. Angel’s singer daughter, Rebecca, makes a reasonable fist of ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, but the rhythmically leaden arrangement has the distinct whiff of the cruise ship to it, replete with a cheese-laden, mid-tune key change. ‘A Song in Harmony’ is much better fare for her, and she handles this admirably. However, the baritone of DeForest Raphael just doesn’t sit right in this musical setting, sounding – as he does – as if he’s just wandered in from recording a Broadway soundtrack next door. Worst of all, as gifted and talented a musician as Angel is, there’s no avoiding the fact lyric writing is not his forte.
So, to my ears, this is an album with six great tracks on it – which is more than you get on many a release these days. For those numbers alone, it is worth the price of admission. Smooth in places, but thankfully, not sickly,
8/10 – for the instrumentals
6/10 – for the album overall