Smooth jazz is a much derided musical genre. Considered unchallenging by many jazz fans, it is the MOR of the improviser’s world, an instrumental cousin to the easy listening genre; one which is polite in performance, but often lacking in emotional depth. Cruelest of all, it is considered by many to be music to be talked over rather than listened to.
It is therefore a tribute to Drew Davidsen’s qualities as a guitarist that he manages to transcend this view. His compositions are creative, his playing skillful, and his tone sweet. There’s no doubt he is more than capable of holding his own against the best in the smooth jazz marketplace, and with ‘True Drew’, his fifth solo outing, he’s made an accomplished, interesting and considered album.
From a bassist’s perspective, it’s a mixed bag, with the bottom end duties on this disc being handled by a total of six different players. The star name is former Joe Zawinul sideman Gerald Veasley, whose slick, understated style graces just one number, the slinky ‘Change the World’. However, it is the lesser known Gary Lunn who handles the bulk of the tracks, and it is his playing on ‘Sweet Spot’ that is the album’s bass highlight. He gives the number a Marcus Miller-esque funky edge, lifting the tune to a groove-some high by adding a sprightly approach to proceedings, his playing acting as a neat stylistic counter-point to Davidsen’s own.
If you like George Benson – and Davidsen is clearly a fan; if anything he sounds a touch too much like him in places for his own good – then you’ll enjoy this. It is a clean, competent and engaging mixture of guitar dexterity and pleasing melodies. It still can be talked over, but is far better when listened to.