by Susan Frances
Album Review: Awakening from the Gary Dean Smith Project
Artist: Gary Dean Smith Project
Groove-oriented, the music of the Gary Dean Smith Project elevates and lightens up the darkest of moods. The quintet’s latest release Awakening is purely feel good music. From the dance-funk swivels of Jeff Lorber’s keys augmented by the vaunting pumps of Jimmy Haslip’s bass in “Lucky” to the smooth scoring of Gary Dean Smith’s guitar chords crimping “This Yearning,” GDSP takes their cues from an innate sense of rhythm liken to the R&B masters before them.
“Lenny’s Lament” is an easy listening tune with the soft tremors of Donald Young’s trumpet alternating with the buoyant bubbles of Smith’s guitar notes. Moving in a seamless flow, the music has a contemporary glint. The earthy texture in Mer Sal’s vocals are robust, suspended above the syncopated thrusts of Steve Fitzgerald’s drums and silhouette in the joustling vibrations of tambourine-sounding percussion. Extending the breadth of the group’s wings further, the dance grooves of “Hummingbird” share a breezy-pop flare emblematic of the music of Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. The melodic motifs shroud the listener in a sweet sound that one never grows tired of hearing.
Groove-driven and melodic sounding, Awakening loosens the listener and steers one into a pleasing state of mind. Welded tightly and bridged seamlessly, the tracks flow smoothly, reaching for a sweet sound that one is never tired of hearing.
Mer Sal – vocals
Spencer Pyne – bass, trombone
Phil Reyes – sax, flute
Gary Dean Smith – guitar
Donald Young – keyboards, trumpet, horn arrangement
Steve Fitzgerald – drums
Jimmy Branly – percussion
Jeff Lorber – keyboards on “Lucky”
Jimmy Haslip – bass on “Lucky”
Gary Novak – drums on “Lucky