Gary Dean Smith Project, is reviewed by Jazzweekly

Gary Dean Smith: Awakening

Upbeat and accessible fusion is presented by guitarist Gary Dean Smith as he brings together a soulful ensemble of Spencer Pyne/b-tb, Phil Reyes/sax-fl, Donald Young/key-tp-arr, Steve Fitzgerald/dr, Jimmy Branly/perc and a hip trio for a guest appearance.

Vocalist Mer Sal has a rich and expressive voice, and it works well on the warm horns of the poppish jazz title track, while she gets bluesy with Pyne’s loping bass line and Reyes’ wispy flute on “This Yearning.” With the all-star cameo team of Jeff Lorber/keys, Jimmy Haslip/b and Gary Novak/dr, she gets earthy on the funky and crisp “Lucky” which has the rhythm team lay down an irresistible groove. The band shows sleek chrome on the nimble “Lenny’s Lament” and the slinky “Hummingbird.” Uplifting and upbeat; I dare you to sit still!

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