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  • Jonathan Widran

LISA ADDEO, Listen To This

This may come as a surprise to many fans of smooth jazz, but numerous artists, promoters and publicists who work with the music that fits into that radio format shy away from using that term. For whatever reason, they feel it has a stigma that limits their creative horizons, so they prefer “contemporary instrumental” (the official Grammy category), “urban jazz” “contemporary urban jazz,” “rhythm and jazz,” etc.

As she releases Listen to This, her first official foray into this genre of music, Lisa Addeo feels quite the opposite. She’s one of 2019’s true breakout artists, a brilliant, rhythmically diverse songwriter who never met a hook and groove she didn’t like, and an incredibly versatile pianist. Yet there’s another reason she’s simply awesome – she’s not afraid to call what she does “smooth jazz,” - and in fact, after releasing numerous albums in other genres, she’s excited to vibe with and be part of this tight knit musical community.

“The reality is, our genre better own the term,” Lisa says. “Contemporary jazz doesn’t define what it is we’re doing as well. It’s simply good jazz. It’s groovy, feels inviting, isn’t overly intellectual and we musicians shouldn’t be having so many issues with it.”

Speaking of owning it, Lisa’s off to an incredible start in the format, laying the foundation for the release of Listen to This with the success earlier this year of the lead single “Never Enough.” The infectious, ultra-melodic, brass spiced mid-tempo track, featuring snazzy interaction with Johnny Britt & the JB Horns -showcases Lisa’s elegant yet spirited piano playing and a touch of her old school sensibilities on the Rhodes. It hit the Billboard Most Increased Plays chart alongside a batch of genre greats, hung in the Top 25 for three weeks on the Smooth Jazz Network charts and hit three others at, including reaching #13 on the Radar chart.

Produced by and featuring #1 Billboard charting artist/guitarist and mega-producer Nils with special guest performances by saxophonists Steve Cole and Jeff Ryan, the expansive 15-track collection is a powerful showcase for Lisa’s range of talents, with ten original instrumental songs, vocal versions of four of those tracks and the original vocal “Her Intuition.” Lisa’s ability to connect with so many great musicians on her genre debut – including members of Nils’ session crew like Britt, bassists Darryl Williams and Mel, drummer Tony Moore and Eric Valentine and percussionist Oliver C. Brown – is testament to her strengths as a player and her unique and compelling sound as an artist.

Four-time Grammy winning producer and President of Blue Note Records Don Was says, “Lisa did a great job on her new album. It fits in really well with the most successful albums in the smooth jazz field. My compliments.” You’ll agree with Was – and maybe even start laying the praising adjectives on thicker as your blood races and spirit starts soring – with just a single romp through this colorful, multi-faceted journey.

Showcasing her penchant for straight ahead jazz in a few spots along the way, Lisa takes us from the silky, sensual romance of “She Closed Her Eyes in Paris” (whose compelling vocal narrative is also a must-hear) through the buoyant elegant funk passion play of “Stay With Me Tonight,” the fiery, high octane jam with Cole “Little Black Dress” and the groove-intensive, then suddenly swinging “Hold, Love, Kiss.” On the vocal side, feast your ears first on her powerhouse emotion on the haunting, dramatic “Her Intuition” and her sexy background textures on the elegantly swaying, easy flowing “So Much.”

There’s a good reason why Lisa’s waiting until January 2020 to release her next single, the sizzling, funked up “High Heels” – it’s because she didn’t want to interfere with the potential success of the latest single from Jeff Ryan, who creates a fascinating conversation with Lisa via his alternately punchy and searing sax energy. This track was written by Lisa with four-time #1 Billboard artist Adam Hawley, who also produced, plays guitar and does programming, auxiliary keys and percussion. They’re an unbeatable trio and this could be the track that takes her from “Most Increased Plays” to the upper reaches of the main Smooth Jazz Songs chart. Both Ryan and Hawley have done it – now it’s Lisa’s turn!

The album title Listen To This says it all about where her musical heart is today. It’s a soulful, heartfelt invitation to attune your ears and set your sonic expectations on a fresh new vibe for the smooth jazz genre. Driven by bright infectious melodies, dynamic improvisations and an aesthetic based on relentless and intoxicating grooves, the collection finds Lisa setting the standard for all that’s hipster and innovative in the format for years to come. And best of all, yes, it’s safe to call it “smooth jazz”!!

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