Back in the day, before market research created the smooth jazz format and radio began playing only the safest fare by its core artists, there was honest to God contemporary jazz that blended bright melodies, sensual soul, cool vocals, adventurous improvisations and was wide open to sonic surprises.
No current artist or ensemble embodies this colorful, multi-faceted sorely missed aesthetic as well as Las Vegas based ensemble RJ & The Assignment, whose fourth album – the perfectly titled Hybrid Harmony - is grounded in leader Reginald Johnson’s delightfully dynamic piano musings and snappy old school tinged and occasionally spaced out adventures on Rhodes and synth.
As leader of a multi-talented band, RJ – who has vibed with everyone from Jennifer Hudson to Buddy Guy and Boyz II Men - opens the sonic floor to compelling instrumental spotlights by saxophonist Julian Tanaka and lead guitarist Johnny Johnson. Fans of sexy, seductive classic styled R&B vocals will groove most steadily on sultry, emotionally impactful tunes like “I’m Tryin’” (Klaiton Johnson) and a sweet reimagining of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
While RJ and company are mostly down with serious groovin’, the funkified “My Mean Ol’ Aunt” shows they’ve got a pretty wicked sense of humor as well.