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  • Jonathan Widran

BLAKE AARON, Color and Passion

In the current digital and streaming era where consumers have more options than ever as to how they consume music, artists in many genres often opt for releasing singles or EPs instead of full albums. It’s a way for them to keep fans consistently engaged, with a few months, weeks or days between releases as opposed to waiting a year or more for new product.

For the most part, however, smooth jazz artists seem more inclined – at least so far – to go old school, releasing full length albums that feature a couple of hit radio singles, released leading up to or after the album’s drop. This may be due to the fact that many of them launched their careers in the 80s, 90s or 2000s, where full CDs and physical products were the norm. Or the fact that their longtime fans are locked into that way of experiencing their music. Clearly, it’s time to think outside this lock-step approach. Blake Aaron’s novel approach to rolling out his music – following a slew of smash radio singles with a full-on compilation album, featuring a few bonus cuts or future singles – will hopefully become a model more artists and fans will embrace in the 2020s.

While many fans know him from his years of hosting the popular syndicated The Blake Aaron Radio Show with Tina Anderson, since the early 2000s, he’s also become one of the genre’s most inventive, adventurous and stylistically eclectic guitarist and artists. If he were adhering to the old world mentality, he would have spent a few years writing, producing and recording new material, released a full length set and started putting out singles.

Shifting the mindset to creating the ultimate hit single gathering with a few bonus tracks is like him gifting fans with the ultimate playlist – a chance not only to revisit the hits they know and love, but also to get a glimpse of where he’s heading. While technically, his high spirited perfectly titled new 11-track collection Color and Passion is his first album since Soul Stories in 2015, it’s really a culmination of the non-stop singles releases and hit making he’s been engaging fans with since 2016.

Listening to the buoyant non-stop energy of infectious, instantly infectious tracks like “Fall For You” and the Darren Rahn produced “Groovers and Shakes” and “Drive,” you’ll know instantly why they’ve been dominant #1 radio smashes these past few years – the first two Billboard #1’s spending a collective eight months on the Smooth Jazz Songs chart and “Drive” being Radiowave’s #1 single for all of 2019. You’ll also get why the fast grooving, horn drenched “Vivid” hit the Top Ten and stuck around on the chart for six months. You’ll also anticipate similar accolades coming as you toe-tap, dance, hum and spend some freewheeling drive time with Aaron’s two latest singles, embracing the sizzling brassy super funk of “Sunday Strut” (produced by fellow hit guitarist Adam Hawley and featuring Najee) and the exotic, slamming Soca/jazz island fusion jam “Daylight.”

Beyond those established and future hit singles, Aaron showcases the kind of sonic and genre-bending adventurousness that sets him apart from many of his genre peers. In a year where we all need uplift, any of those aforementioned singles will brighten even the darkest day and give you a sense of hope.

Beyond those, however, the guitarist gifts us with his deeper more expansive artistry on the lush and eloquent, ultra-romantic title track ballad (featuring his tender nylon string guitar magic and a horn like guitar synth) , the daring and fiery Latin dance explosion “Riviera Nights,” the tight, scorching funk of the James Brown tribute “Godfather Brown,” the playful and lilting reggae tinged “Weekend in Paradise” and the slammin’ closer, a barnburning spin on Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” featuring the tasty interplay of Aaron’s guitar and the whimsical flute of Kim Scott. That’s the perfect outro to an album chock full of much needed joyful escape from all the challenges we’ve been going through this year. We’ll definitely be worrying less when this ultimate Aaron playlist is rolling!


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