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  • Jonathan Widran


Listening to saxophonist Dean James’ infectious, alternately ultra-sensual and deeply grooving “soulsational” (and perfectly titled!) Innervisions Records debut album GroovySax is like a warm, invigorating visit from an old friend whose vibe and energy has been sorely missed.

James made a dynamic splash in the then-emerging smooth jazz genre in the mid to late 90s with his early albums Can We Talk and Intimacy (which included his most enduring and radio played single “Market Street”), then kind of “ghosted us” until 2009, when he released the engaging, ballad heavy Love Takes Time in conjunction with the Inauguration of President Obama.

Considering the beauty and elegance of his free flowing romantic style and the intense excitement when he revs up and funks us out, his subsequent disappearance from the airwaves and charts was deeply felt among his fans.

All of which makes his re-emergence a magical moment in the genre, a way to connect the musical wonders of the era he emerged in with all the excitement going on in the genre/format today. James wins our desire to groove from the get go with the fast percolating, deliriously funky opener, aptly titled “DJ’s Groove,” which includes wild electronic percussion and some crafty George Dukesque synth runs, then offers a spirited commentary on these cautiously hopeful times by declaring, with tasty, mid-tempo cool and delight, “It’s All Good.”

Likewise, he captures our hearts anew with his wonderful way with lush, romantic ballads, gracing us with his intimate, sweetly lyrical soprano tunes “Loving You Forever” and “Home” and silking us up with the laid back seduction of “Planet Smooth.” Saving one of the most unique offerings for last, James gets downright dreamy on a passionate and deeply soulful yet transcendently atmospheric twist on “Georgia On My Mind,” produced and featuring the keyboards of industry legend Barry Coffing and the soaring vocals of Salio, an artist who hails from the “other” Georgia at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.


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