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  • Jonathan Widran


Over the past 20-30 years, when fans of the urban side of smooth/contemporary jazz think of their go-to electric guitarists that come from the Wes Montgomery/George Benson mold, two frequent Billboard chart-toppers come to mind – Grammy winner Norman Brown and the late Nick Colionne.

But all along, while those two have received more attention and accolades, the multi-talented Ronny Smith has been working this crackling, fluid and transcendent melodic string magic with the best of them for more than 20 years. His latest, perfectly titled album Struttin is picture perfect, playfully grooving burning cool from start to finish, from the soaring brass tinged energy urging us to “Get Up” and the sly, sultry “In My Eyes” (featuring an infectious vocal harmony trio and the soaring sax of Bejamin Berreiro) to the closing tracks, a soulful re-imagining of the ballad “Laura” (highlighted by Arcangelo Trabucco’s hypnotic piano solo) and a snappy personal homage to the Montgomery influence via a whimsical exotic twist on “Angel.”

In between, Smith – who also plays keyboards and bass and does programming throughout – romps through a zesty roster of originals, every one of which is so in the pocket melodically and rhythmically that he could be releasing them as singles over the next two years! Perhaps the most charming of these is the Latin-tinged, romantically swaying “A Pretty Smile,” whose gorgeous, dreamy flute combines with and bounces off of Smith’s guitar to euphoric effect.

Although the engaging mid-tempo gem “Groovin” features Smith playing each part, the album as a whole is a major production featuring a total of 19 other musicians. Though Struttin’ by design doesn’t break new ground in the contemporary urban jazz realm, it’s chock full of hit potential – and is thus one of the most exciting genre albums of the year.


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