With choice albums such as ‘C’est Le Funk’, ‘Weekend in L.A (A Tribute To George Benson’ and ‘First Class’ (from his side project Groove Ltd) Smooth Jazz Therapy favorite U-Nam has been restoring much needed energy into the music we call smooth jazz. Earlier this year he again sent shockwaves through the genre with ‘Going for Miles’, the advance single from his latest project ‘Surface Level’ and now the complete album has been released the great news is that it has been more than worth the wait.
It opens with the aforementioned ‘Going for Miles’ that features U-Nam’s signature soulful guitar sound, unmistakable licks and an irresistibly catchy melody that will get in your head and not go away. With the addition of classy horns, groovy percussion, funky bass and lush string arrangements it is a real belter of a record.
Yet that said ‘Surface Level’ is far from being a ‘one track’ CD and with seven self penned tunes plus three consummate covers it serves as a wonderful showcase for U-Nam’s art. Talking of covers he does a wonderful job with Mary J Blige’s version of the Mary Jane Girls classic ‘All Night Long’ and much can be said of his handling of ‘Spice Of Life’ that was co-written by the recently deceased Rod Temperton and which was a hit for Manhattan Transfer back in 1983.
The last of U-Nam’s re-imaginations is another blockbuster from the early eighties, ‘The Sound Of Music’, that can be found on the album ‘Feel The Music’ from the band Dayton and which here is delivered as an eight minute funk epic with the help of guest artists such as Bob Baldwin, Tim Owens, JFly and Bill Steinway.
Amongst the original material is the reggae meets R & B vibe of ‘West Indeed’ while elsewhere U-Nam uses the understated yet groove drenched ‘Cool Blue’ as his own special tribute to the legendary Ronny Jordan. ‘Back In Style’ proves to be yet another free wheeling guitar driven number and although infectious hook of ‘Groove Paradise’ is very hard to beat it is the vibrant ‘Plus de Funk’ that seems destined to fill dance floors everywhere. However, all things considered, my personal favorite is the joyously intense title cut that is ‘driving with the top down’ music and then some.