Smooth jazz has often been accused of being nothing more than sterile elevator music with little to offer except a warm and fuzzy feeling of melancholy. Many critics including myself have all lamented about the lack of passion and sensitivity that is often heard in smooth jazz stylized music. But every now and again, there comes an artist who has a magic formula that hits on all the cylinders of conveyance and interpretation.
For more than 25 years, keyboardist Dan Siegel has seen the lines of contemporary jazz ebb and flow as though it mirrored the tides of an ocean. Dan could be one of the few remaining artists of his generation who has chosen not to compromise his approach to jazz for the sake of commercialization. His latest CD entitled ‘Departure’ continues along a path that has always featured acoustics has a backdrop for some of the most melodically correct and sensitive contemporary jazz of his generation.
Throughout his career, Dan Siegel has chosen to meld pop and R&B influences with jazz as a base for everything that he does. The release of ‘Departure’ carries jazz connoisseurs into a realm of contemporary flow where Siegel draws upon the rhythmic exploitation of a multitude of musical styles. He then takes those dynamics and augments them with a superbly written subset of smooth grooves. Siegel also employs an underlayment of acoustic bass lines that includes a healthy mix of titillating ever-changing melodic statements. With additional help from such notable talents as bassist Brian Bromberg, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and percussionist Lenny Castro, ‘Departure’ has all the characteristics of jazz that is not often heard in these days of what not to expect.
Throughout the CD, there is a strong sense of purpose to make a positive statement for jazz without compromising the integrity of the music for the sake of neutrality. In fact, Dan runs the gamut of qualitative creativity with this second release on the Native Language Record Label. From the very onset of Departure, Siegel’s musical interludes are highlighted by jazz that not only gives pause to wonder; there is a strategic vibe that also includes a strong sense of cohesiveness with Dan’s original intent. The ballads are exotic and are filled with a structure that mirrors an attribute many smooth jazz artists and enthusiasts have invariably forgotten about, something known as improvisation. On the other end of the spectrum, Siegel has also seen fit to include his own version of intense R&B styled funk; however, he makes it ever so palatable on a track entitled "Street Talk." The title track itself also features some of the clearly defined parameters often heard in urban contemporary jazz, some containing intensely effective bass rhythms and driving percussive semantics. But overall, everything heard on ‘Departure’ will definitely fuel the passionate embrace of jazz, while having a hypnotic effect on the listener’s psyche.
With the release of Departure, Dan Siegel has painted a mosaic of picturesque symbolism. Dan’s musical assessment of his skill set reveals an experience that takes into account all of the improvised patterns associated with jazz, as well as the influences of contemporary music. Siegel’s empirical ideas contain within them 25 years of experiences and all of the associations he has encountered along the way. In Dan’s mind, he likes to take a retrospective look back at his career. He states: "Just like in the old days, I still find making music spiritual, invigorating, and I enjoy rolling with the changes and opportunities.
These days, I’m still excited; music is still my religion and food for my soul. Despite all the peaks and valleys in my career, I believe in its rich communicative and healing powers. It’s love to me, the essence of life." In many ways, Dan Siegel epitomizes the idea of doing everything correct to get his message across. As a caveat to a long and storied career, Departure continues a formula that allows for the full implementation of jazz in all of its wonderful flavors.