For his debut release on the Trippin’ ‘N’ Rhythm Record Label, guitarist Chris Standring wanted to have an impact and also make a musical statement at the same time. Standring needed his latest CD entitled ‘Soul Express’ to have a memorable impact to go along with the release’s sexy R&B stylized chill music. For the cover, he recruited model Holly Weber to strike a pose for an immediately provocative image. The result was one that even Chris Standring did not anticipate happening. Because the album’s cover art placed too much emphasis on sex, retail outlets refused to stock ‘Soul Express’ with Standring’s original design. The cover featured Holly’s unclothed body with nothing more than a hand and a chain belt covering strategic parts. If Chris was going to sell his CD through retail, the cover had to change. Needless to say, a modified image was released to the delight of merchants. Even so, the eye candy depicted on the original photo as well as the updated version is food for the imagination.
From an artistic standpoint, Chris Standring did not need Holly Weber to make ‘Soul Express’ come alive. The lyrical qualities attached to his latest release leaves little to be desired when compared to pure entertainment. This is Standring's fourth release overall and he carries with him a reputation as one of the finest guitarist in contemporary jazz. On this newest effort, the music is smooth, laid-back and downright cool in approach. In fact, one could say that ‘Soul Express’ is an exciting release visually as well as musically. One of the more standout tracks can be found in "I Can’t Help Myself," a tune Standring co-wrote with Paul Brown. The song is radio friendly and has charted consistently since being released. The systemic groove-laden licks that Standring lays down are pure magic.
Another beautifully written cut entitled "Catwalk" has a built-in vibe. As Standring wrote this piece, he had vocalist Erykah Badu in mind. The track moves and jams the senses with a rhythm that forces you to dig on the beat. On a more panoramic note, the second track entitled "Kaleidoscope," finds Standring moving majestically through a series of jazz escapes. Lyrically, the song is visually imaginative and travels across the lines of communication between the artist and the listener. Even the title track itself is a beautiful play on perception. "Soul Express" opens with Chris Standring saying, "I’ve become quite a good piano player." What sounds like a Fender Rhodes guitar is actually Standring playing a synthesizer. These and other associated tracks on this latest high level source of cool, sweet, unadulterated contemporary jazz have been beautifully written and produced. Even without the photo cover art, ‘Soul Express' is worth a listen and you will the CD difficult to put aside.
In an era of smooth jazz saturation, it is refreshing to hear from an artist with contemporary ideas. Even the cover songs Standring has chosen to highlight Stevie Wonder and John Coltrane are done with originality and grace. To follow in these two footsteps can be challenging; however, Chris Standring rises to the fray as easily as he always does. This versatile guitarist is often understated and overlooked, but when given an opportunity to experience his music, Standring’s star quality will rise consistently . ‘Soul Express’ is but another trip into jazz consciousness; one that is illuminating and entertaining, while leaving little to be desired.