A trip-happy, soul-inflected, groove-oriented, get-up-on-your-feet-and-move vibe prevails throughout Third Force’s seventh release, Driving Force, and the results couldn’t have been better. This band, which for many years was a studio-only conglomeration of artists making chilled-out generic music for smooth jazz radio stations, really started to come together with a personal and original sound when a regular membership coalesced in 2002 as the band started to tour. Music-director Xavier Davis, along with band founder William Aura, have let it all loose on the new recording. Up-tempo gems are fashioned one after another as track after track can only be described as incredibly delightful party music with real contemporary instrumental jazz overtones and underpinnings. It’s as if Rick Braun’s best 1990s production work with Jeff Golub has come back, but in a much more jubilant form.
The band is essentially six musicians: William Aura, Craig Dobbin, Alain Eskinasi, Richard Hardy, Mitch Manker and Xavier Marshall. They, along with a number of great guest artists, a staple of the group’s recordings from the beginning, just can’t resist "hitting-it" on every track. With the exception of the one-minute introduction to This Is The One and the short ending tag which flows into the final cut, Inside The Rhythm, the CD never lets up.
Great cuts abound. Saxophone youngster Eric Darius should be as adventurous on his own recordings as he is on An Open Heart. Filling the space with lines that peak and move and then peak and move again, his solo and melodic sense is truly locked-in-the-pocket. Marc Antoine’s guitar on You Got It has rarely been as joyous, and hearing Tom Scott’s magnificently soulful work on Get With It makes you wonder where he’s been for the last year.
It’s rare with today’s smooth jazz market oriented discs that you want to listen past the first five or so cuts, but the infectious nature of Aura’s production, Davis’s Motown underpinnings and ensemble tightness makes this a disc you’ll listen to over and over. The entire disc is so good it probably won’t gather much airplay, but it truly deserves it.