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Island Dance by Leon Ayers Jr.

This is the genuinely refreshing third offering from a truly gifted keyboardist who’s cranked out two previous projects (Down the Middle in 2005 and a sampler called Compilations in 2003), both of which somehow flew under my radar screen.... until now. I will certainly be calling upon them for a demonstration after hearing this spectacular display of freshness and melodic flavor.

Leon Ayers Jr. (I immediately attempted to somehow make the obvious association to the famous vibes master, Roy, but that wasn’t to be.... at least not as far as my research would take me) proves here on Island Dance that playing good keys doesn’t just happen and certainly isn’t about pressing magical buttons that make things automatically and systematically happen. It’s the good ol’ fashioned manual manipulation of the ivories that really makes the difference. Case in point: Witness tunes like the title track, which features that good ol’ fashioned manual skill combined with lilting, rhythmic, highly melodic, and authoritative tonal quality and a very tight hook. That’s directly followed by a smoothly funky and equally melodic, rhythmic ,and hook-tight track two, "Aphrodisiac." Track three, which seems to give a nod to fellow smooth jazz keyboard colleagues like Bobby Lyle, Marcus Johnson, and Roger Smith, this one hops, and I mean hops, off with that uniquely halting style of funk.

Each piece on this album is played with deliberate, professional precision and meticulous attention to detail, structure, and feel. It’s clear from the opening and title track that Leon Ayers Jr. approaches his music quite earnestly and with a passion that only true aficionados of the art can appreciate. There are no gimmicks here. No pretentious smoke screens and sound effects to hide what isn’t. All is laid bare to reveal what is. This one comes highly recommended by me, your everyday smooth jazz aficionado. There’s simply not a bad tune in the collection, in my opinion. One of the safest investments you can make in your smooth jazz collection and yet another name that I personally will go out on a limb and predict we’ll hear in the studios and see on the stages across smooth jazz America in months and years to come. A joy to experience in a business where mediocrity can sometimes become an accepted commodity. Great venture, Leon.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Leon Ayers Jr.
  • CD Title: Island Dance
  • Genre: Smooth Jazz
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Air-Tyte Productions
  • Tracks: Island Dance, Aphrodisiac, Everlasting Smile, Sacred Highway, Peace of Mind, Just For Kicks, Around in Circles, Morning Dew, Back in the Day, Path to Paradise
  • Rating: Four Stars
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