R&B/smooth jazz saxophonist Tim Cunningham first made an impact on audiences after playing at the St. Lucia Jazz Festival in 1992. He followed the performance with appearances at the Cincinnati Jazz Festival for six straight years from 1994 to 1999. His current release Manchester Road, produced by long-time friend and collaborator Daron L. Steward, puts Cunningham’s melodic sensibilities to the forefront projecting glistening tapestries that radiate love in its sonic moods. His music says "I love you," "I miss you so much" and "Please forgive me" to the ones that matter most in life. His songs are deeply emotional and depict the dulcet sounds of smooth cool jazz with occasional postscripts of improvised notes containing a free jazz impulse.
All 12 songs on Manchester Road are written and arranged by Cunningham and each display his artistic schematics for sensually roving melodies and lulling frequencies. The title track opens the album with upbeat sax gyrations, pivoting bass notes and lightly spruced drum strikes. The organ strudels swizzle along to the lively sax twists eliciting a jovial mood. The album tapers down with the candlelight smooth jazz cadence of "St Joe Park." The melody is breezy and furnaces sprightly tossed sax dynamics that segue into the gentle lullaby of "Sadie," which is played twice on the album. The first is an all instrumental and the second uses the vocals of K’Ron Moore and Larry Frye on the main vocal melody with Jerry Williamson on background vocals. The track is an ode to Cunningham’s daughter Sadie, which stands to reason that the exchange of female and male vocals on the track is reflective of parents speaking to their daughter. The vocal melody has the kind of warmth and love that parents express towards their child.
Cunningham also works in some adult contemporary vibes and easy listening specters with tracks like "Spanish Nights" and "Crusin," which carry romantic hues in the cushioning sax lifts and tranquil instrument settings. "Spanish Nights" is a declaration of love while "Cruisin’’ is an alms for forgiveness. Both are besieged with gentle melodic motions, but slight differentials in the depth of pitch and rotation of the instrument parts penetrate the listener to see these songs in this way or at least use the songs in this way. The suppleness in the melodic movements and the blissful sonorous on tracks like "Mood Swing" and "Eternal Love" ride along cool smooth jazz beams and the chillout aura of "South Beach" is euphoric. A slight sprint in the sax and rhythmic motions on "Turning Point" are elegantly jeweled while the lounging piano scions on "Wintress" and "Heart, Mind & Soul" splice the soft flowing sax riffs educing a serene mood.
Manchester Road is Cunningham’s sixth album. His previous CD credits include Inner Peace, Waiting For Love, and out of print discs such as Right Turn Only, A Change in Altotude, Sax Change Operation, and A Tim Cunningham Christmas. He has opened for a number of popular artists over the years, including Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, George Benson, Norman Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, R. Kelly, Luther Vandross, The Temptations, The O'Jays, Cameo, Keith Sweat, The Yellow Jackets, Chick Corea, The Whispers, Wynton Marsalis, The Average White Band, Patti Labelle, Jeffery Osborne, Al Green and Boys II Men.
After listening to Manchester Road, it is no wonder that Cunningham describes himself on his website as, "Easy going, down to earth, positive, spiritual, truthful, genuine, grounded." His music totally represents himself. Manchester Road is a milestone for Cunningham, not only as a way to personally connect with human emotions and moods but also because it highlights his diversity as an R&B/smooth jazz songwriter in addition to being a masterful saxophonist.