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Positive + Energy by Steve Oliver

There’s smooth jazz, and then there’s smooth jazz, in which an accomplished musician makes his energy accessible to audiences through the development of memorable grooves and licks. Rather than taking the easy way out, Steve Oliver has expended quite a bit of his talent on producing the music that he uses to connect with listeners, whether in the expanses of jazz festivals, in the intimacy of clubs or through the technical reproduction on CD’s and radio.

Aptly named, Oliver’s latest release on Native Language Music contains large doses of both positivity and energy. With hardly a minor chord darkening his way, Oliver virtually bursts through a listener’s defenses with optimistic exhortation and jubilation. Even so, the tracks on Positive + Energy remain distinct from each other, rather than flowing through a stream of sameness that other CD’s may offer. For instance, "Mr. Hipster" encourages dancing and grooving through its modified hiphop beat, while "Festevo" suggests a south-of-the-border carnival, complete with reveling trumpet and saxophones. The track "Positive Energy" lives up to its name with a repetitive vamp that virtually projects a feeling of goodwill.

Oliver seems to be indebted to George Benson for much of his technique, right down to the unison singing and guitar playing. Indeed, the fills on "Mr. Hipster" are reminiscent of Benson’s "Give Me The Night." Nevertheless, Oliver has recruited some of Los Angeles’ more accomplished musicians, including Will Kennedy and Brian Bromberg to contribute to the album’s overall success, which, yes, is entirely energetic in a positive sort of way. Which is something that the world needs more of.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Steve Oliver
  • CD Title: Positive + Energy
  • Genre: Smooth Jazz
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Native Language
  • Tracks: High Noon, Positive Energy, Right Direction, Ocean Blue, Festevo, Show You Love, Day’s End, Horizon, Mr. Hipster, Come On Home, Horizon (Reprise); Show You Love (instrumental version)
  • Musicians: Steve Oliver (guitar, vocal sounds, guitar synth, drums, keyboards); Tony Guerrero, John Fumo (trumpet); Will Donato, Jeff Kashiwa, Brandon Fields (saxophone); Tom Schuman (piano); Scott Wilkie (Fender Rhodes); Dave Kochanski (keyboards, programming); Larry Antonino, Eddie Reddick, Melvin Davis, Brian Bromberg (bass); Christian Poezach, Will Kennedy (drums); Steve Reid, Dale Villavicencio (percussion)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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