When "Sneak" bumps and grinds its way out of the speakers, it sounds instanly familiar even though it's an origianl song. It just has that languid feel of cool professionalism that would make it a staple of smooth jazz radio.
We interrupt this review to bring you this rant about smooth jazz. There are two things I hate about the format of smooth jazz. One is I can't stand when you turn on the radio and THEY DON'T TELL YOU THE NAME OF THE SONG OR THE ARTIST they just played! What's up with that? I could have been grooving to Grady Nichols for years and not known it.
The other thing is that not now and not ever have Steely Dan, Michael McDonald or Marvin Gaye been jazz musicians. "Aja" may have elements of jazz in it and even have genuine jazz musicians playing on it, but it's not jazz! Guys like Grady Nichols are and they can't get any love from rigidly formatted smooth jazz stations that insist of playing Eighties dinosaur rock bands moonlighting with some half-assed jazz stylings.
Okay. Rant's over. Back to Grady's Sophistication. He hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma which isn't all that far from Kansas City, but is still a long way from the jazz nexus of the universe. Nichols has played gospel and spiritual music at Crystal Cathedral in Garden City, CA on the "Hour of Power" television show following the September 11,2001 terrorist attacks. He stirred the crowd with a moving interpretation of "Amazing Grace." He has also performed on the Smooth Jazz Cruise by Northern Cruise Lines where he hung with such heavy hitters as Patti Austin, Marion Meadows, Jonathan Butler and Warren Hill. This is music for cooling it in the park, cruising in your ride or when you don't necessarily want anything that's too demanding or complex. On "Dinner and a Movie" Grady's sweetly swaying sax stylings makes simplicity a virtue.
The dude has skills. They're well displayed on Sophistication and with this release, Nichols is making a serious bid for wider audience appreciation. He deserves it too.