Too Cool is the title of the enjoyable smooth jazz debut from Lynn Riley, on which she is wonderfully backed by her producer and band mate Rubin Edwards. Ten delightful original compositions have been penned, both solely and jointly, by this talented duo. Varied styles are embraced, but each fresh tune features a smooth and cool flow.
The title track opens the disc with Lynn on alto and tenor sax against a shuffling rhythm containing funky overtones. The snappy electric bass play of Edwards is upfront and the minimalistic background vocals of Kim Smith ably assist, but the major focus of the song remains firmly on Lynn’s sassy sax energy. The tune "Missing You" features a loose and jazzy Brazilian feel with congas and percussion provided by Donna Bostock. Sunnily leading the way, alongside the dance-to-the- beat bass line from Rubin, is Lynn’s alto saxophone.
Lynn Riley joins a long list of respectful artists who have paid reverent tribute to saxophone icon Grover Washington Jr. on "Grover’s Groove." The song is upbeat, with a mid-70s Philadelphia soulful feel and an appealing groove. Lynn blends fast scales with emotive phrasing on the soprano sax, while Alex Bouno adeptly adds retro "Super-fly style" effects on guitar.
Riley proves she can execute nimble maneuvers on flute on "Island Breeze." One can easily visualize a zephyr wafting tenderly along a lonely coastline. Rubin Edwards proficiently utilizes programming effects to fabricate beach waves, seagulls and steel drum sounds to mix with light vocals by Staci Dickerson to create an airy atmosphere. Lynn’s warm flute tones swathe like a warm blanket to provide the perfect topping touch.
"Sedona" is my favorite cut on the CD. Sedona, the beautiful Arizona destination famed for its artist community and mystical spiritual inspiration, has been a favorite re-charging location for many. Close enough to the Grand Canyon to be overlooked by the majority of tourists, it offers brilliant scenic vistas in a comparatively non-crowded setting. "Sedona" the song has a delightful windswept melody embraced by Lynn on both soprano sax and flute. Alex Bouno supplies tasty electric guitar as a flattering crown.
The tango-ish "Crawfish Creole" provides a dynamic savory stew complete with whistles and other complimentary programming provided by Rubin Edwards. Lynn stretches out on her alto sax as she cooks with peppery spice. Riley’s stimulating flute shading is reminiscent of Herbie Mann and drives "Tierra del Sol," a piece embellished with programmed lively Latin rhythms. Spirited electric bass courtesy of Rubin Edwards coupled with congas from Sam Kalter and acoustic guitar by Blaine Bostock nourish the arrangement.
Riley and her contemplative alto saxophone lovingly caress a loping mellow melody on the lovely song "Oasis." It’s a song full of imagery and gives the sensation that relief from troubles is at hand. In fact, the tune soothes like a romantic lullaby and is another standout track. The sounds of children at play introduce Lynn’s playfully cheerful composition "Tag You’re It." She solos gleefully on the soprano sax on yet another tune with a terrific melody. As they do throughout the disc, Rubin’s programmed drumbeats keep the song bouncing along.
The beautiful ballad "Pamela" concludes the CD with a flourish as Lynn soars on soprano sax. Rubin Edwards’ electric bass develops an intimate relationship with Russ Ferrara’s acoustic guitar to further the song’s romantic nature.
The sheer volume of ultra-talented saxophone players in the smooth jazz genre makes it challenging to stand out from the crowd. Lynn Riley on Too Cool attempts to forge her own identity by pooling her skill and distinctive structures on a variety of saxophones and flutes with a superior compositional aptitude. These impressive attributes united with a wide-ranging worldly assortment of realized styles should help her gain notice and wide acceptance.