In the chaotic world of jazz, seldom is there an opportunity to experience a legend of any kind, most of them have made their jazz passage into the realms of history. But in the whole scheme of conversation, there continues to be opportunities to observe the abilities of jazz icons; however, only a few notable individuals have had the staying power to have achieved even that designation. In the category of saxophonists, any number of musicians have left impressions distinctive enough to be considered as jazz icons. With the advent of smooth jazz, any musician who can systematically excel above the fray on a consistent basis is in a unique position. One such artist is saxophonist Gerald Albright, who by most standards may be extremely underrated, yet he has managed to become one of the most prominent names in contemporary jazz over the last 16 years. Although Gerald has managed to hold his own as a contemporary musician, much of his work has been overshadowed by the onslaught of other less talented smooth jazz saxophonists. With ten albums to his credit, Albright continues a formula that has allowed him to become one of the most venerable influences around today. His latest release entitled 'Kickin' It Up'is a measured signature of harmonies, melodies, uptempos and rhythms. What is just as evident is Gerald's devotion to contemporary styling, which speaks volumes about his devotion to his craft. At this juncture in his career, as well as from the very beginning, Gerald Albright should not be considered as a smooth jazz artist; however, he can be categorized as a purist.
'Kickin' It Up' is a recording that covers the gamut of R&B, soul, jazz and funk-laden tempos. With assistance from the likes of Dwight Sills, George Duke, Jeff Lorber, Peter White and a host of others, Gerald Albright has re-instituted the art of contemporary jazz. In any number of ways, Gerald's ability has often been obscured by smooth jazz wannabes. From the very start of this 10-track offering, he employs an upbeat duo of tunes that prepares the listening palate for the energy that is sure to follow. At various times, Gerald employs the softness of a Peter White guitar on "Georgia," coupled with the influences of a Brian McKnight song entitled "Condition Of My Heart", as sung by Shawn Stockman. Another insightful aspect attached to 'Kickin' It Up' are the production skills of Albright, Jeff Lorber, Rex Rideout and Luther Hanes. The influences of their contributions are well-defined with alternate identities. One of the most notable tunes on the CD is "Walker's Theme." Gerald dedicates this particular cut to the memory of Junior Walker, of one Motown's most influential R&B saxophonists of the 1960s and '70s. It plays like the soul-tinged sax that was a mainstay of the so-called Detroit Sound.
All-in-all, 'Kickin' It Up' is a CD that requires a listen by aficionados of both contemporary and smooth styles. With jazz as the backdrop, there are ample helpings of funk and circumstance, as well as the velvet touch of ballads put into song. To say the least, Gerald Albright is not your everyday run of the mill saxophonist, he can be considered as a viable force in the annals of jazz. Given the opportunity of time and consistency, he will definitely move from an icon to a legendary influence.