Gifted guitarist Nick Colionne’s latest release on the Koch Records label is entitled No Limits. It’s ample proof that one of smooth jazz’s premier road warriors can also deliver in the recording studio. The title is a reference to Colionne’s effort to remain fresh by attempting to transcend the normal boundaries of the genre by his infusion of a greater variety of musical styles along with the addition of three vocal tracks to the mix.
The opening and title track "No Limits" begins with a brief wah-wah effect then moves to a smooth jazz radio friendly mid-tempo instrumental driven by Nick’s breezy guitar stylings. "Steppin’ Back" continues in the same silky-smooth vein and is just as equally satisfying and invigorating as the opening track.
The third tune is titled "The Big Windy Cat," a homage to his hometown of Chicago and it’s another similar tempo number with blues overtones. On this one, the drums of Khari Parker are brought a little bit further out front in the mix and Nick’s tasty and elegant chops stick it right in the pocket.
"Melting Into You" is the first vocal composition and offers a nice change of pace. Nick’s rich deep baritone fits very nicely on this smoldering ballad co-written by Jim Peterik. A very catchy repeated refrain of "we are joined at the heart, all alone in the dark, as the midnight turns to blue.... .... I’ll be melting into you" strongly grabs the listener. Sweet female background singers add to the romantic aura and the mid-song guitar solo is very heart-felt and bluesy.
The instrumental "Until Tonight" is a blues tinged vehicle for Nick to bend the guitar strings with beautiful rounded tones laid over top of the foundation formed by the bass work by Dave Hitebrand and the steady drum beat. "Hard Line" is the bluesiest song on the record, as the influences of blues masters Muddy Waters, Robert Cray and B.B. King can be heard. Jim Peterik earns another co-writer credit and Nick’s lethal combination of vocal and guitar punch is impressive. John Blasucci provides additional feeling with some nice blues organ.
"Ports Of Call" shifts gears for a dash of exotic tropical flair with Nick providing the breezy laid-back guitar. It’s a charming excellent example of the sort of chill that Colionne is becoming famous for. I love the mood this tune evokes, it takes me sailing.
"On The Edge" features some great smooth jazz guitar and its bouncy up-tempo shows off the backing band to a greater advantage than some of the other songs. It’s followed by "Headin’ Wes Before Dawn," a loving tribute to the legendary Wes Montgomery that is both dreamy and beautiful. Played in a relaxed tempo, it glides along light as a feather, while the passion displayed by Nick’s tender treatment is obvious. That mellow mood is continued on "Take a Walk with Me," another very pretty instrumental.
The tempo gets quickened on "Godfather J" as vigorous horns (Mark Ohlsen - trumpet, James Perkins - sax and David Gross - trombone) are part of the brew in a funky testimonial that honors the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. The album ends with first a vocal, then an instrumental rendition of "Anyway," a song in which Paul Richmond is given cowriter’s credit, as well as adding keyboard accompaniment.
No Limits is consistently appealing, packed with plenty of smooth grooves and should satisfy Nick Colionne’s long time fans and first time listeners alike. A more balanced overall mix may have lifted it to even greater heights, but that is a minor quibble. After all, this is a recording featuring dazzling smooth jazz guitar. Put it on. Turn down the lights. Open the wine and cuddle up with your special someone. Try it, you’ll like it!