Retroactive is the title of the dazzling contemporary jazz release on NuGroove Records from masterful keyboard artist and noted producer Alan Hewitt. The title could refer to the Miami Vice album art showing Alan outfitted in a Crockett & Tubbs patterned white leisure suit. Or, it could imply to his decision to cover two retro soul/pop/rock chestnuts in Isaac Hayes’s "Theme From Shaft," and Sly Stone’s "Hot Fun In The Summertime." Most likely, the title alludes to Hewitt’s approach of providing a CD the "old school" way; providing top-notch quality on each and every track.
Hewitt opens the disc with a reconstruction of "Shaft." The revised arrangement doesn’t vary greatly from the original. Brian Price captures the retro clickity-click Shaft-era guitar part perfectly, as does the dynamic horn section (Desert Storm Horns - Steve Madaio on trumpet, Will Donato on tenor saxophone, and Steve Clark on trombone). The vibrant keyboard/piano lead supplied by Hewitt is the major divergence from the Isaac Hayes classic hit rendition.
The mid-tempo slightly funky "All For You" follows. Containing a wonderful melody, it is shepherded by the dynamite duo of Alan Hewitt on keyboards and Gerald Spikes on tenor saxophone. The title track "Retroactive" also possesses a funky vibe with Hewitt providing fresh keyboards on both piano and Hammond B-3 organ. The Desert Storm Horns again supply their positive tang and Jervonny Collier’s bass is firmly in the pocket.
The Grammy and Emmy nominated special guest star trumpeter Greg Adams provides bright brilliant muted tones to "Nassau Blue," while Hewitt again dances masterfully on the keys showcasing his bountiful flair. The splendid ambience created is faintly laid back, yet very vitalizing. Ian Martin and Andrew Dorsett are credited as co-writers with Hewitt of this enthralling song, as well as providing bass and additional keyboards respectively.
The Hewitt unrushed arrangement of Sly’s "Hot Fun In The Summertime" retains a bit of the original's funk essence but adds a smoky late night feeling owing to the sultry whispery vocals of Shea Chambers amidst Alan’s tender piano and the dreamily hazy horn section of Steve Madaio on trumpet and Wendell Kelly on trombone. "In The Works" has a marvelous thrusting beat that swings with Hewitt strutting alternately on vibraphone and piano. Brian Price on guitar and the punchy horn section help propel the song to elevated heights.
"Saturday Afternoon" is fueled with a European cool reminiscent of the great Philippe Saisse. The always tasteful Paul Jackson Jr. makes a gratifying visit on guitar. Jackson, together with Hewitt, weaves an urban jazz elegance that proves extremely enjoyable. The tune that follows it, "Amagine That," is in a similar vein which makes it a fine companion piece. Hewitt’s vibe play gives the song introspective, somewhat melancholy shading.
"Big Bang" is an energetic exercise complete with horns and the inspired work of the rhythm section of Collier on bass guitar and drummer Chad Wright. Brian Price again displays some primo retro-style burning guitar effects to complement Alan Hewitt’s driving piano and Hammond B-3 sizzle. "H2O" is a composition with writing credit shared between Hewitt and the multi-talented Steve Oliver. Oliver also appears on the song, providing his brand of tuneful guitar excellence, inspiring the always game Hewitt to keep pace. Will Donato deserves complementary mention for his stellar tenor sax handiwork on the song.
Rich in content and filled with lasting impressive melodies, Retroactive flows freshly and smoothly from launch to conclusion. With the release of Retroactive Alan Hewett has taken his vast melodic compositional and production skills and paired them with his exceptional technical musical brilliance to create a superior contemporary jazz masterpiece.