Greg Chambers • Can’t Help Myself • Greg Chambers • US Release Date: August 1, 2014
Sometimes, it’s nice to sit and chill on an uneventful, carefree afternoon. What better way to chill, than listening to the refreshing, urban sounds of smooth jazz? The answer should be obvious that ‘there is no better way,’ but if those words aren’t the first thing to slip off your tongue, let saxophonist Greg Chambers change your tune. Chambers’ new album, Can’t Help Myself, is nothing short of sensational, soothing, and pleasing. 11 tracks deep, Mr. Chambers does not miss a beat… or a note for that matter!
“Can’t Help Myself” opens the album sophisticatedly and energetically. Melodically – as is the case with many smooth-jazz songs – it’s tuneful, and catchy. When Chambers drifts from the melody, his sax ad-libs are somewhat subtle yet meaningfully so. “Can’t Help Myself” definitely establishes the tone.
On follow-up “In the Moment,” Chambers gets an assist from bassist Julian Vaughn. The combination of sax and bass on melody is stunning to say the least; the ‘color’ created really pops. Though melodic bass isn’t new, it never ceases to amaze. Two tracks in and Chambers is cooking – grease baby, grease!
“So Into You” opens with a lush, somewhat mysterious soundscape that breaks into another groove-driven joint. Chamber’s alto tone is silky smooth, with his upper register cutting through particularly well. On “Off the Cuff,” Chambers once more brings on guests via Nils (guitars) and Nate Harasim (keyboards and drum programming). Nils gets a brief, but worthwhile solo turn while Harsim’s array of keyboard accompaniment helps shape the track itself – particularly the organ. “Off the Cut” proves as pleasant as everything preceding it. Chambers keeps it ‘saxy’ you might say.
“All My Life” is expectedly a crowning achievement for Chambers; anything less would’ve been a disappointment. Covering any massively popular hit it isn’t easy, particularly a K-Ci & JoJo original. While nothing could ever supplant the original, Chamber’s expressive alto, not to mention Jalen Seawright’s spot-on vocals easily do justice to this classic. “All My Life” ranks among the favorites.
“Saturday Afternoon” tweaks the script a bit. Actually, not the script itself, but the instrumentation, as Chambers shows off some soprano sax chops. Matt Godina is featured on guitar on this one, after having previously appeared on two previous tracks. Has “Saturday Afternoon” ever felt better? Then, ladies and gentlemen, “It’s On.” Literally, that’s the name of the song. ‘Course, anytime Paul Brown joins the crew doing that guitar thing he does so well, well, it really is on. Throw in a more urban, chill groove and “It’s On” is top-rate by all means.
Things remain sort of lazy and relaxed on “Come A Little Closer,” which certainly accomplishes the ‘inviting’ vibe through its sound that the title suggests. On “Lovely,” Chambers once again ventures into the covers territory, this time courtesy of Boyz II Men a la Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya (2000). Assisted by Kevin Lewis on vocals, Lewis maintains more of a background role, never usurping Chambers or assuming a lead vocal role on this particular song. This ‘complementary’ role executed by Lewis is selfless and alluring. But so is “Lovely,” which is indeed “Lovely.”
Penultimate cut “Wait Awhile” continues with a sensual, romantic sentiment, evidenced from the jump. After an intro sets the tone, Chambers sneaks in with that seductive alto – ooh la la! Can’t Help Myself ends with the brief, but chivalrous “Dreaming of You,” where Chambers beautifully paints a radiant portrait of love.
Ultimately, Can’t Help Myself is a fine, enjoyable smooth jazz affair from Greg Chambers. Consistent from start to finish, Chambers has assembled something truly special. And it just can’t be said enough – the man can play! Can’t Help Myself exhibits nothing short of elite musicianship.
Favorites: “Can’t Help Myself,” “In the Moment,” “All My Life,” and “It’s On”
Photo Credits: © Greg Chambers