This collaboration between saxophonist Boney James and trumpeter Rick
Braun is the smooth-jazz album of the year.
James and Braun have guested on each other's tunes over the years, and
their affinity is evident on Shake It Up. The album is more
ambitious than one might think, with solid jazz licks and compositions
that allow both artists to stretch. True, it's smooth jazz, but it
doesn't sound prepackaged, like some of the other products of the genre.
The album's first single is an infectious cover of Hugh Masakela's hit "Grazin' in the
Grass" (RealAudio excerpt), which gets a reprise in vocal form to close the disc, an homage to the Friends of Distinction's hit version 30 years ago.
On the title track (RealAudio excerpt), James and Braun do just that, shake it up, by
employing inventive arrangements and a careful use of dynamics.
"R.S.V.P" and "Chain Reaction" are also exemplary. But the duo's real
charm is in the ballads. "More Than You Know" (RealAudio excerpt) leads with Braun and switches to James
before both meet up on the chorus. On "Central Avenue," James' notes are
as deep and luscious as anything on his previous release, Body
Language; Braun's stylings are late-night cool.
The band Fourplay which includes pianist Bob James, guitarist
Larry Carlton, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason
elevates another of the CD's ballads, "Love's Like That," with
unobtrusive playing that lets the tune take center stage. On Horace
Silver's "Song for My Father," James and Braun show they can defer as
well, with sublimely muted playing by both that lovingly nurtures the
song's integrity, whereas "The Stars Above" is the duo's joyful stroll
through the park on a warm summer night set to music.