Many young players think it's hip to inject retro-soul elements like Hammond B-3, Wurlitzer and wah-wah guitars into their smooth jazz mix. The five members of Jango, however, came of age as players in the '70s and revel in living completely in the past, unabashedly centering whole tunes around the styles of Ace, Tom Scott and Steely Dan.
Last year's debut, Dreamtown, was a bit too focused on copying the Steely Dan style, and while Steve Nieves' voice and the crafty lyrics on oddball Closer to Home tunes such as "The Beard" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Pink Flamingos" (RealAudio excerpt) are still in that vein, the group balances a reliance on the overly familiar with new L.A. Express-type instrumentals and gentle ballads like "What Your Heart Tells You" (RealAudio excerpt). In short, there's a hint of greater depth.
Nieves is a decent vocalist, but he shines brightest on sax. Caressed by a rising brass section on "Soul Casserole," his jumpy alto leaps and dives around a crunching of wah-wah and rhythm guitars from Nick Kirgo and swirling Fender Rhodes harmony from Steve LeGassick. The swinging funk of "Diamond Drive" elicits multiple textures from Nieves' horn and LeGassick's Rhodes, creating a powerful duality, while Kirgo snaps along underneath.
The band's exciting synergy is best exemplified by "The Score Part 2," a jam that blends horn accents, a simmering sax line and brooding organ textured with a Rhodes harmony. "Kool Down EZ" offers a peek into what Jango would sound like without the '70s trappings. It's telling that on this one tune, a lot of the group's charm is lost.