Shaken And Stirred ... But Still Smooth

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.