During the course of daily happenings, thousands upon thousands of albums are recorded on every continent and in practically every nook and cranny of the world. Jazz music is just one of the many styles that comes to one's ear by way of recorded music. However, some of these efforts go completely without notice and seldom go beyond the studio or into the mainstream of radio exposure. But often times and through a maze of underground networks, a few of these recordings will rise and make their way to the top like cream in coffee. Saxophonist Earnest Walker, Jr. may very well be one of those individuals who will make that rise in popularity with the release of Variations On A Groove
This is a recording that comes seven years after his debut offering entitled Raindrops In The Sun. That first CD was not only financed and produced by Walker, 2000 copies were sold at performances or wherever he could. Even then, Earnest Walker, Jr. began to emerge as an up-and-coming talent with considerable promise. With this second outing, he is establishing himself to go even further as a viable saxophone influence.
From the onset of the very first track entitled "Welcome To The Party," Variations On A Groove is about setting a mood and a standard. Starting with what he calls a collage of people getting ready to party, Earnest's point is off and running with a pre-eminent soundscape. Walker's saxophone ebbs and flows through simple, stylized grooves which are augmented on other tracks with some dynamic funk-laden rhythms. The second track entitled "P-Cola Bounce" is a thank you piece meant for his hometown fans in Pensacola, Florida. According to Walker, the city is affectionately named "P-Cola." Because he once heard a Gerald Albright saxophone solo on a cut entitled "Bruce Lee" by Marcus Miller at a club in Pensacola and saw just how much his homies were groovin' to the rhythm, "P-Cola Bounce" came to mind.
From those first two tracks alone, Earnest then moves through 12 additional tunes, all of which are designed to groove and mesmerize his listeners with original compositions and strategic covers. Although Variations On A Groove is billed as a smooth jazz release, Walker has employed any number of stylistic augmentations. In fact, there are any number of influences that camouflage the smooth jazz moniker, which includes neo soul, contemporary jazz, R&B, fusion as well as hip-hop inferences. "Crusin' Down Broad Street" is a fine example of a cut that has infused hip-hop rhythms.
Overall, Variations On A Groove is a CD that grows on you more and more with each successive track. The title cut alone is enough to cause one to want to steady themselves with an introspective groove. Although Earnest seems to lose focus at various times, he quickly redeems himself in a manner that allows his listeners to refocus their perspective on the album's original intent. In hindsight, even when I was distracted by what can be considered a minor infraction, Earnest kept the groove alive and melody intact to the point of never really being a bother.
Upon further review, Variations On A Groove moves in a direction for more great offerings to happen. This comes from an artist who pushes the envelope of setting his listeners up to have a most enjoyable listening experience.