If the opportunity to experience the ultimate concert appearance has never availed itself, then "Guitars & Saxes’ is a performance that has to be seen as a point of reference. Of all the so-called super bands performing today, "Guitars & Saxes" is a musical franchise of sorts; considering the fact that the concert is one of the most consistent and widely known acts around today. Since 1995, this finely tuned smooth jazz machine has toured Canada, England and the United States with a multi-faceted array of artists. As headliners, the tour has featured the talents of Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub, Peter White, Richard Elliot, Dave Koz, Marc Antoine, Kirk Whalum, Euge Groove, Warren Hill, Mindi Abair, Wayman Tisdale and Craig Chaquico; however, ‘Guitars & Saxes’ has also been reincarnated with repeat appearances by some of the same artists. But on August 31, 2007 the City of Houston, Texas experienced its 12th wave of precision musicians, highlighted by Gerald Albright, Tim Bowman, Jeff Golub and Kirk Whalum. Also on the tour as a sideman was Ricky Lawson, widely known as the "drummer to the stars" and a founding member of the Yellowjackets before becoming a solo performer.
Whenever saxophonist Kirk Whalum comes to Houston his visit is a homecoming. During the 1980s Kirk was a mainstay performer in and around the greater Houston metropolitan area. On top of that, he attended Texas Southern University and was even mentored by the late legendary Texas tenor Arnett Cobb. As one of the mainstays of "Guitars & Saxes" and one of smooth jazz’s premier musicians, Kirk has performed with the tour numerous times. By every standard, his melodically correct tonal qualities on the soprano and tenor saxophone are widely accepted, plus his visits to Houston are greatly anticipated.
Guitarist Tim Bowman is a definite newcomer to "Guitars & Saxes;" however, he is highly touted in the styles of gospel and smooth jazz. His addition to the tour added yet another dimension to the tour, while affording Houstonians a level of exposure to a different guitarist for the very first time. His single entitled "Summer Groove" from the CD ‘This Is What I Hear’ lingered on smooth jazz charts for 29 weeks; in addition as a gospel jazz instrumentalist, this was the first time any artist of Tim’s caliber has charted #1 in smooth jazz.
By far one of the more dynamic guitarists around today is the exceedingly phenomenal Jeff Golub. Considered by many to be a rock star turned jazz musician, Jeff’s style has always teetered on the cusps of rock and fusion jazz music. His overall approach is energetic, rhythmic and more than not fueled by machine gun like riffs and strategic melodic nuances. As one of the principle influences in smooth jazz today, Jeff has often revisited "Guitars & Saxes" many times and is a favorite attraction across the board. Riding the wave of his recently released CD entitled ‘Grand Central,’ Jeff’s appearance was a jazz activated sound energy ray of excitement.
Saxophonist Gerald Albright is another Houston favorite. He is one of contemporary jazz’s most celebrated artists and his soulful R&B induced alto sax’ has been a boon to smooth jazz for more than 20 years. Since 1987, Gerald has recorded 12 albums and has criss-crossed the musical spectrums of instrumental jazz and R&B with a high degree of success; on top of that, he has collaborated, played and recorded with a laundry list of "Who’s Who in Music." In 1992, Gerald Albright along with Kirk Whalum was two of ten featured saxophonists during President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. As a major addition to ‘Guitars & Saxes,’ he too has long been one of the more strategic featured musicians during the 12-year history of the tour.
As always, "Guitars & Saxes" rolls through Houston with a wave of electrified excitement. The sold-out performance featured tunes from each musician’s repertoire of releases. The quartet also paid tribute to some of the artists who have recently passed away, to include Gerald Lavert, James Brown and Michael Brecker to name a few. But overall, any references to the influences of smooth jazz radio were quickly way layed as each participant was able to flex his musical muscle. The benefit derived from "Guitars & Saxes’ or any live jazz performance for that matter is the dynamic improvisational display of genuine contemporary jazz music, which is fundamentally and systematically different from commercial radio’s version of jazz. More importantly when smooth jazz meets contemporary jazz in a live setting, jazz aficionados, beginners and connoisseurs leave the performance with a renewed appreciation that revitalizes the historical significance of "America’s only original art form." On the evening of August 31st, the 2007 addition of "Guitars & Saxes" consisting of Gerald Albright, Tim Bowman, Jeff Golub and Kirk Whalum gave Houston a much-needed musical boost; especially so in a city where jazz is a hit-or-miss proposition. But on this particular night, these four musicians left the city well pleased with another successful entertainment experience.