Try Something New is the current smooth contemporary jazz release on NuGroove Records from rising saxophone sensation Andrew Neu. His third solo recording once again finds him surrounded by superbly talented musicians as he delivers delightful performances on tenor, alto, and soprano sax to songs with fresh, clean, and powerful musical arrangements. The coherent production, split almost evenly between Gerald Veasley, Chuck Loeb, and Brian Bromberg, is top-notch. This talented trio also lends their superlative performing artistry, together with other gifted guests, allowing Neu to gleam his brightest glow.
The opener, "Chez Cool," features a light-funky rhythm, Chuck Loeb’s cuttingly cool solo guitar, and Neu on tenor and alto saxophones. Drummer Brian Dunne and bassist Gerald Veasley construct a pleasing groove, over which Loeb and Neu exchange lissome leads. Loeb has long been widely respected for his immense abilities as musician, composer, and arranger. A prime case in point is illustrated by Loeb recently being granted the prestigious privilege to join what is perhaps Contemporary Jazz’s premier ensemble: Fourplay.
The stylish melody of a Brian Bromberg song entitled "Libra Rising," stalks along cautiously and graceful like a big cat. As one might suspect with a Bromberg composition, his bass play is exemplary. Neu plays tenor and soprano sax, with the main soprano emphasis on a repeated refrain. Gannin Arnold adds some light guitar flourishes that complement finely.
The driving "South By Southwest" is given a sharp and powerful lift by the addition of the Bright And Tight Horns. Again Loeb and Neu share leads on guitar and searing tenor/alto sax respectively, with the breezy sailing melody proving quite memorable. In the end though, it’s the forceful horn arrangement that gives the tune its dynamic potency.
My favorite tune on the CD is entitled "Open Mind," which features a laid-back subtle elegance that flows thick and sweet like honey thanks to Neu’s alto and tenor sax efforts. The attractive keyboards of Dan Siegel perfectly set the mood, as do the slightly retro offerings of guitarist Gannin Arnold. The rhythm section consisting of Bromberg on bass and Brian Dunne on drums is perfectly restrained to fit the arrangement like a glove.
The lone vocal track included on Try Something New is a magnetic remake of Bobby Caldwell’s immortal romantic tune "Next Time I Fall (In Love)." The ultra-smooth Caldwell imparts his usual silky-emotive croon while Neu duets wonderfully on alto sax. The song was a number one Billboard hit and Grammy nominated song for Peter Cetera and Amy Grant a little over two decades ago, and sounds equally appealing here.
Providing nice variation, Chuck Gottesman dispenses some New Orleans jazz trumpet to the rousing "No Hang Tonight." The Louisiana feel is furthered by the Creole/Cajun flavored keyboards of Demetrious Pappas and the cymbal-heavy drumming by Butch Reed. Then shifting gears, the pretty "Wanderlust" is highlighted by Andrew Neu’s expert turn on soprano sax. A bass solo by Rob Cochran enhances the relaxed rhythm of drum programmer Richard Waller to give the song the cozy feel of a leisurely back porch swing on a warm summer evening.
Dave Kochanski supplies keyboards to a song he authored called "The Nut." The much celebrated drummer Dave Weckl teams with Brian Culbertson (trombone), and Anthony Bonsera (trumpet), to furnish the song with a somewhat dark funky sizzle. Neu’s plump warm tenor saxophone completes the tasty dish as the heady horn interplay conjures up an aura of a smoky dim dance club with the band giving an inspired effort to get the patrons on the dance floor.
The title track is an energetic display again enhanced by the Bright and Tight Horns pushing Neu to vibrant precise highs and long held note blasts. Neu closes the disc with a charged romantic near-instrumental version of "Next Time I Fall," which somewhat manages to eclipse the Caldwell vocalized version. Caldwell vocals are relegated to the background as Neu robustly soars and dives with his sax upfront basking in the spotlight.
Andrew Neu showcases his compositional skills throughout Try Something New, consistently providing marvelous melodies. His inspired saxophone work is continuously noteworthy; but his compositional expertise may well be his principal asset. Try Something New breathes life into the Smooth Jazz genre with an intermingling of sophistication and rich romanticism that certainly allows this multi-talented artist to rise like cream to the top.