Masterful pianist Tom Grant has been a mainstay on the contemporary/smooth jazz scene for roughly three decades, continually delighting and roping in listeners with a multitude of musical releases containing his grandly melodic compositions. His new release Delicioso (Dee-lish-e-óso) on Nu-Wrinkle Records could well prove to be his zenith to date, uniformly free flowing and smoothly facile with an ease that belies the substance contained within. Eleven of the thirteen songs are brilliantly composed wholly by Grant, with him sharing co-authorship on one of the two others.
Delicioso begins strongly with a slight blues/bop song titled "Luxurium" which features sterling contributions from Paul Mazzio on trumpet and Dave Captein on bass, both of whom have added sparks to prior Tom Grant releases. The drum programming operates in close tandem with Captein’s bottom end and Grant’s excellent piano to set the rhythm firmly in the pocket, forming a solid foundation for this talented trio to add their tasty offerings.
"Cute New Car" motors along steadily with a firm determination. Once the title has planted the seed in your mind, you can almost feel the wind in your hair as you cruise along allowing the fresh and unblemished vehicle to maneuver and show off its functional capabilities. Again the percussive programming is ideal to set the stage for Grant to exhibit his generous skills on the ivories.
Guest musicians Marion McClain on guitar and Renato Caranto on saxophone supply some feel-good funky flavor to "Whistling In The Dark." Characteristically, Tom Grant supplements the song with a piano crust that holds it all adeptly together. The fourth song on the disc, "Language Of Our Own," is the first song to contain vocals. Shelly Rudolph earns a co-writing credit on this marvelous flexuous ballad, as well as singing it with an alluringly enchanting quality. A harmonic temptress, Rudolph smolders seductively, as she provides a perfect complement to Grant’s honeyed piano tones and the balancing strings courtesy of Doub Dubrow.
The track "Lizard Lounge" waltzes along with a smoky cocktail lounge ambiance helped along by Tom Grant performing simultaneously on vibes and piano with Renato Caranto on saxophone. Grant’s piano has a clean and sparkling refreshing quality, making the tune yet another attractive winner.
The title track is fluid, with Latin/Brazilian rhythm overtones provided by guest musicians on drums (Jeff Frankel) and guitar (Dan Balmer) to accompany Grant’s graceful piano flourishes. "Nature Walk" effectively captures the ambient chill that the Windham Hill record label was renowned for. His tinkling ivories provide an undeniable magnetic pull that clutches the listener securely. It’s followed by the up-tempo "The Dog Park," which has a mambo/rumba beat over which Grant merrily dances up and down the keyboard.
"Escape Into Dreamland" contains the dreamy piano joys one would suspect from its title. Featuring decorative regal flugelhorn from Paul Mazzio along with delicate bass stylings from Dave Captein, the song has a mellow grace which proves abundantly appealing. Grant’s piano is splendidly majestic and quite beautiful. The following "Dancing Heart" has a similar texture, but it’s solely achieved by Tom Grant’s solitary cascading piano. Classical Music nuances are present on "Dancing Heart" and "Heidi’s Song," which evoke Mozart piano concertos. Tom Grant is that rare talent who justly warrants the title of "maestro" for his compositional and technical virtuosity.
Sensual chanteuse Shelly Rudolph returns to add expressive foreign language vocals to "Enamorata." Spanish guitar zest from Dan Faehnle adds to this flavorful treat. Delicioso stalwartly closes with a solo piano composition entitled "Heidi’s Song," a very beautiful song that’s been prominently featured on past Grant releases (In My Wildest Dreams - 1992 & Reprise - 2001) with varied arrangements. It floats along tenderly majestic similar to an elegant butterfly, and could easily be chosen as a theme for a cinematic powerhouse. Scrumptiously romantic, this highly sensitive song is simply endearing.
Tom Grant boasts a propensity to incessantly compose memorable melodies that touch, entertain, and strongly delight his loyal listeners. He is a virtuoso on his instrument, but never resorts to pure flash; instead, always displaying his perfect judgment on how best to achieve delectable harmonic excellence. Tom Grant is a prime example of the seasoned self-assured artist, secure that he knows how to best ply his craft with strong conviction. From beginning to end, Delicioso is an exceptionally delicious and greatly charming auditory delight.