Sax O'Groove | Together

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Together

by Sax O'Groove

Five Producers - Eleven Tracks and an A-List of Smooth Jazz Artists as guest. Each song on this CD has been created like a little pearl and crafted in the most diverse locations throughout the world. Smooth Jazz on it's best ...
Genre: Jazz: Smooth Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Together (feat. Marqueal Jordan)
4:01 $0.99
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2. Love You More (feat. Rick Braun)
4:21 $0.99
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3. In the Shadows (feat. Shilts)
4:39 $0.99
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4. Keep It Smooth (feat. Darren Rahn)
4:12 $0.99
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5. Jungle Groove (feat. Brian Culbertson)
4:30 $0.99
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6. Sea and Back (feat. Michael Lington)
5:07 $0.99
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7. Feeling Fine (feat. Bill Steinway)
4:40 $0.99
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8. Tivives (feat. Akusticos)
3:52 $0.99
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9. Here I'm Back (feat. Katja Rieckermann)
4:36 $0.99
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10. Missing You (feat. Nils)
4:23 $0.99
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11. Ave Maria (feat. Racquel & Ricardo Ramirez)
3:22 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
As a follow-up to the 2013 self-titled release, Sax O’Groove, Together cements itself in a dizzying array of contemporary jazz legends and artists for an action-packed, musical package that should not be missed. There are many well-known artists included on this mostly instrumental release, including Rick Braun, Brian Culbertson, Michael Lington, NILS, Darren Rahn, Shilts, Bill Steinway, AkusTICOS, and many others. All of the songs were mixed, produced, and recorded by Andreas Buechel, Nils Jiptner, Paul Weimar, Darren Rahn, and John Odio in Germany, Costa Rica, L.A., Chicago, and Playa Del Rey.

“Love You More” features the work of Rick Braun, as the track opens with a lush and bright bass, guitar, percussion, and sax medley. The keyboards add some bright tones to the mix, as the rollicking tune ventures into upbeat territories. The array of horn sounds, atmospheric washes and embellishments, and steady percussion evokes a soothing and magical result that is rarely duplicated. The four-minute tune is one of the best jazz tracks on the album.

“In The Shadows” opens with a funky, keyboard arrangement with full-on percussion and sporadic sax and gurgling bass sounds. There are neo-classical overtures, trippy electronic vibes, and a characteristic jazz beat. There are a lot of musical elements coming together here, which somehow works. There is a bit of jazz standard, cinematic leanings, neo-classical, funk, rock, and electronica stylings going around here.

“Keep It Smooth” is an apt-title for a groovy, jazz-soaked tune with funky, bluesy, and lounge-laden musical elements from Darren Rahn. There are fluid sax tones, blurby electronica, keyboard embellishments, and swishy percussion throughout. The bubbling jazz grooves move to the forefront in musical harmony. Overall, it is a rather straightforward song with likable tones and instrumentation played in the right proportions.

“Jungle Groove” features the instrumental work of Brian Culbertson amidst a jazzy percussive foundation with blurting horns, fluid guitars, heavy percussion, and keyboard ingenuity for a very engaging tune. The music is rather punchy and inventive, as the saxophones do not overtly monopolize the overall sound. The jungle connotation probably stems from the complex mix of sounds and tones that are slightly cacophonous, but in a good way.

“Feeling Fine” is a composition featuring Bill Steinway amidst a mix of dance, jazz, and pop elements that are led by a disco-esque theme, swishy percussion, and keyboard accompaniment. There are sparkling electronic tones, Latin percussion, and various whistles and horns with piano accompaniment later on in the song. This adds a more cultured or diverse sound to the song, as well as the recording as a whole.

The host of accomplished musicians on Together makes it a recommended recording in its own right. Specifically, the diverse jazz styles revolve around the saxophone and a few other horns with upbeat percussion, keyboard adornments, and fluid grooves that add variety and classiness to the album. There are vocals on one track, but the rest of the tunes are completely instrumental. The instrumental structure of the album probably should not include vocals, but where they are present they seem to accentuate the musical elements of the track. Nevertheless, the music is better when it is completely instrumental on here, which otherwise interrupts the flow of the album. The music is primarily contemporary jazz, but there are some smoother elements. Whether the music is smooth jazz, acid jazz, nu-jazz, or any combination thereof, Together walks the line very comfortably between jazz and heavenly bliss. Sax connoisseurs should love this album. Importantly, none of the tracks needed any tweaking. Fans of the aforementioned jazz artists on this album, and jazz in general, will definitely find happiness on all of the tracks.

Artist: Sax O’Groove
Album: Together
Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)




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Reviews


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Alice Neiley

Innovative, risky and confidently together every step of the way
Smooth jazz is a slippery genre, one especially prone to electronic shortcuts and often doomed to end up playing on repeat in fancy hotel elevators. Well, not today. Though it’s rare for me to be drawn to anything labeled “smooth” (save for Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” that is), German born Andreas Buchel and his eclectic band of virtuosic musicians, Sax O’Groove, immediately caught my ear, hook, line, and saxophonist.

As is typical of this jazz category, many of the songs on Sax O’Groove’s newest album, Together, are similar in mood and chord progressions—in other words, there are very few surprises on an album level, from track to track. However, the journey of each tune within itself is fascinating. Fantastic musical idiosyncrasies appear just when you think things have become predictable, showing off not only the talent of each musician on the album, but also Buchel’s passion, compositional sensibility, and sense of fun.

The first and title track, “Together,” is a very cheery tune; in fact, I might even say ‘springy,’ ready for the change of seasons. In addition to its vibe, however, “Together” immediately establishes Sax O’Groove as serious jazzers—a solid brass loop interspersed with sensuous saxophone solos. In terms of idiosyncrasies, my favorite part of the tune is when all instrumentation except for brass drops out, and the section’s clean togetherness brings home the real dessert of the song.

“Love You More,” continues the sensuous thread through continuing the saxophone interlude, but the tune drops in pace from a spring in the step to more of a saunter. A slower tempo and less playful action bring the album to a simmer, setting us up perfectly for an unexpected shift in mood. When Rick Braun’s incredible trumpet solo bursts out from the background, “Love You More” becomes a tune with drive and passion, romantic declaration.

“In the Shadows” and “Keep it Smooth” somehow bring their uniqueness to the forefront right away, yet still don’t disrupt the easy, superbly listenable through-line of the album as a whole. Unlike the previous tracks, “In the Shadows” includes electric guitar, mixer sound effects, haunting string arrangements, and fantastic keyboard interludes. But the tune’s consistency with brass—both saxophone solos and section work—blend this track into the album perfectly while still allowing it to shine.

“Keep it Smooth,” on the other hand, is like the first sip of Scotch after a hard day. Sweet to the taste, it kicks off with keyboard, faint guitar solos, and of course, the sax. Then, a duet of dubbed over saxophones, both parts played by Darren Rahn (I’m assuming), rises from the woodwork of percussion and keyboards, and I’m officially in a trance. I’m done for. In a good way.

Yet, just when I thought I’d found my favorite track on the album, the next three tracks happen. “Jungle Groove,” “Sea and Back,” and “Feeling Fine,” are completely transporting, both individually and how they are placed on the album. Up until this point, we’ve been lulled, not by boredom, but by mood—a calm, easy listening arrangement style and very fluid soloist expressions. Well, now it’s time to party. Again, the consistency of the brass instruments keeps us grounded in the album’s theme of togetherness, a place we can always come back to no matter how wild things become. And with “Jungle Groove,” we definitely enter the wilderness…of big band music. The song is immediately defined by a wall of horns, followed by a punchy electric guitar solo, later joined by…what else? Saxophone, of course! But it’s a huge sound, and the percussion adopts a bit of a calypso, tropical beat.

“Sea and Back” couldn’t be more different, which I’d like to think is why Buchel chose to place it between “Jungle Groove,” and “Feeling Fine,” emphasizing both the excitement of two and the romance of the other. “Sea and Back” is the first taste of vocals we hear on the album, and beautiful ones at that. The duet between Michael and Kelsey throws the tune into a state of awe, especially when the instrumentation thickens with the inclusion of bass, keyboard and drums. However, I can also argue that “Sea and Back” started off in that awestruck, hypnotic state: maracas, solo acoustic guitar, and a minor chord progression that sounds vaguely middle eastern.

Then, back to excitement. Honestly, there’s only one word in my musical vocabulary that I can think to describe “Feeling Fine,” aside from ones I’ve already used to describe “Together”—cheery, fun, springy. My word for “Feeling Fine:” 1970. The syncopation of the percussion, rich background of strings and keyboards, keyboard solos, and horns, horns, horns, more horns, brings us back to the funk era—the highest possible compliment from me, I might add.

The exotic feel continues in “Tiveves” “Here I’m Back,” and “Missing You,” as the musicians again make use of syncopation and varied instrumentation. In fact, the otherworldly chimes used in “Missing You,” shroud the song in an eerie feeling, which blends perfectly into the close of the album. Choosing to end the album on “Ave Maria,” an extremely dark and sensuous version of the traditional tune, shows not only the creativity of this ensemble, but also their willingness to, at the last minute, stray from consistency. I find it fascinating and refreshing for both the album itself and the smooth jazz genre, to drop the brass entirely in the last track and emphasize strings, percussion, and vocals. It’s a risk to the thread of the album, but as it turns out, an absolutely flawless risk that brings the listening experience to its height.

In short, Together is not only an amazing display of individual talent, but also a fantastic collaboration. Sax O’Groove presents true, skillful ensemble work from some of the best musicians from around the world. Not only that, but they surprised me, something I thought I’d never say about smooth jazz. They’re innovative, risky, and confidently together every step of the way.
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Kelley O'Neil

Together
Sax O’Groove is the brainchild of German musician Andreas Büchel who has amassed talent from five different countries for the group’s sophomore album aptly titled Together. Multi-talented instrumentalist Büchel contributes soprano saxophone to all tracks. He is joined by fellow German Nils Jiptner for the smooth jazz piece “Love You More”. The latter composed and produced the song as well as played guitar. Büchel’s saxophone is whimsical and adds a touch of vibrato which is well accentuated by the mellow tone of the keyboards. Pennsylvania native Rick Braun plays the featured trumpet solo at the three minute mark. His improvised performance encompasses the nuanced laid back energy of the song perfectly.
“Jungle Groove” is another Jiptner composition where he undertakes bass responsibilities in addition to guitar and keyboards. Büchel blends beautifully with himself on soprano and tenor saxophones as well as arranger of the synthesized brass. Award-winning American pianist Brian Culbertson is lightly heard in the background, like a delicacy to soothe the palate in this funky piece. His featured trombone solo also hits at the three minute mark and is extremely well executed covering a broad range of the instrument. Jiptner’s final contribution to Together is the lament “Missing You”. After an obtuse keyboard introduction, Büchel’s soprano saxophone enters with a simplistic melody and minimal effects that blends admirably with Jiptner’s guitar. The piece unfortunately fails to develop into anything remarkable and suffers from repetitiveness.
Offering a different stylistic approach is English composer and saxophonist Paul Shilts Weimar who also produced the upbeat title track. Büchel’s brass arrangement and dual soprano and tenor saxophone rifts are bright and jovial with strictly regimented syncopation and articulation. The piece sounds like a theme song from a 1980’s sitcom, predictable yet familiar. Chicago alto saxophonist Marquel Jordan is the featured performer and when his solo begins, the song evolves into a more interesting listen. His sweet tone can be truly appreciated when it is not surrounded by mountains of synthesized sounds. The jam in the coda sounds like a good time was had by all.
“In the Shadows” penned by Weimar is also his featured instrumental piece on tenor saxophone. The rhythm section accompanied by the synthesized strings is killer with an adventurous edge and mild hint of suspense. Per the Londoner’s style, the unison saxophone melody is minimalist with easily digested and expected chord progressions. Weimar’s solo is top notch despite the occasional distracting keyboard sound that is reminiscent of a bullfrog. The saxophones are smoother and display more long tones in his “Feeling Fine” following the percussive opening. California pianist Bill Steinway can be heard in snippets peaking through the synthesized sounds. The inclusion of the flute patch adds a nice touch. Ensuing after the bridge at three minutes in is the featured performer’s electric high energy piano solo.
Canadian composer and producer Darren Rahn duets on tenor saxophone with Büchel on the former’s piece “Keep It Smooth”. This funky chill groove is true to its namesake like butter. The sophistication of the solo riffs is like a refined lady on her second glass of sparkling champagne. Hailing from Costa Rica is composer and multi-instrumentalist John Odio who, with guitarist Walter Chepe Blanco, make up the jazz group AkusTICOS. The adagio “Tivives” has a distinctive Latin flavor and differs from other works on Together in that it is not as busy and less synthesized. Though not lacking in interest, the crispness of the delivery suffers, but this gives the piece authenticity. Odio’s dynamic contrasts on his alto saxophone trills and exhibition of altissimo is stunning.
The full gamut of Büchel’s talents can be appreciated in his original work “Here I’m Back” which he also produced and played tenor and soprano saxophones as well as guitar and keyboards. Joining him is fellow German alto saxophonist Katja Rieckermann. Her delicate, softer tone exquisitely eases from a pointed staccato to silky legato with grace. The lovely yearning piano riff melodically sounds like Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” and the electric guitar work adds depth to the piece. There is an excellent jam session in the last sixty seconds that is captivating.
Sax O’Groove is a fine collection of smooth saxophones from around the globe. With its impressive roster of multi-national talent Together lends itself to be a nice addition to any fan of the genre.
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