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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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Other reviews from The Sounding Board by R J Lannan:
  Next by Jeff Oster, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 5/22/2015
  With Evening Above by Jeff Pearce, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 5/22/2015
  The Tides of Day and Night by Tigerforest, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 5/22/2015
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By Jeff Oster
Label: Retso Records
Released 4/28/2015
Next tracks
1. Next
2. Night Train to Sofia
3. Gardens of Varanasi
4. Turn Left At San Pancho
5. I Can't Make You Love Me
6. On Mother's Day
7. Half a Cookie
8. Ibiza Sunrise
9. Avenue D
10. The Mystery of B
11. Heroes
12. And We Dance
The Fluid Flugelhorn
When is jazz not jazz, but more? When the chilling strains of an instrument create not only the eerie vibe of continuous energy, but also an atmosphere of passion on many levels. It is a rare occurrence, but it happens when multi-instrumentalist Jeff Oster is on one end of the flugelhorn. Oster's latest installment, called appropriately, Next is twelve tracks of smooth crossovers of what we used to call "day tripping" music. Yes, jazz plays the biggest part in the compositions, but there is something subliminally silky in the mix, something earthy and elaborate. The recording occasionally lapses into contemporary themes without a kerfuffle with songs containing background vocals, and there are over twenty additional artists making monumental contributions that make this not just an album, but also an auditory experience.

Legendary guitarist Nile Rodgers graces the title tune, Next. Rodgers, a mainstay R & B guitarist in 70's and 80's music and founder of the band, Chic adds a signature groove to Next. Oster could play this upbeat tune in any jazz club on the planet and garner a standing O. If this is what is next, then anyone would want more, myself included.

In 1991 Bonnie Raitt had a hit with I Can’t Make You Love Me, but it was a few years later that the song got my attention when offered by vocalist Nancy Wilson. Jeff covers the song superbly with a delicate touch and anchoring the melody is the Hammond B-3 organ played by Tom Eaton who doubles as co-producer along with Oster and Will Ackerman.

Grammy winning composer and keyboardist Ricky Kej adds his magic to a beautiful ballad called Gardens of Varanasi. As the holiest city in all of India, Varanasi it is special place. It embodies the concepts of birth and death, it is a destination for pilgrims, and it has the sacred waters for spiritual cleansing. In Jeff's tune, we can feel the sun rise in the east and we can bask in the glow of the golden light. Around us are endless rows of roses, their perfume like a tonic for our spirit. This tune is both meditative and jazzy, but in a subdued way.

By the title alone I thought that Half a Cookie would be a cutsie kind of song, but it turns out that it is a serious number with a dark side. It is not somber, but brooding, quiet, and softly elusive. The piano is played by Catherine Marie Charlton and the bass by Tony Levin, both balancing perfectly on the other side of Jeff's sumptuously echoing melody.

There is a magical place fifty miles off the coast of southern Spain where the sun shines every day. The azure waters call to you and the vibe, although known for something surpassing Bohemian, is now changing to a spiritual atmosphere. Oster's rendition of Ibiza Sunrise features Carl Weingarten on slide guitar and Michael Manring on fretless bass. Vocalist Melissa R. Kaplan croons a breathless background almost like a Siren. You must heed the call.

Saxophonist Jeff Taboloff offer his unique mix of smooth jazz and contemporary themes on the tune Heroes. One of my favorite things about Oster's music is when he layers horns over horns and this one has that. It is a story song where we sense the danger. All around us are the perils of a generation. The hero comes out of the dawn not to save the world, but to change it.

The final cut is called And We Dance. It is surprisingly, a modest tune. The fragile sound is created by the talents of legendary great Will Ackerman adapting one of his emotional guitar poems to compliment Jeff's echoing song style. The result is a delicate farewell. It suggests to me that we have had our time, although not as long as we would have wanted, and the starlight is about to fade into the next day. It turned out to be my favorite on Next.

I can honestly say I never met an Oster song I did not like. Everything on the album says that tomorrow will be a better day. It is almost as if the album had a promise hidden within the notes. The palatable blends of jazz, contemporary and world themes will be a welcomed addition in anyone’s musical life. Jeff Oster has done it again.
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 5/22/2015
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