CD Review - Earl Klugh 'The Spice of Life'

Earl Klugh has a vibrant touch on
Earl Klugh has a vibrant touch on "The Spice of Life."
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Friday, April 10, 2009

EARL KLUGH "The Spice of Life" Koch

TRUE TO ITS NAME, smooth-jazz guitarist Earl Klugh's latest release, "The Spice of Life," is a variety pack of sorts, a Grammy-nominated mix of pop standards, breezy instrumentals, exotic excursions and light funk. If the result doesn't offer a complete view of Klugh's nylon string guitar artistry, it comes awfully close.

Having explored solo performances on his last release, 2005's "Naked Guitar," Klugh is back to a more expansive and collaborative approach. He has teamed with prominent musicians, notably arranger Don Sebesky and flutist Hubert Laws, and contributed several original tunes that help keep things interesting. Indeed, Klugh's "Venezuelan Nights," an evocative waltz inspired by composer Antonio Lauro, is one of the pieces that invites repeat spins. When the focus shifts to familiar themes, Klugh often reveals the profound influence pianists have had on his development, especially during a rhythmically vibrant take on "My Foolish Heart." (Another good example is Klugh's Brazilian-tinged interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Bye Ya.") As for a reminder of Klugh's great affection for fellow guitarist Wes Montgomery's legacy, "Ocean Blue" certainly fills the bill.

Klugh's signature touch, nimble and lyrical, is sufficient reason to keep listening to "The Spice of Life." Yet the complementary arrangements and the colorful input from Klugh's bandmates are not the least of the album's smooth-jazz charms.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing through Sunday at Blues Alley (202-337-4141, Shows start at 8 and 10 p.m.

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