KEYBOARDIST Bobby Lyle's new album is called "The Journey," and in some ways it's a sentimental journey, dedicated in part to Nelson Mandela and the late Sarah Vaughan, Dexter Gordon and Sammy Davis Jr. It's also a journey that gets more interesting the longer it lasts.

The album opens with the kind of frothy pop-funk that's inescapable on the airwaves these days. Lyle is every bit as adept at this sort of thing as, say, Ramsey Lewis is, but a little of the conspicuously trendy "Struttin' " and "Love Eyes" goes a long way.

Soul crooner Philip Ingram contributes to the trite, if well-intentioned "Reach Out for Me," and similarly uninspired lyrics ultimately undermine a festive choral arrangement of "Viva Mandela/The Journey."

Happily, the album concludes with a string of bright notes. Kirk Whalum uncorks his invigorating tenor sax on the rhythmically charming "Swing Jack," Stanley Turrentine, also on tenor, soulfully glides around the boppish contours of "Blues for Dexter," and Lyle, turning to the acoustic piano, caps the set with a richly romantic solo reading of "It Never Entered My Mind."

BOBBY LYLE -- "The Journey" (Atlantic). Appearing Friday and Saturday at Ed Murphy's Supper Club, in the lobby of Reeves Municipal Center, 14th and U streets NW. Call 745-7150.