"Forever in a Moment"

N.A.M.E. Brand Records

The latest CD by Plunky & Oneness may not be essential listening for smooth jazz fans, but it is a nearly quintessential example of the genre, brimming with radio-tailored melodies, romantic ballads and lite funk grooves. If you're looking for something other than that, better look elsewhere.

Saxophonist J. Plunky Branch knows pop-jazz inside and out, and he proves once again here that he's never at a loss when it comes to writing the kind of melodies that consistently waft through the contemporary jazz airwaves. He composed all 12 tracks here, and several of them, including "Simple Pleasures," "Happiness Is" and the CD's title track, find him waxing lyrical on soprano or alto saxes with customary ease. Small wonder he titled one tune "Relax, We're Among Friends."

Sandwiched in between the instrumental cuts are a few vocal showcases that also closely follow the smooth jazz playbook: "It Feels So Right" and "Forever My Love" feature sultry turns by singer Tonya Lazenby-Jackson, while the veteran bandleader himself sustains the mood by huskily crooning and pleading "Come With Me."

As for the rhythm section, it seldom moves beyond the usual regimen of R&B backbeats. But on "Just Up Ahead and to the Left," Plunky and company, particularly guitarist Chris Beasley and electric bassist Ken Friend, cap the disc with echoes of old-school funk.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Monday at Blues Alley. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Plunky & Oneness, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8129. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)