Gerald Albright’s latest album Slam Dunk, to be issued August 5, 2014 via the Concord Music Group’s Heads Up division, was partially funded through a Pledge Music campaign. Albright’s 17th project, it continues his well-developed mixture of smooth jazz, and adult contemporary music. He delivers the expected full, warm tones on his tenor and alto saxes — and also shows off his flare on bass, recalling the likes of Louis Johnson and Marcus Miller.
Slam Dunk was co-produced with co-writer and keyboardist Chris “Big Dog” Davis, and also features Rick Watford on guitar and Albright’s daughter Selina on vocals. The use of his tried-and-true touring band adds a solid backbone often missing in smooth jazz. Recording sessions in Denver and Wallingford, Connecticut, captured a wide spectrum of the styles.
The lead-off title track finds the funk gauntlet thrown down, as Albright offers bright, energetic tenor passages over a popping rhythm. His subsequent cover of the Cyndi Lauper hit “True Colors” is fine, but doesn’t keep the energy going. However, “The Duke” is a fitting and strong tribute to the late George Duke. Albright’s soprano saxophone, and a muscular yet touching horn arrangement, would certainly put a smile on Duke’s face.
“Split Decision” is another stand out, where Albright and his band groove around an infectious keyboard passage from Davis while Albright’s Miller-like bass is front in center. In fact, Albright’s tenor almost is upstaged by his bass playing, but rises to the challenge in the latter part of the song. “The Gospel” ends the album on a strong note, with a full-figured tenor lead over a gospel backdrop — closing out an always solid, and often inspired, collection of smooth jazz.