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Blue Millenium - Vintage HiFi

Swing of the 21st Century
by: steven jacobetz

Blue Millennium seems to have found a formula for success. First, take a big-band brass section sound similar to what one hears on old Chicago records. Then combine it with the soulful motown sound of groups like the Commodores, complete with a Lionel Richie-like lead singer. Finally, add various pieces of smooth jazz a la Kenny G., Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown, slow funk, reggae, and a posse of female backup singers for a real Southern flavor.

The results can be heard on Vintage Hi-Fi, the latest album from this 11-piece band out of Austin, Texas. The band used to be called Millennium Swing, but after the recent swing craze caught on, the band members changed the name. The change was a good decision because the band has much more to do with smooth and mellow jazz than swing jazz.

However, there is an impressive variety of styles on this CD. While numbers like, "Open Up Your Mind", "Soul Love", and "Jamaican Moon" sound very romantic and soulful, others like, "Ready For Radio" and "Compared To What" are strong and upbeat. "Ready For Radio" opens the CD and is the perfect declaration of intent, and a subtle jab at the structure of the music industry as well. "Compared To What" is an ideal closing number which features an outstanding jam in the brass section, involving the alto and tenor saxes and the trumpet trading licks. The song has a definite 60s feel, as it features, "Sock it to me!" and James Brown-like soul shouts from the lead singer, while the backup singers start things off with a quote from "Age of Aquarius" as done by The Fifth Dimension. The song sounds so much like Sly & The Family Stone that one almost expects a segue into "Dance To The Music", but it never comes.

And that's not all. Tracks like "Death Of A Salesman" and "Notch On Your Bed" have a reggae feel. The first song has little to do with the classic Arthur Miller play of the same name except for the very first line. Instead, it is an angry love song which challenges the listener with the question in the chorus, "What do you think you know about me?"

Finally, songs like "Cool Papa Bell" and "Little Sister" have a great slow funk sound. Sports fans listen up. "Cool Papa Bell" is a tribute to the old Negro League baseball star of the same name. The song also mentions fellow Negro League players Josh Gibson and Satchel Page. It will be a real treat to listen to for anybody who has a sense of baseball history.

The bottom line is that this is really good stuff, a mature-sounding album which is indeed ready for radio airplay. The only problem is that a lot of the brass playing is more similar stylistically to Kenny G. "pop" jazz, rather than true masters of jazz like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. That may keep this album from being truly great, but a very solid effort nonetheless.

If you like jazz but are tired of the "Jump, Jive & Wail", find this record and buy it. Brian Setzer, eat your heart out.

Artist Blue Millenium
Album Vintage HiFi
Label Satellite Studio
Web www.blue2k.com
Rating 3.5 out of 5.0