Written by Michael Marsh
With his July 25, 2006, release of "Jazzmasters V", Paul Hardcastle presents us with his fifth variation of the Jazzmasters theme. All I can say is that if you’ve heard one Jazzmasters release, then you’ve heard them all. If you like one of them, then you like them all, because all five Jazzmasters releases represent slight variations on the same theme. Either you like the Jazzmasters sound or you hate it . . . there’s no in between. I happen to be one of those who likes the Jazzmasters sound and, judging by the way the entire series of CD’s has sold since 1993, I’m certainly not alone. About the most significant difference on this CD is that it is the first of the series to be released in an even numbered year, as the prior four projects were released in 1993, 1995, 1999 and 2003. As has been the case on the prior Jazzmasters projects, Paul Hardcastle is joined by Helen Rogers on vocals and Snake Davis on saxophone. Hardcastle plays pretty much anything else that you hear on the CD, including the drums, guitar, keyboards and providing the drum programming.
"Jazzmasters V" gets off to a very good start on the very first track, "Never Far Away", in which Snake Davis takes the lead with a very mellow sax and flute. "Never Far Away" has a very catchy upbeat mellow groove too it. The second track, "Chime" is a little too bland and repetitious for my taste, but it’s not so bad that I choose to skip over that track when I listen to the CD. The first vocal track appears third, with "Children Of The Ghetto". Helen Rogers sounds just as she does on all of the prior Jazzmasters CD’s, with Hardcastle recording her voice on multiple tracks to make it sound like she’s singing harmony with herself. In my judgment, the message of "Children Of The Ghetto" is rather shallow and simplistic, which serves to detract somewhat from the impact of this particular song.
The next two tracks, "Free As The Wind" and "The Sun Says Goodbye" are nice instrumental cuts. Snake Davis sounds pretty good on "The Sun Says Goodbye", which is a nice mellow ballad, as he once again takes the lead on sax. Helen Rogers returns with her vocals on the sixth track, "Garden Of Eden", as she sings to us "I want freedom, I want to feel like a child again, I keep searching for the Garden of Eden". The remaining five tracks of the CD continue in the same vein as the first six, alternating between upbeat to mellow, vocal to instrumental. The most interesting track of the last five is found at the tenth track. "World In Action" is different from all of the rest, primarily due to its sheer length. At 10 minutes and 48 seconds in length, it is almost twice as long as any other cut on the CD. I might add that the extra time is certainly put to good use.
This is my favorite cut on the CD, as both Paul Hardcastle and Snake Davis get the opportunity to stretch out the groove a little bit.
I give "Jazzmasters V" three and a half stars out of five, only because it represents the continuation of a formula that has been repeated several times since 1993. You can certainly live without it, but if you are a true Jazzmasters fan, the question becomes, "Do you really want to?"
Michael Marsh is the jazz reviewer for TNCP. To make contact, you may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org for review.