When it comes to saxophones, I’m picky enough as it is, and when I get a new album by a saxman, I always take the tack of “show me what you got.”
Tony Exum, Jr. delivers a strong, R&B-heavy debut, and as far as smooth jazz saxes go, this is an album that is relaxing and, at the same time, intricate enough to make you rewind and listen twice.
Listening particularly to Don’t Worry About a Thang, one will be pleasantly surprised. The Grover influence is clearly heard through Exum’s soprano, and the electric guitar-and-keyboard bridge adds a refreshing feel to the track overall. T.E. Heartbreak gives off an impression as though this could be the quintessential “smooth jazz radio” cut, but the R&B gives it an extra bit of juice. Strong R&B rhythms all over, and an excellent backing band bring Exum’s saxesforward. Exum, however, makes it shine. Another excellent track that showcases Exum’s prowess as a composer is Sweet Conversations. This one satisfies even someone as picky as myself.
The album overall shows that Exum is a phenomenal arranger. He has a very clear idea of the sound that he wants to develop and evolve, and this debut album attests clearly to the fact.
I look forward to seeing how Tony Exum, Jr. will follow up this debut.