With the 3rd CD release in 14 months, Greg Vail Music has kept loyal fans well satisfied recently. Both Christmas the Hymns and The Gospel Truth were rich musical tapestries woven in sophisticated collaboration with keyboardist Rob Mullins. Reflective delights for which we’re grateful…
But, with the re-release of his 1995 solo debut eMotion, Greg reminds us that smooth jazz is also a party and he’s invited us along as his guests. On this album, he has no electronic orchestra to fade into, wrap around him or cushion the impact. This is pure up-front, in your face, Un-Safe-Sax; no net, no apologies (no need)!! It is truly signature Greg Vail and dancing is allowed.
The title cut, “eMotion” sets the tone with its blasting initial phrase and rocks on from there. A friend of mine tells me this is a great song to work out to or for cleaning the house! I don’t know if that’s a compliment, but it does illustrate the high energy of the tune! “Ben-Jammin “ is probably the kickin’-est song of the set, though. Named for Greg’s son when he was about three years old, it is the perfect portrait of a joyful energetic boy – of any age. There are definitely beautiful love songs on the CD, too. Every good party has its romantic highlights, right? “Within Your Love” is so soft and sweet and promising, it never fails to bring tears or a few heart flutters.
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Beyond Greg’s skillful sax leads the CD features a bunch of notable artists as well, including Daniel Ho of Kilauea and perennial favorite guitarist, Peter White. Rob Mullins doesn’t appear on the recording, but he’s been playing the music with Greg for so long that in the live performance he comfortably injects his own sharp style. You know, it’s as much fun to hear Rob play with Greg as it is to hear Greg play with Rob!
Speaking of live performances… The eMotion CD release party at Kikuya was first rate. I only attended the last one on January 18th, but I heard from several who were there on the 11th and it seems that both were super events. Since I live in the Bay Area, I only get the opportunity to visit Kikuya for special occasions. So I don’t know if there are always so many wonderfully familiar faces every week, or only when I’m there. At any rate, it was great to see everyone again and to see the place packed! Some good friends were unable to make it this time and they were missed. There was no representation from Britain at this show and Central California was sadly lacking, as well. Next time for sure… The above mentioned Benjamin Vail was in attendance for the first set, cheering on his Dad and accepting congratulations from fans on his behalf. I would think it could be hard to be the son of a celebrity, but Ben has a smooth, quiet way about him that makes him appear cool in any setting.
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Greg, however, showed up late and cranky – really spitting at the whole world -- after an amazingly frustrating afternoon and still dragging from a serious respiratory illness. He was all forced smiles, sharp retorts and careless elbows. He did not seem to be a happy camper… For a moment it looked like he might start singing, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!” The warm spirit of the crowd soon washed over him too, though, and before he finished the first song of the first set, he was transformed into the gracious host and proud producer of the project we were all celebrating. Good recovery, Greg!
It was unusually cold outside (as most of January was), but inside, the music was HOT! Greg was amazing (as he always is). Serious ears or long-time followers may have picked up that he changed some phrasing here or there to accommodate the lingering effects of pneumonia. A BAD illness for a sax-man… However, I doubt there were many that were aware, hardly any who cared, and I’d bet not one person who could have thought the music diminished in any way. That kind of versatility is one of the keys distinguishing a good player from a great musician and showman.
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Rob continues to rule his own planet. If the real world could be as fun and fresh as it seems when Rob is playing piano, this planet would be a generally better place. Greg presented him with a plaque to commemorate their last CD together. They both look pretty natural onstage with “gold” records being presented. It will be nice when the stages are bigger, the presenters are in tuxes and the records are 24 kt. It will happen – they deserve it.
Lamonte Peoples (drums) and David Lavre (bass) were their usual stellar selves. Providing tight backup and a few bright solos of their own, they rounded out the combo with style.
So – another fabulous CD, another perfect party. Are we spoiled, or what? Thanks, Greg. Most excellent work. So what’s next? (just kidding…) Time now to take a breather, get well and rest. We can wait a few months, now that we have a whole collection of Greg Vail CDs on the shelf!
In the meantime, a good idea for local fans and lucky visitors would be to head to Kikuya any Friday night, or better yet, every Friday night! Buy the CDs, support the band and treat yourself to your own party. I’ll see you there when I can and envy you when I can’t.
Keep in touch.
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and Greg Writes... ~ from the Sax Spot
The Release Parties were off the hook !!
The release party was soooo good we had it two times; Friday, January 11 & 18, 2002. Kikuya hosted the party, and the Rob Mullins Band featuring yours truly, delivered some amazing music both nights!
Special Thanks goes out to all who attended. We packed the club both nights with fans, friends and family from all over the state. Coordinated the event with Saddleback's own Smooth Jazz Station, KSBR. We had the Saturday Morning DJ, Gary Burgeson live and in person at Kikuya the 11th, and then spent an hour on air with Judy Davila, Friday the 18th, before the show. Bob took over the next shift that night playing the eMotion CD in its entirety from 7 to 8 PM as we began the party that night at Kikuya. Thanks to Smooth Jazz, KSBR's Program Director, Terry Wedel, Gary and Cassie, Judy and Bob for making the party a Smooth Jazz media event!!
I was still sick with my walking pneumonia, and a bit cranky (ok, very very cranky), but once the band got playing, it was all good! I hope You all enjoyed yourself even with a sick party host. I love you all.
So, eMotion is back! This marks the third release in 14 months and explains the pneumonia.
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