Sometimes in the middle of night I wake with a start and wonder if any guitar-based contemporary instrumental music would ever have been created if George Benson, Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass had never been born. After hearing the first few seconds of Ronny Smith’s “Bossa Awhile, ” which leads off his sparkling new CD, you’ll note the influences from this troika of geniuses and know that their legacies are in good hands.
Smith is a former U.S. Army Band member interested in expanding on the good groove of the latter-day Bensons like Ronny Jordan and Norman Brown, who mix pop and jazz sounds and tempos with traces of R&B, hip-hop and even rock. Smith doesn’t get as much exposure as those two, but he should. Aside
from a cover of Steely Dan’s “Josie, ” which even a guitar solo can’t save from blah-ville, Simply Stated is a strong effort. Smith doesn’t use a live drummer for the most part, but instead programs percussion and adds some interesting sounds from the controls, which only tend to heighten interest.
Highlights: “Chillin’ After Eight”’s light R&B with its hand-clap groove and trumpet bursts from Gerald Chavis; the bossa chill of “Majorca”; and the romanticism of “She’s So Special.” On Jonathan
Butler’s “Fallin’ in Love with Jesus, ” William Banks’ vocals take it to the top.
Simply Stated (All Music Guide)
The title of this still inexplicably under the radar electric funk guitarist's fourth release makes it easier to say the obvious-simply stated, this is uptempo, grooving smooth jazz at its finest, and on par with recent works of genre superstars like Jeff Golub and Norman Brown. His bio says he's been a longtime proud member of the Army band, and our servicemen are no doubt in high morale listening to Smith's mix of buoyant, percussive gems (the bubbling over "Laidback Remix") and easygoing romances
("She's So Special Remix)." These two tracks are no doubt reworkings of previously released tracks, but are good primers for listeners new to the Smith experience. He gets the toes tappin' George Benson and Norman Brown style from the get go, as "Bossa Awhile" leaps off with a bright, wild, just slightly Brazilian sensibility. Smith then takes it easier with a chillout type tune (featuring a prominent bass and trumpet line) and edges more exotic on "Majorca Remix." Smooth jazz in the mid-2000s had a slight
overkill of cover tunes, but his thumping take on Steely Dan's "Josie" is still worthwhile.
He also shows off his heartfelt spiritual colors on "Fallin' In Love With Jesus, " a beautiful Jonathan Butler composition that is a staple of the writer's live set but is not on any of his secular CDs; the vocal by William Banks doesn't have the intensity of Butler's original recording, but the sentiment is unmistakably glorious. Smith's noble dedication to his calling in the Army is perhaps what's keeping him from entertaining the masses, but this CD will go a long way towards breaking him through to larger genre acclaim. ~ Jonathan Widran, All Music Guide
Just Groovin' (JazzPreview.com)
Guitarist Ronny Smith developed his trademark salve for making evenly flame broiled smooth jazz swath in gorgeous harmonic forms and lounging grooves on his 2007 record, Simply Stated. Keeping true to his trademark sound, Smith launches his follow up disc, Just Groovin’ this year with a collection of tunes resonating in clear blue skies and uplifting moods that soak the listener’s aural
senses in sheer serenity. He is an active bandleader and mediator, directing the movements of the tracks with his gentle coaxing as he softens the turns and connects dangling pieces to create full-bodied compositions. His music is archetypal of smooth jazz material and sticks to its parameters showing similarities to saxophonist Tim Cunningham’s caressive stroking and keyboardist Gail Jhonson’s
buoyant wavelets. It is an album that is sure make you happy.
Smith’s tracks almost seem like they give listeners a beach-front view of calmly rolling azure-hued riffs clinging loosely to the shoreline while caressed by the leisurely movements of the wind. Keyboardists Alan Alexander and Jeff Knoettner, and horn players Scott Martin, Stan Martin and Andy Martin provide the sinuous riffs while Smith’s leisurely strolls veer them in the listener‘s direction. His soft
guitar raptures are absorbed into the melodic terrain of “Here We Go Again” with an eloquence that can bewitch a romantic poet, and the silky feel of his guitar flicks fluttering across “95 Drive” gives the track a heavenly gloss. The synth treatments applied on Smith’s cover of Stevie Wonder’s song “Superstition” blanket the tune in glittering psychedelics as his guitar plants jutting sprigs along the funky grooves and dancing horns. The smooth jazz fronds of “Smooth” are branded in gospeltinged ringlets from the Hammond B3 organ and divots made by the chugging bass bumps. The feathery guitar riffs of “I’m Beside You” are lubed by flouncy bass beats, and the springy tempo of “Groove 106” hoists a sunny-pop vibe. Smith tells in a press release that the title of the track, “Groove 106” comes from the metronome setting on the tune at 106 beats per second, which he shows makes the music beam
with a sunny glow. Other tunes have a sexy jazz vibe like the title track which flitters erotic sensations emanating from the horns, and an island sway like in “Forever Friends” which has a sentimental feel in its voicing. The final two tracks have a Latin flavor delivering soft billowy knolls rolling across “Ticket To Rio” and bubbly ruffles spilling vivaciously along “Blue Bossa.”
It’s impossible not to feel happy after listening to Just Groovin’. Smith is a master at creating atmospheres that make people eager to bury themselves in, and happy to stay submerged in for long lengths of time. Smith straddles the line of escapist music and compositions that touch human sentiment. He cites Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, George Benson, and Roy Clark as his musical influences, and though his image of smooth jazz is arced by their impact on him, he also shows signs of moving past them, having tapped into his own ideas and developing a trademark sound that fits him totally.
Just Groovin' - (Smooth Jazz Now)
Baltimore-born guitarist Ronny Smith is back to the Smooth Jazz stage with his brand new CD ‘Simply Groovin, ’ set to be released in May 2009. It’s his fifth album and displays great musicianship with a fine balance between sophisticated rhythmic grooves and fluid melodies. On this one you’ll find lots of original tunes and two covers.
In an interview with Smith he told me, “My intent was to approach each tune, rather up-tempo, mid-tempo or slow, with a specific groove or rhythmic structure.” And the result is a well crafted
album served by Smith’s brilliant guitar skills and inspired instrumentalists. Besides playing guitar,
Smith also handles some keyboards and programming. As Smith explained, “I laid down all of the
parts how I would like to sound anyway. It just happened that some of the parts that I laid down turned