Guitarist Les Sabler called on heavyweight studio cats to help create Sweet Drive. But while all of these players have seriously fine jazz chops, this disc is little more than an instrumental pop album. With a light guitar style, which brings to mind George Benson’s pop heyday, these thirteen soft exercises allow Sabler play breezily melodic lines. Sabler’s high profile friends include keyboardist Jeff Lober, percussionist Alex Acuna, and bassist Brian Bromberg. Sabler only plays his guitar, and lets folks like Toni Scruggs and Rahsaan Patterson handle his singing.
In addition to standard jazz fusion instrumentation, the Seawind Horns can be heard on “Sweet Drive”, and “Daydreaming” features Tom Zink’s string arrangements. Many of Sabler’s selections were drawn from the R&B world. This CD opens with Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got It Bad Girl” then also includes Aretha Franklin’s “Daydreaming” and David Pack’s “Biggest Part of Me”. Sabler also contributed one composition of his own, the funky “Food Chain”. Your opinion about Sabler’s music hinges on what you think of smooth jazz. For R&B fans, it’s sometimes too jazzy. But for hardcore jazz fans it’s oftentimes too pop. But whether it’s your mug of brew or not, there’s no denying that it’s expertly played.
By Dan MacIntosh