The reigning merchant of Soul Jazz, Richard Elliot invites loyal fans and newcomers alike to celebrate 25 years since the release of his debut album Trolltown. Where’s the party? Where else—In the Zone, a grooving, funked up, horn-splashed collection that finds the energized-as-ever tenor saxophonist paying homage to the pioneering instrumental artists of his formative years (‘70s-early ‘80s) whose brilliance and musical innovations inspired his own.
Drawing on the influences of legends like Grover Washington, Jr., Bob James and David Sanborn, Elliot fashions the perfect contemporary jazz complement to Rock Steady, his 2009 recording that was inspired by the great R&B artists he grew up listening to; that collection debuted at #5 on the Billboard jazz album chart and remained on the list for over 40 weeks.
The first single, “Boom Town” has an exuberant and aggressive, in-the-pocket tenor hook that does Sanborn proud—it’s intense yet has a smooth, poppy finish. Elliot launches the set with the playful and lilting tropical chill vacation “Island Style,” then gets back to the city on the moody and atmospheric mid-tempo ballad “Metropolis,” which as it evolves includes Elliot’s rich sense of improvisation and emotional power. The same type of sensuous atmospheres caressing that track play behind the lighthearted funk of the drive time tune “The Lower Road.” With Lorber providing the percussive synth blasts and Fender Rhodes harmonies, Elliot gets down to bluesy business with his muscular playing on the horn-drenched funk of “Bring It!”
“Just a Taste” takes the groove down a notch into romantic chill territory, while the vibrant, in-the-pocket title track lives up to its name with a swirl of percussive synth accents, brassy vamps and bubbling-over retro keyboard flavors. Elliot saves some of his most expressive, in your face tenor playing for another horn-fired jam “Panamera” before wrapping In The Zone on the wistful, candlelit ballad “Golden Triangle.”
The Scotland-born, L.A.-raised saxman was still on the road with Tower of Power when he released his debut album Trolltown in 1986. Embarking upon one of instrumental music’s most dynamic and multifaceted careers, he has scored four #1 albums (On The Town, Soul Embrace, After Dark and Jumpin’ Off) and a growing number of #1 airplay singles. In addition to his participation in all-star tours like Groovin’ For Grover and Jazz Attack, in the mid-‘90s he helped launch another of the genre’s annual franchises, the Guitars & Saxes tours, which he has participated in on and off ever since. At his peak, Elliot was doing over 100 tour dates a year, but he has scaled it back as his family has grown to include five children over the years.