CD REVIEW: Hulon - After Hours
By Cyrus Rhodes - 01/25/2012 - 12:36 AM EST
Album: After Hours
Label: Premier Musique Group, Crayton Corp.
Genre: Smooth Jazz
Sounds Like: The Rippingtons, Kirk Whalum, Dave Koz
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Sticky Trickuation, Do You Feel Me
Florida based Saxophonist Hulon releases his Sophomore release “After Hours” CD in 2011 His debut release First Impressions (2010) and spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Jazz Charts and peaked at number 25. His debut release featured the hit “Sax on the Beach.” The music of Hulon has been compared to The Rippingtons, Kirk Whalum and Dave Koz.
The CD gently takes to flight with “Two in the Morning” an intoxicating intro piece that flows and ebbs its way through to musical fruition. This first piece serves up impressive Smooth Jazz groove against atypical Smooth Jazz rhythm, impressive harmonies and a grand slam chorus. Track 2 “Takin’ My Time” keeps things moving in the same direction with classic R&B groove, meshed against impressive solo guitar chops against a backdrop of rock steady rhythm and hooky saxophone melody. Track 3 “Always and Forever” an impressive remake featuring Geoff McBride - serves up easy flowing rhythm section, against mesmerizing vocal melody and smooth as slik groove. The CD makes a great first impression providing 3 solid musical experiences in a row. Musical textures reminiscent of the typical Smooth Jazz suspects: The Rippingtons, Euge Groove, Dave Koz and Jeff Kashiwa. As the CD slowly unfolds you will notice most of the songs are very smooth and easy flowing in nature, with crystal clear high end clarity and solid low end feel. The production delivers much in the way of Instrumentation as well: with Piano, Hammond Organ Chops, Jazz Guitar, Impressive Solos, a few well-placed Percussive accents, solid rhythm section groove and world class Saxophone virtuoso. Now turning our attention over to Hulon. As far as his playing ability let me just go on record sand say he reminds me of Sax-master Grover Washington Jr. If that’s not a compliment I don’t know what is. He clearly knows how to fill the sonic space with amazing playing that flows across the ears like fine wine. The music itself goes down smooth and fills the atmosphere with what I would describe as Smooth Jazz Tranquility. All in all the CD has some truly impressive moments showcasing impressive playing, songwriting, rhythm, chops and a few dynamic grooves all rich in melody and flavor. From my personal favorite “After Hours” to grooving “Sticky Trickuation” to melodic “Backstep” to slamming “Do You Feel Me” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 12 “You’re Beautiful” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
I love Smooth Jazz but for the record let me say I would not call this music Gold Standard Contemporary Jazz. Smooth Jazz is indeed impressive in its own right and has a much more mainstream, marketable appeal. I give artists like The Rippingtons, Dave Koz and Hulon kudos for taking the edge off a million elevator rides across this country each and every day.
After spending some After Hours with Hulon it's hard to find any solid weaknesses worth mentioning. Instead as the CD progressed I became more and more impressed with the production as a whole. What I like most about the CD is it refuses to try too hard. "After Hours" is an impressive musical production from start to finish. There’s not really a weak song on this entire catalog period! The songs are infectious and catchy. Each one possessing a unique personality, flair and signature groove. Last but not least - the playing, writing and production abilities of Hulon are to die for. Trust me when I say “After Hours” will suck you in like a drug, never letting you go.
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