Jimmy Sommers – 360 Urban Groove

360 Urban Groove360 Urban Groove
Jimmy Sommers
(Higher Octave – 2001)
by Ray Redmond

360 Urban groove, obviously aimed at the Urban Adult Contemporary crowd, combines Sommers’ smoking sax with vocals from some recognized R&B artists. When you see names like Les Nubians and Eric Benêt don’t just write this off as ‘acid jazz’… LISTEN! The music is (mostly) JAZZ, using different vocalists than the jazz world is used to, creating a new mix. The original tune Falling For You, featuring co-writer Gerry Johnson on guitar, is as sweet a song as any that ever found airtime on the Smooth Jazz circuit.

Labelmates Les Nubians are part of the Mênagea Trois that starts things off. Norman Brown jumps in with his guitar and vocals on the hot title track 360 Groove. The Boz Scaggs hit Lowdown is a familiar bit in the mix, and I had to listen twice to notice where Coolio actually sang on the song (he’s in the background). Cruisin’, features Raphael Saadiq contributing some down-home guitar and shows some of Sommers’ Chicago-Blues roots. Eric Benet does a very smooth vocalese thing on the sax-y ballad Stay a While.

A mixture of Smooth-jazz and R&B, 360 Urban Groove is a good example of where a large part of todays younger Jazz audience resides… in a land where Jazz, R&B and World music collide to bring something that’s 360 degrees from the old school.