Lloyd Gregory takes his listeners on a musical travelogue on Gentle Warrior, not engaging in a campaign of conquest so much as visiting different locales to sample the musical flavors. The San Francisco-based guitarist starts out in a “Brazilian Sea,” accompanied by the soothing vocals of Jeanie Tracy. “Haiti” has an appropriate Caribbean rhythm track to support the melodic soloing. At times, Gregory mixes locations, such as on “Philly,” which begins and ends with Indian percussion and in the middle includes some sitar-like sounds, even though the overall track is an evocation of the Philadelphia International soul sound of the 1970s.
“Desert Wind” is a somewhat more abstract physical location, and Gregory achieves its mood with a spare background track featuring a guitar and nature sounds, using his acoustic guitar on top to play some intricate, rapid-fire runs. “Slither” earns its name through the slippery bassline that snakes through and actually dominates the music. Sometimes, the title notwithstanding, Gregory is just trying to create an appealing pop-jazz tune, such as in “Germ” and “Zulu, Son of Cobra.”
He may be remembering more a time of his life than a place in “El Espiritu de Diana,” which finds him producing a more laid-back version of the style of Carlos Santana that’s more sigh than cry. (A sentence in his press biography reads, “At one point he paid the rent by playing in San Francisco strip clubs with former members of Santana.” Clearly, something wore off.) The album boasts more variety than the usual smooth jazz guitar collection, reflecting the musician’s lengthy experience and mastery of different styles. ~ William Ruhlmann