Smooth Jazz always risks being seen as mere Muzak (TM), but big names like George Benson (whose sound may directly inspire Allou April) proved that it could be more than just white noise.
Which doesn't mean that artists like April (and Jimmy Dludlu) have simply replicated what US smooth jazz giants have achieved. They've also added local influences to the relaxed, elegant and admittedly structured cheese of smooth guitar jazz.
On Colourful World, The cool but danceable licks and circular melodies of Kwela, Township choral backing, and the odd precise percussion jam break up the smooth lines of sax and guitar. Carla Diamond, Jennifer Jones and Robbie Jansen contribute smooth RnB/soul vocals and their inspiration to the album.
Though "People of Colour", featuring Robbie Jansen on sax and Allou's daughter Keashia April on backing vocals, works up a great township jam, don't generally expect startling lyricism, or much punch. April's version of the famous classic "Paradise Road" is super cool, but also a little washed out - Allou April's used so much variation that that beautiful melody is subsumed by fidgeting voices in a gospel flurry and loses direction.
Colourful World features plenty of synths, floating long lines and lashings of cheese sauce - this is a CD that lounges warmly in its slightly formulaic chair, preening. Kenny G. fans and George Benson fans looking to upgrade or update: Say "Allou" to your new favourite.
- Jean Barker
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