Deciding on album titles has never been a difficult task for Paul Hardcastle. Sequential Roman numerics have been the trend since in the smooth jazz chapter of his career. Most would agree that the most difficult task for any artist is remaining relevant and highly regarded as Hardcastle has for over 35 years since his technopop smash hits ‘19’ and ‘Rainforest’. Yet here we are, on the brink of 2021, and the British musician multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer returns with his smooth synthesizer excellence on his ninth solo smooth jazz album on the Trippin’N’Rhythm label.
IX draws listeners into the project with Welcome To The Morning, an interlude introduction that is slow, moody and tone setting, followed by Latitude, the lead off and chart impacting single steeped in up-tempo and rich exotic vibes. Let It Go is another example of how Hardcastle makes his exotic chill sound so unique and signature by maintaining an up-tempo sound.
What has a become a familiar, and familial trend on recent projects, Hardcastle’s recording artist and vocalist Maxine lend her talent on several tracks. Like the theme and music itself, Maxine is sensual and even ethereal on Outside My Window, and returns on the similarly themed No Escape Pt.1 , and the Pt. 2 continuation a few tracks later. Welcome To The Beach picks up where the opening leadoff Welcome To The Morning left off, but by contrast, a fast paced groove with a sax lead over top off Hardcastle’s steady and sophisticated keyboard melody. On what is a break from a mostly moody and thematic sound, daughter Maxine returns on what is the undoubtedly the most smooth pop offering on IX, Lovin’ You Lovin’ Me. This bouncy and sweetly sung track hits all the right chords for what could easily be a father-daughter hit single beyond the confines of groove jazz music.
Whether it be solo work, or with his side project Jazzmasters, the veteran Hardcastle’s work has been defined by a sound that is sophisticatedly smooth and progressive and his latest chapter IX is proof of that assertion. I could easily score this project a perfect 10, but in this case, even a 9 seems perfect and appropriate.
Reviewed By Stu Berketo
Wave.fm On-Air Host