There's a famous line from Hollywood that goes something like 'If you build it, they will come." Sub out the words 'build it' for 'record it', and that would easily apply to soul jazz trumpeter, singer, writer, producer, Johnny Britt. Instead of attracting the ghosts of former baseball legends, Britt yet again presents an all-star lineup (pun intended) of collaborating guests on his new album, After We Play. Already known for his work with icons like Josh Groban, David Bowie, Luther Vandross, Quincy Jones and many other noteworthy names, Britt's project boasts some highly impressive talent among this 13-song collection. As for the album itself, Britt lays out 9 originals in succulent smooth, sophisticated soul jazz style offering both instrumental and vocal grooves. The most notable is Britt's rendition of the 1964 transcendent hit, “Going Out Of My Head”, featuring none other than Jerome "Little Anthony" Gourdine. The pair work this classic perfectly with complementary vocal styles and featuring the guitar mastery of George Benson. Unknown to some, Britt has worked with the Imperials since 2018, so covering the Teddy Randazzo composed tune was likely in the stars for quite some time.
Britt hooks up vocally with the proclaimed Prince of Sophisticated Soul, Will Downing, for the soulfully relaxed love song, “Butterflies”, merging two distinctly different vocal ranges on one very smooth offering. A frequent collaborator with superbly stylish guitar, is Nils, and his guitar, coupled with Britt’s trumpet, provides a fast moving, highly rhythmic jam on “Let's Do This”. Britt rolls out some old school style funk on “Ain't Nothin’ But The Funk”, featuring New York native, Tom Browne, who gets a stellar introduction from Britt to kick off the track. Showcasing a wide range of diverse moods and styles, the soothing and gentle nylon string greatness of Peter White on the album's title song is mid-tempo and highly stylish. Smooth jazz sax greats, Gerald Albright and Blair Bryant, along with keyboardist, Ricky Peterson, also offer their talents on what could be described as Britt's most complete and well-rounded album to date, an assertion that is quite bold, considering his incredible discography that includes the favourites, “Mo Jazzin” and 'Marvin Meets Miles.' Listeners will also be impressed with Britt's treatment of the Bacharach/David classic, “Walk On By”, quite sophisticatedly performed with his vocals sharing the spotlight with his muted horn.
Full credit to the multi-talented and multi-dimensional Britt for bringing together this esteemed ensemble of musicians and their undeniable talent on After We Play. A bit of soul, a dose of funk and some smooth jazz vibes go a long way in making sure this gem is on your repeat button.
Reviewed by Stu Berketo