It was not the news music fans were expecting to wake up to on the first day of 2022. In fact, it seemed like a cruel internet prank to start the new year, before the official confirmation announced that beloved smooth jazz guitar great Nick Colionne had passed away. A career that began 28 years and 11 albums earlier was over. Just like that. Perhaps fitting and metaphorical, those three words make up the title of Colionne's 10 song posthumous release.
In the aftermath of the stunning and shocking news, in early '22, Colionne's longtime label, Trippin N Rhythm, announced that a new album had been in the vault and that singles and the full release would be forthcoming, kind of bittersweet music to the fans of venerable smooth musicians who absolutely adored both the music and player, with the love strongly reciprocated.
Just Like That features the song writing mastery of Chris 'Big Dog ' Davis and Michael Broening, both of whom have worked with the biggest names in smooth jazz and penned many big chart hits for said artist. However, two of the compositions on the album belong to Colionne himself. Just Like That has already yielded three chart impacting Colionne masterpieces, including the easy and more laid back “What You Do To Me”, the funky “Step To This”, where the flute work of Marcia Miget, and some horn backing inject a retro Philadelphia soul groove vibe that would impress even Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble. The title track itself lends a blues feel and is another example where Colionne lets his chords mimic a sassy scat, and some hammond organ and horn accompaniment bring home this fun-loving track.
Colionne doesn't let us forget that he was as much an accomplished composer as a guitar player on the upbeat infectious “Kastle”, and the other self-written track, the album's final cut, “It's My Turn” provides shades of 80s' style funk/pop with yet another infectious guitar melody.
Just Like That reminds us of the enormous talent that Colionne was in the genre in which he became famous. Known as "Uncle Nick" to colleagues because of his seniority in the world of smooth jazz, and to fans for his gentle nature despite a booming baritone voice, a hulking physical presence, and a closet of the most colourful, stylish signature hats and pristine suits that earned him the title as the best dressed man in smooth jazz many years ago. I am personally honoured to have gotten to know him years ago during several of his Canadian performances and could not be more grateful for those opportunities to not only see him perform, but to meet the genuinely gracious person he will always be remembered as.
The album liner notes, obviously pre-written before his passing, thank a litany of people, with the final thank you dedicated to his former manager, Carol Ray, who predeceased Colionne by several years and whom he first met in 1992.
Just Like That is guaranteed to evoke many great memories for anyone who attended his electrifying concerts at huge outdoors festivals, aboard sea cruises, in charming historic theatres across the world, or for anyone who simply made a point of purchasing the music of the musician known and loved as 'Uncle Nick'.
Reviewed by Stu Berketo