There is being in a groove, and then there's getting one's groove on. Either one works for saxophonist Eldredge Jackson's debut album, Listening Pleasure. This 13-track effort is a little bit Richard Elliott, a little bit Kirk Whalum and a little bit Gerald Albright. But it's all Eldredge Jackson and Wayman Tisdale.
Jackson co-produced the album with Tisdale. During his career in the National Basketball Association, Tisdale sat in with Jackson's band. Each has a father who was pastor of a major church congregation, and both are inductees in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
Jackson plays the sax throughout, while Tisdale plays bass and a variety of other instruments, supported by a variable cast of side musicians and vocalists. The ballad "Island Nights" was co-written by Tisdale and keyboardist Wallace McNary. This soulful selection epitomizes that romantic factor in smooth jazz. Jackson's tenor is rich and luscious. Tisdale's programming is a wee bit trite on the drum tracks, but otherwise exceptional. There are some excellent ambient effects, and he does vary the toms' sound.
After a rather bland cover of Lionel Richie's "Hello," the title song brings some needed energy. Though Tisdale, Jackson and drummer Elijah Hill Jr. are the only musicians given credit for this track, it sounds like a full band. Jackson doubles on alto sax and additional keys. The horn section synth is very effective. The song includes a charming interlude, during which Hill gets to show off a bit.
The Isley Brothers' "Voyage to Atlantis" is given a good treatment. Jackson's alto sax carries the lead with passion. Tony Blaine covers "all instruments" and provides the voice. James Williams contributes on guitar.
Listening Pleasure lives up to its name. The glaring weakness of most programming is the artificial sound of drums and cymbals, and Tisdale's work here is no exception. However, he and Jackson more than make up for it with solid songwriting and, for the most part, excellent arrangements of the cover tunes. And with other instruments, particularly rhythm guitars, filling the gaps, the overall quality of the album isn't diminished.
Track Listing: I Like That; Island Nights; Git Wit It; Hello; Listening Pleasure; Rock With You; Love You Eternally; Voyage to Atlantis; The Game; My Life; Sunday Morning @ 10 am; El Jack; Rock With You (Remix).