Marc Antoine's easily accessible, richly multicultural, and gracefully effortless sound has made him one of contemporary jazz's most popular and respected artists. On his fifth solo album, Cruisin', the French-born guitarist changed his recording approach, and the result has enhanced his sound without altering it drastically.
On this album, Antoine and primary producer Tommy LiPuma (Paul Brown and Philippe Saisse produced or co-produced two tracks) went for a cleaner sound and jettisoned much of the programming that Antoine had utilized on previous releases. That is not to say that Cruisin' is completely devoid of programming; there is still a bit featured on the album, but it is used as enhancement. The result is a series of compositions whose arrangements are elaborate without sounding overproduced. Antoine enlisted a stellar group of musicians to help him record Cruisin', including keyboardists Saisse and Ricky Peterson; bassists Alex Al and Dave Carpenter; percussionist Luis Conte; and drummers Lil' John Roberts and Peter Erskine. This ensemble achieves an easy camaraderie that's evident on every track, and the players infuse each tune with an upbeat, buoyant quality.
As is usual for an Antoine album, Latin flavors predominate on Cruisin', although the guitarist mixes in an exotic variety of musical elements drawn from his extensive world travels. He opens the album with a spirited version of the Brazilian standard "Mas Que Nada," which was produced by Brown and features Patti Austin on wordless vocals. The Antoine-penned title track is a lovely composition wherein Antoine's guitar glides over a dramatic, atmospheric music bed. Saisse - an old friend of Antoine's who produced the guitarist's 2000 album, Universal Language - composed and co-produced the haunting "Sierra Bella," and the track spotlights him on piano. While the title "Caribbean Morning" might suggest a reggae approach, the tune is actually a shimmering, Latin-flavored number that includes a dramatic percussion solo by Conte. The appropriately titled "Just Chillin'" features a relaxed, unhurried vibe. Antoine closes the album with the flamenco tune "Fuego," which starts out as a small, intimate number and gradually builds into a dynamic, full-scale band workout.
Cruisin' clocks in at a little over 41 minutes - a little short for a CD in this day and age, and it may leave fans wanting more, but this is a minor detraction. Crisp and sparkling, Cruisin' does not disappoint and will surely please the Antoine faithful while earning the guitarist many new fans.
All Music Guide