Having played first trumpet for all the greats in jazz & many crossover bands - most famously on Santana's 'Smooth' and 'The Game of Love' - Bill Ortiz finally made it to the frontline of the stage. Considering his trumpeting skills can be heard on almost every legendary album in recent pop, jazz and R&B years - Steve Winwood, Herbie Hancock, Lauren Hill and many others requested his service - there's a certain sound you can expect on his debut album. Surprisingly though, it doesn't sound like anything he's ever done before. Although, in the end, 'smooth' might still be just about the right word to describe "From Where I Stand".
Handling trumpet as well as flugelhorn, keys and samples, Ortiz' first starts off with the funk/smooth jazz combination of 'Ayejave'. The conga's and bongo's included, there seems to be an obvious link with Santana, but oddly enough, it's nothing like him at all. As on 'Little Sister, Little Brother' and 'Word Play', Ortiz' music is an euphoric countdown to ecstasy, borrowing jazzy melodies and sensual background vocals from the late Steely Dan period as well as their quest for relaxation. Constantly mixing funky rhythms with jazzy melodies and often swapping his own trumpet for equal show time for his band means Ortiz and his many friends found a way to make something that could've been very boring into something very pleasant to listen to.
For variation, there's a bit of a departure on 'Ease my Mind' and 'Highest Wish'. The first song on this album not to be written by Ortiz, 'Ease on Mind' nevertheless shows the trumpeter's signature sound is never too far away. As on 'Highest Wish', Ortiz manages to be the main contributor, even though he shares his time in the limelight with his excellent band (which is probably why so many established artists in these genres wanted him in the first place.) But if there is anything as a Bill Ortiz signature, it's 'Slip into This'. With the sensual, constantly repeating 'let go, relax your mind' on top of the slow electric piano and trumpet, it perfectly sums up the song writing, the sound and the production of Ortiz and band, even though it is, in fact, written by keys player Lloyd Richmond.
In the end though, there's not that much variation on this album and with fourteen songs, some of them remixes and all lasting for about six minutes, it's not going to revive your lazy Sunday afternoon. But then again, this album was never meant to be sparkling and energetic; it was always meant to be a soundtrack for the warm summer days we're heading for. And with that in mind, there's nothing to be critical about. From where I stand, Bill Ortiz' first is a summer's delight.
All Music Guide