The well-known session guitarist made some slow but steady inroads into the smooth jazz realm with two well-received albums, 2001's With Every Touch and especially Bringin' It Back, but made an even greater case for genre stardom with this beautifully played, incredibly diverse disc that features a generous 15 tracks and 70 minutes of non-stop, surprise-filled electric and acoustic action. While fitting right in among better-established genre artists like Norman Brown, Blake Aaron pays tribute to everyone from Wes Montgomery (the bright, breezy, radio-ready "Bumpin' on the Wes Side") to Thelonious Monk and Grover Washington, Jr. (the simmering and soulful "Harmonious Funk"). He really hit his stride on the fast and furious, intensely rocking "Baby Likes the Blues," a scorching track that would give Jeff Golub a run for his smooth jazz-meets-blues money. It's a bit ironic that Aaron named the first track after his obvious guitar hero, because as tasty and catchy as it is, he didn't start truly bumpin' till the more intensely funky "Come on Over," which pitted his crackling electric with co-producer Paul Brown's bright rhythm guitars. Brown also contributed his Midas-behind-the-boards-touch to the slow jam "Shine," which introduced listeners to Aaron's gentler acoustic charms and allowed newcomer Jessy J to shimmer on flute. As inventive as Aaron's playing was throughout, he pretty much stuck to the in-the-pocket stuff on most of the tracks (not that this is a bad thing!). Glorious exceptions to this vibe are the soulful, jazz quartet-flavored "In Her Sweet Way" (on which the listener can feel Aaron's guitar "crying"), and the feisty samba-lite of "Run Away with You." By 2007, smooth jazz was glutted with way too many cover songs, but Aaron managed to find inventive ways to express "Fragile" (adding a fun Brazilian twist) and Billy Preston's funk masterpiece "Will It Go Round in Circles." Overall, Desire was one of the genre's best releases of 2007.
All Music Guide
Smooth jazz guitarist Blake Aaron is back with his third CD, Desire, and for anyone familiar with his music it was well worth the wait. This collection of mostly original music captivates the senses from the first note and never lets go, as Aaron's love for jazz is apparent in everything he does.
Aaron, who got his start as a kid playing rock music on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, has toured with groups such as The Drifters, The Coasters and Little Anthony. He has also been the guitarist for television shows including Mad TV, The Ben Stiller Show, Sunday Night Comics and The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.
Desire heats things up with the first memorable note as Aaron lets loose on "Bumpin' On The Wes Side, dedicated to the genius of Wes Montgomery. One of thirteen original compositions on this fifteen-track CD, Aaron's engaging riffs waft through the air, light as a summer breeze. It's soft in its easy-to-listen-to quality, yet exhilarating in its passion and fine musicianship. Aaron pours his heart into another masterfully composed melody dedicated, this time, to the genius of Thelonious Monk and Grover Washington Jr., aptly titled "Harmonious Funk.
"Will It Go 'Round In Circles, by Billy Preston, is one of two tracks not written by Aaron, though he makes it his own with his impeccable guitar playing. Pianist/organist Mike Whittaker is superb, as is Jeff Coffin's sassy saxophone. Aaron's take on the haunting Sting classic Fragile is truly inspired. There's a definite Latin flair to Aaron's playing and the backing horns section-saxophonist Will Donato, trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo and trombonist Eric Jorgensen-who punch up this famous ballad, still clearly done so as not to take away from its original beauty. Not an easy thing to do while keeping the integrity of the original.
The title track highlights Aaron's skill with his instrument as it mingles sensually with Guerrero's hauntingly beautiful muted trumpet. TJ Gibson provides soulful vocals on "Forever, a timeless love song with Alan Hewitt on keyboards and programming. Switching it up is the hip and bluesy "Baby Likes the Blues, which starts off rocking and keeps doing so right through to the last magnificent note. Aaron downright rocks as does saxophonist Mike Todd. "Spin Zone closes out this extraordinary collection of music with a bang. It's upbeat, edgy and full of life, with Aaron's exuberance leading the way and a horn section that really knows how to set the groove.