Although the diminishing of the terrestrial smooth jazz radio format in recent years has meant an unfortunate drawing down of outlets to promote some of the urban jazz genre’s best music, there is an upshot: the ability of creative and innovative indie artists like composer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Craig Sharmat to take more risks, mix up styles and emerge with an incredibly engaging and eclectic concept recording like Bleu Horizons.
The projects origins emerged from a “gypsy jazz” project that Sharmat, a veteran film and TV composer, created for licensing purposes. Chock full of spirited melodies, funky grooves and a transcendent global rhythm driven aesthetic, Bleu Horizons rolls as a high energy travelogue hitting on exotic spots that stir Sharmat’s vivid musical imagination. Starting in his hometown of NYC, he crosses the Pond for colorful stops in Paris, Spain, India and the Middle East before returning to the Western Hemisphere for fun in the sun in Brazil and Jamaica. His eventful journey trip ends back in the States with “Open Plains,” a dramatic, film score flavored ballad that taps into the artist’s love of Aaron Copland and other American classical music. He is accompanied on his travels by some of L.A.’s top jazz musicians, including genre stars Peter White (who graces the lead single “A Day In Paris” with his charming accordion) and Rick Braun (whose tracks include the upbeat funk tune “La Seine Strut,” which features a sweet dance between his trumpet and Benedikt Brayden’s violin).
Other highlights stamped on Sharmat’s passport include the sensual flamenco styled guitar ballad “My Gypsy Heart,” the trippy, sitar-spiced fusion of “Mumbai Mojo,” the dynamic, brass fired “Surfing the Caspian Sea” (with Sharmat on the Turkish ude) and the Brazilian flavored “Sol E Oceano” (with a tropical vibe, just as its title would indicate) and “Agua do Brasil,” highlighted by a mix of Sharmat’s acoustic and electric guitars and a powerful piano solo by Greg Manning.
Contemporary jazz fans in the market for something different—and who perhaps can’t afford a long summer vacation this year—should definitely see what’s happening on Bleu Horizons!