By Skip Spratt
Andrew Neu, longtime smooth jazz favorite in Philadelphia has released his newest Cd entitled In Clear View. His latest independent release boasts the addition of Jeff Lorber, Brian Bromberg, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta, Doc Gibbs, Kevin Toney and Gerald Veasley. With such fine additions to the sound of this talented saxophonist, this Cd is bound to make some noise.
A native and resident of Philadelphia, Andrew Neu has been gradually and steadily building a respectable name for himself since the early 90s. I have witnessed his growth and maturity as both a person and musician over the past decade or so. We first met at the University of the Arts around 1989. Although he was a student at Temple University, Andrew came down Broad Street to UArts to fill out the sax section. At the time, he was a student of Marshall Taylor and hadn’t played a lot of jazz. He was a very capable saxophonist but hadn’t done a lot of improvisation. All that has changed greatly.
It is clear that Andrew Neu has a firm grasp of the saxophone styling driving the adult contemporary music of today. It is worthy to note that the production on this release is exceptional as well. In Clear View is definitely one to put on as you’re driving down the road or hopping on the treadmill. The influences heard on this Cd are varied. Intentional or not, I heard shades of Dave Koz, Spyro Gyra, Steve Cole and other legendary smooth jazz artists. That is a true compliment.
The “best bang for the buck award” goes to In Clear View for packing in a whopping 15 tracks for smooth jazz fans. The opening track is a cover of the dance tune Celebration, where Andrew Neu’s alto sound is full of sparkle and warmth. Later on Neu covers Lionel Ritchie’s You Are and Dennis DeYoung’s Babe. Babe, originally performed by the iconic group Styx takes a while to get going but the out chorus played by Andrew is worth the wait. This is one of his shining moments.
Wine and Come To Me are two smooth grooves penned by Brian Bromberg; feature Andrew’s silky soprano sound. I Heard It In The Night again features Bromberg on bass and Andrew on the soprano sax. Mr. Neu’s soprano tracks are a highlight of the recording where he has some of his most endearing moments.
The title track, Clear View is one of the high points for me. I particularly like the sound of the brass section here. Lastly and most notably, Blame It On Rio, the unassuming Latin groove really captures one of my favorite sides of Andrew’s playing. Here he teases us with his ability to double on flute. It’s just enough to make the listener want for more. I wouldn’t mind hearing more flute playing from Andrew.
Having known Andrew Neu for many years, I know his goal is to have a voice on all the saxophones – which he does. I’m going to state my opinion that the soprano saxophone has evolved into Andrew Neu’s true voice. He sounds great on all the saxophones, however his soprano sound is truly his own. No doubt his tenure with Marshall Taylor of Temple University played a role in his beautiful sound. We all look forward to hearing more…