When life gets dull, there is always a temptation to step outside the box. After all, why stick with the tried-and-true when there are new avenues to explore, new roads to travel, and different ways to express oneself?
It's the same with music, which is why Jeff Golub’s Narada Jazz debut, TEMPTATION is so, well, tempting. It’s a disc full of the bluesy guitar lines, funky R&B grooves, and pop/rock sensibilities that have defined Jeff Golub’s solo career as a contemporary jazz guitarist and as a first-rate session player. At the same time, TEMPTATION finds Golub taking his sound outside the box, retaining his trademark blues-drenched guitar lines while pushing the sonic boundaries of his music.
TEMPTATION is a project of firsts. It is Golub’s first for the Narada Jazz label, and his first collaboration with Grammy winning producer Paul Brown (known for his work with Boney James, George Benson, and Al Jarreau). TEMPTATION is also Golub’s first to feature guest saxophonist and label mate Euge Groove, his first to have a song arranged by keyboard player Brian Culbertson, as well as his first to boast horn charts by noted arranger Jerry Hey.
It also finds Golub navigating previously uncharted waters, as several tracks find him laying down smooth, blues-influenced lines over European-inspired chill-out tracks, weaving blue melodies within the distinctly hip and modern songs. Let’s just say that this direction wasn’t planned, it resulted from the meeting of two distinct artistic minds. Both Brown and Golub are guitarists, and as such they have many similar — and different — influences.
“Paul has a strong track record as a producer, and what he brought to TEMPTATION sounds different from the approach I used on my previous records,” says Golub. “At the same time, as guitarists, there are a lot of similar things that we like to hear in music. By combining a European-chill type sound on some of the tracks with my bluesy guitar, it gave us an interesting sound that sounds like me, yet different from what you generally hear in the smooth jazz genre.”
That enticing blues-meets-chill sound can be heard on tracks such as Cream And Sugar, which features Euge Groove. While the song’s retro melody has the comfortably familiar feel of ’70s soul-jazz, Brown’s production places the tune firmly on the cutting edge. There’s also the disc’s title track, with its distinctly Eastern Bloc feel that’s are given a familiar American flavor courtesy of Golub’s robust blues guitar licks.
Elsewhere, TEMPTATION showcases the jazz, blues and pop/rock sounds that have earmarked Jeff Golub’s smooth jazz solo career. TEMPTATION’s opening cut, Uptown Express, is the prototypical Golub cut, a track that he describes as “live, in-the studio soul-jazz. I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.” the guitarist explains, “Uptown Manhattan has always been a center for jazz and Latin music. The Uptown Express is the fastest way to get there.”
There is also On The Wes Side, a nod to both Manhattan’s West Side and to one of his favorite jazz musicians, guitarist Wes Montgomery. “I was trying to get something that reminded me of Wes’ tune Bumpin’ On Sunset, that sort of groove that just keeps simmering along, but with an updated, modern sound,” explains Golub. New York City is again referenced on Metro Café, a jazzy, Latin-tinged tune named for Manhattan’s Metropolitan Café, a popular restaurant and local musician hangout. Mostly cut live in the studio, the tune showcases longtime Golub cohorts Steve Ferrone (drums), Mitch Forman (keyboards), and Dave Carpenter (upright bass).
Golub brings both the blues and the funk to the fore on Take Me Home, a turn-it-up-to-ten vehicle for his smoldering guitar work. Still, TEMPTATION would not be a Jeff Golub CD without at least one gentle romantic number, in the form of Just For You. Beauty to Take Me Home’s beast, Just For You showcases the sophisticated, late night vibe that Golub loves to pull out of his six-string trick bag.
TEMPTATION closes out with Simple Pleasures, which is the first track from the disc to go to radio. Here, Golub reminds us that all the cool vibes and dynamic chops in the world mean nothing without a good hook and a strong melody. Smooth, sophisticated and set to a decidedly urban groove, the song’s unforgettable melody is sung by Golub’s guitar in unison with flugelhorn and tenor saxophone. It’s a classy, fitting ending to Golub’s latest aural TEMPTATION.
Born in Akron, Ohio, Jeff Golub studied at the Berklee College of Music before moving to New York City at the dawn of the 1980s. He achieved notoriety amongst both his peers and music fans as the guitarist in Billy Squier’s band from 1980-1985. He then became a sought-after sideman and studio guitarist, and, after a stint playing alongside former J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf, he joined Rod Stewart’s band in 1988. Golub held down the guitar chair with Stewart until 1995, when he left to concentrate on a solo career.
Golub initially laid the groundwork for his solo career in 1988, with the release of UNSPOKEN WORDS, his first project under his own name. Upon leaving Stewart, Golub established himself at the forefront of contemporary jazz with the collective project Avenue Blue, a moniker under which three releases were issued. Golub’s transition to solo artist was completed in 1999 with the release of the appropriately titled OUT OF THE BLUE. His 2000 release DANGEROUS CURVES spent 12 weeks in the top 20 of Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and gave the guitarist both a No. 1 and No. 2 NAC single.
In 2002, Golub released DO IT AGAIN, which peaked at #8 on Billboard’s chart. The disc included his take on the Average White Band’s Cut The Cake. The song spent a total of six weeks as the #1 most played song on NAC radio. 2003 brought the release of SOUL SESSIONS – a recording with a live, in-the-studio sound. This album also reached Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Top10.