Soul Ballet: Sera Lynn, K-Scam, Marika B, Candice (vocals); John Pondell (guitar); Rick Kelly (drum programming); Richard Elliot , Rick Braun, Shilts, David Woodford.
Personnel: Richard Elliot , Shilts, David Woodford (saxophone); Rick Braun (trumpet).
Additional personnel: Wiener Symphoniker.
Photographer: Stacia E. Johnson.
If producer/ composer Rick Kelly had decided to release Lavish under his own name instead of under the name Soul Ballet, it certainly would have been justified. Kelly is Soul Ballet, pure and simple. Soul Ballet has never been a group but rather, is Kelly's project and has always reflected his smooth jazz-meets-electronica vision -- and Lavish, like previous Soul Ballet discs, ends up being more electronica than smooth jazz, which is probably for the best because Kelly has avoided recording the type of outright schlock that is so common in the radio-driven smooth jazz/NAC field. True, Soul Ballet has enjoyed airplay on smooth jazz/NAC stations, but Lavish -- although not terribly challenging -- still has more integrity than the type of saccharine elevator music that the Kenny G/Dave Koz/Richard Elliot/Najee crowd has been famous (or rather, infamous) for. More than anything, Lavish is instrumental club music -- specifically, Kelly favors the softer side of electronica, and Soul Ballet has a lot of chillout and downtempo appeal. Some types of electronica can be harsh and abrasive -- techno, for example, can be every bit as in-your-face as death metal, punk, or gangsta rap -- but chillout and downtempo (both of which are radically different from techno) have epitomized the kinder, gentler side of clubland electronica, and that is definitely where Kelly is coming from on Soul Ballet's lush grooves. Although Lavish has jazz overtones, it should not be judged by jazz standards because it isn't trying to be jazz in the true sense. This 2007 release is not soloist-driven or improvisation-driven; it is producer-driven and beat-driven, which is what one usually expects from clubland electronica. Lavish doesn't break any new ground for Kelly; there are no compelling reasons why anyone who already owns a few Soul Ballet CDs absolutely has to purchase this one as well. But it's a pleasant, if predictable, example of Kelly's mildly jazzy view of electronic club music. ~ Alex Henderson
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