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Smooth jazz, African-style

Live in South Africa
Live in South Africa
By Jonathan Butler

Rendezvous Records: 2007

This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2007.

A supremely skilled guitarist and smoothly soulful singer, South Africa's Jonathan Butler is often compared to American smooth jazz star George Benson. And the comparisons are apt, if not completely accurate: Butler performs a bright, breezy, uptempo brand of pop on his new "live" CD. Recorded in front of an appreciative crowd in his home country, Butler ranges from the R&B of the Staple Singers' "If You're Ready (Come With Me)" to the reggae of "No Woman No Cry" to the straight instrumental of "7th Avenue."

American audiences will hear shades of everyone from Stevie Wonder to Al Jarreau in Butler's singing; his guitar playing resides somewhere between Earl Klugh and Tuck Andress stylistically, and is there equal in virtuosity.

The whole smooth jazz label is a bit of an anomaly, but fans of that brand of music will find much to like and enjoy in Butler's performances.