Lloyd Gregory,
Free Fallin'
(Integy, 2003)

There are various styles of jazz, some more accessible than others. On Free Fallin', Lloyd Gregory performs what I've heard called new-age jazz, easy-listening jazz or, more often than not, smooth jazz. I would easily put the style of music on this CD in the same category as the Rippingtons. In fact, while it is not the case, I would not have been surprised to find out some of the selections on this CD were penned by Russ Freeman himself. Since I used to listen to the Rippingtons enough to go see them in concert, I mean this comparison to be taken as a compliment to Lloyd (who has enough material on Free Fallin' to distinguish himself in his own right).

Free Fallin' is Lloyd's fourth CD. Of the 12 selections, 10 are originals and two are covers ("I Loves You Porgy" by George Gershwin and "Round Midnight" by Thelonious Monk). The best track on the CD is the faster-paced "Kermudgen." The guitar work is top-notch, the percussion in the background is up-tempo and the flute solo, masterful.

Lloyd grew up in Cleveland, but currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area where he has been a fixture on the music scene for decades. He has been playing guitar since age 10 and I think it shows. He obviously knows his way around his instrument of choice. Over the years he has worked with enough top musicians to fill a page if I listed all of them!

Lloyd was joined on the album by many supporting musicians including Eric Smith and Gary Calvin (bass), Billy Johnson and Ritchie Aguan (drums), Felton Pilate (simply listed as a "multi-instrumentalist"), Glenn Pearson (piano), Percy Scott (keyboards), Roger Glenn (flute) and "other top Bay Area players."

In a way, Free Fallin' is a series of jam sessions. To quote Lloyd from the promo sheet, "I only give the band the basic structure of the piece, just enough of a roadmap to get started, because I want them to each be creative themselves. We take the seed, water it and allow it to grow. We nurture the music with love."

I have to mention this as a side note because I don't think you find too many musicians that are also second-degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do! I would not have thought martial arts and jazz could be connected together, but Lloyd mentions how both link the body to the spirit. That thought never occurred to me before, but now that I think about it, I can see the relationship.

Fans of smooth jazz (especially those of you Rippingtons fanatics out there) will be taken with Free Fallin'. The music is led by the guitar, obviously, but the voices of other instruments is heard when appropriate.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 12 July 2003

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