Ron Kobayashi Trio, Exotic Places (CD, 57:49), Carpet Cat CCR107, 1998 Carpet Cat Records P.O. Box 3601 Tustin, CA 92781 Phone: 714-289-0364 E-mail: email@example.com I'd say this is radio-friendly "smooth jazz" fare, but the production is a bit too low-tech to be truly radio-friendly. The poppy harmonies and accessible grooves are there, especially on the opener, "New Beginnings," as well as "Remembrance," "The Dream," and "Rainforest." But the sound of the recording is too thin and empty to suit this kind of music. As a piano soloist, Kobayashi is at his best on "Rainforest," but his lines and ideas occupy a sort of middle ground that doesn't generate an album's worth of excitement. Bassist Baba Elefante and drummer Steve Dixon display similar shortcomings. The playing is competent all around, but not stellar, and no one has sufficient chops or personality to fill the room. Covers of The Police's "Walking on the Moon" and Clapton's "Change the World" yield few surprises. Elefante's "Crawfish Hygiene" isn't half bad, with its refreshingly dissonant and dark harmonic elements, but it does sound like Weather Report, exposing the bassist's over-reliance on the Jaco mystique. Kobayashi's "Jagg" is another of the stronger selections. But overall, this trio's a bit too polite for my taste. ~David R. Adler
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