After Hours is an interesting mix of contemporary R&B with smooth jazz. The two vocal tracks are very much in the adult contemporary R&B genre, while the rest of the album straddles the two. Overall the music tends to be a little funkier than your average smooth jazz, and let me go ahead and say right up front that for a medical doctor frontman Hulon sure does play sax well.
The musical reserve that's a primary characteristic of smooth jazz is in evidence on every track. On “Second Opinion,” however, the players do let their chops show a little. The interplay of the pseudo-flamenco style guitar with Hulon's sax work makes for good danceable music. In addition to being a nice up tempo selection, “Second Opinion” is also a good example of a trend in jazz that I've often chuckled over. How many times have you seen the title of a song, listened to the music, and then thought “How in the world did they come up with that name?” (Does the Joe Henderson tune really sound like an “Isotope” to you?) “Speak Easy” by contrast instantly conjures images of fedora hats, trench coats and smoke rising through the light of a street lamp. If the Pink Panther were to drop in for a quick drink, no one would question the authenticity of this music wafting into the bar from a back room.
The atmospheric “You're Beautiful” is an excellent ballad. Its simple beauty makes it my favorite track on the album. The bass meanders in sultry fashion, while the synth sprinkles high, light tones like drops of rain. Sandwiched between these extremes, the mellow melodies of Hulon's sax sing. There are many things that make After Hours a really good album. The music is well written, and more interesting than is usual with smooth jazz. The musicianship is strong on all sides (including the singers), with 'Mr Smooth' himself leading the way on sax. Sophomore albums are supposed to be downers, according to wide spread music biz thinking. Well, I think it's safe to say Hulon has bucked that trend this time around.
Key Tracks- Second Option, Speak Easy, You're Beautiful
Donny Harvey- MuzikReviews.com Staff
February 7, 2012