Personnel: Walter Beasley (vocals, saxophone); Ra-Deon Kirkland (vocals); Chuck Loeb, Tyronne Chase (guitar); James Lloyd, Phil Davis (keyboards); Martin Walters, Webster Roach (bass instrument).
The title track of veteran saxman Walter Beasley's latest jaunt into funky, groovy, and super-sensuous territory -- and his debut on Heads Up International -- has a brilliant and amusing anecdote attached. When he started making the album, he had just started seeing a new special someone, so it made sense to call the album For Her (and sing "I would give my life for her" on the graceful, soprano-driven title track) as a tribute. Halfway through the recording process, however, he broke up with "her" -- but because this "her" inspired the emotional ups and downs of the rest of the project, he kept the title. First, Beasley really digs her (the bouncy, disco-fied jam "She's All That," produced with sizzle by Chuck Loeb). Then they're getting down to the throbbing "Coolness," and waking up to a gentle "Good Morning." Later, he's wistfully nostalgic (the seductive "Remember When") and needs a bit of "Grace" to get through the heartache before acknowledging, as soulfully as can be, that "Things Change." Aside from wonderful rhythmic diversity, strong as ever emotional playing, and solid production (including several tracks by Pieces of a Dream's James Lloyd), this disc is unique in smooth jazz for actually attempting to tell a story through music -- rather than just throwing together a fun hodgepodge of new tracks. Beasley doesn't get the festival dates and ink that some of the younger, supposedly hipper smooth saxmen get, but this disc proves he's still a lead player in the game. ~ Jonathan Widran