JazzTimes - 10/95, p.84
"...hip wallpaper....A good one to program...if your romantic interlude looks to go into overtime."
The Jazzmasters: Helen Rogers (vocals); Paul Hardcastle (keyboards, acoustic & electric guitars, bass, percussion, drum programming).
Additional personnel: Phil Todd, Chris Snake Davis (saxophone, flute); Geoff Millor (French horn).
For multi-instrumentalist/producer Paul Hardcastle, the traditions and conventions of the urban contemporary style--from Earth, Wind & Fire and Grover Washington, Jr., through Sade and Earl Klugh--offer unlimited possibilities for romantic expression. Whether he's performing on keyboards, bass and guitar, programming hypnotic drum beats, or simply inspiring his collaborators to reach for that special sweet spot, Hardcastle knows all the right buttons to push.
Bridging the gap between cool instrumental jazz and sultry R&B, THE JAZZMASTERS II is modern quiet-storm music at its most alluring. Hardcastle is plugged into the style and instrumentation that lovers--and others--want in contemporary jazz, instrumental or otherwise. On "Smooth Groove," Hardcastle's supple backbeat is equal parts Philly soul and tropical delight, as keyboards depict a faraway romantic paradise in aquatic pastels and neon lights, as fluttering saxophones, seductive flutes and frosty vibraphones waft weightlessly above it all.
Helen Rogers provides an appropriately aloof vocal presence--a real cool operator, all icy reserve and amorous promise. Hardcastle bathes her voice in steamy evening hues, answering her silky come-hithers with discrete keyboard fills, distant electric screams, summery brass asides, and rhapsodic woodwinds and reeds. Alternating instrumental and vocal tracks, Hardcastle engages in a singular brand of musical foreplay, moving metaphorically from the quiet heartbreak of "I Just Can't Understand" to the radiant rapture of "So Much In Love" without missing a beat. THE JAZZMASTERS II concludes on a new age note with "Can You Hear Me?"--wherein Rogers beams her longing and devotion skyward into the cosmos, as if to ask: "Oh lover man, where can you be?"