Album Review: Jim Adkins
Artist: Jim Adkins
Album: Soul Expression Release 2022 Jim Adkins is a Virginia based contemporary jazz guitarist that is an exceptional musician and composer. His playing and tone are as smooth as it gets, reminding me of the legends in the genre like Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour. He has received several awards, the most notable being the 1999 Billboard Song Contest Award for 2nd place in the Jazz category for the song Wind Dancing. The song was featured on the Billboard Annual Song Contest CD Volume II. Wind Dancing was also selected out of more than 50,000 songs to be included on MP3s 103 of the Best Songs You've Never Heard Volume I which was distributed to over 250,000 music fans. Soul Expression is a ten song set that is clearly focused on Jim's world class guitar skills. His compositions are mature and played with heart. One of the things I like about smooth jazz guitar playing is it is always easy on the ears. It has the hip chords, but not much dissonance. It tends to be in 4/4 time more often than not, making it a nice listen for people that aren't musicians, but still satisfying to the musician, because it takes restraint, knowledge and skill to deliver it well. Clearly Jim Adkins has done his homework on all fronts. Soul Expression is a song that fits the title perfectly and was the right choice to be the title track. Jim's playing is inspiring with its patience, never leaving the space that makes the smooth jazz genre appealing to its fan base. He most definitely has fantastic chops, but keeps them at bay on this one for the sake of serving a great song with a wonderful vibe. The very next track on the record, Passing Through was another one of my favorites. It is a stellar example of the depth of his playing, starting with his ability to write a memorable melody. His tone couldn't be more fitting for the music, which is a testament to his hands, not his amplifier. The playing is funky and filled with all the smooth jazz techniques that make the players within the genre interesting. The octaves that Wes Montgomery taught us all, double stops and fantastic phrasing. This cut is a tour de force in terms of contemporary jazz guitar playing!
Run It is a bluesy cut with Motown leanings that I really enjoyed. An upbeat song with horn pops and a perfect guitar run at 1:47 that sits like butter on warm bread. I don't often hear blues in smooth jazz players, with the exception of Larry Carlton. But after hearing this track I get the sense that Jim has listened to a fair share of blues as well. It's all in the bends and an occasional flat five that screams the fingerprints of three King's!
Soul Expression is an absolutely fantastic contemporary jazz release that features a guitar player that has all the tools in his bag. Jim Adkins reminds me of Chuck Loeb in the way that he can put all the complex and simple pieces together. It sounds like it has been effortlessly wrapped into a silky smooth blanket that showcases an exceptionally deep understanding of the genre and how the guitar sits and shines within it.