After the Rain
Holy Cow Records
To Albare, soul is the heart of jazz.
On After the Rain, the Australian composer tosses away smooth jazz conventions for a stunning display of stylistic liberation, touching on soul, Brazilian, world, and even drum and bass influences. The only constant is Albare’s crystalline guitar playing, remaining chill and translucent no matter how the backgrounds shift to color his ever-changing moods. On “Mystery,” Albare’s guitar spins webs of incandescent melody as the thumping backbeat, especially the ominous throb of his bass, recalls the enigmatic iciness of Massive Attack.
Most American smooth jazz is nearly narcoleptic in its structure and production, making it fair game as commercial radio and background music for young urban professionals. Albare avoids its sterile confines, balancing the yin and yang of easy and uneasy listening. “Funny Clounds” is fairly boisterous with its clacking rhythms, but Albare’s guitar is pure silky softness. Likewise, the lush acoustic prettiness in Burt Bacharach’s “Alfie” is in contrast to the strings’ shuffling march.
“Sweet Thing” deepens the emotional weight of the album with its soulful textures. In fact, soul has become the lost ingredient in much contemporary smooth jazz, which has become too reliant on dull studio polish than real feeling. Albare’s guitar playing in “Sweet Thing” is clearly moved by romance — not necessarily by a relationship, but the idea of romance itself and its usual trimmings: evening walks in the park, candlelit dinners, and kissing beneath an ocean of stars. His passion is felt in every note that falls at his fingertips like a nighttime shower. The best cut on the album is the title track itself, and it’s no surprise that Albare selected this piece to name the whole project. Rob Burke’s sultry saxophone takes Albare’s equally smitten guitar for a slow dance, and together they create a mood of unguarded affection that moves the heart as well as stimulates the mind with a breathtaking sense of wonder.