Jazz guitarist Wayne Brasel keeps things subdued and pretty on this self-released album. Sure, there are a few uptempo tracks, but most of the album’s nine original pieces are ballads, gently swinging like curtains in a mild afternoon breeze. And even when the band is at its most energetic, as on “The Oaks of Mamre,” his tone is firmly in the hard bop tradition, long streams of clean notes, barely bent. Without veteran drummer Peter Erskine to punch things up, he’d be totally lost in some kind of narcotic fugue state. Pianist Alan Pasqua has a light, deft touch, but he’s not interested in pounding the keys or getting the listener riled up, either, and bassist Tom Warrington is audible, but crippled by good taste (his, and the boss’s). When Brasel switches to acoustic guitar on “Oleo de Mujer con Sombrero” and album closer “The Hermit” (where the quartet is joined by percussionist Satnam Ramgotra), his sound has a little more bite to it—merely adding the sound of fingertips sliding on strings gives a human edge to what could otherwise be (and indeed is, at times) nap-inducingly slick music.

If You Would Dance is not in any way a bad album. Everyone involved plays his instrument very well. And it’s not “smooth jazz” or New Age music—it’s real jazz. It swings, and the band improvises together very well, with a grace and conscientious ear for what each member’s doing at any given time. Nobody steps on anyone else’s lines or drags the music out of rhythm. But there’s also nothing about it, for good or ill, that captures or holds the listener’s attention. This is, quite literally, background music. If you run a coffee shop or a boutique that sells scented candles and greeting cards, you might want to purchase this album for in-store play. If you have a whole lot of dinner parties, it might work for you, too, as long as you’re not counting on it to spark conversations. But it’s difficult to recommend this disc as a stand-alone listening experience.

Phil Freeman

1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? No.

2. Should you buy this record? Probably not, no.

Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…

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