Smooth jazz saxophonist Richard Elliot remains “In the Zone”

Richard Elliot invites loyal fans and newcomers alike to celebrate 25 years since the release of his debut album Initial Approach. Where’s the party? Where else – In the Zone, a grooving, funked up, horn splashed collection that finds the energized-as-ever tenor saxophonist paying homage to the pioneering instrumental artists of his formative years (’70s-early ’80s) whose brilliance and musical innovations inspired his own. 


“My original motivation for doing an album like In The Zone was the opportunity to reconnect with my earlier self, the musician I was when I first started out,” says Elliot in a new release. “The songs remind me of listening to my heroes in those days and seeing them perform live, feeling incredible joy and enthusiasm about the possibility of following in their footsteps. The wonderful thing is, so many years after I began performing professionally, I still feel that excitement. I love to play live more than anything. Under certain circumstances, the recording process can be arduous, but when you can tap into the kind on inspiration I draw from here, it’s a whole different, joyous experience. It’s all about feeling the same way I did back when I was 18 and dreaming that this could someday be my life.”


 Drawing on the influences of legends like Grover Washington, Jr., Bob James and David Sanborn, Elliot fashions the perfect contemporary jazz complement to Rock Steady, his 2009 recording that was inspired by the great R&B artists he grew up listening to; that collection debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Jazz Album chart and remained on the list for over 40 weeks. In The Zone includes a simmering, hypnotic retro-soul cover of “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler),” a Marvin Gaye staple whose original instrumental version marked Washington’s first session as a leader. Beyond that, the collection is driven by nine powerful retro-flavored original songs penned by Elliot and co-producer Jeff Lorber, who share a colorful collaborative history over the past 10 years. 


Lorber, who began recording as leader of The Jeff Lorber Fusion in the late ’70s, brings his unique dual history as a Jazz Fusion pioneer and R&B producer/re-mixer to the session. In addition to his array of keyboards, including the Fender Rhodes, In The Zone features the input of longtime Elliot associates Nate Phillips (bass), Tony Moore and Lil’ John Roberts (drums), Dwight Sills and Michael Thompson (guitar), and percussionist Lenny Castro. 


“The interesting thing about my desire to pay homage to the wonderful array of R&B and jazz I grew up with on these last two recordings is that I actually wanted to do it as far back as Metro Blue,” says Elliot. “The music of the ’70s carved out a lot of where I wanted to go musically, and I felt this need to express some musical gratitude, not by doing a cover record but by incorporating a few familiar songs among originals that had references to my influences. Compared to Rock Steady, the vibe is definitely subtler on In The Zone, especially with David’s wonderfully sophisticated low-key horn arrangements, but the same love of that time is there. The vibe is the ’70s forerunner to the contemporary instrumental music that became popular in my own era as an artist.” 


Elliot is currently headlining on tour with Grammy award-winning guitarist Norman Brown. 


%d bloggers like this: