Review by Anders McGraw
Marc Antoine's new release Hi-Lo Split will probably be considered a welcome return to form by his fans. His last Modern Times, featured a club DJ and was somewhat befuddling to radio programmers resulting in lower sales due to lack of airplay. Returning to the dreamy, Latin-tinged stylings that brought him fame, Antoine makes a smart, albeit perhaps safer choice.
"For a Smile" was written for his young son, and is a catchy and pleasant enough opener featuring the guitarist's trademark lines and Luis Conte on percussion. Like many of these tunes, written by the French-born guitarist sitting next to his indoor pool at his home in Madrid, it captures that cool, relaxed vibe well. Its fantasy of a life of charm and ease can only fare well for listeners stuck in snarling traffic or grinding out another day in corporate bondage.
The title track is an uptempo groove that pulls the listener into the excitement of the casino and is perhaps the most successful track on the album. A remake of the Classic IV '60s hit "Spooky" will probably generate some airplay, but seems more than a bit unnecessary considering the original was no great shakes. Antoine's guitar work is quite good throughout, but always in control, for better or worse.
A perfect example is "Silk and Steel," a smooth jazz number, where the guitarist displays his technique on both nylon- and steel-string guitars. The playing is always smooth and melodious - which should please smooth jazz fans, while dismaying those who find this method a tad uneventful.
The slow, bluesy "Cancun Blue" is relaxing with some highly-effective flamenco riffs, while "Groovin-High" (an original composition by Antoine, not Dizzy's famous tune), attempts some Latin fireworks through Conte's percussion, and a somewhat subdued horn section of Manuel Machado on trumpet and Bobby Martinez on tenor sax.
Of the remainder, "Panacea" has a nice funk, while Antoine pays tribute to Gilberto on "Bossalelectro." "Voodoo Doll" is spookier than "Spooky," while "Forever" and "Tomorrow" fall into the moody ballad category.
Much of this recording also features keyboardist Frederic Gaillardet, and his smooth sheen and ability to fade into the background fits well the goal of showcasing Antoine's romantic yearnings. In the end, if you are a smooth jazz fan, this album will probably please you as a solid effort full of comfortably exotic tunes with just a dash of spice flavoring it, but those seeking a bit more adventurous listening experience may find the taste a bit too mild.