Each one of Austin’s cohorts–sax player Jarrard Harris, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, bassist Ben Rubens, drummer Kobie Watkins, percussionist Samuel Torres and guests guitarist Bobby Broom and bassist David Williams are all consummate pros, polished and professional when they need to be and also able to take off when the spotlight hits. Austin maintains such an easy, friendly tone in his band and he seems to guide them all equally with his economical piano playing, which is gentle and precise and anchored to those incredible melodies. What comes through on this debut album most clearly is Austin’s love and respect for Stevie Wonder, something that I share as well. “James regards Stevie Wonder as one of the greatest composers of our time,” it says on the liner notes, and it’s hard to dispute that.
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