Album Review of
Rio Crystal

Written by Robert Silverstein
April 16, 2021 - 12:28am EDT
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The high art of jazz guitar played and recorded in a quartet setting comes into focus on Rio Crystal, the 2021 CD from the Paul Colombo Group. Backing Paul’s guitar-centric vision, as well as adding in a track of his own on the eight-song, 42 minute album, is keyboard ace Ron Thomas. As it turns out when he was 15, Paul was blown away by Ron’s keyboard sound as he played on the 1972 release of Pat Martino Live and that album led to Ron serving as  a kind of musical mentor to Paul. Backing Paul, Ron Thomas excels on electric piano and the two are joined by the tight rhythm section of Andy Alonso (bass) and Chris Lōser (drums and percussion). Rio Crystal is a solid showcase for Paul’s originals, plus the entire album was expertly recorded, mixed and mastered by Chris Lōser at his recording studios in Pennsylvania and in Maryland. Musically, Rio Crystal runs the full spectrum of contemporary instrumental jazz that blends jazzy guitar / keyboard grooves performed with a deft approach to easy on the ears fusion, bluesy ballads, swing, jazzy waltz tempos with a touch of Latin vibes. Some tracks remind me of early ‘70s Return To Forever with Paul and Ron echoing the style of Chick Corea and Bill Connors yet most cover a very upbeat cross section of smooth, soulful jazz and mainstream contemporary instrumental jazz. The cover art and presentation of the CD is first rate, while the CD insert includes track by track liner notes. The shared affinity for the music between each of the players on hand comes shining through, making Rio Crystal a pleasurable listening experience.