On paper, musical collaborations always seem to work. In the studio or on the stage, not so much. The intentions might be good, but ultimately, the music is uninspired and forgettable. From Rock to Jazz, Hip Hop to Country, collaborations are normally inspired by mutual respect between artists. However, bad chemistry, ego, or record label interference can sink the ship faster than a torpedo from a nuclear submarine. On the other hand, there are some collabs that exceed expectations. When magic happens, we really need to pay attention. Thankfully, UNIFIED, the 2020 release from Brian Simpson and Steve Oliver is a grand success! While this isn’t their first walk in the park together, it is a reminder that two talents can come together as one and create something new and exciting.
Brian Simpson is a Contemporary Jazz pianist and composer. He has performed with numerous Jazz icons including Boney James, Norman Brown, Dave Koz, Jonathan Butler, Gerald Albright, Marc Antoine and Everette Harp. His career has also included a stint with Janet Jackson, co-writing her hit “The First Time.” Steve Oliver is a Smooth Jazz guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and producer. Steve has scored multiple hit singles on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart and can still be heard each day on Jazz radio all around the world. He has recorded with artists as varied as drummers Joel Taylor and Vinnie Colaiuta, bassists Leland Sklar and Jimmy Haslip, saxophonist Nelson Rangell, and, coincidentally, keyboardist Brian Simpson.
On UNIFIED, Brian Simpson and Steve Oliver showcase their individual talents, freely interacting and trading licks while offering musical support for each other. More importantly, they don’t step on each other’s solos, allowing the listener to fully enjoy their distinct styles. While UNIFIED can easily be classified as Smooth Jazz, it is more than just an album to chill to. Joined by bassist Alex Al, drummer Eric Valentine, and percussionist Ramon Yslas, Simpson and Oliver have created an album that combines solid infectious grooves with tight arrangements and warm, melodic hooks. Highlights on the album include “Fired Up,” “The Way Home,” “What The Wind Knows,” and the title track. If you want an album to warm you up on a chilly evening or cool you down on a hot Summer night, look no further than UNIFIED.
BRIAN SIMPSON & STEVE OLIVER