Beaches opens with another familiar sound to these ears – Frank Strauss on synth. Howard Isaacson, in addition to being a fine musician himself, has enlisted the aid of Atlantic City’s finest on Blue Skies. Andy Lalasis and John Mulhern lend their talents on bass and guitar respectively. The alto solos without any rough edges following Strauss’s recap of the intro synth solo.
The aptly titled First Snow captures the mood and spirit felt by many during the holidays. Isaacson’s soprano sound is his own but this pop ballad setting is “Gorelickesque” – not a bad thing at all.
Blue Skies heralds the inclusion of the remake of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy. For the third time I was hit by a familiar and very dear sound to me on this CD. This time it was the voice of Kathy (Wilson) Fowler, another veteran of the casinos in A.C. Isaacson takes the soaring alto lead opposite Kathy Fowler’s – perfect as always – vocals.
Howard switches back to tenor for the melody and solo on Block Party. The sax section interlude and following solo is reminiscent of Tom Scott and the L.A. Express. Strauss stretches out again here on his signature synth sound with Isaacson having the last word on the vamp out.
About midway through this journey Isaacson offers one of the nicest tunes on Blue Skies. Summers Past reminds this writer of many Atlantic City summers gone by. Thanks to co-writers Isaacson and Lalasis for bringing back the memories.
Saturday Night features Howard on tenor with Strauss setting up the solo with a rhythmic piano vamp. Worton, Lalasis and Curran groove hard all the way on this one.
The title track Blue Skies shows off Isaacson’s signature alto sax sound – arguably his favorite voice. Alex Domshot stretches the smooth jazz sensibility with his harmonically provoking guitar solo.
When I first heard Getting Closer and the opening bass solo I thought, “That’s Andy.” Andy Lalasis shows his true colors with the chorused (I think it’s chorused) bass intro. Solos by Isaacson and Domshot follow the catchy melodic vamp.
The final cut entitled Desert Sun, complete with slap bass and hand claps sets up the party atmosphere for the way out on this one. The tune meanders through several feel changes with the final statement being Howard Isaacson’s alto saxophone soloing above the band. This seems a very fitting end to this journey through Blue Skies.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that I am envious of Howard Isaacson’s recent collaboration with Vince Colella, Kathy (Wilson) Fowler, Frank Strauss and Matt Curran. Kathy Wilson had one of THE most smokin’ bands in the Atlantic City Casino Lounges during the 1980s. I am proud to have been part of that. It is wonderful to hear Howard along with other great talents from Kathy’s old band and beyond on Blue Skies.