The suggestion came from two-time GRAMMY winner Paul Brown who has produced dozens of No. 1 hits. When contemporary jazz guitarist Les Sabler entered Brown’s Funky Joint studio near Los Angeles to begin tracking, Brown, also a guitarist, recommended that Sabler swap out his trusty guitar in favor of Brown’s vintage Gibson Johnny Smith model. The electric guitar that has innate acoustic qualities and balances tone and sustain gave Sabler an entirely new sound, which he used to create his eighth album, “Tranquility,” dropping January 29 on New Vista Records.
“The guitar’s sound is a sonic departure from anything I had previously
The guitar recommendation was the second time Sabler heeded Brown’s counsel. The first came last December when Brown was in Nashville to perform. Sabler came to the gig to hang with Brown. It was then that Brown offered to produce Sabler’s next record.
“I was both surprised and delighted that he offered to produce for me. Without hesitation, I seized the opportunity. We started collaborating immediately and two months later, we sat down to record at his studio in LA,” said Sabler.
A year earlier, Sabler wrote and released “In The Light” as a standalone single, which spent three weeks at No. 1 at WAVE.FM in Sabler’s homeland, Canada. The guitar player was encouraged and decided to reinvest the residuals he received from all the airplay into recording a new album, his first since 2014’s Brazilian jazz outing “Jobim Tribute.” Sabler and Brown cowrote eight songs for “Tranquility,” collaborating with hitmaker Lew Laing (“Keep Pushin’” and “Where Has She Gone”), Jeff Carruthers (“Easy Moves”) and Shane Theriot, the latter with whom they cowrote the single slated to go for playlist adds on January 18 titled “Crescent City Strut.”
“Paul and I collaborated with Shane Theriot on several compositions that are among my favorites on the project. Shane’s New Orleans heritage and his work with Hall & Oates brought a vibe to these songs that really inspired my playing,” said Sabler.
Sabler and Brown revisited “In The Light” on the disc with Sabler recording new guitar parts for the debut single as well as for the album’s lone remake, “Sunrise,” a George Benson original that Brown masterfully illumined with Lee Thornburg’s trumpet and trombone.
Speaking of Benson, Sabler references the contemporary jazz crossover legend when discussing how much the choice of guitar impacted the sound of the “Tranquility” album.
“The title track really exemplifies the beauty of this exceptional guitar that was the instrument of choice for George Benson’s classic ‘Breezin’.’ The song title ‘Tranquility’ is so fitting because I can virtually escape to that destination when I listen to this song,” said Sabler.
Sabler and Brown tracked a pair of tunes last February prior to the coronavirus quarantine, including “Keep Pushin’,” which dropped as a single in May. Work on “Tranquility” had to be put on hold until July. When they resumed, Sabler recorded his guitar parts in Nashville after Brown crafted the tracks in Los Angeles utilizing a cast of ace studio musicians such as the deep pocketed rhythm section comprised of bassist Roberto Vally, drummer Gorden Campbell and percussionist Lenny Castro. Bolstered by crackling horn work from Thornburg and saxophonist Greg Vail, the album was completed in September.
“Tranquility” is a melody-rich, contemporary jazz listening experience. The set consists of vibrant harmonies, funky R&B grooves and sophisticated instrumental pop. Sabler’s deft and soulful electric guitar occasionally yields to his more sensitive nylon-stringed guitar, including on the eloquent beauty “Esselle’s Dance,” which Sabler says “is as beautiful as anything I have ever recorded.”
“It was such a great experience to have Paul produce the album and I was extremely comfortable with his direction and guidance. Without a doubt, this is a landmark recording for me, and I am so excited and pleased to share this music.”