The Prodigal Sons
Stranger Things Have Happened
Produced by:Harvey Jay Goldberg Recorded at:Cava Studios, Glasgow, Scotland and East Hill Studios, New York, NY
This smooth-jazz collective came together in Glasgow, Scotland, for just one album in the mid-1990s, musical wanderers who found a home, at least briefly, in a freewheeling instrumental fusion of pop, jazz and rock. The elegant, impeccably played 10-song collection was the brainchild of songwriting brothers Gregory and Patrick Kane, who lodged a series of singles on the U.K. pop charts in the 1980s and 1990s with their main band Hue and Cry, but soon moved in a more sophisticated musical direction.
By 1996, Hue and Cry was signed to the Scottish jazz and classical label, Linn Records, and the Kanes (with Greg on keyboards and Pat on vocals) were experimenting with a stew of styles, from jazz, R&B and funk to Latin beat, African pop and drum ‘n’ bass. Hue and Cry’s first album for Linn Records was JazzNotJazz, recorded live at the Glasgow Jazz Festival, with a lineup that included saxophonist Michael Brecker, trumpeter Randy Brecker and Pat Metheny drummer Danny Gottlieb. The Prodigal Sons were formed around the same time, with Greg Kane in the role of musical director, songwriter and keyboardist and brother Pat in the background as songwriting partner. To support them, they recruited a band of top players, including Gottlieb, Hue and Cry guitarist Nigel Clark, saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock, keyboardist Richard Cottle, bassist Laurence Cottle and percussionist Sandro Ciancio.
The players certainly weren’t household names in the U.K. or the United States. But calling The Prodigal Sons a supergroup is not a stretch. Hitchcock was a top U.K. session cat and touring musician whose credits include tours and recordings with everyone from Tom Jones and Vic Damone to Ray Charles and Robbie Williams. Richard Cottle was a mainstay with the Alan Parsons Project and also did session work with the likes of Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton. And Laurence Cottle’s resume includes session work and tours with the likes of Cher, Sting and Black Sabbath.
Not surprisingly, the album this crew made together is tight, inventive and beautifully played, pushing the smooth-jazz conventions with inventive songwriting, arresting arrangements and virtuoso musicianship. It moves effortlessly from funky, sax-driven sprints (“Family Ties”) to melancholy, multi-layered sax-and-synth love songs (“Just Say You Love Me”). It explodes in funky fury (“3 Foot Blast”) and sighs with elegant, piano-laced grace (“Peace Face”). It screams passionately (“You’re the Only One”), winks knowingly (“Little Miss Grace”) and shouts a defiant goodbye (“Say Goodbye to Me”.)
The album was recorded in Glasgow, Scotland, by Harvey Jay Goldberg and Robin Rankin. It was produced and mixed by Goldberg, with executive production by James Berk. Their work is critical, too, in helping bring these songs to life. Many smooth-jazz recordings sound homogenous, with nuances and musical interplay lost in a fog of sound. But the production here is crisp and loving, with an ear to bringing the many layers of music into harmony without obliterating them. If you’re a jazz fan – smooth or otherwise – you simply can’t go wrong here.
- Michael Norman