Tuesday, March 15, 2022


Woodward Avenue
Feb. 21. 2022

In a genre and format that too often encourages even the most brilliant of artists to play it safe and sacrifice the full expanse of their chops for easy, friendly, infectious listenability, Michael Lemmo is that once in a decade cat who’s ready to blow all those niceties out of the water (while still being wildly melodic) on his genre-stretching, perfectly titled debut smooth jazz single “Blue Comet” – also the name of his upcoming debut.

Understanding his unique background, the first clue that you’re in for a more fiery adventure with this multi-faceted singer, songwriter and guitar virtuoso is a list of his chief influences. While Lee Ritenour is up there, the rest are rockers - Lindsey Buckingham, John Mayer and late greats Jeff Buckley and Eddie Van Halen. While Lemmo is clearly in a class all his own, for point of comparison, he’s what might happen if we merged the historical power of Eric Clapton’s blues/rock and George Benson’s inventive jazz sensibilities.

The genius of this relentlessly burning, constantly exploding “Blue Comet” is the decision to turn the powerhouse tune into a funky, jamming dance-duet with this generation’s premiere saxophonist, Jeff Ryan. It’s today’s genre equivalent of what might have happened if blues-rock inspired guitarist, the late Jeff Golub, joined forces with Richard Elliot. Once Ryan was added to the mix, the gale force of the track prompted an unprecedented reaction from its producer Paul Brown, who has helmed #1 hits for nearly every genre artist (including himself) for 30 years. Listening back with Lemmo, Brown was literally floored, like “that’s some serious crazy s*** right there.” It’s billed as “Michael Lemmo ft. Jeff Ryan,” but the camaraderie between artists is so much more than main artist/featured artist.

So, prepare yourselves for not just urban jazz business as usual. The jam starts out with some crisp trademark Lemmo licks before Ryan blasts in with his combustible yet cool flow and unlike most tracks like this where the guitar might be featured and the sax plays a harmony and takes a later solo, the two are engaged in buoyant, high-energy conversation from the get go – often allowing Lemmo to establish a melodic line solo, then repeat it in tandem with Ryan. The joyful thing for mainstream genre fans is that while their performances are generally higher octane and their individual solos a few minutes in more blistering and intense than traditional radio fare, there are still some incredibly hooky melodic lines to latch onto.

While Ryan’s solos these past few years on his own recordings and those of other artists have become the stuff of legend, the real payoff is hearing Lemmo, on his very first instrumental radio single, take his lengthy solo spotlight as an opportunity to fuse his aggressive, stratospheric rock and jazz sensibilities. It’s breathtaking stuff that will no doubt have listeners capping their astonishment with a moment to catch their breath. Brown’s usual studio crew of Roberto Vally (bass), Gorden Campbell (drums) and Marco Basci (keys) is on hand to make sure things are always poppin’ behind the two lead instruments.