Reviews





Baltimore based jazz guitarist Ronny Smith is certainly one of the most underrated guitarist in music history. Often compared with George Benson, Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass he has since long time developed his own significant style.
That this unique style appeals the audience, shows the huge amount of releases like Long Time Comin (2001), Laid Back (2002), Got Groove(2006), Simply Stated (2007), Just Groovin (2009) and Can't Stop Now(2013). Shake It Up (2017) is his essential return with a special twist.
Ronny performs on his new album guitars and keys programming. Musical supporters are Conley Whitfield, Jr., Reggie Wilson (bass), Scott Martin (sax), Will Allen (drums), Stan Martin (trumpet), Andy Martin (trombone), Eddy Botts, Jeff Knoetter (keyboards), and Gerald Chavis (muted trumpet). Ronny has written all tracks, which gives a clear hint about his subtle creativity.
With Coast To Coast Ronny ranges widely over the continent embracing his homeland with a soothing melody inspired by Pat Metheny's early works. Scott Martin follows the dynamic line in a call and response style with fine excursions into the world of notes.
Bettin' It All On Black arrives in a funkalicious attitude with a bustling guitar bouncing around the theme with a hip rhythm smartness. Chasing Your Love is characterized by the warm vocal tone of Ronny's punchy guitar, which is elegantly integrated into the flow of the song and aptly underlined by his sing-along. A breath of melancholy flows from Gerald Chavis' muted trumpet, when Ronny is lost in reverie celebrating In the Rain with You.
You like it trendy and modern? Shake It Up is designed for all lovers of a fresh sonic landscape. On Back It UpRonny expands the tonality of his guitar in single note sequences while the keyboards share the rhythm with Will Allen on drums and Reggie Wilson on bass. Feel for You revels in an array of colors, moods and textures building an appealing makeup of attractive instrumentation. The warm-bodied Dark and Lonely stretches back to Ronny Jordan's initial albums melting vocals and guitar to an irresistibly intimate sonic unit.
 End Over End spreads a spiritual connection to the best place, where you feel comfortable. Greatness emerges from simplicity. The Latin tinged When the Sun Goes Down sheds light on Ronny and keyboardist Jeff Knoetter united in an old school groove.
You should always remember, that we have only a few precious joyful moments to share. Ronny Smith's new album Shake It Up is such an exquisite sunshine in our life.

Smooth Jazz Therapy

The very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

Ronny Smith - Can't Stop Now
Guitarist Ronny Smith has been on the Smooth Jazz Therapy radar since 2007 and the release of his excellent ‘Simply Stated’.  Two years later the equally good ‘Just Groovin’ hit the streets and now, after what seems way too long, Smith is back with ‘Can’t Stop Now’.  It finds him in partnership with producer Eric Copeland and, with ten well-chosen tracks, is a superb example of the tight melodic style that categorizes his playing.
Take for instance the mellifluous ‘Lift Off’ that he uses to get the album started or the wonderfully easy grooving ‘Slim Pickin’.  Both are fine examples of Smith at his very best and much the same can be said of the foot tapping title cut.  Later, when Michael McDonald’s Hammond B3 player, Pat Coil, joins the line-up he adds some spice to the decidedly jazzy ‘Funky Blue’ and although ’68 West’ starts out in tranquil fashion it quickly develops into a tune with attitude. 
City Groove’ is one of several cuts where Gary Lunn on bass and John Hammond on drums lay a rock solid foundation from which Smith’s playing really shines and despite ‘A Spryo Spin’ being another number that re-enforces the mid tempo groove that permeates much of the collection, the brass driven intensity of ‘Popped Off’ proves to be a powerful way in which to bring the CD to a close. 
That said, when Smith turns his attention to a moody interpretation of the evergreen ‘Valentine’ he shows off a different side to his musical persona yet all things considered, the Smooth Jazz Therapy top track is the fabulous ‘Brown Town’.  With Smith conjuring up an immaculately smooth jazz vibe this is a song that could easily make it into my top twenty of the year. 
Over the years, collaborations with artists as diverse as the Marvellettes, Melba Moore and jazz drummer Bobby Durham have all added to Smith’s musical story and now, signed to niche label Next Level Jazz, he seems all set to write another chapter. 
For more and to get the latest on Ronny Smith go to www.ronnysmith.com


Ronny Smith  - Simply Stated (Jazz Times)

Sometimes in the middle of night I wake with a start and wonder if any guitar-based contemporary instrumental music would ever have been created if George Benson, Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass had never been born. After hearing the first few seconds of Ronny Smith’s “Bossa Awhile,” which leads off his sparkling new CD, you’ll note the influences from this troika of geniuses and know that their legacies are in good hands.


Smith is a former U.S. Army Band member interested in expanding on the good groove of the latter-day Bensons like Ronny Jordan and Norman Brown, who mix pop and jazz sounds and tempos with traces of R&B, hip-hop and even rock. Smith doesn’t get as much exposure as those two, but he should. Aside
from a cover of Steely Dan’s “Josie,” which even a guitar solo can’t save from blah-ville, Simply Stated is a strong effort. Smith doesn’t use a live drummer for the most part, but instead programs percussion and adds some interesting sounds from the controls, which only tend to heighten interest.

Highlights: “Chillin’ After Eight”’s light R&B with its hand-clap groove and trumpet bursts from Gerald Chavis; the bossa chill of “Majorca”; and the romanticism of “She’s So Special.” On Jonathan
Butler’s “Fallin’ in Love with Jesus,” William Banks’ vocals take it to the top.

Simply Stated (All Music Guide)

The title of this still inexplicably under the radar electric funk guitarist's fourth release makes it easier to say the obvious--simply stated, this is uptempo, grooving smooth jazz at its finest, and on par with recent works of genre superstars like Jeff Golub and Norman Brown. His bio says he's been a longtime proud member of the Army band, and our servicemen are no doubt in high morale listening to Smith's mix of buoyant, percussive gems (the bubbling over "Laidback Remix") and easygoing romances
("She's So Special Remix)." These two tracks are no doubt reworkings of previously released tracks, but are good primers for listeners new to the Smith experience. He gets the toes tappin' George Benson and Norman Brown style from the get go, as "Bossa Awhile" leaps off with a bright, wild, just slightly Brazilian sensibility. Smith then takes it easier with a chillout type tune (featuring a prominent bass and trumpet line) and edges more exotic on "Majorca Remix." Smooth jazz in the mid-2000s had a slight
overkill of cover tunes, but his thumping take on Steely Dan's "Josie" is still worthwhile.

He also shows off his heartfelt spiritual colors on "Fallin' In Love With Jesus," a beautiful Jonathan Butler composition that is a staple of the writer's live set but is not on any of his secular CDs; the vocal by William Banks doesn't have the intensity of Butler's original recording, but the sentiment is unmistakably glorious. Smith's noble dedication to his calling in the Army is perhaps what's keeping him from entertaining the masses, but this CD will go a long way towards breaking him through to larger genre acclaim. ~ Jonathan Widran, All Music Guide

Ronny Smith  Got Groove (Smooth and Soul)

Guitarist Ronny (Ronnie) Smith has performed with a wide range of artists from a variety of schools of musical thought, including the Marvellettes, Melba Moore, and jazz drummer Bobby Durham. After his albums "Long Time Comin" and "Laid Back" (2002) we welcome his new album "Got Groove" (2006). Ronny Smith doesn't define his personality by his history but by his music. So the best way to get access to Ronny Smith is by listening his new album.

Ronny is accompanied by the Ron Smith Group: George Campbell (sax), David Gladding (drums), Chris Rhodes (bass) and Trendle Thomas (keyboards).

It Doesn't Matter was originally composed by Chet Catallo for the platinum album "Morning Dance" (1978). Guitarist Catallo was a member of the group Spyro Gyra in their earlier period. Ronny's version is a bit funkier compared to the laid-back original. Ronny's group performed this tune already live in 2002.
From these roots we follow Ronny's path with Stringa Lickin Good. Ronny is painting his view of music with precise chords. And when he is running the octaves, the title is understandable.
So Special is foremost a journey into instrumental R&B. In the second part of the tune Ronny reaches the fields of jazz turning on the tempo in a fierce improvisation.
People Make The World Go Round is a tune which was released first time on Michael Jackson's album " Ben" (1972). This song is very popular in the smooth jazz genre. Artists like Richard Elliot, Bob Baldwin, Walter Beasley, Ron Carter have covered this song but also Marcus Miller, Hugh Masekela or Ramsey Lewis. Ronny Smith's version is featuring George "Wake" Campbell on sax.
On Call Me Ronnie Smith shows more of his talent. Starting with a sultry melody he soon dives into jazz improvisation which makes this song vivid. 
The title song Got Groove is featuring Trendle Thomas on keys. I appreciate that Ronny's band members have some space to expand their solo as Ronny does in a fabulous way.
Comparing both previous tunes with the cover Before You Go by George Benson one understands that writing a song is a difficult art. Ronny perfectly masters the finesse of George Benson's original and also shines in guitar solos.
With his own compositions like Mountain Road Ronny shows his ability to combine melody phrases with guitar improvisations in a superior way. His affinity for jazz is unmistakable.
Do That is the final prove that Ronny's agility, speedness and vituosity need no improvement.
Ronny Smith's album "Got Groove" is a delicacy for all guitar lovers.



Ronny Smith  - Just Groovin (Smooth Jazz Now)

Baltimore-born guitarist Ronny Smith is back to the Smooth Jazz stage with his brand new CD ‘Simply Groovin,’ set to be released in May 2009. It’s his fifth album and displays great musicianship with a fine balance between sophisticated rhythmic grooves and fluid melodies. On this one you’ll find lots of original tunes and two covers.

In an interview with Smith he told me, “My intent was to approach each tune, rather up-tempo, mid-tempo or slow, with a specific groove or rhythmic structure.” And the result is a well crafted
album served by Smith’s brilliant guitar skills and inspired instrumentalists. Besides playing guitar,
Smith also handles some keyboards and programming. As Smith explained, “I laid down all of the
parts how I would like to sound anyway. It just happened that some of the parts that I laid down turned
out half decent and could go into the final product.”

The tune ‘Smooth’, is one of my favourite, you easily get into Smith’s groovy and melodic environment
and you gotta love the great organ Hammond B3 sound. This upbeat funky track displays Smith’s rich guitar loops Smith also does a rendition of the famous Stevie Wonder’s smash hit ‘Superstition’ (1972). As the track had rarely been performed on guitar, Smith chose to handle things via funky clavinet riffs performed by great pianist Alan Alexander and great horns by the Martin Brothers (Stan on
trumpet, Scott on saxophone and Andy on trombone).

On ‘95 Drive,’ Smith chose to compose an easy going groovy tune that any smooth jazz lover would play on his car’s CD player while driving to a sunny destination. I liked it’s infectious spirit.

‘Just Groovin’ is a mid-tempo track enriched by the Martin Brother’s great work on horns. They have performed for various Grammy Award winning artists such as Quincy Jones, Barry Manilow, Ray Charles and many others. Smith says, “the Martin Brothers opened up the piece and
made it phat with great horn bips and bops.”

‘I am beside you’ is Smith’s assertion of his religious faith. “I have been really blessed with not only an opportunity to sport my talents,” he said,  “but to make a few CDs and all that goes with that process. I know I’m getting the go-ahead from a higher source than I.” ‘Groove 106’ is a fun piece that Smith developed while fooling around with various tempos. As Smith did not really have a name for it, he titled it after his metronome setting at 106 beats per minute.

The last three tunes, ‘Forever Friends,’ ‘Ticket to Miami’ and ‘Blue Bossa’ have a more Latin flavour. Indeed Smith has always been intrigued with the rhythms, the horns, the bass and just the overall sound of musicians such Arturo Sandoval, Jobim, Ponco Sanchez and Tito Puente. ‘Forever Friends’ demonstrates Smith’s acoustic guitar skills. ‘Ticket to Miami’ is a slow tempo that will drive you to the Latin sound of this southeastern Florida city. The album ends up with a great cover of famous trumpeter and composer Kenny Dorham’s Bossa Nova standard ‘Blue Bossa,’ originally composed in 1965.

This CD, as his previous ones, has been a growing process for this talented guitarist. And this continuous quest for the best guitar sound results in a highly recommendable CD, which gets him closer to greatest jazz guitarists such as Wes Montgomery and George Benson. - by Akbar Nour

When, in 2007 I reviewed ‘Simply Stated’ by guitarist Ronny Smith I described him as creating a mood that is nothing short of precious. Although the album included re-imaginations of tracks from his 2002 sophomore project ‘Laid Back’ and the 2005 offering ‘Got Groove’ it was a body of work that showed off the increasing maturity of his playing. It also confirmed him as a notable songwriter and now he is back with his fifth solo CD, the appropriately titled ‘Just Groovin’.

The fact Smith grew up listening to Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and George Benson does much to explain the tight melodic style that categorizes his playing and which he began to develop while still in junior high school. The time he subsequently spent performing, first with various bands at University then later in the armed forces, expanded both his geographic and musical horizons and led him to a career as a sought after backing musician. Collaborations with artists as diverse as the Marvellettes, Melba Moore and jazz drummer Bobby Durham all added to Smith’s reputation and now signed to the highly rated boutique label Pacific Coast Jazz he seems well placed to continue his musical journey.

For ‘Just Groovin’ Smith writes eight of the choice ten tunes and with the title cut delivers a smoky stunner enriched by luscious horns that come courtesy of the Martin brothers. This trio of Stan, Martin, and Andy return to add considerable pizzazz to Smith’s feisty version of the Stevie Wonder classic ‘Superstition’ and are again on hand for the delightfully in the pocket ‘Groove 106’.

Although ‘Here We Go Again’ proves to be one of Smith’s typically infectious contemporary jazz stunners and the intricate ‘Blue Bossa’ shimmers with Latin energy, it is when easing down the tempo that he is often found at his dazzling best. The sumptuous ‘I’m Beside You’ is a case in point while the delicately evocative ‘Forever Friends’ is nothing short of spellbinding. The edge that Smith’s production adds to the mellow swagger of ‘Ticket To Miami’ is a joy but when he moves closer to regulation smooth jazz territory he comes up with what are arguably the albums top two tracks. ‘95 Drive’ is replete with the mid tempo rhythm and melody that epitomizes the finest the genre has to offer yet even better is the aptly named ‘Smooth’. With a groove to die for and splashes of Hammond B3 this is one seriously good tune and likely to become a Smooth Jazz Therapy top twenty choice of 2009.

‘Just Groovin’ is the perfect way to become acquainted with Ronny Smith’s special vibe. It is due out on May 18 and comes highly recommended.

For more and to get the latest on Ronny Smith go to www.ronnysmith.com.