Just because it's been 5 years in between solo albums doesn't mean that Steve Oliver has been laying low and putting the guitar in its case. Oliver and keyboardist, Brian Simpson, released the highly successful and musically grand duet album, Unified, that reached and held the top spot on the Amazon sales’ chart for several weeks, and just last year, put out the fan-requested solo guitar album, Sojourn, which was a collection of revisited songs from his discography.
2023 brings his latest offering, A New Light, and it's a stellar continuation of his illustrious career with this 10 song offering, all composed by the guitarist. Oliver enlists some major talent for this project, including the inimitable, multitalented Michael Broening, along with veteran saxman, Jeff Kashiwa, and other top flight talent to complement his infectious guitar melodies and trademark vocalese. I was delighted to see that his late 2021 single, Slingshot, (mixed by Euge Groove) found its way onto A New Light. And while it was nearly 3 years in between singles, the beautifully flowing “Skyway” had been one of the top smooth jazz singles of the year, with it being the first release from the full album.
“Freedom Drive” continues the uptempo side of the album with a blend of Oliver guitar, guitar synth and the vocalese sound we know and love along with a high degree of feel good factor and potential to be the next release, at least in my humble opinion.
The veteran Kashiwa offers some smooth sax accents and melodies on the title song itself that has a captivating and reflective vibe, leaning more towards a chill sound. “Sunkiss”,while uptempo, is as friendly and warm as the perfect summer day and so vibrantly engaging.
Throughout the album, Oliver shows his mastery through the simplicity of the album's arrangement, production, and instrumentation, proving that sticking to the basics and what he has become beloved for is always a winning formula.
Reviewed by Stu Berketo