Carol Duboc’s ‘Colored Glasses’ is happily hypnotic

By Carol Banks Weber, The Jazz Examiner

If Carol Duboc’s 2013 hit album Smile with Grammy-nominated keyboardist Jeff Lorber weathered the emotional storms of a heartbreak, her upcoming follow-up’s the happy result. Due out on September 18 — with a full-on splashy, star-studded CD release party scheduled at Hollywood’s Baked Potato — Colored Glasses continues the sparkling meeting of the minds between a proven celebrity L.A. songwriter and her muse. The 10 original songs were co-written and co-produced once again by Duboc and Lorber, with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist Jimmy Haslip, and guitarist Michael Thompson back for another round. They are joined by saxophonist Eric Marienthal, acoustic bassist Brian Bromberg, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., percussionist Lenny Castro, horn player/horn arranger Dave Mann, alto flutist Hubert Laws, background vocalists Jeff Pescetto, and Lori and Sharon Perry.

Once again, Duboc with Lorber puts the same pop-savvy magic into her own personal accounts as she did with countless Top 40, platinum-selling artists. They have included Patti LaBelle, Tom Jones, Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, and Stephanie Mills. Just as with Smile’s breakout hit, “Elephant,” which hit #2 on the Groove Jazz Music chart and #28 on the Billboards, this new album’s ripe for several chart-toppers. “Wavelength” already boasts its own official music video, ready to go before the release date. Add “Hypnotic,” “Breathing,” and the title track to that hit-making score.

While all three of the new singles groove differently, the amazing melody is all hers, on a mostly breezy high with a cool R&B, smooth jazz rhythm and easy lyrics that slip in and out of the tuneful, evocative vibes. It’s like she cushions every retrospective with a lush landscape of only the best musicians in all the right places: Laws lifts “Celestial Skies” even higher with his sky-bird flute quotient, “Walking In My Sleep” is made all the more inviting on the turns of Thompson’s forested guitar strokes, the bass, drums, and guitars are popping the funk in “Code Red.”

A particular keyboardist with a particular groove, Lorber seems the perfect fit to Duboc’s melodic and lyrical strengths. He provides her with an undercurrent of an almost luxurious comfort, while the session musicians filter in unpredictable shifts of time, with pops of color. Again, “Code Red.”

The only danger with distinctive artists laying tracks in the pocket for all this time is the tendency to lay the same vibe. There are times that one song blends into the other, with “Hypnotic’s” seduction flowing into “Spinning,” “Every Shade Of Blue’s” percussive threat bleeding into “Spinning’s” slow groove, or is it “Celestial Skies?” It is when Duboc lets more of the R&B flow with sharp, succulent lapses — “Trajectory’s” the dark horse hit single that should follow “Wavelength” — that she makes a different sort of statement from her previous recordings and stirs up the tranquil, smooth jazz constant.

The title track is interesting, because of the lyrics: “You drive a big, fancy car, and the weather is good no matter where you are. Still wearing your big Rolex watch, and it doesn’t really matter if it’s working or not ‘cause you wear colored glasses, hides the madness.”

The music’s a little more offbeat (the “Elephant” in the room), too. “Colored Glasses” would deftly apply to the fakes on Facebook, curating their lives for an imaginary audience and campaigning for the role of “Most Fabulous.” This song could use a little more originality and musicality, because the music and lyrics together seem to just fade into the background of the same Carol Duboc/Jeff Lorber atmosphere.

That’s not always a bad thing.

Carol Duboc’s Colored Glasses tour will include dates with the Jeff Lorber Fusion group.