Paula Atherton | Dancin’ Shoes Review


Paula Atherton | Dancin’ Shoes Review

by Darnell Jackson

Paula-Atherton-5-Finger-Review-CDPaula Atherton’s latest offering, Dancin’ Shoes, emerges as eleven tracks of finely performed and composed smooth jazz’s vibrant future. Each selection effortlessly presents catchy motifs with modern sensibilities of the smoothest groove and funk. I found Atherton’s seventh full-length album to be a compelling narrative of musical exploration and expression. Dancin’ Shoes is Atherton and a cadre of distinguished producers—Greg Manning, Adam Hawley, Jacob Webb, Curtis Harmon, and Lou Gimenez—crafting a tapestry rich in texture and emotion.

From the onset with “Baila,” Atherton brings the groove and her smooth bebop-inspired jazz vocabulary. The piece’s Latin flair is more than a nod to jazz’s global influences; it celebrates the genre’s ability to absorb and reflect diverse cultures. Her warm and inviting flute dances atop a rhythm section that’s both precise and exuberant, encapsulating the joyous spirit of Latin jazz. It’s a fitting opener that showcases Atherton’s virtuosity and sets the tone for an album unafraid to embrace variety.

In “Inside Out & Backwards,” Atherton dives into the deep waters of funk, melding intricate alto saxophone lines with an undeniable groove. This track illustrates the seamless blend of jazz’s foundational elements with the unbound creativity of funk, showcasing Atherton’s ability to navigate complex rhythmic landscapes easily. The interplay between the saxophone and the rhythm section here is a wonderfully stimulating musical conversation, highlighting Atherton’s exceptional ability to lead and respond equally.

“Keep it Comin'” stands out for its chart-topping success and embodying the smooth jazz ethos. Here, Atherton’sPaula-Atherton-1 alto saxophone is both narrator and protagonist, weaving tales of resilience and hope against a backdrop of lush ensemble sounds. This track, produced by Jacob Webb, exemplifies the power of collaboration in jazz, a reminder of how the genre thrives on the collective energy of its practitioners.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in Dancin’ Shoes is “Give Me A Reason.” This track is a heart-stirring blend of soul and jazz, with Atherton’s vocal performance taking center stage. Her ability to convey deep emotional landscapes through her voice and saxophone is remarkable. The inclusion of trumpet and trombone adds a layer of richness to the arrangement, creating a sonic depth that is immersive and intensely moving.

The title track, “Dancin’ Shoes,” encapsulates the album’s ethos—music as an invitation to joy. Produced by Greg Manning, the track is a vibrant celebration, an irresistible call to the dancefloor. Atherton’s agile and expressive saxophone rides atop a groove that is infectious and sophisticated. This is the essence of Dancin’ Shoes : music that moves the body and the soul, that bridges the gap between the cerebral and the visceral.

Throughout Dancin’ Shoes , Paula Atherton doesn’t just perform; she invites us into her world, where jazz is not confined by tradition but continually reborn through innovation. Each track serves as a chapter in a broader narrative that speaks to the genre’s enduring legacy and boundless potential.


In closing, Dancin’ Shoes is a delightful album; it’s a smooth jazz statement. With her exceptional talent and visionary approach, Paula Atherton reaffirms that smooth jazz remains a vibrant, evolving art form. For listeners, Dancin’ Shoes offers a glimpse into the future of jazz—a future that, under the stewardship of artists like Atherton, is as bright as it is boundless. As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, Dancin’ Shoes provides music’s transformative power and smooth jazz’s unique ability to inspire life’s moments.

5 Finger gives a review of 90

Dancin Shoes

Release Date: April 19, 2024

Label: Dream On Records

About the author

Darnell Jackson

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