Over the course of any artist's career, one simple question begs to be asked by critics and listeners alike--who are your influences? It's rare that one actually takes the time to answer the question in crystalline musical form, but that's exactly what keyboard whiz Kim Pensyl has done on the cleverly titled Under The Influence, which is cleverly divided into unique reworkings of Pensyl favorites (by the Doobie Brothers, Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire and Steely Dan) and flashy jazz, funk and blues originals inspired by their inimitable styles. Pensyl has shown that he can do just about anything when it comes to piano and synth tricks of the melodic trade, so this time, since he was reaching back anyway, he felt it only right to give equal attention to his first instrument, the trumpet. Pensyl is so convincing that, in some spots, you could swear you're listening to some of Rick Braun's best work. What makes this ingenious collection tick, though, are the unique arrangements as well as some stellar backup playing by musicians who backed up Pensyl in his college days. After doing the tried and true, picture perfect pop-jazz thing for so long, it's nice to see a performer dig deeper into the core of his art and execute a theme so joyously. ~ Jonathan Widran, Rovi

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