Bill Ortiz‘s ‘Highest Wish’ is a thirteen-track collection of smooth R’n’B tunes representing a marked departure from the former Santana trumpeter’s past albums. His last EP release, ‘Winter In America,’ was named in tribute to iconic artist Gil Scott-Heron; however, with ‘Highest Wish’ Ortiz is stepping out of the shadows of his musical influences like Scott-Heron and is carving out his own unique space in the Jazz/Hip-Hop Fusion scene.

A perfect example of Ortiz’s unique style is found in the album’s title track, which is a particular highlight of the album. While it features an exciting Hip-Hop influenced drum beat as the back-bone of the track, it does not overpower the determined, faith-driven lyrics of guest artist Zunbi, of Zion I. Ortiz’s trumpet serves to support the hard-driving focal point of the song, playing short phrases around the beat and providing a welcome accompaniment to the track’s meaningful lyrical message.

Ortiz’s cover of Gil Scott-Heron‘s 1973 song “Winter in America” serves not only as a tribute to the late musical icon, but it also represents the most musically diverse track on the album. Scott-Heron’s lyrics ring true in the present day, and the choice of song adds a hint of politically charged lyricism to an album that is otherwise a mild collection of romantically motivated lyrics set to a smooth jazz soundscape.

In line with the music of Gil Scott-Heron, the seventh track from “Highest Wish,” titled “I Still Believe,” features poet Linda Tillery and the second appearance on the album by Hip-Hop artist, Zumbi. Tillery steals the show on the track, with an emotional reading of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

Bill Ortiz’s ‘Highest Wish’ makes for a largely enjoyable listening experience -in part- due to its innovative use of guest musicians, who do well in supporting Ortiz as he steps out into new ground on the album. While a few tracks on the album can become incredibly predictable in nature, songs such as “Highest Wish” and “Winter in America” give the album enough depth to extend its appeal to a broader listener base and make for an enjoyable listening experience.

The Jazz Line Rating - 3 Stars