Saint-Germain-des-Prés Café II

For those of us that can't make it to Paris and take up a seat by a posh café and listen to beautiful jazz all afternoon, Café II will have to do. Though this is more the soundtrack that would be playing at the more modern and trendy patios rather than the traditional, for it's a fusion of electronic and jazz that sometimes reaches borderline dance music rather than lounge. If it weren't for the fact that you're being told that none of these tracks were written before the year 2000, you would guess this compilation was an offering of tracks from the '50s to the present. Finely blending upbeat jazz with slow groove lounge, Saint-Germain-des-Prés has you hooked for the first half of the record. There's even a drop of one of the funkiest renditions of "Hit The Road Jack" you'll ever hear. But then the plot gets a little lost and there and the tempo changes to more of a dance feel with a bit more of a pulsating beat in the cuts. This doesn't really sit well with the rest of the organic-sounding tracks on the record, especially after such a strong start. Luckily things get back on track for the finale, and the whole marathon (77 minutes) is capped off by Ashley Slater's "Private Sunshine," which uses Gil Evans' lyrical sample to highlight lush strings and brushed drums. There's the odd bump in the road, but when there's a clear path, Saint-Germain-des-Prés takes full advantage and enjoys the ride. (Wagram)