Jon Dalton is a former UK resident now living in Southern California. Like ex-pat Chris Standring, whom he most compares to musically, Dalton plays mostly electric guitar, but also dabbles in acoustic and computerized riffs on The Gift, a seasoned smooth jazz effort that shows maturity and a keen eye for the genre. Like Standring, Pat Metheny and Larry Carlton, Dalton is a leader in taking smooth jazz into a new era, one where the music hangs on to its aural friendliness, while also serving ample tasty chops.
Along with John Barton on tenor sax and John O’Hara on percussion and other instruments, Dalton offers ten easily digestible excursions frequently jumping into playful asides. For example, a strolling, whistle-like accompaniment rings throughout “Champosium,” and “You Can’t Do That!” throws out computerized strings, tambourine shakes and other fun blips and noises. They’re playful, but Dalton’s songs are firmly about radio-friendly memorable melodies and tight grooves. At the same time, he’s not afraid to actually play the guitar, like Standring, Metheny and Carlton do successfully.
One of the recording's many highlights is the cover tune, a slow Lee Ritenour-like groove over a soft percussive bed featuring record scratches. Dalton pays homage to smooth jazz guitar father figure Wes Montgomery on “The Dark Man” and “Westory,” two intoxicating tracks. The disc closes with “A Gift Returned,” a spare ballad where Dalton’s emotive guitar evokes hope and longing. He wrote the song in memory of a friend.