As Graffiti6’s sophomore album The Bridge opens, with the deep echo of piano keys introducing a short, stripped version of “Beside You” before transitioning into the album’s massive title track, it becomes clear that Jamie Scott and Tommy “TommyD” Danvers have experienced just as large a musical evolution since the original 2010 release of debut album Colours. Since then, the Colours album era produced notable singles in “Free” and “Stare Into The Sun,” while each member of the duo expanded their horizons individually — Scott’s songwriting played a major role in the breakout success of One Direction, and he added songwriter credits for Christina Perri, Michael Kiwanuka, 5 Seconds of Summer, Little Mix, and more; Danvers, meanwhile, provided production and orchestration work for several artists, including fun., Emeli Sandé, Tinie Tempah, and Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher. Accordingly, the sound of Graffiti6 as an ensemble has grown as well, drawing from each member’s new influences. Throughout the album’s fifteen tracks, layers of background harmonies, expressive piano and string lines, and production elements pack a punch behind sentimental lyrics of love and loss, creating a wide, expansive soundscape that is as engaging over the long term as it is catchy upon the first listen.

One of the highlights of The Bridge is its title track, in which heavy percussive beats, guitar slides, and impassioned harmonies surround lyrics that evoke loss and helplessness, searching for a comfort zone after a breakup. A similar lost sentiment is heard in an ode for restless insomniacs, “Losing My Mind,” followed by the post-breakup tale of living “Separate Lives,” whose extended coda is a tender, yearning cry: Scott cries out “I miss you, I miss you here, miss your love…” as a soft bed of synths, echoing vocals, and a string line builds until it seemingly ascends into the clouds. Previously-released Christmas song “No Snow” is also included, a smoldering original take on the themes of the classic “Blue Christmas.” However, not everything is dark and dismal, as evidenced by the album’s kaleidoscopic cover artwork: Graffiti6 returns to their familiar theme of sunshine, comparing it to the feeling of love on upbeat track “U Got The Sunshine;” on the intro and extended versions of “Beside You” that serve as the album’s bookends, a couple resolves to stay together through thick and thin.

In addition to several songs with a more traditional, radio-friendly structure, The Bridge includes multiple cuts more akin to jam sessions, following in the footsteps of debut album track “Calm The Storm.” While “Washed My Sins,” which first premiered on YouTube last May, continues to build into a frenzy with each refrain, others (“We Fall Forever,” “Resting Place”) feel a little too long and repetitive even despite their fluid instrumental sections. However, to their credit, these work to provide more focus on the band’s multifaceted production and instrumentation, which draw from the duo’s vast array of musical influences. Like on their debut album Colours, Scott’s smooth vocals are enhanced by TommyD’s production skills — from the sweeping strings on “Separate Lives” to the frenetic beats in “Washed My Sins” and “We Fall Forever,” the production showcases the musical expansion and invention that Graffiti6 has experienced since the release of Colours. As a result, The Bridge is a follow-up release that is anything but a sophomore slump — instead, it is the musical result of looking through a kaleidoscope, demonstrating a formidable melange of genres and influences that shifts boundaries while staying true to the band’s own formula of charming lyricism and adventurous genre-hopping.

After his wife of over forty years, Corine, passed away in 2012, it took George Duke several months to regain musical inspiration. Following an evening spent enjoying the art of other musicians while vacationing on a cruise ship, he sat on his deck in wait of the sunrise when inspiration began to return. Much like this wave of ideas that flowed into Duke’s mind, DreamWeaver’s title track begins with a soft, synth-fueled wave from which second track “Stones of Orion” emerges, a light instrumental number that includes a four-piece horn section (including flute), Stanley Clarke on bass, and Duke twinkling on keys. Beyond, Duke fondly remembers his late wife on tracks like “Missing You” — whose lyrics were rewritten from a direct, autobiographical standpoint to a more general subject as vocalist Rachelle Ferrell took over vocal duties — and deluxe album closer “Happy Trails,” a cover of the 1950s theme song by Dale Evans and Roy Rogers. However, the album as a whole is more celebratory than grieving: despite Duke’s inevitable heartache, DreamWeaver includes several upbeat, funky instrumental sections and hopeful, forward-moving moments on “Change The World” and “Round The Way Girl,” in which Duke rekindles his romantic flame.

In addition to the remembrance of his wife, Duke reflects on his love and discovery of music. A mix of genres weave into the sound of the album: R&B, jazz, funk, adult contemporary soul, and spoken word are all represented, and Duke lays synthesizer lines over many of the tracks. With vocals harmonized on the octave and solos on muted trumpet and guitar, early standout “Trippin'” looks back at Duke’s childhood and the musical influence spread by his neighbor, a jazz aficionado. Further into the album, these genres are woven together between an introduction and two transitional interludes, and the threads that compose DreamWeaver are host to a vast number of collaborators, including vocalist Lalah Hathaway, bassist Christian McBride, and one of the final recordings from R&B icon Teena Marie. Along with the instrumental introduction, several of the album’s thirteen tracks offer moments for them and many other musicians to take the spotlight.

While DreamWeaver stretches to nearly all of the eighty-minute length of a physical CD, several moments could be benefited with less length. The fifteen-minute “Burnt Sausage Jam” slips fluidly through three movements of instrumental funk which, while engaging in the short term, often grow repetitive with minutes to spare. The same conclusion can be made for rock-leaning “Brown Sneakers,” whose six-minute length fails to hold interest with the same pace and energy that earlier, shorter standout “AshTray” achieves. This is not to take away from the musical finesse of Duke and his many well-known collaborators, all of whom perform and vibe together with evident skill, highlighted in moments like the guitar and trumpet trades of “Jazzmatazz” and the electric guitar solo on the first half of “Brown Speakers.”

These moments of repetition, however, do not keep DreamWeaver from being a celebratory, enjoyable body of work than spans multiple styles of music. George Duke’s final album is a formidable collection forged in fond remembrance of lengthy relationships with the wife and music that he loved.

As previously displayed on his first two GRAMMY-nominated albums, 2011 debut Water and its 2012 follow-up Be Good, Gregory Porter overflows with expression through deep, soulful baritone vocals. Whereas his previous works focused more heavily on political and historical matter, his Blue Note debut Liquid Spirit takes a more personal turn, telling stories of community, affirmation, and love. Porter’s love for the blues, gospel, and soul genres that influence the sounds of Liquid Spirit come from his musical upbringing, citing the renowned vocalist Nat King Cole as a lifelong inspiration alongside saxophonists John Coltrane and Lester Young. As such, the tonal image of the saxophone is evoked as Porter sings, addressing topics familial and romantic as well as historical. The relaxed tone of the Los Angeles native’s vocals deliver sweet, loving lines like those in “Hey Laura” and “Wolfcry,” while “Free” is punctuated with accents and percussion as Porter thanks his parents for their love and sacrifice. Even “Brown Grass,” the album’s emotional low point, shines deceptively with light piano chords that twinkle under Porter’s ever-warm, effortless melodies. Throughout the album, the experiential lyrics written are propelled by the genuine humility and friendliness of Porter’s personality, which is easily carried by the boom of the gentle giant’s thick baritone.

While Water and Be Good employed a larger amount of instrumental solos, Porter takes a more centered role on this third album. These solos are more abridged as well — only three of the album’s fourteen tracks stretch beyond five minutes in length — and whereas his earlier works contained more brass solos and a few scat choruses from Porter himself, Liquid Spirit is mainly populated with saxophone, bass, and piano. This allows Porter’s vocal to shine as the main act of each song, putting his lyrics and comfortable delivery at center stage.

Of Porter’s three albums, Liquid Spirit is the first not to close with an a cappella cover, the previous two showcasing his vocals over classics “Feeling Good” and “God Bless The Child.” Arguably, such a bare display of Porter’s vocals is unnecessary on this collection of songs: he displays emotion and warmth in spades throughout the album such that the reminder of his talent is unneeded, and the conviction of his vocal gives the instrumental underbelly opportunity to further cradle his melody without overpowering it. Porter’s Spirit flows as freely as water here, and as comfortably as he has shown in live performances in the past. Pairing with legendary jazz label Blue Note for the first time on this release, this may be the album that moves Porter closer toward legendary status as well.