Studio D’Lux culls its lineup of musical heavy hitters from several famed sources. Led by singer/songwriter and musician Doug Kistner, a veteran of tenures with John Waite, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Blood, Sweat & Tears, among others, other five-star talents join the keyboardist as well. Legendary vocalist and successful songwriter Bill Champlin, longtime Billy Joel drummer Liberty DeVitto, current Steely Dan guitarist Jon Herington, and bassist Malcolm Gold bring considerable firepower to bear on Studio D’Lux’s new single “Slow Burn”. It’s a follow-up to the project’s December 2022 EP that’s logged 200,000 Spotify streams since its release and promises to expand the band’s popularity exponentially.

The musical core of the song builds around Kistner’s dexterous piano playing and the formidable rhythm section playing from DeVitto and Gold. DeVitto is especially crucial as he anchors the track with his trademark authoritative drumming. Gold’s bass playing is an excellent yet unobtrusive match for DeVitto. Kistner has a strong and personable vocal presence and Champlin’s soulful timbre adds well-chosen layers to the song it would otherwise lack. They prove to be an appealing pairing throughout the performance.

“Slow Burn” covers familiar territory for its subject without ever lapsing into cliché. Experience brands the song rather than coy youthful exuberance, but never lacks energy. It rides an up-tempo surge from the outset, propelled in no small part by DeVitto’s aforementioned drumming, The track’s sturdy and coherent construction features one payoff moment after another without ever prattling on too long; Kistner’s artistic instincts tailor this composition with an attentive ear that achieves its goals without an extraneous second.

Herington’s guitar solo is noteworthy and the song’s arguable musical highlight. The same class and distinction he’s brought to his role in bringing Steely Dan’s vaunted catalog to life serve him well. Herington keys into the song’s demands and responds accordingly without hogging the spotlight for himself; it is a virtuoso moment without forgetting its purpose. Kistner deserves kudos for several reasons but perhaps his greatest achievement is recruiting the right musicians to realize the project’s potential. Herington’s addition may be the crowning touch.

Studio D’Lux is far from a cliched supergroup or vanity project. It is a living breathing musical unit that functions as a band rather than an ad hoc gathering of talent. The preceding EP release established their credentials as a band and “Slow Burn” reinforces that collection’s promise. They bring a wealth of combined experience to the table that few other bands working today can match and Kistner comes across as a major talent reaching the peak of his powers.

They have the necessary gifts to go wherever they like from here. Accompanying them on that journey is a gift, as well, and this latest turn in their musical voyage resonates with genuine feeling and effortless skill. This is a release well worth your time and money. Music devotees should seek out anything Studio D’Lux does as “Slow Burn” shows they know their craft as few others ever do or will. It’s only going to keep getting better from here. 

Garth Thomas