Jason Ankeny [allmusic.com]
Combining Latin and African rhythms with the light textures of MOR jazz, Special EFX emerged as one of the most prominent world fusion groups of their era. Formed in New York in 1982, Special EFX were essentially a duo comprised of guitarist Chieli Minucci and Hungarian-born drummer/percussionist George Jinda; debuting in 1985 with the album Modern Manners, they often recruited other musicians to help flesh out their state-of-the-art sound, among them Dave Grusin, Omar Hakim, and McCoy Tyner. Long favoring an accessible and slick jazz-pop sound, the duo significantly altered their identity with 1990's Just Like Magic, adopting a more acoustic texture and exchanging Jinda's electronic percussion for what he dubbed ''wooden world music.''
After 1995's Body Language, Minucci and Jinda split, with the latter continuing to work under the Special EFX name. However, in early 1997, tragedy struck when Jinda -- having recently completed the album Here to Stay -- suffered a massive stroke and lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered. Jinda passed away in New York on January 11, 2001 at the age of 60.
After Jinda's passing, Minucci (who had transitioned into a successful solo artist) respectfully decided to continue recording under the Special EFX banner, occasionally appearing as Chieli Minucci & Special EFX. He debuted the new moniker with the album Sweet Surrender (2007), which found him revisiting many of Special EFX's eclectic stylistic influences, from Latin to funk to fusion jazz. He then returned to his solo work with the atmospheric, new age-infused companion albums Travels (2008) and East of the Sun (2008).
In 2010, Minucci delivered the two-disc Without You. Two years later, he returned with The Genesis, which featured several longtime Special EFX associates, including percussionist Omar Hakim, saxophonist/flute player David Mann, and pianist Lao Tizer. In 2017 Minucci marked Special EFX's 35th Anniversary with the release of Deep as the Night. Featured on the album were guest appearances from Tizer, as well as violinist Antoine Silverman and saxophonist Elan Trotman.