What We're Listening To ** May 2015

P E T E R * B O E H I

Rocco Ventrella - Another Time (2015)
Saxophonist Rocco Ventrella hails from Bari, Italy and delivers a beautiful smooth jazz album with his latest and - in my opinion - best album, it was produced by keyboardist Greg Manning and recorded in California. Rocco is backed by a killer band and has vocalists Kenya Hathaway and Ilaria De Robertis guesting, both providing some truly heartfelt singing on the album's only two vocals. Rocco's sax and soulful playing shine throughout. Very recommended!

Nils Gessinger - Jam It Up! (2003)
I just discovered this German keyboard player recently, he has 5 albums out - two of them even on GRP Records - that feature some top-drawer US players. On this release, he has artists like Dave Weckl on drums, Peter Weniger on sax and Joe Gallardo on trombone guesting. The material ranges from TOP influenced jazz-funk tracks with a big horn section to nice smooth jazz instrumentals like "Cozumel", delivering a solid mix of jazz based, funky music crossing many musical borders. Thumbs up!

B3 - Back To My Roots (2014)
This album is a great discovery, it is a funk-jazz fest of the highest order provided by a band around hammond B3 and keyboard player Andreas Hommelsheim. The musician is located in Berlin, Germany and usually works in the movie industry, on this CD, he delivers a great funky mix of music with his fellow players Christian Krauss on bass and Lutz Halfter on drums, plus a host of guests adding lots of nice solos. All killer, no filler!

Jessy J - My One And Only One (2015)
Saxophonist Jessy J delivers her best album to date, this artist has matured well over the years and together with producer Paul Brown - who also add lots of nice guitar playing to the album - Jessy J provides pure smooth jazz bliss. Her warm, sultry saxophone sound is perfectly complemented by the stellar band, the songs range from laid back to funky and are always up to the point. Her cover of Adele's "Lovesong" is killing me. Simply outstanding!

Mikio Masuda - Silver Shadow (1980)
My nod to the past goes to this album by Japanese keyboarder Mikio Masuda, one of the few that is still available on LP only. Supported by a great band of Japanese players, he offers a nice set of groovy fusion and smooth jazz tracks, the opening track reminds me a lot of Neil Larsen's "Sudden Samba". Quality stuff from beginning to end!

East Bay Soul - That's Life

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole's Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

In just a few short years Greg Adams has built his East Bay Soul creation into the preeminent horn driven collective of its era. Indeed since the band's self-titled debut hit the streets in 2009 the army of 'funk soldiers' who hang on the band's every note has increased at an incredible rate. The follow-up, East Bay Soul 2.0, that came along in 2012 only served to underwrite ESB's undisputed credentials and now Adams' has taken the project to a whole new level with the simply incredible That's Life.

The last performer of the festival was guitarist Chuck Loeb, who just flew in from NY the day before, he was in fine form and ready to play. With his wife being from Spain, he had personal relationship with this country and even addressed the audience in Spanish. He was accompanied by the house band (Finnie, Asbeck and Deterra), the first song played was "Silver Lining" from his latest release Silhouette, a song that would also be a perfect choice for Fourplay, the all-star band he also plays with. Next was one of his biggest smooth jazz hits, the awesome "The Music Inside", where he pulled all the stops, before he got a lot jazzier with "Appreciation". After having appreciated his love for James Taylor, he did his rendition of "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" that went down very well, before he did the Joe Zawinul composition "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", made by famous by Cannonball Adderley, with guest Paul Brown on guitar, which was another memorable performance. Then he played "Lucas", dedicated to his daughters, that had an introspective intro, before the song built to a great climax. This song marked the end of his set, he returned for one encore together with Paul Brown, doing a Blues shuffle trading licks between guitars, plus some spirited solos by all members of the band. This great show was well received and marked the end of the festival.

This was another exciting and memorable Smooth Jazz Festival Mallorca that provided many great musical moments, meeting artists and being among your fellow music aficionados from all across the world, making us a big smooth jazz family. Mark your calendar for next year's 5th edition which takes place April 28 - May 1, 2016.

Sunday morning, Four80East appeared, the band hails from Toronto, Canada and is fronted by keyboardist Rob DeBoer and percussionist Tony Grace. They were accompanied by Marcus Finnie on drums, Günter Asbeck on bass, Martin Feske on guitar, plus local saxophonist Miguel Ramon. The groove went like a red thread through the show, having our heads bopping throughout, with tracks like "Sandbar", "Montreux", "En Route", "Waterline", "Noodle Soup" and more, especially fun was the track "Eastside" with the audience singing the vocal parts. Each player added some nice solos, especially Miguel Ramon on sax and Martin Feske on guitar were frequently adding their voices to the proceedings, while the two leaders impressed on keys and percussion, making this another entertaining concert.

Then rising star Vincent Ingala did his show. This young player is a very talented musician, has a lot of stage personality and knows how to work a crowd. He was supported by the house band (Finnie, Deterra, Feske and Asbeck), he went right into it with an energetic saxophone track that put us right in the mood, followed by his rendition of "If I Can Fly". For the next track, he picked up the guitar and invited guest Paul Brown on guitar, to play a smashing version of People Choice's "Do It Any Way You Wanna" with him, bringing the house down. As Vincent Ingala let us know his father was a DJ, and by going trough his well selected record collection, he discovered many gems from this classic era, turning him in a big lover of the Philly catalog, Motown and more, shaping his musical taste. Next was "Vintage Vibe" from his debut album, before he did the Moments classic "Look At Me, I'm In Love", a song that just begged for a saxophone cover when he heard it the first time. One more great guitar track followed, showing his prowess on this instrument too, before he did his heartfelt version of Carlos Santana's "Europe" on sax, a song that gave guitarist Martin Feske ample opportunities to add some great playing, making this a highlight of the show. He finished his show with Jr. Walker's "What Does It Take To Win Your Love" and returned for an encore, playing M.F.S.B.'s "K-Jee" from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, showing his great taste and knowledge of music. This was one of the best shows of the whole festival for me.

Saturday evening, singer and keyboardist John Stoddart, who is a regular member of Kirk Whalum's band, got his own slot at the festival. He appeared with Marcus Finnie on drums, Günter Asbeck on bass and Martin Feske on guitar, performing songs from his own catalog. He started his show with the appropriate "Lovely Day", a classic penned by Bill Withers, with some audience singalong, followed by "Things Are Gonna Get Easier". He slowed things down with "I Still Believe", written on his 2nd wedding anniversary, when things weren't going so easily, and "A Promise Is A Promise", reaffirming his wedding vows. Staying in this mould, he did "You Are So Beautiful" that segued into "Send Me An Angel" with a great guest performance by Kirk Whalum who did a nice soprano solo. A highlight of the show was his cool and sexy "Tender Hearted Lover" with a walk into the audience serenading the women, until his wife who was in the audience jokingly interfered, we all had a lot of fun. As a special treat, he performed a yet unrecorded song just accompanied by Martin Feske on guitar, before the pace picked up again with "More Than You And Me", bringing a satisfying and entertaining show to an end.

After the intermission, saxophonist Kirk Whalum appeared, he had with him his original band members Marcus Finnie on drums and John Stoddart on keys, plus Günter Asbeck on bass and Martin Feske on guitar. He started his set with drummer Marcus Finnie's composition "Fish And Spaghetti" from the drummer's Boundless album, before he played material from his own catalog, like "Do You Feel Me", bringing a southern feeling to the show, "Cain't Stay Blue" from his current Gospel According To Jazz Chapter IV project and his rendition of Maxwell's "Ascension", that has become a staple of his show. He slowed things down with a heartfelt acappella version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" wandering around in the audience while doing this song. John Stoddart got his slot as well, before they raised the heat again with the great Stevie Wonder composition "All I Do", another song that has become a firm part of his shows. This was another solid set by this consummate and spirited artist.

Friday night, the festival continued with guitarist Paul Brown doing his own thing. He was supported by the house band (Martin Feske on guitar, Lutz Deterra on keys, Günter Asbeck on bass and Marcus Finnie on drums) who as always did a great job. He kicked off his show with Grover's "Winelight", followed by the cool "Brother Earl", bringing things nicely up to speed. He slowed it down a bit with his cool cover of Mark/Almond's "The City", before the pace picked up again with "The Funky Joint", a track named after his studio. Then he invited singer Melina, his latest protégée, to the stage to do "Love And Trust" with him, before he delved deeper into his catalog with songs like , "Sugarfish" and "Foreign Exchange", the title track from his collaboration album with Marc Antoine, with Martin Feske doing an excellent job taking care of his guitar part. Later he invited saxophonist Vincent Ingala to the proceedings, providing some soulful playing, this young artist amazes me each time he plays, he sounds like a seasoned player with his perfect technique and emotional expression. Another highlight was his rendition of the Bill Withers classic "Ain't No Sunshine" with Jonathan Fritzen on keyboards, both players poured all their heart into the performance. Paul Brown veered off into blues territory playing "Hurricane" from his Brothers Brown project, a blues band he has on the side with his brothers. They concluded the show with the groovy "24/7" with two additional horn players from the local band Saxophobia, each one doing a hot sax solo, before they returned for an encore, having all players on the stage, doing a great cover of "Ain't No Stopping Us Now", having people get off their seats.

Friday morning, we made a little trip to a nearby market at the small village Son Servera, we drove there with two shuttle buses. After a bit of shopping and checking out the place, we went to an old church named "esglesia nova" that never was finished, only the walls were standing, providing a great setting for an open air concert by singer Melina. The sky was blue and there was nice breeze going during the show. Melina hails from San Antonio, Texas and just finished her first album Wishing On Love that was produced by Paul Brown. She kicked off her show with "Killing Me Softly With His Song" before Paul Brown on guitar joined the stage. They did a number of tracks from that album, starting with "Stay With Me Tonight", followed by Luther's "Superstar", her own "Maybe Not Today", Mary J. Blige's "I'm Going Down", Etta James' "At Last" in a funked up version and the heavy grooving "It's Love", with lots of nice solos by Paul Brown. Melina is a great singer with a strong voice and impeccable intonation, who is a joy to listen to. She finished her show with the Jacksons classic "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" with guest Vincent Ingala on saxophone, giving every member of the band some solo space, this song had people dance in the aisles. They came back for an encore, doing "Let's Stay Together, bringing a great show to an end.

Next was saxophonist Euge Groove who did a powerful, funky show featuring his gutsy saxophone playing, supported by the house band. He opened his show with "House Of Groove" which segued into "Faithful Central", after that he did several songs from his current Got 2 Be Groovin' album, like "Rain Down On Me", "Homie Gown" with special guest Paul Brown on guitar, plus several tracks from his catalog like "Living Large" and "Slam Dunk" from his debut album, having people groove in their seats. He did his usual booty dance contest and gave a vinyl copy of his current album away to the best dancer. A nice track was the laid back "Just My Imagination" that was just beautifully played, plus an acappella version of "Amazing Grace". At the end of the show, he got really funky with "From The TOP" (his reference to Tower of Power) where he invited Vincent Ingala to the stage, who took no prisoners as well. This was an awesome show by one of the best sax players on the scene.