What We're Listening To ** June 2016

Paula Atherton - Ear Candy (2015)
This is a great jazz-funk album by saxophonist Paul Atherton, chock full of classic funk, Philly soul and old school R&B. Special guests include Nick Colionne, Cindy Bradley and Gail Jhonson who all contribute to this ultra groovy and soulful release, marking this release a pinnacle in this artist's career. Very recommended!

Will Downing - Black Pearls (2016)
Backed by some stellar musicians like saxophonist Najee, soul crooner Will Downing delivers some truly smooth r&b/soul, paying homage to some of his favorite female vocalists, classic songs abound, from "Don't Ask My Neighbors" to "Your Smile", "Street Life" and "Everlasting Love" and more, boasting lush production, beautiful melodies and thoughtful arrangements, a labor of love not to be missed!

Johnny Britt - Marvin Meets Miles (2016)
Singer and trumpet player Johnny Britt does his tribute to Marvin Gaye on this really nice album, his muted trumpet puts some spice into the music and yields the Miles reference, but in the end, it is a smooth collection of Marvin Gaye songs, from "Inner City Blues" to "Trouble Man", "Let's Get It On" and "What's Gong On", done with taste and style. Thumbs up!

Melvin Lee Davis & Tracy Carter - Kindred Spirits (2013)
This bass and keyboards duo of two top-session players delivers an awesome bunch of smooth and groovy instrumentals on the highest level of musicianship. For the discriminate listener!

Masahiko Satoh & Medical Sugar Bank - MSB (1979)
My nod to the past goes to this classic album by keyboardist Masahiko Satoh, the music is classic funk-fusion from the 70ies and 80ies with a distinct NYC vibe. Lots of great solos by all involved. MSB Two is also very recommended. Both have been released on CD in Japan. A true classic!

Smooth Jazz New York Presents the 2016 Smooth Cruise Season

New York, NY, June 9, 2016: Smooth Jazz New York in association with Marquee Concerts is pleased to present another star-studded contemporary jazz line up for New York City's original Smooth Cruise series, now in its 19th year. The 2016 season takes place aboard the Hornblower Infinity, a 210-foot luxury yacht.

The cruises set sail Wednesday evenings, July 13 through August 31. The summer's roster includes seven nights featuring more than a dozen of the world's most popular contemporary jazz and R&B acts in an intimate setting. With shows at 6:30 and 9:30pm, the Smooth Cruises depart from Pier 40, located at Houston Street at the West Side Highway and cruise down the Hudson River, offering world-class artists as well as exceptional views of the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, and the New York City skyline.

"It's great to be back onboard the Hornblower Infinity with for our 2016 season," notes Bill Zafiros, co-founder of Smooth Jazz New York. "We've curated an exciting array of jazz and R&B artists to perform this season with the added perk of the breathtaking harbor views that have come to make the Smooth Cruises so popular for almost two decades."

THE 2016 SMOOTH CRUISE SCHEDULE:

Wed., July 13: Jonathan Butler & Gerald Albright
Wed., July 27: BWB with Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum & Rick Braun
Wed., August 3: The return of Down to the Bone
Wed., August 10: Rachelle Ferrell & Rahsaan Patterson
Wed., August 17: Najee & Alex Bugnon
Wed., August 24: Roy Ayers & Nick Colionne
Wed., August 31: Freddie Jackson & Eric Darius

The spacious Hornblower Infinity features an open bow, covered sky deck and over-sized windows that provide endless opportunities to enjoy sights of New York Harbor as guests enjoy the music of world-renowned artists. The yacht features spacious exterior sun decks and includes climate controlled interior decks with multiple dance floors, enabling the cruises to sail rain or shine.

The Smooth Cruises offer food and beverage service at an additional charge. A buffet dinner may be purchased for an additional $30 and there are cash bars on multiple decks. Limited Premium Ticket Packages feature a separate boarding line, a premium buffet on a private dining deck, premium open bar, and a reserved seating section.

For information and tickets, visit SmoothJazzNewYork.com. Tickets are ON SALE NOW at Ticketweb.com and by phone at 1-866-468-7619. Prices start at $45 depending upon time of purchase and ticket level. Smooth Cruise Early Bird ticket pricing is currently in effect through 11:59pm on Friday, June 10. See the web site for ticket options, package pricing, available limited time discounts, and a discount parking links. The Smooth Cruises sell out quickly and so it is recommended that tickets be purchased early.

About Smooth Jazz New York

Smooth Jazz New York, a subsidiary of Marquee Concerts, has produced the Smooth Cruises for the past 18 summer seasons. The organization produces and promotes New York's biggest and best Smooth Jazz shows and serves as the portal for live contemporary jazz shows in the New York Metropolitan area. Learn more at SmoothJazzNewYork.com.

About Marquee Concerts

NYC based Marquee Concerts, one of the premier independent concert promoters in the Northeast, produces hundreds of events across all spectrums and genres. Marquee is constantly researching new music trends, recognizing today's up-and-coming entertainers, and expanding upon existing business relationships to put on the best shows possible and remain a competitive mainstay in the concert promoter's industry. Learn more at MarqueeConcerts.com.

8 Consecutive Weeks, 80 Shows,  
15 Legendary Bands, 60 Iconic Musicians
October 19 through December 12, 2016 in New York City
 
  
Aaron Meekcoms, courtesy of Chick Corea Productions
New York, NY - June 6, 2016 - This fall, 22-time GRAMMY® Award-winning keyboardist and composer Chick Corea will make history with an unprecedented two-month 75th birthday celebration at The Blue Note, his musical home in New York City

Running October 19 through December 12, 2016, the 80-show engagement will feature Corea leading 15 legendary bands comprised of 60 musical friends from over half a century, marking a birthday celebration groundbreaking in scale, artistry and sheer musical power.

The full residency schedule can be found at the bottom of this press release.

Select highlights include:
  • "The Music of Return to Forever & More"
    The premiere of two unique ensembles playing the music of Return to Forever over the course of two respective weeks: Acoustic featuring Ravi Coltrane (sax), Hubert Laws (flute), Avishai Cohen (bass), and Lenny White (drums); and Electric featuring John McLaughlin (guitar), Victor Wooten (bass), and Lenny White (drums).
  • "For Miles"
    A celebration of the music of Miles Davis, featuring Kenny Garrett (saxophone) Wallace Roney (trumpet), Mike Stern (guitar), Marcus Miller (bass) and Brian Blade (drums).
  • Steve Gadd Week
    A deep dive into Corea's longtime musical partnership with drummer Steve Gadd through two different ensembles:  Three Quartets featuring bassist Eddie Gomez (bass) and Ben Solomon (saxo) and The Leprechaun Band.
  • "Experiments in Electronica"
    Since the 1960s, Corea's pioneering work on electronic keyboards (spanning Miles Davis, Return to Forever and the Elektric Band) has inspired generations of electronic musical innovators. This special two-night run will offer Chick's latest take on all things electronic, joined by Marcus Gilmore (drums) and leading genre-defying electronic explorers (TBA).
Corea's first Blue Note birthday run, marking his 60th anniversary in the fall of 2001, was a cathartic two-week engagement for a city just beginning to heal following the 9/11 attacks. The run produced the GRAMMY®-winning album Rendezvous in New York. In November 2011, he returned to The Blue Note with a month-long 70th birthday residency featuring countless artistic giants. This year's 75th birthday celebration marks his most ambitious Blue Note residency ever.

"From the level of talent that will be presented to the number of shows to the overall duration, this is an unrivaled residency in so many ways," says Steven BensusanPresident of Blue Note Entertainment Group. "You never see an artist take residency in a venue for this amount of time consecutively, and on this scale."

"Though most importantly, the fact that it commemorates our longtime friend and legend Chick Corea's 75th birthday makes this truly special, especially given Blue Note's deep relationship with Chick over the past 30 years," adds Bensusan. "We're looking forward to making history with Chick this fall."

Ticketing Information:
American Express® Card Members can purchase tickets in select markets before the general public beginning Wednesday, June 8 at 1pm EDT through Thursday, June 23 at 12:59pm EDT. Tickets will be available to the general public beginning on Thursday, June 23 at 1pm EDT. All tickets can be purchased at www.bluenotejazz.com or call 212-475-8592.
 
Chick Corea's 75th Birthday Celebration will feature two shows nightly, at 8pm and 10:30pm.

What We're Listening To ** May 2016

Nia - Nia (2015)
Nagashima Tomoko is Nia. Her self titled debut album was composed, arranged, and produced by jazz trumpet player Takuya Kuroda. It was recorded in NYC and delivers neo soul with quirky and very jazzy vocals, the music has strong jazz undercurrents and employs real instruments, there are several nice solos by all involved. Check it out!

Arno Haas - Back To You (2015)
German saxophone player Arno Haas delivered another picture perfect smooth jazz album, recorded in the US with a long list of top-notch players. Groovy and catchy tracks with lots of great playing by all involved. Very recommended!

Donald Hayes - Front Ground (2016)
Sax player Donald Hayes delivers a really nice smooth album that pushes all the right buttons, guests include Wayman Tisdale, John Stoddart and many more. Thumbs up!

Snarky Puppy - Cucha Vulcha (2016)
This band is on a roll, their latest release is a really spirited and decidedly groovy affair, this band of master players continues to evolve and deliver gem after gem. Don't miss it!

The Atlantic Family - Live At Montreux (1978)
My nod to the past goes to his classic 2LP set which was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival and features AWB, Klaus Doldinger, Don Ellis, Sonny Fortune, Ben E. King, Herbie Mann, Luther Vandross and many more. Long extended versions with tons of solos, especially notable is their rendition of "Pick Up The Pieces" clocking in at over 21 minutes. Pure mayhem!

Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival 2016

The 5th annual Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival took place like every year at the Protur Biomar Hotel in Mallorca, Spain over the first weekend in May, featuring a top-notch lineup of smooth jazz players, backed by two local bands of professional players from Germany and England. Smooth jazz fans from all over Europe and the US gathered on this Mediterranean island to have fun, meet like-minded music aficionados and mingle with the artists who stay at the same hotel, often with their spouses. This 5 star hotel provides the perfect setting for this event, with the hotel director being a big supporter of the event.

For the early birds, the festival started already on Tuesday with the gala diner with all the artists and musicians present, plus a concert by the local jazz-funk band Saxophobia Funk Project, followed by excursions and other activities the next days for people wanting to experience the island. This year, a local Bodega was visited, enhanced by a concert of Team Harmony, a sax and harmonica duo from Holland.

Wednesday night, the festival opened officially with the Smooth Jazz Allstars, a great jam session with all artist of the festival together which was held open-air at the unfinished church Església Nova in Son Servera, featuring Gerald Albright, Nathan East, Paul Taylor, Steve Cole, Gerald Veasley, Eric Darius, Gail Jhonson, Nils, Joey Sommerville and more.

Thursday night bassist Gerald Veasley did a well received performance, while saxophonist Eric Darius brought the house down with his high energy playing. After this concert, there was the nightly after show chillout party with DJ Richard Edwards, having people partying till the wee hours.

I joined the festivities a little later on Friday with the show of keyboardist Gail Jhonson doing her own music, mainly featuring material from her last two albums Her Story and New Beginnings, with special guest Steve Cole on sax, followed by saxophonist extraordinaire Gerald Albright, who was vowing the crowd with his flawless playing and tight show. A funny thing happened when the Soul Train line he initiated ended up right on the stage, having Gerald jump onto the occasion, inviting everybody to get up on the stage and dance.

Saturday provided four shows, two in the afternoon and two in the evening. Saxophonist Steve Cole kicked it off in style with his soulful playing, being a crowd favorite, his song "Curtis" gave me goosebumps. Next were Peet Project from Hungary, a great band of young players led by violinist Péter Ferencz delivering an upbeat show with lots of catchy songs, entertaining us to the fullest. After the dinner break, world class bassist Nathan East, supported by keyboardist Gail Jhonson who served as musical director, performed material from his current solo release plus a few well selected covers, especially memorable was his rendition of Stevie's "Overjoyed", featuring the sweet sax of Paul Taylor. This was a very sophisticated and varied set. After that, trumpet player Joey Sommerville wrapped up the night with a funky show of instrumentals and vocals as well, he was supported by the great local saxophonist Ramon Miguel, who provided several outstanding solos.

Sunday, the festival came to a close with the shows of saxophonist Paul Taylor, mesmerizing the crowd with his beautiful playing on the alto and soprano saxophones, drawing from his vast catalog, before guitarist Nils provided the last concert, doing material from his current release Alley Cat, plus some of his biggest hits, Paul Taylor guested on two tracks. As an encore, he played a beautiful rendition of "Europa", which ended the festival in style.

Once again, this edition of the Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival was a memorable experience with many exciting musical moments, enjoyable time with friends and artists, and some relaxation in the facilities of the hotel. Mark your calendar for next year's Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival which will take place over the first weekend in May 2017.

Sunday night, the festival came to a close with the gospel show which was ably hosted by saxophonist Kirk Whalum, his Gospel According To Jazz Celebration featured a string of guests and his band, the lineup consisted of Kevin Turner on guitar, Marcus Finnie on drums, Braylon Lacy on bass and John Stoddart on keyboards, plus the great Doxa Gospel Ensemble giving the music a boost with their powerful voices. Kirk Whalum started the show playing solo, entering the hall from the rear and wandering around in the audience. The first guest was Jonathan Butler doing "I Am That I Am", before Kirk Whalum did his instrumental "Nannette" that featured bassist Gerald Veasley, while Kirk Whalum played his flute beautifully, followed by "Madiba", an extended instrumental that allowed the band to solo in several spots. Singer Shelea came to the stage to do a heartfelt vocal, before brother Kevin Whalum did his "Somebody Somewhere" with a sparse acoustic accompaniment and some great vocal artistry, having the audience sing along. The Doxa Gospel Ensemble was featured doing their current song "Summertime" which was very nice. Jonathan Butler did "Be Encouraged" and "I Need You Lord", with the gospel choir lifting those songs to a whole other level. John Stoddard sang the moving "My Tree" just accompanied by his piano, then special guest Donnie McClurkin came to the stage, doing his thing of preaching and singing, he did "Search Me Lord", providing a highlight together with singers Shelea and Kevin Whalum by improvising and scatting, before he did the great "We Fall Down" and "Falling In Love", wrapping up this entertaining show that has become a festival tradition.

Berks Jazz Fest 2016: Keiko Matsui

The Sunday morning brunch was held at the Crowne Plaza ballroom, after a nice breakfast, we were entertained by the lovely Keiko Matsui on the grand piano. She had a new band and a new show. The lineup consisted of Jimmy Branly on drums, Carlitos Del Duerto on acoustic bass (both hailing from Cuba) and J.P. Mourão on acoustic guitar, hailing from Brazil. With this international band in an acoustic setting, Keiko Matsui delivered her unique brand of music, starting with "Night Waltz", followed by "Kappa", later she played the beautiful "Forever, Forever", the band supported her always nicely in a restricted and still effective manner, each band member had his solo spots during the show. She also did a nice instrumental version of "A Drop Of Water" from her first US release that featured Carl Anderson, before the last few songs were done. She was called back for an encore and did one more in a trio setting, wrapping up a varied a special show, starting a new chapter of her career.

Saturday night at 10pm, saxophonist Gerald Albright and guitarist Jonathan Butler appeared at the Crowne Plaza Ballroom. They opened as a duo with Gerald Albright playing the bass and Jonathan Butler playing guitar, singing the Bill Withers' classic "Lovely Day", before the rest of the band joined in. They were backed by a killer band (J.J. Williams on the drums) that played just perfectly. After the guitar led instrumental "African Breeze" providing an African flavor, followed by some of Gerald Albright's early tracks like "G & Lee" featuring his sharp sax playing, then it was time for a few songs, among them "Lies", one of Jonathan Butler's biggest hits. Then Gerald Albright did "Champagne Life" from his 24/7 album and my highlight of the show, JB's "It's A Man's Man's World", killing it. Then it was Jonathan Butler's turn for two more of his songs, among them "Free" from his current album of the same name, and "Living My Dream", before Gerald Albright dug deeply into his catalog with Luther's "So Amazing" and Johnny Gil's "My, My, My", then Jonathan Butler took us back to Africa with the great guitar led instrumental "Catembe", then Gerald Albright did his lengthy rendition of the bluesy "Georgia On My Mind" with turned into a funk party in the end having people get up and dance. This was really great show on the highest level of musicianship.

Berks Jazz Fest 2016: Jazz Funk Soul

Saturday night, I opted to see Jazz Funk Soul featuring Jeff Lorber on keys, Everette Harp on sax and Chuck Loeb on guitar, they were backed by Lionel Cordew on drums and Ron Jenkins on bass, the band sounded beautifully. They did "Speed Of Light" with great playing by all involved, followed by "Connection" featuring Everette Harp on sax, and "Hacienda", the title track of Jeff Lorber's release. Things slowed down with "Going Through Changes", a song dedicated to George Duke that gave Everette Harp the opportunity to stretch out on the sax, before they did their current single from the More Serious Business album, "You'll Know When You Know" and a track from the first album, "Serious Business" complete with some audience participation. They wrapped up their show with another funky track featuring all players, as expected they were called back for an encore and gave us one more head nodding track, finishing a truly great show, one of the best of the whole festival.

After the intermission, The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman took over the stage. The lineup consisted of Bill Heller on keyboards, Dave Karasony on drums, Rico Belled on bass and the great Brandon Fields on saxophone. Russ Freeman led the band through a string of their greatest songs soloing on guitar, they also played several tracks from their upcoming new CD True Stories, kicking off the show with "Wild Tales", followed by their classic "Welcome To The St. James Club", then "Golden Child" from the upcoming album featuring Brandon Fields, a great funky track that went down well with the crowd. Then they did a ballad medley of their most cherished tracks, before they did "Sundance" from the upcoming release and several more songs from their vast catalog. The band played beautifully like clockwork, each one is an accomplished player and it is always a pleasure to hear this seminal band.