Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg 2014 - Thursday

The 5th Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg (7th if you count those in Bregenz and Munich that preceded it) took place at the Parktheater at the Kurhaus Göggingen in Augsburg, Germany. This year, the festival was slightly extended, beginning Thursday night, giving us one more evening of music compared to previous years. The festival has matured nicely and Christian Bössner, the man behind the event, is improving it every year. Fans from all across Europe and the US came in droves to see some of the best smooth jazz players on the scene, and this year's lineup was excellent as ever. The US players were supported by musical director Lutz Deterra on keys, Andy Pilger on drums, Günter Asbeck on bass and Martin Feske on guitar, the tried and tested band that is working hard during the festival to back up all the featured artists.

Thursday night, the festival was kicked off by guitarist Chris Standring, a British player who now resides in the US, having a successful career with a string of solo albums and a bunch of number #1 hits over the years, his playing is jazzy, soulful and intelligent, with a lot of depth, still it is funky and groovy, definitely not your usual smooth jazz fodder. After a bluesy tune, the did "Scatterfunk" from his current CD Don't Talk, Dance, featuring some cool wah-wah guitar, followed by the current single "Sneakin' Out The Front Door" that kept the funky groove going. Things slowed down with the introspective "Sunrise" from the Blue Bolero album, which provided a highlight for me. The pace picked up with "Oliver's Twist", a funky bossa nova with a catchy melody. He concluded his show with the beautiful "Constellation", a jazz-funk track from the Soul Express album, plus one more ultra-funky track, finishing a very entertaining show.

After an intermission, saxophonists Marion Meadows and Paul Taylor took over, despite the fact that each has his own inimitable style, they blended very well together. They opened their show together with a slamming track, after that, Paul Taylor did "Supernova" from his current Tenacity album, followed by Marion Meadows doing one of his mellow instrumentals on the soprano which was graced by an extended solo on acoustic guitar by Martin Feske. For the next song, special guest Chris Standring on guitar and Bob Baldwin on keyboards joined the band, funking things up considerably. Paul Taylor did his own "Tenacity", followed by his classic "Pleasure Seeker", featuring his sweet soprano saxophone. Then Marion Meadows took over again, before the groove picked up with a great funky track with a memorable hook that featured both players, plus a burning guitar solo by Martin Feske who was in a great playing mood. Paul Taylor did his "Horizon" from Prime Time, including an extended drum solo by Andy Pilger that was off the hook. They returned for one encore, adding Chris Standring to the band, having people dance in the aisles. This was a very good show that started the festival in style.

Kim Waters - Silver Soul

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.

Since 1989 and, the release of his debut CD Sweet & Saxy, sax-man Kim Waters has been a constant on the urban-jazz landscape. With a reputation for being one of the most technically gifted players around, his accomplishments include fourteen No. 1 singles, four No. 1 albums, sixteen top ten singles and crossover sets that have variously registered time on the Billboard 200, urban, contemporary jazz and top independent album charts. Now he is back with his 20th solo recording, Silver Soul.

Gardena Jazz Festival - Jazz in the Park

By Ricky Richardson

The City of Gardena was in a celebratory mood once again. On Sunday, August 24th, the city held its annual Gardena Jazz Festival. This is a signature event for the City of Gardena, held in Rowley Park, from 11:30AM-7:00PM.

Founded in 2003 by then Councilmember Steven Bradford, the Gardena Jazz Festival has already proven that it is one of the best in Southern California for the global jazz community.

The crowds arrived early, before the scheduled opening of the gates at 10:00AM. They wanted to find the perfect spot to enjoy and experience this day long musical festival, on this beautiful, sunny Southern California afternoon.

Rowley Park was festive with the sights of families, friends and fellow co-workers and children's gathered for a good time. The aroma of delicious foods filled the air whether it was from the many vendors on sight, or people bringing their own picnic baskets or coolers.

The melodic mellow sounds of contemporary jazz, R&B, and some straight ahead jazz provided the soundtrack for the thousands of music lovers gathered in the park. Pat Prescott of 94.7 The Wave served as Mistress of Ceremonies with DJ Quick keeping the summer grooves flowing on the ones and the twos in between acts.

Bennett Brandeis - Groove Time

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.

If you know the LA jazz scene then chances are you know Bennett Brandeis. Whether as part of the re-formed 5th Dimension's touring band or working in studio orchestras such as that at Universal for the television show Magnum P.I., this fine guitarist is all about the groove so it is no surprise that his latest release is the appropriately titled Groove Time. Produced by multi Grammy winning Paul Brown, and with the likes of Ricky Lawson, Greg Adams, Roberto Vally, Marco Basci, Elan Trotman and Darren Rahn around to lend a hand, this is an album that has come out of no-where to be rightly regarded as among the best of the year so far.

By Ricky Richardson

Long Beach - The Long Beach Jazz Festival returned to grassy knoll of the Rainbow Lagoon, on Saturday, August 9th and Sunday, August 10th. This was the 27th edition of the festival that put the City of Long Beach on the world wide jazz map. The weather was nice and pleasant for the most part on Saturday, and a bit hot on Sunday.

The 2014 Long Beach Jazz Festival theme was "A Healthy Taste of Jazz" because of the generous dose of contemporary and straight ahead jazz, classic soul and R&B served up to satisfy everyone's eclectic musical taste.

"A Healthy Taste of Jazz" also refers to the many information booths in the Health and Wellness Pavilion to give festival goers an overall personal awakening of their body, mind and soul. Representatives from American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Be the Match-Bone Marrow Donor (City of Hope), Community Family Guidance Center, Covered California, Guard-Heart, K. I. S. Foundation (Kiki Shepard's Sickle Cell Foundation), Loma Linda, Farmers Insurance (Financial and Estate Planning), Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Triple Step Toward The Cure Breast Cancer Foundation.

There were two additional themes that also could apply to the Long Beach Jazz Festival. "Here's To Life" to celebrate the life and legacy of two great musicians that were honored throughout the festival. The late, great Wayne Henderson and the late, great George Duke will forever hold a dear spot in the hearts and minds of music lovers all over the world.

My other unofficial theme for the 27th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival was "Sing That Summer Song." I chose this theme due to the plethora of outstanding vocalists on the line-up for this wonderful festival.

What We're Listening To ** July 2014

D E N I S * P O O L E

'Playa Blanca', by keyboard player and composer Paolo Rustichelli, from his CD 'Soul Italiana'.  When it comes to blending smooth jazz with chill and electronica then Rustichelli is the undisputed master.

'Givin' It Up' by sax stalwart Richard Elliot from his soon to be released CD 'Lip Service'.  Although it has almost become the norm to over hype every smooth jazz single that is ever released, this one really hits the spot.  It's an easy grooving charmer of the highest order that benefits from the production magic of Paul Brown plus a wonderful injection of horns from Jerry Hey and Lee Thornburg.

'Cruisin' Down The Road' by Greg Manning from the album 'Dance With You'.  Featuring superstar in the making Vincent Ingala, this one has the sort of vibe that is guaranteed to attract followers.  Check it out and be an early rider on the Greg Manning bandwagon.  It really is going to roll.

'Remind Me' by Ragan Whiteside from her latest CD 'Quantum Drive'.  With Whiteside sublime on flute and vocals, this exciting cover of Patrice Rushen's silky smooth gem is taken to new heights by a guest appearance by Rushen on keyboards.

'Love On Top' by Grammy-nominated guitarist Doc Powell from his latest project, 'This Is Soul'.  Produced by the award winning Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, 'This Is Soul' is a collection that brings together the heart and soul of some of the best music from the present and the past and is perfectly summed up by the first single 'Love On Top' that finds Powell breathing new instrumental life into this Beyonce classic.

Cindy Bradley - Bliss

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.

Back in 2007, as if from nowhere (but actually from Buffalo, NY), trumpeter Cindy Bradley burst onto the contemporary jazz scene with her independently released debut CD Just A Little Bit. The recognition this fine eight track collection brought led to a touring engagement with the legendary Pieces of A Dream and a record deal with Trippin 'n' Rhythm that initially garnered the critically acclaimed Bloom and then followed up with the equally good Unscripted. Both were built around the basic constructs of Bradley's velvety tones, stellar input as writer, performer and producer from Michael Broening and consistently excellent performances from Mel Brown on bass and Freddie Fox on guitars. Now (with Brown again in the line-up and bass from Kip Sophos) Cindy has reunited with Broening for her latest Trippin 'n' Rhythm project, Bliss.

What We're Listening To ** June 2014

P E T E R * B O E H I

Cindy Bradley - Bliss (2014)
Trumpet player Cindy Bradley is making her way to the top, her latest release Bliss is top-drawer smooth jazz with an edge. With significant input from keyboardist Michael Broening and some great sax solos by husband Dan Cipriano, she delivers the good stuff. Very recommended!

Citrus Sun - People Of Tomorrow (2014)
Citrus Sun is the side-project of Incognito leader Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick, featuring him and guitarist Jim Mullen in a mostly instrumental jazz setting, the album provides a nice variety of grooves and moods and a couple of covers, one of them Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On". Solid stuff!

Jazzhole - Blue 72 (2014)
This album by jazz/soul group Jazzhole delivers a string of classic songs in great, laid-back jazzy and soulful arrangements, transferring those timeless songs to a whole new realm. Very enjoyable!

Paul Taylor - Tenacity (2014)
This veteran smooth jazz player delivers another slice of picture perfect smooth jazz that surely will delight his numerous fans, keyboard player Jonathan Fritzen guests on one track. Thumbs up!

Terjie Lie - Bright Moments (2014)
Saxophonist Terjie Lie once more teams up with Jeff Lorber and Jimmy Haslip to give us another outstanding album full of catchy instrumental tracks, featuring this awesome bunch of world-class players. Don't miss it!

Philadelphia International Records: The Collection (2014)
My nod to the past goes to this seminal label and this 20 CD box set featuring arguably the twenty best albums the PIR label ever released. The CDs are in cardboard sleeves, there is a nice booklet with some extensive liner notes, helping the novice to understand the content of the box set. We get some classics by Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, The Three Degrees, Lou Rawls, The Jones Girls, MFSB, Billy Paul and more. This is music with purpose and meaning!

Capital Jazz Festival 2014

The 22nd Capital Jazz Festival took place June 6-8, 2014 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD like every year, the whole weekend was sold out and the weather was perfect with sunny skies and warm temperatures. This year, the Soul Stage was in a different location, it was at the north eastern corner between trees, in the vicinity of the Pavillion Stage behind a small hill. The vendors had to move as well, everything was a bit closer together.

Friday night is warming up for me, since I usually suffer from jet-lag that night. Each day, the festival is opened by a "catch a rising star" artist, on Friday, it was singer/pianist Jarrod Lawson who made his mark on the last SuperCruise in the piano bar, he played for 15 minutes just accompanying himself at the piano, reminding me of Donny Hathaway and Frank McComb, definitely a talent to watch. After him appeared soul/r&b artist John Legend, he sat at the grand piano and was accompanied just by a guitar player and a string quartet, which allowed him to keep things simple and focused. After that Erykah Badu took over with her band rocking the house with her hip-hop/r&b grooves and eclectic stage persona.

Saturday at noon, "catch a rising star" Generation Next played a 90 minutes show featuring aspiring young players, Nicholas Cole on keyboards, Lebron on saxophone, Lin Rountree on trumpet and Julian Vaughn on bass. They provided a very entertaining set full of spirited playing, catchy melodies and playful camaraderie. Then veteran band Down To The Bone took over, the band is currently led by bassist Rufus Philpot and features a trumpet/sax horn section next to the rhythm section, they provided their typical brand of groovy jazz-funk with great solos by all involved, promoting the new CD Dig It. Things slowed down with the great Michael Franks, delivering a string of familiar classics, supported by a stellar band featuring the great Karel Ruzicka on sax and flute. Next was songstress Dianne Reeves who appeared with a large band that included a horn section and two keyboard players, she pulled all the stops and delivered a good show. One memorable highlight was the trumped solo by Sean Jones which was outer worldly. Trumpet player Rick Braun is always a reliable player to entertain the crowd, he had a great band with Michael Paulo on sax and Gerald Veasley on bass, providing another tight and memorable set. Saturday night was concluded with the "Remembering George Duke" Tribute show led by keyboardist John Beasley. First a short film was shown with footage taken on Capital Jazz events with George Duke. All the players in the band had a relationship with George Duke in one way or the other, like drummer Lil' John Roberts, bassist Byron Miller, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. and singer Josie James. Special guests included Phil Perry, who sang "Sweet Baby", Al Jarreau, who shortly will release his My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke CD, singer Jeffrey Osborne, and bassist Stanley Clarke. As a special surprise, host Marcus Miller joined the band to funk things up. This was a very memorable show that covered a lot of ground musically, I knew that Capital Jazz would pull all the stops to do this great musician justice with this tribute concert.

Sunday at noon, the festival was opened by "catch a rising star" drummer Lil' John Roberts who presented his debut album The Heartbeat featuring many of his illustrious friends, being an in demand drummer for years supporting some of the biggest names in the industry. Among his guests was singer Chantae Cann, unfortunately I didn't connect much with his neo soul efforts. Next was keyboardist Marcus Johnson who appeared with a full band complete with horn section and a violin player, giving us an hour of energetic uptempo instrumental jazz. Then it was time for the lovely Keiko Matsui who delivered her romantic brand of smooth jazz, supported by longtime band member Jackiem Joyner on saxophone, as always providing an entertaining hour of music. After her, things got serious with the Jeff Lorber Fusion, they appeared in their original lineup (Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip and Sonny Emory), plus special guest Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar, hitting it hard on a mind-boggling level of musicianship. Songstress Rachelle Ferrell slowed things down with her heartfelt performance, she sang beautifully and was open, receptive and playful. One of the highlights was when she did her version of "My Funny Valentine" and was distracted by the booming sounds of the nearby Soul Stage, thus taking the opportunity to pick up the distant groove and do an impromptu improvisation on top of it, which was fun and inspirational. Next were Incognito, one of my all-time favorite bands, singers were Vanessa Haynes, Tony Momrelle and - new this time - Katie Leon, plus special guest Maysa who hails from Baltimore sitting in for a couple of songs. They provided another memorable show, with Bluey lovingly expressing his admiration for Maysa. The festival was concluded on the Pavillion stage with soul singer Kem and his large band, bringing another fun filled and entertaining Capital Jazz Festival to an end.

[More pictures at Flickr]