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]

Text by Ricky Richardson
Photos by Mathew Imaging

Hollywood - The Playboy Jazz Festival returned to the iconic Hollywood Bowl, June 14-15, 2014 for its 36th edition. For 35 years, the festival sailed under the Playboy banner. The 36th edition is under new management, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, who promised and delivered a well attended and well received festival.

Tony White and J.B. Dyas deserve a "Keeping Jazz Alive" Award for their dedication and commitment to jazz education. Once again, the LAUSD/Beyond the Bell All City Jazz Big Band opened the show with a solid set of jazz on the tunes "Lowrider," "Ginger Bread Boy," "Blue Bossa," "Everyday I Have the Blues" featuring vocalist Alice Chen and closed with "I Mean You."

The New Jump Blues featuring actor Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas came out to jump, jive and wail during their fun and entertaining set on the tunes "Chicken Shack," "Good Rockin' Daddy," "Keep On Churnin'," "Rum & Cola" (calypso), "Don't Roll Those Blood Shot Eyes at Me," and "All She Wants to do is Mambo."

Saxophonist Tia Fuller made a return engagement to the Bowl. She was booked fronting her own band. The crowd and I were groovin' high on "Ralphie's Groove," and continued with "Decisive Steps," "Lil Les," "Body & Soul," and concluded with the title track from her latest CD "Angelic Warrior."

Jonathan Butler - Living My Dream

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.

Over time and over a discography now spanning twenty one recordings, the magic has always been in speculating just which Jonathan Butler will turn up next. Will it be the Jonathan Butler that celebrates his South African roots or will it be the Jonathan Butler that is anchored firmly by his faith? Indeed will it be the Jonathan Butler who is perfectly at ease with R & B tinged smooth jazz? Well, with his latest CD, Living My Dream, that will be released June 24 on Mack Avenue's Artistry label, Butler is firmly back in contemporary jazz territory with eleven original tunes that he uses to tell the story of his life and his loves.

What We're Listening To ** May 2014

J E F F * D A N I E L S

Lori Williams, Eclipse Of The Soul (Pacific Coast Jazz) (2013)

Will Downing, Euphoria (Liaison Records) (2014)

Nathan East, Nathan East (Yamaha Entertainment) (2014)

Harvey Mason, Chameleon (Concord Records) (2014)

Incognito, Amplified Soul (Shanachie) (2014)

Incognito - Amplified 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.

From as far back as 1980 jazz funk powerhouse Incognito has been in the capable hands of its creator Jean Paul 'Bluey' Maunick. Indeed this enduring success has been one of the more endearing qualities of this often changing collective and now they are back with the band's sixteenth studio project, the stunningly good Amplified Soul. Make no mistake for those of us who have honed our musical sensibilities with thirty plus years of jazz, funk and fusion, this one is a real gem and although Incognito's 2010 release, Transatlantic R.P.M., found Maunick reaching back to the inspirations he originally took from 1970's fusion, with Amplified Soul he has gone one step further by delivering a body of work that is replete with the mood of old school soul. With outstanding vocal performances from the likes of Vanessa Haynes, Tony Momrelle, Imaani, Katie Leone, Chiara Hunter, Carleen Anderson, and Deborah Bond this is indeed a soul-fest of the highest order. Not only that, with sixteen (yes sixteen) tracks, this is a collection that blends quantity with quality in a way that is very rarely seen.

Smooth Jazz Festival Mallorca 2014: Shilts

The last show of the festival was done by former DTTB frontman, saxophonist Paul "Shilts" Weimar, he went right into it with the groovy "See What Happens", followed by "Look, What's Happened" which was another head bopper. He changed the pace a bit with "Good Evans", a song written for his father that was very special, it featured a nice intro on the keys by Lutz Deterra and a great straight ahead part in the middle of the song, providing an early highlight of the show. Then they did the beautiful "See Things Clearly", one of his chart topping hits, providing some smooth jazz bliss. He changed gears again with Stanley Turrentine's jazz classic "Sugar", that gave Andy Pilger the opportunity for a smoking drums solo. The pace was slowed down with his heartfelt cover of Rose Royce's "Wishing Upon A Star" where he also wandered around in the audience to play. He invited special guest Nick Colionne on guitar to play one uptempo funky track with him, turning up the heat. To get us up on our feet, he did the DTTB track "Staten Island Groove", to wrap up his show, he invited Greg Karukas who provided some more great keyboard playing one more DTTB track, wrapping up the show. They came back for one more and did a blues number with everyone improvising along, bringing the festival to great end.

This was one more memorable and entertaining Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival, it was well attended by an international crowd of smooth jazz aficionados and held on the premises of the 5 star resort of the Protur Biomar Gran Hotel who always welcome the festival with open arms. We all had a blast and will be back next year! Mark your calendar for April 30 - May 3, 2015.

Sunday morning the festival went on with keyboardist Gregg Karukas, he was supported by the house band and the great local saxophonist Miguel Ramon, who blended well in with his smooth and restrained sax playing. They started their show with some original material, first they did "Wildwood", followed by "Nightshift" and "Severna Park", all featuring the impeccable playing by this awesome pianist. Next was "Girl In The Red Dress", having the audience clap along, the song built up nicely and featured several burning solos by various band members, the groove continued with "Riverside Drive", a smashing number with a catchy melody, that went down very well. To slow things down, he did a solo piano version of "Sound Of Emotion" which was very moving. The band joined in for the laid-back "Daylight" that featured more nice sax work by Miguel Ramon. He strapped on his keytar and played some new material from his upcoming album, some even untitled and performed live for the very first time, like a great head bopping funky track that is destined to become a future hit, one more mellow song that boasted his melodic playing style, and a groovy latin track that was off the hook. The show was finished with his own twist on the Beatles classic "Come Together", during this song Günther Asbeck got one more opportunity to funk it up, having everybody get up. This was another memorable show by a consummate artist.