Eric Darius - Retro Forward

Retro Forward from soulful sax-man Eric Darius is his sixth studio project and the second on the Shanachie label. Yet Darius has always been a man in a hurry. In 2001, at age 17, he independently released his debut CD Cruisin, a venture for which he had been writing music over the previous four years and when in 2004 he secured a deal with Narada Jazz it enabled the follow up, Night On The Town to be unveiled on the Higher Octave label. Significantly, following an impromptu meeting in Los Angeles, he got the chance to join Brian Culbertson's touring band and has also collaborated with such diverse talents as Prince, George Benson, Mary J. Blige, Wynton Marsalis and Brian McKnight. He has even appeared on the US version of Simon Cowell's hit TV series, The X Factor but now, in 2014, Eric Darius is very much his own man and with his own unique sound.

What We're Listening To ** October 2014

P E T E R * B O E H I

Mariea Antoinette - Straight From The Harp (2014)
Harpist Mariea Antoinette - who also plays with the all female smooth jazz band Jazz In Pink - comes up with a really nice solo album featuring her harp playing and a bunch of great songs, my favorite is her cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Give Me Your Love" that really evokes the spirit of the original. The album is very well produced and destined to win her some new fans. Good stuff!

Caté Musiq Group - The Style Lounge, Vol. 1: The 80's (2014)
This cover album delivers some of the greatest songs from the 80's in a laid-back, jazzy and easy flowing manner, two outstanding singers (Nina Vidal and Fil Straughan) take the songs to the next level, the instrumentalists are top notch with lots of good solos. Very recommended!

Randy Singer - Harmonica Dreams (Deluxe Edition) (2014)
Harmonica player Randy Singer who has a long resumé as sideman for the industry's finest comes up with a very nice, Brazilian tinged solo album that boast lots of great smooth jazz harmonica tracks, plus a few pop songs. He reminds me a bit of Lee Oskar. This "Deluxe Edition" offers two additional bonus tracks. Joyful stuff!

Threestyle (feat. Magdalena Chovancova) - Get It (2014)
This funky smooth jazz band from the Czech Republic features Magdalena Chovancova on sax and twin sister Gabriela on drums, plus Robert Fertl on guitar, this album was produced by Paul Brown and recorded in the US, and the result is pure smooth jazz bliss. Thumbs up!

Dianne Reeves - For Every Heart (1984)
My nod to the past goes to this early release of singer Dianne Reeves on TBA Records, it features some top players like Tom Scott on sax and Noel Pointer on violin, it shows already what outstanding singer she is, the music stood the test of time well. A star in the making!

38th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival

By Ricky Richardson

Los Angeles - We are already into the first weekend of Fall. That could only mean one thing; the Watts Towers Arts Center is in full swing (musically speaking, that is).

The Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles and the Friends of Watts Towers Arts Center presented the 38th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival, on Sunday, September 28, 2014. On Saturday, the annual Day of the Drum Festival was held at the same venue.

Thousands of jazz aficionados and an equal number of art patrons were in attendance for this celebration of all things jazz, blues and a tinge of Latin jazz.

The program got under way with a Yoruba ground blessing ceremony performed by Alaadun. This spiritual ceremony unites all cultures through a thread of common themes and principles.

The Italian Consulate General of Los Angeles and Instituto Italiano de Cultura, Los Angeles sponsored the set showcased by Marco Cappelli's Italian Surf Academy. The tight trio consisted of Marco Cappelli on guitar, Luca Lo Bianco on bass and Francesco Cusa on drums. They were brilliant during their time in the spotlight as they played an entertaining set of music from the soundtrack of vintage Italian cinema.

The festival took a delightful turn for a while as they shifted into high gear. New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band got the second line to snake around the grounds with some New Orleans Trad Jazz music from back in the day. The vibrant and colorful BackaTown Second Line Dancers added another layer of joy to the occasion.

The Phil Gates Blues Band delivered a dose of blues, we could use. Phil Gates guitar riffs penetrated our veins to uplift our spirits with his up-tempo set of Chicago blues. Their set list featured the tunes "My Baby," "I'm Addicted to the Blues," "Loving to the End of Time," "Used Me Up," "Mo Better Blues," and concluded with "Ain't No Midnight Train."

Dee Dee McNeil is a well established jazz singer/songwriter, published poet and activist. She exudes pure joy while performing on stage, which was evident by the smiles expressed by the audience. She was in the company of some top-rated jazz musicians, Sam Hirsh on piano, John B. William on bass, Ricky Woodard, saxophones and Quentin Dennard on drums. Dee Dee sang and dance to the tunes "Hard Knocks," "Eccentricity of Love," "That's My Dream," "Reaching"-a motivational song, and "Peek-a-Boo."

Munyungo's Jungle Jazz laid down some tight Latin rhythms on a couple of jazz standards "No More Blues," and "Oleo." He closed his set with a cup full of pure Azucar! On the tune "Sweet Chanqui."

Musical sparks flew throughout the set presented by the JMP All-Stars to close out the 38th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival. You knew that you would be highly entertained with some heavy straight ahead jazz with a roster that featured Nedra Wheeler on bass, Dr. Bobby Rodriquez on trumpet, Munyungo Jackson on percussions, Jamael Dean on piano, Kamasi Washington on saxophones and Tony Austin on drums. Need I say more?

What We're Listening To ** September 2014

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

F. Gregory Holland, Improvisation by Gregory Volume Three (F. Gregory Holland) (2014)
  
Al DeGregoris, All In Good Time (A-Pex Recordings Intnl) (2014)

Elan Trotman Group, #Liveanduncut (Island Muzik) (2014)

Kool & Klean, Volume V (Kvk Music) (2014)

John Tropea, Gotcha Ryhthm Right Here! (Stp Records) (2014)

U-Nam - C'est Le Funk

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.

Move over Phil Spector, a new wall of sound is in town and it comes from that excellent French born guitarist U-Nam who, with his latest CD C'est Le Funk, has delivered the most explosive contemporary jazz project of recent years. Make no mistake this one is special and if you were to think of your favorite party album of all time, then multiply its intensity by ten, you would still be some distance from conjuring up the power of this supercharged recording.

By Ricky Richardson

Lawndale - Southbay residents were feeling the heat this past weekend. You probably headed outside if you didn't have an air conditioned house or apartment to chill out in a shaded area.

You were quite fortunate indeed, if you found yourself near 147th Street and Burin in Lawndale on Saturday, September 13, 2014. This area provided a place to chill out, throw in some smooth jazz and dose of the blues, as prescribed by the good doctor, and some finger licking, mouthwatering BBQ. This fantastic recipe made for a fabulous afternoon.

The City Lawndale held the 2nd Lawndale Blues & Jazz Music Festival on a toasty Saturday afternoon, September 13th.

This free event attracted local families, neighbors and friends from the City of Lawndale and surrounding communities. A growing crowd showed up for the 2nd Annual Lawndale Blues & Jazz Music Festival.

Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg 2014 - Sunday

Sunday morning, there was the Smooth Jazz Brunch at the Dorint hotel, the place where almost all artists and fans were staying. After one hour of brunching, we got some music from bassist Julian Vaughn and saxophonist Marcus Anderson, supported by the house band, who for the last time gave their all to provide 90 minutes of top entertainment. They started with Bill Withers' "Lovely Day", followed by an extended version of his "Ain't No Sunshine", that gave each member on the stage ample solo space and was pure bliss. Next was "What You Won't Do For Love" which was cleverly mixed with "Just The Two Of Us", providing a great vehicle for the sax of Marcus Anderson. Then it was EWFs "Can't Hide Love" with some cool bass playing by Julian Vaughn, followed by Stanley Clarke's "Lisa" that gave both players lots of solo space. One more smooth sax track, before the party started with Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" with a great keyboard solo by Lutz Deterra, and "You Made My Day" by Marcus Anderson. When they played "Rock With You", people got up and danced. Somebody opened the windows to let some air in, having people on the outside stand still, watch and wonder, what kind of hot party was going on in the basement of the Dorint hotel. The cheering crowd didn't allow the band to leave, they had to come back to give us one more, so they played "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" with the whole room grooving along. This marked the end of an outstanding and fun filled Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg.

This was another exciting edition of the Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg, this year in an newly expanded edition over the course of 4 days with 7 concerts by 8 international top stars. It was well attended by an international crowd which was enthusiastic and appreciative, creating a great vibe that helped to bring the best out of the players. I am sure, they had a ball as well. Mark your calendars for next year's Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg which will take place September 10-13, 2015.

Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg 2014 - Saturday

Saturday night, Bob Baldwin appeared, backed by the house band, as a special guest, he had saxophone player Stephanie Lottermoser with him. He went into the funky "The Way She Looked At Me", putting the audience in the right mood right from the start, continuing the vibe with "Welcome To Planet Funky Onion" from his current album Twenty. The temperature was rising with his rendition of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon", followed by his tribute to Weather Report with a tune called "Joe Zawinul" with great contributions by all band members, then doing another tribute song playing the acoustic piano with "For Grover And George" that featured Stephanie Lottermoser on sax. With the sad news of the passing of Joe Sample that day having come in, he did an impromptu tribute to the man on the grand piano with a nice medley, "Street Life" included. Next was his cover of "People Make The World Go Round" by the Stylistics, before he brought another special guest, saxophonist Marion Meadows to the stage to do "Summer Breeze" with him, breaking it down in the middle to play some wicked synth sounds to the delight of the crowd, while at the end Marion Meadows got his opportunity to provide some over the top sax playing. He finished his set with one more infectious track, having provided an entertaining hour of smooth jazz.

After the intermission, Matt Marshak on guitar and Marcus Anderson on sax were the featured artists, proving to be an excellent team of players to provide an entertaining show. I always loved the cool and funky playing style of Matt Marshak with his knack for melodies, and the soulful sax of Marcus Anderson, both rising stars of smooth jazz. After a mutual track, Matt Marshak did a couple of cool funky instrumentals, among them "Lifestyle" and the funky "Jumpin'" from his current album Lifestyle. Then it was Marcus Anderson's turn, doing a rousing set of uptempo dance tracks with some fiery playing, having the audience clapping along. Being a member of the band of Prince, he did "Paisley Red" which was inspired by the man, after that keeping the energy high with a lengthy James Brown inspired funk segment, giving each band member a solo spot, in addition he did some cool vocoder stuff on his EWI. Matt Marshak returned and slowed things down a bit with some more mellow grooves on the guitar, before doing his tribute to Larry Carlton with "Sleepwalker", which went down very well with the crowd. Marcus Anderson came back, turning up the heat again, before slowing it down singing Marvin Gaye's "I Want You", followed by some heartfelt sax playing, serenading the women in the audience, then picking up his flute to add another flavor to his music. Maze's "Joy And Pain" was a welcome addition as well, then a velvety sax track from his current Style Meets Substance album followed, which was smooth jazz bliss, during this song, he went out into the audience with a bunch of roses to hand out to some lucky females, you could see smiling and happy faces abound, one last woman had the privilege to come up with him to the stage, having Marcus serenade her and make her feel like a woman, teaching us men a lesson how to deal with the opposite sex. She was a good gal and played along nicely. Matt Marshak returned to the stage and turned up the groove with a nice George Benson medley, "Breezin'" was especially nice. As a special surprise, for the last song, they invited twin sisters Magdalena Chovancova on sax and Gabriela Chovancova on drums from the band Threestyle to the stage to play the Michael Jackson classic "Rock With You" with them, giving both their solo spots, allowing them to show their skills. People screamed for more and got a cover of the Prince hit "Kiss" with all players on stage, concluding a truly great high energy concert.

Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg 2014 - Friday

Friday night, the opening act was 34 years old bass player Julian Vaughn, a rising star in the smooth jazz genre that plays a higher pitched bass as a lead instrument in the tradition of the late Wayman Tisdale who he met at age 17 the first time, an encounter that prompted him to follow his path and carry the torch of this style of smooth jazz bass playing. The house band backed him up, doing a great job as usual. He kicked right into high gear with his infectious and groovy style of playing, having the audience clap along, putting it in the right mood right from the start. With songs like "Can't Hide Love", "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Do You Remember The Time", he could do no wrong and had the audience in the palm of his hand with ease. He changed the sound of his bass with a few electronic gadgets to give us some variety, soloing beautifully on his instrument. For his rendition of Stanley Clarke's "Lisa", he invited Marcus Anderson to the stage, to add some heartfelt saxophone playing to the song. The party continued with The Whispers classic "Rock Steady" and the Kool & The Gang hit "Get Down On It", having people dance in front of the stage and the aisles. The crowd demanded more and got the treasured "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" as an encore, bringing a truly great show to an end, you could feel the energy and joy in the room after his infectious show.

After an intermission, Dutch saxophone star Candy Dulfer was on, she appeared with her own band and crew, she had her old cohorts Ulco Bed on guitar and Manuel Hugas on bass, on drums was DJ Kikke, plus the two vocalists Andy Ninvalle and Ricardo Burgrust. She started her show with a melodic sax led smooth jazz instrumental that brought things nicely up to speed. Next was a pop song, followed by "Hey Now" from her current Crazy album, a reggae pop song, next came the title song "Crazy", having Candy moving definitely into pop dance territory, topping it with "What You Do (When The Music Hits)", which could be summed up as noisy mess, with its frantic beat and Euro pop elements, leaving many cold. At least she made up for it after that with a great rendition of "Lily Was Here", the song that launched her career, with a soaring guitar solo by Ulco Bed, providing the highlight of the show. After that, they did their new composition "History", a passable dance track, before an audience member requested "For The Love Of You", thankfully she accepted and played a few bars of the song, which was a lot more up the alley of the people in attendance - after all this was supposed to be a smooth jazz festival! This was the last breath of fresh air for us, before she went back to her scheduled program with "Bass In Your Face", an uptempo dance track featuring the rappers and bit of her sax playing, plus a drum interlude featuring DJ Kikke on snare drum and cymbal. Then as a little show element, "vocal artist" Andy Ninvalle did a nice beatbox and mouth instrument segment, that culminated in Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean", before she did her updated 2014 version of "Pick Up The Pieces", totally loosing the cool groove of the original and replacing it with the dreadful Euro pop beats she seems to be so fond of at the moment. Those who still remained in attendance requested an encore and got one more poppy dance track with some rap elements.