What We're Listening To ** January 2016

Tim Weinberg - Another Byte: Live At Alvas (2015)
This live recording by veteran flautist Tim Weinberg shows a mature artist backed by a really good band delivering some nicely grooving tracks, some originals and some covers, among those extended versions of "Viva Tirado" and "Comin' Home Baby", with lots of great solos by all involved. Classic stuff!

Mark Etheredge - Connected (2016)
Smooth jazz keyboardist Mark Etheredge released this picture perfect smooth jazz album that goes down like honey wine, with guest players like Paul Brown and Chuck Loeb, you know what to expect. His previous effort from 2012 was Change Coming, a slick vocal album in the vein of Steely Dan that is also heartily recommended. Thumbs up!

Dwight Sills - Short Stories (2015)
Guitar player Dwight Sills is a veteran of the scene and being a busy session player, he performed with  tons of big names, in recent years he played with Richard Elliott, Guitars & Saxes, Jazz Attack, Jeff Lorber, and Rick Braun. After a long wait, he delivers now another solo album, which is more in the fusion and jazz-funk realm boasting some gritty guitar playing, the band is tight yielding a very nice instrumental album for the discerning listener. Recommended!

Jamhunters - Colortones (2015)
This is the 4th album by this smooth jazz and jazz-funk band from Denmark with all original music, these guys know how to provide the right grooves and moods, each of their releases is a winner and this one is no exception. Check them out!

Marilyn Scott - Dreams Of Tomorrow (1979)
My nod to the past goes to this west coast gem from singer Marilyn Scott, she is backed by an awesome array of LA's best sessions players, this albums stood the test of time well. Pull it from your collection once more!

Capital Jazz SuperCruise 2015

The IX. annual SuperCruise sailed this year from San Juan, Puerto Rico from Oct 24 - Nov 1, visiting ports Martinique, Grenada, Tobago and Barbados. Despite the fact that those were all nice ports, offering shopping, excursions and other activities, what we came here for was the music, meeting fellow music aficionados and have plenty of fun.

Concerts were either held in the main concert hall, or on one of the various smaller stages around the ship. Most of the shows were done twice to allow everybody to enjoy their favorite artists. Still, due to the fact that some shows were taking place at the same time, one had to make tough decisions who to see and who to skip.

On the main stage, we got great shows by Gerald Albright & Norman Brown with special guest Maysa, a nice gospel show on Sunday featuring saxophonist Jackiem Joyner and CeCe Winans, sultry soul by Kenny Lattimore and Joe, some energetic smooth jazz by saxophonist Candy Dulfer (with special guest Chance Howard), an introspective set by singer/keyboardist Rachelle Ferrell, an impressing show by singer and multi instrumentalist Raul Midon, and a night of soul with Floetry and Musiq Soulchild. An absolute highlight was the "James Brown Tribute" show by house band Spur Of The Moment with an endless array of guest artists, doing JB's music ample justice. On the last night of the cruise, an "evening of classic soul" with the legendary Chaka Khan and the Whispers took place, providing one more highlight with their timeless songs.

Bigger parties were held on the Lido deck, very memorable was the show by hip-hop legends Curtis Blow, Doug E. Fresh and Kool Moe Dee that had everybody dancing by the pool, another nice block party was done by DC's own all-female band Be'la Dona providing some go-go music, plus a "sunset concert" by the legendary George Benson singing several of his hits.

Other notable shows were delivered by Japanese keyboardist Keiko Matsui, singer Gretchen Parlato who did an acoustic jazz set, some smooth sax by Marion Meadows (filling in for fellow sax player Walter Beasley who couldn't come due to health reasons), singer Bobby Caldwell, plus host and soul artist in its own right, Eric Roberson.

My personal favorite spot on the ship was the "Get Down Club" hosted by trumpet player Joey Sommerville, he had some great players like keyboardist Gregg Karukas, saxophonist Tom Braxton, guitarist U-Nam (supported by his wife Shannon Kennedy on saxophone), trumpet player Farnell Newton, saxophonist Marqueal Jordan and guitarist Matt Marshak.

Very nice was the "Underground Lounge" hosted by Eric Roberson, featuring upcoming soul singers, which is always a good place to learn about new talent. We heard artists like Tony Momrelle (of Incognito fame), Timotha Lanae, Karen Bernod, Joonie, Rhonda Thomas and George Tandy Jr.

Another personal favorite were the midnight jams, either hosted by bassist Gerald Veasley or soul singer Eric Roberson. Depending on the host, the jams featured more instrumental music or more singing, in any way, they were unrehearsed, full of surprises, and definitively fun. With the incredible amount of talent on the ship, both hosts could draw from a large pool of players, all ready to join in on the fun and have a ball.

In addition, just being members of the horn section and guesting on various sets, were saxophonist Marcus Anderson and trombone player Jeff Bradshaw. Holding it down at the "living room" was Frank McComb, who played and sang either alone at the piano or with various guests, providing his own magical moments.

A comedy night is a firm part of the cruise schedule as well, this year we were entertained by Tony Rock, Arnez J and Gary Owens. There also was a dance show with Step Africa on the opening night of the cruise.

On the last sea day, a film festival was held on the Lido deck, showing movies like a Marvin Gaye documentary or "Still Bill", a documentary on soul music legend Bill Withers, among others movies.

In addition to all the concerts and various shows, there were various DJ sets around the boat by people like NeoSoul Café's Frances Jaye, Kemit, Tra'Nicole and others, spinning everything from neo-soul to house.

Since this is the cruise for the true music lover, there were plenty of actives to learn more about the music we love so much. We got many interesting Q&A sessions with several artists present on the ship, listening parties with U-Nam and Kenny Lattimore, discussion panels touching on topics like "the joy of sax" and "women in jazz" and two "soul music" panels, giving us lots of insight and background information first hand.

Notable also was the "Bass Boot Camp" led by bassist Gerald Veasley, allowing aspiring bass players to learn directly from the master. Very interesting were a "vocal master class" provided by Rachelle Ferrell and a song improvisation class with Eric Roberson.

To keep us entertained, there were "Name That Tune" games, karaoke, open line dancing and other dance classes, plus several fitness classes early in the morning. There was constantly something going on on the ship, and it was simply impossible to catch up with all of it.

Next year's 10th anniversary cruise will sail from Miami on the Norwegian Getaway, from October 23-30, 2016. The cruise is already sold out, people interested may join a waiting list. So if you would like to attend a future SuperCruise, check the Capital Jazz website regularly and book early.

Eric Marienthal & Chuck Loeb - Bridges

Chart-Topping Grammy Winning Contemporary Jazz Pioneers Eric Marienthal & Chuck Loeb Build Bridges on their First Co-Led CD Fusing Styles & Influences

The art of the duo is as intimate as it gets in jazz. Two minds, two distinct creative energies and two souls interwoven to conceive one symbiotic sound and vision. Bridges, (released August 21, 2015 on PeakRecords/Shanachie Entertainment) the new recording from celebrated saxophonist Eric Marienthal and guitar wizard Chuck Loeb, demonstrate so poignantly what two dynamic forces can accomplish when they are of like mind. Collectively Marienthal and Loeb have lent their creative energies to such iconic stars as Stevie Wonder, Stan Getz, Chick Corea and B.B King. The duo's shared strong musical connection, camaraderie and influences coalesce on Bridges creating a breathtakingly beautiful journey through ten riveting tracks. "Chuck and I both felt as though we were crossing a bridge to a completely different direction," confesses Marienthal. "It was very exciting to be able to stretch and try new things. After all, isn't that a big part of what jazz is all about?" Loeb adds "Eric is a great creative partner and an amazing musician. He's very demanding of himself, and inspires me to do the same." Although Loeb and Marienthal have collaborated with one other on stage and in the studio previously, Bridges is their first co-led project.

When Eric Marienthal and Chuck Loeb set out to record Bridges there were a few albums the duo drew inspiration from including Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek's My Song, Bill Evans and Jim Hall's duet recordings and Pat Metheney/Lyle Mays' CD As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls. Just as the title suggests, Bridges seeks to push the boundaries and explore diverse musical terrain. The much anticipated project from two of contemporary jazz's most sought after pioneers enlists help from three seasoned musicians; bassist John Patitucci (Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, Wayne Shorter), drummer Byron Landham (Shirley Scott, Betty Carter and Joey DeFrancesco) and percussionist David Charles (Michael Franks, Bob James, Bill Evans).

Bridges opens with the enticing and intoxicatingly warm "Westward," which delights with its shifting meters, fugue-like and buoyant melody. Loeb and Marienthal's graceful, lyrical and tender interplay sets the scene for the wonderful journey ahead. The absence of piano on the album really allows the dynamic duo to experiment with the textures melodically, harmonically and rhythmically. Marienthal explains, "The intention was to create an open sounding recording with fewer elements so that each instrument takes up a larger part of the sonic landscape. You can hear more detail in each sound and I think it gives the effect of bringing the music closer to you and more up front." The breezy and tender ballad "Crossing" follows and is inspired by Keith Jarrett's composition "My Song." The scorcher "Puentes," meaning "Bridges" in Spanish, catapults Loeb and Marienthal to new heights as they explore the percussive side of their instruments with a Latin tinge. Loeb and Marienthal first toured with one another years ago in Spain, which is where Loeb's wife, singer Carmen Cuesta, is from and where he resides half the year with his family. Loeb also got one of his early starts writing and performing with master conguero Ray Barretto. A highlight on Bridges is the surprising burner "Last Minute Blues," which finds Loeb and Marienthal tearing it up at break-neck tempos and swinging from beginning to end with their fiery cohorts, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Byron Landham. "Daily Bread" is another standout and features Marienthal's beautiful soaring soprano dancing amidst Loeb's virtuosic, agile and graceful guitar. Bridges also features the spirited samba "Lucky Southern," the yearning "Salamanca" and the soul-drenched "Duality." The intense and majestic "Sun Rays" follows and the album concludes with the memorable and sensual waltz "Noir."

Joyous Jazz at Long Beach Jazz Festival

By Ricky Richardson

Long Beach - The 28th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival was held Friday, August 7th through Sunday, August 9, 2015.

This premiere Southern California jazz festival of the summer took place on the well-manicured, grassy knoll of the Rainbow Lagoon Park, blessed with soothing sunshine and pleasant ocean breezes.

Presented by Rainbow Promotions, this MAHVELOUS jazz festival drew a multi-cultural diverse crowd of music lovers. Thousands attended the festival all three days, or a portion, to picnic, mingle, and dance or to relax,

Yes, the party people arrived prepared to groove & jam to wonderful soundtrack of jazz, contemporary jazz, Latin jazz, Soul and Neo-soul.

Friday evening, we kicked off the weekend while enjoying the amazing musical artistry of Mark Allen Felton, The Stanley Clarke Band, Earl Klugh and Jeff Bradshaw & Friends featuring Chrisette Michele and Frank McComb.

Saturday, Day 2 - the extended play CD was provided by the lively sounds of Andrew Gouche, Jazz All-Stars with Marc Antoine, Brian Simpson and Jackiem Joyner, Down to the Bone, Eric Darius, Jonathan Butler, Stephanie Mills and Brian Culbertson on the Main Stage.

Kevin O'Neal Quartet played an outstanding set of straight-ahead jazz on the McDonald's Pavilion Stage. He also gave a comical shout out to the fellow bass players on the line-up.

The B-side of the Long Beach Jazz Festival LP continued without skipping a beat courtesy of Marcus Johnson, Mara Hruby, Al Williams Jazz Society with the power house, show stopper Barbara Morrison, Keiko Matsui, Gerald Albright, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds. Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band closed out the show. The band had the audience sashaying (dancing) to the parking lot with some picante sauce in their steps.

The McDonald's Pavilion Stage was jamming with The Euro Zambrano Trio, Lotis Jackson and Britt J, Rick Parma & Chitown Soul featuring Marian Marie and JMD Band.

By Ricky Richardson

Los Angeles - Summer attire is appropriate for this time of year. The temperatures keep rising as the long days of summer continue. Attendees at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival felt like we were in the Caribbean.

This weekend, Saturday, July 25th and Sunday, July 26th, the most historic and hottest jazz festival was held in Los Angeles. The 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival was held on the streets, outside of the world famous Dunbar Hotel. Back in the day, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival was the premiere location of African American urban history and culture on the West Coast.

Councilman Curren D. Price Jr, 9th District and Coalition for Responsible Community Development (Mark Wilson, Executive Director) hosted the 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival.

Once a year, America's #1 Art form, Jazz is celebrated during a family, friendly event. Thousands of jazz enthusiasts gathered for two days to enjoy a harmonious blend of the pure sounds of jazz, Latin jazz and the blues. This festival also served as a high school class reunion and reunion of old friends and neighbors.

The rich history of Central Avenue lives on in "The New 9th," Councilman Price continues to celebrate the history of jazz. "For two decades now, this iconic event has helped celebrate our community's rich cultural past, our present and future" said Councilman Curren D. Price Jr.

This year the festival expanded to incorporate three stages of continuous live music, various pavilions focused on health and wellness, children's activities and business and employment services, along with food and merchandise vendors.

A Resource Fair and vendors lined both sides of Central Avenue. The crowd sat underneath a huge canopy and lined the adjacent sidewalks. The synergy from the heyday of Central Avenue could be felt throughout the weekend.

Veteran jazz icons wowed the lively crowd with a set of original tunes and some jazz standards. Fulfilling this bill were Henry Franklin "The Skipper" and Crew, Barbara Morrison, John Beasley and MONK'estra, Kenny Burrell Big Band and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra directed by Dr. Bobby Rodriguez. The 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival was dedicated to the memory and legacy of Gerald Wilson. A plaque was presented to the Gerald Wilson family. A section on Central Avenue will be dedicated Gerald Wilson Square in the future.

The festival also featured some talented up & comers of today who are carrying the torch of jazz forward into the future. The featured artists were LAUSD Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Big Band, Jazz America, Aaron Shaw Quintet, Tony White Quintet, Braxton Cook Quartet, Jamael Dean Quintet, Ryan Porter Group, A Place Called Home, Beyond the Bell Combo and Devin Daniels. Ray Goren prescribed a potent dose of blues.

The 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival spiced up the proceedings with hot Latin rhythms and infectious beats. Salseros (salsa dancers) contributed to our enjoyment of this wonderful festival.

Entertainment was provided by an incredible young saxophonist Christopher Astoquilca A-Tet. Christopher was in a celebratory mood. He celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Central Avenue Jazz Festival and the 194th Independence of Peru with an outstanding scorching set of Bolero's, Cumbia, Merengue, Salsa and Latin Jazz. Their set consisted of the tunes "Blue Bossa" (Bossa Nova), "Es Mentirosa" -merengue, "Love for Sale"-salsa, a fast rumba version of "Caravan" with arrangements by Christopher, and "Flor de La Cadera" with a special guest appearance by guitarist Jose Louis Caballero. Antonia P. Sanchez, President/Founder-Comunidad Peruana Los Angeles Sur de California, Jessica Vanegas, Miluska Morales, Alec Christopher Marken and Sarah Aisha performed traditional dances during Christopher Astoquilca A-Tet set.

Quincy Jones presents Alfredo Rodriguez. Alfredo is an amazing piano wizard from Cuba. He teamed up with Henry Cole on drums as they held the crowds rapt attention throughout their set. People immediately felt the groove as the duo exploded onto the stage with the tune "The Invasion Parade." The tempo slowed down on "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas." The duo revved up the throttle once again on "Timbe Robot," and "Guantanamera."

Ain't no party like a Poncho Sanchez party? Everyone knows that Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band is going to throw it down deep, dirty and funky, with a soulful stew of Latin Jazz, Salsa, R&B and soul marinated in hot sauce, to close out day one of the festival. Salsa dancers left the festival with enough pep in their steps to continue partying at a club, into the sizzling nights.

Violinist Dayren Santamaria is blazing her own trail in Afro-Cuban jazz. She was aided by a group of musicians who are leaders or legends in their own right. The band was made up of Dayren Santamaria-violin, Oscar Hernandez-piano/keyboards, Jimmy Branley-timbales, Joey de Leon-congas, Alfredo Ortiz-vocals/percussions, and Sawa on bass. Dayren Santamaria & Made in Cuba continued the celebration with a high energy set of original tunes from her latest CD, Belleza with arrangements by Oscar Hernandez. The salseros were thrilled as they dance to the following tunes "Made in Cuba," "Belleza," "Mantazas," "Dayren's Nostalgia," and "Cubana Y Tampana" about her early years in my home town of Tampa, Florida.

My enjoyment of the 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival concluded with another excellent set of Afro-Cuban jazz by Arturo O'Farrill Quintet from New York. This tight band featured Arturo O'Farrill on piano, Adam O'Farrill-trumpet, Livio Almeida-saxophones, Carlo De Rosa-bass and Zachery O'Farrill on drums. Their fiery set consisted of the tunes "Siboney," "Industrialistic"-a gumbo of various genres of music, written by Adam O'Farrill, and closed with "Not Now, Right Now."

The Kenny Burrell Big Band closed out the 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival on a rousing note to the delight of the crowd.

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.