Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.
When the leaves start to fall in the parks of London and the days become ever shorter, when the waters of the Thames are swollen with autumn rain it can mean only one thing, that Peter White is back in town for his now regular October appearance at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, Soho. This time he played five nights and seven shows at this most intimate and rare of venues and although ostensibly he was there to promote his latest CD release Confidential he brought so much more besides.
The Secret Garden caught the Thursday night show, the third of his run there and, as Peter explained, the set had already been changed somewhat by requests from the early audiences to play more of the ‘old stuff’ and not treat the event entirely as a showcase for the new album. He duly obliged and, in a performance that lasted in excess of two hours, presented us with the equivalent of the Peter White anthology, reaching back through the years for awesome musical memories while mixing it up with the best from Confidential. The quality was truly outstanding and bursting with energy throughout. Perhaps given the caliber of musicians assembled to play with him this was not surprising. With Acoustic Alchemy’s Frank Felix on bass and Ami Rothenberg on drums the foundation was brilliantly established. With DC based Jaared on sax and Florida’s own Allon Sams on keyboards the combination was truly outstanding.
Confidential is perhaps the smooth jazz CD of 2004. It has already produced incredible sales and radio play in the USA and as such has received acclaim from reviewers both on this site and elsewhere. Consequently the purpose here is not to critique Confidential one more time. Suffice to say, tracks from this most groove driven of releases gave White an excellent core of material with which to perform live and, as they say, really rock the joint. Memorable in this respect was track #2 ‘Talking Bout Love’ that was co-written by White, his producer Paul Brown and long time Boney James collaborator Rex Rideout. Just as good was #5 from the CD, ‘Are You Mine’, which on the recording features Mindi Abair. Here Jaared covered Abair’s part on sax with great style. Indeed Jaared played a considerable part in the proceedings throughout. When White played track #4 from the album, the Brenda Russell number ‘She’s In Love’, Jareed stepped up with the vocals sang on the recording by Christopher Cross and made a wonderful job of it. Jaared also contributed with his own ‘C’est La Vie’ from the recent compilation, Maximum Grooves Coast To Coast. Look out for a Secret Garden Snippet on Jaared soon.
When White widened the scope of his offerings beyond tracks from Confidential, Perfect Moment, ‘Midnight In Manhattan’ (with Jaared excelling on saxophone), ‘Who’s That Lady’ and ‘Caravan Of Dreams’ were all standouts on this most special of nights. This latter track was taken from White’s 1996 album of the same name, a recording that includes the cut ‘Together Again’, lifted from it as a single’ and co-written by Peter and Allon Sams. It marked a collaboration that would transcend their time together on tour. Indeed one of the highlights of this evening in London, in front of a packed Pizza Express audience, was the White – Sams composition ‘Time Alone’ from Allon's 2001 release A Place In Time.
Allon Sams is little known to British audiences, yet A Place In Time is quite simply a fantastic record. Sams started life in the world of music playing the trumpet and french horn in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. He began to concentrate on keyboards and learned his craft traveling throughout the USA, the Caribbean, Jamaica and Mexico with cover bands as well as 3 months of solo performances on the very receptive Japanese circuit.
A graduate of Full Sail Center for the Recording Arts he moved to Los Angeles to take up an internship with Joe Zawinul that provided invaluable experience as a studio technician. He polished up his technical expertise as an engineer at studios such as Westlake Audio where he worked with Vanessa Williams, Michael Jackson, and Richard Marx among others. His urge to perform saw him start playing with local bands in the Los Angeles area. These included his own band as well as The Boxing Ghandis and a band comprised of former members of Tower of Power.
Once the music started, Allon found success recording jingles for radio, television and film trailers and album projects from record companies such as Def Jam where Allon played keyboards for Montell Jordan’s This Is How We Do It.
Perhaps his smooth jazz breakthrough came while working as an assistant engineer on an HBO film project. Allon met producer/engineer Paul Brown. It wasn’t long before Paul called on Allon to collaborate with artists such as, Boney James, David Sanborn, Doug Cameron, John Klemmer, Gabriela Anders and, of course Peter White. The desire to both start a family and create his own music led Allon to move back to his hometown of Tampa Bay where he continues to be based.
In 1998, and following rave reviews of his music from his loyal fans, he undertook to write, produce and release his debut album Bayshore. This he did without the assistance of an agent, a manager or a record company. It was released only in the Tampa area yet sold over 3000 copies in this small demographic. His next album A Place In Time began its marketing campaign in the summer of 2001 and moved Sams to a higher level. He wanted to share his music with a larger audience than had been exposed to Bayshore so lifted and remixed two of the tracks from it for the new album, ‘Dusk To Dawn’ and ‘Distant Rain’. These are two of many standouts. As well as the incredible ‘Time Alone’, which, by the way, can be found on the 2002 CD Sampler Vol. 5 from WSJT 94.1, he also collaborates with Peter White on the track ‘Feelin It’. Perhaps the real show stopper is ‘The Sun Will Shine’, voted by the much lamented ex Jazz FM presenter Steve Quirk as his number one pick for 2001. Quirk also added to the exposure this track got in the United Kingdom by including it on the Jazz FM smooth jazz compilation Dreamin’.
As well as fronting his own band and touring regularly with Peter White he has performed as an opening act for many artists including George Benson, Boney James, Rick Braun, Peter White, Regina Belle, Special EFX, Paul Taylor, Richard Elliot, Patti Austin and Najee. Now he is back with his new CD Music and Laughter which releases in mid November. Sams describes it as containing ‘some very funky new originals with only one slow jam on it’. He has added two new horn players, Mic Smith on trumpet and Bob Chisholm on trombone to his live band in order to compliment Gene Cannon on sax and give full justice to live renditions of tracks from the album.
His thriving Tampa studio, Studio A, specializes in producing original talent, background music tracks for live performers, talent competitions, music on hold and commercial jingles. In the pipeline are CD releases by Gene Cannon and TFOXX and an Artist Compilation CD project which features Peter White, Mike Scaglione, Les Sabler, Joe Ruiz and Allon Sams himself. Local Tampa songwriter Munir Doumet has written all of the songs on this project.
One way or another there is a lot going on for Allon Sams. He is already planning a UK tour for early in 2005 and the glimpse that the Pizza Express audience saw of him will make them hungry for more. Special thanks to Peter White for putting him there and for providing such a memorable Pizza Express experience.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this months Secret Garden? Do you have a favorite Smooth Soul Survivor that you would enjoy being featured in a future edition? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.Posted by Denis Poole at November 7, 2004 10:41 PM