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.
Organizing a Smooth Jazz cruise on the one hand, and playing bass as part of the Dave Koz Christmas tour on the other, may not sound like ideal circumstances in which to pull together Warrens Hills tenth CD, and his first since 2002, but that was exactly the situations that Warren Hill and producer Andre Berry found themselves in through December of 2004 and early January 2005.
They had got the majority of the tracks down before Berry left to honor his commitment to Dave Koz and the Christmas tour but much of the final production was done by Berry, in the back of the tour bus, on Apple laptop and mini keyboard, as the Koz show hopped from city to city. Back home in Los Angeles during the first week in January, and with a deadline to have a pre release version ready for the time the cruise sailed, Berry worked with Hill to add the final touches.
The result is the twelve tracks of the new CD, ‘Pop Jazz’, the majority of which remain un-named. The collection was presented as a pre release gift to each and every one of the 1800 fans that traveled with the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 (WHSJC).
When ‘Pop Jazz’ finally hits the record stores later this year, listeners will be treated to a tight and eclectic smooth jazz collection that promises to re-establish Warren Hill as a major player in the genre. Hill’s powerful style is always in evidence and Berry’s production adds the expected funky edge that prevents the recording from ever becoming bland.
Sought after bass player and Warren Hill touring band regular Andre Berry originates from the funk capital of the universe, Ohio. His playing and producing credits include work with such artists as Rick Braun, Chris Standring, Jeff Golub and Tom Scott. As a kid growing up in Cleveland he started writing and producing music with a school friend in a space above his parent’s garage. Of the funk roots that run deep right throughout the state of Ohio, and through him too, he recalls being in a record store and picking up an LP by the legendary funkster Bootsy Collins. On it Collins was depicted astride a motor cycle with a guitar slung behind his back. One look at that picture convinced Andre that he just had to be in the music business. During the week of the WHSJC he shared duties as backing band bass player with Michael Manson and his contribution, especially as part of the set played by Dave Koz in St Thomas, was outstanding.
As many know, Warren Hill grew up in Toronto, Canada and started to play sax at the age of eleven. A summer in New York studying jazz at the Eastman School of Music brought him into contact with the music of David Sanborn, Michael Brecker, Grover Washington Jr., Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane and from there he was hooked. He did have a brief departure from music when, after high school, he studied physics at the University of Toronto but after only a year there Hill enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Following his graduation performance, Hill was approached backstage by producer Russ Titleman with an offer to play on Chaka Khan's record, ‘Baby Me’, a project that also included Stevie Wonder, Prince, Miles Davis, and Dave Grusin. Hill moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and within six months the president of Atlantic Records had signed him to a record deal. He caught the attention of Natalie Cole and, as a result, was invited to open as part of her ‘Unforgettable’ tour. Getting his solo career on track, Hill played ‘The Passion Theme’ on the 1993 Body of Evidence soundtrack. It reached #1 in the NAC chart and earned him appearances on The Tonight Show and The Arsenio Hall Show. Throughout the subsequent decade he has continued to perform and record and now, with the establishment of smooth jazz cruising in the musical calendar, is carving out a whole new niche for himself.
Warren Hill played both the early and late shows of the WHSJC last night finale and included a good sampling of the tracks from ‘Pop Jazz’ in the set. Among the as yet un-named selections were the excellent provisionally titled ‘Toronto’ and ‘Still In Love’, a tune dedicated to his wife Tamara. Full of Andre Berry production influences and Warren Hills powerful playing was the raucous cover of ‘Play That Funky Music’, originally a smash in 1976 for those one hit wonders Wild Cherry.
The end of Hill’s show signaled the end of an incredible week of music. It was appropriate that the eleven principle artists still on board, together with all the backing musicians, joined him on stage to play out with a moving version of ‘Hey Jude.’ Even the ocean, rough at times through the week, seemed to fall calm as the M/S Zuiderdam sailed steadily through the dark night toward Fort Lauderdale. The audience, who had been singing the whole week, raised their voices one more time.
Read more about the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 right here in the coming days and weeks.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the 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