March 21, 2006

What We're Listening To - March

B E V E R L Y * P A C K A R D

Steve Oliver, Radiant, 2006. Heís done it again. A great listen all the way through and after even the first listen, itís already replaying itself in your musical mind. The CD has an uplifting conceptual framework amid the struggles we all face in life. Original vocals 'Bend or Break' and 'Radiant' are excellent compositions with thought-provoking lyrics that show us more of the depth that is Steve Oliver, while at the same time his just-right vocal touches on the instrumental tunes make them soar! Awesome keyboard and programming by both Michael Broening and Tom Schumann, also features Gerald Veasley on bass on one of the tracks.

Harry Hmura, Face to the Sun, 2006. A second solo CD that showcases Harryís tremendous skill on the guitar. Simply amazing, indescribable, tireless playing, once again. Stirring vocals by Harry Hmura himself and always that wonderful Latin jazz feel throughout. The inspirational title is only the beginning of your journey to a place where you can bask in the warmth of the guitaristís ability to bring you to a place where youíre feeling great and ready to tackle the world. A great follow-up to his first CD, Passion. After seeing a DVD of Hmuraís playing, I strongly recommend not only buying the CD, but booking him for a concert Ė heís a player who is totally one with his guitar and you wonít be disappointed with his energetic, electric performance.

Janita, Seasons of Life, 2006. Very soulful singer from Finland, now working in NYC, whose voice and lyrics draw you in immediately. Tunes that stay with you and become pleasant memories that you want to keep going back to. A Basia feel in some of the tunes , with a more sultry voice that does every song justice. The appeal of this album is enhanced with awesome string arrangements, and that really shows in 'Enjoy The Silence,' sure to be a hit, and my personal favorite. We'll be hearing a lot more about this artist, to be sure.

Jay Soto, Long Time Coming, 2005. Iíve recently come across this powerhouse of a guitar player and I am nothing short of stunned with his ability to do something I donít often see in a CD, which is to play quite an assortment of tunes to clearly demonstrate his versatility. In some tunes he reminds me of Russ Freeman and Peter White.

Donald Fagen, Morph the Cat, 2006. There will never be a time when I wonít buy anything recorded by Steely Dan or Donald Fagen. One just has to make the attempt to keep up with the latest world view coming out of some of the most creative minds in history. 'H Gang' is the one I like best (for now)!

B R I A N * S O E R G E L

Roy Ayers, Virgin Ubiquity Remixed (BBE/Rapster): The legendary vibe master gets a fresh new electronica makeover by some of today's hottest producers.

Spyro Gyra, Wrapped in a Dream (Heads Up): Another solid work by Jay Beckenstein and company with some real bite and amazing solo work by Beckenstein.

Philippe Saisse Trio, The Body and Soul Sessions (G&N): A CD of mostly pop songs offered in an accessible jazz framework. Will be released soon by Rendezvous Entertainment but is now available on Saisse's website.

Monty Alexander, Concrete Jungle: The Music of Bob Marley (Tuff Gong/Telarc): Nobody does reggae in a jazz-piano style better than Alexander.

Althea Rene, In the Moment (Chocolate Caramel): Smooth Jazz flute with an urban flavor. The title song is one of the best of the year and should be a smooth jazz single. Highly recommended.

P E T E R * B O E H I

Rodney Taylor - Blow By Blow (2003)
This sax player sounds eerily similar to Gerald Albright, blindfolded I would bet this was the man. Nevertheless this is some well produced, very contemporary smooth jazz which is very recommended.

Keith Anderson - Diversity (1997)
Smooth and cool sax player with a very polished set. Very well done, not to be overlooked!

Keith Jacobson - I Wanna Be With You (2005)
Picture perfect smooth jazz set by sax player Keith Jacobson with top notch production and radio friendly gems in abundance. With Eric Marienthal and Patrick Yandall guesting. Great music!

Tom Schuman - Deep Chill (2005)
Spyro Gyra keyboard player Tom Schuman delivers a great smooth jazz album with some notable guests like Peter White and Jeff Kashiwa. Thumbs up!

Mike Stevens - Joy (1998)
I overlooked this album when it originally came out and am happy to have discovered it eventually. Great sax playing by Mike Stevens and some soulful vocals by Meli'sa Morgen make this a top notch record.

D E N I S * P O O L E

When You Comin' Back To Me by Brenda Russell from her wonderful CD Between The Sun And The Moon. This is as smoky and soulful as you will hear all year.

Love TKO by Eric Darius from his current release Night On The Town. With a new CD due out on March 7 Darius is going to be going from strength to strength.

Maxi's by Richard Elliott from Metro Blue. Its an indication of the quality of this one that the radio play lists have not yet got to the best tracks.

Firefly by Greg Adams from the CD of the same name. Its one of those that gets in your head and won't go away.

Love Will Never Let You Down from the Brian Culbertson release It's On Tonight. With awesome contributions from Pattie Austin and Kirk Whalum this is one I keep coming back to.

J O N A T H A N * W I D R A N

2002, The Emerald Way (Real Music)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Long Walk to Freedom (Heads Up Africa)

Unwrapped Vol. 4 (Hidden Beach Recordings)

Jamie Cullum, Catching Tales (Verve Forecast)

Amik Desires: The Romantic Collection (Bolero)

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at March 21, 2006 4:26 AM