SMOOTH JAZZ VOCALIST PHIL PERRY AND HOT NEW SAXOPHONIST JIMMY REID TEAM UP FOR SUNSET JAZZ CONCERT
TEMECULA, CA - Veteran vocalist Phil Perry will headline Wilson Creek Winery's Sunset Jazz in the Vines Concert, Friday, August 15. Perry spent much of his career as a sideman vocalist working extensively with Lee Ritenour. Known for his trademark falsetto and sexy whisper Perry can best be described as a romantic vocalist with album titles of The Heart of the Man, Pure Pleasure, One Heart, One Love, and My Book of Love."
"I've been singing love songs since the beginning of my career, writing on occasion while seeking out a few great tunes among hundreds that were submitted," said Perry a former member of the 70s soul group Montclairs. The Montclairs, launched Perry's career with hits like "Make Up For Lost Time" and "Dreamin' Out of Season" before cutting two albums for Capitol as part of the duo Perry & Sandlin. After the duo split, Perry established himself as a first call background vocalist and session singer in Los Angeles. His trademark has been versatility-singing at local clubs with Lee Ritenour; doing studio dates with James Ingram, Quincy Jones, famed composer Michel Colombier, Sergio Mendes, George Duke, Barbra Streisand and Patti Labelle; singing the title theme from Arthur II; and touring in Japan, the Pacific Rim, Europe and Brazil with Ritenour and others.
Upcoming star saxophonist Jimmy Reid will open the concert, which begins at 7 p.m., Born in Chicago in 1977, Reid picked up the sax at age 10. Since then, he's won several awards including the Louis Armstrong jazz award and a couple of Outstanding Musician Awards from both Coca Cola and the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). Jazziz Magazine proclaimed Jimmy Reid and his 1998 debut album "the second generation of genre performers..." He has developed a reputation on the Los Angeles club scene as a top performer with his own band, toured and recorded with top stars like Jonathan Butler and Brian Culbertson, performed around the country for America's Second Harvest (the nation's largest domestic hunger relief charity) and this spring and summer has been the featured sax man on The Winans Family Tour nationwide.
A portion of the proceeds for the concert will go towards the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
Concert general admission is $45. Gourmet dinner by Spaghettini's Italian Grill with concert ticket is $95. Season tickets are also available. Guidant, Toyota of Temecula Valley, Embassy Suites and The Valley Business Journal sponsor Sunset Jazz in the Vines. Tickets can be purchased through www.ticketweb.com or by calling 1-866-468-3699. For more information call the winery at (909) 699-WINE or visit the website at www.wilsoncreekwinery.com.
Singer/songwriter, Tony Adamo and two-time Grammy award winner, Ernie Watts have gone to the top of the Smooth Jazz Chart at soundclick.com. The song "Midnight Café" featuring Ernie Watts and produced by Jerry Stucker, went to #1 July 14, 2003 and # 4 on their Jazz Chart. This is the fourth #1 hit at soundclick.com for Adamo off his Rhombus Record release, Dance Of Love.
Ernie Watts, the tenor saxophonist extraordinaire, has honed his unique sound to perfection. Ernie has played with the who's who of the music industry's elite: Quincy Jones, Cannonball Adderley, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour to name a few. This summer finds Adamo and his producer Jerry Stucker finishing up new music and vocal tracts for his next CD release. The renowned Tower of Power Horns, Paul Jackson, (Headhunters) one of the world's greatest bass players and percussionist Roberto Quintana are contributing to this outstanding musical effort.
In the column I wrote in the Spring of 2002 about the 3rd Annual National Smooth Jazz Awards, I offered high praise for the moment in the show when guitarist Joyce Cooling, bassist Jennifer York and saxtress Pamela Williams jammed together in a true display of musical “girl power.” Then came my oft-repeated lament about the strange reality that, despite this moment and the wonderful subsequent performances by Keiko Matsui and Sheila E., smooth jazz is such a male dominated genre. In an age long past the dawn of women’s lib, when women run corporations and Hollywood studios and are regularly appointed to key Cabinet positions and elected to Congress, why do so many jazz fans still think it’s a bonus when an attractive female with a sax or axe in her hand can actually play?
I remembered an interview I did with Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer in 1991, when her laid back instrumental hit “Lily Was Here” was all the rage. Despite her impressive pedigree (her dad was popular sax player, she toured with Prince), she had no problem admitting that all the attention she was getting was less due to her funky, Sanborn-styled alto than her exotic physical attractiveness. Has this changed now that we’ve crossed into the 00’s?
Who better to ask than another “hot chick” saxwoman who has a Berklee education, a good decade plus of major side gigs (Backstreet Boys, Jonathan Butler, Adam Sandler) and, by the way, can truly blow the horn — Mindi Abair? Early airplay and consumer response to her long-awaited, crisply produced, fresh alt-pop-edge-funk-smooth-jangly rhythm guitar spiced GRP debut It Just Happens That Way are encouraging. Out of the box, it was a fixture in the Top Ten on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart. Her fresh faced, blond good looks and the fact that she’s dynamite in a mini skirt may pique male hormones, but spin the disc, check her out onstage (as hundreds, including numerous male all-star smoothies, did for her March record release party at Hollywood’s Garden of Eden), and those looks truly become the side attraction.
“The guys I play with both in my band and in others I’ve played with over the years get a kick out of the whole ‘Can she play’ routine,” says Abair over lunch at a trendy Hollywood eatery near her home. “When I toured with Adam in ’96, the whole time, fans came up to me after the shows and said it’s extraordinary, it looks like you were actually playing it. Then their jaws dropped when I said, ‘uh, dude, I was.’ I loved playing in all sorts of bands at Berklee and in those developing days, I had less of a sense of humor about it, because of insecurity.
“I think it takes incredible confidence as a woman to be an artist,” she continues via email. “I walk out onstage every night, as a new artist, and I have to prove myself because people expect me to be less than average. I’m not sure men deal with that. They can walk onstage and be at ground zero. They’re expected to be good, and looks don’t come into play. I played the Berks County Jazz Festival recently and one of the promoters came up to me at the end of the week and said that I was the real thing. He said that surprised him because when you see a pretty face, you expect that it’s just an image covering something up. I think one of the reasons I stayed in the industry despite this stereotype is that I don’t mind walking on stage with something to prove. The women I’ve known who have been successful in music have all been self-confident, not bitchy or arrogant, just sure of themselves. It takes that to survive.”
Even with one of the most exciting and listenable and successful genre CDs of 2003 thus far, Abair can’t quite be expected to singlehandedly spark an explosion of new female star power in the genre. Still, she’s encouraged that this is an amazing time for women in jazz and as her ilk becomes more commonplace, people’s fears of a woman pushing boundaries (music, mountain climbing, whatever) will subside. She was encouraged on her world tours with the Backstreet Boys when little girls would come up to her and view her as a role model.
“They’re happy to see that it’s possible for a woman to thrive in a boy dominated club, as if there are no limits anymore,” she says. “When I was younger and fell in love with the sax, there were no women role models, per se. My dad was a big influence and my boys were Sanborn, Cannonball, The Yellowjackets and Wayne Shorter. But no one discouraged me. I don’t hold it against anyone that I’m judged by different standards, but I know there would be more women out there if those standards were a bit easier. I’m doing my part, though. Hopefully after me, sparkly eyeshadow on jazz artists will be more acceptable to the masses.”
Next, we take this question to the vocal side of the genre, where Phoenix based R&B/jazz/pop singer Khani Cole seems especially qualified to comment. Her type of steady success gives hope to those who aren’t the one in a million Norah Jones type global phenomenons. Cole has the best of two worlds, doing various tour dates domestically and/or internationally every year while enjoying the comfy fruits of being a regional phenomenon. The sultry voiced Milwaukee native has three popular indie CDs to her credit, and her most recent, the retro-meets-modern soul influenced Lifetime (scheduled for re-release on A440 Music later this year), spawned two European chart hits “Sunshine” and “All About You.”
She’s packed clubs and swanky hotel lounges for ten years in Southern Arizona, leading her band (all males, all brilliant, naturally) before nightly standing room only crowds for seven years running at A Different Pointe of View at The Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs resort. Local radio support has been constant. If we want to know what the smooth jazz elite thinks of her, all we have to do is look at a recent roster of weekend sit-ins at her gig — Brian Bromberg, Eric Marienthal, Nelson Rangell, Michael Lington and Richard Smith.
“There’s something people love about that old fashioned, voice-piano, Fabulous Baker boys style of performing, where a singer can combine belting with the laid back, sexy approach,” she says of her unique niche. “I have some wonderful loyal fans both here in Phoenix and in many other places. They come back many times and bring friends along. There’s a time and a place for the power thing, but people who come to hear adult oriented music want some peace in their lives, something mellow and not overproduced.”
As for the “women in jazz” issue, “I’ve always been a singer, and I’ve been somewhat annoyed by the common misconception that a singer is not a musician, because the voice is truly an instrument. That said, being a singer has always been the more acceptable, traditional role for a woman. It’s been a struggle for those who play instruments to gain credibility, maybe because talented girls growing up just don’t see a lot of success stories with the sax or rock guitar. I always loved the Wilson sisters from Heart because they were great guitar players, but generally people always ask, ‘Can she play?’
“It’s certainly gotten better,” Cole continues, “and there are more women out there doing well who are not singers than ever before. I lead a band full of guys and they’re great to work with. There’s no ego getting in the way. I just expect them to do their best, and they trust me. When a young woman comes up to me and says she wants to do what I do, I tell her if she works hard and is good, everyone, male and female, will respect her. Music fans always want to hear a good, honest female vocalist. It’s a totally viable career.”
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO:
1) Rick Derringer, Free Ride (Big3 Records) — What’s amazing is not how much fun it is to hear the guitarist’s classic rockers like “Frankenstein” revamped as cool instrumentals (“Smooth Frank”), but the fact that he’s not on Higher Octave Music, which has helped make adults out of 70s rock legends Craig Chaquico, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain. The originals are a blast, too.
2) Steve Cole, NY LA (Warner Bros.)
3) Streetwize, Work It! (Shanachie)
4) Lisa Marie Presley, To Whom It May Concern (Capitol)
5) Peter Cincotti (Concord)
Just as this months page was being put to bed the sad news came through of the death of the great Barry White. It seems these days that our musical hero’s are dying all too frequently and in the case of Barry White he really was one of the all time hero’s of seductive soul. He is worth a special tribute here because it was his hallmark monologue on the introduction to the Quincy Jones epic ‘The Secret Garden’ that spawned the idea for the name of this page. In addition it was the mood of the man that inspired the idea of the regular feature, Smooth Soul Survivors. One thing that is certain is that the music of Barry White is set to survive for a very long time.
With the exception of just a handful of outstanding artists there is little doubt that smooth jazz is in crisis. Bland recordings and lacklustre covers are doing nothing for the genre. Couple that with the change of musical direction of radio stations such as Jazz FM, who now seem to think it is OK to play music from artists such as Dean Martin and call it smooth jazz, and indeed times are troubled.
That’s why it has been particularly refreshing to discover the latest release, this time on N-Coded Music, from the diverse and talented Ronnie Jordan. For those of us who do not like our smooth jazz too smooth this is certainly the release of 2003 so far. At Last brings us ten edgy but radio friendly tracks that really hit the spot.
When talking to Jordan about Jordan the word legend is an uncomfortable fit for the famed guitarist. ‘George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian’, he says humbly, ‘now those guys are legends. Me, I am just a guy always working to improve his craft’.
A quick sampling of the disc amply proves the master musicians’ assessment is right on the mark. Track #3, ‘Heaven’ is typically infectious and smooth, track #5, ‘Word of Mouth’ is pleasant and melodic while track #1, the title number ‘At Last’ is punchy and groovy with a melodic tinge. All three have that irresistible rhythmic bounce that smooth jazz aficionados have come to love. Add Jordan’s unique guitar riffing and melodic expression and its virtually impossible not to envision smooth groove stations jumping all over them.
Track #2, the cover of the Al B. Sure number from his 2002 release Give It Up, ‘Nite and Day’ and track #4, ‘You Might Need Somebody’, with Crystal Lake doing the Randy Crawford vocals are two more automatics.
Those who have followed Jordan from the beginning know that when the man wants to mellow things out, he is virtually unparalleled.
And he doesn’t disappoint on At Last. Track #8, ‘Island Paradise’ is exactly that, a romantic journey for the lover in all of us. It is evocative of the beaches of southern California, a very tight recording and a contender for the albums stand out track. The cutely titled track #7, ‘Ron-dezvous’ is the perfect tune for creating a little midnight magic, a very groovy smooth number with nice build qualities and a catchy riff. Throughout his career Ronny Jordan has been nothing if not teasingly unpredictable, so the fact that he rounds out this sensual set with the seductive club mix of ‘St. Tropez’ should come as no surprise. This is really an outstanding track, a genuine dance floor filler that is a wonderful way for the album to close.
Also not too surprising is the fact that Jordan, who deserves credit for revolutionising the sound of contemporary jazz, would produce this project with radio airwaves in mind. ‘That’s something I have never consciously set out to do before’, he explains. ‘I have had my fair share of success, but I wanted to make a record that would stand the test of time with the general public’. In order to do that, Jordan has compromised neither his sense of self nor his musical integrity. At Last unquestionably conveys the essence of Ronny Jordan. Regardless of what direction he chooses to go on any given project he is a guitar player first and foremost. This is very much a guitar album.
Jordan’s guitar playing has served him well, bringing both critical and fan acclaim ever since his first project, the 1992 The Antidote, was hailed as one of the seminal recordings of the then up and coming acid jazz movement. Follow up projects, The Quiet Revolution and Light To Dark, further solidified Jordan’s growing reputation as not just one of the best players on the scene, but one of the most innovative as well. By the time A Brighter Day and Off The Record ushered in the new millennium, Jordan’s reputation was secure and his legend was on the rise.
Recognised by critics, fans and fellow musicians alike, Jordan’s one-of-a-kind talents have earned him the coveted Gibson Guitar Award, as well as Mobo’s Best Jazz Act honour plus a Grammy nomination. Ironically, while Jordan’s accolades come in the jazz arena, his personal musical tastes are wide. As the 40-year-old Jordan explains himself,
‘Musically, I am a product of the seventies. Radio was much more adventurous then, so I grew up on everybody from Abba to Earth, Wind and Fire to P-Funk and Steely Dan. People ask me who my influences are and I ask, how much time do they have? On guitar, it’s easy. The Big Four for me are George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green and Wes Montgomery. Once we get past guitarists, though, we can sit up all night and I still wouldn’t have told you all of them. Good music that’s what influences me. That is why no two albums of mine are the same. I have got a lot to say and a lot of different ways to communicate’.
If At Last is anything to go by the power of Jordan to communicate with his listening public has never been greater.
An album has come to the attention of The Secret Garden this month that is an interesting diversion from the usual. Released by DHP Records, Dig, by jazz trumpeter Rueben Brock is an EP that is only available from the DHP website.
Showcasing Brocks diverse talents Dig features six tracks all written, produced and performed by the man himself. The DHP publicity machine describes the recording as ‘blending the rough and raw production style of hip-hop with the textures and instrumentation of contemporary jazz. The result being a smooth and relaxing escape from the world of popular music’.
A personal view of the recording is that it is perhaps a little too much of a muchness as it hits a very mean and moody late night groove on track one and then stays right on in there for the duration of the album. That is very true with tracks #1 and #2, ‘Both Ways’ and ‘Forbidden Fruit’ although track #3 ‘Blues For Dominique’ carries with it a straight-ahead flavour. Track #4, ‘How Much’ is perhaps the album stand out and incorporates a dreamy sax overlay on what would very well work as a movie soundtrack to signify quiet late night city streets.
Track #5 is again a moody late night piece supported by a haunting beat which, in a way, provides more of an overall effect than being supportive of a single piece of music. This extended play closes with #6, the title track ‘Dig’, with a good drum scene setter and some interesting laid back sounds.
Dig is a very interesting piece of music and Rueben Brock is an interesting newcomer on the scene. Check it out at www.dhprecords.com.
With Smooth Jazz Vibes being one of the first sites on the internet covering smooth jazz it was now time to redesign the site and bring it up to the level of current technology. It is amazing how far we have come over the course of just a few years.
By employing a great content management system (Movable Type) I now am not only able to handle the various contributions much easier but also to allow more reader interaction. Please feel free to post your comments next to each post - besides the Smooth Talk forum remains open for anyone to peruse.
I am glad that my regular contributors stay with me and continue to submit news, reviews and other contributions to help to keep the site running.
Please bear with me as I adapt the rest of the site and restructure things. If you would like to drop me a line please feel free to contact me.
Thanks for visiting Smooth Jazz Vibes!