Brian Soergel's Smooth Jazz Scoop: May 2004

This month marks the debut of a new column for called Brian Soergel's Smooth Jazz Scoop. Written by smooth-jazz industry veteran Brian Soergel, it will focus on the very latest updates concerning your favorite smooth-jazz musicians, as well as spotlighting promising new artists. In this post are major announcements concerning Dave Koz and Rick Braun.

Brian Soergel also writes for JazzTimes, Smooth Jazz News, All About Jazz and Smart Jock Networks, a radio prep company servicing smooth-jazz radio. Contact Brian at


DaveKoz_bw.jpgDave Koz, one of the most visible stars in smooth jazz, announced in the April 27 edition of Advocate magazine that he is gay and that it�s time to �get to the next plateau.� �It�s a big deal, and it�s not a big deal,� the saxophonist told the national gay and lesbian magazine. �For the most part, I�ve been out in my personal life and even in my professional life to a degree.� A few days before the magazine hit the newsstands, Koz posted a statement on his Web site,, about the article. "I'm proud and happy to share another side of who I am and what I do,� he wrote. �As I move through this life, I have found that it's increasingly all about peeling back the layers, speaking the truth, and striving for authenticity. This is an inspiring and powerful moment for me, and I've certainly learned a lot getting here. I am most definitely looking forward to where this road leads and I do hope you'll enjoy taking the ride with me."

Koz says the earliest memory he has of recognizing his sexuality was when he looked at ads in the Sunday paper and saw �the guys in the T-shirts and looking at their muscles and going, �Wow.� That�s early, huh?� Koz, whose most recent CD is called Saxophonic, hosts the weekly Dave Koz Radio Show and is co-owner, along with industry executives Hyman Katz and Frank Cody, of Rendezvous Entertainment. Rendezvous, in addition to Koz, features saxophonist Michael Lington, guitarist Marc Antoine, saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Praful and new signee Wayman Tisdale, who plays bass. Koz�s current radio hit is called �All I See Is You.�


RickBraun.jpgThe closure of Warner Bros. jazz department meant that many smooth jazz artists were forced to start looking for new labels for their music. Trumpet player Rick Braun decided he�d just start his own label instead. Braun is now creating his own Internet-based record company that, in addition to releasing music, will offer fans and musicians a chance to interact.

Braun�s first project is a new CD of 11 songs recorded live in the studio in an attempt to capture the energy of a live show. Most of the songs are from Braun�s catalog, although he does promise a new song or two. The CD features such Braun staples as �Groovis,� �Marty's Party,� �Notorious� (with saxophonist Richard Elliot), �Night Walk� and �Philadelphia� (with guitarist Jeff Golub). Rick Braun Live 2004 is expected to be available this summer. Braun, whose latest CD � and his best � is called Esperanto, plans to include online courses for musicians and explain how musicians make their CDs. Students learning instruments will be able to download songs in individual files. Braun�s current smooth jazz hit is called �Daddy-O.�

Also, Braun recently redsigned his Web site,, to include �audience cams,� showing his fans in concert. Braun has a few dates coming with BWB (Braun, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown) and will appear this summer with Dave Koz�s Smooth Summer Nights tour.


ChrisBotti_bw.gifTrumpeter Chris Botti is everywhere these days. In the April 28th edition of People magazine, he�s on the list for the magazine�s annual issue recognizing the �50 Most Beautiful People.� He joins such stars as actors Orlando Bloom, Jude Law and Brad Pitt and actresses Halle Berry, Lindsay Lohan and singer/actress Beyonce. Botti�s recognition soared this year as he opened for Sting during his Brand New Day tour.

Now Botti�s ready to make some quiet noise. This summer, he�ll debut a new radio show called Let's Chill With Chris Botti, which is expected hit airwaves this summer. The title comes from �chill music,� which is a type of music popular on the beaches in Caf� del Mar on the Spanish island of Ibiza. The music has many similarities to smooth jazz and techno music, and some of the artists played in the format include Praful and Moby. �The music is the largest radio format outside the U.S., but it�s gaining popularity here,� says Botti. �It�s not so much about the artists who make it; it�s about a lifestyle.� Let�s Chill With Chris Botti is a product of Rendezvous Entertainment, Broadcast Architecture and Crystal Media, the same group that syndicates The Dave Koz Radio Show.

Botti recently scored his fourth No. 1 hit on the smooth charts with the song �Indian Summer� from his every-song-is-keeper A Thousand Kisses Deep CD. Botti says the CD has many chill-music influences. Botti�s current single is called �Back Into My Heart,� which Chris wrote with noted hitmakers Matthew Gerrard and Bridget Benenate. Later this month, Chris will perform at the Blue Note in Tokyo.


LutherVandross_bw.gifSome of the biggest names in smooth jazz are now finishing their contributions to a tribute album to singer Luther Vandross, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered a year ago. �It�s a who�s-who of smooth jazz, so you know it�s going to be an incredible album,� says keys player Brian Culbertson, who duets with Dave Koz on �If Only For One Night.� The 10-song album, called Forever, For Always, For Luther, is scheduled to be released on the Verve label this summer.

In addition to Culbertson and Koz, artists recording songs made famous by Vandross are Boney James, Kirk Whalum, Mindi Abair, Richard Elliot, George Benson, Paul Jackson Jr. and Lalah Hathaway. James will interpret �Wait For Love� and add his sax to singer Ledisi�s version of �Sensitivity.� Other songs include Whalum on �Any Love,� James on �Wait For Love,� Abair on �Stop to Love,� Braun on �Dance With My Father,� Jackson Jr. on �Never Too Much,� Elliot on �Your Secret Love� and Benson on �Take You Out.� Luther�s good friend, keyboardist Rex Rideout, is producing the CD.


Arrow.gifIt�s been a long wait between albums for sweet-sounding acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh, but the good news is that he�s working on two projects simultaneously. Earl�s last album was called Peculiar Situation and released in 1999 on the Windham Hill Jazz label. Now, from his home recording studio in Atlanta, Earl is recording an acoustic album of jazz standards and another melodic album that is more in tune with the many his Smooth Jazz fans have come to love over the years. �I�ve been out here for twenty-five years plus, so there�s a lot of material to pick from while performing,� says Klugh, talking about his rigorous touring schedule. Look for the acoustic album in September and the band album sometime in spring 2005.

Arrow.gifMichael Lington�s first CD for Rendezvous is called Stay With Me, and is available on May 18. The first single on the 10-track CD is called �Show Me,� an extremely catchy number that is already a hit and should land high in the charts. Look for this CD to really propel Lington to stardom. Lington performs with Brian Culbertson in June at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles. Lington also plays sax on an upcoming single called �Up South� by drummer Gene Dunlap. Expect to hear more from Dunlap at the end of June when his CD Wass Up is released on the Liquid 8 label, which is home to the popular smooth-jazz/R&B group Bass X.

Arrow.gifVeteran smooth jazz group 3rd Force, now celebrating its 10th year, has started recording a new album called Driving Force, the sequel to 2002�s Gentle Force. Featured artists include Brian Hughes, Craig Chaquico, Marc Antoine and 21-year-saxophonist Eric Darius. 3rd Force leader William Aura says the new album is more upbeat and funky than Gentle Force, which was intentionally on the contemplative side. �This one is very funk and groove oriented, a party album, if you will,� says the mild-mannered Aura, who nonetheless knows how to crank it up when necessary. This month Aura is in Katmandu, Nepal, to record a song for the CD with Rashmi, one of several young Nepali and Tibetan students he sponsors through his website Look for Driving Force, which will be mixed in June, to be released by the Higher Octave/Narada label early in 2005.

Arrow.gifSaxophonist Jeff Kashiwa will release Peace of Mind, his follow-up to The Simple Truth, on Aug. 24 on the Native Language label. The Seattle-area resident enlisted Brian Bromberg and Chuck Loeb to co-produce the album. Kashiwa also handles a few tracks. Look for Peace of Mind in stores and online on Aug. 24. Also, Kashiwa is currently preparing of a tour he started The Sax Pack, starring himself and saxophonists Kim Waters and Steve Cole. The tour begins May 15 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Arrow.gifGuitarist and vocalist Steve Oliver, who recently moved out of Los Angeles to a home in the rolling foothills near Banning in Southern California, has finished mixing a new album with Doug Oberkircher, who has worked with Spyro Gyra and Eric Marienthal. Steve�s new album, tentatively titled 3-D, is his first for the Koch Records label after two albums � First View and Positive Energy � for Native Language. You may remember Oliver�s hits, which have included �High Noon,� �Positive Energy� and �West End.� The new album will include four vocal tracks and one cover tune. Musical guests include saxophonist Marienthal, drummer Harvey Mason and pianist Tom Schuman of Spyro Gyra, who also produced the album with Oliver. The first single is expected to be �Chips and Salsa.� Look for Oliver�s new CD this summer.

Arrow.gifWayman Tisdale, the former pro basketball player who is now one of Smooth Jazz�s most well-known bass players, has signed with Rendezvous Entertainment. Look for Wayman�s debut with Rendezvous, Hang Time, his fifth album overall, to be released on July 13. James Lloyd of Pieces of a Dream wrote and produced the title track. Meanwhile, Tisdale is part of Dave Koz�s third annual Smooth Summer Nights tour, which begins June 5th and features Koz, singer Jeffrey Osborne and guitarist Jonathan Butler. Trumpeter Rick Braun joins the tour on June 25.