May 31, 2004

Berks Goes to Milford, Connecticut

Now that the Berks Jazz Fest is over, I can’t help but be drawn to other places, other venues where the jazz scene is either going strong or just popping up for one night.

rowe_endofconcert.jpgThe most recent one to catch my eye was the Second Annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars Benefit, coordinated by none other than Jay Rowe, who I had met a number of times as keyboard player in Special EFX. Jay is a very talented keyboard player, having made a few of his own CDs. He is not only a musician in his own right, but I’ve learned he’s a mover and shaker of some good things!

While he was here during the Berks Jazz Fest, he encouraged us to come to Milford to support the benefit and see a great line-up of musicians! Hearing the names of artists to be featured certainly got my attention: Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Nelson Rangell, and Marion Meadows! And, of course, Jay Rowe himself and his own F.U. Jazzboy band, featuring Rohn Lawrence, Dave Lavolsi, Timmy Maia, and Trevor Sommerville.

To give you a little background, Jay got the idea for this benefit as a way to invest in music education in the public school system in Milford. Jay approached Kevin McCabe of JumpStartJazz in Connecticut, knowing that Kevin and his volunteer staff could help make it happen! He invited former classmates and long time friends of his, and the rest is history! It’s been the start of a wonderful tradition in Milford.

Driving into the area to park the car before the show led me to none other than the Superintendent of the entire school system, who gave us directions on where to park and what door to camp out at until the doors opened! He was obviously very excited about the show and what it means for his schools. Knowing one of his very own middle school teachers, a saxophone player, was to be featured in the show as Jay’s first of many ‘Feature Teachers,’ made it all the more meaningful for him, I’m sure!

rowe_meadows.jpgTrue to the theme of the night, the evening began with Milford students, three multi-talented music scholars who form the Marty Eisenberg Trio. They were captivating with their rather traditional jazz sound as they moved from one number to another, each one changing from his original musical instrument along the way. The drummer changed to keyboardist, the cello player changed to bass guitarist, and the rhythm guitarist became the drummer! I was amazed by each one’s ability to play both of his instruments so well. The crowd was appreciative. There were a number of young people there (I noticed children down to five years old or under as I looked around). It was good for the older ones to imagine that in a few short years, they, too, could potentially be up on stage performing live music.

It was a most memorable night for Jay Rowe, I’m certain, as he, bass player Dave Lavolsi, and drummer Trevor Sommerville, remained on stage the entire evening as the featured artists came and went. To top off the good feeling Jay had in being the coordinator of a successful event that will likely continue year after year, the announcement was made of his upcoming wedding (just two weeks away)! So Jay had many reasons to smile that evening, and smile he did, from the beginning to the end of the show. He didn’t miss a beat!

Highlights of the evening included Marion Meadows entering from the back of the auditorium, to the delight of all those sitting in his path as he made his way to the stage. His sultry sax and amazing renditions of songs like George Duke’s No Rhyme, No Reason, and My Cherie Amore (with Timmy Maia on vocals) had the audience clamoring for more. Jay also enlisted the talent of long time friend and guitarist Rohn Lawrence, who played Foolish Heart and a personal song with a story called Waiting On Wally.

navarro_maia.jpgAll the artists had a great time and each one played their numbers with so much heart and soul. Ken Navarro began with a song from Bread, “Make It With You” and continued by playing a song he wrote long ago to help his young son fall asleep, Eric’s Dream. On this very night of Smooth Jazz for Scholars, Eric, now 18, was attending prom night. Ken also played Old Friends, from his ‘Best of.’ CD, All The Way, and a song which is his own version of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ in life, called, “Play, Don’t Worry.”

This year Jay added something new which he hopes to continue each year, a ‘Feature Teacher’ in which he showcases the talent of a teacher from the school system in Milford. This year it was saxophone player and middle school teacher Bob Nunno, and he honestly blended in so well with everyone on stage that I wonder if these days he’s dreaming of stardom for himself! I’m sure his students, especially those who were in attendance, will never see him as quite the same person after this benefit!

Another traditional part of this show is ‘Raffle Time.’ It should be noted that ‘Raffle Time’ goes on for a full twenty minutes, and there were very special prizes for many in the audience. During this time, Marion Meadows and Rohn Lawrence kept on playing, later joined by Tim Maia, and they gave a whole new meaning to ‘Raffle Time.’

Interestingly, there were many families in the audience, complete with young children. As I watched, I noticed that the younger children in attendance who may have begun yawning after 9 PM, since it was past normal bedtime, sat up straight when ‘raffle time’ came, to the tune of James Brown! They couldn’t sleep with that combination of games and great music.

rowe_minucci.jpgFollowing ‘Raffle Time,’ it was Nelson Rangell whose enthusiastic, powerful sound on the saxophone easily connected with the audience. His song Dedication featured Jay’s bass player, and his Senora with Ken Navarro was a unique performance to watch, since Nelson whistled much of the melody! I was so awe-struck that someone can whistle the way he did! Both Nelson and Marion Meadows were so impressive in breath control. They seemed to find air within themselves when I was sure there just could not possibly be any left! Still, they found more!

Chieli Minucci, who came out to join the others just before intermission, always manages to make his warm-up of the guitar into a song that we hope doesn’t have to end. Chieli plays so well each time I see him, and he was so excellent again, joining in on some numbers featuring others, and then playing his superb rendition of Santana’s Europa, Daybreak from his Global Village Special EFX CD, and Kickin’ It Hard with Jay’s Feature Teacher, who kept up with Chieli perfectly!

The last number featured all the artists. For me, this is becoming a very favorite way to enjoy this music, with a bunch of talented musicians up there, each contributing in his own way to the final product of the last song!

I hated to see the evening end, but as I watched the artists bow, I was grateful to each one for his inspiration and dedication to young artists. And I thought Jay Rowe, along with bass player Dave Lavolsi and drummer Trevor Sommerville, deserved special accolades for learning the music of the various artists, for staying onstage the entire time, and for having fun with it from the first moment to the last.

Happy Jazzin',

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo credits Michael C. Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 9:56 PM

May 28, 2004

Dave Koz vs. Howard Stern and John Tesh

Dave Koz is up against Howard Stern and John Tesh for Radio & Records' Syndicated Personality of the Year.

DaveKoz_bw.jpgSaxophonist and radio personality Dave Koz joined some heady company this week as, for the first time ever, he’s picked up a nomination as Syndicated Personality of the Year for “The Dave Koz Radio Show.”

Winners will be announced June 23, 2004, at the Radio & Records national industry convention.

Dave’s competition includes Howard Stern, Tom Joyner, Delilah, Little Steven and John Tesh. Dave was also nominated in the smooth jazz Personality/Show of the Year category, along with co-host Pat Prescott, for his morning show on KTWV-The Wave in Los Angeles. Koz won that award in 2002.

Also nominated in the Personality/Show of the Year category was previous winner Ramsey Lewis, who hosts a morning show along with Carol Williams for WNUA in Chicago. Lewis also hosts the nationally syndicated “Legends of Jazz” radio show.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:08 AM

May 26, 2004

Grady Nichols signs with Compendia Records

Rising star in the contemporary jazz format to release Sophistication on July 27

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 25, 2004) - Jazz saxophonist Grady Nichols has signed with Compendia Music Group, and will release his album Sophistication on the Compendia Records label. Michael Olsen, president of Compendia Music Group, made the announcement today.

GradyNichols.jpgScheduled for release on July 27, Sophistication - produced by respected jazz musician Jeff Lorber - already has one track, "Allright," climbing R&R's Smooth (contemporary) Jazz charts and in the top 20 on's listing.

"This project was put together over a long period and during two major life-changing events - getting married and having a child," said Nichols. "There is a culmination of many different emotions throughout and I hope people will feel that when they hear the music. There is a flow to this record as it weaves from the funky to the seductive. It's my best studio project to date."

Ric Pepin, VP/GM of Compendia Music Group, said, "We were knocked out by Grady's music, obviously - Sophistication is an incredible album. However, as a label we were also impressed by this artist's work ethic and determination. What Grady has achieved to date he has done on his own - assembling his own promotion and marketing team, gradually building a following in the jazz world, putting out his own albums. Compendia knows that an artist that invests in his own career is an artist worth investing in as a label."

"We first tested the waters of the contemporary jazz format with some tracks from the Joan Osborne How Sweet It Is album, and we were delighted with how programmers embraced her - in fact, Joan became the most played female vocalist in that format in 2003," continued Pepin. "Today, in addition to Grady, we also have Compendia Records artist Pete Belasco moving up the contemporary jazz charts. Radio programmers see that we've made a real commitment to this format; we'll continue to support the contemporary jazz format with quality artists and music."

Grady Nichol's first two CDs, Between You and Me (1996) and Mysterious Intentions (1997) netted considerable airplay on contemporary jazz and adult contemporary radio stations across the country - an impressive accomplishment for an independent artist. Grady's 2001 release, In the Fullness of Time, featured Bill Champlin, keyboardist / vocalist of the group Chicago, alongside a 50 voice choir. He has appeared on national television on BET On Jazz's Jazz Scene and for twenty-six weeks on BET's Sunday Night Live. As part of his ongoing effort to blend music and charity, Grady initiated and hosts "Grady Nichols Presents . . . ," a star-studded event in Tulsa featuring acts from all genres of music. The 2000 show featured the Beach Boys, drew 7500 people, and raised over $50,000 for the Tulsa Area United Way.

Compendia Music Group is an independent record company whose labels include Compendia Records, Light Records and Intersound Music. These labels, each with a separate staff and musical focus, produce and distribute a wide variety of music, including rock, contemporary jazz, pop, gospel, lifestyle/inspirational, country, Christian and classical. For more information, please visit

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:04 PM

May 25, 2004

Alexander Zonjic opening restaurant and jazz club

Flutist and smooth-jazz radio DJ Alexander Zonjic will open a restaurant and jazz club in Detroit in June called Seldom Blues, which is also the name of his new CD.

Zonjic.jpgSmooth jazz flutist Alexander Zonjic will open a restaurant and jazz club next month in Detroit.

Peter White, Bob James and Earl Klugh are expected to be on hand during an invitation-only celebration on June 2 to open the fine-dining and jazz club in Detroit’s Renaissance Center. The restaurant, called Seldom Blues, is owned by Zonjic, who is also the morning-show host for Detroit's Smooth Jazz V98.7 radio station. The restaurant, which is being billed as a “supper club,” seats 300 people.

Zonjic partnered with Detroit Lions football player Robert Porcher, executive chef Jerry Nottage and restaurateur Frank Taylor to open the club, which will feature “continental cuisine with a French flair.” Seldom Blues will open June 3 to the public, and Zonjic will perform on weekends, along with special guests.

Seldom Blues is also the name of Zonjic's new CD, which will be released by Heads Up International this summer.

James wrote the title track and also performs on it. Other original material includes tracks from Jeff Lorber, Peter White, James Lloyd of Pieces of a Dream and Tim Bowman. Cover tracks include Eric Burdon's "Spill the Wine" and an arrangement of "People Make the World Go Round" by Lloyd.

Kirk Whalum and his vocalist brother, Kevin Whalum, are also contributing to the project.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:22 AM

Basia returns after 10 years - sort of

Basia's last solo CD came 10 years. Now she's back on a new album by the group that gave her her start - Matt Bianco.

basia.jpgOne of smooth jazz’s biggest stars from a decade ago, Basia, joins one of today's top stars, Peter White, on a new album being released this month in Europe and Japan by Universal called Matt’s Mood by the pop-jazz band Matt Bianco.

It was back in 1984 that Matt Bianco, co-founded by Peter’s brother, Danny White, made its debut with an album called Whose Side Are You On? featuring Basia’s vocals and Peter’s guitar work. Basia left the group after that album, along with her producer Danny White, to concentrate on Basia’s solo career, which would boast two albums that reached #1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts: Time and Tide and London Warsaw New York.

Now, although Basia has not released a solo album since 1994, she is reunited on the new album with brothers Danny and Peter White and Mark Reilly. Peter plays plays guitar or accordion on five songs. Matt’s Mood is scheduled to be released in the United States and Canada in the spring of 2005.

“It’s not a Basia record, but there’s a lot of Basia on it," says Peter White. "And there's a lot of me on it, too. I'm very proud of the record."

The first single is "Ordinary Day."

Here are the songs:

1. Ordinary Day
2. I Never Meant To
3. Wrong Side of the Street
4. La Luna
5. Golden Days
6. Ronnie Samba
7. Say the Word
8. Kaliedo Scope
9. Slip & Sliding
10. Matt's Mood III
11. Ordinary Day- (bonus track in Japan)

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:09 AM

May 24, 2004

Tony Adamo at Capitol Records

Singer/songwriter Tony Adamo and his long time producer Jerry Stucker were recently at Capital Records to have three tracks mixed by legendary music producer Al Schmitt (assisted by Capitol Records recording engineer, Steve Genewick). Al Schmitt has worked with the most influential voices in American Pop and Jazz for the last forty years starting with Sinatra and most recently, Diana Krall.

Adamo’s new CD will be a collection of jazz standards as well as some pop gems turned into jazz. Jerry Stucker, Adamo’s producer has written very hip, smooth new music arrangements for these. Included are War’s, “In the Ghetto,” “In the Winelight” with music written by Grover Washington, Jr. and lyrics by Kurt Elling and Cannonball Adderly’s instant jazz classic, “Mercy Mercy.”

Adamo will be back at Capitol late summer to finish the final mixes for this new yet untitled CD. For more information on this new emerging artist, please go to

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:07 AM

May 23, 2004

Chris Botti Planning New CD

Chris Botti is hot. He's one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful" people, toured with Sting and has a smash CD called A Thousand Kisses Deep. So it's no surprise that he's entering the recording studio soon to take advantage of his popularity.

chrisbotti.jpgTrumpet player Chris Botti is getting ready to head back into the studio soon to record a new album of musical standards, the follow-up to his current and most successful album so far, A Thousand Kisses Deep. The new album, called When I Fall in Love, will feature some orchestration. The title song is a Edward Heyman and Victor Young composition that has been covered by numerous jazz and pop artists and was popularized by Nat King Cole.

Botti gained worldwide exposure touring with Sting, appearing in People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful” issue and having a No. 1 song, "Indian Summer." He also will debut Let's Chill With Chris Botti on radio stations this summer.

When I Fall in Love is expected to be released in October.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:07 PM

May 19, 2004

Patrick Yandall new release!

PatrickYandallFromTheAshes.jpgPatrick Yandall new release From the Ashes on Apria Records coming next month. Featuring: Randy Brecker, Will Lee, Ada Rovatti, Joel Rosenblatt, Kimo Cornwell, Scott Wilkie, Andre Mayeux, Nathan Brown, Jason Weber, & Sandy Weltman.  Recorded in New York, New Jersey, L.A. & San Diego. See Smooth Jazz News May issue for the feature article. West Coast Release Party @ Humphreys. Sunday, July 4th 8-12.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:11 PM

May 18, 2004

Wayman Tisdale Continues Retro Run

Bassist Wayman Tisdale loves the old songs. Look for two classics on his upcoming CD Hang Time.

WaymanTisdale.jpgBassist Wayman Tisdale will continue his love affair with classic old-school songs on his new CD, Hang Time, his first for Dave Koz’s Rendezvous Entertainment. The first single on the Tulsa, Oklahoma, resident’s upcoming CD, which is due July 13, will be a cover of McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” Tragically, the writer of that song, John Whitehead, was murdered in Philadelphia last week. Tisdale also covers Smoky Robinson’s “Crusin’.”

Tisdale scored a No. 1 hit on the smooth-jazz charts on his last CD, Face to Face, with a cover of "Can't Hide Love" by Earth, Wind and Fire.

Tisdale is part of Koz’s third annual A Smooth Summer Night tour, which begins June 5 and features Koz, singer Jeffrey Osborne and guitarist Jonathan Butler. Trumpeter Rick Braun joins the tour on June 25.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:12 AM

May 15, 2004

Bam! Emeril Band has ties to Pieces Of A Dream

The band on the American TV show Emeril Live has a strong connection to smooth jazz group Pieces Of A Dream. Now that's kicking it up a notch.

emshow.jpgIf you’ve ever watched Emeril Live on the Food Network, you know that the Emeril Live Band helps host Emeril Lagasse “kick it up a notch” with its grooving jazz sounds. In addition, Emeril has featured a number of smooth jzz artists on his show over the years, including Chris Botti, Mindi Abair, Al Jarreau, Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum and Jonathan Butler. But did you know that two of the Emeril Band Live players have connections to veteran smooth jazz group Pieces of a Dream?

Drummer and leader Leonard “Doc” Gibbs played on a Pieces of a Dream album from 1982, We Are One, and again in 1999 on Ahead to the Past. And keyboardist Cliff Starkey performed on several albums, including Goodbye Manhattan and In Flight.

“Doc Gibbs, of course, was the percussionist with Grover Washington Jr. for many years, so he’s an old friend from way back," says Pieces of Dream co-founder James Lloyd. The late Grover Washington Jr. and Pieces of Dream had a long association. "And Cliff played with Pieces for a while, so I feel proud when I see them on the show."

Lloyd admits, though, that he doesn't get much time to watch Emeril. He's either making his own music, including a brand-new CD called No Assembly Required, producing others' music (including Alexander Zonjic and Nestor Torres) at his studio in Youngstown, Ohio, or indulging in his out-of-music passion: cooking.

Sounds like Lloyd is a perfect fit for a guest spot on Emeril Live.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:49 AM

Smooth Jazzers on Miles Davis Concept CD

Producer Jason Miles' upcoming concept album, to be recorded "in the spirit of Miles Davis," boast smooth jazz stars Marc Antoine and Keiko Matsui.

JasonMiles.jpgProducer Jason Miles has recorded concept albums featuring the music of Grover Washington Jr., Ivan Lins and Weather Report. Now he's tackling the king of jazz: trumpeter Miles Davis.

Miles says his latest is inspired by Davis' music. The Rendezvous Entertainment and Narada labels are working together on Miles' upcoming Miles 2 Miles: Imagined Collaborations. The album’s concept is collaborations invoking the spirit of Davis’ music, using today’s most accomplished musicians from a diverse range of musical styles. Most of the songs will be originals, but one highlight is a new interpretation of Davis’ “Flamenco Sketches” with guitarist Marc Antoine and pianist Keiko Matsui. Other musical guests include Mike Brecker, Randy Brecker, Me'Shell Ndegeocello and Nicholas Payton, among others.

Look for Miles 2 Miles: Imagined Collaborations this fall. Meanwhile, Jason’s current project, on the Telarc label, is the group Maximum Grooves and the album Coast to Coast.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:31 AM

May 13, 2004

Spyro Gyra - "The Deep End" to be released May 25

coverSet for release on May 25, The Deep End (also available as an SACD in 5.1 Surround Sound) - Spyro Gyra's 3rd album on Heads Up and 27th album overall - features the solid musicianship of founder Jay Beckenstein on saxophones, Tom Schuman on keyboards, Julio Fernandez on guitars, Scott Ambush on bass, and drummers Joel Rosenblatt, Billy Kilson and the newest member of the group, Ludwig Afonso (on "Joburg Jam"). The 26-year-old Cuban drummer accompanied his University of Miami teacher to the audition, wanted to try out, and got the gig!

Celebrating their 30th anniversary, the group has earned the respect of its audience with over 10 million albums sold. Spyro Gyra continues to break new ground with this latest release, the follow-up to Original Cinema, which spent most of 2003 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart. Their 2001 Heads Up debut, In Modern Times, logged 64 weeks on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart, peaking at #2.

Beckenstein says, "The Deep End speaks of an emotional leap, of following your heart, The music is complex, but the approach is emotional. It's less produced that the last record and represents a swing back to a live band sound."

Special guests include Dave Samuels on vibes, Don Harris on trumpet, and percussionists Cyro Baptista, David Charles and Daniel Sadownick.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:58 AM

Peter White Confidential

No one's hotter in smooth jazz right now than Peter White. His first single from his latest CD, Confidential, is a happy ditty called "Talkin' Bout Love" that has stayed on the top of the smooth-jazz charts for five weeks.

Peter talks to Smooth Jazz Vibes about the album, its groovy cover art and mysterious liner notes, his early days with Al Stewart, and future CDs he like to create for his fans.

And here's a challenge he throws out to readers: How does it feel? E-mail him at if you think you know the answer.

PeterWhite_live2002.jpgWhen you think of romance, you picture White’s comforting acoustic guitar melodies, which he’s serenaded his adoring smooth-jazz fans with for 14 years and over the course of nine albums, including his latest, Confidential.

Peter White is clearly a musician at the top of his form. His contemporaries call on him to sprinkle his magic dust on their CDs, festivals book him to draw bodies and his fans count the days until the next batch of songs.

The latest batch of songs, released March 23, looks like it’ll perch near the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts for a while. The first single, “Talkin’ Bout Love,” has been No. 1 on Radio & Records’ top 30 charts for five weeks as of the week ending May 14. The single is the 13th No. 1 in White’s career. Paul Brown, the genre’s most successful producer who now has a CD of his own, Up Front, co-wrote and produced the song. Brown’s first single from that project, “24/7,” has been stuck at No. 2 for a while due to the popularity of “Talkin’ Bout Love.”

“Paul’s probably wishing I would vacate the top spot,” says White jokingly. “But I’m sure he’s not complaining, since I think he’s already sold more records than I did on my first album. Paul’s a great friend and a great talent.”

coverConfidential features an all-star cast of guest musicians, including trumpeter Chris Botti, keyboardist Brian Culbertson, percussionist Lenny Castro, saxophonists Mindi Abair and Michael Paulo. Christopher Cross’s angelic vocals caress a cover of a Brenda Russell song "She's in Love," which she and White did a duet on during past Dave Koz and Friends Christmas tours. White took Russell’s arrangement and substituted his guitar for the piano tracks.

Like all of White’s CDs, there are a number of songs that scream “I’m a hit.” “How Does It Feel,” for example. “It’s silly, funny, it’s light-hearted,” says White, who wrote the song with Abair’s producer, Matthew Hager. “It’s pop, it’s dancey, it’s happy. Matthew came up with guitar line, and I originally told him I couldn’t play it that way. But it kept coming back to me.” In the end, White picked the main acoustic riff, while Hager did the same riff on a funky electric guitar. “There’s a lot of guitars in that song, which is a first for me,” says White. “I like that song because it’s different.”

White chose the artwork of cartoon illustrator Mark Zingarelli for the CD cover, which gives the CD a steamy noir-ish look that matches the title. It’s the second time in a row that White’s face didn’t appeared on the cover. His last, Glow, showed Dean Chamberlain’s photo of a guitar.

“The record company decided they didn’t want my picture on the cover,” White says. “We did a photo shoot for the album where I was determined to smile in every shot. But I’ve never had a photo shoot for an album cover where I’m smiling – I really wanted to be smiling this time. We spent a whole day shooting and the record company said they didn’t think it was moody enough. I seem to go for friendly-smiley thing, but the record company and my manager seem to go for the moody thing every time.”

So White thought if he wasn’t going to have his smiley mug on the cover, he wanted to do something romantic. Hence the cover art and the corresponding liner notes, where White writes a mini-narrative using – directly or indirectly – every song title contained within.

On the cover, a man in room 102 of an anonymous-looking hotel room holds a lipstick-kissed envelope. A woman lounges against the open door. “The open door says so much to more than if it had been closed,” says White. “Why is the door open? Is she leaving? Did she just come in? Does she want to leave? Is he leaving? I think she wants something from him; she’s professing her undying love for him, but he doesn’t believe her. The story really is about me, about 20 years ago. The story isn’t real, but characters are. I’m writing about me in the first person. There’s a half-baked philosophy in there too. I think it’s all more interesting than just thanking people. Half the people I thank I’ve never heard of, anyway. I think they all work for the record company and they put their own names in there.”

Holiday tour with Mindi Abair
WhiteAbairXmasTour.jpgThis holiday season, White says he’ll once again tour with Mindi Abair, with another high-profile guest to be announced. White has tons of experience with seasonal music, as he’s released a holiday CD called Songs of the Season and toured in the past with Dave Koz’s annual Christmas tour. A compelling reason to revisit the tour, says White, is the crowd-pleasing appeal of Abair, one of the freshest new talents in smooth jazz.

“She’s a wonderful performer, and of course she plays great. I look in the audience and no one’s looking at me, especially the guys. I was thinking this is just what smooth jazz needs. After the show you’ll see all these guys talking to Mindi and they don’t even care about me.” He laughs about this. “But that’s fine. There’s enough for everybody. I love playing with her. On the Christmas tour, she’d always be energetic and up for the show. She’d say, ‘Come on, guys!’ “

Peter White looks back
As White turns 50 this year in September, he admits he’s been thinking of the past. Nonetheless, he feels milestones are overrated. “All that means to me is that I’ve survived and managed to make a living for 30 years, so I’m very happy to be turning 50 this year, happier than 30. That was big year for me, leaving adolescence behind. But I felt at age 30 I hadn’t achieved what I’d hoped for.”

White was only 22 when British folk singer Al Stewart released his classic Year of the Cat album, which featured White playing some of the guitar lines. White co-wrote the title song on Stewart’s next album released two years later, Time Passages, which turned out to be Stewart’s biggest hit and White’s first taste of the top of the charts.

Shortly after the British-born White turned 33 and had already been living in the U.S. for a while, however, he became aware of what eventually would become smooth jazz while simultaneously listening to Los Angeles’ pioneering Wave radio station and hearing the music of Acoustic Alchemy. “I thought, What is this music? It’s got acoustic guitar and a good beat. I could play acoustic instrumental pop. And I’m sure they didn’t know there would be ready-made audience for them in U.S. They were just a couple of English guys playing music in a bar.”

In 1990, White released his first CD, Reveillez-Vous, whose title song was his first No. 1 hit. He followed that with Excusez-Moi (an apology for the unpronounceable title of the first effort) and Promenade.

Although nothing is definite on any future projects, White says he has plenty of ideas. “I have so many album projects in me that I want to come out, a lot of retrospectives. I want to go back to those first three albums and rework them with different instruments, maybe some orchestration, using the resources I have today to hire the best musicians and get the best studios. There’s also about 10 songs that didn’t get on my fourth album, Reflections, that I’d like to release.”

He’d also like to offer a greatest-hits CD, but with reworked versions of all of this No. 1 songs. “It’d be the best of, but with a twist so there’s a legitimate reason why someone would pick out the album. It’s an idea that gets me excited, and not much gets me excited. I’m approaching 50, remember. The past becomes far more important to you as you get older.”

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:01 AM

Smooth Into Summer In Vegas

May 30th kicks off Jazz Under The Stars #1 in Las Vegas, an event promoted by Michael Schivo, who just finished a successful festival at the end of April in Vegas with The Eleventh Annual City Of Lights jazz Festival.

Jazz Under The Stars #1 will feature a sax extravaganza of performances by popular saxophone recording artists Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, and Kim Waters.

And if that's not enought to kick off the "Spring Into Summer" smooth jazz concert series, then try heading out to Vegas' neighboring city of Henderson, Nevada for the Michelob Ultra Smooth Jazz Series for the first Tuesday of every summer month (going into fall) at the Henderson Pavilion.

The lineup is as follows:
June 1st - Chuck Loeb
July 6th - Greg Adams
Aug. 5th - Chieli Minucci
Sept.7th - Doc Powell
Oct. 5th - Steve Oliver

Posted by Danny Desart at 12:32 AM

May 12, 2004

Site updated

Dear readers - this site has undergone some major improvements.

First of all I have now adapted the new look to all elements of the site including the guestbook and the discussion forum which both were sporting the old look until now. The re-design of the site is now completed - hope you like it.

Please feel free to add your comments to the guestbook or participate at the discussion forum (links above) or send me your feedback and let me know what you would like to see on this site.

The most important improvements have been done input-wise. One of my main contributors Brian Soergel will from now on submit first-hand news from the industry in his new column called Brian Soergel's Smooth Jazz Scoop increasing the status of this site within the smooth jazz scene. Check back often - you will hear about it here first!

Besides we have some new writers who joined recently or will soon start to contribute to the site. Among them is Beverly J. Packard with her Berks Jazz Vibes column providing some great concert reviews. More is soon to come from Beverly so stay tuned.

I am in touch with others as well so you can expect a lot more from Smooth Jazz Vibes in the future. If you would like to join the team of writers please let me know.

And finally we have added banner advertising to the site to give the industry an opportunity to reach their audience and provide the site with some revenue. By the way if you would like to support our work we invite you to donate some money using PayPal (just click the button on the front page) - thanks in advance!

On a side note I would like to mention my new engagement at web radio located here in Switzerland. I play my favorite smooth jazz tracks during a two hours show which is broadcasted twice a week. Check it out!

I am really excited how this site develops and thank our loyal readers for visiting here regularly.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:04 PM

May 11, 2004

Smooth Jazz Scoop May 11, 2004

Norman Brown and Tom Grant have wrapped up new CDs. For Brown, it'll be his first since his Grammy-winning Just Chillin'. Grant's 20th CD will feature his vocals on some straight-ahead jazz.


NormanBrown_studio.jpgIt’s now confirmed that Smooth Jazz guitarist Norman Brown will release his eagerly anticipated new album, which is still untitled, in the middle of June. Norman’s sixth solo album is the follow-up to his Grammy-winning release from 2002, Just Chillin’,which won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album and whose title song was a #1 Smooth Jazz hit. Also picking up a Grammy for his work on Just Chillin’ was producer and guitarist Paul Brown, who also produces a couple of songs on the new album. Although the jazz division of Warner Bros. recently closed, Norman remains signed to the label and the new album will be Norman’s third for the company.


TomGrant_onstage.jpgVeteran pianist Tom Grant – who has had many smooth jazz hits over the last 28 years – has finished work on his 20th solo album, a traditional jazz project called Nice Work If You Can Get It. The album, released on Tom’s Nu-Wrinkle label, features 11 songs, including two he decided to record after a trip to Brazil: Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado” and “A Felicidade,” the latter with Nancy Curtin singing in Portuguese. Although he’s sung on albums before, this is the first that really features Tom’s vocals, on songs such as “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “I’m Old Fashioned.” There are also several instrumentals and solo piano pieces. Band members include Dave Captein and Phil Baker on bass, Gary Hobbs and Ron Steen on drums and Paul Mazzio and Richard Titterington on flugelhorn. Look for Nice Work If You Can Get It to be released on June 1, and a new smooth jazz CD early in 2005.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:23 AM

May 5, 2004

Contempo May 2004

Smooth jazz fans unfamiliar with Bob Baldwin’s truest musical heart may look at the title of his A440 Music debut Brazil Chill and think it’s just another exotic experiment by a guy better versed in gospel and funk edged soul-jazz. Actually, it’s the extraordinary musical equivalent of a decade of playful flirtation leading to a full-fledged, life changing romance, with the happy ending kiss reaching full rhythmic bloom before the backdrop of the Rio sunset.

Enamored by the likes of Eliane Elias and Brazilian themed projects by adventurous jazz cats like George Duke and Pat Metheny, the keyboardist—stuck in numerous studios Stateside—has danced with Braz jazz before on individual tracks from his popular discs Reflections of Love (“Billy’s Smile”), Cool Breeze (“Bahia Maria”) and (“Those Eyes”).

coverA visit to Rio in early 2001 with jazz promoter Frazier West intensified Baldwin’s fascination and left him enamored with more than the 400 types of rhythms he learned existed in Brazilian music; he literally purchased 100 native CDs on trips before the one he took there to record the album.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the sexiness of their music, and the comfort that Brazilians seem to have living in their own skin,” he says. “If there’s one word to describe their culture, it’s ‘festive.’ The people there have fewer economic resources by far, but seem much happier than the average American. That joy is reflected in the music, and the pop music there has a certain sophistication I was attracted to. The thing that entranced me musically was the percussion. When I first met (percussionist) Café Da Silva, he had a beat up drum, like a djembe mixed with a garbage can, and I loved how he hit it. The sound transported me. I was excited by the idea of turning my core sound as a piano and keyboard player over to top level native musicians.”

Baldwin knew that the only way to create an authentic musical experience was to brush up on his Portuguese, call his old saxophonist pal from New York Leo Gandelman (now owner of Zaga Studios in Rio) and jam right in the heart of things with the indigenous cats who make the music happen down there. Brazil Chill includes Baldwin’s feisty interaction with guitarist Torcquato Mariano, the legendary Marcos Ariel (a famed keyboardist who plays chorinhi styled flute passages on the swinging “Cafezinho”), vocalist Zolea Ohizep and drummer/percussionists Da Silva, Armando Marcal and Juliano Zanoni. Joining Baldwin on the easy rhythms of the title track are members of the legendary funk band Azimuth — who literally got tears in their eyes when they heard some of Baldwin’s music for the first time.

“I began half the tracks with a Brazilian rhythm and later added my keyboard textures, and on the other half I started with an established groove and added percussion textures onto that,” he says. “The most important element was having a powerful percussive flavor and native feel. The concept grew beyond my expectations. Once we had the studio, the musicians and the vibe going, everything came together. I wouldn’t direct the guys too much. Instead, I’d offer the framework and let them do the rhythmic interpretations. Once the bass locked into the drum track, everything blew up from there.”

Although certain songs, particularly the insanely dense with percussion street samba “Carnival,” find Baldwin’s regular keyboard voice getting a bit overwhelmed by his surroundings, the key to the success of Brazil Chill is in his blending of his North American sensibilities with a distinctly Rio itinerary. He makes sure we know where we’ve landed on the brief opening track “Street Sounds,” 15 textured tracks of urban ambience (with a little spoken Portuguese), and on mini celebrations like “Everybody’s Beautiful (In Brazil).” Baldwin mixes those exotic flavors with some homespun grooving on the hybrid “New York Samba.” Digging deeper into this funk roots, Baldwin calls us home on the hip-hop flavored ballad “Last Call,” which features scratches by New York drummer Dennis Johnson.

“The title Brazil Chill was a very straightforward way to convey the idea that I’m an American exploring the flavors of Brazil, very much a student whose education is in progress throughout,” he says. “And that includes learning Portuguese. The real trip was the fact that most of the musicians only knew a little English, and we had to rely on one of the engineers who was bilingual to help us out. But it was really a testament to music being the universal language which allows you to communicate in a way that goes beyond words.”


smoothjazzcruise.gifBaldwin was a very welcome last minute invitee onboard the second weekend of Warren Hill’s Smooth Jazz Cruise 2004, something of an ultimate seafaring excursion for the extreme genre fan seeking island sun and tourist shopping by day and rockin’ funk jazz till all hours after the moon rose on the choppy but warm winded Caribbean. The overwhelming success of these cruises — which included shows during the day, late in the evening and wild jam sessions till 2 a.m. — ensure that the event, co-promoted by Hill and Akron, Ohio travel agent Peter D’Attoma — will become an annual tradition, perhaps on par as a yearly destination with the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival. Hearty advance sales for next year’s excursion began during the week, much like future season ticket sales during a championship season.

Bob Baldwin and headliner Jonathan Butler hopped on the Costa Atlantica for the January 25 - Feb. 1 voyage from Ft. Lauderdale to San Juan, St. Thomas, the Dominican Republic and Nassau. Baldwin shone (like the pink morning sun on the deep blue, enjoyed by most fans from their private balconies) with some colorful Crusaders-like Rhodes flavors at the first night’s jam session and picked his spots throughout the week, subbing in spots for regular keyboardists Brian Simpson (from Hill’s band) and Michael Logan (from Kirk Whalum’s band) to play along with Kirk Whalum, Peter White and Jeff Golub. There was a real spirit of mix and match throughout, as different headliners would run onstage for an impromptu number or two, the most exciting of these being saxman Euge Groove with White (gliding up the balcony stairs in perfect symmetry) and Butler scatting and singing to Hill’s rousing singalong closer “Hey Jude.”

Flutist Alexander Zonjic, who rarely performs solo gigs, also added incredible soloing to Hill’s feisty, tropical dance classic “Mambo 2000.” Best musical moment hands down was when guitar lords Golub, Chieli Minucci and wildman Randy Jacobs exploded on a Hill-written rock blues blast, with Hill retreating into the trusty horn section of Harris brothers Bill and Don.
Some of the mixing and matching was unintentional as Groove, White and then Hill were cabin bound for days with a nasty flu that inspired 104 degree body temps. All thankfully recovered and the fans had no trouble adjusting their schedules and enjoying extra shows by Groove, Marion Meadows (who renewed his wedding vows with minister’s son Whalum officiating on the sand) and bassist Michael Manson along the way. Artist-fan interaction was enhanced by autograph sessions and spirited Q&A sessions, one of which found Zonjic obliging with his version of Bob James’ “Theme From Taxi.” Zonjic summed up the spirit of the week by opening his own gig with the quip, “I’m the guy with the flute, not the flu.”


1) Larry Carlton, Sapphire Blue (Bluebird) – Why the guitar great waits a decade between blues dates is a mystery, as this fiery and locomotive, yet frequently cool and restrained jam session shows off a deeper talent than any of his recent solid pop efforts.
2) The Love Project (Narada Jazz)
3) Nestor Torres, Sin Palabras (Heads Up)
4) Keiko Matsui, Wildflower (Narada Jazz)
5) Dan Siegel, Inside Out (Native Language)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 8:39 PM

May 4, 2004

Smooth Sailing May 2004

Pete Belasco is divine on his first CD in seven years, while Kim Waters and James Vargas play the sax to perfection. Also reviewed: Marion Meadows, Pieces of a Dream, Bob Baldwin, Brian Bromberg, Tery Disley and Joe Kurasz.


coverPete Belasco has just about made the perfect smooth-jazz-with-vocals CD. Meaning, the vocals aren’t strategically placed to attract a wider demographic. Most of these attempts to grab the masses fail miserably, anyway, and work as filler on otherwise fine efforts. On this CD, Belasco’s feathery falsetto is what the CD’s all about and every vocal track is hit-worthy. Heck – and this is almost unfair – he can play sax like the devil, deep and resonating, as well as holding his own on keyboard and vibes. Belasco tips his hat to professed idols Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye (especially on “Fool’s World’) and the Isley Brothers on the liner notes, and while it may be tempting to think of Deeper as derivative, that would miss the point. It’s more of an homage to smooth ‘70s soul, which Belasco makes his own with provocative and endearing lyrics.

Rather than mixing tempos and moods, Belasco makes the right decision in sticking to the lovers-by-the-fireplace setting, make the CD as a whole function as both a great listening experience and an hour-long trip into slow-is-good foreplay. Whether urging to look “Deeper” in the world around us or seducing us with “Hurry Hurry,” Belasco writes lyrics that can mean something, even it’s just about plain ‘ol love and stuff. If “I’ll Come to You” – even with its industry nudge-nudges with refrains of “smooth sounds” and “Quiet Storm” – doesn’t get you in the mood…

Belasco doesn’t forget his sax on Deeper, as several cuts are instrumentals. Well, “Crazy” has computerized vocals, but it’s an instrumental in spirit, with Belasco’s sexy sax and JK’s wah-waa guitar. Belasco’s a family man, and names two songs for his daughters, “Nia” and the lullaby “Zoe.” And he sings lovingly to his wife in “Wonderful Woman.”

So how does a smooth-jazz CD get a top rating? By never faltering, sticking to a theme and balancing commercialism with artistic expression. Smooth grade: A+

In the Name of Love

coverComing off two No. 1 hits, saxophonist Kim Waters is now undoubtedly one of the top names in smooth jazz. His newest CD should do nothing to bring him down. Fans of his megahit “The Ride” will be pleased to find a remixed version of it here, which closes the project. Waters is all about hits, whether writing his own or for others such as Pamela Williams, so it’s no surprise that the first single is “In Deep,” a driving number with Waters soprano marching along to the uptempo rhythm. Even better is “Sunset,” which may be the catchiest single he’s ever written. Listen, and don’t even try to get the melody out of your head for a while. A big plus is that Waters, who tends to leave his real playing to his Streetwize side projects, gives himself a chance to get some playing in when not hammering on the melody.

Waters chooses two tasty covers: R. Kelly’s “Step in the Name of Love,” with Charles Smith handling the “step, step, slide, slide” refrain; and Barry White’s seminal “Love’s Theme,” which Waters introducing with “And right now, we’re gonna go way back.” The sax man can slow things down, of course, and his bedroom-pleasers “All I Wanna Do (Is Please You),” “Tell Me So” and the Kenny G-like “Alone With You” are among his best at that. Co-produced by Dave Darlington, who also remixes “The Ride,” In the Name of Love shows Waters at the top of his commercial powers. Smooth grade: A-

James Vargas
(Trippin ‘N Rhythm)

coverJames Vargas is a British saxophonist (alto, tenor and soprano) who has echoes of Walter Beasley, Steve Cole and other contemporary sax players on his debut, a winning collection of 12 songs firmly rooted enough in the sax-led smooth jazz tradition. After getting gigs in clubs around in London, Vargas drew the attention of Oli Silk, the force behind the soulful British smooth-jazz group Sugar and Silk, who invited him to play on a CD. Silk and Vargas collaborate on the majority of the songs here, which are suitably funky-smooth and show an amazing grasp of sax skill.

Vargas couldn’t have picked a better song than “Curtain Call” to open the CD and his career as it offers a killer hook on alto – his instrument of choice – and a drum line that’s surprising at first but becomes more welcome with each listen. There’s a lot to be said by not “filling in all the spaces” while playing sax, but Vargas proves that filling pretty much all the spaces can work as well, especially on the romantic “One Fine Day” and the fast-paced “Push Da Button.” On the CD’s best vocal track, “Say You Will,” Vargas wraps his soprano lines around Yvonne John-Lewis’ soulful singing on a Quiet Storm treat that works to perfection, while on other tracks the vocal refrains are unobtrusive and fit in. On “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever,” Vargas plays a pretty soprano duet with acoustic guitar by Yuzuru Matsuda.

Like another smooth-jazz newcomer, saxophonist Grady Nichols, Vargas seems to have a bright future ahead of him. He’s a commanding presence on the sax – he does some real playing but never lets that get in the way of a good song – and has no problem finding radio-friendly melodies. It’s no surprise that Trippin ‘N Rhythm, which also boasts Paul Hardcastle, Roger Smith, Joe Fuentes and Thom Rotella, snatched Vargas. Get ready for a new British Invasion. Smooth grade: A-

Player’s Club
(Heads Up)

coverMarion Meadows has always been a bit underrated as a commercial sax player in smooth jazz, but his latest – which he dedicates to all musicians – shows promise and features a number of songs that could keep him on the charts for some time. The title track is a funky number enhanced by solos by Matt King’s on baritone sax, Mike B on keyboards and Freddie Fox on guitar. The first single, “Sweet Grapes,” is a lilting slice of ear candy where Meadows’ soprano has never sounded better. The best song on the CD, however, just may be the oft-covered “Wishing on a Star,” which combines the unbeatable combination of Marion’s plaintive sax, wah-wah guitar on stuttering drum beat.

Elsewhere, Meadows juices “Noche Privada” with some tropical shadings, gives the enjoyable “Diggible” some electronica/drums & bass touches and puts some jazz into “After 6:00,” a perfect way to end this CD, Meadows’ best yet. Smooth grade: A-

No Assembly Required
(Heads Up)

coverJames Lloyd and Curtis Harmon, co-founders of the veteran smooth-jazz group Pieces of Dream, keep cranking out CDs and their fans keep buying them, so they must be doing something right. You can always be guaranteed tons of soul, rubbery-voiced female vocals, funk and smooth as silk grooves on a Pieces CD, and that’s what you get here. The first single, “It’s Go Time,” is a good choice and is the closest thing you’re going to get to a Brian Culbertson song that’s not on a Brian Culbertson CD. Said female vocals – courtesy of Tracy Hamlin – limber up on Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Devotion,” while the funk gets nasty on “Dyse It Up,” the title coming from bassist David Dyson’s thumb-popping playing. The CD’s closing song, “Lunar Lullaby,” is a gorgeous downtempo cut and can remind you of a slow-downed 3rd Force song.

But although the band writes songs with titles like “Who U Wit?” and and throws record scratches into “Want a Piece of This?,” Pieces of a Dream has not offered a CD that has “2004” written all over it. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. “Who U Wit?,” for example, offers some great sax playing by Jason Davis, the kind that makes you stand up and go, “Yeah!” Pieces of a Dream will forever have elements of ‘70s and ‘80s jazz-fusion in its playing, which is just the tonic for those days when you want your music with the emphasis on “jazz” and not “smooth,” along with some bite and talented musicianship. That James Lloyd can play the piano – yeah! Smooth grade: A-

Brazil Chill

coverThe music of Brazil has always tempted jazz musicians, and it’s no wonder. It can be sexy, rhythmic, soulful, sexy and even more sexy. Bob Baldwin traveled to Rio to record Brazil Chill, which is all smooth jazz and shouldn’t be confused with “chill music.” It’s in Brazil that Baldwin recruited some of the country’s best players, including the great saxophonist Leo Gandleman, guitarist Torcquato Mariano, percussionist Café and others. Baldwin plays his piano to perfection, alternately jazzy and smoothy. The beauty of Brazilian music is expressed many times of this CD, but nowhere more so than “Manhattan Samba,” with Baldwin’s expressive wordless vocalese, Baldwin’s jazz-steeped piano runs and a grooving samba beat. Ditto for “Cafezinho,” which is named for Brazil’s famous morning staple, a small cup of rich espresso.

The famous sunny disposition of Rio’s natives obviously made a big impression on Baldwin, who has singers sing of good things in “Everybody’s Beautiful (in Brazil)” and the title track, where Baldwin breaks up the pretty acoustic sounds with a electric keys solo. The first radio single, “ I Wanna Be Where You Are,” is a pretty ditty with a memorable piano hook – hence its appeal as a single. Although Baldwin should probably be commended for not including a Jobim classic on Brazil Chill, a standard would have cemented that Rio feeling. As it is, Brazil Chill is a perfect way to travel without leaving your music systems. Smooth grade: A-


coverBassist Brian Bromberg wants to make sure you know that there are no guitars on this recording, which is why the first page of the liner notes screams, “There are no guitars on this recording!” That’s good to know, because it sure sound like it. That means if you’ve hesitant to purchase a bass-lead smooth-jazz CD, you shouldn’t be in this case because, as Bromberg writes, “Piccolo basses are tuned to the register of a guitar.” So why doesn’t Bromberg just play a guitar? Good one. But Bromberg is a bass player, and a good one. His single “Bobblehead” brightens the airwaves each time it’s on, and the overall CD is his best so far. And with Bromberg playing several types of basses and Brian Culbertson, Jeff Lorber, Gary Meek, Eric Marienthal, David Benoit and others along for the ride, Choices is a top-notch effort.

Bromberg has a bit of the rocker in him, but he’s aware of the smooth-jazz format throughout the CD, on “Bobblehead,” “Choices,” “Snuggle Up,” the gorgeous “When I Look Into Your Eyes” and other selections. On “B2 (B Squared)” and “Bass Face,” though, he gives himself a chance to get down with his bad self. The CD closes with two songs that together almost consume 12 minutes, but it’s a interesting 12 minutes. “Hear Our Cry Intro” and “Hear Our Cry” are Bromberg’s tributes to the indigenous people of Africa, and are both very moving and musically interesting. Smooth grade: B+

Experience(Disleyword Music)

coverYou might not recognize his name, but you’ve heard Disley piano many times, as he’s played keyboards for Acoustic Alchemy best songs, including the hit “The Beautiful Game.” He’s been much in demand as a session player in his career, and Experience shows why. It’s not a solo piano CD, but is for the most part low-key and relaxing. Heck, he even named one song “Smooth Sailing.” “Experience” is the kind of a CD that would have been comfortable being released in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, as its blend of new age and smooth jazz sounds fit perfectly in that era. In 2004, then, this CD can take the listener back to those days, when sounds were maybe a touch more real and production a little-less perfect.

Disley plays most acoustic piano, but does add some electric here and there. Alex Murzyn and Norbert Satchel add some sax, and the rest of the musicians are a top-notch bunch. It’s a very even CD, but the songs that stand out are “3 Arabian Nights” because you can hear echoes of Acoustic Alchemy, and “Swingmatism,” because of its delightful and jazzy sax and piano solos. Smooth grade: B

Soul Searching
(Ren Music)

coverYou know, guitars, saxes and acoustic piano don’t have to lead all instrumental music. How about the Hammond B3 organ? It’s long been a staple in jazz, of course, and Kurasz manages to put a fresh spin on the sound with song such as “Funky B,” a good-time, swinging ditty where you remember that the organ doesn’t always to sound like it’s being played in church. Soul Searching has more in common with smooth jazz than traditional jazz, though, as there are plenty of horns, guitars and smooth grooves. Kurasz is best when keeping things simple, such as on the hit-sounding “Uncommon Ground,” where he switches to acoustic piano and on “Crossroads,” which features Gerald Albright on alto sax. Less successful, though, are readings of “Operator” and “If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want to Be Right,” which are OK in a new light, but “Fooled Around an Fell in Love” come across as sounding like a MIDI sample. But when Kurasz is on, he adds a different and often quirky element to smooth instrumental music. Smooth grade: B

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:27 AM

May 1, 2004

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 Café 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.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 10:43 PM