February 28, 2005

Jazz Base Newz

Pieces2.jpgSince opening night in the fall of 2004, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base has continued to provide Reading with great opportunities to hear the music we love as well as meet a variety of artists. The Base has been buzzing with talent as both local and out of town artists have taken center stage.

Here’s your chance to see what’s been happening if you live too far away to take advantage of this exciting Thursday evening addition to your week! I should add that if you’re within an hour and a half of the venue, it’s worth the trip. The price of admission, ranging from $5.00 to $20.00, gives you two shows: 7 to 8 and 8:30 to 9:30, getting you home by 11 PM. So grab a friend and visit the Jazz Base throughout the year in between Berks Jazz Fests! Of course, be sure to visit during the Berks Jazz Fest, too! There will be plenty of great events happening from March 11th through March 20th.

Featured in my next few articles are bands that appeared during the opening season of the Jazz Base: local bandleader Chris Heslop with his Hesse’s Nasty 9 band; internationally known virtuoso saxophonist Tim Price with talented pianist Rachel Z; and none other than Vital Information, consisting of well-known players Frank Gambale (guitar), Steve Smith (drummer extraordinaire), Baron Browne (bass), and Tom Coster (keyboardist).

Listening with my heart and soul to the music that has been featured at the Jazz Base has taught me so much. I’ve learned that to write about music and artists is not about being tied to one genre. Rather, it’s to capture the talent of individual musicians, and of the blending of musicians together in their created sound. I’ve been aware of branching out –of broadening my appreciation for the whole of jazz from its earliest roots to where artists are taking us today in its evolution. Blame it on Gerald Veasley if you must, for he’s been the spark that has given all of us an irresistible setting in which to learn and to enjoy the music. I love my CDs, but it’s the live show that enables me to experience the full expression – the face, the body, the absorption of a player with his own sound and that of band members. I believe many would agree with me that it’s a priceless gift to simply be part of the audience.

Here’s what’s happening at the Jazz Base in the next few weeks leading up to the Berks Jazz Fest. Be sure to check www.berksjazzfest.com or www.geraldveasleyjazzbase.com to see what will be happening at the Jazz Base during the ten day festival.

Thursday, March 3, 7 p.m.
Tim Price Jazz Encounter with special guest Rachel Z.
$10 music charge at door.

Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m.
Berks Jazz Preview Concert/Saxophone Summit,featuring Larry McKenna, Tim Price, Tom Strohman and Chris Heslop.

Happy jazzin,'

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

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:10 AM

Jazz Base Newz - Hesse's Nasty 9 Band

ChrisHeslop1.jpgChris Heslop has pulled together local musicians who have the respect of this jazz-loving community of Reading, Pennsylvania. But make no mistake. Listening to their sound at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base early in the opening season proved to me that Hesse’s Nasty 9 cannot be pigeon-holed into one genre. The core of their mission statement sums it up best: “Perpetuating traditional American music with extreme diversity and cockeyed yet respectful renderings of beloved favorites.” And as Chris says, their repertoire includes Dixieland, Broadway, classic rock, heavy metal, and classical music, in addition to jazz.

On this night at the Jazz Base, Heslop’s band consisted of Heslop as bandleader and saxophonist, Chuck Dressler and Doc Mulligan on trombones, Frank Gattis on drums, Rob Diener and Bob Stoyko on trumpet, Mike Eben and Jill Scheidt on sax, Ken Kemmerer on helicon, Pete Rogosky on guitar and since Heslop’s bass player was absent, Gerald Veasley had the ‘chance’ to sit in.

Gerald sat in for a Jaco Pastorius feature entitled, ‘Chicken’ as well as one other song, so he was not on stage for the entire evening. And in this position as bandmember Gerald took direction and followed his bandleader beautifully. It was very comical to listen to Chris take advantage of being able to give Gerald directions. (You’d have to know Chris – he just had to do it!) Gerald was genuinely humble and just happy to be playing. He never ceases to amaze us with his easy, unassuming manner.

ChrisHeslop4.jpgHesse’s Nasty 9 band was very busy during this show. They played a variety of music, including 'St. Louis Blues,' followed by 'Hesse’s 9 Overture' (an original composition which was quite impressive!), 'What a Wonderful World,' with special vocalists Sharon Bailey and Joe Keys (don’t look twice, this was actually Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and they were awesome!), 'Theme from Star Wars,' 'You’ll Stay In My Heart,' and the patriotic 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' and 'America the Beautiful.' Another original composition called, 'Dimention,' was also memorable.

Chris Heslop will join Tim Price and others at the Berks Jazz Fest Preview Concert/Saxophone Summit, to be held March 10th. And he will be quite busy during the Berks Jazz Fest, playing a number of different venues, including participation in the Ray Charles Tribute at the Jazz Base. Beyond this, he is an arranger for a variety of clients from jazz to classical to Salsa. Most of the time, he's playing jazz gigs throughout the area but lately has been focusing most of his energy on Hesse's Nasty 9 and a stage show on Louis Armstrong. His personal schedule can be seen on Nasty9.com by hitting the "Chris's Schedule" button.

ChrisHeslop2.jpgQuite a versatile performer, Heslop has played in various genres, along with jazz artists Wynton Marsalis, Gerald Veasley, Patti Austin, popular artists like The Temptations, Olivia Newton-John, and salsa with Hector Tricoche and Cano Estremera. (You can see more artists he’s played with at his website!)

It was an impressive show, one I’m glad I attended! Don't forget to come out and see Chris Heslop March 10th at the Berks Jazz Fest Preview Concert/Saxophone Summit.

ChrisHeslop3.jpgHappy Jazzin,’

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

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:09 AM

Jazz Base Newz - Tim Price with Rachel Z

TimPriceRachelZ3.jpgWhen I heard Tim Price was appearing at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading, Pennsylvania, I couldn’t wait to hear him and talk with him, as I’ve known him since we were teenagers! I knew he had gone on to Berklee College of Music, was teaching saxophone as well as playing at least clarinet and saxophone – but I must admit I hadn’t totally followed his career. Now it was time to catch up. Talking with him and visiting his website helped me discover all he’s been doing, and I was simply blown away by the heights he has risen to in his career and the esteem in which he is held by his colleagues all over the world.

TimPriceRachelZ5.jpgHere’s a homegrown, Reading musician who ‘grew up and went to the big city,’ so to speak, and is now a trademark name worldwide in the teaching and playing of woodwind instruments. His music is more traditional jazz, which I’m certain is an oversimplification in his case, and his playing on any instrument is truly phenomenal. His middle name seems to be innovation, and just one of the things he’s done is to bring electronica to woodwinds. A highlight of the show was his playing of the electronic bassoon, with its pick-up amplified through Line 6 effects pedals (some of you will know what they are). Tim claims there’s nothing like a wah-wah bassoon when he’s jamming, and all of this is tied to his reverence for Gil Melle, who was his hero in electronics and jazz creativity with his pre-fusion music.

TimPriceRachelZ2.jpgTim Price is in demand as a performer and educator worldwide; he conducts clinics throughout the world, teaches from his home studio in Reading, as well as jazz saxophone at Kutztown University and also in Michiko Studios in New York City.

TimPriceRachelZ6.jpgOn the night of this show at the Jazz Base, he was joined by pianist Rachel Z, who is quite an accomplished musician herself who has played with many artists in her career. As Price told us, “playing with Rachel Z is like winning the lottery,” and she was a picture of sheer talent during the entire show. I’m sure I’ve never seen a pianist’s fingers move as quickly as hers did. Her concentration alone was captivating to watch. Married to the drummer, Bobbie Rae, Rachel wowed us all with her intricate interpretations of the music. Tim loves playing with Bobbie Rae, who was Mr. Dynamic on drums; Tim considers him a unique drummer in the world of jazz music, and says Bobbie’s brush playing keeps him smiling. Scott Lee, a cutting edge bassist who teaches with Tim at Kutztown University, is a main figure for Tim in all his bands. Tim considers this his ‘New York Band’ and what a great blend of musicians they are.

TimPriceRachelZ1.jpgThe band put together a memorable night of music, including Tim’s own arrangements of songs like the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine,” John Coltrane’s “Niama,” the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl,” rearranged like a Jazz Waltz and played on a curved soprano sax, and “Naked Truth,” an original composition Tim wrote for combination best friend/awesome sax player Jennifer Hall. The band slowed it down for the ending of this song and it was very sweet, like the rippling of water.

A highlight of the show was “MELLE,” a number written in honor of Gil Melle, who was the film composer for Andromeda Strain. Melle’s recent passing is a great loss to Price, who considered him a great friend, and someone who deeply touched and inspired Tim’s music.

TimPriceRachelZ4.jpgAdditional numbers were a re-arrangement of Roberta Flack’s “For All We Know,” and “Let’s Go Setsko,” written for Tim by Fred Lipsius, founder of Blood, Sweat and Tears.

One of the things that struck me all during this show is that you could never know for sure when a song was ending – these were unique endings, endings like you’ve never heard before. These are the twists and turns of music at its best, and my appreciation of jazz grew by more leaps and bounds with the skillful playing of these four musicians.

If you missed this great show, you’ll have another opportunity on March 3rd, when Price will again perform with Rachel Z, Bobbie Rae and Scott Lee . And on the 10th, he will be back for the Berks Jazz Preview Concert/Saxophone Summit.

For further information about Tim Price or Rachel Z, go to www.timpricejazz.com and www.rachelz.com.

Happy Jazzin,’

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

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:08 AM

Jazz Base Newz - Vital Information

VitalInformation2.jpgWhat a treat to have Vital Information at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading, Pennsylvania. World renowned drummer Steve Smith started the band in 1983, and the players with him for this special night couldn’t have been better! Smith, having played with ‘top of the charts’ band Journey from 1978 to 1985, explained his evolution by saying that he ‘feels right playing a blend of jazz, rock and fusion.’ Guitarist Frank Gambale, of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, former Santana player Tom Coster on keyboard, and Baron Browne, bass player from Gary Burton days, all came together with Smith to rock the Jazz Base early in the season.

VitalInformation3.jpgStarting off with ‘Come On In,’ the title song from their new CD, they immediately established that this was going to be an awesome performance. They went on to play ‘Catwalk’ and ‘Europa’ (originally played by Santana and written by Tom Coster!)and they had the crowd’s rapt attention.

It was fun to watch Steve Smith, who smiles to the audience during most of his drumming. What he does seems so effortless, yet the skill he has is something wonderful to behold. Perhaps mentioning that he’s constantly doing drum clinics and touring all over the world, and that he’s been voted All-Around Drummer by Modern Drummer for five years in a row tells at least some of his story. In fact, he’s been called one of the top 25 drummers of all time! He’s ecstatic to be playing the drums and it shows, over and over during his performance.

The band went on to play ‘Time Tunnel,’ ‘Around the World,’ ‘Baton Rouge’(featuring an accordion), and there were many drum feats sprinkled in the songs. ‘High Wire’ was another choice for the night, along with Journey song, ‘Don’t Stop Believin.’ Coster and Browne definitely added to the energy and sound, each having their special moments to show such a high level of skill. All four players are so vital to the overall performance and after all, that’s what a great band is all about. No wonder they are named ‘Vital Information!’

Frank Gambale is an artist who looks so at peace when he’s playing his instrument. He appears so easy going and fun, the kind of player with a sort of twinkle in his eye. Frank plays faster than anyone I’ve ever seen, and it seems so very easy for him! He must be concentrating, but it’s not obvious that he is!

VitalInformation1.jpgBoth Frank and Steve are ready to handle anything on stage, and this was demonstrated when, after a particularly mesmerizing, high energy performance by Frank, all of us stood up, clapping wildly, and one of the fans near him couldn’t contain herself and jumped right up and kissed him! Frank took this in stride and in good humor (though I did notice he sat down to play for a while after that excitement), while Steve got the band immediately back to the business at hand, never missing a beat, moving the music, and the night, forward. I got the feeling Steve could handle absolutely anything that threatened to interfere with any show – but then he’s used to ‘keeping the beat.’

Another fun part of the evening came when Steve talked about playing in Lebanon, PA (a 45 minute drive from Reading) two nights later, and encouraged us to join them. He then went on to say they were also going to play in Beirut, Lebanon. For a minute we thought he was inviting us to Beirut! I’m sure some fans at the Jazz Base that night followed them to Lebanon (Pa, that is!) I’m not sure if any of the Reading fans made it to Beirut! After two weeks in Beirut, their schedule included a concert in Moscow, so this band really gets around!

Smith has also developed a DVD Drumset: Technique/History of the U.S. Beat, that traces the history of American rhythm. His knowledge and mastery of drumming were an exciting combination for the audience to experience on the night of this show. I’m sure many of us can’t wait for a return engagement of Vital Information at the Jazz Base!

To get more information about this great band, visit www.vitalinformation.com.

VitalInformation4.jpgHappy jazzin’

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

Photo credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:07 AM

February 26, 2005

Ken Navarro update by video at his website

Still an exclusive feature on the smooth jazz scene are the video updates at guitarist Ken Navarro's website. Promoting his latest release Love Coloured Soul which we were allowed to witness during its production over the past few months at Ken's website, the artist now gives us a brand new update about the state of affairs via a new video. You may check it out at http://www.kennavarro.com/store.htm

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:34 PM

Tony Adamo Records with Funk Legends

Tony_Adamo_bw.jpgTony Adamo, soul-jazz singer/songwriter will be in San Francisco’s Different Fur Recording Studio in late February with funk legends, Paul Jackson on bass and Mike Clark on drums.  They will be recording an original song by Adamo/Stucker produced by Jerry Stucker.   Paul Jackson is one of the baddest funk bass players of all time.  Paul has long been associated with Herbie Hancock’s super jazz funk band, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters.  He has been nominated for three Grammy’s and currently tours with the Headhunters. Mike Clark, also of Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, has created the most influential funk drumming in the world and currently tours with the Headhunters.

Get ready, the funk is gonna fly when Paul Jackson, Mike Clark and Fred Wesley (James Brown, JB-Horns) hit the stage for an original Soul-Jazz Funk Legend Show at the famed Boom, Boom Room, in San Francisco, CA on February 25, 26.

Get hip to Jackson’s new CD to be released in April 2005 (Back Door Records) entitled, Funk On A Stick featuring San Francisco Bay Area vocalist Tony Adamo.  Paul Jackson and Mike Clark also record with the Headhunters on Basin Street Records, New Orleans, LA.  Watch for Adamo’s new soul-jazz CD scheduled to hit the streets in the summer of 2005.  For more information on Tony Adamo go to www.jazznow.com 

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:32 PM

Norman Brown Presents A Summer Concert Series

Guitarist Norman Brown will tour with Brenda Russell, Everette Harp and Peabo Bryson.

NormanBrown2.jpgGuitarist Norman Brown will debut a tour in May that he’s calling Norman Brown’s Summer Storm. The tour, which so far has booked eight cities, will feature vocalists Brenda Russell and Peabo Bryson, in addition to saxophonist Everette Harp.

The tour will be a reunion of sorts for Brown and Russell. Russell was scheduled to join Brown on last year’s Dave Koz & Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas tour, but she was forced to back out after getting a diagnosis of diabetes. The tour, scheduled to begin on May 28, will stop at some of summer’s biggest festivals, including the Catalina Island JazzTrax and Playboy Jazz festivals in California.

Brown, who is primarily known to smooth jazz fans for his guitar playing, wants to expand his reach during his upcoming concert tour by singing more vocal tunes as he does on his latest album, West Coast Coolin’.

"I want to grab a new audience and try to broaden this base, and introduce some more people to this instrumental music," he says. "And the way to do that is like some of great people in the past did: Louis Armstrong and Nat ‘King’ Cole, more recently George Benson. These guys were totally instrumentalists who crossed over into singing. It brought a new dynamic to everything.”

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:27 AM

February 25, 2005

Mindi Abair, Wayman Tisdale To Join Guitars & Saxes

The popular Guitars & Saxes tour has added two new players for 2005.

MindiAbair2.jpgSmooth jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair will become the first female member to perform as part of the annual Guitars & Saxes tour. She’ll join another first-time performer on the tour, bassist Wayman Tisdale, in addition to returnees Jeff Golub on guitar and Warren Hill on saxophone.

Although the Guitars & Saxes lineup changes each year, Golub and Hill both also performed on last year’s tour, along with guitarist Marc Antoine and saxophonist Euge Groove.

Hill, who was part of the original lineup in 1995, is making his fifth appearance on the tour, while Golub is making his fourth. Although more dates are being added, the tour looks like it will kick off April 16 in Palm Springs, California.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:40 AM

February 24, 2005

Secret Garden Snippet - Steve Cole Back On Track

SteveCole_live.jpgReaders of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, will know it’s the place to go for a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. In order to bring you more of the news more of the time this latest Secret Garden Snippet delivers another current sound bite from the adult contemporary scene. A welcome visitor to WNUA 95.5 Chicago last week was local boy Steve Cole.

He was in the studio to talk about his latest CD release, Spin that is due in the record stores on the third Tuesday of April 2005. It will be his first recording since NYLA in March 2003, a fact due, in part, to the discontinued interest by his previous label, Warner, in its jazz output. Now signed to Narada Jazz he is set to resume a recording career that started with a bang in 1998 with his debut Stay Awhile on Atlantic. His follow up, Between Us, two years later, was good but over reliant on Brian Culbertson’s production techniques. In the end it lacked the depth that could have really stamped him as a major player on the smooth jazz scene.

Steve Cole has remained a constant presence on the smooth jazz tour circuit and his many fans will now look to Spin to put him right back in the spotlight. If the track that is rumored to be the first single, ‘Thursday’, is anything to go by he might just get there.

Want to know more? Want to add a snippet of your own? E-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com

Posted by Denis Poole at 3:49 PM

Kenny G, Dave Koz To Headline Landslide Benefit

Radio station Magic 97.5 in Santa Barbara and Cumulus Broadcasting are sponsoring a benefit show for those victimized by a Southern California landslide.

KennyG_live.jpgSmooth jazz saxophonists Kenny G and Dave Koz will headline an amazing array of talent next month during a benefit concert for those victimized by the La Conchita mudslide. Ten people died as a result of the massive slide on Jan. 10 in the coastal Southern California town.

The benefit, Smooth Jazz 4 La Conchita, will take place on March 9 at the Arlington Theatre in nearby Santa Barbara. It's sponsored by Santa Barbara smooth jazz station Magic 97.5 and Cumulus Broadcasting.

Also on the bill will be saxophonist Michael Lington, vocalist Bobby Caldwell, trumpeter Greg Adams and the group 3rd Force.

Tickets go on sale Feb. 25 at noon. For more information, call (805) 963-4408.

The show is the second for the landslide victims. On Feb. 12, Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross joined Jackson Browne at a benefit show that was also held in Santa Barbara.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:06 AM

February 23, 2005

Song of the Week: Adani & Wolf – “Daylight”

Adani&Wolf.jpgAdani & Wolf, a Dutch duo who have just had their CD called Les Seigneurs released by Dave Koz’s Rendezvous label, are part of the chill-music movement. One their first single, “Daylight,” a steady bass beat and a really cool downtempo rhythm make this kind of a poster song for the movement.

But what sets it apart from other songs in the genre is legendary guitarist Ernest Ranglin’s electric guitar runs throughout. Mood and substance combine for a sublime treat.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:37 PM

February 21, 2005

Mindi Abair To Be Married In April

MindiAbair.jpgSmooth jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair, 35, is engaged to a musician named Jason Steele and is scheduled to be married on April 23.

Steele, who is originally from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, is a guitarist and composer who has written music for television and film.

Steele proposed to Abair during a recent trip to Hawaii.

The soon-to-be-bride currently has the No. 2 song on Radio & Records' smooth jazz chart, "Come As You Are." The song is from her CD of the same name.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 11:02 PM

February 19, 2005

Secret Garden Snippet - Mark Carter - West Coast Groove

MarkCarterWestCoastGroove.jpgReaders of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden will know it’s the place to go for a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. In order to bring you more of the news more of the time this latest Secret Garden Snippet delivers another current sound bite from the adult contemporary scene. A CD well worth looking out for is the latest from Mark Carter. West Coast Groove is the second release from this Southern California based guitarist and follows his 2001 debut, About Time.

In over twenty five years of performing Mark has worked with Dave Koz, Eric Marienthal, Al Jarreau, Rogers Williams, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Engelbert Humperdink to name only a few. He has played countless venues and worked numerous studio sessions yet now, as a full fledged recording artist, he is really moving to center stage. West Coast Groove is a tightly produced set of tracks with a distinctly R & B feel. He is joined on ‘Party On The Pier’ and ‘Walk The Walk’ by Rippingtons sax man Eric Marienthal but it says a lot for the overall quality of the album that the real standouts are elsewhere. Track #6, ‘Santa Monica Sunset’ is, as the title would suggest, relaxed, dreamy and something to savor. Track #9, ‘Night N2 Day’, starts off gently then, with the help of Tim Redfield’s haunting keyboards, hits a loping hypnotic beat into which Carter weaves a smooth rhythm. Finally, on track #10, Carter produces a beautiful cover of the song that made Norah Jones, ‘Don’t Know Why.’ All in all it’s a well crafted collection that deserves to add to Mark Carters quickly growing stature.

Want to know more? Want to add a snippet of your own? E-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com

Posted by Denis Poole at 7:55 AM

February 18, 2005

Rendezvous Label Completes "Golden Slumbers" Vocal Album

The second edition of Dave Koz's A Father's Love features all vocal songs.

The Rendezvous label, co-founded by saxophonist Dave Koz, has finished an album called Golden Slumbers: A Father's Love, the sequel to the highly successful, Grammy-nominated Golden Slumbers: A Father's Lullaby album that was released in 2002.

The new album this time features all vocal tracks instead of instrumentals. Each artist was asked to bring their own perspective on what fatherhood means to them, and the result is a work of both original recordings and new interpretations of classic songs.

"The CD is really a celebration of the bond between fathers and their kids," Koz says. "And this time you get to hear lyrics. And it really gives this poignancy to the CD. It’s a very different kind of feeling. When vocalist fathers are singing about their kids, and there’s like that personal thing you can feel in their voice, it’s powerful”

The album features vocals by Michael McDonald, Will Downing, Phil Collins, Dave Matthews, Richard Marx, Jon Secada, Loudon Wainwright, Solomon Burke, Carlos Ponce and actor James Earl Jones.

Among the cover songs are country music singer Buddy Jewell on Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father” and Smokey Robinson on Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful.” In addition, saxophonist Kirk Whalum wrote and produced a song called “My Little Man,” which features Kirk on the sax and his son Kevin Whalum on vocals.

The album is executive produced by Koz and his brother, Jeff Koz. Golden Slumbers: A Father’s Love will be released on April 5.

Golden Slumbers: A Father's Love

1. Life Is Just A Matter Of Time (Solomon Burke-Jeff Koz) (featuring Solomon Burke and Dave Koz)
2. You Touch My Heart (Phil Collins) (featuring Phil Collins)
3. Lullaby (Billy Joel) (featuring Will Dowing)
4. Dance With My Father (Luther Vandross-Richard Marx) (featuring Buddy Jewell)
5. That’s My Job (Gary Burr) (featuring Richard Marx)
6. Baby (David J. Matthews) (featuring Dave Matthews)
7. When Scarlet Smiles (Michael McDonald) (featuring Michael McDonald and Dave Koz)
8. You’ll Be In My Heart (Phil Collins) (featuring Carlos Ponce with Inner Voice)
9. You Are So Beautiful (Bruce Fisher-William E. Preston) (featuring Smokey Robinson and Dave Koz)
10. Find Me In Your Dreams (Jon Secada) (featuring Jon Secada and Dave Koz)
11. Daughter (Peter Blegvad) (featuring Loudon Wainwright
12. My Little Man (Kirk Whalum) (featuring Kirk Whalum and Kevin Whalum)
13. Children (Kahili Gibran) (featuring James Earl Jones)

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:42 AM

Warren Hill Creates New Record Label Called Pop Jazz

Saxophonist Warren Hill has a new CD coming out called Pop Jazz. That's also the name of his new Internet-based record label.

Smooth jazz saxophonist Warren Hill, whose last two albums were released on the Narada label, has completed a brand-new album that he will release on his own record label.

Both the label and the album will be called Pop Jazz. The 12-song album has been finished, and includes covers of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” War’s “Low Rider,” Brian McKnight’s “Back At One” and the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Featured musicians include keyboardist Brian Culbertson, guitarist Allen Hinds and drummer Dave Hooper.

“The new label is actually an Internet-based label," Hill says. "I’m going to be diving into uncharted territory, in a sense. I have the freedom to do it now, and my personal opinion is that CD sales are heading to the Internet.”

Hundreds of lucky fans have already heard the CD, which is produced by Warren and Andre Berry, since a pre-release copy was distributed to all those attending Warren Hill’s Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 back in January.

A release date has not yet been set on the CD.

Pop Jazz

WarrenHill_PopJazz.jpg1. Introduction
2. Toronto (W. Hill)
3. Play That Funky Music (R. Parissi)
4. Under Cover (W. Hill)
5. Interlude (R. Jacobs)
6. Still in Love (W. Hill)
7. Flow (W. Hill)
8. Low Rider (T. Allen, H. Brown, M. Dickerson, G. Goldstein, L. Jordan, L. Levitin, C. Miller, H. Scott)
9. Tuff (W. Hill)
10. Back at One (B. McKnight)
11. Come Together (J. Lennon, P. McCartney)
12. Bridgin’ the Gap (A. Berry, W. Hill)

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:34 AM

February 17, 2005

Rocky's Daughter Makes Final 24 On American Idol!

MikalahGordon.jpgIt's just become public knowledge that Mikalah Gordon, the bubbly 17 year from Las Vegas who has been compared to everyone from Barbra Streisand to Fran Drescher, has made the final 24 for American Idol. Mikalah is also contemporary jazz saxophonist Rocky Gordon's daughter, and has been featured on the last two of Rocky's releases, Echoes, and Perfect World.

This is one little girl to watch. Mikalah, the youngest in this year's competition, has consistantly wowed the judges, including the hardline Brit, Simon Cowell, in every one of her rounds of audition.

Voting for the final 12 girls begins Tuesday, February 22nd, following the Monday February 21st performances with the final 12 boys.

For more info, go to IdolOnFox.com.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:56 PM

February 16, 2005

Warren Hill - Pop Jazz

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

Organizing a Smooth Jazz cruise on the one hand, and playing bass as part of the Dave Koz Christmas tour on the other, may not sound like ideal circumstances in which to pull together Warrens Hills tenth CD, and his first since 2002, but that was exactly the situations that Warren Hill and producer Andre Berry found themselves in through December of 2004 and early January 2005.

They had got the majority of the tracks down before Berry left to honor his commitment to Dave Koz and the Christmas tour but much of the final production was done by Berry, in the back of the tour bus, on Apple laptop and mini keyboard, as the Koz show hopped from city to city. Back home in Los Angeles during the first week in January, and with a deadline to have a pre release version ready for the time the cruise sailed, Berry worked with Hill to add the final touches.

The result is the twelve tracks of the new CD, ‘Pop Jazz’, the majority of which remain un-named. The collection was presented as a pre release gift to each and every one of the 1800 fans that traveled with the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 (WHSJC).

When ‘Pop Jazz’ finally hits the record stores later this year, listeners will be treated to a tight and eclectic smooth jazz collection that promises to re-establish Warren Hill as a major player in the genre. Hill’s powerful style is always in evidence and Berry’s production adds the expected funky edge that prevents the recording from ever becoming bland.

Sought after bass player and Warren Hill touring band regular Andre Berry originates from the funk capital of the universe, Ohio. His playing and producing credits include work with such artists as Rick Braun, Chris Standring, Jeff Golub and Tom Scott. As a kid growing up in Cleveland he started writing and producing music with a school friend in a space above his parent’s garage. Of the funk roots that run deep right throughout the state of Ohio, and through him too, he recalls being in a record store and picking up an LP by the legendary funkster Bootsy Collins. On it Collins was depicted astride a motor cycle with a guitar slung behind his back. One look at that picture convinced Andre that he just had to be in the music business. During the week of the WHSJC he shared duties as backing band bass player with Michael Manson and his contribution, especially as part of the set played by Dave Koz in St Thomas, was outstanding.

As many know, Warren Hill grew up in Toronto, Canada and started to play sax at the age of eleven. A summer in New York studying jazz at the Eastman School of Music brought him into contact with the music of David Sanborn, Michael Brecker, Grover Washington Jr., Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane and from there he was hooked. He did have a brief departure from music when, after high school, he studied physics at the University of Toronto but after only a year there Hill enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Following his graduation performance, Hill was approached backstage by producer Russ Titleman with an offer to play on Chaka Khan's record, ‘Baby Me’, a project that also included Stevie Wonder, Prince, Miles Davis, and Dave Grusin. Hill moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and within six months the president of Atlantic Records had signed him to a record deal. He caught the attention of Natalie Cole and, as a result, was invited to open as part of her ‘Unforgettable’ tour. Getting his solo career on track, Hill played ‘The Passion Theme’ on the 1993 Body of Evidence soundtrack. It reached #1 in the NAC chart and earned him appearances on The Tonight Show and The Arsenio Hall Show. Throughout the subsequent decade he has continued to perform and record and now, with the establishment of smooth jazz cruising in the musical calendar, is carving out a whole new niche for himself.

Warren Hill played both the early and late shows of the WHSJC last night finale and included a good sampling of the tracks from ‘Pop Jazz’ in the set. Among the as yet un-named selections were the excellent provisionally titled ‘Toronto’ and ‘Still In Love’, a tune dedicated to his wife Tamara. Full of Andre Berry production influences and Warren Hills powerful playing was the raucous cover of ‘Play That Funky Music’, originally a smash in 1976 for those one hit wonders Wild Cherry.

The end of Hill’s show signaled the end of an incredible week of music. It was appropriate that the eleven principle artists still on board, together with all the backing musicians, joined him on stage to play out with a moving version of ‘Hey Jude.’ Even the ocean, rough at times through the week, seemed to fall calm as the M/S Zuiderdam sailed steadily through the dark night toward Fort Lauderdale. The audience, who had been singing the whole week, raised their voices one more time.

Read more about the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 right here in the coming days and weeks.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? Do you have a favorite ‘Smooth Soul Survivor’ that you would enjoy being featured in a future edition? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com

Posted by Denis Poole at 6:21 PM

In Our CD Players This Month: February

Beverly J. Packard

Beginning this month, SJV writers will give you an inside look at what we’re listening to behind the scenes.

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

Jeff Lorber, Flipside: Lorber’s triumphant new album may just the best he’s ever done. Organic and jazzy, it showcase Lorber’s improvisational side while remaining as smooth as ever.

Bossacucanova, Uma Batida Differente: The Brazilian trio updates the bossa nova sound with a groovy, electronica vibe, taking advantage of all the great singers in Brazil. Especially joyous is a remake of the Caetano Veloso/Chico Buarque protest song “Vai Levando.”

Jason Miles, Miles to Miles: Producer and keyboardist Jason Miles, a protégé of Miles Davis, pays homage to the late trumpeter with a mostly original recording capturing the energy and spirit of his namesake. Marc Antoine and Keiko Matsui stop by for a reading of the classic “Flamenco Sketches.”

Various Artists, What Is Hip? Remix Project, Volume One: The Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music” and Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” never sounded so cool. A big highlight is Nightmare on Wax’s beefed-up face lift of George Benson’s “This Masquerade.”

Allen Hinds, Fact of the Matter: Guitarist Allen Hinds, a session player extraordinaire, proves he’s got the lead-man chops on a rocking, funky, bluesy, jazzy and thoroughly engaging instrumental project. The title track is majestic and Metheny-esque, with soaring vocalese by Rogerio Jardim.

Read on for more....

D E N I S * P O O L E

EWF_LoveSongs.jpg‘Reasons’ by Earth Wind and Fire from the CD Earth Wind and Fire - The Love Songs because nobody performs a catchy soul tune that you cant get out of your head like EW & F.

‘Talk To Me’ by Euge Groove from his CD Livin Large as this track got under my skin awhile ago and it wont go away.

‘Operator’ by Jim Croce from the CD Photographs and Memories as when I'm not listening to soul or smooth jazz I love a track that tells a story.

‘Friday’ by Roger Smith from the CD Just Enough as it has the best horn riff of 2004 on it.

‘Are You Mine’ by Peter White from the CD Confidential because I have been playing it none stop since it first came out.

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

Pamela Williams, Sweet Saxations, 2005.

Chieli Minucci, Got It Goin' On, 2005.

Chuck Loeb, When I'm With You, 2005.

Acoustic Alchemy, American English, 2005.

Paul Taylor, Nightlife, 2005.

Jonathan’s list, I might add, is comprised of all new CDs that have not yet been officially released! We await your comments, Jonathan!

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

BillyEricYesIndeed.jpgBilly Eric, Yes, Indeed, 2003: Possibly the only CD where the songs themselves threatened to ‘beat up’ the artist if they were eliminated from the recording! (Now you have no choice but to read the liner notes.) What a compilation of 33 songs on a double CD! Features favorite saxophone player David Mann on over half the songs and he’s mesmerizing. Eric shows great talent on guitar and in composing; his playing is nicely intertwined with other instruments, including some excellent piano, clarinet, trumpet work. My favorites are sprinkled throughout both CDs – ‘Pied Piper’ and ‘Turquoise’ reminiscent of other favorites of mine, Steely Dan and Spyro Gyra, respectively. Unique in its harmony and key changes, 'Such Is Life' is hauntingly beautiful in its vocals – this song alone is worth taking this CD set to the check out counter.

Brian Tarquin, High Life, 2001: Typical of Brian’s clean, crisp sound, with melodies I love; he’s a favorite guitarist I could listen to endlessly. Follows Ghost Dance, and Last Kiss Goodbye, and does not disappoint the listening fan.

George Jinda, Reliable Sources, 1992: Sometimes I just have to stop to listen and appreciate the work of George Jinda. Percussionist extraordinaire, best known for his association with Chieli Minucci in the group Special EFX, how I would have loved to see George in concert. I’m quite certain his death in 2002 cheated us of the creation of many, many songs. Produced during a time when he and Chieli each decided to pursue some solo projects, this CD is full of wonderfully recurring melodies, memorable key changes, funky Latin beat, flamenco guitar, and great dynamics. Features Gerald Veasley on bass, Randy Roos on guitar and synthesizer, and Scalzci on acoustic guitar and grand piano. Who else but George could come up with a track entitled, ‘Overleafing a New Turn?”

P E T E R * B O E H I

Brian Bromberg, Choices (2004): A smashing, groovy and soulful album with Brian firing on all cylinders (i.e. basses) and lots of great guest artists. Smooth jazz at its

Merlon Devine, Breathe (2004): Sax player Merlon Devine delivers a worthwhile smooth jazz album. It is available at CDBaby.com and deserves your attention.

Bobby Wells, Bayside (2004): I have been raving about this picture perfect smooth jazz album previously and would like to list it here again - essential stuff featuring Michael O'Neill, Eric Marienthal and others.

Alexander Zonjic, Seldom Blues (2004): This CDs brims with groovy tracks, jazzy flute playing and memorable tracks making this one a highlight of Alexander Zonjic' illustrious career. Check out the great cover of War's "Spill the Wine"!

In Due Season, In Due Season (2004): This EP containing 6 tracks might get overlooked so I list it here once more. This band delivers some absolutely essential stuff. Great band feel, sparkling piano and synths, good songs making you feel good.

Hope you enjoyed our musical journey. We’ll be back next month with more inspiration for you, our readers. In the meantime, keep on listening!

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:33 AM

February 15, 2005

Song of the Week: Michael Buble – “Home”

MichaelBuble.jpgYoung retro jazz vocalist Michael Buble, a protégé of David Foster like Josh Groban, has a fondness for big, brassy jazz numbers and for corny love songs. But on “Home,” a beautiful song from his new CD called It’s Time, Buble has written an original tune that’ll break your heart.

Voicing a familiar sentiment, Buble positions himself as the world-weary traveler – too many cities, too many airports – who longs to travel home to see his true love again. Trite, but listen to Buble sing it and you’ll think it’s the first time you’ve ever heard it. Among those helping out are Foster on piano, bassist Brian Bromberg, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and guitarists Dean Parks and Brian Green.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:41 AM

February 14, 2005

Jazz FM in London Switching Name To Smooth FM

Smooth FM to take over the airwaves in London.

London's Jazz FM will now officially been known as Smooth FM. It is expected to make the change with the next six months, reports scotsman.com.

The station's owner, the Guardian Media Group, already programs Smooth FM on the 100.4 frequency, serving northwest England. Smooth FM in London will be programmed on 102.2.

Jazz FM was originally started in 1990. It has always features smooth jazz, but has also included mainstream jazz and vocal R&B tunes.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 9:18 PM

Contempo February 2005

SybillSheperd.jpgStill beautiful, vivacious and in fantastic spirit and voice nearly twenty years beyond Moonlighting and over 30 since she first charmed us in The Last Picture Show, Cybill Shepherd has suffered her whole professional life from one overriding struggle — she’s just too darn talented.

Over the past three decades, she’s put out well-received jazz recordings, dating from 1976’s Cybill Getz Better (with Stan Getz) and 1979’s Vanilla (with Phineas Newborn, Jr.) to 2001’s Live From The Cinegrill. Yet in most American psyches, she’s still Maddie Hayes, Cybill Sheridan (her character on her late 90s hit sitcom Cybill) or, more recently and dramatically, star of the TV movie Martha Stewart, Inc.

Shepherd sang two songs on 1987’s Moonlighting Soundtrack, and was thrilled in 1999 when Cybill: Songs from the Cybill Show hit #1 on the Amazon sales charts. She performed a handful of times over the course of the Top 10 show, but was continuously frustrated that those 20 hour days as star and producer kept her from pursuing monstrous musical opportunities — like performing with Quincy Jones and opening the Minneapolis Opera House.

“It’s great when people are tuning in, but it almost killed me doing the show,” she says. “When I’m not performing and singing regularly, I’m missing something important. We always got big ratings when I did sing, but it was never often enough for me. Growing up in Memphis, my parents imparted to me their wild love of swing, and I’d dance, then sing as often as I could. I’ve loved swing jazz my whole life. I’d sing along with Ella as a vocal exercise, and I was crazy about Sinatra, Basie, Frankie Laine, Jo Stafford… they’re all a part of me. It’s hard to bottle it for any length of time.”

CybillSheperdAtHomeWith.jpgNo need anymore. Several years removed from the TV grind, she’s back to her first love. Recorded in her home studio with longtime accompanist Tom Adams on piano, the romantic, intimate At Home With Cybill grew out of rehearsals they did for her successful one woman variety show “Cybill Disobedience… With Music!” which ran at the Soho Theatre in London for two weeks last October — and also hit Melbourne, New York, Vegas, Scottsdale, and her two hometowns, L.A. and Memphis. Using a mic placed in her wardrobe closet, Shepherd runs through lush and restrained treatments of standards she’s long loved — “I’ve Learned A Lot About The Blues,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “My Romance,” “I Have Dreamed” — plus a wistful original about her hometown icon, “Graceland Revisited.” An intense perfectionist, she got most songs down in a handful of takes, but worked through “Begin the Beguine” 150 times before giving it the thumbs up.

“The song was growing as we were doing it, and it’s just a difficult song to get right,” she says. “It’s always haunted me. What’s it about? I have found that in jazz, sometimes the best takes come from mistakes you make along the way. I respond to those and the song gets better. I don’t concern myself with compromise. If I connect with it, I’m going to make sure it’s right.”

Apart from her jazz life, Shepherd these days is enjoying raising two 17 year olds and deflecting the snickers she gets as national spokeswoman for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, part of her ongoing association with the National Women’s Health Resources Center. She talks about it in her act, in lectures and on talk shows. It’s a crippling condition, she says, that women have suffered from in silence long enough.

“It’s all about doing something only I can do,” she says. “I survived a rare form of skin cancer and IBS and I’m in a position to educate and help people. And it’s not like I haven’t found entertaining ways to tackle taboo subjects. The two episodes of Cybill where we talked about menopause were among our highest rated. The DVD that comes along with At Home With Cybill features a performance of ‘Menopause Blues,’ which I did on the show. It’s like jazz. Have fun, improvise, try something new, but make sure the message gets across.”

Having a three year plus layoff between releases seems to have added a sense of urgency to Everette Harp’s sax playing on his A440 debut All For You, one of the most feisty smooth jazz outings of the past year. Perhaps guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., who graces four of the twelve tracks, said it best about the veteran saxman: “You play every solo as if it’s your last.” Harp’s always been the master of cool, mid-tempo ballads like “Back In Your Arms” (which features an interesting EWI solo, a sound we haven’t heard much of in recent years) and the Babyface cover “When Can I See You Again.” But the funk jams (“Kisses Don’t Lie,” “Just Like Ole Times”) take a super-aggressive approach focused around Harp’s intense sax thrust and the throbbing bass of masters like Alex Al and Larry Kimpel. He also indulges us with a powerful, Hubert Laws-like flute harmony line (usually a smooth jazz no-no) on “Can You Hear Me Now.” Producing or co-helming every track, Harp works with numerous genre stars who also happen to be old pals, including guitarists Dwight Sills, Norman Brown and Earl Klugh. Mentor and longtime Harp collaborator George Duke makes a cameo on Fender Rhodes on the closing chillout tune, “In The Blink of An Eye,” which the two co-wrote.

Longtime legends in their native Colorado, the raucous jazz pop fusion locomotive Dotsero once again whipped up a frenzy at last October’s Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival. Led by The Watts Brothers, guitarist David and saxman Stephen, they’re one of the rare genre bands that captures this same sort of energy in the studio. Their recordings over the years consistently demonstrate their abilities to both rock out with blistering intensity, yet also touch the heart with romantic and lyrical subtleties. Fresh Pants (Cinderblock Records) rocks heavy immediately with the raucous, horn drenched jam “You Talkin To Me?” and the edgy, sizzling “Sweetness #34” before chilling out for the trippy, atmospheric tracks “My Leap of Faith” and the mid-tempo title tune, which includes soothing wordless vocals on the chorus. The contrast in tone and style will keep listeners on their toes as the Watts dart through the hot funk of “Green Goblin” before calming down for the sweet soprano sax/acoustic guitar lullaby “Sleep Tight Katydid.” And for smooth jazz fans who love rock and roll, their scorching take on Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” is up there with their best cover ever, “She Drives Me Crazy.” The tune features interesting production effects which make David Watt’s guitar sound distorted in spots, and his powerful aggression throughout does Aero guitarist Joe Perry proud.

Anyone concerned that legendary Tower of Power trumpet great and arranger Greg Adams would have a tough transition into solo stardom need worry no longer — his 2002 Blue Note hit Midnight Morning was excellent and Firefly, his nearly flawless debut on 215 Records, is even better. While still best known on smooth jazz radio for his somewhat pedestrian muted horn cover of Sade’s “Smooth Operator,” Adams’ pop sensibilities ensure numerous potential airplay hits on Firefly. The best tracks are of course the horn-section drenched ones, led by Adams himself — the peppy and percussive, retro-soul spiced title track, a moody and atmospheric ride up the “5 North,” the rolling with the top down, Herb Alpert-like “Time Is Of the Essence” (with Mark Hollingsworth’s alto blending into a lush harmony with Adams’ horn), the gentle, swaying romance “Not So Long Ago” and the all-out party hearty whirlwind “Loco Motive,” which out-TOPs TOP, if that’s possible. Trad jazz fans will also enjoy the late night closing track “Just Like Breathing,” with its subtle synth bass, brooding piano and slight drum brushes.


1) Kai Alece, Reason, Season or Lifetime (G-Rod Records) – Fans of the much more renowned Alicia Keys and Lalah Hathaway will find strength, warmth and conviction in the cozy old-school soul meets sly jazz sensibilities of this remarkable, silky voiced indie artist.
2) Dave Hill, Two Seasons (Dave Hill Music)
3) Nicholas Gunn, Breathe (Gemini Sun Records)
4) Soul Ballet, Dream Beat Dream (215 Records)
5) Tony Bennett, The Art of Romance (RPM Records/Columbia)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 7:12 PM

February 12, 2005

Soul Ballet Offers Two New Songs On Remix Album

Want more Soul Ballet? Rick Kelly offers remixes and two news songs on a new effort.

Soul Ballet, a concept band led by Rick Kelly, is now offering two brand-new songs as part of a remix album called All The Pretty Lights, Volume 1.

“It’s like all the things I wanted to do on the first couple albums with those tracks, I’m able to do because I can just make them very, very long and seductive and hypnotic," says Kelly. "It's been a blast."

The new songs are called “The Revolution/Make The Music Louder” and “Pretty Lights.” Seven other tracks are extended versions of previously released material. The songs “Man And Woman,” “Exotique,” “N.Y.C. Trippin’,” “Love Juliet” and “Am I Close Enough” are from Soul Ballet’s self-titled debut album.

The songs “BLU Girl” and “Monique Slept Here” are from the follow-up album, Trip The Night Fantastic.

Kelly, meanwhile, is already working on the second volume of All The Pretty Lights, which he expects to release later this year. Soul Ballet has the No. 1 smooth jazz song in the States with “Cream” from the album called DreamBeatDream.

All The Pretty Lights, Vol. 1

SoulBallet_PrettyLights1.jpg1. Man And Woman
2. Exotique
3. Love Juliet
4. The Revolution/Make The Music Louder
5. BLU Girl
6. Am I Close Enough
7. Pretty Lights
8. NYC Trippin’
9. Monique Slept Here

Posted by Brian Soergel at 9:26 PM

February 10, 2005

Secret Garden Snippet - Roger Smith Recovering From Cancer

Readers of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden will know it’s the place to go for a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. In order to bring you more of the news more of the time this latest Secret Garden Snippet delivers another snapshot from the adult contemporary scene. The Secret Garden was alarmed to hear that Tower of Power keyboard player Roger Smith, a run away success in 2004 with his solo CD Just Enough, underwent surgery for Prostate Cancer in early January.

Good news is that everything went well and Roger is enjoying rest and recovery. Although not touring with the band right now he does plan to return in mid-April. In the interim, and starting with a series of gigs that the band is scheduled to play in Japan, Mike Finnegan will be filling in for him.

Roger should therefore be back well before June 16 when Tower of Power take to the stage in Victoria BC, the first date of a big venue, 22 city tour with Tom Jones.

Check out the Secret Garden archives for the feature on Roger Smith that appeared in September 2004. Want to know more? Want to add a snippet of your own? E-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com

Posted by Denis Poole at 6:38 PM

Hammond B-3 Legend Jimmy Smith Passes

Jimmy Smith, the Hammond B-3 icon who creatively revolutionized the instrument in Jazz, died of apparent natural causes on Tuesday, February 8, at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Funeral arrangements are pending.

JimmySmith_bw.jpg “Jimmy was one of the greatest and most innovative musicians of our time.  I love the man and I love the music.  He was my idol, my mentor and my friend,” fellow Hammond B-3 artist and friend, Joey Defrancesco said yesterday.

Born in Norristown, Pennsylvania on December 8, 1925, Jimmy Smith ruled the Hammond B-3 organ in the 1950s & 1960s. He turned the instrument into almost an ensemble itself, fusing R&B, blues, and gospel influences with bebop references into a jubilant, attractive sound that many others immediately absorbed before following in his footsteps. Smith initially learned piano both from his parents and on his own. After service in the Navy, in 1948 he studied bass at the Hamilton School of Music and piano at Ornstein's School of Music in Philadelphia. He began playing the Hammond organ in 1951, and soon earned a great reputation that followed him to New York, where he debuted at the Café Bohemia. A date at Birdland and then a 1957 Newport Jazz Festival appearance launched Smith¹s career. He toured extensively throughout the 1960s & ‘70s.

Smith’s Blue Note sessions from 1956 to 1963 were extremely influential and are highly recommended. They included collaborations with Kenny Burrell, Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, Ike Quebec, and Stanley Turrentine, among others. Smith also recorded for Verve from 1963 to 1972, many of them featuring big bands and using fine arrangements from Oliver Nelson. These included the excellent Walk on the Wild Side.

Jimmy Smith persevered in times when the Hammond organ seemed like it was down and out, and reigned as the master of the craft. The authentic sound of the Hammond still lives on in his protégé and good buddy Joey DeFrancesco. The pair recently recorded a studio album together, Legacy, to be released on Concord Records February 15. A national tour was in place for the B-3 soul mates to commence at Yoshi’s February 16-20, along with a special Iridium engagement in New York, March 23-27.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:21 AM

Verve/GRP Signs Brian Culbertson

Brian Culbertson finally has a new label and is working on a new CD.

BrianCulbertson2.jpgSmooth jazz pianist and composer Brian Culbertson, who found himself without a label last year after Warner Bros. closed its jazz division, has signed to the Verve label.

The label releases smooth jazz under its GRP subsidiary. Culbertson is now writing music for his debut album with the label, which he expects to be released on June 28th. The tentative name of the album is Sensuality.

Culbertson says the album will have a slower, sexier vibe than previous works such as his last album, Come On Up, which featured the single of the same name.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:20 AM

Michael Lington Is A Stand-Up Guy

Saxophonist Michael Lington is taking classes at a Los Angeles comedy club.

MichaelLington.jpgIf you’ve ever seen saxophonist Michael Lington in concert, you know the tall saxophone is self-assured on stage. He’s also been known to crack a joke or two. Now we’ve learned that Michael is honing his skills even more through an improv class at the famous Groundlings Theater on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.

Michael says that he’s been taking weekly classes and that he just graduated from the round of sessions. He says he’s having a lot of fun and that the classes have helped not only his stage presence but also his social skills. He’s already signed up for classes during the next semester.

Groundlings, a sketch comedy group, has graduated such notable talent as Will Farrell, Lisa Kudrow, Jon Lovitz and Cheri Otari.

Lington's most recent CD, Stay With Me, includes the current hit single “Two Of A Kind.”

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:16 AM

February 8, 2005

Song of the Week: Jeff Lorber – “Ooh La La”

Smooth jazz pioneer Jeff Lorber has produced one of his best CDs ever – and his first single is a gem. “Ooh La La,” co-written by Lorber, producer Steven Dubin and young keyboardist Nelson Jackson, begins with a brief keyboard intro lifted from some smoky 1950s jazz club, then segues into a jaunty ditty showcasing Lorber’s acoustic piano acumen.

Like the rest of the CD, the song radiates an organic and wholesome freshness that offers a welcome change of pace from his previous funkified works. Lenny Castro provides percussion and John Roberts mans the drums.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:45 AM

February 7, 2005

Weekend Of The Sopranos!

This weekend host two great soprano saxophonists performing in Las Vegas.

MarionMeadows.jpgFirst up we have smooth jazz soprano sax great Marion Meadows, one night only, at the Santa Fe Station, Saturday February 12th, 7pm. Marion is still riding high off his current release, Players Club. Then it's over to Green Valley Ranch, Sunday February 13th, in the Estancia Ballroom for a special event hosted by radio station KSNE, Sunny 106.5 FM, called "A Chocolate Affair". The event will be held from 3pm-7pm and will feature up and coming contemporary soprano saxophonist, Rocky Gordon, along with his band, KGB. The band is still playing selections from the current Misata release, Echoes.

The legendary "Feels So Good" trumpeter Chuck Mangione will be performing two nights in the Suncoast Hotel showroom, February 25th and 26th.

Tickets are on sale right now for the 12th Annual City Of Lights Jazz Festival, to be held in Las Vegas at Hills Park In Summerlin. Two nights of great entertainment, April 22nd, 7pm-10pm, and also April 23rd, noon to 10pm. Friday will feature more of an R&B '80s tribute with bands like The Dazz Band, Lakeside, SOS Band, and Con-funk-shun. Saturday pours it on with smooth jazz chartbusters George Duke, Kim Waters, Mindi Abair, Down To The Bone, Paul Taylor, and Paul Jackson Jr.

Posted by Danny Desart at 11:03 PM

February 5, 2005

Wayman Tisdale - Bringing Back The Old School

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.

No man better spans the divide or better makes the connection between ‘Old School’ soul and Smooth Jazz than bass supremo and former NBA star Wayman Tisdale. His latest release Hang Time is testimony to that and nowhere was it better demonstrated than the opening night late show of the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 (WHSJC). For an audience of a certain age, revved up with the anticipation of seven days wall to wall music and all ready to party, Wayman Tisdale was, as they say, just what the doctor ordered.

WaymanTisdale_live.jpgAs he opened with track #1 from his latest release Hang Time, the aptly titled ‘Ready To Hang’, the audience were immediately where he wanted them to be, right in the groove. He tested out their old school credentials by sending out the opening of ‘Joy and Pain’ only to have them holler back ‘Like Sunshine And Rain’ with only the slightest encouragement. He started them off with the chant from the Gap Bands ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ and it came reverberating back with passion. Having got the crowd all checked out and warmed up he kicked right in to the Smokey Robinson classic ‘Cruisin’, also from Hang Time, and audience participation was guaranteed.

Tisdale was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he still lives with his wife Regina and their four children. Like his life, his music is based on his faith, having discovered the bass guitar while watching the bass players in his hometown church where his father, the late Rev. Louis Tisdale, was a minister. Subsequently his father bought him a kids guitar with which he began to teach himself to play and he hasn’t stopped playing since.

WaymanTisdale_sports.jpgAs many will know, Tisdale was a big star on the basketball court well before he was a star in Smooth Jazz and R & B. He played for the University of Oklahoma Sooners from 1983 to 1985 and was part of the gold medal winning US Olympic Team in 1984. OU handed him the ultimate accolade when he became the first basketball player to have his jersey, number 23, retired. On leaving college the Indiana Pacers selected Tisdale as the No. 2 pick in the draft, behind Patrick Ewing. That was in 1986 and for the next 12 years Tisdale graced the NBA with the Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. In his twelve year professional career he scored over 12,800 points and pulled down more than 5,000 rebounds. Wayman Tisdale still has links to the University of Oklahoma with the commentary he provides for the men’s team during the basketball season.

He retired from basketball in 1997 but well before that he had already started to make the transition toward a career in music. In 1995 he released his debut CD, the aptly named Power Forward. It went to #4 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts and made a successful crossover into the R&B charts.

It was a track from that first release, ‘Gabrielle’, a tune named after his daughter that was one of the high points of Tisdale’s performance on the WHSJC. He also dipped into his back catalog to reinforce the old school vibe with the Isley Brothers ‘Summer Breeze’, taken from his 1996 release In The Zone. When he reprised this number as part of his Thursday matinee show, Jeff Golub joined him on stage to play guitar.

Unexpected collaborations between the artists created many memorable moments during the WHSJC and none more so than during Tisdale's final number of the show, the McFadden and Whitehead classic, and track #4 from Hang Time, ‘Ain't No Stoppin Us Now’. 60 minutes into the show, and with the audience in a near frenzy, it was just perfect for the occasion. When it seemed it just couldn’t get any better up stepped Jonathan Butler to add vocals in what turned out to be an exhilarating guest appearance. Just at that moment, with the cream of today’s smooth jazz artists on board, and 1800 passionate fans there to groove with them, ‘Ain't No Stoppin Us Now’ became the anthem for the entire week, a vibe, an expression that typified not just what the WHSJC was all about but what the fans were about too. Seven days that exuded a passion for the music so tangible it sent shivers down the spine.

Read more about the Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise 2005 right here in the coming days and weeks.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this months Secret Garden? Do you have a favorite Smooth Soul Survivor that you would enjoy being featured in a future edition? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at 5:27 PM

February 4, 2005

CD Reviews: Jeff Lorber, 3rd Force, Jesse Cook

Jeff Lorber, 3rd Force and Jesse Cook all have new music.

Jeff Lorber

You could say that pianist and producer-extraordinaire Jeff Lorber is getting a new lease on life. Fresh off a live-saving kidney transplant donated from his wife, Lorber now offers one of the best CDs in his storied career. Following Gigabyte and Philly Style, which grooved with fresh and modern sounds, he now returns to an organic and jazzier approach. Lorber says he felt like he’d gone as far as he could with that style, and the result is a fresh and cerebral project that’s a joy to listen to and is an early lock for many of 2005’s Top Ten lists.

Although he keeps the familiar jazzy grooves his fans love, Lorber aims to surprise listeners with the unexpected twists and turns of old-school swing rhythms and modern hip-hop, with a fair amount of be-bop improvisation. The ten songs on the album, co-produced by Lorber and Steve Dubin, feature Ron King on trumpet, Gary Meek on saxophone and additional keyboards by Nelson Jackson.

In addition to a new version of “Tune 88,” a song Jeff originally recorded for his 1980 album Water Sign showcasing the Wurlitzer organ, standout tracks include “Everybody Knows That,” where Lorber’s rapid playing show his tremendous skills; the first single, “Ooh La La,” a languid and memorable musical stroll that swings, baby; the jazzy joy and electric keyboard-driven “Santa Monica Triangle”; and “Sun Ra” and “Enchanted Way,” where King and Meek get a chance to improvise around Lorber’s melody.

This is kind of hip jazz you’ll like.
Smooth grade: A

3rd Force
Driving Force
(Higher Octave)

On their last CD, veteran smooth jazz group 3rd Force slowed things down for the very mellow, and very intoxicating, Gentle Force. Now, as a bookend to that project, William Aura, Craig Dobbin, Richard Hardy and Alain Eskinasi offer the appropriately named Driving Force, the band’s seventh CD. The album pays homage to Detroit funk and adds modern elements such as samples and turntable scratches by DJ Radius.

3rd Force has always had an in-the-pocket groove and high production qualities that left nothing out of place. The sound was chill music before it even existed. You could dance to their music or mellow out to it, all the while keeping your feet shuffling. A few years ago, 3rd Force – always just a studio band – played live for the first time, and this may have led to the energetic direction of Driving Force. New to this project is veteran drummer and musical director Xavier Marshall, who keeps the overall sound funky and hip-(hop)notic with plenty of horns and percussion.

Guest stars add to the vibe, with guitarist Brian Hughes strumming along on the first single, “Believe In Me,” and Greg Adams throwing in some flugelhorn. Guitarist Marc Antoine lends his unmistakable touch to “You Got It,” a dreamy vibe that recalls the band’s mellower mood. Also contributing are saxophonists Eric Darius and Tom Scott.
The upbeat CD closes with “Inside,” a New Age-ish tune featuring the Nepali flute of Reuben Shresha and vocals by Rashmi. It was recorded in Kathmandu, where Aura makes frequent trips to record music.
Smooth grade: B+

Jesse Cook

Ten years ago, Canadian rumba flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook burst onto the smooth jazz scene with a CD called Tempest, an exotic and bouncy effort that Ottmar Liebert fans immediately took to. Cook has continued to release music but flamenco and world music stylings have fallen out of favor on smooth jazz radio, meaning Cook hasn’t gotten much notice recently.

Montreal, a live album recorded in July at the Metropolis Theatre during an international jazz festival in the Canadian city, reminds us of Cook’s amazing talents on the guitar. A live album is a perfect setting for him and for listeners. Whether bouncing along with such memorable songs such as “Breeze From Saintes Maries,” “Rattle And Burn” and “Jumpstart” or slowing it down on melancholy ballads like “Cascada,” the crowd’s constant cheers and spontaneous clapping put you right in the middle of the action.

Throughout the 14 songs, the listener absorbs the full range of Cook’s musical influences (he was born in Paris and moved to Canada at a young age with his parents), with elements of sounds from Spain, Egypt, France, Africa, Cuba and Brazil. At the same time, Cook reminds us of why flamenco music continues to have a hold on smooth jazz listeners.

This is the kind of CD that gives live albums a good name.
Smooth grade: A

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:13 AM

Euge Groove To Be A Father Again

Euge Groove and his wife, Bane, have some good news.

Euge&Bane.jpgSaxophonist Euge Groove and his wife Bane, are expecting their fourth child. Although they do not yet know the sex of the baby, which is due in September, Groove says the couple is hoping for a girl to round out their family.

The family now consists of two boys – Dax, 14, and Canyon, 13, and one girl, 7-year-old Lilah Belle. Euge, who is 42, and Bane celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary in November.

The father-to-be is currently opening for Joe Cocker and playing his current smooth jazz single called “XXL." It’s from his Livin’ Large album.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:08 AM

Rippingtons Complete 15th CD

Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons will release a new album in May.

wild-card185.jpgThe Rippingtons' new CD, Wild Card, will feature two salsa singers and R&B vocalist Chante Moore. The album by the venerable smooth jazz band, which is led by Russ Freeman, will be released on his Peak Records label.

The CD is the band’s 15th and follows Let It Ripp, which was released in May 2003. Moore will be featured on a cover version of the Aretha Franklin hit “Til You Come Back To Me,” while Cuban singers Albita and Willy Chirino – both of whom are salsa music stars in Cuba – will be featured on two songs.

Song titles include “Spanish Girl,” “Paradise,” “King Of Hearts,” “Gypsy Eyes” and “Moonlight.” Wild Card will released on May 3.

Wild Card

1. Spanish Girl
2. Wild Card
3. Mulat de Mi Amor
4. Paradise
5. King of Hearts
6. Midnight Ride
7. Gypsy Eyes
8. El Vacilon
9. In the End
10. Moonlight
11. Lay It Down
12. Til You Come Back to Me

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:58 AM

Marion Meadows To Join Sax Pack

Marion Meadows' saxophone will replace Steve Cole's later this year during the Sax Pack festival started by another saxophonist, Jeff Kashiwa.

MarionMeadows.jpgThe new edition of Sax Pack – which this year features saxophonists Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters and new addition Marion Meadows – will begins its U.S. tour April 17 at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

Two other dates are confirmed – May 27 at the JazzTrax Lake Tahoe Smooth Summer Jazz Festival and July 2 at the Jazz Under the Stars festival in Las Vegas.

“Marion is a powerful presence on stage,” says Kashiwa, who created the Sax Pack last year. “He can captivate an audience with his sense of style and groove.”

Steve Cole, an original member of the Sax Pack, will perform his last gig as part of the tour March 19 at the Berks Jazz Festival in Pennsylvania.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:50 AM

February 3, 2005

Secret Garden Snippet - Signs Of Rain

TheSecretTomorrowSignsOfRai.jpgReaders of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden will know it’s the place to go for a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. In order to bring you more of the news more of the time this latest Secret Garden Snippet delivers another current sound bite from the adult contemporary scene. In the Secret Garden CD player this week is the latest release from the band Signs Of Rain, described as an ‘original smooth jazz outfit that boasts the ambient and cinematic sound of New Age’. Be that as it may, the eleven tracks that make up The Secret Sorrow is essential relaxation music for the busy world in which we live.

Guitarists, long time friends and now brothers in law Glenn Dagrossa and Ronald Porcelli founded Signs Of Rain in 1999 and released their first CD August Night Autumn Sky in 2001. One track from the CD, ‘Song Corazon de Leon’ became the official theme song to WKRQ's Miami Latin Jazz show and the single, ‘Il Mare Chiara’ enjoyed extensive airplay. After a break the band reformed in 2002 and immediately set to work on a follow up release, a project that became The Secret Sorrow. It was released in April 2004 to a packed house at New York Central Park's Tavern on the Green. Since that time the Westchester County based band have been promoting their music right across the USA and are currently mid way through a North East tour of Borders Books.

Next time you feel the need to escape the rigors of the working week, put on some coffee, spread the Sunday papers over the floor and slip The Secret Sorrow into the player. You will be transported.

For more on Signs Of Rain and updated tour dates go to www.signsofrain.com. Want to know more? Want to add a snippet of your own? E-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com

Posted by Denis Poole at 5:01 PM

Song of the Week: Nils – “Pacific Coast Highway”

Nils.jpgNils is a guitarist who was born in Germany but has lived in Southern California for many years. He’s got the California vibe down pat on “Pacific Coast Highway,” his first single from the album by the same name.

Breezy and fun, the song sashays along with Nils’ Lee Ritenour-like lead creating a memorable hook. If ever there was a song to pop into CD player while cruising a beach-front road in a 'Vette, here you go.

This song is a sure thing.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:56 AM