May 29, 2005

Master musician Brian Bromberg serves up a fresh batch of Choices

In record stores today is a fresh version of Brian Bromberg’s Choices album, which was revisited by the master bass player and producer.  Originally released last year, the artist remixed half of the record and the entire disc was remastered.  One track was removed and replaced with the radio hit, “Relentless,” a duet with sax star Richard Elliot that previously was only released on the Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards compilation CD.  Featuring Bromberg’s nifty fret work on the piccolo bass, which sounds like a guitar, the title track of Choices is one of the hottest songs now collecting adds at radio.
 
Smooth jazz is often criticized as being light-weight, but not Bromberg’s efforts in the genre.  His hooks are memorable and infectious yet the writing is sophisticated and substantive, and the productions are intricately textured.  On Choices, which includes guest turns by Jeff Lorber, Brian Culbertson, David Benoit and Eric Marienthal, soulful R&B, funk, jazz, pop, and African rhythmscapes serve as the backdrop for Bromberg’s melodies.  No guitars were used on the album, although you’ll swear otherwise.  While primarily an instrumental album, Bromberg’s intention was for Choices to unfold like a collection of short stories.

Bromberg is a remarkable musician, one of the few masters of both the electric and acoustic bass.  He’s a rare artist who has garnered respect for releasing accomplished music in both the traditional jazz and more commercial contemporary jazz genres.     
 
In the midst of a prolific creative period, Bromberg, a partner in the new Artistry Music record label that now releases his music, has a full-slate of current projects that enable him to draw upon his vast experience.  In addition to Choices, he’s releasing and reissuing four albums this year.  Metal is a new rock fusion collection that was released in late February.  Last month, It’s About Time, a traditional jazz record originally released in 1991, was reissued after being remixed and remastered.  This summer, Bromberg’s 1993 self-titled contemporary jazz album, featuring Lorber, Lee Ritenour, Kirk Whalum and Toots Thielemans, will be reissued.  Scheduled for release early next year, Bromberg has begun recording Wood II, the sequel to 2002’s critically acclaimed traditional jazz CD, Wood.
 
This spring and summer, Bromberg is touring worldwide with contemporary jazz greats Ritenour, Patrice Rushen, Ernie Watts, and Alex Acuna.  Recently Bromberg earned his first gold record for production work he did on Chris Botti’s When I Fall In Love album; this year he’s writing and producing songs for a number of other artists.  Collaborating with Dean Guitars, he designed an innovative line of basses, B², which will be in stores this summer.         
 
Earlier this year, Bromberg partnered with soul singer-songwriter Rahsaan Patterson, their long-time manager Lucille Hunt and veteran marketing executive Denny Stilwell to launch Artistry Music.  Based in Los Angeles, the label is distributed in the United States by Ryko Distribution

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:07 AM

May 28, 2005

Eric Marienthal CD Of Covers To Be One Of Many This Year

Get ready for a summer of cover songs by some of your favorite smooth jazz releases. For example, from saxophonist Eric Marienthal. Stay tuned for information on other projects.

Saxophonist Eric Marienthal is covering some of his favorite songs for his upcoming album called, appropriately enough, Got You Covered. The CD is Marienthal’s third for the Peak Records label and follows Sweet Talk from 2003.

The music choice is eclectic – the Beatles“I Will,” the Bee Gees“Emotions,” a selection by classical composer Bach, Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and Gino Vanelli’s “I Just Want to Stop,” among others.

The album was recorded live in the studio in a quartet setting and features pianist Russell Ferrante, drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Dave Carpenter.

Got You Covered is produced by Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons, who co-founded the Peak record label. Marienthal plays sax on the Rippingtons' new CD called Wild Card and is touring with the band this year. "It’s a very different kind of an album," Freeman says. "What’s unique about it is his song choices – they’re all cover songs. And they’re very wide-ranging. From Frank Sinatra to Gino Vanelli to some pop standards. It's really a beautiful record."

Got You Covered will be released on Sept. 20.

Got You Covered

1. I Will (John Lennon-Paul McCartney)
2. New York State Of Mind (Billy Joel)
3. Love & Liberte (Tonino Baliardo-Nicolas Reyes)
4. Compared To What (Gene McDaniels)
5. I’ve Got The World On A String (Harold Arlen-Ted Koehler)
6. Emotion (Barry Gibb-Robin Gibb)
7. Two Part Invention #4 in D Minor (Johann Sebastian Bach)
8. My One And Only Love (Robert Mellin-Guy Wood)
9. You’ve Got A Friend (Carole King)
10. Stand By Me (Ben E. King-Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller)
11. Moody's Mood For Love (James Moody-Dorothy Fields-Jimmy McHugh)
12. I Just Want To Stop (Gino Vannelli-Ross Vannelli)

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:18 AM

May 27, 2005

New Paul Hardcastle Project Is Hardcastle 4

British smoooth jazz star Paul Hardcastle is getting ready to release Hardcastle 4.

British instrumentalist and producer Paul Hardcastle has finished his new album, “Hardcastle 4,” his follow-up to 2003’s “The Jazzmasters 4” featuring the No. 1 smooth jazz single “Puerto Banus.”

Although Paul helms both “Hardcastle” and “Jazzmasters” projects, the “Hardcastle” album tend to be a bit more uptempo and experimental. The new 12-song album, in addition to featuring such titles as the first single “Serene,” “Moments in Time” and “Eastern Winds,” actually features a song called “Smooth Jazz.”

“Hardcastle 4” will be released by the Trippin 'N' Rhythm label on July 12.

Hardcastle 4

1. Serene
2. Freefall
3. Smooth Jazz
4. Keeping it Real
5. Moments in Time
6. Was it Love
7. Midnight Moon
8. Eastern Winds
9. Where Are You Now
10. Straight Ahead
11. Time to Reflect
12. Journey of the Lost Tribes

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:42 AM

Smooth Jazz Books Its First Cruise To Alaska

Who needs the heat? You can sail to Alaska with Michael Paulo and friends this summer.

image002.jpgThere are several smooth jazz cruises options these days, and they all take you to sunny climes such as Mexico and the Caribbean. But now there’s an option for those who want to see killer whales and snow-capped mountains.

Saxophonist Michael Paulo is the music director for the first-ever Alaskan Smooth Jazz Cruise, which will depart from Seattle on August 27, returning on September 3. Paulo, who organizes the annual Temecula Jazz Festival in Southern California, has secured 200 cabins aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam cruise ship. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same ship that will hold the inaugural Dave Koz & Friends cruise in November.

Artists confirmed for the cruise – which will make ports of call in Victoria, British Columbia, and the Alaskan towns of Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan – include saxophonist Everette Harp, pianist Dan Siegel, guitarist Ray Fuller and vocalists Kenny Rankin and Pauline Wilson.

For more information, you can call 888-891-8385 or 951-296-5300 or log on to www.choicevacations.com. Of course, you can of course be sure that Paulo will be on the cruise. He’ll be playing songs from his upcoming album called “Beautiful.”

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:41 AM

May 25, 2005

Secret Garden Snippet - BK Diaz - The Pursuit Of Happiness

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 current sound bite from the adult contemporary scene. Hot news from LA is that the 3rd most added record on New Music Weekly's Hot AC/ Mainstream Radio is the single ‘Magdalena’ by B.K. Diaz from his new The Pursuit of Happiness CD. Stations across the country have been putting this song in heavy test rotations with add ins coming in at a rapid pace.

The Pursuit of Happiness CD will be released on May 31, 2005 and contains a total of 12 songs. With several previous hits B.K. Diaz is no stranger to this format. However, with this CD he is producing his best work to date. A summer tour is in the planning.

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 4:51 AM

Secret Garden Snippet - Mark Carter - Party On The Pier

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. Back in February we reported that Mark Carter's new CD West Coast Groove was a one to watch for 2005. Now, the track lifted for radio play, ‘Party On The Pier’ is airing on KSBR 88.5 FM in Mission Viejo, CA.

If you are getting hooked on Mark’s music, and here we certainly are, you can catch him with his band, The Mark Carter Project, playing live at Spaghetti Jazz Club in Seal Beach on Wednesday June 8. Show starts at 7-00 PM.

For more check out Marks website at www.markcarterproductions.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 4:33 AM

May 24, 2005

What We're Listening To

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

SteelyDanPianoJazz.jpgMarian McPartland’s Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast with Steely Dan. (Broadcast 2003, CD release 2005) What a discovery this CD has been – a blending of my all-time favorite band with a jazz pianist who has hosted the Piano Jazz show for over 25 years now. Anyone who is familiar with Steely Dan knows of the jazz elements used in their music since the early 70’s, and this CD is eight tracks of memorable, intriguing and entertaining conversation between Marian McPartland, Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, punctuated by renditions of 'Limbo Jazz,' 'Josie,' 'Mood Indigo,' 'Star Eyes,' 'Hesitation Blues,' 'Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,' 'Chain Lightening,' and 'Black Friday.'

McPartland, whose quite accomplished career began at the age of three as she played Chopin by ear, discovered Steely Dan during a visiting nephew’s sharing of Donald Fagan’s Nightfly, and later when she heard Two Against Nature, she “fell completely in love with their music.” No doubt her admiration only grew as she learned that Steely Dan loves jazz and that they love Duke Ellington. Their conversation is priceless; she makes a comment about their lyrics and how they sometimes have to ‘wriggle [the lyrics] into the music.’ The explanation? They were determined to write stories that would set apart each song from another, but in the process, the music often didn't have enough syllables in which to fit the entire story – so sometimes a piece is missing. Dan fans well understand this fact, and devote hours, days, even years figuring out the meaning of their lyrics!

The music played on this CD uses a smaller band, so it's more simplified, but no less effective, in demonstrating the jazz heritage and passion of all three players. Fagan and Becker are joined by Jay Leonhart on bass and Keith Carlock on drums, and on a few songs, by McPartland herself, and what a treat it is to hear all of the music they played on the show. Just a totally fun listen, bringing in some great history not only of Steely Dan as the guests, but also jazz greats like Duke Ellington and W.C. Handy. Her wrap-up of her time with them? “I think they had a ball, and I certainly did. Those guys are so funny and so witty and deadpan.”

Despite their sometimes crazy antics during interviews (which fans know can provide more comedy than one can put into words), I’ve always sensed a certain modesty with Don and Walt, and I loved listening to the more gentle and obviously ‘in awe’ side of their personalities that came across on this show – they were, after all, in the presence of a truly legendary lady in the world of piano jazz. And perhaps for this reason, she was more successful than many in getting into the heads -- and hearts -- of two of the most creative minds in contemporary music.

Any Steely Dan fan and any fan of jazz music will thoroughly enjoy the time these three musical legends spent together. Learn more about Steely Dan and the fascinating Marian McPartland on the web.

P E T E R * B O E H I

kennybrooks2.jpgKenny Brooks - Jetstream (2005)
Guitarist Kenny Brooks offers some great smooth jazz guitar playing over contemporary grooves. Another outstanding artist waiting to be discovered at CDBaby.com.

Althea René - Flute Talk (2000)
I just discovered this female flute player at CDBaby.com. This is some absolutely top-notch music with warm flute sounds over cool urban beats. Don't miss it!

David Lanz - The Good Life (2004)
Picture perfect smooth jazz by former new-age piano player David Lanz boasting some of the genre's best players. Incredibly well done and going down like champagne!

Brian Bromberg - Jaco (2002)
Despite not being exactly smooth jazz this CD has been a favorite on my CD player. Brian Bromberg is one of the most versatile bass players around and his homage to the late Jaco Pastorius is nothing short of breathtaking still retaining some smooth jazz appeal.

Camiel - Sunset (2002)
This album by guitar player Camiel falls more into the lounge or chill out genre but still offers plenty of jazzy guitar playing to appeal to us smooth jazz lovers. Nice change of pace and worth our attention.


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

pjcover200.jpgWarren Hill, Pop Jazz: The veteran saxophonist’s latest is also the name of his new Internet-based record label and features covers of classics like “Low Rider,” “Come Together,” “Back at One” and “Play That Funky Music (White Boy).” There are some ballads, but the hard-edged funk grooves are what stand out, especially on “Bridgin’ The Gap,” where Hill plays like you’ve never heard him on CD.

Chieli Minucci, Got It Goin' On: The veteran guitarist provides plenty of meat on this CD, despite the generic smooth jazz title. “Love Is Always Young,” a song Chieli adapted from one of his musician father’s original songs, is as beautiful a ballad as you’re going to hear this year. And “Chic” is a hard-driving, hand-clapping gem with another smooth jazz star, Steve Oliver, providing wordless-vocal accompaniment to Chieli’s guitar.

Lin Roundtree, Groovetree: One song rocks and another has vocals, but the rest of the tracks by the trumpeter are nicely mellow. It’s romantic magic that should appeal to Chris Botti fans. And it’s exceptionally polished smooth jazz for an independent label.

Michael Brandenburg, Midnight: This is mellow music from a keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist who lives in northern California. Especially attractive are a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” and Brandenburg’s own “Velvet Lady,” which is mellowness personified. Never rough, this CD puts the “smooth” in smooth jazz.

Brian Bromberg, It’s About Time: Originally released in 1991, the straight-ahead jazz album by bassist Bromberg swings with the sounds of acoustic jazz. Bromberg is one of the most talented musicians and composers going, and this CD reminds us of that. The CD, by the way, has been remixed, remastered and was just re-released by Bromberg’s own Artistry Music.


D E N I S * P O O L E

Acoustic Alchemy, ‘The Crossing,’ from their new CD release American English. Could turn out to be THE release of 2005.

Juliette Leon, ‘Unconditional,’ from the CD of the same name. Fresh new urban sounds from an artist based in the UK who is new on the scene.

Flautist and vocalist Theo Ross, an extended play collection titled Cut The Chord. Who said EP's were out of date?

Steve Cole, ‘Thursday,’ from his latest CD, Spin. WNUA are playing this all the time so it’s hard to avoid but, despite initial concerns, it kind of grows on you.

Hall and Oates, 'Shes Gone,' from their classic release Abandoned Luncheonette. H and O will be touring the UK this month as part of their renaissance. Renaissance? I don't think they ever quite went away. Great stuff!!

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

NicolasBeardeAllAboutLove.jpgNicolas Bearde, All About Love (Right Groove Records)
The cover of the soulful vocalist’s disc finds him offering a few dozen roses, and his easy way with a mix of covers and originals delivers big time on the promise of romance with a few touches of edgier blues for good measure.

Beyond the Sea, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Atco/Rhino)

Bobby Caldwell, Perfect Island Nights (Music Force Media Group)

The Chris Walden Big Band, Home of My Heart (Origin)

Tim Bowman, This Is What I hear (Liquid Records Entertainment)

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:06 AM

May 21, 2005

Michael Lington Dating Movie Star

Smooth jazz saxophonist Michael Lington is dating a Hollywood actress he met at a car wash.

Michael-Lington-Pic-3.jpgSaxophonist Michael Lington has been spotted hand-in-hand with the beautiful Hollywood actress Donnamarie Recco. Recco has appeared in such motion pictures as Analyze This and View From the Top and had a guest-starring role on the TV hit The Sopranos. They first met at a Los Angeles area car wash.

Recently, Recco was spotted cheering in the crowd as Lignton performed live at the Lexus Jazz Festival in Newport Beach, California. Michael, who turns 36 next month, is a native of Denmark and now lives in the Hollywood Hills. Recco is a fast-rising star whose most visible roles so far have been as Robert De Niro’s girlfriend Sheila in both Analysis This and the sequel, Analyze That. She also played a character named Mistress Victoria in Auto Focus, a 2002 movie about Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane and starring Greg Kinnear.

On the small screen, Recco had a leading role in the PAX TV movie Murder Amongst Friends and has appeared on Judging Amy, NYPD Blue, Law & Order and Third Watch.

Lington's most recent CD is called Stay With Me. It features the current Top 5 smooth jazz single called "Two of a Kind.”

Posted by Brian Soergel at 1:43 AM

May 17, 2005

Acoustic Alchemy - American English

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. American English is the brand new release from the UK based Acoustic Alchemy and when I recently talked to founder member Greg Carmichael about the album and the up coming tour, the conversion inevitably came around to how something as American as smooth jazz has benefited so immeasurably by something as English as Acoustic Alchemy.

That many fans in the USA are surprised when they first discover the band is in fact English is an indication of the place they have cemented for themselves within the smooth jazz culture of that country yet it was pure chance and an advertisement in the London Evening Standard that first took the band across the Atlantic and into the musical adventure that continues to this day. What started out as simply providing in flight music for Virgins trans-Atlantic journeys quickly led to Nashville just when the record companies there were looking to diversify their output and shake off their image of being exclusively ‘Country’. With their music identified first as ‘new age’ and then later as ‘adult contemporary’ (the term smooth jazz not having been thought of at the time) they signed for MCA and recorded their debut album with them, Red Dust And Spanish Lace, in 1987.

The hallmark steel string nylon string guitar combination of AA has been around now for fifteen albums and eighteen years yet, over this time, although that signature sound has remained, the music has continued to evolve in different, sometimes unexpected, but always delightful directions. This has been due, in part, to changes in personnel, the most significant of which resulted from the sad death of co-founder Nick Webb in 1998, but also through the writing partnership that Carmichael has struck up with steel string player Miles Gilderdale.

All fourteen of the tracks on American English are Carmichael Gilderdale collaborations, a process that Carmichael explains as each of them developing ideas alone before coming together to select the best from what they have and then combining to hone each one into a finished product. If the collection that is American English is anything to go by this is a winning formula as the standard is incredibly high throughout without even a hint of a weak or ‘filler’ track.

The record company has already selected ‘Say Yeah’, a tune with obvious dance and R & B origins, as the first single for radio play. At its end Gilderdale provides some scat singing of which George Benson would be proud but, perhaps, even more infectious is ‘The Crossing’. This simply constructed sax and flute hook, overlaid with a beautiful Carmichael melody, is a tune that is hard to get out of your head. Talking about tunes that are hard to forget ‘So Kylie’ is also right up there. For readers outside of the UK and Australia, Kylie Minogue was, and possibly still is, the hottest property to come out of the renowned UK based pop-dance music production ‘hit factory’ Stock, Aitkin and Waterman. The sound generated here in tribute to her is pure Kylie. Great fun and great to listen to.

Twelve of the fourteen tracks that comprise American English were recorded in London, England with production provided by Richard Bull. Significantly, ‘The 14 Carrot Café’ and ‘Cherry Hill’ were recorded and produced in Bonn, Germany in the same studio where many of AA’s earlier offerings were made. True aficionados of the steel and nylon sound that, to many, defines Acoustic Alchemy will agree with Carmichael when he explains it as no coincidence that these two tunes, epitomizing as they do the pure melodic AA vibe, should have originated from this particular studio. He sums it up nicely when he simply says, ‘its just something about the place’.

When the band hit the road later this month, for what will be a thirty-four city forty six night tour, only five of those dates will be played outside of the USA. Carmichael accepts that smooth jazz in the UK will always be on the fringe, a place where a glimpse of a billboard advertising an up and coming AA gig remains a novelty. Yet he finds the passion and knowledge of the audiences to whom the band play, whether in the UK or the USA, to be constantly high wherever they go. For him, the experience of live performing continues to thrill and, although his opinion is that the best place to hear Acoustic Alchemy is in a theater where sound quality is good, he enjoys live performances everywhere and cites a particular appeal for those Californian summer festivals where warm sunshine, fine wine and excellent food combine with the music to make every event a special occasion.

Wherever their fans are able to see the band perform this year they will find that the depth that American English has added to Acoustic Alchemy’s catalogue of music is sure to enthrall. Whether it be the reggae flavored ‘Trinity’, the downright funky ‘Get Up’ or the ‘Moon And The Sun’ which somehow combines the feeling of Ibiza with the sea breeze of the Californian Coast Highway, the variety, linked by the common thread of quality, is unsurpassed. Carmichael and Gilderdale even find time to pay their own homage to Motown with a tune the idea for which was hatched on the tour bus while watching a documentary about the session band The Funk Brothers. ‘The Detroit Shuffle’ captures the mood perfectly and is enhanced by a superb tenor sax solo from none other than Paul Hardcastle sideman Snake Davies; back performing on an Acoustic Album CD for the first time since the 2001 AArt.

American English is sure to be up there as one of the smooth jazz albums of 2005. Go out and buy it, see the band perform but, above all, enjoy.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at 3:25 AM

May 16, 2005

Next Rick Braun Project Will Be Guitar-Based Cover Songs

Rick Braun has announced a few details about his next CD.

artist_3051.jpgSmooth jazz trumpeter Rick Braun is now working on a brand-new album that will be unlike any he’s ever done – every track is a cover song. Braun is still sifting through which ones he wants to interpret, but says he has finished three already with guitarist Jon Pondel, who was a member of the jazz-fusion group Kombo. Also among the artists expected on the album are guitarist and vocalist Jonathan Butler and guitarists Peter White and Norman Brown.

Braun says he want the album to have an acoustic, unplugged approach with a guitar foundation. He’ll draw from the jazz, pop and R&B worlds. The album, expected to be released later this year, will be Braun’s second for his ARTizen label, which he co-founded with saxophonist Richard Elliot. Rick’s previous album, “Sessions: Volume 1,” was released in June 2004.

"There are going to be songs that have been a part of my life, from the eighth grade on," says Braun. "Just songs that have had a special meaning to me throughout my life. Starting from very early on up until, like, last Thursday."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:57 AM

Gerald Albright Trades Southern California For Rocky Mountains

Gerald Albright joins fellow saxophonists Nelson Rangell and Warren Hill in Colorado.

GeraldAlbright.jpgSmooth jazz saxophonist Gerald Albright recently traded the sunny climes of Southern California for the mile-high altitude of Denver, Colorado. In doing so, Albright joins fellow saxophonists Nelson Rangell, who lives in the Denver suburb of Littleton, and Warren Hill, who lives west of Denver in the town of Boulder, as residents of the Centennial State.

The move came abut after Albright, who lived in Ventura County, did a benefit performance late last year in Denver for Elijah’s Rainbow, a nonprofit organization that provides financial medical assistance for children in need of medical coverage. After exploring the city for a few days wife his wife Glynis and two children, they soon made plans to make the move.

Albright still has commitments in Los Angeles, not the least of which is performing in the house band for FOX’s highly rated “American Idol.” But since there are only two more weeks for the current version of the show, he’ll soon be able to spend much more time in the land of the Rocky Mountains before heading back to – you guessed it – California for a show on June 11.

"We looked at the city and different properties," says Albright. "It just felt so comfortable and spiritual for us that we decided to make the move to Denver. We’re really enjoying the atmosphere, the people, and the fact that there’s less traffic here. We’re even enjoying the change in climate. You know, going from a sunny day of 70 degrees to snow blizzards. It’s all good – it’s nature at its best."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:51 AM

May 10, 2005

Song of the Week: Bradley Leighton – “Europa”

bradleyleighton2.jpg“Europa,” the smooth jazz radio staple written by Carlos Santana and Tom Coster and also performed by saxophonist Gato Barbieri, gets a new twist from Bradley Leighton. Leighton performs the song on the alto flute, backed by the trio of Rob Whitlock on Hammond B3 organ, Bob Boss on guitar and Duncan Moore on drums.

It’s dreamy.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:26 PM

May 9, 2005

Anita Baker Announces First Tour Dates

The veteran singer has scheduled four shows, with more to come.

AnitaBaker.jpg Anita Baker, who returned to the recording scene last September after a 10-year absence, has announced the first four shows for her summer tour.

The shows are June 25 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, July 16 at the Palace in Detroit, July 23 at Jones Beach Theater in New York and July 30 at the United Center in Chicago. More nationwide dates are expected to be announced soon.

Baker will be performing songs from My Everything on the Blue Note label, which has sold more than 500,000 copies and features the smooth jazz singles “You’re My Everything” and “How Does It Feel.”

She'll no doubt also be performing many familiar songs from her vast repertoire.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:41 PM

May 6, 2005

More May Music Than Ever!

With more activity than usual, May is going to be a great month for smooth jazz in the desert.

Guitarist Richard Smith and keyboard master Freddie Ravel kick it hard Thursday, May 5th, at the Henderson Pavillion as part of the First Thursday Of The Month series held in that concert arena. Henderson is technically a neighboring town to Las Vegas.

Sax legend David Sanborn brings three nights of magic to the Suncoast Hotel Showroom, May 6-8th.

It's the "Jazz Attack" Friday, May 13th, at the Sunset Station Amphitheatre, at the Sunset Hotel, with special guests Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, Rick Braun, and Peter White.

It's the Tenth Anniversary of Guitars & Saxes, and one of the first stop-overs is going to be at Spring Mountain State Park, located on the outskirts of Las Vegas in the cool mist of the mountain air. Mindi Abair, Wayman Tisdale, Jeff Golub, and Warren Hill will host the evening of great sounds that also launches the Jazz Under The Stars series of 2005, now in its eighteenth year.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:47 PM

Paul Brown's Second CD Sounds Like A Winner

The veteran producer has finished a brand-new CD that features more of his guitar playing.

PaulBrown.jpgSmooth jazz producer Paul Brown, who released his debut solo album in February 2004 called Up Front, has now finished his follow-up. The City, the guitarist and vocalist’s second effort for the GRP label, offers 11 songs, including a cover of the Grover Washington Jr. classic called “Winelight.”

Brown also includes a cover of a song called “Real Mutha For Ya” by the legendary blues musician Johnny “Guitar” Watson. On the song, Brown plays the talk-box - you remember, like Peter Frampton did on "Do You Feel Like We Do?" In addition, he wraps his vocals around the classic early 1970s song “The City” by the Mark-Almond Band, in addition to offering an instrumental version of that song.

Other tracks include “Side Steppin’,” “Cosmic Monkey,” “Hello Again” and “Las Vegas.”

"It still has the vibe of the first CD, but it's a little bit more intense on the guitar playing," says Brown. "There’s a few things that are kind of psychedelic, a couple things that are just stone-cold old-school funk. I pulled out all the stops."

The CD shows off Brown's guitar playing and packs several radio-friendly singles in addition to some stylish and jazzy cuts. Of course, the production is first-rate since it comes straight from Brown's Funky Joint studio in Southern California.

The CD will be another winner for Brown, who has had two smooth jazz hits from Up Front - "24/7" and the current "Moment By Moment."

The City will be released on July 12.

The City

1. Cosmic Monkey
2. Hello Again
3. Side Steppin'
4. The City
5. Las Vegas
6. Old Friends
7. Winelite
8. Jumpin' Uptown
9. Food for the Moon
10. Reel Mutha for Ya
11. The City (instrumental)

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:03 AM

Hidden Tracks Revealed

More and more smooth jazz artists are opting for hidden tracks to express themselves.

Although with the advent of the CD they might not be so hard to find anymore, more and more smooth jazz artists are including hidden tracks at the end of their albums.

First up this year was saxophonist Mindi Abair, who included the six-minute “26 Hemenway” on her most recent project called Come As You Are. On the song, Mindi displays her traditional jazz skills as she pays homage to one of her favorite players, the late Cannonball Adderley. The song, co-written by Rusell Ferrante of the Yellowjackets, gets its title from the address where Mindi lived while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston.

"I just thought, wow, this has to be on the record," says Abair. "And I know this wasn't what people are expecting from me, to hear this traditional jazz, fast swing kind of thing. But I just thought, it is a part of who I am and I just think we should put it on there and make it this fun, special little hidden track. I felt like fans who go the extra mile and just let the CD play will get a nice little surprise."

Chuck Loeb followed Abair with an untitled track at the end of his new When I’m With You album. The jazz-funk song, which clocks in at four minutes and thirty seconds, features guitarist Loeb on the bass.

Then there’s guitarist Chieli Minucci, who actually put four hidden tracks on his CD called Got It Goin’ On, which you’ll only hear if you keep playing the CD in order without skipping around tracks in your CD player. They are actually more like interludes than hidden tracks. The last hidden track comes more than two minutes after the end of the last song, “Still Waiting.”

Finally, on saxophonist Steve Cole’s brand-new CD, Spin, a hidden track appears more than 30 seconds after the final song. The track, which is more than three minutes, is a chill-music groove with strings and Steve’s sax playing.

So keep on listening when it appears your CD is over – you just never know what will pop up.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:53 AM

May 4, 2005

Bob Baldwin Brings Smooth Jazz Fest To Greater New York

Those living near New York City will finally have a weekend smooth jazz concert to call their own.

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This July, you can be sure that Bob Baldwin won’t have any trouble getting on the bill for the first-ever Croton Music Festival. That’s because the smooth jazz pianist created the event, signed the musicians to perform and is helping to publicize the event.

Although there are other jazz festivals in the New York area over the summer, they usually features mainstream jazz artists.

Baldwin's festival will be held July 9-10 at Croton Point Park in the town of Croton, about 35 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River. Confirmed acts include saxophonist Marion Meadows, Pieces of a Dream, flutist Dave Valentin, vibraphonist Roy Ayers and vocalists Bobby Caldwell, Michael Franks, Phil Perry and Stephanie Mills.

Of course, Baldwin – whose latest album is called Brazil Chill – will also be performing at the concert in Westchester County, which he calls home. For more information, go to www.crotonmusicfest.com.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:14 AM

Groovin' For Grover Adds Kirk Whalum

Groovin' for Grover will feature Kirk Whalum this year.

KirkWhalum_live.jpgThe smooth jazz tour known as Groovin’ For Grover, which debuted its celebration of the music and life of the late saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. last year, will continue this year with a new lineup.

Saxophonist Kirk Whalum will now join fellow saxophonist Gerald Albright and keyboardist and musical director Jeff Lorber when the tour kicks off in June. Last year’s tour also featured saxophonists Richard Elliot and Paul Taylor. Taylor is now working on a solo tour to promote his new album, Nightlife, while Elliott is booked throughout the year as part of the Jazz Attack tour with trumpeter Rick Braun, guitarist Peter White and guitarist and vocalist Jonathan Butler.

This year’s tour, like last year’s, will benefit the Protect the Dream Foundation, a nonprofit site based in Grover’s hometown of Philadelphia that is dedicated to enriching the lives of young people through music education. The tour will debut its new lineup June 24 in Houston, Texas.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:10 AM

May 1, 2005

Contempo May 2005

cjp.jpgWith apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, someone told Dave Samuels it was all happening at the zoo - and the impromptu result was the Caribbean Jazz Project, now a decade long, Grammy Award winning phenomenon that has become one of contemporary jazz’s most compelling live attractions. Fresh from nearly two decades with Spyro Gyra, the vibes and marimba master got a call in 1993 from a promoter doing a jazz series at New York’s Central Park Zoo. His simple request: to put together “something interesting” for a September concert.

Although the personnel has evolved over the years, fans listening to the new two CD set Here and Now – Live in Concert — a two hour plus date recorded in March 2004 at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Concert Hall in Pittsburgh - will no doubt feel as gleefully seduced by the same type of spontaneity and infectious percussive energy that launched the franchise over 11 years ago.

“For the first gig in 1993 my thought was to call Andy Narell, who I had played with previously, and Paquito D’Rivera, who I had always wanted to play with,” says Samuels from a tour stop in Houston with one of his other gigs, the vibe/marimba duo ‘Double Image’. “When we started rehearsing, we realized that we had discovered a unique and unexpected chemistry, sonically and personally. No one had ever heard vibes, steel pans and sax together with a Latin rhythm section before. We played a gig in Kentucky a few months later, and were soon seeking out a booking agent.”

The idea of a Caribbean Jazz Project recording was an easy sell to Heads Up founder Dave Love, whose label released the unit’s first two projects, a self-titled 1995 debut and 1997’s Island Stories. Soon the trio—backed by a rhythm section featuring the group’s current rhythm section - Argentinian pianist, Dario Eskenazi, Peruvian bassist, Oscar Stagnaro and drummer, Mark Walker — was performing upwards of 100 shows a year, delighting audiences with a wide-reaching Latin jazz mix that extended far beyond the typical Afro-Cuban and Nuyorican styles that were popular at the time. Narell brought his Trinidadian and Martinique pan sensibilities, D’Rivera mixed in his Brazilian influences and Samuels brought jazz to the party. The idea was to explore the roots of Latin music via the melding of musical cultures from Europe, the Caribbean and West Africa as a result of the slave trade.

CJP might have disbanded in the late 90s when D’Rivera and Narell left and Samuels did his tribute project Tjaderized for Verve in 2000, but instead it found a new lease on life with two new all-star members (guitarist, Steve Khan and flutist, Dave Valentin) and a deal with Concord. For the next 2 studio recordings, the CJP was “the only Latin jazz band without a pianist.” Their subsequent discs with piano and no guitar — The Gathering and Birds of a Feather - earned Grammy nominations for Best Latin Jazz Recording; The Gathering won in 2003. The latest lineup chronicled on Here and Now features the original CJP rhythm section Dario Eskenasi on piano, bassist Oscar Stagnaro and drummer Mark Walker along with Argentinian Diego Urcola blowing heavy trumpet and flugelhorn and Venezulean percussionist Roberto Quintero.


“I didn’t know what to expect with all the personnel changes, but they turned out to be an incredible gift that reinvigorated the whole process of touring and recording,” says Samuels. “We’re bringing new music and influences to the fold and expanding our scope all the time. We’re always shifting. Are we Latin Jazz, or Jazz Latin? The recipe keeps changing, according to the tune or player we spotlight. On the live album, in addition to some originals, we take standards and redecorate them. ‘Stolen Moments’, ‘Naima’ and ‘Caravan’ all have shifting rhythmic feels and time signatures. We like to call ‘Night In Tunisia,’ ‘Nightmare in Tunisia’ because it starts out as a free improvisation piece. When we perform, our trademark is flexilibity.”

Of course, releasing a live CD means that one performance — and thus one evening of whimsical rhythm patterns and improvisations - is captured for posterity above any other. Which suits Samuels just fine. “It was time to do a live album and make a definitive statement about what Caribbean Jazz Project is now. We wanted to capture the intensity and flexibility of the music we make . Studio recordings have time limitations and a certain sheen to them, while Here and Now gives us an opportunity to strip down to the bare wood. Rather than a snapshot, it’s like a motion picture.”

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Creating a joint venture with Native Language Music founder Joe Sherbanee, veteran guitarist Juan Carlos Quintero originated his indie label Moondo Records as a vehicle for licensing his last three solo projects Los Musicos (2002), Medillin (2003) and Los Primos (2004). 2005 marks Moondo’s first year as a full-fledged world music label, distributed by Navarre. The exciting slate of initial releases display the inspiring, wide-ranging musical wanderlust that drives Quintero: From Mykonas to Madrid, a mix of Greek and Mediterranean acoustic guitar music from brothers Dimitrius and Thano Sahnas of the smooth jazz band Turning Point; a reissue of Brazilian singer Kleber Jorge’s Trovador, including a bonus track; and Guitarras De Pasion, a compilation of Spanish nylon guitar pieces from throughout Quintero’s career. In late 2004, six weeks prior to its official release, Quintero’s disc was released to iTunes, where it quickly went #1 on the world and general pop charts in numerous European countries.

Forthcoming Moondo artists include Venezuelan singer Thania Sanz, Brazilian band Katia Moraes & Samba Guru (featured last year at the Playboy Jazz Festival), Mexican folkloric group Son de Madera, and East L.A.’s world music rockers Quetval.

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Extreme world music fans should pay special attention to two other can’t miss releases, Luis Munoz’s multi ethnic Latin romp Vida and Maria de Barros’ polyrhythmic West African romp Danca Ma Mi (Dance With Me).

Inspired by a spiritual journey in the wake of his wife’s open heart surgery and his brother’s death, Luis Munoz — a brilliant composer, producer, keyboardist and percussionist — explores everything from brassy, bop oriented Afro/Latin jazz to bossa, meringue, joropo and acoustic folkloric music. Drawing from one of the song titles, Vida it’s a gloriously “mad bop” around the soul of Latin America.

Although Narada, Maria de Barros’ label, calls her a “Cabo Verdean chanteuse” based on the country of her ancestry and creative focus, the singer is actually a native of nearby Senegal. Situated at the crossroads of three continents, the Cabo Verdean islands are a well known melting pot of African, Argentinean, Portuguese and Cuban music; its greatest ambassador is Caesaria Evora, the five time Grammy winning “barefoot diva” who is de Barros’ godmother and chief inspiration. But while Evora is known for her mornos, de Barros — who bears a favorable, gently raspy vocal resemblance to Gloria Estefan — is being hailed as Queen of the Coladeiras, a salsa flavored dance music. Danca Ma Mi is a lively and sensuous, multi-faceted romantic party disc, highlighted by de Barros’ colorful interaction with adult and children’s choirs and rich percussion textures.

Musically, she traverses the many emotional facets of her culture, from coladeiras and mornas to meringue like funana rhythms. Since she’s singing in her native language, English speaking listeners will enjoy the challenge of feeling de Barros’ rich joys and sorrows without the benefit of translated lyrics.


What I’m Listening To:

1) Nicolas Bearde, All About Love (Right Groove Records) – The cover of the soulful vocalist’s disc finds him offering a few dozen roses, and his easy way with a mix of covers and originals delivers big time on the promise of romance, with a few touches of edgier blues for good measure.
2) Beyond The Sea, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Atco/Rhino)
3) Bobby Caldwell, Perfect Island Nights (Music Force Media Group)
4) The Chris Walden Big Band, Home of My Heart (Origin)
5) Tim Bowman, This Is What I Hear (Liquid Records Entertainment)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 8:43 PM