August 31, 2005

What We're Listening To - August

D E N I S * P O O L E

'Summer Nights,' by Nils from his excellent Pacific Coast Highway, the ultimate chill out smooth jazz CD of 2005.

'Wear It Out,' by Brian Culbertson from his outstanding CD Its On Tonight. This is just one of many memorable tracks from this wonderful release.

'Strawberry Letter 23,' from the Brothers Johnson, from the digitally remastered imprint of their 1977 original Right on Time. This is one of the great smooth soul tracks of all time.

‘Stranded,’ by Van Morrison, from his new release Magic Time. Having seen Morrison live recently, this was one CD that I just had to go out and buy.

‘Girls And Boys,’ by Marcus Miller, from the CD Silver Rain. This Prince composition with vocals by Macy Gray is a real winner.

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

Praful, Pyramid In Your Backyard (Rendezvous)

Down to the Bone, Spread Love Like Wildfire (Narada Jazz)

Richard Elliot, MetroBlue (Artizen Music Group)

Lee Ritenour, OverTime (Peak Records)

The Rippingtons, Wild Card (Peak Records)

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

Nick Colionne, Just Come On In,(Three Keys Music, 2005)

Joe McBride, Texas Hold'em, (Heads Up International, 2005)

Najee, My Point of View, (Heads Up International, 2005)

Jaared, Hang Time, (Marimelj Entertainment Group, 2002)

Will Brock, A Letter From Eye to I, (DHP Records)

P E T E R * B O E H I

Bryan Anderson - Slow Your Roll (2005)
Another winner by this bass player offering lots of relaxed smooth jazz with a great band. Don't miss it!

Bona Fide - Soul Lounge (2005)
Top-notch album by Bona Fide this time a bit more laid-back than previous efforts but nonetheless with a certain groove factor.

Eric Essix - Abide With Me (2005)
Inspirational mostly instrumental album by this guitar player which lifts your spirits and soothes your soul.

Paul Brown - The City (2005)
After years just at the producer's helm now coming up with his second release which is another slice of smooth jazz heaven.

Paul Hardcastle - Hardcastle 4 (2005)
Still riding on his successful formula of contemporary grooves with excellent production and jazzy instrumentation make this another worthwhile effort.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:34 AM

August 22, 2005

Kenny Carr - Friday At Five

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. It’s difficult to categorize someone who has been on the scene for the past twenty years as a new comer but guitarist Kenny Carr is really making an impression with his debut solo release Friday At Five. It’s a really excellent piece of work but something else that marks it out is the length of time the recording has been ‘in the can’. The album was recorded in a small Manhattan studio in 1997 and, to create more of a live feel, no sound barriers were used to separate the musicians, much like recording sessions of years gone by. The venture, originally intended to be a demo project, as well as an opportunity to reunite with some old friends who were now professional musicians in New York City, was finished in two days but somehow ended up in storage.

Those ‘old friends‘ were guys that he had grown up with in Santa Cruz and it was the inspiring natural beauty of that location which set the stage for Kenny’s musical career. He found himself surrounded by talented and aspiring musicians who became his closest friends. By his early teens he was studying jazz theory with vibraphonist Rob Lautz as well as renowned trumpeter Ray Brown. By age sixteen he was performing at local venues where he met drummer Kenny Wollesen and bassist Anders Swanson, as well as 2004 Grammy nominated saxophonist Donny McCaslin. In 1981, Kenny and his fellow Santa Cruz musicians were invited to open up for Carmen McCrea and Freddie Hubbard at the Mount Tamalpais jazz festival. After high school, Kenny attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and during his final year in 1986, he received the call to audition for Ray Charles. He toured worldwide with Charles as his guitarist for over ten years.

Then came the Friday At Five session and eight years on the music remains as fresh as the day it was recorded. The first track, ‘New York Shuffle’ is pure Steely Dan with both a fine organ solo and Becker-esque guitar from Carr while ‘Rays Riff’ is big band bluesy where both John Bailey on trumpet and Don McCaslin on sax excel. In fact McCaslin’s contributions are significant throughout. His solo on ‘Movin On’ where a laid back groovy beginning gives way to Carr’s wailing guitar backed by understated horns is exceptional and McCaslin is also to the fore on ‘Exit 16’, a huge and brassy number that finds the band flirting with a classy straight ahead style.

Three of the tracks do not feature horns. On the primarily acoustic ‘Fly Away’ Carr flies solo for this gentle melody with acoustic guitar, acoustic piano and electric guitar while his haunting evocative playing on ‘Santa Cruzin’ is complemented by a sophisticated keyboard solo from John Dryden. One of the albums standouts is ‘Gramercy Groove’. This little gem starts out with a hugely catchy riff, evolves into an edgy piece of smooth jazz and ends up really rocking. The best track of the CD is ‘Coast To Coast’ where Carr turns it down for a tight piece of smooth jazz played over a killer bass line from Andy Hess and more great work from the brass section of McCaslin and Bailey.

Friday At Five is a quality collection of music that falls somewhere between smooth jazz and adult contemporary. I encourage you to check it out.

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 5:34 PM

August 20, 2005

Modern Times call for modern measures for guitarist Marc Antoine

Single receives the remix treatment while the artist works the road extensively

With today’s release of the Modern Times album, guitarist Marc Antoine is prepared to take modern jazz to the next level.  “There comes a time in the life of an artist when you feel in a certain space and you just have to do it.  No thinking, just do it.  This is that time for me,” said the Rendezvous Entertainment recording artist about his seventh solo album, which he produced with dance music producer-club DJ David Ferraro in his home studio in Madrid, Spain.  Although Antoine has created a distinctive musical identity that has earned him four number one singles, he’s boldly taking his music in progressive new directions on this new collection.

If the advancement of an art form is based upon abolishing creative boundaries and blending the best elements of technology, culture, and philosophy, Modern Times will be viewed as a defining recording in the evolution of contemporary jazz.  Clubby dance grooves, funky hip hop beats, and pulsating electronic rhythms envelop or enhance the jazz, classical and blues influenced tracks.  Antoine collaborated with the writing of nine new compositions in addition to covering the samba romancer, “La Belle Dame Sans Regrets,” originally recorded by Sting and the first vocal number by Antoine, who croons sensually in French.  The Paris-born Antoine seasons his recordings with the cultures he encounters in his world travels.  Latin and African percussion, flamenco guitar riffs, European nuances, and devotional Indian chants lend color, texture, spirit and sophistication to the tracks.  Antoine has fluently expanded his dialect on the album.  Known for his flamenco acoustic guitar bravura, Antoine often communicates through a cool-toned electric jazz guitar.

The festive first single, “Bella Via,” energetically powered by shuffling Latin percussion and Antoine’s emotive acoustic guitar, was recently serviced to smooth jazz radio stations.  The track has just been remixed by Dave Rideau, a three-time Grammy nominee who is known for his work on recordings by Janet Jackson, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Sting, Mary J. Blige, Kirk Franklin, and TLC.  It will soon be shipped to radio stations as well as to club DJs. 

Since mid-June, Antoine has constantly been on the road to lay the foundation for this different and pivotal album release.  He’s toured the concert trail in major U.S. cities with sax star Dave Koz, R&B vocalist Jeffrey Osborne and cutting-edge saxophonist Praful as part of the “Dave Koz & Friends” summer trek, which concludes this Sunday night (August 21) at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, California.  Between tour dates, Antoine has made extensive visits to key commercial and non-commercial radio stations and retail outlets in other major markets.  At album listening events, Antoine has played acoustic solo mini-concerts that have left the audiences enraptured.  The efforts are already paying off as Modern Times went #1 on Amazon’s “Top Sellers” jazz list.

Antoine’s four number one singles are “Sunland,” “Mas Que Nada,” “Mediterraneo” and “Funky Picante.”  He has deployed his guitar finesse to recordings and concert performances by some of the most distinguished and diverse artists in music, including Sting, Cher, Queen Latifah, George Benson, Basia, Soul II Soul, Selena, Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Will Downing, Richard Elliot, Rick Braun, Peter White and David Benoit.  Koz is co-founder of Rendezvous Entertainment, for which Antoine records.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:56 PM

August 15, 2005

Secret Garden Snippet - Nils Headlines At Newport Pacific Festival

Nils-1.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. Lisa Cook of Denver, via Wisconsin, has written to ask just when will that smooth jazz chart topper Nils be touring.

Well, I have news for Lisa. Nils will be headlining at the first annual Newport Pacific Jazz Festival, to be held at the Dragon Ridge Country Club, Henderson, Nevada over the weekend of August 27-28. He will be performing as part of the Saturday show from which proceeds will be donated to the Sharon Osborne Colon Cancer Program. Among many others lined up to appear are original Earth Wind and Fire members Morris Pleasure, Larry Dunn and Sheldon Reynolds performing as their new creation Devoted Spirits and opening the Saturday evening show will be the excellent Larry White Band. Many of you will remember Larry’s 2004 sensational Unsolicited Material and he is also the driving force behind Newport Pacific Records. Newport Pacific recording star Shelley Taylor is also on the bill for the Sunday slot in the company of guitarist Doug MacDonald and the multi talented David Van Such.

If you can, make your way to Nevada for a great weekend of jazz and the chance to support some very deserving charities. For more go to

Want to add a snippet of your own? E-mail me on

Posted by Denis Poole at 5:44 PM

August 14, 2005

Contempo August 2005

In the mid-70s, shortly after forming the L.A. based, East Meets West jazz ensemble Hiroshima but years before releasing its self-titled Arista debut in 1979, Dan Kuramoto remembers playing in a Top 40 band at the hotspot Humperdincks in Hermosa Beach. After packing his gear every night, he gravitated immediately down the block to listen outside the door of The Lighthouse, a legendary club for over 30 years where jazz was blowing heavy at all hours.

This could seem like an insignificant memory in light of his band’s incredible success over the past quarter century — two gold records, three million albums sold, Emmy and Grammy nominations, a Soul Train Award for Best Jazz Album (1987’s Go) and numerous toppings of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart.

And yet, “The Lighthouse,” a moody, straight-ahead flavored first take tune featuring Kuramoto’s hearty tenor and Kimo Cornwell’s shimmering piano improvisations, is the perfect starting point for the deeper spiritual inspirations behind Obon, Hiroshima’s 15th release and second for Heads Up.

Obon CD Cover.bmpJune Kuramoto, the band’s koto player and the only member born in Japan, describes Obon (a Buddhist term) as “respecting and honoring ancestors, grandparents, parents, children… expanding to all life, past and present.” There are Obon festivals in Japan and even in Los Angeles’ Japanese community which blend reverence and gratitude with heavy-partying celebrations — much like any of the thousands of shows Hiroshima has done over the years. In addition to marking 25 years in the recording business, the band also wanted the music to acknowledge the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Japanese after World War II.

“People who know the traditions ask why we’re so upbeat if we’re observing something so solemn,” says Kuramoto. “Sometimes, in order to appreciate things with a grateful heart, you have to get up and dance. All the Obons in Japan have dancing. It’s a religious festival about appreciating the past but with the vision of moving forward. It gives us a full sense of grasping life. It seemed like an exciting place for a starting concept. The idea of any band staying together a quarter century is pretty heavy, but we see it as a new beginning. It’s like drawing a line in the sand. ‘Here we are, let’s see what happens next.’”

For Kuramoto, part of that legacy is acknowledging that for all their commercial success, Hiroshima’s mixture of trad jazz and light pop with such traditional Asian sounds as the koto, shakuhachi flute and the booming taiko drum — which, as played by twenty something wunderkind and band newcomer Shoji Kameda, creates a dramatic and ominous underscore to the koto and flute melody on “Obon Two-Five” — goes completely against the grain of today’s more conservative smooth jazz playlists. Hiroshima has softened that effect (and achieved much of their airplay success) by having a variety of lead vocalists — the latest one was Terry Steele — but Obon is their first all-instrumental recording.

Other odd, decidedly off the beaten path excursions on Obon include “Swiss Ming,” which begins with a gong and features Kuramoto paying homage to one of his icons, Eddie Harris, by filtering his sax into a lower register using a pitch shifter; “Atomic Café,” a blend of old school soul-jazz and modern hip-hop scratches dedicated to L.A.’ Japantown’s “best noodles in town” joint; and the swinging, koto and sax-driven slow jam “Pharoah,” inspired by the legendary Mr. Sanders.

In tune with the theme of the album, the saxophonist is grateful for the band’s extremely loyal following, which stays dedicated through all the wanderlust and cultural juxtapositions.

“They let us get away with anything,” Kuramoto says. “Last night we played at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, and despite it being a weeknight with bad weather, we had a sellout. Having no vocalist has been challenging and liberating at the same time. It’s allowed us to explore new, less safe territory. During the show, we played the first song from our first album called ‘Lion Dance,’ and when we jokingly offered a free CD to the first person who could name it, 20 people stood up and yelled it out! It was amazing. I think they respond to our philosophy that if you have a lot of ideas and like to play, this is the band for you. There’s never been a true category for what we do, and we’re very comfortable with that fearless approach now.”

After 15 years, Nelson Rangell is still motivated by what one young critic said after seeing his performance at the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival — that the then upstart saxophonist and flutist would be the next contemporary jazz superstar. Though that hasn’t quite happened, Rangell has built a strong catalog with releases on numerous labels, most of which have charted and gotten great reviews. Perhaps the problem is that these labels tried too hard to limit the depth of his talents and affinity for diverse styles into a world overcrowded with more fashionable saxmen whose pop gems were slightly catchier to the ear.

His new deal with Koch Records, which began with last year’s beautifully produced, stylistically varied All I Hope For Christmas, may just change all that. It’s up to the jazz gods (and radio promoters and marketing execs) whether or not the old prediction comes true, but with My American Songbook, Volume 1, Rangell has created a project with some familiar tunes yet unlimited horizons exploring territory beyond any of his previous commercially defined confines.

Redefining classics familiar (Leonard Bernstein’s “America,” Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” Earth Wind & Fire’s “That’s The Way of the World”) and lesser known (the traditional “Billy Boy,” once recorded by Miles Davis), Rangell’s labor of love is a majestic undertaking that reflects his deep love for jazz (straight-ahead and smooth), pop, Latin and R&B. More importantly, aside from the sax, he is featured on flute and piccolo (most explosively on the trad-jazz piece “Freda,” with the help of Russell Ferrante and Jimmy Haslip) and even whistles his way through Hampton Hawes’ “Sonora,” a longtime staple of his live shows.

“My fans have called it ‘the whistle tune’ for years and wondered when I’d get around to recording it,” he says. “So here it is. In a performance long ago in a noisy club, instead of playing a piccolo solo, I simply whistled. A strong human connection was made with audiences ever since, and I thought its vulnerability fit in perfectly on an album which captures a truer essence of me and is also designed to express the diversity of American society along with the common humanity of what we share with the world. Plus, as the idea of ‘Volume 1’ indicates, there are so many great songs which capture the American experience.

“The ideals our country is based on are broad, humanitarian ideals than extend beyond one country or tribe,” Rangell adds. “The music touches upon my love for America but extends to show that we are also citizens of the world and that musically, our nation is a great melting pot. There are so many intense and important things happening here that not only affect us but also the global community. I hope to strike a positive tone in all this. With my one original, ‘Don’t Forget Those Forgotten,’ I’m saying it’s only an illusion that any of us are greater or lesser than anyone else. We always have to get back to that humanitarian thread that defines the best in us.”

Personal Tastes

1) Tobaj (Tobaj Music) – The Portland based singer/guitarist blends easy and romantic vocals in Spanish and English with spirited acoustic accompaniment that tackles numerous genres from flamenco to samba. The smoldering seduction is broken up, joyously, by the Santana-like electric fire of “Sensacional.”
2) Acoustic Alchemy, American English (Higher Octave)
3) Kat Parsons, No Will Power (Kat Parsons Music)
4) Saucy Monky, Turbulence (429 Records)
5) Curtis Stigers, I Think It’s Going to Rain Today (Concord Jazz)

New and Noteworthy

1) Praful, Pyramid In Your Backyard (Rendezvous)
2) Down to the Bone, Spread Love Like Wildfire (Narada Jazz)
3) Richard Elliot, MetroBlue (Artizen Music Group)
4) Lee Ritenour, OverTime (Peak Records)
5) The Rippingtons, Wild Card (Peak Records)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 1:26 PM

August 11, 2005

Jason Weber - Can U Feel Me Now?

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. When, back in 2002, I reviewed Jason Weber’s album Something Blue I described it as “a far above average example of good smooth jazz with quality sax playing throughout and a consistently compelling beat that holds the listener firmly in place over each of the thirteen self penned tracks”.

Now he has built on all of that for his fifth solo release, the most confident and powerful to date, Can U Feel Me Now? Written and produced by Weber this is a high octane chunk of funk that is off the chain from the get go and stays that way.

jasonweber4.jpgWeber gained a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin before relocating to Southern California where he is now firmly part of the music landscape. Indeed since moving to the San Diego area his reputation has grown and his playing is now much in demand. When not fronting his own band he is often called upon as a sideman for some of the major stars of the genre. This has, in recent years, given Jason the opportunity to open for or perform with the likes of Boney James, Dave Koz, Richard Elliott, Kirk Whalum, Marc Antoine, David Benoit and Arturo Sandoval.

As said Can U Feel Me Now? is an album that pulls no punches and opens with a bang courtesy of the big and funky title track. It features Morris Pleasure on Rhodes, who has played with, among others, Earth Wind and Fire, Janet Jackson and Boney James, and is a cut that really rocks from start to finish.

Amid an ocean of funk there are several tracks that really catch the attention. ‘House Is A Home’ is perhaps the CD’s most radio ready tune. With a nice hook it starts out mid tempo but really gets on a roll with an excellent guitar break from Mike DeRose and notable drumming throughout from Rodney Zinnen. Equally good is ‘(Just Another) Urban Legend’ which again is funky but where Weber gets a Euge Groove sound going and Michael Leroy Peel, who has played with Richard Elliot, Stanley Clarke and Ronnie Laws, contributes great keyboards.

‘Brainfreez’, more up tempo funk with Weber blowing up a melodic storm, is arguably the best track on the album while ‘Spirit Unbroken’ has that big Jason Weber sound with a melody running through it and wailing guitar from Patrick Yandall. Also featured is drummer Steve Ferrone who can be found on six tracks in all. Ferone has played with the Average White Band, Eric Clapton and also Patti Austin with whom he contributed to what I consider to be one of the best fusion numbers of all time, ‘Hurry Home’ from her 1994 release on GRP That Secret Place.

With Can U Feel Me Now? Jason Weber is making a statement that it’s OK for smooth jazz to be loud and funky. What he has to offer plays well on record and promises to be exceptional in a live setting. He can be found playing solo every Monday at Crivello Ristorante Italiano, Wildomar CA and every Friday at the Ritz Carlton – Laguna Niguel, Dana Point CA. However in order to register the total impact of Can U Feel Me Now? check him out with his full band on August 25 at the Promenade Mall Jazz Series in Temecula CA, on August 28 at Humphries By The Bay in San Diego CA where he will be part of the KIFM Lites Out Night and on September 3 at Romano’s in Riverside CA.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this months Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on

Posted by Denis Poole at 4:40 PM

August 10, 2005

Saxophonist Michael Brecker Needs Bone Marrow Transplant

MichaelBrecker2_bw.jpgHeads Up International recording artist Michael Brecker is an 11-time Grammy Award winner — the most of any saxophonist, ever. As a result of his harmonic and stylistic innovations, the renowned tenor saxophonist and composer, who is 56, is also the most studied contemporary instrumentalist in music schools throughout the world today. Prior to and during the pursuit of his acclaimed solo career, Brecker has delighted millions through recordings or performances with a virtual “Who’s Who” of jazz and pop giants including Herbie Hancock, Paul Simon, Quincy Jones, Joni Mitchell, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, Parliament Funkadelic, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Pat Metheny, Aerosmith, George Benson, Frank Sinatra, David Sanborn, Chris Botti, Rick James, Frank Zappa, Harry Connick, James Brown, Dave Grusin, Ringo Starr, Steely Dan, Dave Brubeck, John Lennon, Lou Reed, Michael Bolton, Carly Simon, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Billy Joel and Elton John.

Brecker’s blazing signature saxophone sound, however, has been temporarily quieted. He is a patient at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, afflicted with MDS, myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder. There is no known single cause of MDS and currently the only curative therapy is a blood stem cell (bone marrow) transplant.

In preparation for his transplant, Brecker is completing his first course of chemotherapy, but as of yet there is no suitable donor. The urgent donor search — which has included Brecker’s siblings and children — has not resulted in a match. Each year, approximately 9,000 people die in the U.S. while waiting for a bone marrow donor.

Brecker is anxious to rejoin his family and begin to work again. He hopes for more people to enter the National Marrow Donor Program Registry [ or 800-MARROW-2] and towards this end, a massive donor drive is currently being organized. As tissue types are inherited, Michael will need a donor of European Jewish extraction.

“So many diseases can be treated and cured by a bone marrow/stem cell transplant, including MDS, which I had never heard of until I was diagnosed with it,” explains Brecker. “By speaking out, I hope to encourage as many people as possible to get tested not only to assist me, but to help thousands of others who are either facing or who will be facing the same challenge with which I’m currently confronted.”

Brecker’s first album for Heads Up has been postponed. “This isn’t about selling records, it’s about trying to help save a man’s life” says Dave Love, President of Heads Up International. “We need to get together and find a donor for Michael as quickly as possible.”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:26 AM

August 9, 2005

The Groove Boutique™ Host Rafe Gomez Debuts TV Show On QVC This September

By Val Vaccaro

Here’s some BIG NEWS for audiences, artists, and industry people who are fans of groovy acid jazz, smooth jazz and funky crossover music!

Rafe Gomez’ innovative mix of music has shaken things up in a good way at radio, and now he’s ready to do the same for TV! Since April, after four months of keeping fans in suspense, DJ, radio personality and recording artist Rafe Gomez announced the debut date of his own TV show The Groove Boutique™ on the home shopping cable TV channel QVC! The show will air in the U.S. on the West Coast on Wednesday September 7, 2005 at 11PM PCT time and Thursday, September 8th 2AM EST time on the East Coast.

The one hour show will feature Rafe Gomez spinning and selling CD bundles of the same type of chilled-out, tasty sounds that he features on his highly successful, syndicated Groove Boutique™ radio show.

Rafe Gomez’ radio show, which was the nation’s first smooth jazz “mix” show featuring uptempo smooth jazz, acid jazz, jazz-funk, soul jazz, chill music and nu-jazz, has been gaining lots of momentum on stations throughout the United States. In the New York City market, Rafe’s show airs on Saturday nights and has tied as Number One in ratings during that time slot competing with other radio mix show genres such as pop and rap music! Also, the Rafester was a top radio personality finalist this year at the New York Air Awards.

In the past two years, Rafe Gomez’ radio show, his mix CD Groove Boutique: Volume One (Tommy Boy Records) and remix with David Baron of Smokey Robinson’s classic tune “Quiet Storm” on the CD Motown Remixed released in May) have received lots of praise and great reviews from the press, including Smooth Jazz News, Rolling Stone Magazine, Billboard, All Music Guide, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Radio & Records, and many jazz websites such as!

To catch the latest details for all of Rafe Gomez’ shows, check Back in April, Rafe also announced plans for the future for a Volume 2 CD “of blended Groove Boutique jazziness.” This summer, Rafe is creating a “party atmosphere” spinning on board Spirit Cruises sponsored by WQCD CD101.9FM ( in New York City before the shows for popular smooth jazz artists such as Jeff Golub, Warren Hill & Philippe Saisse, Pieces of a Dream, and Angela Bofill. Rafe also hosts live shows for cutting edge, new artists such as Long Island, New York guitarist Matt Marshak and the London group Jazzinho.

How did the new Groove Boutique™ TV show idea develop? According to Rafe Gomez, "A rep from QVC heard The Groove Boutique™ on CD101.9 in New York and loved it. Then he bought the Groove Boutique: Volume One CD (which had the smooth jazz radio hit “Icy” recorded by Gomez), and loved that. Then (he) got in touch with me.”

The Rafester explains that the QVC rep said “the show's vibe was right in line with what QVC was looking for: a fresh presentation of hip jazz and jazzy music that can enhance the busy lifestyles of their viewers.” Gomez and the QVC rep then did some strategic planning to help create the look and feel of a Groove Boutique™ show on QVC.

Gomez says “I'm incredibly excited about it, as are my peeps!" (e.g., Rafe’s fans!). The new TV show will feature offerings of CDs by many of the same jazzy groovin' artists that Rafe Gomez plays on his nationally syndicated radio mix show such as: Bobby Caldwell, Euge Groove, Shilts, Alex Bugnon, Four 80 East, Soul Ballet, Greg Adams, Marcus Miller, Patches Stewart, Steve Oliver, and many more! The show will also feature some exciting music from NEW artists too and music from cool CDs such as various artist compilations like the Vintage Chill 4 CD set, and Groove Boutique: Volume One.

According to Rafe Gomez, “The music will be hot, the vibe will be cool, and the prices will be UNBELIEVABLE!!! Tune in to start building your library of your favorite Groove Boutique jams at phenomenal savings - savings that will only be available on The Groove Boutique ™ TV show on QVC!”

If you are a fan of Gomez’ radio show and or just love COOL and FUNKY JAZZ MUSIC, YOU’VE GOTTA TUNE IN TO RAFE GOMEZ’ new TV SHOW LIVE starting September 7th 11PM PST and September 8th 2AM EST!!

As jazz fans, we really should do all we can to support this new vehicle! Right now, in the U.S., there is no show on TV that supports our music on a regular basis! (Back in the 1990’s for a little while, we had the short-lived Arsenio Hall talk show introduce us to artists like Dave Koz and Candy Dulfer.)

Rafe Gomez’ new Groove Boutique™ show has great potential to bring our favorite and many new and exciting jazzy artists into millions of homes on a regular basis. As fans, to keep this show afloat, we NEED TO WATCH THE SHOW LIVE and BUY THE CDS during the live show!! If the show gets a great response, hopefully, QVC will MOVE the show to an earlier time slot for the East coast folks, and air it a few times a month!!

The Groove Boutique™ TV show is a great opportunity to hear cool music that you may not hear anywhere else, and be amongst the first to get the specially-priced CD packages mailed directly to your home!

According to Rafe Gomez, "if QVC features an item, their viewers automatically assume that it's good. QVC is also determined to
feature music that their audience doesn't know - but should know. This healthy, two-way interaction is refreshing: QVC respects the audience, and the audience trusts QVC. It's a dynamic that allows for limitless possibilities in terms of the music that I can present."

If you’ve never watched QVC, it’s an exciting process, since the hosts are live, and the calls are also live from audiences who are consumers. QVC (which stands for “Quality, Value and Convenience” with headquarters in West Chester, Pennsylvania in the US) is the
American leader in electronic retailing.

QVC reaches approximately 96% of all U.S. cable homes, as well as over 23 million satellite homes. In the U.S., QVC broadcasts live 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, and introduces 250 new products every week to viewers in 87 million homes. In addition to its successful direct selling approach on Cable TV, the company also sells through websites in the U.S., and in other countries.

If you don’t have the QVC cable channel, the website give viewers the opportunity to click on and watch the QVC TV show LIVE!, the premier online comparison shopping site, presented with a "Circle of Excellence" Platinum Award for 4 years in a row, (which recognizes 41 of the best retailers for their outstanding customer satisfaction). QVC is one of only five online retailers to receive this recognition.

Internationally, through TV and the Internet, QVC reaches 15.4 million homes in England, Scotland, and Ireland in the U.K., 35 million households in Germany, and 15.4 million homes in Japan.

Globally, in 2004, QVC received approximately 192 million phone calls and shipped over 137 million units valued at over $5.7 billion USD. That’s incredible!

Gomez plays many artists from overseas. Perhaps someday Rafe Gomez’ The Groove Boutique™ show will air in other countries too! Wouldn’t that be something?

ON BEHALF OF FUNKY JAZZ FANS AND ARTISTS AROUND THE WORLD, let’s wish RAFE GOMEZ and the exciting new Groove Boutique™ TV show on QVC BEST OF LUCK!!! Stay tuned for the next episode of great jazz mix music…with Rafe Gomez.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:13 PM

August 6, 2005

Def 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. Hidden Beach Recordings Present Unwrapped Volume 1 was released in 2001 as the brainchild of DJ/Producer Tony Joseph and Musician/ Producer Daryl Ross. It put together some of today’s most accomplished instrumental soloists to reverse the process followed by hip hop producers and offer up infectious renditions of such rap standards as LL Cool J's ‘Lounging’, Biggie's ‘One More Chance’, and OutKast's ‘Ms. Jackson.’. An outstanding track listing plus great performances from, among others, Patrice Rushen, Paul Jackson Jr, Everett Harp and Mike Phillips ensured that the project was an absolute winner. Indeed, such was the success of the album that volumes two and three followed in 2002 and 2004 respectively. Now Tony Joseph is back with his next project, Def Jazz, a collection of smooth jazz interpretations of rap, hip hop and R & B classics this time all drawn from the house of Def Jam Records.

In the '80s, Def Jam Records was the leading rap and hip-hop label in America. Not only that but those two words, ‘Def Jam’, became synonymous with a culture, a style and music. In the beginning Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin started out wanting to make hip hop music. Russell had a brother who had a group called Run DMC. Then there was LL Cool J and Slick Rick. Def meant cool, hip stylish and Def Jam made the music that went with that. By the late eighties the label was releasing many of the most innovative and groundbreaking records of the era and readers who are lucky enough to have checked out the four-CD box Ten Year Anniversary will know that the music has lost none of its impact over the years. The label boasted a roster that included artists such as Onyx, Cru, Method Man, Redman, Ludacris, Ja Rule, Jay Z, Cam'ron, Ashanti, Shyne, Kanye Wes, and Beanie Sigel. Def Jam continues to be a trend setter and it is to the back catalog of some of their greatest performers that Tony Joseph now turns to bring us Def Jazz.

The collection starts in fine style with the Hammond organ of Joey DeFrancesco and the trumpet of Roy Hargrove for their take on Method Man's instantly recognizable ‘All I Need’. Method Man had started out by making numerous guest appearances on other artists' records and got his break in the summer of 1995 through his one-off single with Mary J. Blige, ‘I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need to Get By’. It soared into the pop top five, giving him his first major hit. He quickly repeated the feat with ‘How High’, another duet, this time with Def Jam label mate Redman.

The currently ubiquitous Gerald Albright is featured twice and on both occasions the result is stunning. First time up it’s on the Slick Rick tune ‘Hey Young World’ where he duets with Kevin Toney on vibes and Wurlitzer, and really makes his sax bounce to the catchy rhythm. His second appearance is on ‘Get You Home’ originally done on Def Jam by Don Wuan Esquire who in turn heavily sampled it from Eugene Wilde’s 1984 R & B hit. Here Albright, assisted by Ach on vocals succeeds in preserving the best from the original while injecting a whole new jazz vibe. Kevin Toney’s second appearance comes with Hubert Laws on flute for another Method Man number, the outstandingly catchy ‘Bring The Pain’.

Jeff Lorber and guitarist Dwight Sills combine twice, first ably supported by a standout horn section for the Jay Z with Ja Rule classic ‘Can I Get A…’ and again on LL Cool J’s addictive ‘Back Seat’. Dwight Sills is in fact featured twice more. He picks up on another LL Cool J tune, the funky ‘Doin It’, where his smooth playing blends perfectly with Audrey Bryant’s understated and soulful vocals, and on the hypnotic ‘Ghetto Jam’, recorded on Def Jam by Domino, with Rick Braun taking the lead on trumpet.

Undoubtedly the track that will catch all the radio play and much of the interest is the Oran "Juice" Jones hit from 1986, ‘The Rain’. Jones had been one of the first artists to sign to Def Jam subsidiary OBR, a label that was to be devoted to vintage soul and R&B acts, but was never able to emulate the success he had with ‘The Rain’. When he found out, through a random connection, that the track was going to be part of Def Jazz he was interested in getting involved. Tony Joseph worked out an interesting vocal rap for him that puts a new spin on the original. In it Jones now has a daughter who catches her man with another man. In the role of the daughter is the emerging soul singer Ledisi who was recently featured on Brian Culbertson’s new release Its On Tonight. The combination makes this a very special track indeed.

Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond B-3 who makes such a great job of getting the album up and running is back on the final track, this time partnering with the saxophone of Scott Mayo for the Public Enemy hit ‘Give It Up’. It’s a huge raucous and funky production that makes a fitting end to what is a sensational CD. For those of us who crave something different from our smooth jazz, Def Jazz is like gold dust. It will be released on GRP on August 9 and advice from The Secret Garden is to make plans to get it.

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 5:50 PM

Lee Ritenour Working on Melodic Music For 2006

The guitarist, who recently released a live-in-studio retrospective on his career, will be offering his fans some great new music in 2006.

LeeRitenour2.jpgLee Ritenour, who has released many diverse albums during the past few years, is now in the studio recording his first CD of original smooth jazz since 1998’s This Is Love. That CD featured the smash hit called “Ooh-Yeah.” Since then, Ritenour has offered a classical CD with Dave Grusin, A Twist of Marley featuring various artists in 2001, a jazz CD called Rit’s House in 2002, A Twist of Motown in 2003 and the current OverTime, a live-in-the-studio recording of his greatest hits.

The only bad news is that it looks like Ritenour won’t be working on any new Twist Of CDs for a while. Those compilations, which began in 1997 with a tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim, are produced by the gutiarist and feature numerous smooth jazz artists. Ritenour says he wants to focus on the solo CD, which he hopes to release in the spring of 2006.

"Certain things come in phases, and we did three of the ‘Twists’ that were all very successful," Ritenour says. "But I think a lot of fans of mine also want to see me focus on the Lee Ritenour solo career and the guitar, so the guitar being in front and center will be an important part of it."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:56 AM

August 5, 2005

August Smooth Nights

The Henderson Pavillion in Henderson, Nevada hosted the smooth sounds of Joyce Cooling on August 4th as part of that concert series which is held the first Thursday of each month during the summer.

The legendary keyboard sounds of Bob James hits the showroom stage at the Suncoast Hotel minus his group, Fourplay, August 12th and 13th.

Harry Connick Sr., the father of "you know who?", will perform one night, September 2nd, in the Railhead Showroom at the Boulder Station Hotel.

Jazz Under The Stars #3 gets underway in the cool surroundings of Spring Mountain State Park, just outside of Las Vegas with the long enduring popular smooth sounds of the group Hiroshima, along with special guest, guitarist Craig Chaquico.

And rumor has it, saxophonist Rocky Gordon may be recruiting the production talents of keyboardist Tom Schuman (Spyro Gyra member and co-founder) for some tunes on his next album very soon.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:34 PM

In His Own Words: Gerald Veasley Talks About Music, the Jazz Base and His Brand New CD

by Beverly J. Packard

Having witnessed the development of Gerald Veasley's home away from home at the Jazz Base in the Sheraton Hotel, Reading, Pennsylvania, the energy of the live CD recording and CD release party, it's time to recap a treasured moment: a long talk with this nearly always smiling, easy going, among the most masterful bass guitarists in jazzdom.

GVCDRecording2.jpgThe CD, appropriately titled Gerald Veasley: At the Jazz Base! was officially released last week (July 26th) by Heads Up International. Hopefully you have your copy and now you can just 'sit...back...and relax,' Gerald Veasley style, and listen to what he has to say about the events of the past year -- and more -- when I spoke with him in June.

Included are pictures from the CD recording session itself, the CD release party, and the 50th birthday party celebration.

BJP: Hi Gerald! It's so exciting to talk with you, and of course you know how I love the Jazz Base.
GV: You're a big supporter!
BJP: Thanks. You know you'll see our smiling faces there this week for the Chuck Loeb show, and you have such a great summer line up for the club.
GV: Yes, I'll be there with Chuck Loeb, in fact, I'll be sitting in with the band on a few numbers. A little later in the summer we'll have Jaared, and Nick Colionne, and in September we have Acoustic Alchemy.

BJP: This is a very exciting time for you, and for your fans in Reading with the Jazz Base – that place is only getting better and better. What is it that gave you the vision for it?
GV: I won’t take full responsibility. It was a lot of things coming together. It was the Sheraton seeing an opportunity, as they had seen success with their comedy club, and of course, John Ernesto -- he threw his marketing expertise behind the idea, as well as the generous volunteers who come down and give of their time, Stage Right Productions. A whole host of people put this thing together, and then the artistic name given to it. I also thought it was very important that Reading have an outlet for jazz; it complements what happens there once a year with the Berks Jazz Fest.

BJP: It's so great that we have this year round……it's exciting to be able to learn a lot about the music and the artists. How do bands get to play there? Do you contact them or do they contact you by now?
GV: People are contacting us. They contact me, or John Ernesto. There are a lot of people who are looking for places like this. It's great for regional acts, to give them additional exposure, it’s great for national acts coming in on a Thursday who are playing New York or Philadelphia on the weekend. So it gives them the opportunity to play on a Thursday night in conjunction with their weekend shows.

BJP: The Jazz Base has been called the House of the Flying Vee . I saw on one of your CDs that you have something called Flying Vee Music. I just have to know, where did the term Flying Vee start?
GV: Friends of mine had a band together, one of the first bands to help me get off the ground a bit as a performer and a songwriter, Reverie, and that was one of the nicknames the guys in the band had for me.
BJP: I like that. You are the flying vee, that just fits. You just fly up there in the clouds when you play.

GVCDReleaseParty5.jpgBJP: I'm enjoying the new CD so much. It was so much fun being there when you made the live recording and it’s great to listen now and be transported back to that night. It was a great night, it just makes me want to ‘sit back…and relax..’ How was that different for you as compared to other CD recordings?

GV: Live recording in itself adds a whole other dimension to the recording process. First of all, you’re able to be much freer in your approach, playing in an environment that is much more natural …it’s what I do mostly, perform in a live setting, so the live recording allows you to be in the environment where it’s most comfortable as a performer. Part of the reason to do a live recording was also to showcase the band: Pete Kuzma, Chris Farr, Will Brock, Eric Green, Pablo Baptiste -- of all the bands I’ve had, it's coalesced into a group that is fresh, spontaneous, and super funky. We're a really tight band. I really wanted the recording to document what that band does live.
BJP: That is a really good band. I love your band. They all bring something really unique and they're so fun to watch... Will Brock, jumping up and down…they're really into it.

BJP: I took one look at the expression on your face on the cover of the new CD and I said to myself, ‘yep, that’s Gerald all right, that’s that 'bliss with the bass’ look that I know. I’m sure that came after some serious head-bobbing….
GV: laughing, I’m sorry about all those expressions!
BJP: That's what we love about you, your expressions, we love to see them! And during those times, I just can't help wondering ‘where you go’ when you’re playing. What are you thinking and what brings all those wonderful smiles I love to watch? Part of it is interacting with the band, I know, but you're just -- up there somewhere, I mean, where do you go.....?
GV: It's hard to describe, but just imagine the most natural moment --when you lose yourself in it. Maybe it’s playing with a child, or playing a sport you like, or like being with your friends and someone tells a good joke -- moments like these when you forget about yourself, forget about being self-conscious, forget about things you’re attempting to do, you're just enjoying life at the moment……that’s what it’s like for me. I’m lucky enough to have a career that allows me to enjoy those moments.
BJP: It’s a good thing for you, and a good thing for those of us watching, because we get to go there with you.

GVCDReleaseParty1.jpgBJP: Someone mentioned in your liner notes on one of the CDs that you have such a tender touch and melodic lyricism not usually associated with the bass guitar. That is a great way of saying what I’ve always thought about your playing. And the song ‘Forever’ really shows that melodic lyricism, I love that song! That’s one of my all time favorites.
GV: Mine, too..a bass is a very multidimensional instrument, it has colors to it……bass players have been exploring it. I always wanted to have that kind of lyricism, and express myself melodically……It’s most difficult to express yourself rhythmically, be very funky, have a groove, when you play rhythm and blues, and gospel, I have that, too…..but through the years I wanted to express this other side of myself, I wanted to express myself melodically. You know, how sometimes you are more forceful in life, or sometimes you want to just kick off your shoes at the beach, relax or you want to be tender with a loved one. All of that can be in the bass line. At a certain point, I realized, why not have all that in the bass guitar?
BJP: Is that easier with a six string?
GV: A six string not necessary to do that, but for me, it opened up more possibilities.
BJP: When did the six string bass come into being?
GV: There are various opinions on how it came into being, but the six string as we know it today was probably developed by Anthony Jackson, he is credited with that, and he's one of my favorite bass players. He had a lot of great recordings…
BJP: Is it true that the top two strings on the base are the bottom two strings of the rhythm guitar?
GV: I think Fender had a base like that……same notes as on guitar, then an octave lower. But the modern day six string
has the range extended in both directions, as opposed to a four string. This became important to bass players in the 80s….because with the advent of synthesizers and synthesized base playing, you didn’t have the same kind of limitations, so you had all these great recordings that came out with low, low notes, like you could get on the keyboard, and bass players thought, I could do that, too, if I had the range.

BJP: I know there are many musicians in your past that you’ve admired and learned from and that helped you grow into your own identity as a musician. Can you talk about some of the ones who influenced you the most, like Grover Washington, Joe Zawinul...
GV: I had the opportunity to play with Grover Washington, of course, one of the most influential saxophonists of our time. He developed a unique style, I’m not sure exactly how he started that, but he had a traditional side, very grounded and well schooled, but he had both elements -- a very soulful, natural side, with great freedom of expression, yet a deep understanding of music, in a traditional way….and besides that,he had a great voice on the instrument, which is when you have someone where you don’t have to hear the whole song to know it’s him.
GV: As for Joe Zawinul, he became a household name……very grounded, part of the Miles Davis band, with that super classic album Bitches Brew……On one of the first electric jazz records, he was one of the main composers and players on In a Solid Way , then developed his own band with Wayne Shorter which was a legendary fusion band, called Weather Report. I listen today to any one of their 12 or 13 records – they sound just a fresh as when they were made. He was adventurous and didn’t care at all about the critics, what anybody thought about him as a musician or his band. Working with him close to eight years, I learned a lot about staying true to yourself. It was a great training ground, a great place for musicians to be showcased, such as Jaco Pastorious and Omar Hakim.
GVCDReleaseParty3.jpgBJP: And Ornette Coleman, who advised ‘don’t do fret ideas, but rather musical ideas?’
<GV: Ornette Coleman was one of the most daring musicians of the twentieth century, no exaggeration, and he had no problem offending people (not intentionally); he really freed up jazz from the normal and conventional form. One of the conventions is like, playing cliches, comfortable habits on an instrument. Ornette was not concerned about conventions, he had a tendency to go out of his way to defy usual expectations…I was pleased to be in his presence. I love being able to think about music and challenge some of the ideas. For example, somebody asked me the other day, wow, there are not that many bass players out there that are leaders....why not? It's a convention, and in some ways, it makes sense that the bass is the supportive instrument in the background. But you have bass players out there now who are really formidable on their instrument and have a lot of personality, so why not be leaders?

BJP: You’ve said that blues is the mother of all this music that you and many others are performing. Can you tell us how you think about the various categories we often use to describe music today, you know, is it jazz, straight ahead or smooth, is it fusion, R & B, is it rock-fusion, etc?
GV: It’s natural to think about categories, natural to think about style…..I can use the example of martial arts. There are many styles, including Japanese, Korean ... but a brilliant teacher, in addition to teaching you how to be true to a style, will also stress that in a ‘fight’ you want to be able to be flexible..
BJP: ... to customize it to the moment?
GV: Yes, if two opponents are each fluent in their styles, it will be the flexible one, who is more elusive and has more mystery, who will be in the best position to give a response.

BJP: That's a great comparison....
You’ve said in the past that being a sideman for others is something you always want to continue – that it’s a way to support other musicians, and that it’s also a way to help influence the atmosphere that is so critical during the recording process. You seem to have such a calm, steady, consistent nature and along with your talent, it seems other musicians would love having you around.

GV: I try to make a contribution. It's important to bring something, everyone brings something different. Sometimes, it’s in the personality, or sometimes you want someone to trouble shoot, bounce ideas off. As musicians, we spend so much time isolated – we do so much in a private manner, so we’re missing that feedback from others.

BJP: Can you talk about a couple of experiences you’ve had? I’m thinking of the dueling bass ‘Deeper than Deep’ that you did recently with Jerry Brooks of Special EFX, for one.
GV: That was a lot of fun, a lot of fun! Of course, Chieli, he’s like a brother, we have a great rapport. It wasn’t exactly dueling, of course, more like sharing stories, like when you play with someone else, and you say, ‘Hey, did you hear this story?’ And they answer with another story of their own. And Chieli, he didn’t showcase himself, he just let us have a go at it!
BJP: So it wasn’t an argument, but more like a conversation!
GV: Exactly, and that’s my nature. I just wrote an article about that – about competition – about the idea of getting caught up in comparing and competing in what we are doing, and how it’s a dangerous thing to do. That’s not to say the musical conversation can’t be provocative, like in a real conversation, but when you’re playing with other musicians and you think competitively, you set youself up for disappointment.
BJP: I notice that so much about this genre of music – there seems to be so much cooperation and so much give and take with each other. And just as it is in life, when your main goal is to make yourself stand out, it never works.
GV: Yes, it’s a tricky balance, because you don’t want to lessen your standards, and you want to be excellent, but not for the purpose of showing up someone else, on a musical level; you’re not trying to outshine someone else, you just want to express who you are. The same way in conversation, each person has his own story, and it’s beyond ....measurement. It’s all valid. As Grover Washington used to say, “Everybody has something to say.” I like that. In my whole time with Grover, I never heard him say, I promise you, not once did he ever say something negative about another artist, or even another person, -- not once -- because he realized that even if a person wasn’t very accomplished on his or her instrument, what he brought by way of his life experiences, or his love for music, was important. Everybody’s bringing something to the table. If you and I are having a party, we got it all covered -- somebody brings the casserole, and someone else brings a bottle of wine, and whatever it is, it’s personal. As artists and as people, we have to fight that inclination to be competitive and critical.

BJP: And how about your work with George Jinda?
GV: Yes, I played a lot of projects with him, and then he had a band that he formed, called World News……I don’t even know where to start, talking about George…
BJP: I wish I had known him and seen him play.
GV: People think that George had a gruff exterior, but that was all phony, he was the sweetest guy in his heart…..and he was just so wonderful and helpful to me, recommending me, at the drop of a hat, to other people and for other projects, even when he wasn’t involved in the projects. Most of the time he wasn’t involved in the project. Yeah…he was…a lovely person. And he was smart, very smart business-wise, I learned a lot from him.
BJP: It would be interesting to see what he would have gone on to do.

BJP: It seems to me you and your music are motivated by a celebration of life – of your own, of those you’ve lost, of other musicians, of your fans, of everyone you meet. I know that you’ve had losses of key people in your life – for one, your Dad, when you were a junior in college, who was very supportive of your music. And you had the loss of people like Grover Washington, and George Jinda. You seem to be able to reach down to the core of yourself, and bring out this love of those you lost in your music –You seem to transform those losses into something beautiful.
GV: It’s interesting – I don’t know that I’ve ever fully thought it out like that…it’s been a great vehicle for me to do that…
BJP: And a good example is your 'Celebrating Sipho,' a tribute to the South African bassist..
GV: Yes, Sipho Gumede. I think it’s my chosen manner for dealing with things like that. I hope it’s working…
BJP: You seem to have a strong faith and an understanding of how to deal with tough things in life..
GV: I don’t think it’s the way, it’s just a way. It works for me ... And it’s what draws me into this profession as well, realizing I have the power to do that. I want to be a part of that on the supply side of that, if you will, not just on the consumption side.
BJP: I think you do something very special because of your experiences. It may not be something an artist has in his head when he’s creating, but it’s kind of obvious, and it truly helps those who are watching – there’s just something about the way you do that.
GV: I appreciate that….you really have a lot of insight into what I do, which I genuinely appreciate ... your taking the time.
BJP: I love the people side of this – you know I love the music, but I also love the people side of it.

GVBirthdayParty2.jpgBJP: I know you have a very special birthday party coming up……a number some of us don’t like very much...!
both laughing
BJP:And you're going to do some of your celebrating at the Jazz Base, is that right?
GV: Yes, my dream is to have 50 musicians that night!
BJP:Oh good, that sounds like a lot of fun!

BJP: Is there anything you want people to know about you that they might not know, like what you’re doing when you’re not composing or playing or teaching? You’re probably playing with TJ...
GV: Oh yes, TJ is more and more important to me. Kids grow up so fast. I don’t want to look back and say that I missed important milestones because I was too busy.
BJP: That’s another nice thing about the Jazz Base, isn’t it, you can include the family.
GV: Exactly.

GVBirthdayParty4.jpgBJP: In a former interview, you mentioned despite some of the difficult parts of traveling, that you’re still enjoying travel because of the destinations. That reminded me of your opening night at the Jazz Base, when you said, in the way that only Gerald Veasley can say, that we should ‘sit back and relax’ ‘enjoy the journey’ and that we ‘don’t need any luggage’ – and you deliver every time, Gerald, we ARE happy to travel with you because you truly do take us to great destinations, and I’m sure all of us are looking forward to all the future destinations that you create for us!

GV: That’s wonderful, Beverly, it’s those kinds of comments that, when you’re having a bad day, you can look back on those comments and know that you’re making a difference.
BJP: You are. You definitely are doing that. And even though I’m still relatively new at all of this, you’re one of the people who has made it so fun and interesting for me to learn about the music.

GVBirthdayParty3.jpgBJP: Is there anything you want to say before we end this interview?
GV: You covered it, really. One comment I would add is that I wrote on the CD jacket……that this CD is for all those people who liked hearing the band live and wanted to take that with them. No offense, as TJ would say, to the studio recording, but there are a lot of people who wanted that.
BJP: And they got it.
GV: It’s for those people, our friends and fans.

BJP: It's been great talking with you Gerald, thank you so much for the time, and I'll see you at the Jazz Base!
GV: Yes, see you Thursday night!

Happy Jazzin'

GVCDReleaeParty6.jpgBeverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council

Photo Credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:28 AM

August 3, 2005

Culbertsons Plan a Tour of Churches For Hymn CD

You just may be able to catch Brian Culbertson inside a church later this year - playing piano.

BrianMichelleCulbertson.jpgSmooth jazz pianist Brian Culbertson, who just recently released his eighth solo album, is now finalizing one for his wife Michelle Culbertson called Be Still My Soul.

The album of traditional hymns will spotlight only Brian’s piano and Michelle’s vocals. After it's released this fall, the husband-and-wife team from Southern California plan to take the music on a tour of churches. Michelle, an operatic singer, will lend her talents to a mixture of classical, jazz and pop compositions such as “Amazing Grace” “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “How Great Thou Art.”

In addition to 13 hymns, the album will include two original songs composed by Brian and songwriter Lindy Robbins. The CD will be released independently and offered on both Brian and Michelle’s websites in the fall.

"It’s a complete musical switch and change from myself, and it was really cool," says Brian. "We did all these new arrangements of all these hymns that are well over a hundred years old. Like if you would just play the piano alone, you would have no idea what song it is. And that’s what we wanted to try to create. It’s very cinematic. I've played it for a few people and they’re like, Oh man, I could have heard that in Braveheart."

If you want to hear what Brian and Michelle sound like in a smooth jazz mood, check out Brian’s new CD called It’s On Tonight. Michelle’s vocals and violin playing is featured on a couple of songs.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:13 AM

August 2, 2005

Secret Garden Snippet - Jason Parra - Two Reasons

Two reasons.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. When, earlier this year, I visited Boise, Idaho for the first time I was immediately surprised and delighted by its vibrant downtown and sophisticated atmosphere. There and then I marked it down as a city I should return to someday and now I have found another reason for doing so. Two Reasons, the debut CD from smooth jazz trumpeter Jason Parra and his band the X Factor is one of the freshest new releases you will hear this year and its Boise that they call home and where they often perform.

A talented studio musician and songwriter, Jason has also found time to tour with Natalie Cole, Ray Charles, Arturo Sandoval, Lionel Hampton, The James Brown Band and Gene Harris. In addition his profile has been enhanced by appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and NBC’s Today Show.

Two Reasons contains eleven, all original, compositions and from the first note of the first and title track it is clear that this is a piece of top notch smooth jazz. The second cut, the tight and funky ‘Agumala’ with Parra’s classy muted trumpet to the fore, is just as good and ‘Wish You Were Here’ is quite simply the best track on the album. It has the full brassy sound that the band generates by, at times, using X Factor member Darin Stubbs to double up on trumpet. As well as contributing to Parra’s distinctive sound this has the added advantage of making their live performances just as vibrant as their studio recordings.

In fact the composition of the X Factor is all about getting that full, ‘Tower of Power’, thing going with Kent Parsons on both sax and flute and outstanding keyboards from accomplished songwriter, arranger and producer Wayne Levy. This same signature sound is again in evidence on both ‘Twisted’, where they whip up a real frenzy and on ‘I Got To Be Myself’, a tune with a horn driven swing and the thread of a smooth melody running right through it. However, with ‘Mellow Traumatic’ Jason switches effortlessly to flugel horn and proves that he is quite capable of turning it down and in so doing producing a haunting melody that makes this track a little gem.

Jason Parra and the X Factor have been picking up some rave reviews for their recent live performances. Check them out if you can and be on the look out for Two Reasons which is a comprehensive showcase for their considerable talents.

Want to know more? Want to add a snippet of your own? E-mail me on

Posted by Denis Poole at 7:12 PM

August 1, 2005

Rocco Ventrella's "Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr."

RoccoVentrellaTributeToGrov.jpgRocco Ventrella grew up in Bari in the southern part of Italy. After music Conservatory, Rocco participated in various clinics with famous jazz musicians like David Liebman, Michael Brecker and Bob Mintzer. In addition, he began to play in small jazz groups appearing in numerous jazz clubs and at the same time started to study piano and began to work in the studios "Crescendo" and "Sorriso" (ex C&M) of Bari. Since 1983, Rocco plays in the Big Band J.S.O. of P. Lepore of Bari where he has appeared with an impressive and long list of world renowned jazz artists. By 1998, Rocco began to love Smooth Jazz music, with the latest fruit of this love being the promotional CD Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr., a great tribute to one of his idols.

Rocco was kind enough to send me a copy of this CD containing three of Grover's most beloved and classic compositions: "Winelight", "Let It Flow" and "Make Me A Memory," which all were originally recorded back in 1980 on Grover Washington, Jr.'s Winelight album. Winelight is a record which definitely has touched the hearts of many smooth jazz lovers around the world. Rocco Ventrella gives the songs a new twist with updated contemporary grooves but still manages to retain the spirit of the original. In the beginning he reluctantly and respectfully approaches the songs but increasingly starts to bring his personality and improvisation to the mix, generating quite a bit of heat before the songs are gracefully brought to an end. Rocco Ventrella is joined by fellow musicians Vito Di Modugno on bass, Alex Milella on guitar, Gino Palmisano on keyboards and Saverio Petruzzellis on drums.

I am looking forward to hearing more from this ongoing project in the future. All of these songs have been added to the playlist of and they definitely are radio friendly, groovy, spirited and do justice to Grover's legacy. Rocco Ventrella is a great sax player and a nice person to boot so let's hope that more finished work will be available soon so the world can hear this music.

Visit Rocco Ventrella's website.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:43 AM