J O N A T H A N * W I D R A N
Warren Hill, Pop Jazz (Pop Jazz/Native Language)
Najee, My Point of View (Heads Up)
Paul Hardcastle, Hardcastle 4 (Trippin’ N Rhythm)
Brian Culbertson, It’s On Tonight (GRP)
B E V E R L Y * P A C K A R D
Terry Disley, The Terry Disley Experience, 2004. Acoustic Alchemy’s former keyboard player who is now touring with them for some of their Trio concerts. Extremely talented player and this CD is great testimony to that fact.
Nick Colionne, Arrival, 1996. It’s worth finding and listening to all of Nick Colionne’s music, present and past.
Special EFX, Party, 2003. I never tire of this excellent CD. To me, it tells a story from beginning to end.
Amedeo Minghi, Cantare d'Amore. Not smooth jazz, but classical music and a personal favorite of mine. I stumbled on him a few years ago quite by accident while looking for a CD by saxophone player Amedeo Bianchi. Amedeo is the name that links both of these very special Italian artists, each classically trained and renowned composers and teachers. The CD is all in Italian, but it doesn't matter at all..it's nothing short of breathtaking, I guess because love is love in any language.
B R I A N * S O E R G E L
Waldino, Get Loose (Walter Liskiewicz): Chill never sounded so good.
Milton Nascimento, Pieta (Savoy Jazz): The Brazilian with the godly vocals gets an assist from Pat Metheny.
Ernest Ranglin, Surfin' (Tropic): Surf music and reggae from a legend.
Kevin Toney, 110 Degrees and Rising (Shanachie): Great musical mix from an underrated keyboardist.
P E T E R * B O E H I
Brian Simpson , It's All Good (2005)
Beauty and perfection: This sums up this truly great, very polished and ultimately smooth album by pianist Brian Simpson. A gem not to be missed.
Brian Culbertson, It's On Tonight (2005)
This man possesses the absolute knack of melody, groove and mood in a smooth jazz setting. This romantic album is an aural bliss for the connoisseur!
Gregg Karukas, Looking Up (2005)
Elegant, polished, laid-back album by keyboardist Gregg Karukas boasting lots of memorable tunes and superior musicianship. First-rate stuff!
Warren Hill, Popjazz (2005)
Great sax album by veteran smooth jazz artist Warren Hill with some great covers of funk classics "Low Rider" and "Play That Funky Music" among some picture perfect instrumentals.
D E N I S * P O O L E
Paul Hardcastle, ‘Smooth Jazz Is Bumpin’ from Hardcastle 4. Being from the UK I'm bound to select Hardcastle and when a guy makes music like this its an easy choice to make.
Brian Simpson, ‘And So The Story Goes’ from his CD It’s All Good. Although not yet slated for radio play this is the best track on the album.
Euge Groove, ‘Just Feels Right,’ the title track from latest CD of the same name. It has a string arrangement that washes over you like a warm summer breeze and a feel good factor that will leave you glowing inside.
Euge Groove, Chillaxin, also from the Just Feels Right CD, has a big beat that underpins some typical wizardry from Groove and Paul Brown and mid tempo soprano sax that makes this a foot tapper of the highest order.
Angie Stone, ‘Bottles And Cans’ from her CD Mahogany Soul. Top notch soul of the highest order.
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. Since the 1980's bass Player Vail Johnson has been the groove behind many of the very best jazz and R&B artists. He has toured with Herbie Hancock, Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber and George Benson among others but perhaps his most significant contribution has been as Kenny G's right hand man, both on tour and in the studio. He remains an integral part Of KG’s show and, in addition, he has just released his latest solo CD, Underground.
Following on from 1995’s The Terminator and Says Who from 1997, Underground provides thirteen eclectic and technically excellent tunes that demonstrates the full range of Johnson’s capabilities. In addition he has surrounded himself with outstanding musicians and this is evident from the moment that the first track, the tight and funky ‘Blue Steel’, kicks in with strident playing from Johnson and excellent keyboards from Hans Z. Z in fact features on all but three of the tracks and is outstanding throughout. This is especially so on the melodic title tune, a first rate slice of smooth jazz that has already been identified for radio play and on ‘Strut’ a mid tempo number on which Johnson plays bass with a real twang.
Where Johnson gets the chance to turn down the funk he is just as good. The sweet melodic ‘Solo Bossa’ finds him at his very best and ‘Alone Again’ has a simple but beautiful melody running through it that he has no difficulty in touching with his own brand of soul. Melody, this time laced with subliminal vocals, also permeates ‘Monteiro’ while ‘Reflection’ gives Johnson the opportunity to share another reflective golden moment.
The CD also proves that Johnson is not afraid to mix things up. Fellow Kenny G collaborator Ron Powell, here on djembe, steps up to duet with Johnson for the rhythm driven groove ‘The Duel Mk II’, he is technically top notch on ‘Bass Solo 3’ and his quick and nimble playing turns distinctly jazzy on ‘Accelerated Development’.
‘Restless’ starts easy and soulful before getting onto an up tempo roll but the best track on the album is ‘Break It Down’, a cool deconstructed piece of laid back funk with Hans Z again prominent on keyboards.
All in all Underground is a welcome addition to this year’s crop of releases from smooth jazz bass players. Vail Johnson has pushed out the boundaries and in so doing guaranteed that his music will be noticed.
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.
Bassist Wayman Tisdale is pulling up roots.
Wayman Tisdale, a native Oklahoman, has now settled in Southern California with his wife and children to be closer to the heart of the smooth jazz industry. For now, the bassist plans to keep his farm house in Tulsa as well.
Wayman’s new home in western Los Angeles County is not too far from his recording label, Beverly Hills-based Rendezvous Entertainment. In addition, Tisdale’s manager lives in the area and now hopes to add more shows on the West Coast to his tour schedule.
In fact, Wayman will only have to drive about 45-minutes to his next gig, which is Sept. 29 on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach. During the solo show, Wayman will be performing songs from his latest CD called Hang Time, which features the current smooth jazz single “Ready to Hang.” Three days later, he’ll perform as part of the Guitars & Saxes tour 26 miles off the California coast during the Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival.
Chris Botti's upcoming CD has a new name - again. It's now called To Love Again. Look for it on Oct. 18.
Chris Botti has finally decided on a name for his new CD. The follow-up to his best-selling When I Fall in Love as originally called Embraceable You, then Still in Love and now To Love Again.
Botti has now whittled down the songs for the CD and has decided on 13 songs with guest performers such as Sting, Michael Buble, Gladys Knight, Steven Tyler, Renee Oldstead, and Jill Scott. The album’s songs include “Lover Man,” “Good Morning Heartache,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Smile,” “Pennies From Heaven,” “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”
When the CD arrives in stores on Oct. 18 it will be available in two versions. The first CD version features the 13 songs, while second is a DualDisc, which is a double-sided disc with one side containing a standard CD and other side with DVD content. The DualDisc version of To Love Again has four bonus tracks of live performances: “To Love Again,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and two from Botti's idol, Miles Davis: “Flamenco Sketches” and “Milestones.”
To Love Again Track Listing
1. Embraceable You
2. What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life
3. My One And Only Love
4. Let There Be Love
5. What's New
6. Good Morning Heartache
7. To Love Again
8. Are You Lonesome Tonight
9. Lover Man
10. I'll Be Seeing You
11. Pennies From Heaven
12. Here's That Rainy Day
1. Flamenco Sketches
2. To Love Again
3. I'll Be Seeing You
September marks the first anniversary of the opening of Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading, Pennsylvania, so Happy Birthday, Jazz Base! Congratulations to Gerald Veasley, the extremely talented bass player who's made Reading his artistic home, John Ernesto, general manager of the Berks Jazz Fest, the Stage Right Production crew and the Sheraton for an exciting and memorable first year!
This first birthday party included another Thursday night of great music with Gerald Veasley and his band members: Will Brock and Pete Kuzma on keyboards, Eric Green on drums, and saxophonist Chris Farr. What made the night even more special was the addition of special guest and long-time friend Chieli Minucci, guitarist and composer extraordinnaire!
In his usual style, Gerald asked the audience to 'Sit back...and relax...'
Each of two sets began with Veasley and the band playing a few favorites, songs like 'Coup de Ville,' 'Do You Remember,' 'Do I Do,' 'Sugartime,' 'Deeper,' and 'Valdez in the Country.' The band was simply awesome.
Once Chieli joined them each set after about four songs, the high that Gerald felt having Chieli on stage with him was totally infectious. With Chieli there, the hallmarks of a Gerald Veasley performance -- the smiles, the becoming totally lost in the moment, and the intricacies of his techniques -- were as excellent as always, and then some! Gerald did a solo that was so out of sight it must be recorded in the heavens somewhere!
Likewise, Chieli's been eager to play with Gerald's band, having done a show with them in Rehoboth Beach last year. He relished having this talented and very tight band with him every step of the way -- he was free to play with the same level of intensity and passion as he does with his own band, to the crowd's delight. Chieli is a real favorite among fans.
Along with Gerald's songs and keyboard player Will Brock's legendary 'Home,' fans were treated to Chieli and/or Special EFX compositions of 'Kickin' It Hard,' 'Cruise Control,' 'Speak to Me,' and Stevie Wonder's 'Cause We've Ended As Lovers.' Duos of Chieli with other band members were magnificent and fun to watch. 'Kickin It Hard' was especially outstanding and turned into quite a jam session.
The combination of Chieli playing Veasley's music and this band playing Chieli and Special EFX music was a sight and sound to behold. Chieli and Gerald definitely brought out the best of the best in each other, and had an enormous amount of fun. After watching each of them during many shows, it's evident that talented musical artists continue to evolve over time and become even better at what they do.
Fortunately for the fans, this exciting night of music lasted even beyond the scheduled ending time! Some fans went home with prizes won during a raffle drawing: concert tickets, Berks Jazz Fest jackets and t-shirts. If you didn't attend, you missed your chance to get a free, one-and-only Jazz Base cup!
Hope to see you at the Jazz Base!
Gerald Veasley, At the Jazz Base
Chieli Minucci, Got It Goin' On
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Photo Credits: Michael Packard
Gutiarist Chuck Loeb has temporarily traded his home in New York for one on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Smooth jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb, a native New Yorker, has just relocated to South Carolina.
The move was prompted after the Loebs learned that the house of one of their friends had burned down. Wanting to help out, the Loebs decided to offer up their house in Irvington, which is on the Hudson River north of New York City, to the family while they were rebuilding their destroyed home. At the same time, Loeb and his wife, Carmen Cuesta, felt that this gave them the perfect opportunity to test the waters as far as living in the South for a while.
Last year, Loeb and his wife invested in a home on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Loeb is now taking advantage of the nearby airport in Savannah, Ga., to travel back to New York for recording sessions and for traveling to shows. In fact, Chuck will be flying from Savannah to Boston on Sept. 24 for the annual Beantown Jazz Festival.
Loeb's most recent album, When I’m With You, features the Top 5 hit called "Tropical."
By Ricky Richardson
The 3rd Annual Inglewood Jazz Festival was held recently at the Ed Vincent Jr. Park in Inglewood. Organizers of the festival were blessed that this event was held on a beautiful Southern California Day.
The festival was overshadowed by the events that happened in the Gulf Coast (New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama). This caused me to stop and wonder what will be on the minds of the audience on this day. Many people in the audience, including myself were anxious to hear from family, friends and other loved ones from this region of the country. Thought and prayers were sent out to the people in the Gulf Coast throughout the day.
The festival kicked off with an outstanding set by saxophonist Jeanette Harris. This popular Fresno based artist will be honored by her hometown with a special day set aside for her on September 18th, 2005. She played material from latest CD Down Route 99. Her set consisted of the following tunes "Gotta Go", "Take Me There", "and continued with a tune by violinist Michael Ward entitled "Una Rosa" who joined her onstage for the remainder of her set. The honored the legacy of Grover Washington with "Grover Worked And Under Paid", and closed out with "Always There" by Ronnie Laws.
The Braxton Brothers are called "Groove Masters from the Bay". The San Francisco based smooth jazz duo consisted of twin brothers Nelson (bass) and Wayne (saxophone). They showcased their mastery for the audience performing tunes from their latest CD Rollin' . I witnessed many people swaying back and forward on "Don't Stop", "It's You", "Rollin'", "When Love Comes Around" (featured bass and saxophone only), "Anything For You", "When I See You" (a funky remix), "Blue Sand and "Take Me Back To Love". I'm sure that you; the readers have all four of their CD's in your collection. Steppin' Out, and Now And Forever on the Windham Hill Jazz Label, plus Both Sides and Rollin' on Peak Records label.
Every festival, concert or cultural event that I attend, there is always bound to be someone to knock my socks off. Keyboardist, Producer and Arranger Bob Baldwin did the honors on this occasion. He churned out some original as well as familiar instrumental pop tunes. He held my undivided attention as he played material from his latest CD All In A Days Work, and also featured songs from his previous CD's. His set was complimented by the presence of vocalist Toni Smith. You could hear her powerful vocals when she was away from the microphone. The group opened with "She Is Single, And Ready To Mingle", from the Standing Tall CD. He took a detour to Brazil with the samba influence "Cafezinho" from the Brazil Chill CD. "All In A Days Work" title track from his current CD. Prompted the audience to break out with the electric slide on "People Make The World Go Round", "Summer Breeze", and closed out his set with "Funkin For Jamaica" by Tom Browne.
Saxophonist Euge Groove came to the festival with some impressive credentials. He got his education at the University of Miami, and got schooled as part of the funk driven horn section of Tower of Power. He also debuted material from his latest CD Just Feels Right. Euge roused the crowd by serenading several women while strolling around the festival grounds. This exciting performer thrilled the audience with the tunes "What Is Hip", "Just My Imagination", "GonnaTakeUHigher", "Get Em Goin", and Let's Get It On".
Spyro Gyra cranked out an energetic set of their trademark sounds mixed with pop, jazz, R&B, and blues as the sun was setting. They thoroughly entertained the crowd by playing some familiar tunes "Shaker Song", "Morning Dance", and "Summer Strut" and debuted material from their current CD The Deep End.
Soulful vocalist Jeffrey Osborne closed out the festival. He had a special interaction with the crowd. His set was marvelous to say the least. He performed and the audience served as additional singers on "Ready To Learn", "On The Wings Of Love", "Stay With Me Tonight", "You Should Be Mine", "(Everytime I Turnaround) Back In Love Again", "Holding On (When Love Is Gone)", and "Love Power".
Photos and text by Ricky Richardson
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. Just Feels Right, the brand new release from Euge Groove, is a concept album. That concept is 1976, the year that Euge himself describes as his ultimate in ‘Feel Good’ and innocence. To him that year was epitomised by the music that was playing and the fact that so many of his all time favourite tunes were around during, what for him was, a golden twelve month period. With this in mind he has put together a retrospective that does not rely on covers from the era but instead offers up eight great tracks, seven of them his original compositions, that conform to three self imposed rules consistent with the period. First, he would include songs that can be played on sax with only piano or guitar backing. Second, all songs would be arranged using only real instruments with no samples or computers allowed and finally the album would be recorded using only equipment that was made no later than 1976.
The end product, which in the final analysis turned out to be 90% true to the made before 76 rule, is stunning. With EG together again with production genius Paul Brown the attention to detail is obvious and this is demonstrated in no small way by the selection of the backing musicians for four of the tracks, artists who EG collectively describes as the section of sections. This ‘A list’ of Ray Parker Jr. and David T. Walker on guitars, James Gadson on drums, Lenny Castro (percussion), Freddie Washington on bass, and Clarence McDonald (keyboards) were all playing sessions together thirty years ago and reuniting them here has added a extra dimension to EG’s hallmark sound. In addition Groove and Brown have taken advantage of these guys session chemistry to add a neat 33 second intro plus two engaging interludes that combine to glue the collection together.
It is a testament to the depth of this CD that the other four tracks have qualities all of their own. In fact ‘Get Em Goin’, that finds EG with long time collaborators Tony Maiden, Michael White, Roberto Vally and Michael Egizi, plus the percussion of Castro, has caught sufficient attention to be the first cut from the album singled out for radio play. Here EG is off the chain and ‘larging’ it in the way that only he can. Its tight (of course) it’s funky and it’s going to be around on the play lists for some time to come. ‘Chillaxin’, one of the high points of the entire album, has a big beat that underpins some typical Groove / Brown wizardry and mid tempo soprano sax that makes this a foot tapper of the highest order. It has the bonus of a Paul Brown guitar solo, complete with the subliminal vocals that he is rapidly making his own and a sound very much in the style he produced for his own current CD The City.
Groove does allow himself one cover, and what a cover it is. Although somewhat mysteriously not from 1976 he takes the Temptations hit from their 1971 LP The Sky’s The Limit, ‘Just My Imagination’, turns it down just a little and in this new relaxed mode manages to make it sound very fresh indeed.
The big studio presence that McDonald, Parker Jr, Walker, Gadson, Washington and Castro engender first hits the listener between the eyes when they rip into ‘Straight Up’, a very together mid tempo tune with trademark EG on alto sax. With ‘This Must Be For Real’ Euge takes a romantic turn with the lightest of touches on tenor sax and, by applying the ‘1976 rules’, adds a rare quality with the use of ‘real strings’. With Clarence McDonald, who arranged the strings on the 1977 Bill Withers LP Menagerie, already on board here was a little piece of magic waiting to happen. The string arrangement comes shining through and the track is further enhanced by a guitar solo from the instantly recognizable Peter White.
‘12-08 AM’ is big yet subtle, moody and evocatively nocturnal. It features understated piano from Clarence McDonald, a hint of strings and is everything that EG does best. The album closes out with ‘Ballerina Girl’. Here we find more sumptuous McDonald arranged strings plus gentle and reflective playing from EG on both soprano sax and piano. The whole, balanced with a nylon string guitar solo from Paul Brown, makes for a truly beautiful tune.
That said, best track on the CD is the title number, ‘Just Feels Right’, and it sure does with Parker, Walker, McDonald etc holding it down, a typical EG hook, a string arrangement that washes over you like a warm summer breeze and a feel good factor that will leave you glowing inside.
Just Feels Right is Euge Grooves fourth CD release and confirms him as one of the modern day superstars of smooth jazz.
Artfully blending hypnotic electronic based grooves, cool melodies and subtle world music influences, Chill music is quickly becoming a substantial subgenre in the smooth jazz radio format. Trendsetting radio station WQCD (CD 101) now dubs itself New York Chill, and Chill With Chris Botti — a two hour radio show hosted by the popular trumpeter — is syndicated in 16 major U.S. markets and growing.
While it’s always a bit debatable to give one song or artist too much credit for starting any trend, there’s no doubt that the incredible success of “Sigh” — the soulful, seductive and otherworldly 2003 track from Amsterdam based saxman/flutist Praful — helped lay the foundation. “Sigh” held the #1 slot for three consecutive weeks on Radio & Records’ Smooth Jazz airplay chart, and, perhaps indicating a younger demographic, Praful’s album One Day Deep reached Top 10 on the College Radio Electronica chart. The disc also went Top 10 and Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz and Top Electronic Albums chart.
While Rendezvous Music — the L.A. based independent label co-owned by Dave Koz — at first considered the release of “Sigh” somewhat of a risk, the gamble paid off. According to Frank Cody, one of Koz’s partners who brought Praful to the label, and the artist himself, “Sigh” unofficially generated more listener calls to smooth jazz station than any track in years.
“I like what people have been saying, that I put a face on chill,” says Praful. “I hear a lot of formula music on the radio, but people would like to hear some different new stuff as well. We shouldn’t underestimate the audience. They want to be taken on a journey, and it’s radio’s obligation to support the artists trying new things and dare a bit more. It took some effort to convince them to play the song, and I hope the response has inspired them.”
Praful knows a little something about extended sojourns, musical and otherwise, having spent significant time in and absorbing the cultural influences of India, Brazil, even parts of Africa. The cover of his new album, Pyramid In Your Backyard (Rendezvous Entertainment) teases the mind with trippy and colorful, neo-psychedelic artwork, and the 12 tracks totaling 72 minutes deliver on that promise, traversing wildly across numerous cultures (Eastern and Western), unexpected rhythm patterns, and unique ethnic instruments. Where all the exotic female vocals on his debut were sung in Portuguese, here they expand to English and Hindi.
“I didn’t try to make a ‘Two Days Deep,’ because time has passed since then and both me and my co-producers (Adani & Wolf, who also have a disc on the label) have moved on,” says Praful. “The influences are more or less the same, but I think it’s more consistent and versatile. We only used a few drum loops this time and gave a lot of room to the percussion. I wanted Pyramid to be more organic with more original rhythmic arrangements, with more variety in the singing and languages. I also wanted to feature myself a bit more, with longer solos and longer electronica parts. It had to be new and fresh. Sometimes, the magic happens instantaneously, and other times, it takes a lot of experimenting.”
A perfect example of this irresistible and mind-expanding swirl is the eight minute indigenous dreamscape “Ponto De Partida,” on which he switches from bamboo flute to harmonium to soprano, as a sexy female vocal seduces us, a throbbing groove develops slowly and a sitar toys with our peripheral hearing. The seven-minute “Says Kabir” blends a playful banjo vamp with a wash of heavily percussive hypnotic electronica, wailing voices, sax and flute. “Naked” is a true chillout tune, representing the artist’s more relaxed, spiritual side, with sparse instrumentation, gentle ambience and inspirational lyrics sung softly by Praful himself. More radio friendly is “Moonglide,” whose straightforward sax melody and easy funk are swept along a trail of sweeping, spacey effects and the occasional harmonium harmony.
“This one was written in the studio during the recording and was initiated by Adani,” says Praful. “He started off with a groove, a key and a few sound fragments. We liked the Middle Eastern string sample and kept that. Then we set up all kinds of instruments and tried out different things. The Indian harmonium gave an unusual folksy flavor to the hiphop kind of groove. The next day I came later to the studio and A&W had already chopped up my recordings and made a beat and reggae kind of skank out of it. From different snippets we composed the harmonium melody that goes over the chorus and they recorded the bass with the Moog. My first take with the melody on sax was the golden one and I kept it.”
Koz and Cody have nothing but praise for their musical find who is contributing to the next big thing in smooth jazz. “He has a purity of intention in his music, focused on making something very special for listeners,” says Cody. “He combines the gift of melody with a structure that’s out of the ordinary from normal smooth jazz. It has the genre’s essential textures, but it’s unusual enough to get attention.” Koz adds, “I love the fact that he takes what he knows from other cultures and incorporates these colors into his music. What you hear when he plays is his life.”
Speaking of great projects on Rendezvous, you’ve gotta love any kind of project that gets Koz to wear pajamas out in public — as he did at Hollywood’s Garden of Eden in 2002 to celebrate the release of the all-star smooth jazz project Golden Slumbers: A Father’s Lullaby. The dads are even more famous, and from a multitude of genres on the label’s follow-up collection, Golden Slumbers: A Father’s Love, a collection of heartfelt vocals that celebrate the bond between father and child.
Phil Collins is represented twice, on his own vocal “You Touch My Heart” as well as his old Disney hit “You’ll Be In My Heart,” sung by Carlos Ponce featuring Inner Voice. Same deal with Richard Marx, who co-wrote “Dance With My Father” and also sings “”That’s My Job.” Rockers old (Loudon Wainwright III) and hip (Dave Matthews) join legends (Smokey Robinson) and newcomers (Buddy Jewell) alike. Koz appears twice, on Michael McDonald’s tender “When Scarlett Smiles” and Robinson’s friendly reading of “You Are So Beautiful.” Co-producer Jeff Koz wrote the musical backdrop for a dramatic poetry reading by James Earl Jones, which closes the eclectic set.
“Golden Slumbers started as our response to request from Jeff’s wife Unique, who wanted some soft music to put their baby to sleep with,” says Cody. “Now it’s a franchise committed to creating projects that bring families together. When you ask performers to sing for their children, something special happens. There’s a purity and intensity that raises the bar. Love is a spacious phenomenon, and there’s no end to what we can do with Golden Slumbers in the future.”
Rendezvous’s growing success with chill artists and specialty projects hasn’t precluded its growth as a hotspot for some of smooth jazz’s most enduring artists. Joining Wayman Tisdale, Marc Antoine and Michael Lington is veteran saxman Kirk Whalum, who was a mainstay at Columbia and Warner Jazz for years. His indie label debut will be a tribute to the great R&B songwriter and producer Babyface. With covers of well known R&B classics like “I Said I Love You,” “Not Gon’ Cry,” “Breathe Again” and “Exhale,” the collection takes on a similar vibe as Whalum’s extraordinary successful 1998 hit For You, which also featured his interpretations of great pop-soul tunes.
1) A Little Space, Box of Love (Independent Records) – John Lennon Songwriting Contest winner and multi-instrumentalist/Producer “Big Al,” together with soulful L.A. based vocalist Regi Perry, celebrate the spirit of today’s ambitious indie artist with an explosive mix of jazzy neo-soul, Memphis styled R&B, anthemic jazz fusion, soulful ballads and classical-flavored pop.
2) Amici Forever, Defined (RCA Victor)
3) Styx, Big Bang Theory (New Door Records)
4) Van Zant, Get Right With The Man (Columbia)
5) John Williams, Star Wars: Episode Three Soundtrack (Sony Classical)
New and Noteworthy
1) Gerald Veasley, At The Jazz Base! (Heads Up)
2) Jason McGuire, Distancias (Bolero Records)
3) Brian Bromberg, Choices (Artistry Music)
4) Jonathan Butler, Jonathan (Rendezvous Entertainment)
5) Down To The Bone, Spread Love Like Wildfire (Narada Jazz)
By Ricky Richardson
The 18th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival was held on a picture perfect weekend, August 12-14, 2005. One could not have asked for a better setting. The festival was held on the grassy area of the Rainbow Lagoon, surrounded by trees, and punctuated by a cool breeze.
The festival featured several subtle themes within the festival: Global Jazz and Lady Sang R&B, and The Blues.
Friday night the festival got under way with jazz from a global perspective.
Hiroshima, a popular L.A. based band played a set of world music mixed with jazz, pop, and seasoned with Japanese traditional folk music. The crowd was entertained by the following tunes performed by Hiroshima as the sun settled over the horizon. "Another Place" sampled along with the sounds of The Temptations "Poppa Was A Rolling Stone", "One Wish", and a thrilling solo featuring the drummer and the Taiko player.
Keiko Matsui from Japan played material from her latest CD Wildflower. Keiko Matsui is also a wonderful humanitarian; with the release of her CD Deep Blue she dedicated a portion of proceeds from concerts as an awareness raising project for bone marrow donors. The recent release Wildflower will benefit the United Nation's World Food Programme in Africa.
The Summer Storm featuring guitarist Norman Brown, saxophonist Everette Harp, and vocalist Peobo Bryson and Brenda Russell showered the crowd with a popular set of original R&B, and smooth jazz to close out the first night of the festival.
The 2nd Annual Jazz Talent Search was held throughout Long Beach during the summer. The winning group had the pleasure of opening the Long Beach Jazz Festival. Vocalist Ora LaFae Smallwood and the S.O.E. Band performed on Saturday.
The Sevilles - a popular trio of singers backed by The Ohio Trio Plus performed a tribute to Motown. They took the crowd on a musical journey down memory lane with a set of Old School Oldies, R&B, Blues and Jazz standards. This set was one of the few highlights for me on Saturday. The crowd actively listened and also joined the group in singing one memorable hit after another - "Poppa Was A Rolling Stone", "Please Don't Go", "Get Ready", "The Way You Do The Things You Do", "My Girl", "Cloud 9", "Don't Let The Joneses Get You Down", "I Need Money", "The Twist", "If I Ain't Got You", "Nighttime Is The Right Time", "Down Home Blues", "Stay Till The Morning", and closed with "Just My Imagination".
Vocalist Michael Franks was another highlight for me on Saturday. The silky voice crooner was fabulous as usual on "Lady Wants To Know", "Tiger In The Rain", "Sleeping Gypsy", "Passion Fruit", "One Bad Habit", "Your Love Is Like Baseball", "Popsicle Toes", and "When The Cookie Jar Is Empty".
Down To The Bone, Chuck Loeb, and Joyce Cooling were on the bill for Saturday. South African trumpeter Hugh Masakela closed out the evening with his popular brand of Afro-Beat dance rhythms served up with some jazz, R&B, and African township songs in keeping with the global theme mentioned earlier.
On Sunday, I arrived just as Jazz Search winner guitarist James Christopher and his ensemble were poising for photographs for the media after their set.
The line-up for Sunday was the strongest of all three days as evidenced by the large turn out of people who blanketed every inch of grass available.
Keyboardist Kevin Toney kicked off the final day of the festival with a high energy set of original tunes from his upcoming CD 110 Degrees and Rising that also featured an added bonus of a string ensemble. The audience was ready to dance when he played "Walkin In Rhythm" and "Rock Creek Park" popular tunes from his days with Donald Byrd and The Blackbyrds.
Al Williams Jazz Society filled the straight-ahead jazz void that was absent until now. This tight knit band featured Al Williams-drums, Noland Shaheed-trumpet, Dave Bradshaw-piano, Nedra Wheeler-bass, Andre Delano-saxophones, and Tony Poingsett on percussions. The group featured material from their latest 2 CD's Let's Celebrate and Meeting At The Crossroads. The highlight of their set came when Barbara Morrison joined the group for a couple of tunes. She held the crowd (approximately 15,000) in the palm of her hands during her always crowd pleasing and delightful set. She opened with "Endangered Species", followed by "You Are My Centerpiece", "All Blues", "Things Ain't What They Used To Be", "Hit The Road Jack", and closed with "Sundown".
Al Jackson and his 17-piece orchestra featuring The Ray-lettes played a well received tribute to the late great Ray Charles. The lead vocalist was none other than Mr. Obie Jesse who was splendid in carrying on the legacy of Ray. The orchestra performed many of Ray's unforgettable hit songs such as "Outskirts of Town", "Let The Good Times Roll", "Busted", "You Don't Know Me", "What I Say", "Georgia", "I Got A Women", "Hit The Road Jack", and I Can't Stop Loving You".
Bob James also performed on Sunday. Vocalist Rachelle Ferrell and Angie Stone closed out the festival on a rousing note. The 18th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival marked another milestone in attendance being the premier jazz festival in Southern California.
Submitted by Richy Richardson
Surprise: Vocalist Gabriela Anders has married and has a daughter named Marley.
Top-secret celebrity weddings are nothing new.
Earlier this year, actress Renee Zellweger and country singer Kenny Chesney tied the knot in a private ceremony away from the prying eyes of paparazzi. And Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts and John F. Kennedy Jr. all managed to marry without the media finding out.
Smooth jazz vocalist Gabriela Anders has also managed to keep her marriage secret, although not because she didn’t want anyone to know. She just says she didn’t think anyone would be interested, did not give out any interviews and put nothing on her website. Gabriela’s wedding – which is secret no longer – occurred at a small church in New York City on May 22, 2004, in front of a small group of family and friends.
Anders married Wayne Krantz, a guitarist who performed on Gabriela’s latest CD, Last Tango in Rio. The name may not be too familiar, but Krantz has released several solo CDs and has appeared on albums by Steely Dan, Michael Brecker and others. Gabriela and Wayne have been keeping another secret – they are the proud parents of a nine-month baby girl named Marley Meredith Krantz.
Anders fell in love with her soon-to-be husband while watching him perform in a New York City club called the 55 Bar where he performs every Thursday night. "I was checking it out, then slowly we became friends and then we started to date," Anders recalls with a laugh. "And now we’ve become married and have a little baby. I have a small family, he has a small family, so the wedding was cool."
Marley will stay at home with her Dad in New York while Mom performs Sept. 10 in Huntington Beach, Calif.
By Jonathan Widran
Although they will forever be in the hearts of instrumental music fans worldwide as mavericks of classic new age music, David Lanz and Gary Stroutsos tapped joyfully into the jazz-based spirit of improvisation in creating their long awaited dual masterwork Spirit Romance. Elegant in its melodic and rhythmic simplicity, spacious and soothing in its ambience and deeply resonant on both an emotional and spiritual level, the project is more than simply the merger of two legendary artists and composers from the Pacific Northwest at the top of their game.
By design, the Zen like title Spirit Romance leaves the interpretation of the individual musical pieces - beginning with the wistful opening track “Serenada,” a reinterpretation of “Evening Serenade,” which Lanz and Stroutsos performed on 1997’s New Native collection I Am Walking - up to the listener’s soul imagination. The creative process behind the album, however, tells a distinct tale of enduring friendship and, more specifically, what happens when two old pals gather in a 105 year old house constructed largely of old growth timber far north of Seattle with just a few ideas in their pockets and an agreement to let their muses run free.
On Good Friday, 2005, Lanz sat at the grand piano in the front (living) room of the home he and his wife Alicia had recently moved into, admiring the concave ceiling corners and wooden columns that were helping to create a perfect acoustic environment. He, Stroutsos and album producer Gary Lanz — who had contributed musical and engineering expertise in various ways to numerous of his older brother’s projects over the years — called this the “parlor concert hall.” Stroutsos, holding an exotic Chinese bamboo flute called the Xiao and ready to roll at a moment’s notice, settled in the middle (dining) room just beyond the French doors with Gary Lanz and some recording equipment. Then they turned on the tape recorder and went to work.
“The makeshift home studio vibe worked very well for us,” says David Lanz. “My brother closed the doors between the rooms but installed a temporary window to maintain visual contact. The two Garys had worked together on many projects in the past, so it was really like a comfortable group of friends getting together with no preconceived notions as to where we were going to go musically. Gary Stroutsos had actually been on my case to do a full dual album since the late 90s, and I told him I could always see us doing it. Finally free from other contractual obligations, it was exciting to realize that we were finally at this point.
“Months earlier in Seattle,” he adds, “we had forsaken one of our usual lunch engagements and instead got together spur of the moment to create a few improvisational pieces, probably knowing we’d be doing an album sooner than later. We began the Easter weekend sessions with these tapes, going at it like real jazz guys, starting simply and then building improvised arrangements. The first piece we emerged with was the album’s second tune, ‘Satori,’ which was the darkest piece on the album, but we loved the vibe. From there, it was a total leap of faith for both of us.”
Lanz and Stroutsos used those earlier tapes as a template to convince Narada Records — a top new age label in the 80s and 90s, which in recent years expanded to world music and smooth jazz - that the time was right to contract a project like Spirit Romance. The label’s go-ahead had the sweet scent of a family reunion about it. From 1983, when he released his groundbreaking solo piano album Heartsounds, through 1999, the pianist was one of Narada’s top artists, recording nine solo albums, releasing numerous “best of” collections and three genre classics with electric guitarist Paul Speer. The biggest of these was 1988’s Cristofori’s Dream, which was Number One on Billboard’s first adult alternative/new age chart for 27 weeks and eventually became a platinum selling recording.
In the intervening years, Lanz had been with Decca Records and moved into a genre he called — tongue firmly planted in cheek — “smooth age.” While he achieved great success working with top smooth jazz stars like Dave Koz, Gregg Karukas and Peter White on Finding Paradise and The Good Life, his fans no doubt wondered when he would — to borrow a title from one of his solo piano albums — Return To The Heart.
Not that he and Lanz had ever really lost touch, but Gary Stroutsos was the one who had really pressed Lanz on the idea of a collaborative recording over the years. In his own career, the flutist had combined a rich jazz background with dynamic explorations of Afro-Cuban and American Indian Music and became a noted self-taught ethnomusicologist and American Indian Flute Historian. He has been featured throughout the world on the NPR syndicated programs Echoes with John Diliberto and Skitch Henderson's New York Evening At The Pops as well as on Ken Burns' PBS documentary, Lewis and Clark: The Journey Of The Corps Of Discovery, which led to a command performance at the White House in 1997. Stroutsos was also well known to Narada, having released Hidden World with “space music” keyboardist Jonn Serrie (who appears on Spirit Romance), working on the music of I Am Walking with Lanz and producing the Latin collection Cuba L.A. (a project Lanz calls “bringing the Cubans to Milwaukee”). Lanz also produced Stroutsos’ 2001 solo recording Pacific Moon.
“David is a dear friend and I’ve always looked up to him as a human being and as a musician,” says Stroutsos. “He has created a tradition all his own by finding a certain spirituality in his music, and his instincts have always led him to good creative places. I always thought his piano would be a good match for my musical ‘tone poems,’ and, even though he was doing smooth jazz the last few years, I had long envisioned getting together with him and trying to bring out of him the sound that established him as a legend so long ago.
“His old house gave Spirit Romance a sense of timelessness, and there was a natural rhythm that happened as we played, as if we were moving through space in a different kind of way,” he adds. “There was a sense that we were defining our own space, and a chemistry developed between us and his brother Gary that is hard to put our finger on. David’s bright but moody style of piano playing fused with my heavier melodic lines created something special. He’s a great songwriter who was able to let go of his restraints and experience the freedom that comes from improvising. He arranged chords, modes, and movements around simple melodic concepts. We liked to see it as two veteran musicians making spontaneous music reflecting the experience of living in the Northwest.”
“If you’re doing art,” Lanz concurs, “you may not be conscious of it, but you’re reflecting life around you.” On that note, the driving inspiration for the title track of Spirit Romance came from a dream Stroutsos had the night before their Easter morning session. He dreamed of his longtime friend, a Navajo Indian named Pauline, who had recently died suddenly, not long after Stroutsos had visited her and her husband Paul in Albuquerque. Over and over in the dream, he heard this ancient flute melody from a Zuni Pueblo song Paul had taught him, and this became the foundation of the song.
The five part suite “Return to Altair” also has a unique jumping off point, one that will be of interest to fans of Lanz’s Cristofori’s Dream album; it was Gary Lanz’s idea to reinterpret “Wings To Altair” and bring in Serrie, who played on the original track. The first three movements of this suite that closes the album are centered around this musical theme.
Adding harmonic and rhythmic dimension to the emotional centerpiece of piano and flute are two longtime friends of theirs, world-renowned hand master drummer Glen Velez (well known for his recordings and world tours with Paul Winter) and acoustic bassist Keith Lowe (Bill Frizell, Fiona Apple). Together with Lanz and Stroutsos, they create the Quartet Moon Ensemble, a group that, Stroutsos insists, will hit the road next year. This fall, Lanz and Stroutsos are scheduled to debut the material of Spirit Romance with a slate of local performances. Lummi Indian solo violinist Swil Kanim adds a beautiful texture to the title track as well.
“Making this album has given me a new shot in the arm, a certain confidence that artists can still find a way to create projects that are meaningful to them,” says Stroutsos. “I’ve spent a lifetime trying to carry the legacy of world flute music to a wider audience, and I hope that this recording will inspire people to want to know more about the Xiao, its unique intervals and leaps, and why I used it. It’s also time to bring artists like us back to the stage, where we can communicate with the audiences even more intimately.”
Lanz adds, “The greatest part of making Spirit Romance was working with both Garys in a way I never had the opportunity to do before. As my brother said, I’m going ‘back to the beautiful,’ returning to the impressionistic side of my artistry that I’d been away from on record for so long. It’s nice to strip things down and create music that’s so direct, emotional and honest, and I thank Gary Stroutsos for keeping on me to finally do it. I think there’s still an incredible need in the world for music that has emotional and healing power, and for me, Spirit Romance has a strong sense of coming full circle. It couldn’t have turned out any better for either of us.”
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. Some artists have to pay their dues on the road and in the studio before finally getting the chance to cut their debut CD but Florida based saxophonist Dayve Stewart has taken the fast track and come up with a winner. Feel Me is an astonishingly well constructed release from someone still only 21 year of age. The soulful thirty eight second introduction and a kicking closing number both in vocal and instrumental form sandwich seven more classy tracks all but two of which have been composed by Stewart himself.
Dayve is involved in every aspect of Feel Me. As well as playing virtuoso sax throughout he produces, mixes and variously performs on keyboards, percussion, bass and strings. The result is so polished that the entire piece of work stands out like a shiny new apple.
The whole album is generously endowed with top notch playing, most notable in the groove driven mid tempo chunk of smooth sax that is ‘Love @ First Sight’ and the equally silky smooth ‘Lay Back And Chill’ where Stewart achieves a vibe that makes the sentiment of the title a given. ‘Do The Dayve Clap’ is an up tempo tune that is sure to play well in a live setting but perhaps he is found at his best with ‘Give Thanks’ where given the chance to turn it down and get romantic he does it so very well. That said another real stand out is ‘Oprah’, held down by a strong and solid beat, it has an infectious hook and is brim full of melody.
A former student of the Howard W Blake High School for The Performing Arts in Tampa, Dayve is a current member of both the FSU Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Combo and is working toward a Commercial Music degree with a minor in Business at Florida State. With a style that has already been compared to both Grover Washington Jr and Kirk Whalum, and a record of the caliber of Feel Me under his belt, with or without his education he is on an express route to stardom.
Want to know more? Want to add a snippet of your own? E-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.
It'll be hard to miss saxophonist Mindi Abair at the 19th annual Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival, but many of smooth jazz's top artists will also make appearances. And it's not just about smooth jazz anymore - also on hand will be the straight-ahead jazz of Kyle Eastwood and the chill of O'2L and Camiel.
Every year, thousands of people make the annual trek 26 miles off the Southern California coast to the island of Catalina to enjoy the music of Art Good's Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival.
This year is the festival's 19th anniversary and will offer more than 35 smooth jazz artists spread over three consecutive weekends starting Sept. 30. This year, saxophonist Mindi Abair will be the first artist to perform all three weekends at the festival. She will perform solo, with Guitars & Saxes and with Forever, For Always, For Luther. Fans will notice that Abair has ditched the streaks in her hair and is now completely blonde.
This year's show will feature a wide variety of performances ranging from the pioneers of smooth jazz to some of the newest stars of the stage. Look for such legendary groups as Hiroshima, 3rd Force and Pieces of a Dream, in addition to vocalist Bobby Caldwell.
New faces on the scene include bassist Kyle Eastwood, guitarist Nils and chill music artists Camiel and O’2L.
Package deals include Guitars & Saxes with Mindi Abair, Wayman Tisdale, Jeff Golub and Warren Hill; the Sax Pack with Kim Waters, Marion Meadows and Jeff Kashiwa; the Triad Tour with Steve Oliver, Gerald Veasley and Michael Paulo; and Forever, For Always, For Luther with Kirk Whalum, Mindi Abair, Paul Jackson Jr. and Lalah Hathaway.
In addition, there will be a reunion show from the Hawaiian smooth jazz band Kilauea. Other artists include Soul Ballet, Bona Fide, James Vargas, Eric Darius, Najee, Euge Groove, Paul Brown, Everette Harp, Tim Bowman, Steve Cole, Gregg Karukas and Luis Villegas.
Performances will once again be aired live on www.jazztrax.com. For this year's artist lineup and ticket information, log on to www.jazztrax.com. The syndicated JazzTrax radio show this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Pianist Bob Baldwin, whose Brazil Chill was one of the best smooth jazz CDs of 2004, has signed to 215 Records.
Pianist Bob Baldwin is the latest artist to sign with 215 Records, which debuted last year as a smooth jazz label and features Soul Ballet, Greg Adams, the Alan Hewitt Project, Blake Aaron and others.
Baldwin was left without a record label after the recent bankruptcy of the Chicago-based A440 Music Group. Baldwin has finished his first CD for the label – his 10th overall – which is called All In a Day’s Work, featuring titles such as “The Very Last Night in Rio,” “Sunrise,” “Steamy” “Day-O” and others.
In addition, Baldwin's new label will also re-issue Bob’s album from early 2004 called Brazil Chill, in addition to a 2000 album called BobBaldwin.com.
All in a Day's Work
1. A New York Minute 6:12
2. All In a Day’s Work 4:56
3. Day-O 5:49
4. Third Time’s The Charm 5:40
5. Quirky 6:30
6. Can You Feel It? 6:37
7. Steamy 5:53
8. Sunrise 4:54
9. Quality Time 1:47
10. Steamy (Interlude) 0:51
11. The Very Last Night In Rio 5:21
12. Don’t Get It Twisted 7:44
13. Can You Feel It? (Interlude) 1:19
Over 5000 amazing musicians have chosen to donate ALL money from the sale of their CD *directly* to the Red Cross disaster relief fund.
You can hear and buy their CDs, here: http://cdbaby.com/group/redcross
If you've been seeing the images of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and have thought about donating to help those in need, please consider buying some albums from that page.
You're free to listen to up to half of every album in instant-streaming MP3, so I hope you use this as an excuse to discover some great new music while knowing your money is going to a good cause.
With the current conditions in New Orleans due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Harry Connick Sr. will not be performing in Las Vegas at the Boulder Station Hotel September 2nd and 3rd. Although the Connick family is safe and sound, homes have been lost and food and shelter are in need. Please visit connick.com, Harry Jr's website, for information about how you can help.
Eric Darius, new smooth jazz saxophonist on-the-rise, performed at the Henderson Pavillion in Henderson, Nevada, Thursday, September 1st.
The tower of groove sounds return to the Suncoast Hotel, September 2-4, with the funk, r & b, jazz legendary band, Tower Of Power.
Michael Lington, riding his career to an all time high, brings his contemporary saxophone sound to the Santa Fe Hotel, Saturday, September 10th.
House Of Blues will be giving it up to the original pioneer of contemporary jazz today, guitarist Pat Metheny and his trio, Thursday, September 20th.
The Dallas Events Center at the Texas Station Hotel in Las Vegas welcomes guitarist Norman Brown and his Summer Storm, Sunday, September 23rd.
Be sure to stay tuned for future "Song From The Desert" editorials as I implement some editorial reviews based on my observations of the state of smooth jazz today, as well as jazz in general. There are a lot of changes going on in the industry, and many artists have felt the repercussions in work and CD sales. Some are good, some are not.
Take care, until next time.