November 29, 2005

What We're Listening To - November

P E T E R * B O E H I

Alex Bugnon - Free (2005)
Stylish, funky, groovy and smooth piano playing by this veteran artist. Alex delivers some top-notch music out of the top drawer still going strong after all these years.

Kirk Whalum Performs The Babyface Songbook (2005)
Warm, soulful, melodic and smooth sax soothing your soul. With the Babyface songbook you know what to expect, but nevertheless very pleasant.

Bradley Leighton - Back To The Funk (2005)
Funky and groovy release by this great alto flute player. The overall feeling is warm and analog recreating the spirit of years gone by. Very listenable despite the funk tag.

Devoted Spirits: A Tribute To Earth, Wind & Fire (2005)
EWF band members Larry Dunn, Sheldon Reynolds and Morris Pleasure - along with some outstanding guest artists - deliver their interpretation of many of EWF's greatest songs.

Michael O'Neill - Funky Fiesta (2005)
Standing in the shadow of George Benson as a longtime member of his band Michael O'Neill steps out into the spotlight again delivering a stunning, absolutely brilliant smooth jazz album - don't miss it!

D E N I S * P O O L E

'Balbao Cafe' by Otis Hayes III from his self titled debut CD. This vibraphone player is like a breath of fresh air.

'Live It Up' by Jay Soto from his CD Long Time Coming. Michael Lington lends a hand on this ultra commercial piece of smooth jazz.

'Morning Dance' from Marcin Nowakowski from his album Smooth Night. Nowakowski is from Poland and is certainly one to watch for the future.

'Its Christmas (almost) so Baby Its Cold Outside' from James Taylor's A Christmas Album will be playing 24/7!!

Finally from the vaults is 'Just A Little' by Tom Scott from his 2002 release New Found Freedom. Give yourself a Christmas treat and seek this one out.

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

Marc Antoine, Modern Times (Rendezvous Music)

David Benoit, Orchestral Stories (Peak Records)

Warren Hill, Pop Jazz (Native Language)

Gregg Karukas, Looking Up (Trippin’ N Rhythm)

Kyle Eastwood, Paris Blue (Rendezvous)

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

Ken Navarro, Christmas Cheer

T-Square, T-Square 2000

David Benoit, Professional Dreamer

Acoustic Alchemy, AArt

Jeff Golub, Dangerous Curves

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

Tom Schuman, Deep Chill: The new solo CD by the Spyro Gyra keyboardist features saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa and guitarists Peter White and Chuck Loeb.

Michael Buble, Caught in the Act: The crooner from British Columbia offers a lot of music here, with eight live songs on a CD and a DVD with 18, one of which includes Chris Botti ("Song For You"). Buble is a must-see in concert.

Jeffrey Osborne, From the Soul: The veteran has never sounded better on this CD of cover songs, especially on "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Knocks Me Off My Feet."

Victor Fields, Victor: The vocalist with chops galore gets help from producer Chris Camozzi on this sparkling set featuring "Night and Day," "Lush Life" and a tune penned by guitarist Chuck Loeb called "This Could Be Paradise."

Anita Baker, Christmas Fantasy: This is the jazz record that the veteran R&B artist always wanted to record.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:47 AM

November 25, 2005

Unique one-of-a-kind concerts highlight Berks Jazz Fest lineup

BerksJazzFest2006.jpgThe exclamation points punctuating the 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest are several exceptional one-of-a-kind concerts featuring some of the top names in jazz ... special events produced to usher magic into souls.

The festival, presented by the Berks Arts Council, features the brightest constellation of stars in its history. And considering the staggering scale of its proud legacy, that's a galaxy of star power.

The Berks Jazz Fest runs March 17-26, 2006 at multiple venues throughout Berks County and is stocked with a lineup of artists deep and talented enough to merit considerable conversation. There's such a vibe throughout Berks during the festival it's as if everybody is celebrating birthdays at the same time and everybody is invited to the party.

Unique concerts being produced for Berks Jazz Fest include tributes to the music of Marvin Gaye and Motown; Brazilian legend Ivan Lins; and guitar great Wes Montgomery.

DianneReeves.jpgThe festival has a spectacular beginning with Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves and keyboard icon Joe Sample performing in a grand opening concert.

The 10-day lineup once again is an amazing palette, featuring a diversity of musical styles that includes contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band, blues, Latin jazz, swing jazz, and more. Such an effusive range and depth give the festival a singular appeal that is never dulled by time.

The Berks Jazz Fest's 16th Anniversary Concert undoubtedly will be cause for some serious jubilation among patrons. It spotlights the Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown. Gaye, the bestselling Motown artist of all time, utilized his soulful voice to help shape the Motown sound. The music of Gaye and Motown has had a profound impact on the soulful grooves and stylish vocals that define smooth jazz.

Producer/arranger/keyboardist Jason Miles is using his extraordinary talents to blend the exquisite talents of vocalist Bobby Caldwell, superstar guitarist Peter White, vocalist Kevin Mahogany, vocalist Guida DePalma, vocalist Mike Mattison of Derek Trucks Band fame, guitarist Nick Colionne, saxophonist Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra fame, turntables master DJ Logic who is bringing jazz into the hip hop sphere, Brazilian pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano and Brazilian percussion master Bashiri Johnson.

JaneMonheit.jpgAnother enthralling special project being produced by Jason Miles for the festival is Ivan Lins & Friends, which features acclaimed Brazilian composer/pianist Ivan Lins himself, sensational vocalist Jane Monheit, renowned vocalist Brenda Russell, pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias, acclaimed saxophonist Nelson Rangell, Brazilian guitarist Homero Lubambo, guitarist Leonardo Avedo, percussionist Cyro Baptista, percussionist Vinny Colaiuta, David Letterman Band bassist Will Lee and top jazz trumpeter Tom Harrell.

The Tribute to Wes Montgomery promises to resonate with huge dollops of applause. It is being produced by Chuck Loeb, one of the best in the business. Marvelous guitarists joining Loeb are Pat Martino, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Carlton, Russell Malone, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Bruno. A rhythm section of keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Vinny Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee will help rekindle the music of the jazz guitar great. Montgomery's fluid style and trademark use of octaves inspired many of today's most popular guitarists.

The fest's stellar lineup is populated with the jazz and blues elite, artists guaranteed to rattle the tectonic plates under the greater Reading area during the 10-day riff. And if you think that's mere hyperbole, well, you've never experienced the crackling energy the festival generates.

Providing the Berks Jazz Fest with plenty of musical substance, style and splendor are the likes of:

Dianne Reeves, one of the pre-eminent jazz vocalists in the world. She won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for each her last three recordings -- a Grammy first in any vocacategory. Reeves is heavily featured in this fall's movie with a big buzz, George Clooney's Good Night. And Good Luck. Clooney handpicked each song for the film's soundtrack, featuring Dianne on new renditions of such classics as "One For My Baby," "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "Too Close for Comfort" as well as a new tune, "Who's Minding the Store." Reeves is noted for her powerful storytelling instinct, her breathtaking gift of improvisation and her unique blend of jazz and R&B stylings.

Joe Sample, the legendary pianist and composer who has been an integraand innovative part of jazz history.

Two esteemed composers/pianists in Ramsey Lewis, dubbed as the "the great performer", and David Benoit, who helped pioneer the contemporary jazz sound, performing with the Reading Pops Orchestra.

Charismatic trumpeter Rick Braun and sizzling saxophonist Richard Elliot performing together. These popular performers have captivated Berks Jazz Fest audiences over the years and teaming them up is sure to ignite a marvelous sound.

Culbertson_Tour.jpgDynamic multi-instrumentalist and fan favorite Brian Culbertson with special guest saxophonist Eric Darius. Culbertson, primarily a keyboardist, is a smooth jazz icon and he's notable for balancing a sense of cool seduction with one of the most energetic live shows in the genre. Darius is one of the hottest young stars in smooth jazz.

Legendary guitarist Chieli Minucci & Special EFX with special guest guitarist Ken Navarro.

Saxophonist Bob Mintzer of Yellowjackets fame.

The River City Brass Band, which masterfully combines the full richness of a symphony orchestra, the intimacy of a chamber ensemble and the swinging sound of a big band into an entertaining mix.

Eclectic guitarist Larry Carlton of Fourplay fame and the Blue Sapphire Band.

Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., who excels as a solo artist, sideman and session player and is considered to be one of the funkiest, soulful and versatile guitarists in all of smooth jazz.

Renowned guitarist, composer, arranger, producer, educator and recording artist Chuck Loeb.

Superstar bassist and Berks Jazz Fest perennial Gerald Veasley, who has made Berks County his second home with his bass boot camp during the festival and the weekly Thursday jazz shows throughout the year at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.

Internationally prominent and groundbreaking vocalist, composer and lyricist Kurt Elling, who will team up with Gerald Veasley.

KirkWhalum_live2.jpgSuperstar soulful saxophonists Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, who share a mutual love for the music and legacy of Grover Washington Jr., teaming up and performing with one band.

The young faces of jazz: pianist prodigy Taylor Eigsti and precocious guitarist Julian Lage.

And the list of 2006 Berks Jazz Fest artists goes on with such luminaries as The Robert Cray Band that is ushering the blues idiom in the future; versatile saxophonist Najee, one of contemporary jazz's true pioneers; the legendary Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, featuring all-time great trombonist Buddy Morrow as conductor; Pieces of a Dream, one of the most popular and enduring recording and touring ensembles in contemporary jazz; guitarist/vocalist Steve Oliver; saxophonist Michael Paulo; superstar bassist Michael Manring; electric violinist Tracy Silverman; and Reading's own Grammy Award-winning guitarist David Cullen, a featured soloist in the 2006-2007 Windham Hill 30th Anniversary Winter Solstice Concerts.

JohnMayall.jpgAlso, dynamic guitarist Richard Smith's and talented keyboardist Freddie Ravel's Power Quartet; superstar urban smooth jazz saxophonist and trendsetter Kim Waters; jazz organ sensation Gene Ludwig's Trio featuring guitarist Dave Stryker and percussionist Vince Ector; dynamic jazz guitarist Carl Filipiak and his group in a special Jimi Hendrix tribute; jazz/blues pianist/vocalist Mose Allison, noted for his incredible stylistic diversity; blues guitarist Guy Davis; blues pianist/vocalist Marcia Ball, known as the bayou queen of the piano; blues guitarist Clarence Spady from nearby Scranton; blues and soul-drenched vocalist Deb Callahan and her band; the legendary Godfather of British blues John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, a group that served as a finishing school for such marquee blues rockers as guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor; the Mulgrew Miller Trio; Bona Fide featuring the smooth jazz vocals of Slim Man; and Jazz Goes to Church featuring accomplished pianist Cyrus Chestnut, marquee vocalist Kevin Mahogany and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra.

Of course, the Berks All-Star Jam is a perennial must-see concert. This year's party features Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, keyboardist/vocalist Joe McBride, saxophonist Kenny Blake, drummer Steve Smith of Journey and Vital Information fame, and keyboardist Tom Coster of Santana and Vital Information acclaim, and more.

Plus, there's the Berks Jazz Fest Fantasy Camp Faculty Concert featuring Mulgrew Miller, Kurt Elling, Jimmy Bruno, Bob Mintzer, Steve Smith, trumpeter John Swana, bassist Christian McBride and more -- a must attraction for fans of more traditional jazz.

Little wonder that the Berks Jazz Fest regularly attracts 45,000-plus patrons from approximately 40 states, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, England and Europe ... jazz lovers who spend an estimated $5 million in Berks County during the festival.

Including a number of non-ticketed events, there likely will be over 130 concerts at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout the greater Reading area.

Yes, the Berks Jazz Fest figures to be a hyperkinetic 10 days guaranteed to raise eyebrows, waggle ears, generate sunbeam smiles, bob heads in rhythm and trigger hands to clap. Rapture, you know, does that to people.

Schedule of major ticketed events:

Friday, March 17 -- Dianne Reeves plus Joe Sample, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 17 -- The Inn of Blues: Mose Allison plus Guy Davis, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 8 p.m., $28

Friday, March 17 -- Pieces of a Dream, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $38

Saturday, March 18 -- The Inn of Blues: Marcia Ball plus Clarence Spady and Deb Callahan Band, Inn at Reading Ballroom, 7 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 18 -- Michael Manring, Tracy Silverman and David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Saturday, March 18 -- Ramsey Lewis & David Benoit with the Reading Pops Orchestra, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 18 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $38

Sunday, March 19 -- Jazz Goes to Church featuring Cyrus Chestnut, Kevin Mahogany and Kendrick Oliver & The New Life Jazz Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 19 -- 16th Anniversary Concert: The Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown featuring Jason Miles, Bobby Caldwell, Peter White, Kevin Mahogany, Guida DePalma, Mike Mattison, Nick Colionne, Jay Beckenstein, Gerald Albright, DJ Logic, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Bashiri Johnson and more, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Monday, March 20 -- The Young Faces of Jazz: Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lage, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $15

Tuesday, March 21 -- Mulgrew Miller Trio, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $20

Wednesday, March 22 -- Berks Jazz Fest Fantasy Camp Faculty Concert: Mulgrew Miller, Kurt Elling, Christian McBride, Jimmy Bruno, Bob Mintzer, John Swana and Steve Smith, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom 7:30 p.m., $25

Thursday, March 23 -- Gene Ludwig Trio featuring Dave Stryker and Vince Ector, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $10

Thursday, March 23 -- Chieli Minucci & Special EFX featuring Ken Navarro and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $30

Thursday, March 23 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Joe McBride, Kenny Blake, Steve Smith, Tom Coster and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 24 -- Gerald Veasley with special guest Kurt Elling, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Friday, March 24 -- An Evening With Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., $45 and $38

Friday, March 24 -- River City Brass Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $25 and $20

Friday, March 24 -- Jimi Hendrix Tribute: The Carl Filipiak Group, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 9 p.m., $15

Friday, March 24 -- Najee, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 25 -- Larry Carlton & The Blue Sapphire Band plus Richard Smith & Freddie Ravel Power Quartet featuring special guest Kim Waters, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 1 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 25 -- Triad featuring Steve Oliver, Michael Paulo and Gerald Veasley, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Ivan Lins & Friends featuring Ivan Lins, Jason Miles, Jane Monheit, Brenda Russell, Eliane Elias, Nelson Rangell, Homero Lubambo, Leonardo Avedo, Cyro Baptista, Vinny Colaiuta, Will Lee, Tom Harrell and more, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $45 and $38

Saturday, March 25 -- The Robert Cray Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $40 and $35

Saturday, March 25 -- John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, March 25 -- Brian Culbertson with special guest Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- WJJZ Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch: Paul Jackson Jr., Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., $35

Sunday, March 26 -- Bona Fide featuring Slim Man, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel. 3 p.m., $20

Sunday, March 26 -- Tribute to Wes Montgomery: Chuck Loeb, Pat Martino, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Carlton, Russell Malone, Earl Klugh and Jimmy Bruno plus a rhythm section of keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Vinny Colaiuta and bassist Will Lee, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $40 and $35

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:20 PM

November 24, 2005

Kenny G Best-Of Collection His Biggest Ever

Look for some personal notes from Kenny G with the debut of his 31-song greatest hits collection on Jan. 24.

kennyg_150.jpgSaxophonist Kenny G has released several best-of collections, but an upcoming one will be the first to have the saxophonist’s personal comments attached to each selection. The Essential Kenny G, on Arista/Legacy, is the most extensive collection of his career as it features two CDs and 31 songs.

It’s being released in January to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Kenny’s Duotones CD of 1986. That CD sold more than 5 million copies and is considered his breakthrough project. The first single from that CD, “Songbird,” remains one of Kenny’s most popular and he says in the liner notes that he wrote it as a love letter to Lyndie Benson, a woman Kenny met at a concert two years earlier. They later became man and wife.

The Essential Kenny G will be released on Jan. 24.

The Essential Kenny G

1. Songbird (Kenny G) -5:02
2. Sade (Kenny G) -4:18
3. Slip Of The Tongue (Preston Glass, Narada Michael Walden) -4:50
4. Don't Make Me Wait For Love (Featuring Lenny Williams) (Preston Glass, Walter Afanasieff, Narada Michael Walden) - 4:01
5. Silhouette (Kenny G) - 5:27
6. Against Doctors Orders (Kenny G, Preston Glass, Alan Glass) - 4:43
7. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) (Featuring Ellis Hall) (Johnny Bristol, Vernon Bullock, Harvey Fuqua) - 4:07
8. Brazil (Kenny G., Walter Afanasieff) - 4:36
9. Theme From Dying Young (James Newton Howard) - 3:58
10. We've Saved The Best For Last (Featuring Smokey Robinson) (Lou Pardini, Dennis Matkosky, Paul Gordon) - 4:18
11. Forever In Love (Kenny G) - 4:57
12. Midnight Motion live (Kenny G) - 8:21
13. By The Time This Night Is Over (Featuring Peabo Bryson) (Michael Bolton, Diane Warren, Andy Goldmark) - 4:22
14. Loving You (Dan Shea, Walter Afanasieff, Kenny G) - 3:17
15. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane) - 3:54
16. Sentimental (Kenny G., Walter Afanasieff) - 6:34

1. What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong with Kenny G) (George David Weiss, Robert Thiele) - 2:59
2. Morning (Kenny G., Walter Afanasieff) - 5:14
3. Sister Rose (Kenny G., Walter Afanasieff) - 6:12
4. Even If My Heart Would Break (Featuring Aaron Neville) (Franne Golde, Adrian Gurvitz) - 4:58
5. The Moment (Kenny G) - 6:00
6. Summertime (Featuring George Benson) (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Dubose Heyward) - 6:43
7. Missing You Now (Michael Bolton featuring Kenny G) (Michael Bolton, Walter Afanasieff, Diane Warren) - 4:34
8. Pick Up The Pieces (Featuring David Sanborn) (Alan Gorrie, Owen McIntyre, Roger Ball, Malcolm Duncan, Robbie McIntosh,
Hamish Stuart) - 4:13
9. My Heart Will Go On (James Horner, Will Jennings) - 4:21
10. Beautiful (Featuring Chaka Khan) (Linda Perry) - 3:43
11. Havana (Kenny G., Walter Afanasieff) - 7:20
12. Going Home (Kenny G., Walter Afanasieff) - 5:30
13. The Way You Move (Featuring Earth Wind and Fire) (Antwan Patton, Carlton Mahone, Patrick Brown) - 4:08
14. Deck The Halls/The Twelve Days of Christmas Medley (Traditional) - 2:59
15. Auld Lang Syne The Millennium Mix (Traditional) - 7:52

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:50 PM

November 17, 2005

Sony Recalls Chris Botti's Latest CD

Major record label recalling up to 5 million CDs.

Earlier this week, Sony BMG Music announced that it would temporarily suspend production of music CDs with anti-piracy software called XCP – or “extended copy protection” – that when played on Windows PCs leave them vulnerable to viruses and hackers. Now Sony will now recall nearly 5 million of the CDS, which includes Chris Botti’s latest album called To Love Again. In addition, Sony has announced several other titles that are affected and will be recalled, including So Amazing: All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross and At This Time by Burt Bacharach.

Sony BMG had created a website where users could uninstall the software that allowed the CD to play on computers, but now says that it will soon release an updated uninstall program. In addition, Microsoft has announced that its upcoming Windows Update will remove the malicious software. Sony says that customers can exchange any CD with the XCP software for a replacement copy without it. For more information, go to

Posted by Brian Soergel at 2:58 AM

November 13, 2005

Rick Braun - Yours Truly

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. Rick Braun describes his latest CD Yours Truly as ‘a musical letter’, as ‘songs of my life that for various reasons have made up a special part of my musical landscape.’ It takes just one listen or a glimpse at the liner notes to appreciate how personal Yours Truly is and it’s this that sets the project apart from being just another collection of covers. From tunes that evoke great memories to others that Rick simply loves, here is a musical tapestry of his life, the classic story of the promising sideman who went on to become the pre-eminent smooth jazz trumpeter of his time.

With every number deconstructed to the very minimum and backing that is both subtle and of the highest quality throughout, Braun looks right back to his boyhood days in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and of falling in love for the first time to the strains of the classic Michel Legrand song ‘What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life’. His rendition, embellished here by the silky piano skills of David Benoit, is magical. He recalls Lou Reed's ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ as like nothing he had ever heard before and has some fun with his memories from 1977 and the move he made from Rochester NY to Los Angeles in what he describes as a rusted out Chevy Nova. It was the soul of Barry White's ‘Love Theme’, and of Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘Shining Star’ that consumed him then and this latter track is the first from the album to be selected for radio play. Not surprisingly it is already tearing up the ‘Top Thirty Most Played’ chart.

Once in LA Braun became the ‘go to guy’ whenever a top notch trumpet player was needed to tour and this led him to work with such diverse talents as War, Rickie Lee Jones, Tina Turner, Glenn Frey, Natalie Cole, Tom Petty, Crowded House and Phoebe Snow. He uses the Dee Lite tune ‘Groove Is In My Heart’ to remember his return to LA in 1990 following a Rod Stewart tour and then chooses ‘Kiss Of Life’ as his very own tribute to Sade with whom he spent 1992 as her trumpet player on the Love Deluxe tour.

With an eye on all time personal favourites he includes two tracks from English artists, Simply Red's ‘Holding Back The Years’ and the Lisa Stansfield hit ‘All Around The World’. He handles both with huge sensitivity and makes them highlights of the entire collection.

Of course Rick Braun the fast living touring musician of the eighties is now Rick Braun smooth jazz superstar and family man. To reflect this he includes the John Mayer tune ‘Daughters’. It works well. It’s been a long road from the jazz-fusion outfit Auracle that Braun formed while a student at the prestigious Eastman School of Music to his solo debut with Intimate Secrets in 1993 and the chart topping success he routinely enjoys today. Be that as it may Rick is here to tell the story and, with Yours Truly, to share with his fans the memory of it all.

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 3:51 PM

November 12, 2005

Steve Oliver Offers Holiday CD On Website

Southern California guitarist creates inspiring music.

img3.gifLyrical guitarist Steve Oliver has just released his first holiday album, Snowfall, which at this time can only be found on his newly redesigned website at

The 10-song CD is offered by Oliver’s Oohla Productions and features such standards as “Carol of the Bells,” “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “The Christmas Song” and “Little Drummer Boy.” Steve wrote two original songs, an instrumental called “Crystals in the Snow” and “Watching the Snow,” which features his lead vocals. In addition to playing guitar and singing on the CD, Oliver also played keyboards and percussion while handing the musical programming.

Contributing to the CD are pianist Tony Windle, saxophonist Will Donato and bassist KT Tyler.

To purchase Snowfall you can download the entire album for $10 or you can have it delivered for $15. The CD is Oliver’s follow-up to 3D, which was released on the Koch label.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:55 AM

November 10, 2005

Mindi Abair Dedicating Song On New CD To New Orleans

The saxophonist is just about finished with her third major smooth jazz release.

Smooth jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair has entered the famed Capitol Studios in Los Angeles to finish recording her third CD and follow-up to Come As You Are. She has completed a tune called “Rain” that she’s dedicating to the people of New Orleans, many of whom were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Other songs include “Far Away,” which features a string section directed by Julie Rogers, “Bloom,” “Do You Miss Me?” and “Slinky,” which Abair calls a fun and sexy, Euro-inspired tune that she plays the soprano saxophone on.

As we’ve reported, the majority of the songs are written by Abair and her writing partner Matthew Hager. In addition to songs written with Adam Levy, the guitarist in Norah Jones’ band, and with blues legend Keb’ Mo’, Abair has called on numerous musicians to guest star on the CD, including vocalist Lalah Hathaway, keyboardist Ricky Peterson, bassists Stan Sargeant and Larry Klein and percussionist Paulinho da Costa.

The CD is expected to be released in the spring of 2006. Abair says she’s realizing a lifelong dream to record at Capitol Studios, where trumpeter Chris Botti also recorded his new CD called To Love Again.

"I definitely look forward to recording," she says. "You’ve written these songs and you have a specific sound in your head of what you want these songs to sound like. It’s a really fun yet arduous process. You know, I mean you’re sitting there, hmm, I hear this kind of thing and I go through five million keyboard sounds to try and find the right sound that I’m hearing. And so it is this really fun experiment of what we can make of this music that’s been in our heads for so long."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:12 AM

November 7, 2005

The Veterans Hit Las Vegas

Sometimes it's amazing just how long some artists can last, but a lot of times when you see what they have accomplished it's no surprise.

Singer/musician Diane Schuur kicked off November at the Boulder Station Hotel on the 2nd with her mainstream approach and top notch musicality. She has definitely set a standard for herself, and for the jazz industry as well.

Burt Bacharach, songwriter, arranger, Oscar and Grammy winner, brings his song catalog of hits to perform at the Orleans Hotel for four big nights, November 10-13.

Al Jarreau, Grammy winner, and another ageless veteran of smooth jazz, contemporary jazz, pop, and R & B, sets foot on the mainroom stage of the Suncoast Hotel showroom November 11-13.

One artist, guitarist Peter White, who is still building his mountain of artistry in his career, will be hosting a great holiday show at the UNLV Performing Arts Center. It's the Peter White Christmas Show, Friday, November 25th, with special guest, the very saxy sounds of Mindi Abair.

Saxophonist Paul Taylor, who just keeps coming with the hits, more so now than ever before, rarely performs at home. But the Santa Fe Hotel will be hosting one night with Paul on December 10th.

It's a month where quality matters, and not quantity.

Posted by Danny Desart at 11:10 PM

November 5, 2005

A Valentine’s Day treat from Victor Fields could be paradise for music lovers

The soul-jazz crooner’s diverse Victor album will be prefaced by “This Could Be Paradise” & “Golden Lady”

Victor Fields is in love again and that’s great news for music fans. The Bay Area-based soul-jazz song stylist will release his third album, Victor, on Valentine’s Day. The diverse Regina Records collection of soulful R&B, adult pop, cool contemporary jazz and romantic jazz standards was produced by Chris Camozzi, who also serves as Fields’ music director. Two tracks – Chuck Loeb’s “This Could Be Paradise” and Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady” - will be serviced to radio after the holiday season; the label will go for adds on the tracks at smooth jazz radio on January 16th.

Fields’ voice is suave and sophisticated, elegant and inviting, and he carefully selected the ten songs that comprise the new album. Actually he fell in love with them, but if you ask him, he’ll tell you that the songs selected him. This is Fields’ second consecutive album produced by Camozzi. The duo collaborated on the critically acclaimed 52nd Street, which hit the Billboard chart and featured appearances by Chris Botti, Jeff Lorber and Gerald Albright. For Victor, Fields found himself swooning over a diverse collection of songs that tap into an array of emotions and moods, such as ebullience (“This Could Be Paradise”), hope (“Love Will Save the Day”), amorous (Diane Warren’s “Show Me the Way Back to Your Heart”), pain and loneliness (Vince Gill’s “Colder Than Winter”), yearning (“Something Tells Me”) and victorious (“It’s Never Too Late in Life”). Fields put fresh spins on dramatic classics by Cole Porter (“Night and Day”) and Billy Strayhorn (“Lush Life”), which are certain to please traditional jazz connoisseurs. The songs are what is most important to Fields and he enjoys exercising the freedom to choose material from virtually any genre of popular music, although the common thread is love. Camozzi’s production is lush yet unobtrusive, allowing Fields’ passionate tenor vocals to shine front and center, and the musicianship on the record is accomplished. It was important to both artist and producer to keep the production sounding “live.”

VictorFields.jpg“There’s something for everyone on my albums,” explained Fields. “The music I record caters to audiences that are multi-racial, multi-cultural and trans-generational. Each song was important and Chris (Camozzi) and I spent as much time as was necessary on song selection, the arrangements and casting the right musicians even before we went into the studio (to record). In recent years, there have been some big artists who are reinventing themselves by recording standards and covers, but I’ve been doing it for years with a soulful and contemporary approach. My intention is to put my own stamp on fresh interpretations of classic songs for audiences that may be hearing them for the first time.”

Although his mother was a Julliard-trained musician, she urged her son to be practical about his career choice, which is why he initially shelved his dream of becoming a singer in favor of becoming a businessman. She passed without ever pursuing her own musical aspirations and that inspired Fields to commit to his undeniable first love. He penned personal and revealing songs for his debut album, Promise, which was produced by Grammy-winner Kashif. Both Promise and 52nd Street have garnered positive reviews in publications such as USA Today, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

Above all, Fields loves being on stage singing for appreciative audiences. Plans are being made to support the album release with an East Coast concert tour in the spring. Dates and cities will be announced.

Victor FieldsVictor album contains the following songs:

“This Could Be Paradise”
“Love Will Save the Day”
“Show Me the Way Back to Your Heart”
“Colder Than Winter”
“Golden Lady”
“Night and Day”
“Lush Life”
“We’ll All Be Free”
“Something Tells Me”
“It’s Never Too Late in Life”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:40 PM

November 3, 2005

Joyce Cooling Cancels Cruise Due To Injury

Guitarist now recuperating and working on new CD.

JoyceCooling_live.jpgBack problems have forced smooth jazz guitarist Joyce Cooling to cancel her appearance on this month’s first-ever All Star Smooth Jazz Cruise hosted by trumpeter Rick Braun.

Although Cooling recently strained her back while hauling musical equipment, she had hoped to still be able to set sail when the cruise departs on Nov. 13. But Cooling's manager says that she’s decided that it would be better for her to remain in her Bay Area home to recuperate while canceling all appearances for the rest of the year. Her first appearance in 2006 is scheduled for Jan. 14 in Cerritos, Calif.

Cooling is now focused on her rebabilitation and is working with musical partner Jay Wagner on a new album to follow-up her March 2004 release called This Girl’s Got to Play.

"We’ve written a bunch of songs for it," Cooling says. "And, as always but even more now than ever – and I think I say this every CD – I’m ready for a change. I need to stretch in a different way. I need to do some different things. I’ve been fooling around with a balalaika, and it’s given me some different chords and just opened up my head a little bit. I’ve been playing a little bit of keyboards, working on some vocals and just stretching out."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:22 AM

November 2, 2005

Chris Botti - To Love Again

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. Will the real Chris Botti please stand up? The multiple musical facets of this quality smooth jazz trumpeter must at times leave him with a serious headache. In recent times he has juggled his frequent television spots with live performances for Hilary Clinton and has played ‘God Bless America’ at the 2005 World Series. He has combined a hectic tour schedule with his new role as smooth jazz radio’s voice of chill yet among all of that here he is with his new CD To Love Again offering up 13 newly recorded pop and jazz standards that feature nine vocal performances of varying appeal.

To Love Again is the successor to Botti's gold album When I Fall In Love which turned out to be one of the biggest sellers of 2004. It has sold more than 500,000 copies to-date, tapping into the record-buying public's desire for classic romantic jazz sounds and their seemingly insatiable hunger for morsels from the ‘Great American Songbook.’

Among the vocal duets that feature on nine of the thirteen songs, Botti weaves in four trumpet solo’s that are of the highest order. To Love Again is a nice barometer for the dreamy mood of the entire collection, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ is ultra cool and Botti does a nice job on that classic tune ‘What’s New’ Best of the four solo’s and a contender for best track on the album is Botti’s sublime version of the timeless Gershwin classic ‘Embraceable You’. It is quite simply stunning.

As said, as far as the vocal duets are concerned, the results are variable. Botti played with Sting for two years from 2000 as part of the Brand New Day tour so it’s not surprising that he was able to get the English vocalist to guest on To Love Again. The result, ‘What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life’, is by no means a stand out although there is no doubt that the mass audience appeal and ‘street cred’ that Sting offers to any project makes it worth having him around.

Much better in fact is the number Botti performs with Paula Cole who also featured on When I Fall In Love. The track, ‘My One And Only Love’, is so beautiful and so warm that the listener is sure to realize that irrespective of age or taste there is a point in everyone’s music listening life where a tune like this seems just perfect.

As on his last album, Chris Botti is joined by the London Session Orchestra, who add lush tones to the album's arrangements throughout and their presence is in evidence on another classic, ‘Let There Be Love’ featuring Michael Buble on vocals. I have a problem with Buble in that he appears to be not much more than a credible Frank Sinatra wannabe. That would be OK if it was not for the fact that the talented Harry Connick Jr. is still around and doing the same thing. One person should be adequate to fill the shoes of Sinatra, if indeed they ever can be filled, so there seems hardly room for another. That said ‘Let There Be Love’ has a feeling all its own and Buble does it well.

Both ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’ and ‘Smile’ featuring Rosa Passos and Steven Tyler respectively are a little dreary while ‘Pennies From Heaven’ featuring Renee Olstead is nothing more than a nice version of this much loved standard. Paul Buchanan’s distinctive vocals turn out not to be a marriage made in heaven with the song ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ but Gladys Knight, in late night cabaret mode, is predictably wonderful with ‘Lover Man’. Its one of the albums true stand outs as is ‘Good Morning Heartache’ featuring Jill Scott. This melodic and subtly funky number, with the introduction of Scott’s vocals so delayed that when they do arrive it comes as a delightful surprise, is the first track from the album to be identified for radio play and is already being predicated to do well on smooth jazz radio. The tune is further enriched by the arrangement and keyboard playing of Greg Phillinganes, who can also be found in collaboration with Herbie Hancock on his current project Possibilities.

As with When I Fall In Love which was devoted to once and future classic love songs, the collection that is To Love Again invites the listener to romantically chill, perhaps not with the contemporary vibe that Botti engenders on his weekly syndicated radio show but more in the way that lovers have chilled over the last seven decades. As they say, what goes around comes around and as it does Chris Botti is proving, in all his guises, to be the king of chill that can transcend the years.

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 8:19 AM

November 1, 2005

Contempo November 2005

In 1993, Brian Culbertson was a skinny, introverted but enormously talented college student putting the finishing touches on his debut recording Long Night Out between classes at DePaul University in Chicago. Working diligently among the small rack of machinery in a spare bedroom in his campus apartment, the 20 year old keyboardist had no clue that his ultra-catchy, easy grooving tunes would someday become all the rage in smooth jazz.

Anyone with a prescient ear might have predicted that his style would work well on radio, but 12 years and eight hit albums later, he’s also emerged as one of the genre’s most riveting live acts. When he’s not swaying sensuously around his keyboards, he’s grabbing the trombone (actually his first instrument), blowing heavy with his horn section - which now includes his father Jim, still the band director at Culbertson’s old high school in Decatur, Illinois - and prowling around the stage like a giddy madman, jamming with his band. On the ballads, his seductive moves perform double duty, seducing the women in the audience and the keys at the same time.

“When my first album came out and Mesa Records asked me to do some dates, I was really gun shy,” he remembers. “I spent my high school years working on music in the basement of my parent’s house, and the only live gigs I’d ever done were playing trombone in high school jazz bands and a few gigs in sections. Thankfully, Harry Hmura, my guitar player friend who played on my early recordings, knew the ropes and told me how to handle things on the road. The first gig was a disaster, though. It was bad weather in Cleveland and maybe six people showed up. So I pretended it was like batting practice. I started to get more comfortable and confident as more of my songs became radio hits and people started coming to the shows to hear me specifically. That’s when I started adding sexier moves onstage, too!”

With the release of It’s On Tonight, his debut for GRP Records which of all his albums most effectively transfers that soothing eroticism to disc, he’s officially become the Barry White of smooth jazz. He’s paler and slimmer than the late soul legend, but there’s no mistaking what this 12 song set - which features romantic vocal textures by Will Downing, Ledisi and Patti Austin, silky touches by genre pals Chris Botti, Kirk Whalum and Boney James, and even a violin harmony Culbertson’s multi-talented wife Michelle - is designed to do.

The concept for an all “bedroom eyes” disc - which he more formally describes as “grooves designed to accompany every stage of romance” - came to Culbertson after years of hearing fans tell him that they and their spouses or boy/girlfriends (fill in the blank) to his songs. “The idea is, it’s gonna be on tonight, it’s gonna happen, and the listener can decide what it is, but most of us can guess pretty easily,” the keyboardist laughs.

“I’ve always said that music is the soundtrack for people’s lives, and it’s great to be able to provide inspiration and something to set the mood,” he adds. “My last album, Come On Up, was such a party album that I had to hire a horn section to play a lot of the songs on the road. This time, I stripped down to a simpler story about creating an evening from start to finish. The first track, ‘Let’s Get Started,’ is the funkiest track, capturing the energy of anticipation. You’re getting ready for a night on the town. ‘Hookin’ Up’ is more playful, and by the time you hit the title track, you hear Will Downing’s invitation, ‘if you come home with me, baby, it’s on tonight.’” Later, there’s the danger of ‘Forbidden Love’ which prompts you to catch yourself and remember your true love on ‘Dreaming of You.’ The album ends with a soft new age/classical piano solo which could be a chillout song or a lullaby.”

With his last album, Culbertson capitalized on radio’s love for instantly recognizable instrumental cover tunes with the airplay hit Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire.” But he felt that throwing in a familiar classic this time would break the heartfelt effect he was aiming for. “I knew that a remake would evoke memories of earlier relationships,” he says, “and I wanted this project to be all about creating new memories, living and loving in the moment. So someday when people hear these songs, they can remember when they ‘filled in the blank’ listening.”

Likewise, he instinctively knew when one of his original songs was worthy of becoming a chapter in his lighthearted tale of love, unlimited. “It was fun making a concept record because I wasn’t just focused on gathering a bunch of cool tracks,” he says. “When I was working on a song, I instantly knew whether it would fit. There were no ‘maybes’ or ‘I’ll get back to this,’ it was just obvious. All that aside, though, it’s just an enjoyable disc to listen to, and a fun journey no matter what you use it for. You don’t have to be having sex to enjoy it, but it’s there if you need it.”

Another groove-intensive genre keyboard great taking the conceptual approach these days is Joe McBride, who wants us to get jazzed up for a night of hardcore poker playing - capitalizing on the current national craze - on Texas Hold ‘Em, his first release for Heads Up since 2002’s Keepin’ It Real. The front cover photo shows him all smiles, holding a jack and king of hearts, surrounded by hotties in cowboy hats; the back, two aces and assorted chips. Musically, the generally happy and optimistic, uptempo funk vibe (read: he and his band, The Texas Rhythm Club, have got a winning hand) comes across with the help of casino friendly titles like “Big Slick,” “Double Down” and “No Limit.” The closing tune “One Eyed Jack,” has more of a sinister dark vibe, modal in the Miles-Coltrane sense, invoking the atmosphere of a tense, smoke filled room. Slightly off the topic but no less engaging are the moody, wistful “The River” and the most unexpected treat, a bluesy, darkly chorded, heavy bottom jam of the Iron Butterfly classic “”In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” McBride’s spirited piano improvisations make this version - which clocks in some 13 minutes shorter than the original - far less doom laden than the original.

Blind since his teen years, McBride reveals just why he’s so happy that he can turn darkness to light so effortlessly: “I have a someone custom making me a deck of Braille cards to play with, and I vow I’m going to master this game. Funny thing, though. If I want, I’ll be able to feel what the card is when everyone else has theirs face down and out of sight. But that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?”

Expanding towards metaphor, McBride muses, “Poker and jazz are a lot alike in their unpredictability and their exploration of the unknown. As a musician, the things I’ve been through and the people I’ve played with to this point have provided me with a certain hand, and it’s up to me to make that experience work to my advantage. I like to think that with each new album and development in my life, I am enjoying a unique evolutionary process. I love music, it’s a part of my soul and I enjoy the constant challenge of creating new ways to express it. For me, the greatest thing is taking certain risks yet not knowing where they’re all going to take me... yes, very much like playing poker.”


1) Jamie Oldaker, Mad Dogs and Okies (Concord) – The all-star brainchild of popular sideman rock drummer Jamie Oldaker, this gritty, roots rocking collection celebrates a wealth of Oklahoma based songwriting and performing with Eric Clapton, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson Peter Frampton, Taj Mahal, J.J. Cale and a host of other heartland blues/rockers.
2) Seal, Live in Paris (Warner Bros.)
3) Coldplay, X&Y (Capitol)
4) Jim Chappell, Coming Through (Unspeakable Freedom Music)
5) John Stevens, Red (Maverick)


1) Paul Brown, The City (GRP
2) Bona Fide, Soul Lounge (Heads Up)
3) Euge Groove, Just Feels Right (Narada Jazz)
4) Various Artists, Def Jazz (GRP)
5) Earl Klugh, Naked Guitar (Koch Records)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 8:28 PM