Photo and Text By Ricky Richardson
Los Angeles - The beautiful, well manicured lawn of the Playboy Mansion was the perfect setting for the annual Playboy Jazz Festival Press Conference. Los Angeles County High School For The Arts Jazz Combo- Daniel Richardson-saxophone, Greg Diaz-trumpet, Michael McTaggart-guitar, Christopher Bowers-keyboards, Garrett Lang-bass and Max Wrightson-drums provided entertainment for the arriving guest.
This year's line-up is as eclectic as ever with a mixture of musical genres to please everyone who will attend the 28th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival, presented in co-operation with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
The birth place of jazz will be celebrated at this year?s event. Several well known musicians from the Crescent City - New Orleans will be featured performers to the delight of festival goers. The entourage from New Orleans consists of Branford Marsalis Quartet (from the first family of jazz), Elvis Costello and The Imposters featuring piano and songs of legendary Allen Toussaint with his New Orleans Horn Section - The River in Reverse Tour 2006. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band will play some early traditional/Dixieland jazz. Expect to see impromptu Secondline dancing throughout the Bowl.
The Playboy Jazz Festival will feature a marvelous smorgasbord of world music. Senegalese master musician Baabal Maal featuring Daande Lenol, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra is considered one of the pillars of contemporary Latin music, Latin pianist Eddie Palmieri and His Afro-Caribbean Jazz All-Stars with special guest violinist Regina Carter and saxophonist David Sanchez. The powerful concoction of Latin flavored jazz mix with funk and salsa explains why Ozomatli is making their fourth appearance at the Playboy Jazz Festival within the last 10 years.
The jazz purist has a lot to be proud of this year. Singer and pianist Jamie Cullum is an up and coming crooner that will please the crowd. Jazz legend and trailblazer tenor saxophonist Benny Golson Quartet, as well as the Golden Striker Trio - feature three legends that has performed with a who?s who of the jazz world. This trio consists of Ron Carter, Mulgrew Miller and Russell Malone. Los Angeles based Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with Vibraphonist Stefon Harris will perform a tribute to Milt Jackson. Hiromi is a sensational pianist from Japan guaranteed to mesmerize the audience the same way she has mesmerize the jazz community. The Cos of Good Music featuring a stellar group of musicians such as Dwayne Bruno, Ndugu Chancler, Gerald Clayton, Kevin Eubanks, and Steve Turre. McCoy Tyner Trio with the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Lesa Terry and the Women's Jazz Orchestra of Los Angeles and Elder Edward Babb and the McCollough Sons of Thunder.
Fans of popular contemporary, smooth jazz will be in for a treat this year. The atmosphere at the Bowl will "Feels So Good" with the long awaited debut of trumpet great Chuck Mangione who will captivate the crowd with his boundless energy and the pure joy that one feels while listening to his live performance as well as his recordings on previous CDs. Renowned bassist Stanley Clarke/George Duke Project will liven up the afternoon with a funk driven set. "Groovin For Grover" is a celebration of the music of Grover Washington Jr. featuring Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber and Kirk Whalum. This show will benefit The Grover Washington Jr. Protect The Dream Foundation.
Finally, the 28th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival organizers believe in encouraging and supporting up and coming jazz musicians. The future of jazz will be represented with the dynamic sounds of Elder Djangirov, trumpeter Christian Scott (From New Orleans), and the always entertaining Los Angeles County High School For the Arts Jazz Ensemble directed by Jason Goldman.
Everyone is happy that Mr. Bill Cosby has returned to be the Master of Ceremonies.
George Wein serves as the Producer of the Playboy Jazz Festival for the 28th consecutive year. Darlene Chan is Associate Producer for both the Playboy Jazz Festival and Festival Productions, Inc. Hugh Hefner is Executive Producer and Richard Rosenzweig is President of the Playboy Jazz Festival. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is once again the official sponsor of the 28th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival. This is the organization?s fourth year sponsoring the festival.
Tickets for the Playboy Jazz Festival is available by mail order. You can call (310)450-1173 to request a mail order form or visit www.playboy.com/jazzfest.
Guitar Made Simple comes on a CD-ROM, with a discount if purchased before Feb. 28.
Several years ago, guitarist Chris Standring created a guitar-lesson course focusing on jazz called Play What You Hear. It was designed for those who already played the guitar. Now Standring is offering a brand-new course, Guitar Made Simple, that is designed for beginning and intermediate guitar players. The home-study course, which comes on a CD-ROM, offers numerous videos of Standring explaining the lessons as he goes along. There are 12 chapters covering everything from how to hold the guitar, learning chords and how to read simple music. The course gets more detailed as it moves along.
I have a copy of Guitar Made Simple and heartily recommend it to beginners and for those with a little experience.
Standring will release a brand-new CD in May called Soul Express.
"There is so much going on here. There is Latin Jazz, Avant Garde and Be Bop," contemporary Jazz vocalist Brenda Earle says of the New York City music scene. It all seems so distant from her days as a teenager wearing combat boots, black nail polish and listening to punk rock music while growing up in the central Canada city of Sarnia.
Earle who moved to New York City slightly more than three years ago says, "I already had an established career in Toronto (Canada). For four or five years after I graduated I was hanging out in Toronto. I was making a pretty good living playing gigs over there and I was one of the (artists) people would check out in Toronto. Then I uprooted myself (and moved) to New York City. I became a very small fish in a very big pond. I had to figure out how to support myself while doing music and also how to stand out while becoming established was a big double edged sword. It is definitely not for everybody. It is definitely a struggle but it has been worth it for me."
Although she may still be considered an emerging artist Brenda Earle had drawn rave reviews from the press with the Washington Post referring to "her finesse as a vocalist", The Press in New Zealand compares her music to a mixture of Frank Sinatra and Suzanne Vega and Canada's largest newspaper the Toronto Star giving her high marks as a pianist.
With the release of her third CD Happening Earle seems poised to take the next big step in letting the Jazz world know that she is ready to join the likes of world recognized Canadian talents Diana Krall, Marc Antoine and Oscar Petersen.
The fact that Earle pursued a career in music did not come as a surprise to those closest to her including her father who raised her as a single parent due to the death of Earle's mother. "When I was sixteen I thought, 'hey I can really do this.' At one point when I asked my dad what he thought about me doing music he said, 'Well what else would you do? Of course that makes sense.' He said, 'that is all you think about. You are at the school from seven in the morning until seven at night doing all the music stuff that is available."
She continues saying, "During most of my childhood I considered going into writing or journalism. I won a couple of poetry contests when I was younger. When I started to play music it seemed like an obvious fit for me. I was a bandleader in high school. I conducted the school chamber choir."
She has always been attracted to Jazz because it gives her the ability to improvise and in her words feel more "free". "For me it felt so much freer to be playing jazz because I could improvise and I could express myself in a different way." Earle says her rebellious nature made it difficult for her to merely follow the notes on a page. She adds, "I wanted to improvise and compose music. I wanted to do my own crazy arrangements of things. In that sense it (Jazz) was a better fit for me than playing classical music."
"On this CD (Happening) there are some more modern readings of old standards. "I'm Old Fashioned" is a different kind of reading where I reconstructed the song a little bit. I added and embellished a lot of stuff. There is a Police tune on there where it is all mixed metre and it has been transformed from the original. I am always doing that sort of thing where I am taking a tune and doing something with it that makes it feel more personal to me."
She describes her title track from the CD Happening as, "a crunchy piano tune. It was a song written about pure joy, being happy and being excited and feeling you are in the right place."
"October Rains" is based on my mother's death and is from the point of view of my father. It is very intense. It talks about how the passing of time heals. It is the idea of walking through an empty house and sensing smells and hearing sounds. At a certain point with the passing of years the pain goes away but there is always the feeling that person is still there."
"My mother passed away when we were very young. My dad managed to be very loving, nurturing and supporting to what my brother and I have chosen for our lives. He didn't have expectations of me because I was a woman. He fought for me to be treated like the guys. He wanted me to be successful. We have had these really great conversations over the years. "Somebody Else's Eyes" came out of our conversation concerning watching the people around us and seeing that these people start believing the lies that they tell themselves." Not to be misconstrued as a judgmental statement Earle includes herself in those observations, "We tell ourselves these lies and we start to believe them. The conversation (and the song) is about if you could only stop lying to yourself and get what it is that you really want from life. It is about being true to yourself and if you are able to do that you will able to be true to someone else. I put the song in the context of finding love," she says.
In response to my query about how her 1998 EP Her Main Claim To Fame compares to her later works I Take Requests and Happening Brenda tells me, "The thing that I have always been going for is to try and create something organic and really honest. Her Main Claim To Fame was just a five song EP and on it there is boogie woogie, swing, a standard, an Elvis Costello tune and there is an original piece on it. Even back then there was diversity. Over the years I have honed in on a more consistent sound but I think the thing I have always tried to do is be honest and say 'This is the music I want to make. This is what I am hearing. This is what I am feeling. I haven't tried to keep to an agenda of one particular sound."
Between 2000 and 2003 this blonde haired beauty worked for nineteen months as a musician and singer aboard cruise ships. She says of the experience, "I was going out there with the mindset of being a pretty strict Jazz musician where art has integrity and it has to swing and be very jazzy. It has to be rooted in that tradition however I had no choice but to submit to the environment. The environment was people wanted to request songs. They wanted to hear Billy Joel and Elton John. I had to learn how to play that kind of music. While I was doing that I discovered there is a lot more to music than the 32 bar and the swinging Cole Porter thing. That was a huge musical influence on me because once I started living within pop music and songs by the Beatles or Earth Wind and Fire I started to hear different sounds. I started to explore that musically." The experience led to the release of I Take Requests. The same year she also released the Jazz CD All She Needs.
Brenda Earle has never been one to shy away from making statements with her music and the cover of her CD All She Needs also made a statement. Whereas Her Main Claim To Fame and Happening present that girl next door look the cover of All She Needs presents a very tasteful but sexier Earle. "On All She Needs I worked with a wonderful photographer from Toronto and after listening to the record she wanted to capture an essence of something more seductive. It has an old fashioned look to it because it is sepia tone black and white. She had me in a fur coat, cocktail dress and vampy makeup," Brenda says.
Brenda Earle is a name you should remember and whose music you should check out because we are going to be listening to her music for many years. She is a gifted composer, talented vocalist and superb pianist. One gets the impression that the CD Happening really only gives us a foretaste of what is yet to come.
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. The debt that smooth jazz owes to Kenny G is immense. Throughout a career that is now in its thirtieth year he has provided stimulus and direction to make possible the many achievements of those who followed. Above all he made the music accessible. He gave smooth jazz a reference point. He took it to television and made instrumentals fashionable again. Not only that he did it for a worldwide audience and in so doing influenced musical taste like no other since the Beatles. Suddenly it was OK to be smooth and although some might argue that G always lacked the edginess, the funkiness, of some of his successors this view blatantly trivializes a body of work that overall is as varied as it is engaging. His live performances still bear testimony to this and now, if further proof were needed, comes the release on Arista of The Essential Kenny G.
This, as the title suggests, really is the ultimate collection. Laying bare the many facets of Kenny G’s musical journey it charts his progress from the landmark Duotones album right though to his most recent duet projects and forays into the standards. The album is enhanced by the brief liner notes G himself makes against each track reflecting the personal nature of this thirty-one track double CD selection. As well as a welter of wonderful music the album also provides a reminder of how Kenny G influenced the evolution of smooth jazz music. One case in point is the Christmas Album. Although it is now the norm for smooth jazz artists to issue Christmas collections, G released his first in 1994 and now has four to his name.
When it comes to duets, everyone from Chris Botti to Herbie Hancock seems to be doing them. However, one has only to return to the 1986 Duotones and the track ‘What Does It Take’ to realize that Kenny G was dabbling with the idea twenty years ago. Happily this tune, with Ellis Hall on vocals, is included as part of The Essential Kenny G and, in this respect, is in the excellent company of songs featuring Chaka Khan, Smokey Robinson, Aaron Neville, Michael Bolton, Peabo Bryson and Lenny Williams. All demonstrate the way in which he has developed the now fashionable trend of including guest vocalists on one or two tracks of otherwise instrumental albums. Yet his ultimate statement that finally turned the concept into an art form came with the At Last…The Duets CD. Appropriately, tracks from it featuring Earth Wind and Fire and David Sanborn are included on The Essential Kenny G.
More than just years separate Kenny G from 1975, the year that the then Kenny Gorelick played with Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra and later the Jeff Lorber Fusion. When he performed ‘Songbird’ on the Ed Sullivan show he captured the imagination of a nation and in so doing found the road to international stardom. His contribution to the adult contemporary genre can never be overstated. Consequently there should be space in the record collection of every smooth jazz lover for the music of Kenny G. For those who have not yet realized this The Essential Kenny G is a great place to start.
Pillow Talk set for release on March 28, 2006
Thirty Years ago, it was nothing more than a creative lark for two young kids from Philadelphia. Keyboardist James Lloyd was 11 and drummer Curtis Harmon was 13. All they wanted to do was make good music. They took the name Pieces of a Dream from the title of a 1974 Stanley Turrentine album, and the rest, as they say ...
Some of the names and faces have changed over the years, but Lloyd and Harmon are still at the core of this powerhouse contemporary jazz combo, and the commitment to music that is not just good but great has never wavered in the three intervening decades. Pieces of a Dream celebrates this landmark anniversary with the worldwide release of Pillow Talk on Heads Up International March 28, 2006. The new album finds Lloyd, Harmon and company just as passionate about their craft in this new century as those two Philly youngsters back in the day.
"This is another great chapter in a great story," says Lloyd. "It's a privilege to still be doing it after so many years. Making your way in the music business can be a perilous undertaking, especially these days, but the fact that Pieces has been together as long as it has says something about who we are - as musicians and as people - and the kind of music that we make."
Pillow Talk is a perfect example of how Pieces has successfully navigated the years. Filled with catchy riffs, infectious grooves and compelling vocal work, it's the kind of record that speaks to the moment yet still holds up well over time.
"House Arrest," the punchy opening track, is one of the clearest statements in the entire set. Co-authored by Harmon and Bennie Simms, the track is Harmon's way of keep the longstanding Pieces groove alive for a new generation of listeners. "That's an instrumental song with more of a house beat," says Harmon. "Part of what wanted to accomplish with the songs that I contributed was to bring a fresh new sound to Pieces. I wanted to make some danceable instrumental music."
Further in, guest vocalist Ramona Dunlap steps up to the microphone with the defiant and no-nonsense "Triflin'," and later on the impassioned devotional "Those Three Words" and the sultry "Your Love." Dunlap's rich vocal presence has been a part of the Pieces stage show in the past, and she was first introduced to worldwide audiences on the Pieces of a Dream Acquainted With The Night album. "Ramona is very professional, very much to the point with her craft" says Harmon. "It took no more than one ore two takes to get what we needed from her. She was very clear about what she was doing."
Also worth noting is the lively "Wake Up Call," with piano work from Lloyd that is both punchy and melodic at the same time. "Attitude" sets Lloyd's complex piano lines and Tony Watson Jr.'s full-bodied sax riffs against a vaguely hip-hop backbeat. The album closes with the shimmering title track, a laid back number with a persistent backbeat - a seemingly incongruous yet ultimately satisfying combination that showcases Lloyd's prowess on piano, keyboard and programming
Pillow Talk is another satisfying set from a band that has built a thirty-year reputation on finely crafted recordings. After three decades, what's the glue that holds it all together? "I think the high level of musicianship is what has made Pieces what it is over the years," says Harmon. " James is a very talented and gifted musician, and our styles and sensibilities blend well. After thirty years of working together and playing together, there's a collaborative aspect to what we do that's hard to explain. It just happens."
"We're more than just bandmates," says Lloyd. "We're family. We've been through good times and bad, and that just makes the music deeper and better. This album is just another example of what happens when two brothers who've grown up on the same creative track get together and bring out the best in each other."
In some ways creating Julie Hardy's debut CD A Moment's Glance has been a lot like riding a bicycle built for two. Teaming up with boyfriend Randy Ingram a superb pianist Hardy's smooth Jazz vocals, original compositions and improvisations have made a statement that she is here to stay.
A Moment's Glance is an elegant album that combines an element of romance and a hint of seductiveness. This New York City based twenty-eight year old uses lush harmonies to reinterpret Beatles' song "And I Love Her".
The careers of Jazz artists tend to develop more slowly than their cousins in the rock and pop genres. That being said Hardy has already attracted the attention of the Jazz world with invitations to the Jazz Academy Snowmass in 2002. This prestigious invitation was extended after she submitted two songs for consideration. Hardy was one of only two American vocalists to whom an invitation was given. Students come from schools such as Juilliard and Berklee. She followed this achievement with the 2003 invitation to attend the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC. Jazz Ahead is billed as identifying outstanding emerging Jazz artists still in their teens or mid twenties and bringing them under the tutelage of some of the music industry's most renowned gurus.
In July 2005 Hardy performed at the Tommy Gallant Seacoast Jazz Festival in New Hampshire and as September dawned she worked her magic at New York's Lincoln Centre.
Last year she officially released A Moment's Glance at New York's Jazz Standard and counts it among her favorite venues in which she has performed. "When I got to do the Jazz Standard I felt like I was in a little over my head. The Jazz Standard is a pretty big deal in New York. When I got on stage I still felt like I wasn't quite prepared for that experience. I think definitely I gained a lot of experience performing at the Jazz Standard."
While still attending the University of New Hampshire she was already directing the Jazz Choir. She also has an upcoming engagement as a judge at a music competition being staged by her old high school in New Hampshire. "It makes me feel like they think I know what I am doing," she says noting that she appreciates the recognition.
Julie describes her music as, "It is modern Jazz because the chords are more forward thinking similar to pianists such as Fred Hersch. I am more influenced by people who are here and now and composing today."
Her former teacher the highly respected Dominique Eade says, "Julie has a soulful and penetrating sound. Her musicianship is remarkable and you'll hear it reflected in her impressive writing, her innovative improvisation and her lovely interpretation."
Hardy has enjoyed great success in modernizing standards with new arrangements. She says, "I will re-harmonize the chord changes or I will substitute changes. I will put in a different time signature. I will add measures or take them out. I will add grooves. For instance with "Alright With Me" I made it more of an Afro Cuban Latin feel. When I do the arranging I try to respect the composer. I hope that people can still hear the story and understand the story. I don't want the arrangement to get in the way of that. If I add a bar or change something harmonically there is a reason for that and it comes straight from the lyrics. It's not just because I thought it would sound cool. There was a reason why I did what I did."
I asked Hardy if she considered it a wee bit daunting to interpret songs that are considered standards or classic tunes such as "And I Love You". "It is daunting. There are some composers that I feel I am not going to touch. I am not going to touch Wayne Shorter. I feel it would be very hard to make those songs better than they are. I think with the Broadway standards there is a lot that could be added," she says. Hardy wants to make it clear that not all her new arrangements are because she thinks she is improving the song. "I am able to express myself more if I put it in a context that is true to my music. A lot of the standards are from another era that for me I don't really connect with. That is why I feel I have to arrange some of these songs so I can connect with them," she says.
She also realizes, "There are critics who will say, 'Why did she do that to the song?' I am sure there are people out there who aren't into revamping old standards. Some people just want to hear standards straight down. The only song on my record that is straight ahead is "Haunted Heart". I approached that song completely different. That was coming from an emotional place. I had to mediate on getting into the space of what it is like to lose a loved one. I had to experience other people who had that happen. I had to try and live in that space and get into that space when I recorded it. That was a challenge in itself."
Hardy's music is born out of her personal experiences. "You experience more things and have more to draw upon. I have learned more about what my sound is and how to keep it coherent. It makes it easier just to connect with the audience because ultimately that is what matters. Giving something back to the people is always in the back of my mind. At the same time you can't try to be emotional, it has to come from inside you," the silky smooth chanteuse says.
"No Turning Back" was written about my move from Boston to New York. It is really like (saying there is) no turning back, here I am in New York. It is a story and kind of a wordless composition. Growing was actually written about Randy my boyfriend."
As Julie Hardy seeks to establish herself in the highly competitive New York City Jazz scene she pays tribute to the people who have helped her along the way. "My main mentor is Dominique Eade. There have been other people like Fred Hersch who really looked out for Randy and me when we first got here. It is really wonderful to have that support when you are new to the city," she says.
Her friend, confidant and lover Randy Ingram however has been her biggest source for encouragement. "Whenever I am unsure about something he will give his opinion. He is very tactful and sensitive about what he says. I also give him feedback about things you sometimes can't see yourself. He is great about being honest and candid," says Hardy.
She also notes that her friendship with vocalists such as David Devoe and Brenda Earle have helped her to adjust to the fast pace of New York.
Rarely does a young artist demonstrate the kind of composure possessed by Hardy. "I see it as being where it is supposed to be I guess. I am very comfortable. I don't feel like I am being pushed in any sort of direction. I am happy where I am right now and I feel like I just have to keep working at developing my own sound," she says.
Download a digital gift for your sweetheart for Valentine's Day? That's soooo 2006.
If you’re looking for an original Valentine’s Day gift, the romantic sounds of Chris Botti just may be your answer. The trumpeter has just released a three-song Valentine’s Day sampler that is available only on iTunes.
The set includes one song that was previously available on the digital music site: "Emmanuel," a song written by the late French composer Michel Colombier that Chris first performed in December on the long-running daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless.
Also included are “Be My Love,” an American songbook classic written by Nikolaus Brodsky and Sammy Cahn that Chris recorded during sessions for his latest CD To Love Again; and “Pavanne,” the oft-covered classical song by the late French composer Gabriel Fauré that Chris recorded during sessions for his 2004 CD When I Fall in Love.
Guitarist Chris Standring will release a new CD in May, with a Paul Brown-produced single hitting airwaves later this month. He is now a part of the Trippin N Rhythm roster.
Guitarist Chris Standring who recently signed a contract with Trippin N Rhythm, which was founded in 1999 in London, has finished a new album for the label called Soul Express. It’s his first since Groovalicious was released in July of 2003.
The new, 11-song CD features original songs written mostly by Chris and his longtime writing partner Rodney Lee. The first single, “I Can’t Help Myself,” is co-written and produced by hitmaker Paul Brown, whose had a hand in more than 40 No. 1 songs. The single will be released to smooth jazz radio later this month. It’s a loping, sweet-as-candy slice of music that’s sure to be a hit with listeners.
Standring also covers “As” from Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and “Giant Steps” from the iconic saxophonist John Coltrane.
Among the musicians on the CD are bassists Roberto Valley and Stan Sargent, drummer Dave Karasony and vocalist Jeff Robinson.
Standring, originally from the U.K. but now living in Southern California, is pleased to be part of the Trippin roster, which also includes Paul Hardcastle. Standring has his nationality in common with Hardcastle and with his new label’s founder and president, Les Cutmore.
“It might have helped us connect somewhat but I think Les has seen my success happen in England probably before he saw it happen here,” Standring say. “Because when Jazz FM was happening, there was a couple of DJs completely pounding my stuff over there, several times a day. And Les, being based in London, was probably listening to that station all the time. So he got wind of exactly what I was doing over there before I probably had that much going on over here at all.”
Soul Express Track Listing
1. Constellation (Standring)
2. Kaleidoscope (Standring/Lee)
3. Method to the Madness (Standring/Lee)
4. I Can’t Help Myself (Standring/P. Brown/C. Simone)
5. Shooting Stars (Standring/Lee)
6. Mumbo Jumbo (Standring/Lee)
7. Thru the Looking Glass (Standring/Lee)
8. Catwalk (Standring/Lee)
9. Giant Steps (John Coltrane)
10. As (Stevie Wonder)
11. Soul Express (Standring/Lee)
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. Co founder of the Brand New Heavies Jim Wellman has gathered together some of the bands former line up and combined them with numerous other accomplished soloists, including Roy Ayers, for the project Post Modern Jazz. The end product is the CD Love Not Truth and although described by the publicity blurb as big band Jazz funk it is in fact much more interesting and diverse than that.
The Brand New Heavies were pioneers of the London acid jazz scene and translated their love for the funk grooves of the 1970s into a sophisticated sound that evoked memories of classic soul in an era dominated by hip-hop. Originally an instrumental unit inspired by The Meters they were formed in 1985 by Jan Kincaid, Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy who had become friends while at school in the London suburb of Ealing. Eventually adding a brass section and Jay Ella Ruth as vocalist, the Brand New Heavies built a cult following throughout the London club circuit and, with various changes in line up along the way, continued to record and perform right through the nineties.
Although none of the original trio feature in Post Modern Jazz, guitar player Lascelles Gordon, sax man Mike Smith, keyboardist Robert Carter, trumpeter Gerard Presencer and Jim Wellman, all of whom figured with the Heavies at one time or the other, are around to play a part. The result is an ultra tight collection of ten tracks that, much like the music of The Brand New Heavies themselves is unapologetically retro and always compelling. This tone is set as early as the intro track, ‘Sun Theme’, a simple keyboards and vibes techno rhythm that paves the way for the title track where the vocals of Roy Ayers combine with luscious yet understated horns for a sumptuous slice of up tempo jazz funk that threatens to be a real dance floor filler.
On the subject of dance floor fillers the late Mel Nixon who is known for his Northern Soul classic ‘Something Old Something New’ is featured twice. ‘Crazy Love Song’ is Latin funk that develops an infectious vibe along the way while one of the CD’s standouts is ‘Love Once More’. It starts off tight and funky, blends in the vocals of Nixon then knocks your socks off with backing from Jim Wellman and Judy La Rose. That backing just keeps on going as first Keith More on guitar then Robert Carter on keyboards deliver choice solo’s to engender something akin to dance frenzy.
The vocals of Judy La Rose are a major feature of the album. She demonstrates her range in applying the lightest of touches to the mid tempo retro feeling ‘Darkness Into Light’ and again takes the lead on the complex and sophisticated ‘Everything’ that, in addition, is blessed by a Roy Ayers solo. However her most significant contribution comes on ‘Lucy’ where first a tight rhythm and then a catchy horn riff precede Judy’s soulful vocals on a tune that has all the hallmarks of a cult classic in the making.
Yet another highlight is the instrumental ‘Undecided’. While still charged with funk it is the most melodic track by far and is helped in this respect by a sweet vibes solo from Ayers. Another vibes solo, this time complemented by Ayers own vocal lead, is the centerpiece of the foot tapping ‘Good Vibrations’, (no, not The Beach Boys track), and he is back again for ‘Another Kind Of Culture’. It’s a number that might best be described as chill funk with Ayers vocalizing the chorus and Judy La Rose making a welcome return to sing the verses.
Love Not Truth by Post Modern Jazz is a delight not only for those of us who hark back to the funky and non synthesized days of past decades but for everyone who has even just an ounce of soul in them. For more go to www.postmodernjazz.com
Tim Coffman's CD Nonstop To Paris dominated the European Jazz charts during 2005. The musician / songwriter turned producer also struck pay dirt in 2005 with his album Music From Beach Boulevard which married Hawaiian steel guitar to the sounds of retro / current surfer music to provide a melodic Jazz genre yet to acquire a name. If you like the taste of salt in the air, the feel of warm sand between your toes then close your eyes and crank up the volume because Coffman's music will whisk you away. Before the first song is over you will swear you can hear the waves lapping against the rocks.
I caught up with our American friend at his San Diego home early one Saturday morning. We talked about some of the lush tapestries he has created and the multi layered tunes that leave you breathless.
Thinking that maybe he would share with me his magic formula for the success of Nonstop To Paris I was surprised by Coffman's answer, "I don't know (what made it successful). I don't have an answer to that question. It is not what I would describe as a real true smooth Jazz album. It really deviates and goes in a few different directions. It has some Spy music on it and what I would describe as Funk tunes. One of the radio stations from Europe contacted me and they were playing one of the cuts that had a real authentic Italian accordion on it. The program director commented to me that he had to play this (song) because he never knew anyone to play an accordion on a smooth Jazz record. He was just amazed that somebody would actually do that. It has its own character. It is funny a lot of people liked the fact that it deviated a bit."
With Nonstop To Paris Coffman once again demonstrates a fondness for horns. He says, "Horns are one of my favorite things to record. I love horns. I do a lot of horn records."
When you look at the musicians that Coffman assembled for Nonstop To Paris it is easy to appreciate why the music sounds so good. Mitch Manker (Hootie and the Blowfish, Fattburger, Ray Charles) appears on trumpet as he did on Music From Beach Boulevard. Also doing double duty on both albums are guitarists T.J. Tindall (Bonnie Raitt, O'Jays) and Anthony Da Luz. The outstanding saxophone work of John Rekevics (Natalie Cole) seems almost a prerequisite for Coffman's productions because of this brass man's outstanding work. Coffman also appears playing several different instruments on his productions.
One of the key ingredients in Coffman's success is his ability to enjoy good music regardless of genre and to find elements that he can incorporate into his own styling. He is a composer who is not afraid to color outside the lines, sometimes in pastels sometimes in more vivid colors.
Coffman continues, "This may sound surprising but I don't put as much credence in style of music as I do the soul of music. Soul to me means when your heart is connected to your voice. What is inside of you is flowing through your instrument."
Coffman says he also likes to experiment and incorporate many different styles into his own music. He says that it broadens his audience. For Coffman though it goes much deeper than that because he is not merely content to create milquetoast music.
Music From Beach Boulevard was the sequel to the funkier Beach and Guitar released in 2004. For that album Coffman enlisted the services of surfer music pioneer Paul Johnson formerly of the sixties group the Belairs but better known for his work with the Surfaris who made the song "Wipeout" a fan favorite.
With both Guitar and Beach and Music From Beach Boulevard Coffman created a unique sound by recording using vintage '60's equipment and gear. He says, "What I wanted to do was (arrive at) an original sound and then print it to digital. I then wanted to change it somewhat so (I used) original gear and original microphones. When you listen to (the CD) it evokes the feeling from that time period. There are also enough new things going on that it sounds pretty modern in some ways."
When it came time to commit Music From Beach Boulevard to acetate Coffman recruited the services of Gary Brandin and Gordon Freitas to provide the vibes from their Hawaiian steel guitars. Accoustic and electric guitar work was provided by the combination of Coffman, Anthony Da Luz, Matt Quilter, renowned blues man Billy Thompson and Don Strandberg. Tony Patler mans the keys as he has on several of Coffman's albums. Coffman raves about Patler, "He has worked for many years off and on with Chaka Khan. He and another player named Bill Hayworth are just so creative. I just love working with those guys."
Rather than trying to play the part of prognosticator and address my question about where he thought the music industry is headed he gave me this answer, "I can tell you where it should go. Where it should go is towards more experimentation. It should go towards more honesty. It's funny we have all these new tools as musicians. You really don't have to use your imagination as much as you used to. It is not allowing us to get deep creativity. We have a lot of very shallow creativity but not real deep things. If you go back into the fifties, forties, thirties and twenties you find a lot of very deep composition. When you look at the chord changes and melodies it is extremely deep and extremely hard. It is hard to play for an average musician. I think we need to go back and get deeper into our songwriting, deeper in our production and still (retain) the same spontaneity. Does that make any sense?"
When Coffman established his company Rolltop Music in the early eighties he did so to fulfill a need he saw among fellow musicians. He told me it is often not until an artist has produced a second or third album that they are signed to a label. He also noted that an artist's financial resources are often limited. Coffman says he felt his company could meet a need by providing quality production that would attract more attention to the artist but doing so within the budgets available to most artists.
Rolltop Music also provides a vehicle through which Coffman can bring his own music to market. This year he has two of his own albums planned and is hoping to begin a project with his daughter Julie.
Tim Coffman Interview
By Joe Montague
All Rights Reserved-Copyright
The Robert Cray Band hosts a night of Cray's signature blues sound at the Boulder Station Hotel in the Railhead Showroom, February 17th. The following week in the same venue on February 25 is keyboardist/trombonist Brian Culbertson.
On the scene since the turn of the century is one of the most innovative jazz/pop female vocalists of our time, Jacqui Naylor, who's last release, Shelter, garnered rave reviews in both Vogue and Jazz Times magazines. Jacqui "brings it on" this month at the Suncoast Hotel for two nights, February 3rd and 4th.
Local radio station KSNE 106.5 FM is hosting the second annual Chocolate Affair on Sunday, February 12th, at the Southcoast Hotel. Recording artist/saxophonist Rocky Gordon and his Killer Groove Band return as the featured entertainment for the second year.
Following is the latest press release concerning additional performers being added to the Berks Jazz Fest. Included here is ticket information as well as the complete lineup of major concerts so far, for those of you still trying to decide which tickets to purchase!
READING, PA -- February 2 – The legendary Chuck Mangione has joined the star-laden lineup of the 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest.
For more than five decades, Mangione's love affair with music has been characterized by his boundless energy, unabashed enthusiasm and pure joy that radiates from the stage. His wondrous talents and crisp charisma will be on display on Friday, March 24, at the Scottish Rite Cathedral at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $20.
The Berks Jazz Fest runs March 17-26 at multiple venues throughout Berks County and is presented by the Berks Arts Council.
The festival already has a bright constellation of stars such as Dianne Reeves, Joe Sample, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Ramsey Lewis, Brian Culbertson, David Benoit, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Gerald Veasley, Kurt Elling and the Robert Cray Band, among many others.
The 10-day lineup featuring over 130 concerts once again is an amazing palette, showcasing a diversity of musical styles that includes contemporary jazz, traditional jazz, big band, blues, Latin jazz, swing jazz, and more.
The Berks Jazz Fest prides itself on producing one-of-a kind all-star ensemble shows, and there are three marquee tributes this year to Marvin Gaye and Motown, Brazilian legend Ivan Lins and guitar great Wes Montgomery.
And now Chuck Mangione, known as the "Cat in the Hat," adds considerable marquee star power to the festival. He has released more than 30 albums during his venerable and laudable career.
His Berks Jazz Fest concert will be dedicated to the Reading Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps to celebrate its 2005 Drums Corps Associates (DCA) world championship. The Buccaneers, in winning their fifth DCA title, swept all judged categories en route to the second-highest score of any championship corps in the 41-year history of the DCA.
Mangione has an avid interest in drum and bugle corps, making the tribute to the Bucs a natural. The Buccaneers have had a long association with the Berks Jazz Fest. Their yeoman volunteer efforts in facilitating the loading in and loading out of equipment at multiple concerts at varied venues make it possible to have a festival of such scope.
Mangione and his flugelhorn achieved international success with his jazz-pop single, "Feels So Good", in 1977. A 1980 issue of Current Biography called "Feels So Good" the most recognized tune since "Michelle" by The Beatles.
Recently, jazz stations throughout the United States have recognized Mangione's "Feels So Good" as their all-time No. 1 song.
Early in his career, he was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, for which he filled the trumpet seat, which had previously been held by greats such as Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Bill Hardman, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard.
Mangione won his first Grammy Award in 1976 for his album Bellavia, named to honor his mother. The Children of Sanchez double-album soundtrack won the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Award, then earned him a second Grammy in 1978.
When Chuck performed in Poland for the 1999 Film and Jazz Festival, the “Children of Sanchez” track brought the audience to its feet. Unbeknownst to the composer, the piece had become somewhat of an anthem during the struggle for democracy and many in the audience were in tears, holding their hands over their hearts.
His song, "Give It All You Got," was the theme to the 1980 Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid, New York. He performed live at the closing ceremonies.
He also has a recurring role on the animated television series “King of the Hill”, portraying himself as a celebrity spokesman for Mega Lo Mart. The first episode of “King of the Hill” featuring Mangione originally aired on Valentine's Day 1998. The episode featured an original score specifically recorded for the occasion.
FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest concert tickets can be purchased by:
Stopping by the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading, to place your order in person.
Box Office hours
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
Stopping by the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading, to place your order in person.
Box Office hours
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Ordering online at www.berksjazzfest.com
Call Ticketmaster at 215.336.2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Have a credit card ready.
For more information on the festival, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org
Major FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest concerts
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 Band with special guest Lou Pride, 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 -- Kyle Eastwood and his band, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts theater, 4 p.m. $20
Sunday, March 19 -- Robbi K & Friends, PAL Center for the Arts, 6 p.m., free community concert.
Sunday, March 19 -- 16th Anniversary Concert: The Music of Marvin Gaye & Motown featuring Jason Miles, Bobby Caldwell, Peter White, Candy Dulfer, Kevin Mahogany, Guida DePalma, Mike Mattison, Nick Colionne, Jay Beckenstein, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Bashiri Johnson, Gene Lake, Sherrod Barnes, Jonathan Maron, Dominick Farinacci, DJ Logic and more, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7 p.m., $45 and $38
Monday, March 20 -- U.S. Air Force Rhythm In Blues Jazz Ensemble with special guest Tom Coster plus Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., free community concert
Monday, March 20 -- The Young Faces of Jazz: Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lage plus Liz Longley, Albright College Wachovia Theatre, 7:30 p.m., $15
Tuesday, March 21 -- U.S. Air Force Rhythm In Blues Jazz Ensemble with special guest Tom Coster plus Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Boyertown Senior High School, 7 p.m., free community concert
Tuesday, March 21 -- The Music of Sinatra & Friends: City Rhythm Orchestra, Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, 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
Wednesday, March 22 -- Joe McBride & The Texas Rhythm Club, Peanut Bar Restaurant, 9 p.m.
Thursday, March 23 -- Joe McBride, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.
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, Eric Darius and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $30
Friday, March 24 -- Joe McBride and Kenny Blake, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.
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 -- Chuck Mangione, 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 -- Joe McBride and Kenny Blake, Wyndham Reading Hotel, 5 p.m.
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, Candy Dulfer, Eliane Elias, Romero Lubambo, Leonardo Amuedo, Cafe, Vinny Colaiuta, Will Lee, Tom Harrell, Chuck Loeb 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 -- 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 -- Be Still My Soul: Michell and Brian Culbertson, Atonement Lutheran Church, Wyomissing, 4 p.m. free will offering
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
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
The Los Angeles radio station that helped pioneer smooth jazz music can now be heard all over the world.
Los Angeles radio station KTWV, known as The Wave, is now streaming online. The station that debuted with new age music in 1987 is widely credited as one of the first to introduce smooth jazz to the masses.
Saxophonist Dave Koz is the morning drivetime host along with Pat Prescott. Among other KTWV DJs are Talaya Trigueros, Don Burns, Keri Tombazian, Sandy Kelly and Barbara Blake.
To listen, you'll have to fill out a registration form. Go to www.947wave.com .
California Supreme Court will decide suit brought against the sitcom Friends.
After more than six years, the daughter of smooth jazz pianist Bobby Lyle will soon learn the outcome of her suit against one of the most popular TV shows in American history. Amaani Lyle, a former writer’s assistant for the hit comedy Friends, sued Warner Bros. and three Friends writers for sexual harassment, claiming that the writers created a "hostile work environment" by engaging in sex-related comments and jokes during writers' meetings.
Now, the California Supreme Court will hold a one-hour hearing in Sacramento on Feb. 14 where lawyers for Amaani Lyle and Warner Bros. will argue their cases. The court will then issue a written ruling within 90 days.
Amaani Lyle is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force in Germany, where she is the editor of a base newspaper. Bobby Lyle recently signed to Heads Up and will release a new CD this year.