March 31, 2006

Nick Colionne - Keepin It Cool

NickColionne2.jpgWelcome 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. Keepin It Cool is the brand new release from guitar man Nick Colionne. Although his fifth CD in all its his first on Narada Jazz and, in a career that has seen more than its fair share of false starts, looks set to propel him into the upper echelons of smooth jazz stardom. Like Colionne himself Keepin It Cool is very much a product of Chicago. With twelve of the thirteen tracks written or co-written by him, and the CD recorded in or around town, Colionne has captured the Windy City’s knack of producing smooth jazz with an edge. This is an album that is never boring, carries a few surprises along the way and, given that many of the musicians assembled for the project are happy to call Chicago home, further accentuates the city’s natural groove.

That said there is nothing surprising about the opening cut, the ridiculously catchy ‘Can You Feel It’. A candidate for best track on the album it exemplifies the vibrant playing that Colionne’s unique style is all about. Always seemingly brim full of influences yet distinctly all his own he carries the entire collection with a soulful sophistication that oozes class. The title track is exactly what it suggests, ultra cool but re-enforced by Colionne’s hallmark sound while on ‘Always Thinking Of You’ the keyboards of co-writer John Blasucci provide a smoky earthiness that Nick overlays with laid back yet groovy guitar. This is the first single from the album and is already racing up the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio.

A chance encounter that Nick had with Peter White in Chicago has led to a firm musical friendship and this interaction has spilled over into the excellent ‘If You Ask Me’ that is co-written by Colionne, White and Chicago-land native Steve Cole. Cole also produces and arranges this catchy yet romantic foot tapper and romance is again on the agenda for ‘You Were There For Me’. It has a dreamy quality about it and if you ever thought that time could stand still while with a loved one then ‘A Moment With You’ would be the tune to confirm it. With a vibe not too far removed from Acoustic Alchemy it is a number with which Colionne demonstrates his versatility and he does it again on the top notch slice of smooth jazz ‘John L’. Despite its Chicago origins this one has a real west coast feel and in the same copper plated smooth jazz vein is ‘Catch Me’ for which ‘radio ready’ would be an apt description.

This collection, that spans a whole range of musical emotions, moves comfortably from the lusciously romantic ‘From Me To You’, a track with the ability to grow on you, to the mid tempo and uplifting ‘This Is The Song’ but comes right back to Chicago with the ultra funky ‘Liquid’. Co-written by Colionne and Steve Cole with Cole on keyboards sax and flute this edgy piece of mid west smooth jazz features locals Mike Logan on Hammond B3 and Richard Patterson on bass for one of the highlights of the entire album.

Colionne makes full use of his touring band on several of the tracks. Most notably Chris Miskel on drums and Dave Hiltebrand on bass join with co-writer and keyboard player John Blasucci for the catchy, infectious ‘High Flyin’ and are together again for one of the albums real magic moments. The Colionne cover of Brook Benton’s ‘Rainy Night In Georgia’ is the only vocal track on the CD and at first seems to be a surprising choice. However it quickly develops to show off another dimension of Colionne’s considerable talents. Quite simply it is a stunning interpretation of a classic tune.

Keepin It Cool is sure to be one of the standout releases of 2006. His 1996 CD was titled Arrival but now he is really here. For Nick Colionne his time has come.

For more on Nick and for his tour schedule go to

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 7:01 PM

March 30, 2006

Norman Brown Returning With Summer Storm Tour

The lineup this year features new artists.

NormanBrown2.jpgGuitarist Norman Brown has unveiled the lineup for the second annual Norman Brown’s Summer Storm tour. Brown will be joined by saxophonist Paul Taylor, vocalist Patti Austin and pianist Alex Bugnon. Last year’s inaugural lineup featured Brown, saxophonist Najee and vocalists Peabo Bryson and Brenda Russell.

The tour has so far booked more than 10 cities, beginning May 20th in Newport Beach, Calif., and ending December 31st in Huntington Beach, Calif.   There are two dates when Austin will not be performing – on May 20, when she’ll be replaced by Peabo Bryson, and July 19 in Detroit.

Summer Storm Tour

05/20/2006: Lexus Jazz Festival, Newport Beach, CA
06/04/2006: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
06/17/2006: Radisson Hotel, Sacramento, CA
06/24/2006: Coors Amphitheater, Englewood, CO
07/19/2006: Chene Park, Detroit, MI
08/12/2006: Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville, CA
08/18/2006: Boulder Station Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
08/19/2006: Wilson Creek Winery, Temecula, CA
08/20/2006: Hollywood Bowl/JVC Jazz Festival, Hollywood, CA
09/04/2006: Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay, CA
12/31/2006: Hyatt Regency, Huntington Beach, CA

Posted by Brian Soergel at 12:30 AM

March 27, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Tribute To Wes Montgomery

Berks2006_WesTributeChuckLo.jpgThe festival was concluded by the star-studded Tribute To Wes Montgomery concert, celebrating the music of the late great Wes Montgomery. The evening was put together by guitar player Chuck Loeb and featured a stunning array of world class guitar players. Lined up for the first song were Russell Malone, Paul Jackson Jr., Pat Martino, Chuck Loeb, Jimmy Bruno, Earl Klugh and Larry Carlton - pretty impressive, isn't it? They were backed by Wolfgang Haffner on drums, Will Lee on bass and Matt King on keys. All players had a personal relationship with Wes Montgomery, often having met him personally. Needless to say, the playing of all those artists was profoundly influenced by this seminal player. Especially Pat Martino, who met Wes at the tender age of 14 for the first time, this being an encounter which had an impact on his professional life, then meeting a second time a few years later, after a nightclub show together with Grant Green, George Benson, Les Paul who were standing outside discussing - so you know where this music is coming from! It almost felt like a history lesson in music by people who were personally involved. Additionally, Chuck Loeb managed to track down Montgomery’s family, and his son Robert came to the stage, speaking a few touching words about his father whom he lost much too early. All the players chose their favorite songs from the Wes library and brought their renditions, each with his own spin and style of playing. Most of the players were straight ahead players, especially Jimmy Bruno, Pat Martino and Russell Malone strutting their stuff, while Paul Jackson Jr. proved to be an accomplished jazz guitarist, retaining his crossover appeal. Larry Carlton couldn't help but play a blues number, while Earl Klugh delivered a beautiful song on acoustic guitar showing masterful playing of the highest level. Chuck Loeb held it all together and proved to be a very consummate musician which I hold in high esteem. Another superlative show which was one of its kind and a special opportunity to witness.


Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:13 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Bona Fide, Slim Man

Berks2006_SlimMan.jpgBona Fide is a group which revolves around Tim Camponeschi, aka Slim Man, a singer and bass player. The band includes George Hazelrigg on keys, John E. Coale on drums and Kevin Levi on sax. All vocal numbers were tagged as Slim Man, while all instrumentals where played under the banner of Bona Fide, a funky outfit which records for HeadsUp Records. Slim Man started his career a long time ago and his romantic songs have graced the airwaves for quite a while. Bona Fide was founded in 1999, starting out with Joe Ercole on keys who was replaced with young George Hazelrigg since the last CD. They were alternating between Slim Man songs and Bona Fide instrumentals which turned out to be a good mix to provide an entertaining show. Bittersweet songs like "Angela" and "End Of The Rainbow" received an enthusiastic response from the audience, while the instrumental songs featuring great keyboard and sax soloing over the funky foundation of bass and drums proved that Bona Fide is not a short lived side project of Slim Man. Slim Man turned out to be a witty guy as well entertaining the crowd with his dry humor with a love for good red wine which was consumed by all band members during the show, also to celebrate the birthday of George Hazelrigg, who was nicknamed "Birthday Boy" that day. The club setting was great for this band and I enjoyed this concert thoroughly.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:53 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Paul Jackson, Jr.

Berks2006_PaulJackson2.jpgSunday morning the WJJZ Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch at the Sheraton Hotel was on. This event includes a brunch with a rich buffet, with people seated at tables which hold 10 people. After all have eaten the show takes place; it’s always a good way to meet and greet people. This year guitar player Paul Jackson Jr. was responsible to entertain us and he did a good job as always. He was supported by his top notch touring band and played a string of hits from his previous albums. He is a witty guy and his "back in the day" rap went down very well with the crowd who obviously could relate to what he was saying. His musical reference to these days gone by with covers of great R&B classics delighted the audience and his fluid guitar playing was a joy to hear. I love the way he brings out a melody, improvises around it never losing sight of the original song, with nice dynamics making it interesting and entertaining. Of the three keyboard players he had in the band two turned out to be great sax players as well contributing solos on the alto and tenor sax respectively. This was an outstanding show by one of the premier guitar players of our time. Unfortunately, I had to miss the encore to catch the next show which started right over at the Jazz Base.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:50 PM

March 26, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Late Nite Jam

Berks2006_LateNiteJam.jpgDuring the festival a raffle was held to support the Berks Arts Council, with the winner getting four tickets for the upcoming Brian Culbertson cruise. All people holding a raffle ticket were admitted to this show which started at 1am at the Sheraton and was hosted by guitar player Nick Colionne, backed by the band of Brian Culbertson which just had finished their show an hour earlier. Nick is not only a superb guitar player but also a witty person and funny guy to boot. This show was a lot looser and destined to be more wild than any show before it. Nick kicked off the concert with some flashy playing over a funky groove laid down by the band before surprise guest artists started to drop in. One of them was Brian Culbertson who played mainly the trombone, then unexpectedly Alan Hewitt showed up and played one of his songs at the keyboard, before other people came to the stage. One of them was sax player Kim Waters, who played the drunken man with a bottle of beer in his hands, which was critically examined and passed around by the other band members, before he went to the keyboard to play. Shows that Kim Waters is a dedicated keyboard player and despite the state he was in played some nice notes there leaving his sax at home. Eric Darius showed up as well, playing some cool sax, and Gerald Veasley, delivering a great bass solo, so we received a superlative and above all a funny, not too serious show which was utterly entertaining.

Photo credit: Michael Packard

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:43 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Triad feat. Steve Oliver, Michael Paulo, Gerald Veasley

Unfortunately I was not able to attend the show by Triad consisting of Steve Oliver on guitar, Michael Paulo on sax and Gerald Veasley on bass because it collided with other shows. At least I was able to catch the last two songs of their show which took place at the Jazz Base, a cozy club in the Sheraton Hotel, being the musical home base of Gerald Veasley. They played Grover's "Mr. Magic" as an encore which was just great. Steve Oliver did some scatting and singing in a way which reminded me of Bobby McFerrin - I am eager to see how this talent of his will develop in the future. Besides, he played a cool guitar solo employing a few different effects giving the song a cool twist before the sax of Michael Paulo kicked in again to bring the song to an end. The audience didn't want to let them go, and the players seemed to be in the mood to continue, so they were asking for guest artists in the audience to sit in with the band. Trumpet player Rick Braun volunteered to join the band, and together they played another song which brought an apparently outstanding concert to its end. Too bad I couldn't attend it during its full length.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:35 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Brian Culbertson, Eric Darius

Berks2006_CulbertsonDarius.jpgAfter the Ivan Lins show we rushed over to the Sheraton where more great music was waiting for us. Crowd pleaser Brian Culbertson with special guest Eric Darius on sax were on. I arrived just in time for the start of the concert and they grooved right away. Brian Culbertson has such a great sense for melodies and knows how to deliver a song. His touring band is first rate and like a well oiled machine. They were hitting us with some great music. This year rising star Eric Darius on sax was part of his show, along with his dad Jim on trumpet who must be proud of his offspring. They gave us many great songs with Brian's playing being as outstanding as ever, either breaking it down and playing it soft or building it up to a great climax. Eric Darius blended well with his fiery solos and spirited playing, being another darling of the crowd. On top of all this, there were parts of the show when Brian switched from the keyboard to the trombone, joining trumpet and sax for a horn frenzy playing funky songs running around on stage to the delight of the crowd. I always like the part of the show when they bring some music for all the lovers in the crowd being soft and sensual and bearing all the Culbertson trademarks. Asking the guitar player (and music director) to bring an old school vibe, we also got some great covers of old R&B classics showing where they were coming from and where their musical heart lies. This show was not very different from previous shows I saw but very entertaining as always. The whole show by the way was broadcasted on 69-WFMZ-TV and hosted by Cameron Smith (Smooth Jazz TV) and Michael Tozzi (WJJZ Philadelphia).

Photo credit: Michael Packard

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:25 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Ivan Lins & Friends

Berks2006_RussellBraun.jpgSaturday night another highlight of the festival was due with the show dedicated to Ivan Lins. This Brazilian songwriter, singer and keyboarder has been long recognized as one of the greatest talents to have emerged from this culturally rich country. As an individual artist, he always stayed a bit out of the spotlight, but his songs, recorded by superstars like George Benson, Sting, Brenda Russell and others, have been heard around the world. The venerable Jason Miles accepted the challenge to put together a star-studded event to celebrate the man and his music. The core players were Ivan Lins on keys and vocals, Jason Miles on keys, Brazilian guitar players Leonard Amuedo and Romero Lubambo, Josh Dion on drums and vocals, Will Lee on bass, Café on percussion and an endless array of guests to bring Ivan Lins' music to life.

Berks2006_JasonMiles.jpgSinger Brenda Russell, who collaborated with Ivan Lins for over a decade, sang a couple of songs. In a funny story we were told that Brenda was asked to write the lyrics almost overnight for the song "She Walks The Earth Alone" (which won a Grammy) in order to have it sung by Sting on the CD. During the concert Will Lee, the bass player who dares to sing, handled the song quite well. Another song was done by Mike Mattison from the Derek Truck Band, who was also doing background vocals with Brenda Russell. Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias played some beautiful acoustic piano with some spirited soloing, singing along with Ivan Lins. Candy Dulfer and Rick Braun - filling in for Tom Harrell who didn't make it to the show - added a contemporary element blending well and showing lots of respect for the music of Ivan Lins with their tasteful playing. Singer Jane Monheit interpreted two songs beautifully, the second one was counted off in the wrong tempo so they had to restart the music which showed the subtleties of Brazilian music, an incident which was quite revealing to me. Ivan Lins was the center of the show, his "Comecar de novo" - allegedly his most recorded song - being a highlight of the concert for me. In addition, his percussion playing on an jewel box while others were playing was a novelty for me. Towards the end of the 3 hour concert, Chuck Loeb added some spicy playing on electric guitar while drummer Josh Dion got the chance to sing a funky song. This show was a kaleidoscope of Brazilian music and a great testament to the music of Ivan Lins, all put together by the great producer Jason Miles who has to be applauded for all the work he puts into such a project. I look forward to hearing the next all-star project under his direction at next year's festival.


Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:56 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Larry Carlton

Berks2006_LarryCarlton.jpgSaturday afternoon Larry Carton and his Blue Sapphire Band were on, the band consisting of a four piece horn section, his son Travis Carlton on bass, drums, and venerable buddy Greg Mathieson on keyboards. The played a few blues numbers from their last two CDs, the latest one called Firewire. He then switched to his acoustic guitar for some of his best known songs "Minute By Minute" and "Smiles and Smiles To Go" before returning to his electric guitar. Each member of the horn section also had their solo spots, proving that each of them is an accomplished jazz musician. Son Travis anchored the music with his bass and turned out to be a very good player during his solo part where he could slap his bass and groove around. Larry Carlton finished his concert with his classic "Sleepwalk" from the album of the same name.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:22 PM

March 25, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Shilts, Najee, Alex Bugnon


Berks2006_BraunShilts.jpgWith the weekend approaching there were the first major concerts due starting Friday night with Rick Braun and Richard Elliot, both on their own ARTizen label with newly signed label mate Shilts from Down To The Bone being added to their show. As they often did in earlier shows they started to play from within the audience with the trumpet of Rick Braun and the sax of Shilts coming out of the dark to unite later on stage for the first high-energy song showing some great playing by Shilts. Chatting between songs Shilts' British accent was quite likeable and gave rise to some laughs. Richard Elliot joined Rick Braun with the second song and both feeded off the energy of the other to lead us to one highlight after the other. Rick played his hit "Notorius" while Richard Elliot played the Stylistics classic "People Make The World Go 'Round" boasting his muscular tenor sound. Then it was Rick Braun's turn with some songs from his latest CD playing some nice renditions of EWF's "Shining Star" seguing into Barry White's "Love Theme". They were supported by a great band consisting of Nate Phillips on bass, Ron Reinhart on keys, Rayford Griffin on drums and Dwight Sills on guitar. Later Shilts got the chance to play the single from his upcoming new album which was picture perfect and very groovy smooth jazz whetting our appetite to hear the final product soon. The show was concluded by Richard Elliot's trademark song "When A Man Loves A Woman" employing the full range of his instrument to the delight of the crowd. A superlative concert by some of the genre's best artists who get better and better all the time.

Berks2006_NajeeBugnon.jpgWe headed over to the Sheraton to the late night show of sax player Najee with special guest Alex Bugnon on keys. The career of Najee spans over 20 years now and with his latest album My Point Of View he has another winner on the market. Supported by a great band he played songs ranging from his classic "Najee's Theme" to the current "2nd 2 None". Alex Bugnon came to the stage for a few songs - among them "Naima" and "107 Degrees In The Shade" - and added a great element of soulfulness and grooviness to the proceedings which was very well recieved by the capacity crowd. Najee proved to be an excellent player on soprano sax and flute often breaking the music down and exploring some subtler nuances before building it up again. Singer Lomon provided two great songs, one being the beautiful ballad "Fallin' In Love With You" where he even incorporated seamlessly an old EWF song before returning back to the original song. Lomol is a great talent to be watched in the future and a nice person to boot. For the finale of the show not only Alex Bugnon was summoned on the stage but also Joe McBride who was in the audience to give us a great and groovy jam with Najee on flute bringing a truly memorable and soulful concert to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:14 PM

March 24, 2006

Gerald Albright Cancels National Anthem Gig After Mother Dies

The saxophonist is in Texas this weekend for his mother's funeral.

GeraldAlbright.jpgOur thoughts are with saxophonist Gerald Albright as his mother, Mattie Pearl Albright, died March 18 at East Texas Medical Center in Tyler, Texas. Mrs. Albright, who was 88, was married to the late William Dudley Albright, who died in September of 2003.

Albright, whose latest album called New Beginnings will be released on March 28, was scheduled to perform the National Anthem on March 25 for the Colorado Crush Arena Football League team at the Pepsi Center in Denver, but has of course cancelled the performance. He will, however, peform the National Anthem on April 17 before a Denver Nuggets baskeball game. Albright, who lives in Castle Rock, Colorado, is in Texas for his mother’s funeral service scheduled March 25 at Frankston High School in Frankston, Texas.

Albright is asking those who would like to make a donation in Mattie Albright’s name to send them to Top Ladies Of Distinction Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 4459, Tyler, TX 75712.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:27 PM

March 23, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Joe McBride

Berks2006_JoeMcBride.jpgJoe McBride and his Texas Rhythm Band were due Wednesday evening for a high profile non-ticketed concert called Texas Hold ‘Em Night at the Peanut Bar Restaurant in Reading, PA. With fellow Smoothvibes contributor Jonathan Widran just having flown in from LA we were ready for some food and good music and Joe McBride didn't disappoint, this guy just loves to play! Crammed onto the the small stage the band was grooving right away and gave us one great song after the other with "Sarah Smile" featuring Joe's heartfelt singing being a standout track of the evening. Supported by sax, guitar, bass and drums Joe could shine and the concert was warmly received by those in attendance. By the way next to all the major concerts there are many non-ticketed events taking place across town during the festival which are held in restaurants and clubs so there is plenty to see and do while you are visiting. You find more infos at the festival's official website.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:04 PM

Superstar CD: George Benson And Al Jarreau

Legendary guitarist signs to Concord Records.

GeorgeBenson.jpgGuitarist and vocalist George Benson, who parted ways with the GRP/Verve Music Group in July of 2005, has signed to Concord Records, which recently also added saxophonist Boney James to its roster. Although details are still being worked out, it appears that Benson’s first project for Concord will be a duet album with vocalist Al Jarreau, whose most recent CD is called Accentuate the Positive.

In addition, the CD will be part of a new collaboration between the Concord Music Group and Monster Cable that offers what they call SuperDiscs. These CDs offer high-definition Surround Sound, and some feature multiple mixes that allow listeners to select their own Surround experience, ranging from “front row performance” and "in the room" to "on stage" and "orchestral." Benson has worked with Monster Cable – known for its music accessories for recording studios – in recent years as a product endorser and has a link to the company on his website. And in January, Benson and Jarreau headlined a Monster Cable concert in Las Vegas at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

Benson's last CD, Irreplaceable, featured the No. 1 smooth jazz song “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise.”

Posted by Brian Soergel at 12:06 AM

March 22, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Miles of Motown

Berks2006_Horns.jpgFans come from miles away to see the talented group of artists who descend upon Reading each year during the Berks Jazz Festival. And sometimes they come not only FROM miles away, but TO SEE Miles -- Jason Miles, that is, leader extraordinnaire of musicians who enjoy rallying around themes of musical memories honoring musical icons of the past. Last year it was Miles to Miles, a tribute to Miles Davis. This year, a tribute to the best of Motown and Marvin Gaye, and what a great line-up players Miles brought together for this endeavor.

Headliners in the show were guitarists Nick Colionne, Peter White, saxophone players Jay Beckenstein and Candy Dulfer, singers Bobby Caldwell, Guide De Palma, Kevin Mahogany, rising talent Dominick Farinacci on trumpet, and Brazililan keyboardist Cesar Camargo Mariano. Added to this group were backup singers Mike Mattison (who sang out front for great renditions of "Please Don't Leave Me" and "Heavy Love Affair") and Emily Bindiger. Miles, of course, was on keyboard, and his house band for the night included Sherrod Barnes on guitar, Jonathan Maron on bass guitar, drummer Gene Lake, and Bashiri Johnson as percussionist.

Berks2006_NickColionne.jpgThroughout the night were various combinations of artists and as the night went on, we learned that quite a few of the songs had been immediately claimed by the artists as 'the one' they wanted to make their own. And it happened for them each time. With each song being sung or performed by someone with such a passion for that particular song, there were explosions of melody and improvisational journeys.

The evening began with a few numbers featuring Miles and his band, then settled into the chosen set of songs of Motown. Dominick Farinacci gave us a taste of his talent, then was joined by Kevin Mahogany and Peter White on "Never Can Say Goodbye," followed by Kevin and Nick Colionne on "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." By this time the audience could feel the high-energy evening this promised to be. Peter White returned later to play "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and "You Keep Me Hanging On," and the audience couldn't help but sing along, watching his infectious enjoyment of these songs. Nick Colionne came back to play "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and the crowd warmed so much to his straight from the heart, soulful playing.

Berks2006_WhiteColionne.jpgJay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra joined Brazilian keyboard player Mariano as Guide De Palma sang "Too Busy Thinkin' 'Bout My Baby" and "I Want You." These were great moments of the night, too, lots of movement and energy on stage and lots of fun interaction between the players. Jay Beckenstein was later joined by Candy Dulfer for "Mercy, Mercy Me," a truly awesome performance by both of them. Dulfer played a few other numbers herself; her talent and years of playing were quite evident, and she seemed to thoroughly enjoy being part of this tribute and the Berks Jazz Fest.

Bobby Caldwell made "Distant Lover" and "Til You Come Back" his own and it was a pleasure to see him up there, he's such a steady and capable entertainer. He had a dynamic performance with Palma on "Ain't That Peculiar" which really sent the crowd into yet another frenzy of excitement!

The show closed with "What's Goin' On?" and even after nearly three hours, both those on stage and in the audience seemed refreshed and renewed by this trip down memory lane.

Let's hope Jason Miles keeps on with his tradition of providing us with opportunities to look back and remember.

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo Credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 11:42 AM

March 21, 2006

What We're Listening To - March

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

Steve Oliver, Radiant, 2006. He’s done it again. A great listen all the way through and after even the first listen, it’s already replaying itself in your musical mind. The CD has an uplifting conceptual framework amid the struggles we all face in life. Original vocals 'Bend or Break' and 'Radiant' are excellent compositions with thought-provoking lyrics that show us more of the depth that is Steve Oliver, while at the same time his just-right vocal touches on the instrumental tunes make them soar! Awesome keyboard and programming by both Michael Broening and Tom Schumann, also features Gerald Veasley on bass on one of the tracks.

Harry Hmura, Face to the Sun, 2006. A second solo CD that showcases Harry’s tremendous skill on the guitar. Simply amazing, indescribable, tireless playing, once again. Stirring vocals by Harry Hmura himself and always that wonderful Latin jazz feel throughout. The inspirational title is only the beginning of your journey to a place where you can bask in the warmth of the guitarist’s ability to bring you to a place where you’re feeling great and ready to tackle the world. A great follow-up to his first CD, Passion. After seeing a DVD of Hmura’s playing, I strongly recommend not only buying the CD, but booking him for a concert – he’s a player who is totally one with his guitar and you won’t be disappointed with his energetic, electric performance.

Janita, Seasons of Life, 2006. Very soulful singer from Finland, now working in NYC, whose voice and lyrics draw you in immediately. Tunes that stay with you and become pleasant memories that you want to keep going back to. A Basia feel in some of the tunes , with a more sultry voice that does every song justice. The appeal of this album is enhanced with awesome string arrangements, and that really shows in 'Enjoy The Silence,' sure to be a hit, and my personal favorite. We'll be hearing a lot more about this artist, to be sure.

Jay Soto, Long Time Coming, 2005. I’ve recently come across this powerhouse of a guitar player and I am nothing short of stunned with his ability to do something I don’t often see in a CD, which is to play quite an assortment of tunes to clearly demonstrate his versatility. In some tunes he reminds me of Russ Freeman and Peter White.

Donald Fagen, Morph the Cat, 2006. There will never be a time when I won’t buy anything recorded by Steely Dan or Donald Fagen. One just has to make the attempt to keep up with the latest world view coming out of some of the most creative minds in history. 'H Gang' is the one I like best (for now)!

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

Roy Ayers, Virgin Ubiquity Remixed (BBE/Rapster): The legendary vibe master gets a fresh new electronica makeover by some of today's hottest producers.

Spyro Gyra, Wrapped in a Dream (Heads Up): Another solid work by Jay Beckenstein and company with some real bite and amazing solo work by Beckenstein.

Philippe Saisse Trio, The Body and Soul Sessions (G&N): A CD of mostly pop songs offered in an accessible jazz framework. Will be released soon by Rendezvous Entertainment but is now available on Saisse's website.

Monty Alexander, Concrete Jungle: The Music of Bob Marley (Tuff Gong/Telarc): Nobody does reggae in a jazz-piano style better than Alexander.

Althea Rene, In the Moment (Chocolate Caramel): Smooth Jazz flute with an urban flavor. The title song is one of the best of the year and should be a smooth jazz single. Highly recommended.

P E T E R * B O E H I

Rodney Taylor - Blow By Blow (2003)
This sax player sounds eerily similar to Gerald Albright, blindfolded I would bet this was the man. Nevertheless this is some well produced, very contemporary smooth jazz which is very recommended.

Keith Anderson - Diversity (1997)
Smooth and cool sax player with a very polished set. Very well done, not to be overlooked!

Keith Jacobson - I Wanna Be With You (2005)
Picture perfect smooth jazz set by sax player Keith Jacobson with top notch production and radio friendly gems in abundance. With Eric Marienthal and Patrick Yandall guesting. Great music!

Tom Schuman - Deep Chill (2005)
Spyro Gyra keyboard player Tom Schuman delivers a great smooth jazz album with some notable guests like Peter White and Jeff Kashiwa. Thumbs up!

Mike Stevens - Joy (1998)
I overlooked this album when it originally came out and am happy to have discovered it eventually. Great sax playing by Mike Stevens and some soulful vocals by Meli'sa Morgen make this a top notch record.

D E N I S * P O O L E

When You Comin' Back To Me by Brenda Russell from her wonderful CD Between The Sun And The Moon. This is as smoky and soulful as you will hear all year.

Love TKO by Eric Darius from his current release Night On The Town. With a new CD due out on March 7 Darius is going to be going from strength to strength.

Maxi's by Richard Elliott from Metro Blue. Its an indication of the quality of this one that the radio play lists have not yet got to the best tracks.

Firefly by Greg Adams from the CD of the same name. Its one of those that gets in your head and won't go away.

Love Will Never Let You Down from the Brian Culbertson release It's On Tonight. With awesome contributions from Pattie Austin and Kirk Whalum this is one I keep coming back to.

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

2002, The Emerald Way (Real Music)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Long Walk to Freedom (Heads Up Africa)

Unwrapped Vol. 4 (Hidden Beach Recordings)

Jamie Cullum, Catching Tales (Verve Forecast)

Amik Desires: The Romantic Collection (Bolero)

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:26 AM

March 20, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: New Life Jazz Orchestra, Robert Glasper, Kevin Mahogany

Berks2006_KevinMahogany.jpgSunday afternoon's show was tagged "Jazz Goes To Church" and was supposed to bring together jazz and gospel. Backbone of the event was The New Life Jazz Orchestra led by Kendrick Oliver who kicked off the show with some fiery big band jazz. Several of the members stood out as soloists and provided the foundation for what was to come later. Replacing Cyrus Chestnut who was ill we got Robert Glasper on piano supporting the orchestra. They gave us their renditions of traditionals like "Amazing Grace" and "Wade In The Water" among other gospel songs. In between songs conductor Kendrick Oliver chatted to the crowd and took over the role of the MC. The second half of the show featured the very capable singer Monica Lynk who performed a beautiful rendition of "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" and other songs before the eagerly anticipated singer Kevin Mahogany joined the show, for me his version of the Donny Hathaway composition "Someday We'll All Be Free" turned out to be a highlight of the concert. This show was another nice addition the Berks Jazz Fest with its unique combination of elements and different artists.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:57 PM

March 19, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Ramsey Lewis, David Benoit

Berks2006_WhalumAlbright.jpgSaxophonists Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright are touring this year together and showed up at the Berks Jazz Festival, being happy to be invited to bring their music to the festival. They were supported by an all-star band with Melvin Davis on bass, Ricky Lawson on drums, Marlon McClain on guitar (of Pleasure fame) and Michael Logan on keys. Parts of the show were done together while other parts were exclusively devoted to each saxophonist. After both opened the show with "Groverworked and Underpaid" it was Gerald Albright's turn playing material from older albums like Smooth and Bermuda Nights while later Kirk Whalum played songs from his current release Babyface Songbook. The cameraderie within the band was evident and they were laughing and joking around while building a good rapport with the audience with some chats between songs. Gerald Albright has a new CD coming soon called New Beginnings, marking a new chapter in his career after having moved to Denver, CO and joining Peak Records. He played "We Got The Groove" which will be the first single, whetting our appetite to hear the full album. Another highlight was the stroll of Kirk Whalum in the audience playing a lengthy solo (shaking my hand in the process which was thrilling) which culminated in standing on an empty chair in the middle of the center section finishing his solo surrounded by ecstatic fans. That's what live music is all about! Being close to Philly they made a nod to Grover and finished their show with the classic Grover Washington Jr. hit "Just The Two Of Us". This was a varied and entertaining show on the highest level of musicianship.

Berks2006_RamseyLewis.jpgIn the evening there was a special concert featuring the Reading Pops Orchestra, the Ramsey Lewis Trio and David Benoit. This unique pairing promised a special evening, and my expectations were far exceeded. The concert, opened by the Reading Pops Orchestra containing full horn and string sections and led by conductor Erwin Chandler, played a few orchestral pieces before they left the stage for Ramsey Lewis. Ramsey Lewis and his trio were warmly welcomed by the crowd and played a selection of straight jazz pieces from the vast catalog of the leader, culminating in a great rendition of his hit "Wade In The Water". Ramsey Lewis must be over 70 but he had his act completely together and was in total control showing some fine playing at the piano.

Berks2006_DavidBenoit.jpgAfter a short intermission, David Benoit supported by a rhythm section and the Reading Pops Orchestra were on providing another highlight of the festival. David Benoit played vividly at the Steinway Grand, while at the same time conducting the orchestra sitting next to him, at times standing at the piano waving his hands which yielded magical musical moments. He opened his set with "Linus & Lucy" and played songs from his orchestra albums American Landscape and Orchestral Stories and an orchestra arrangement of "Rebach" from his classic CD Every Step Of The Way and a groovy version of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man". The grande finale included the Ramsey Lewis trio together with the Reading Pops Orchestra conducted by David Benoit playing a great version of Ramsey's hit "The In Crowd" which brought a great evening to its rousing end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:28 PM

March 18, 2006

Berks Jazz Fest 2006: Joe Sample, Dianne Reeves, Pieces Of A Dream

The 16th annual Berks Jazz Fest opened yesterday at the Sovereign Performing Arts Centre with the first major concerts. The acoustic Joe Sample Trio featuring his son Nick on acoustic bass delivered a set of acoustic straight ahead jazz tracks featuring the trademark playing of the leader we came to love over the decades. Chatting between songs and giving us stories from way back hinted at his age, which must be approaching 70. Being a fan of his Rainbow Seeker period, it was logical that songs like "Carmel" and "X Marks The Spot" were personal favorites because they delivered familiar melodies and a funkier groove.

Berks2006_DianneReeves.jpgAfter a short intermission songstress Dianne Reeves, with her mostly acoustic band, gave us some great jazz singing. Just having won a Grammy for her "Good Night, And Good Luck" soundtrack, she was in fine form. Her band grooved a little harder than the Joe Sample trio and her singing covered a wide range of styles from straight jazz to blues to soul, with some introspective moments as well. Personal highlights were "Afro Blue" and her classic song "Better Days" which closed the concert.

Berks2006_PiecesOfADream.jpgAfter the last song I rushed over to the Wyndham Ball Room, which is located within walking distance in order to catch Pieces Of A Dream, who were due to perform songs from their brand new release Pillow Talk. I had already received a copy from their label (actually you can hear a few songs from it on the SmoothVibes Radio Channel) and was looking forward to hearing this material performed live. Founded 1975 in Philadelphia the band is celebrating their 30th anniversary. The group consisted of founding members James Lloyd on keys and Curtis Harmon on drums, along with longtime member Eddie Baccus Jr. on sax (part of the band for 11 years now), further supported by Scott Ambush on bass (a loan from label mates Spyro Gyra) and a nice female keyboard player as well as singer Ramona Dunlap who came on stage for three songs. They opened the show with a few songs from their new CD "Wake Up Call" and "Pillow Talk" before giving us some classic tunes from their back catalog featuring the keys of James Lloyd and the sax of Eddie Baccus Jr., providing smooth jazz of the highest calibre. The part featuring vocals gave us a great song from the new CD called "Those 3 Words" and the classic "Rising To The Top" by Keni Burke, which just was magical. This was a very enjoyable concert going the gamut from funky numbers to quieter soulful moments providing a good time to those in attendance.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:38 PM

March 17, 2006

Berks: How Sweet It Is


Berks-Pagoda-photo-no-snow.jpgIf looking at this picture causes some excitement for you, then you’ve probably visited Reading, Pennsylvania, during the Berks Jazz Fest held each year in March. By the time you see the familiar Pagoda, you know you’re in jazz territory and the entire city and surrounding area is awaiting your arrival.

When you do arrive, be on the lookout for the First Energy Berks Jazz Festival guide which will be displayed in all the venues, various hotels and restaurants in the area. This handy guide has been published by the Reading Eagle Company and was included in its March 12th edition of the daily newspaper. Available throughout the ten days of the festival, it contains feature stories on artists and special shows, bios on all performers, complete schedules, travel information and a lot more.

This year marks the 16th anniversary of the festival and promises to be as good as ever, with plenty of events for jazz lovers over the ten day festival. Visit the website and click on the schedule to see a listing of both ‘ticketed’ and ‘non-ticketed’ events. contributor Jonathan Widran has written the biographies for artists which appears on the Berks Jazz Fest site and as shown in the festival guide.

Some fantastic theme concerts are on docket this year. The Motown sound, the Brazilian sound, and the Wes Montgomery sound all promise to be great concerts with a lot of players in each. The Berks All Star Jazz Jam is always a highlight. And Grammy Award winner Dianne Reeves will kick off the ten days of music on Friday evening, along with the legendary Joe Sample.

If you’ve never been here before, then you may wonder what it’s really like to travel to this small city within easy traveling distance to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City. To satisfy your curiosity, here are some scenes from last year’s 15th anniversary festival. You’re probably familiar with many of the players in these photos – their shows were memorable examples of what happens when the lights go down and the focus is on the music that makes the festival worthwhile. So enjoy the photos, and get ready to capture your own special views, with either your camera or your mind’s eye. The best thing is, some of these artists will return for this year's celebration of jazz.

One of my favorite shows was Jeff Golub, shown here along with members of his band. This was a high energy show right from the start. There was an electric connection between the band members, and it wasn't long before Jeff told us this was the best band he's ever played with. They played so many of our favorite tunes, and so the audience encouragement was nonstop.

JeffGolub2-2005.jpg JeffGolub3-2005.jpg JeffGolub4-2005.jpg
JeffGolub5-2005.jpg JeffGolub6-2005.jpg JeffGolub1-2005.jpg
JeffGolub7-2005.jpg JeffGolubBevPic.jpg

PeterWhiteJaaredBevPeter200.jpgPeter White's show featuring Jaared was another memorable show. Starting out with 'Something 'Bout Love', from the CD Confidential, it wasn't long before Peter launched into a string of covers, including 'The Closer I Get To You,' 'Who's That Lady?', and 'Papa Was a Rolling Stone.' Keyboard player David Sparkman had the greatest smile, and I didn't realize until later in the show that he's an awesome singer with his own CD.

Peter makes his shows so fun. First of all , it's obvious he has his favorite toy with him -- his guitar! He dances with it, is willing to just let loose and have fun. He tells us it's just him 'living out his rock and roll fantasy.' By the end of the night, I concluded that there is a reason why Peter White is such a crowd pleaser -- it's because he's pleasing himself.

BerksAllStarJam7-2005.jpgTom Grant, shown here at the Wyndham Hotel, played during the dinner hour on four days of the festival. He was also part of the Berks All Star Jazz Jam.

ChuckLoebDavidMann1-2005.jpgChuck Loeb and David Mann played an awesome afternoon concert; Chuck Loeb also had a show with his wife, Carmen Cuesta, and he organized the Berks All Star Jazz Jam, as he does each year during the festival. Chuck mentioned that Berks is such a favorite festival, that it's very relaxed and happy here.

The Sax Pack was an awesome experience for jazz lovers. You sure can't beat the combination of Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, and Steve Cole.

SaxPack1-2005.jpg SaxPack2-2005.jpg SaxPack3-2005.jpg

Scenes from the Berks All Star Jazz Jam. There were about ten players on stage at once and it is always one of the most favorite shows during the Berks Jazz Festival.

BerksAllStarJam1-2005.jpg BerksAllStarJam2-2005.jpg BerksAllStarJam3-2005.jpg
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GroovinforGrover.jpgThe Groovin' for Grover show couldn't have been better. Featuring players like Gerald Albright, Paul Taylor, Jeff Lorber and Richard Eliott, who could ask for more? One of the highlights, of course, was when they launched into 'Soulful Strut.'

In the last days before the start of the festival, I caught up with Connie Leinbach, executive director of the Berks Arts Council, and here is what she had to say:

“The FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest is a tremendous event in which the entire community can be proud. During Jazz Fest, the hotels are full, the restaurants are full, the streets are filled with jazz patrons, all of whom spend an estimated $5 million in Berks County while they're here.

“Berks Arts Council produces and benefits from the success of the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest. The proceeds from the event are used to develop and maintain arts programs in the Berks County area. It also provides workshops for young, aspiring jazz musicians to learn from and play with professional musicians.

“To help make this all happen, the Arts Council enlists help from sponsors and 340 dedicated volunteers who donate over 5,000 hours of volunteer time as backstage crew, ushers, ticket-takers and merchandise sellers.

BerksPic.jpg“We're thankful that Berks Countians support Jazz Fest by attending the concerts and volunteering their time, and that so many businesses support this event through their generous sponsorships. Arts events such as the FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest help put Berks County on the map as a vibrant place to live and have a business.”

One of the most special things about the festival is that fans and artists are so often in the same space -- not just the same venue as stage performers and audiences, but as artist and fan at the autograph table, getting to know each other perhaps for the first time at Meet the Artists, friend to friend as they enjoy time together that comes and goes all too quickly. It's not only media people or event organizers who get to rub shoulders with the artists, but you can, too, and that's sure to give you some of your best memories of the festival. It's a chance to renew acquaintances and develop lifelong friendships with other fans and the ever-growing group of artists that have been invited to play here for that always memorable month of March.

Media members will come from near and far. We're already planning get-togethers with each other and with artists. Peter Boehi, publisher of, has already arrived and Jonathan Widran will arrive mid-week. As always, please come to talk with us when you see us around town!

While you're here at Berks, or especially if you're unable to make it here this year, visit often to hear the music of this year's artists being played. Every day, we'll devote plenty of time to help you become more acquainted with the special music of Berks Jazz Fest 2006!!

Happy Jazzin'

BoneyBevMichael2005.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania

Photo Credits: Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:25 AM

March 16, 2006

Saxophonist Takes Bold Step With New CD

Pamela Williams announces that she is gay.

PamelaWilliams_bw.gifOn her upcoming album called Elixer, which will be released next week, smooth jazz saxophonist Pamela Williams thanks her domestic partner Precious for her support throughout the years. Williams decided that with her sixth album – she debuted 10 years ago with Saxtress – that it was time to announce that she is gay.

Williams calls Elixer her coming-out CD and, although it’s a scary step for her, she’s glad to finally let the truth be known.

"I think it’s always something that’s very scary to do because, of course, as an entertainer you don’t want to alienate anybody," says Williams, who recently moved from Southern California to Atlanta. "But it’s just at a point in my life I just kind of wanted everybody to really know who I really am. And I think that that’s not the biggest part of who you are. It’s a little part, but it’s important I think to be honest. And it does feel like a weight has lifted off of you, because you really don’t have to pretend or lie about who you really are. So for me I think it’s important for people to be who they are and be proud of it."

Elixer features 10 songs with titles such as “Positive Vibe,” “A Jam for Pam,” “Forbidden Fruit” and “Rejuvenation.” The CD will be released March 21 by Shanachie, which on the same day will offer a DVD of Williams in concert called A Night With the Saxtress.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:06 AM

March 10, 2006

Eric Darius - Just Getting Started

EricDarius2.jpgEric Darius has always been a man in a hurry. In 2001, at age 17, he independently released his debut CD Cruisin, a project for which he had been writing music over the previous four years. When in 2004 he secured a deal with Narada Jazz it enabled the follow up, Night On The Town to be unveiled on the Higher Octave label and moved this incredibly mature saxophonist from playing at local clubs and hotspots in his native Tampa to wowing the crowds at some major smooth events. Significantly, following an impromptu meeting in Los Angeles, he got the chance to join Brian Culbertson’s touring band and has also shared the stage with some of the genre’s biggest stars. Now he is back with the March 8 release on Narada Jazz of Just Getting Started. It is a high quality piece of work and the number of smooth jazz performers who have gathered round to collaborate with Darius bear testimony to the esteem in which they hold him.

These collaborations reach deep into the albums production with Brian Culbertson, Paul Brown and Darren Rahn all playing a significant part. The big and funky ‘Steppin Up’ is brimming with Eric’s full playing and the Fender Rhodes of Jeff Lorber. It was released to radio ahead of time and has raced into the chart of the top thirty most played. Radio ready is a label that can be applied to many of the eleven excellent tracks and ‘Secret Soul’ is one of them. This Culbertson composition has his keyboard and production skills all over it and Darius, joined by Paul Jackson Jr, latches onto the vibe to produce a slice of sensual instrumental quiet storm of the highest order.

In fact the composition credits for Just Getting Started are shared around liberally. In this respect ‘Back At Cha’, written and produced by fellow Narada Jazz recording artist Euge Groove is a little gem. It has that Groove like stepping beat, the distinctive Fender Rhodes of Michael Egizi and Eric’s vibrant sound that is full to overflowing. Paul Brown produces two tracks on the album. The first, ‘Right Here Right Now’, that Brown co-writes with Chuck Cymone, has a real Boney James thing going on and gives Darius the chance to prove he can play mid tempo smooth jazz and still make it sound funky. Brown also lends his production skills to the only cover on the album; Darius’s version of the Alicia Keys hit ‘If I Ain’t Got You’. Here the rippling keys of Mitch Forman herald in Eric’s wailing sax for a tune that rapidly becomes a sumptuous and bluesy tearjerker.

From early in his career one thing that set Eric Darius apart was his ability to write great music and with Just Getting Started this skill is again obvious. ‘Its Alright With Me’, that he co-writes with Jason Atkins, fills the now common slot reserved for the kind of smooth R & B vocal number intended for late night lovers. These vocals come courtesy of Atkins and although the tune is to a formula, when done this well, it doesn’t seem to matter. More original is the Darius composition ‘Can’t Let Go’. It has a Latin feel about it and sax playing across an incredible range while ‘That’s What I’m Sayin’ is boppy, tight and a great tune to dance along to. Also from the pen of Darius is ‘Groove On’ where, with help from Jeff Lorber on Fender Rhodes, he succeeds in getting even funkier than usual and with ‘Lovers Paradise’, co-written by Darius, Jeff Caruthers and Darren Rahn, he comes up with one of the albums standout tracks. This mid tempo smoker with big production from Rahn, a catchy riff and a top-notch piano solo from Ron Reinhardt is a blueprint for what smooth jazz should always be.

The collection closes with another Brian Culbertson written and produced track, ‘Slick’ that, true to its title, flows along on a spring tide of understated funk. It’s a tune that should play well in a live setting and for fans of Eric Darius that setting should not be hard to find. He continues to play with Brian Culbertson and his own tour schedule for 2006 is already filling up with gigs to promote Just Getting Started. His energy, his enthusiasm and the sheer quality of his music are sure to make him a hit wherever he goes.

For more on Eric Darius go to

Posted by Denis Poole at 5:41 PM

March 8, 2006

November Cruise on the Horizon


Chieli Minucci and Musicians for a Cause

EFXband.jpgChieli Minucci has recently announced he will host a cruise to set sail in November. The cruise will feature Special EFX as the 'house band' and will include a line-up of some fantastic artists, including Kim Waters, Gerald Veasley, Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra, Slow Train, and more.

ChieliGerald2.jpgSays Chieli, "This fall, I hope you will join us for an incredible long weekend (starting in Miami) of great music, a fun 70's disco party and more importantly for a great cause. This jazz cruise we will donate a portion of the proceeds to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. I am very excited to be able to help out this worthy organization as they educate and work to prevent domestic violence."

KimWaters.jpgCarnival's Imagination will set sail November 2nd from Miami and travel to Key West and Cozumel. before returning to Miami on November 6th.

Chieli adds, "The guest artists that are involved in this venture are nothing less than stellar performers. I can't think of better performers to represent us in this first event." Jay_Beckenstein Spyro_Gyra.jpg

SlowTrain.jpgFans can get more information about the cruise by visiting

For booking, please contact

Chieli extends the invitation to join him for "fun, relaxation, jazz, sunsets, and more...."

Who could refuse such an offer?? Certainly not yours truly!

See you in November!

Happy Jazzin'

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

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 10:46 PM

March 7, 2006

Contempo March 2006

TomScott_bw.jpgThirty years after the heyday of his famed fusion outfit Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, the saxman is still so identified with that group — which featured Robben Ford and Joe Sample, among others who rotated in — that he’s done two recordings under that name in the past decade and recently played Tokyo with that billing. Considering his deep connection to the city (which has also included hundreds of sessions and years of well known TV and film work), it’s ironic that he’s having such a blast living in a cabin near Tehachapi, a small mountain town two hours north.

Scott’s charming local eatery The Apple Shed may be a hundred miles and many musical lifetimes removed from The Baked Potato in North Hollywood — where The Tom Scott Bebop Quartet evolved into the L.A. Express — but, to quote the title of one of his more popular 90s GRP recordings, he feels Born Again among those brilliant vistas, not to mention breathing the clean air. The title of his last smooth jazz recording, 2002’s Newfound Freedom, says it all about where he’s at these days.

Despite his vast success in the contemporary jazz funk realm, he’s taking that freedom in an unexpected direction on Bebop United, a spirited live recording of a straight-ahead jazz concert he performed at Manchester’s Craftsman’s Guild in Pittsburgh in December 2004 (and released on the MCG label). For Scott, blowing hard and exploring the subtleties of these eight selections — including three Scott originals, plus classics from Wayne Shorter (“Children of the Night”), Chick Corea (“Tones For Jones Bones”), Cannonball Adderley (“Sack O’Woe”) — takes him back to his roots when he recorded two LPs for Bob Thiele’s Impulse Records at age 19-20 in the late 60s.

“This album is basically Born Again live, with some of the same tunes I did on that record played at MCG, a totally unique jazz venue, and featuring all East Coast guys, including Gil Goldstein and Randy Brecker,” he says. “They approached me about adding Phil Woods to the bill, so I wrote special arrangements for two altos on a few tunes. I played on a session with him back in the 70s and always loved his playing. He may be in his 70s but he still plays with a lot of fire. The gig grew out of a few dates I did with the Born Again instrumentation at Catalina Bar & Grill in L.A. My agent told MCG’s Marty Ashby about it, and he suggested we do it back East. Some fans have wondered how I can switch so easily from a very pop record like Newfound Freedom to this, but it’s just a different aspect of the music I love. I just do what I enjoy doing and stay in the moment, and the way people perceive it is up to them.”

In other words, it’s the fans and critics who have issues when he jumps from traditional to contemporary and back. He likes the fact that his R&B based “smooth jazz” embraces a simpler, more accessible style, with an emphasis on passion and communicating a unique statement in an uncomplicated way that still is meaningful. “I like to bring that passion to my trad jazz dates,” he says.

Jazz purists might balk at the “meaningful” part of this, but he somewhat appeases their sense of intellectual superiority when he adds, “the challenge of bebop is different, involving a whole lot more thinking, chords, harmonies and faster rhythm patterns that are more cerebral. When I play the R&B stuff, my solos are a lot more dynamic as a result.”

TomScottBand.jpgScott refers to the Ellingtonism that “good music is good music” in adding, “Regardless of the style of music, certain principles remain the same. The best fusion and smooth jazz share certain characteristics that bebop doesn’t have, but each side must maintain a certain level of accessibility for it to appeal to people. Bebop is a more complex style of music, but when you think of the genre’s great records like Miles’ Kinda Blue, they are very easy to understand, and I try to tap into that aspect of the music when I do dates like Bebop United. I’m always fascinated about what makes audiences respond to certain things and reject other styles, but I’m grateful that my upbringing exposed me to so much that I didn’t have to make such black and white distinctions.”

Every so often, as a result of the happy jazz schizophrenia that defines his catalog, Scott has to endure critiques that certain, smooth-oriented efforts are “shamelessly contrived” in comparison with his returns to his cooler and artsier L.A. Express mode or his occasional traditional dates. But his evolution into the pop and funk realm was hardly by design or an attempt to sell more albums.

“I built a whole career by accident, discovering that I was a member of a band that was drawing large numbers of people every week to see the L.A. Express,” he says. “It occurred to me that the people coming to the shows liked the fusion more than the bebop, so we lurched into the R&B soul funk style without thinking twice. Because I had my day gig as a studio musician, I wasn’t desperate to discover a style with popular appeal. But I loved the idea of an audience enjoying what I’m doing. I mean, even Phil Woods did an album with all synthesizers, trying to reach more people through his art. The role of a jazz musician has always been to draw on the popular music of the day and create and interpret from the heart. I feel like I’m always walking on that bridge between what I want to create and what people want to hear.”

DAVE KOZ & FRIENDS AT SEA: In a sad and poignant but somehow life affirming way, the maiden voyage of Dave Koz & Friends at Sea — which sailed in November aboard Holland America’s ms Oosterdam from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta — was more than simply another spectacular musical time with great artists and enthusiastic fans aboard a state of the art ship. All thanks to Audrey.

Audrey Koz, Dave’s mom, passed away after a brief illness on November 4, the day before the cruise set sail. Koz, attending to his family and Audrey’s funeral arrangements, didn’t arrive till Tuesday, when he flew from L.A. to Mazatlan, but his opening night statement, read Pat Prescott, his morning show partner at 94.7 The Wave Los Angeles, set the tone for the week.

“Make this cruise a party,” he said, “a celebration of my Mom’s life.” Of course, there were some beautiful poignant musical tribute moments along the way, from Chris Botti and (musical director) Brian Simpson’s gentle trumpet/piano rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You” to David Benoit’s dedication of “9/11,” Koz and Patti Austin’s unique improvisational take on “Smile” and Koz’s tender “Over the Rainbow”.

Then the party began, with headliners Jeff Golub, Jonathan Butler, Wayman Tisdale, George Duke, Kirk Whalum and Jeffrey Osborne going full force in making this a memorable event both musically and spiritually. Capturing both of those elements best was one of the most talked about shows of the week, a Sunday afternoon gospel hour headlined by smooth jazz apostles Whalum and Butler, who shared the joys of their faith with the smooth jazz faithful.

Personal Tastes

1) Jim Brickman, The Disney Songbook (Walt Disney Records) – Drawing on his love for all things Mickey and perhaps remembering the musical innocence of his gig years ago composing for The Muppets, the famed pop pianist romances beloved classics and creates a few of his own via two gorgeous tunes inspired by the first-ever DVD release of Cinderella.
2) Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts (Arista)
3) Rent Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Warner Bros)
4) Johnny Rodgers, Box of Photographs (PS Classics)
5) Michael Buble, Caught In The Act (Reprise)

New and Noteworthy

1) 2002, The Emerald Way (Real Music)
2) Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Long Walk To Freedom (Heads Up Africa)
3) Unwrapped Vol. 4 (Hidden Beach Recordings)
4) Jamie Cullum, Catching Tales (Verve Forecast)
5) Armik, Desires: The Romantic Collection (Bolero)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 8:14 PM

March 4, 2006

Movie Stars' Attention Will Be On Mindi Abair After Oscars

Saxophonist Mindi Abair will be dressed regally in a designer dress while performing for Hollywood's biggest stars after the Academy Awards.

On March 5, the elite of Hollywood will be entertained by smooth jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair, who will be performing at this year's Academy Awards official after-party known as the Governors Ball.

"Now for the important part," Abair says. "I'm wearing a very cool Sheri Bodell dress. It might take the Oscars to get me into a dress, but if I'm doing it, I'm going for it!"

Abair will perform for the likes of Charlize Theron, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix, all nominated for Oscars. More than 1,500 movie stars, producers, directors and friends and family are expected to show up at the grand party, held at the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex.

Abair's band features Jay Gore on guitar, Andre Berry on bass, Jamey Tate on drums and Rodney Lee on keyboards. Among the 10 songs she will perform in her one-hour set are “Flirt,” “Lucy’s,” “Come As You Are,” “Every Time” and “Ordinary Love” from her upcoming CD called Life Less Ordinary, which will be released May 2.

If you're a movie star lucky enough to catch Mindi on Sunday, here's the set list:

“Right On”
“High 5”
“Come As You Are”
“Every Time”
“Save the Last Dance”
“Ordinary Love” (from the upcoming CD Life Less Ordinary)
“Work Song”
“Save Tonight”

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:19 PM

March 3, 2006

Dave Koz Forms Rendezvous All Stars

The supergroup performs this weekend at the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia.

A new group coalition of revolving musicians is taking shape, and they all have one thing in common: They are signed to Dave Koz’s Rendezvous Entertainment record label. Called the Rendezvous All Stars, they debuted in a major way, performing last month at the Grammy Awards’ post-party. That group consisted of Koz, saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Michael Lington, vocalist Patti Austin, guitarist Jonathan Butler, pianist Brian Simpson and bassist Wayman Tisdale.

On March 3, the Rendezvous All Stars will return with Koz, Simpson, Whalum and Austin at the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia. On March 5, the group will feature Koz, Simpson, Whalum and Butler at the festival. Then, beginning March 30, Koz and Rendezvous All Stars, with Simpson and Whalum, will perform over six nights the famed Blue Note jazz club in Tokyo.

Shows starring the Rendezvous All Stars with Whalum, Butler, Tisdale and Simpson are now being confirmed for this summer.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:55 AM

March 2, 2006

Spyro Gyra's Wrapped In A Dream

The new release by Spyro Gyra, Wrapped In a Dream, the fourth album by the band for the label, Heads Up, was released officially on Tuesday, February 28th. This is the first full edition with newcomer Ludwig Alfonso on drums.

Tom Schuman, who lives in the desert of Nevada, as opposed to Jay Beckenstein, who still lives in the cold of New York State during the winter time, has received rave reviews for his recent solo effort, Deep Chill. It's too bad this album, which features the contributing talents of Chuck Loeb and Jeff Kashiwa, hasn't been worthy of a little more radio airplay nationwide. Tom is truly one of the most underrated keyboardists of jazz.

The signature sounds of veteran comtemporary jazz group, Fattburger, will be performing in the Club Tequila showroom at the Fiesta Hotel in Las Vegas Friday March 10th.

Look for ex-NBA all-star and jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale in the Railhead showroom at the Boulder Station Hotel in Vegas, Saturday, March 18th.

Donny Osmond, who's been associated with everything from bubblegum pop, to r & b, to Broadway shows, to a current renewed career on the smooth jazz charts, will be performing at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, March 2nd-5th.

Some time back I commented that I would examine the revised format of smooth jazz known as "chill". Well since that format has yet to take off, there doesn't seem to be a need to address it. However, Chris Botti is still doing a syndicated show nationwide with the title, "Chill", that seems to be doing well.

SPECIAL NOTE: I would like to apologize for the first paragraph which states that Ludwig Alfonso played on the entire album of Wrapped In A Dream. Ludwig is the current drummer for the Spyro Gyra for all intent and information available to date, but the credits list Josh Dion as the drummer for the album.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:49 PM | TrackBack

March 1, 2006

SmoothVibes Radio Channel hosted by

As you may have noticed there is some "Now Playing" information available on the main page since the beginning of March. It is the first sign of life of our newest endeavor, our Internet radio channel called SmoothVibes. It is hosted by and the program is supervised by myself. I have some top notch contributors like Harry Melchior (who did the popular show Bossa'n'more at and Jeffrey Daniels who has been establishing himself with his great show called JDCD featuring the best smooth jazz from the past until today. We benefit from the technical expertise of Patrik Jungo from who helps us to deliver the best possible sound.

Smooth jazz will be the main ingredient but we will add many related styles to the mix like Soul/R&B, Lounge, Chill, Brazil, Latin and more as long as it fits the mood and groove we are striving for. Don't expect only the genre's superstars, instead be ready to discover lots of music you wouldn't have stumbled over otherwise. All of us have large CD collections and many years of experience so we should be able to come up with something better than what Broadcast Architecture decided for you to listen to in the past.

We are constantly looking for bandwidth to stream our channel so if you want to support us and have a server to share please contact us.

If you would like to give some feedback about our radio channel please use our forum.

In order to listen just click on one of the buttons below the "Now Playing" information or visit Happy listening!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:35 PM

Philippe Saisse Releasing CD On Rendezvous In April

Veteran pianist and composer Philippe Saisse returns with a acoustic jazz CD of cover songs for Dave Koz's Rendezvous Entertainment.

PhilippeSaisse.jpgDave Koz’s Rendezvous Entertainment has announced the latest signing to its record label: keyboardist, composer and producer Philippe Saisse. Saisse, a French native who now lives near New York City, recently released a CD in Japan called The Body and Soul Sessions that was recorded at his Valerian Studios. That CD will now be repackaged and re-released by Rendezvous on April 18.

The CD is a trio recording that also features David Finck on acoustic bass and Scooter Warner on drums and percussion. The CD’s music is all cover songs, including the title track by Johnny Green, “Do It Again” by Steely Dan, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor, “Lady Madonna” by the Beatles and “We’re All Alone” by Boz Scaggs.

If you can't wait - and this CD is definitely worth getting - Saisse is also selling the Japanese version now on his Web site.

Saisse has released six previous solo CDs, including the subliminal, ahead-of-its-time chill/downtempo Halfway Til Dawn in 1999 on the GRP record label.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:16 AM