May 30, 2006

What We're Listening To * May

P E T E R * B O E H I

Robbie King - Jazz In Colours (2005)
Funky organ with mellow grooves and great sax and guitar playing. Top notch musicianship and catchy melodies lift your spirits. Very recommended!

Ted Shumate - A Different Shade Of Blue (2004)
Easy flowing guitar jazz with nice melodies and great playing, features some top notch session players. Excellent stuff.

Ultrablue - Ultrablue (2006)
Picture perfect smooth jazz by Ultrablue, a group led by keyboardist/producer John Smatla. One song is better than the other, we added most of it to the playlist of SmoothVibes radio. Don't miss it!

The Jeannette Harris Band - Down Route 99 (2004)
Jeannette Harris is a sax player much in the vein of Pamela Williams and delivers an outstanding smooth jazz album full of great playing and contemporary grooves. Worth to track down!

Paul Cruize - Cruize Control (2005)
Smooth, laid back, cool and groovy album by Arizona based guitarist/producer Paul Cruize delivering some chilling grooves. Give it a spin!

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Say Something’ from the new CD by Shilts, Head Boppin. This is warm and romantic with that full Shilts sound that listeners will recall from his work with Down To The Bone. Its a piece of smooth jazz that checks all the right boxes.

‘A Jam For Pam’by Pamela Williams from her album Elixir. Oozing urban vibes, this is a smooth mid tempo foot tapper of the highest order.

‘Two Sides Of A Coin’ by Sean Turner from the CD Begin Again. With Turners keys periodically giving way to full sounding brass, this one is a real winner.

'Baby I Need Your Loving' from the Four Tops. This one can be found on the Motown Sound the latest of an exquisite selection of compilations available only from Starbucks Coffee Shops.

‘Just For Kicks’ from Gail Jhonson’s great CD Keep The Music Playing .This one typifies what the album is all about. Super tight and with just a hint of a Latin vibe it is a fine example of smooth jazz piano at its smoothest.

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

Victor Fields, Victor (Regina Records)

Pieces of a Dream, Pillow Talk (Heads Up)

Chris Standring, Soul Express (Trippin’ N Rhythm)

Nestor Torres, Dances, Prayers & Meditations for Peace (Heads Up)

Spyro Gyra, Wrapped in a Dream (Heads Up)

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

Chieli Minucci, Night Grooves (Shanachie) This one's been out since 2003, and if you haven't yet added it to your collection, you'll want to check it out; it's a wonderful compilation of Chieli compositions.

Soul Providers, Featuring Bob Baldwin (Koch Records), Filled with so much talent and great arrangements of songs you'll love, this is a must-have CD, to be released July 11, 2006. I've never seen Bob Baldwin in concert, but this CD convinced me I want to do that as soon as I can.

Phil Perry, Heartbeats/The Classic Love Songs, 2006. Just listen and dream....

Sweet + Sexy: The Best of New Urban Jazz, Narada Jazz, A compelling two CD collection of the Sweet sounds of Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Euge Groove, Walter Beasley, Warren Hill, Eric Darius, Jeff Lorber, Steve Cole, Jimmy Sommers and Chris Botti, and Pieces of a Dream and the Sexy sounds of Shades of Soul, Bob Baldwin, Jeff Golub, Everette harp, Alex Bugnon, Jason Miles, Joyce Cooling, Acoustic Alchemy, Craig Chaquico, St. Germain, and Down to the Bone. You can't lose on this CD, just released last month.

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

Chris Standring, Soul Express (Trippin ‘N Rhythm): Standring’s lyrical guitar and meshing of smooth jazz with R&B, downtempo and jazz has never sounded better. Highlights include the Paul Brown-produced hit single “I Can’t Help Myself” and a meaty but accessible version of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”

Gumbi Ortiz, Miami (KWI): The longtime percussionist for Al DiMeola recruited Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Brandon Fields, Jay Beckenstein and DiMeola himself for this colorful project. The 14 songs fuse Latin, Cuban and Caribbean influences to maximum effect. Very nice.

Steve Briody, Keep on Talkin’ (215): Briody is a fine Smooth Jazz guitarist who is well-respected in the field and hopefully will get some much-deserved attention with his latest, which features guest spots by Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal and Greg Adams.

Bobby Lyle, Hands On (Heads Up): Pianist Bobby Lyle comes out with yet another solid offering that should be a hit with Smooth Jazz fans who favor the type of musical elegance pioneered by Joe Sample. The jazz standard “Poinciana” is sublime, but Bobby also has fun with covers of “Best of My Love” and “Minute by Minute.”

Oscar Castro-Neves, All One (Mack Avenue): The legendary Brazilian guitarist delivers another sublime CD of Brazilian jazz, helped by vocalist Lucian Souza and Brian Bromberg, who has a killer solo on “’Round Midnight.”

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:04 AM

May 29, 2006

Janita - Seasons Of Life

Janita.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. It’s a long way from Finland to the streets of downtown Manhattan but this incredible journey has brought Janita to the verge of international singing stardom. With May 16, 2006 slated as the date for the release of her new CD Seasons Of Life and the advance single from it, ‘Enjoy The Silence’, already racing up the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio this is a year that promises much for an artist who has been favorably compared to the likes of Sade and Norah Jones. Although Seasons Of Life will be Janita’s first non-independent release in the USA, her 2001 debut I’ll Be Fine made it into the top forty of the smooth jazz chart. In addition she is no stranger to success in her home country of Finland. Here, as a teen singing sensation, she enjoyed multiple hits and Grammy awards as well as being voted “the most sensuous woman in Finland”. Now, signed to the Lightyear Entertainment label, she has written and executive produced all eleven tracks of the excellent Seasons Of Life.

The CD opens in sensational style with the warmly Latin ‘No Words’ where Janitas’s luscious and often sexy vocals flood through the tune like rays of Californian sunshine while just as good yet very different is ‘I Only Want You’. Possibly the most soulful cut on the album it is interspersed with delicious horns, sultry vocals and a standout bass line. Janita revisits the Latin theme throughout and notable in this respect are the soulful and romantic ‘I Miss You’, ‘Let Me Love You’ and ‘More Than Fantasy’, a sensuous slow burner with a laid back Latin sway and an injection of warm strings that considerably ups the emotional anti.

Indeed a notable production masterstroke is the shunning of synthesized strings in favor of a real sixteen-piece section. This proves to be a key component and is well demonstrated with ‘That’s How Life Goes’ where their subtle use and a compelling chorus adds to the smoky soul tinged quality of the track.

On Seasons Of Life Janita is supported by a glittering array of musicians. These include drummer Antonia Sanchez, who has played with Pat Metheny, and Daniel Sadownick on percussion who has appeared on recordings by Angie Stone, Incognito and Steely Dan. Keyboard player, guitarist and producer of the album is Tomi Sachary while sharing duties with Sanchez on drums is Scooter Warner. Founder of the Groove Collective Jonathon Maron plays bass and Jacques Schwartz-Bart provides sax and flute. Each in their own way contribute to the overall product and their ultra tight playing combined with good use of backing vocals are inherent features of ‘I Cant Get Enough Of You’, providing, as they do, a perfect back drop to a tune that contains elements of both pop and jazz but which Janita is able to make soulful too.

Janita proves, both with the title track and the bosso-nova charged ‘Too Late’, that she can handle romantic ballads with the best of them while ‘Bear With Me’ gives her the chance to take a leaf from Norah Jones book with a sparse yet warm love song to which she lends the considerable emotion of her vocals. Among the best on the album is the radio single ‘Enjoy The Silence’. Laid back yet compelling this is a number with a sound filled by understated strings and Janita’s sophisticated tones.

Seasons Of Life is a subtle and intelligent collection where less is always more. Its mix of Latin, jazz and gentle soul is music for grown ups and Janita’s voice has a quality that should ensure that she is around for a considerable time to come.

For more on Janita 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 7:11 PM

May 23, 2006

Hands On Showcases Bobby Lyle's Many Talents With 12 Timeless Tracks

Versatile Jazz Pianist's Heads Up Debut Set For June 27

BobbyLyle_photo.jpgThroughout his three decade career, pianist/keyboardist Bobby Lyle has developed an international reputation not only for his dazzling piano technique, but also for his versatility and ability to constantly reinvent himself, both as a leader, sideman and even as music director for superstars Bette Midler, Al Jarreau and Anita Baker. With the June 27, 2006, worldwide release of Hands On (HUCD 3113), Lyle adds another significant title to his already impressive discography.

"A contemporary celebration of love, life and rhythm" is how Bobby Lyle describes his Heads Up debut. "Within the twelve songs there are expressions of all of those things. I wanted the overall tone of the record to be funky and upbeat, but with romantic interludes."

Hands On - Lyle's 15th album overall - is a unique blend of contemporary jazz classics and acoustic piano compositions that crosses the boundaries between straight-ahead and contemporary jazz. A brilliant showcase for this gifted songwriter/producer/arranger's unique talents, Hands On features an array of timeless tracks containing an entire world of emotion.

Lyle kicks off with "Passion Drive," one of nine original tracks to spotlight his amazing ability to combine acoustic piano sophistication with addictive beats. The thick and insistent groove on the title track draws from both modern and old-school music. Indeed, Lyle's R&B background is apparent on such tasty cuts as the Maurice White/Al McKay classic "Best of My Love" and Michael McDonald's "Minute By Minute." For longtime Lyle fans, tracks like the bright and bouncy "Fancy Pants," the quietly elegant jazz standard "Poinciana" and the graceful "True Spirit" perfectly summarize the multi-faceted keyboardist's range and influences.

In addition to Lyle, Hands On features special guest Peabo Bryson, who co-wrote and sings on the track, "Lost In Our Love." "Peabo and I are good friends, says Lyle. "I've always admired his work and he's a first class crooner. He's so professional and easy to work with. He always delivers."

Rounding out the project are guitarists Todd Parsnow, John Calderon and Brennen Nase, bassists Martin Walters, Larry Kimpel, Keith Vivens and John Adams, saxophonists Wayne DeLano, Dave Caseras and Joe Vincelli, trumpeter Larry Spencer, trombonist Keith Adkins, drummer Keith Banks, percussionist Jorge Ginorio, and backing vocalists Dailyn Valdez, Melanie Covington and Derrick McCampbell.

Bobby Lyle was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and started studying piano at age six when his family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He met and jammed with Jimi Hendrix, who was planning on starting a jazz-rock band with Lyle, Willie Weeks on bass and Bill Lordan on drums before his untimely death in 1970. After moving to Los Angeles in 1974, he began a nine-month tour with Sly and the Family Stone, and later a stint with the Ronnie Laws Band. "At one time I was a jazz purist," says Lyle. "The two people who really opened up my mind were Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. I really admired the work that they were doing."

This led to a meeting with Wayne Henderson of the Jazz Crusaders who took him to Capitol Records for his first solo recording deal in 1977. After three albums, Lyle returned to the touring circuit, hitting the road in 1981 with George Benson. He followed this with extensive tours with Bette Midler, Al Jarreau and Anita Baker (all as musical director).

"After my first record deal at Capital, Anita Baker called me just as her Rapture album was going platinum," says Lyle. "I always enjoyed her music because she brought some jazz elements to her work. I was very fortunate to be a musical director with such wonderful artists in the '80s. I'm always running into people who come up to me and say, 'I saw you with Anita Baker in 1986!'"

A recording deal with Atlantic Records in 1988 spawned six albums in nine years, including The Journey, which became a # 1 jazz album in 1990.

Lyle continued to tour with his own bands as well as with Midler. He received an Emmy nomination for his musical direction on her HBO Special, "Diva Las Vegas," in 1997. Lyle's 2002 album, Joyful, peaked at # 8 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart and his 2004 release, Straight and Smooth, became the first album in history to appear on Billboard's contemporary jazz and traditional jazz charts simultaneously.

"I'm just a musician who's trying to keep real playing alive," concludes Lyle. "Whatever the genre, I want that sense of live energy. That's what has always made jazz so appealing to me."

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:04 AM

May 21, 2006

Jaared signed by Trippin 'n' Rhythm Records

artist_160_jaared.jpgIn case you have been wondering about the fate of saxophonist Jaared here are some good news. As you recall Jaared has been working with Peter White for several years now and also appeared on the very recommended Marcus Johnson live DVD In Person: Live from 2003 while being on the Three Keys label where he released two albums (Foreward in 2001 and Hangtime in 2002). Now he has been signed with Trippin 'n' Rhythm (home of artists like Paul Hardcastle, Gregg Karukas, Chris Standring, Roger Smith and others) and is working on his new album scheduled for release during the first quarter of 2007. I am so glad that this talented saxophonist has found a new label and can't wait to hear the results.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:13 PM

May 15, 2006

Konstantin Klashtorni - Led By You

Led By You is the latest project from Konstantin Klashtorni. It follows on the heels of his critically acclaimed debut solo release Downtown and promises to make a major mark in the ultra competitive world of smooth jazz saxophone. This is very much a virtuoso project for Konstantin. As well as writing, programming and producing all ten tracks he variously plays saxophones, flute, keys and additional guitars but still finds space to include some excellent backing musicians. Yerman Aponte plays bass, Udo Demandt is on drums, the guitar of Roy Lewis features on four of the cuts and, in addition, Klashtorni blends in some significant guest performances.

klashtorni2.jpgThe music of Konstantin Klashtorni is seriously catchy with none more so than the title cut. The phrasing of the uplifting intro is revisited throughout the track to frame the simple melody and produce a chunk of top-notch feel good smooth jazz. Another one that stays in the head and won’t go away is ‘So Lovely’. Both gentle and infectious it evokes thoughts of summer sun glinting on rippling water.

Feel good and uplifting could be the theme of the entire album and this is typified by the opening track, the mid tempo and lightly funky foot tapper ‘Back It Up’ where the trumpet of Michael Simon and trombone of Santiago Cananda Valvere add to the full, rich sound. Simon and Valvere also feature on ‘To Feel Free’. It’s a piece of smooth jazz for any occasion that seems straight from the west coast. This same sun drenched ‘driving with the top down’ vibe is apparent with ‘Ocean Of Joy’, on which Ibernice McBean flirts with atmospheric subliminal vocals, and on ‘Stay Romantic’ where Klashtorni succeeds in producing a big sound that is at the same time mellow and sweet.

The backing vocals of Ibernice McBean are also used on the romantic ‘Close’ where they blend to sensational effect with Klashtorni’s ultra smooth sax and on ‘Haven’t Got The Heart’, a quality slice of smooth melodic R & B with Mitchell Brunings taking the lead on vocals and Klashtorni maintaining the lightest of touches.

‘It Dews’ is late night smooth jazz for lovers through which Klashtorni weaves a catchy hook and he is again in turned down mode with the melodic chill of ‘Look Around’, a tune further enriched by the trumpet of Michael Simon.

Led By You will be released on May 22. It is an outstanding collection of commercially attractive smooth jazz that, in many ways, represents a coming of age for Klashtorni. He perfectly meshes production skills to rival Paul Brown and Brian Culbertson with his own individual musical talents and captures the twin peaks of melody and rhythm that are at the heart of everything good in smooth jazz.

Posted by Denis Poole at 11:10 PM

May 11, 2006

Yellowjackets Celebrate 25th Anniversary

Twenty-Five Features Classic Tunes That Have Made The Jackets Jazz Fusion's Quintessential Group
Free Bonus DVD Includes Electrifying Live Performances, Interviews, And Much More

Yellowjackets1.jpgIn 1981, a small crew of talented musicians led by guitar virtuoso Robben Ford dedicated themselves to pushing the boundaries of jazz with a deceptively intense, distinctive sound that incorporated elements of bebop, funk, R&B and rock. They called themselves the Yellowjackets, and the buzz was instantaneous.

That was 25 years ago, and a few of the names and faces have changed since then. What remains is a powerhouse quartet - including original members Russell Ferrante on keyboards and Jimmy Haslip on bass - that's still fiercely dedicated to that original vision of improvisational jazz that draws from a vast range of musical sources and yet defies categories. That initial buzz is no less intense today than it was a quarter century ago.

Heads Up International celebrates this landmark anniversary with the May 23, 2006, release of Twenty-Five (HUCD 3112), a combination CD/bonus DVD package that captures two electrified live performances by the Yellowjackets during their European tour in the fall of 2005. In addition to the live performances themselves, the DVD portion of the two-disc release offers an array of behind-the-scenes material: interviews with band members (past and present) and session players, and a variety of other background and retrospective footage. The project offers a snapshot of where the Jackets are today, and a look back at where they've been.

"The basic foundation, that initial spark of innovation, is still there," says Haslip. "We're very open minded and are always looking to the horizon to see what's up ahead. We're very dedicated to our craft, and we're constantly trying to progress. That ultimately is a motivating factor in keeping a band like this going. It's a laboratory, in essence, where some great experiments have taken place."

Recorded at The New Morning concert hall in Paris in October 2005, the CD is essentially an eight-song retrospective of some of the band's finest work - as interpreted by the current lineup of Haslip, Ferrante, saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Marcus Baylor. The songs connect to every period of Yellowjackets' evolution - from the uplifting "Revelation" (1986) to the free-spirited "My Old School" (1992) to the intricate rhythms of Marcus Baylor's "Freeday" (2005).

"Our intention was to include some of the earlier tunes, but to play them in the way we play now," says Ferrante. "Paris was one of the strongest shows on that tour. Live performances in general are always very much in the moment, and the results can be hit-or-miss sometimes. Some nights are better than others, but everything came together on this particular night."

Bridging the old with the new has been a smooth process for Baylor, the relative newcomer to the band who joined the lineup in 2000. He's discovered that success with the Jackets is not about rank or tenure, but about being positive, open-minded and willing to grow. "When a new piece is added to the puzzle, the band automatically takes on a new personality without even thinking about it," says Baylor. "But these guys are just so open minded. They just say, 'Hey, let's just play, not necessarily this way or that way, but let's just play and find a way to connect the pieces of the puzzle together.' And when we do play, we are of one mind. Personally, that's what I want people to see, more than just this guy who plays great or that guy who plays great. I just want people to see four guys who work well as a unit and move in the same direction to make positive music for our listeners to enjoy."

The DVD performance, filmed at the Naima Club in Forli, Italy, includes a set list that digs back even further. "Imperial Strut" and "Matinee Idol" are taken from the Jackets' eponymous 1981 debut album, while Ferrante's devotional "Geraldine" and the environmentally conscious Ferrante/Haslip composition "Greenhouse" are representative of the Jackets' late-1980s and early-1990s groove. "Time Squared," a rhythmically complex piece penned by Mintzer and first heard on the 2003 album of the same name, is in part a tribute to the courage and perseverance of New York and its residents in the aftermath of 9/11.

The group considers the free bonus DVD as a way for them to give something back to their loyal fans. The DVD was directed and edited by Tony Zawinul, son of the multi-faceted jazz keyboardist Joe Zawinul. "Tony came to Los Angeles and we talked for hours at various locations, including the studio where we recorded with Robben Ford," says Ferrante. "We went to the house where we all first met. We traveled around to different studios in L.A. where we recorded. He interviewed a number of musicians that we worked with along the way. There are archival videos, mostly from Europe. A lot of the festivals there are televised, so there's documentation of a lot of those performances."

And yet, for as gratifying as milestone anniversaries can be, Yellowjackets continue to look to the future. "I think we could be together for another 25 years," says Mintzer. "It's the kind of band that could thrive for a long time, because of the democratic philosophy, and the level of commitment to what we do. There's a long-standing bond that we share, and I don't think it will ever go away. It's just something that developed over the years of playing together and making music together."

Whether you've been on board since the very early days or you've just discovered the Jackets in recent years, Twenty-Five is a big enough number to accommodate everyone. Experience the sublime magic that comes from a quarter century of innovation and exploration.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:29 PM

May 9, 2006

Smooth Jazz Vibes: 10th anniversary

Smooth Jazz Vibes celebrates its 10th anniversary this month! Founded by smooth jazz aficionado Peter Böhi in May 1996, and being one of the very first of its kind, this site has been going strong all these years spreading the word about our favorite kind of music.

In the early years, the site was launched as a one-man enterprise on the budding Internet to pass on news from the smooth jazz scene. At that time one had to write letters to record companies to get catalogs and information, or read publications like Jazziz or Blues & Soul to find out what was new; there was no or any other convenient source of information like the Internet we take for granted these days. Our site filled a void and built a loyal following over the years.

Initially, fellow contributor Dan Margules, who posted his R&J Newsletter on CompuServe joined and made his work available here, and in addition, fellow music journalist Jonathan Widran (who I met through Dan in 1993) became a regular contributor with his Contempo column which is available in its entirety since its inception on this site - unaltered and in its original form. During these years Jonathan has risen to become the premier smooth jazz journalist in the country, writing for publications like Jazziz, Smooth Jazz News and numerous others. I am happy not only to have him on board but also to call him a personal friend.

Maybe not all readers are aware of the fact that this site is operated by a gynecologist in his spare time. To be honest - I often was on the verge of quitting with all other things going on in my personal life, but looking at what had been achieved over the years, each time I decided to pull through and continue. I never made any money from the site, instead I - and all the people currently working for it - dedicate their time and resources to keep the site running and support the music we all love.

Today my thanks go to Beverly Packard from Reading, PA who enthusiastically covers the music scene in Berks county and who is a great interviewer and concert reviewer, supported by husband Michael who is a gifted photographer. Through them I got my connections to the Berks Jazz Festival which is one of the very best in the whole country and a place I always love to come back to, not only for the music, but also for all the great friendship and fun which surrounds this event.

I also am grateful to have people like Brian Soergel, Denis Poole, Danny Desart and Joe Montague contributing to the site, I would not be able to run it without their invaluable input. Thank you my friends!

Last highlight of the site was the addition of our Internet radio channel in March 2006 aptly called SmoothVibes highlighting our favorite music off the beaten path of Broadcast Architecture. Check it out, you will love it!

Today Smooth Jazz Vibes is going strong and is committed like never before to continue and grow in order to bring you the best information and best music from the scene. Thanks for visiting the site, and we all look forward to continue the journey with you into the next decade!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:49 AM

May 8, 2006

Contempo May 2006

willie_lobo.jpgTrue to the title of their latest seductively swaying, exotic Narada Jazz excursion Zambra - a gypsy term alternately meaning “gathering of musical merriment” or a dance done by the women of Spain - Willie & Lobo were world class travelers long before they met in the early 80s on the beaches and in the cantinas of San Miguel De Allende, Mexico.

The son of an Air Force lieutenant colonel, El Paso born violinist Willie Royal had the gypsy in his soul by default, raised in such locales as Turkey, Germany, France and Florida (where he now lives). Later, on his own, he experienced a wild mix of cultures living and playing music everywhere from Amsterdam (where, remarkably, he met many refugees from Argentina), Brazil and Canada.

Meanwhile, Bavarian born guitarist Wolfgang “Lobo” Fink cultivated his own wanderlust as a signalman in the German Navy, and, inspired by gypsy guitarist Manitas de Plata, lived at different times in a gypsy camp in Southern France and later, the famous caves of Sacromonte in Granada, Spain. The sounds and rhythms he picked up from real live gypsies have played a part in the duo’s success story since the early 90s, when they first hit the charts with Gypsy Boogaloo.

“When I wanted to know where the sounds came from,” Lobo says from his home in a fishing village outside Puerto Vallarta. “I went right to the source. I came out of those caves able to walk and talk gypsy music. Later, when I met Willie, it became a sound steeped in Mexico where we met but which touched on every place we’d ever been.”

From Dunedin, Florida, Willie adds, “My roots are in American rock, country and bluegrass, but living in an Ankaran village for two years, South America, Mexico and Amsterdam played a huge part in expanding my musical universe and making me who I am today. You can be influenced by artists you hear from wherever, but to really play it, you have to live it. If you want to play Brazilian music, you have to feel the rhythms of the place and experience the waves on the beach of Ipanema. To truly feel and play an expansive, emotional Arabic flavored song like ‘Zambra,’ you have to have visited mosques in Turkey and Iran and feel the passion and haunting sadness of thousands of years of history.”

Last year, at about the time Willie & Lobo were scheduled for their first recording session for Zambra, the U.S. had its own major tragedy, and the duo literally flew over the devastated Gulf Coast on their way west to record at Rick Braun’s Brauntosoarus Studios. Braun, producing his fifth overall project for the duo - both artists launched their careers around the same time on Mesa Bluemoon Records - did the actual composing of the haunting yet somehow hopeful tribute “Balada Para Katrina,” but seeing the enormity of it from the sky inspired Willie & Lobo to reach some of their deepest emotional terrain ever. Aside from giving the usually frenetic Royal a chance to display a deeper sense of artistry that draws from his classical background, the track features Braun playing a beautiful piano accompaniment.

While this track is the emotional core of Zambra, fans of the trademark, slow grooving W&L style will be more than satisfied with the graceful breezes of the opening track “Donde Vayo,” whose hypnotic melody is enhanced by Royal’s powerful distant chanting and Braun’s Spanish flavored trumpeting. Braun and Brad Dutz keep the clicking percussion rolling on the soulful South of The Border flavored “Mama Mia” and dreamy, gently rolling “La Fortuna,” tunes which perfectly reflect the vibe of the cantinas Willie & Lobo once called home. Fans who know Royal strictly as a violin master will be pleasantly surprised by his turn on rhythm guitar throughout the moody ballad “Velas al Viento,” on which Braun blends his own soft wordless vocals and muted trumpet above the gently rolling bass-drum rhythms of Juan Estria (bass) and Miguel Volpe (drums).

“Working with Rick on the new album was a fantastic experience, it just felt right,” says Royal. “Besides having a total blast in the studio, he’s always inspiring us in new ways. The last few years after our album Manana, we actually felt a little creatively dry, but when Rick came on board, there was all this fresh energy and it was like the good old days when we first started and anything was possible. This is actually the fastest we ever recorded an album in our careers. The three of us just have an incredible camaraderie and bring out the best in each other, from the heartbreaks to the great romances of our life. What you hear is what we feel.”

jfeliciano2005.jpgThis year marks the 50th Anniversary of Jose Feliciano’s very first public performance, and in the continued celebration of the guitar legend’s genre busting, trend-defying career, he’s finally met decades of fan requests with the release of his first ever instrumental album Six String Lady. The melodically accessible but sharply intricate acoustic collection explores his lifelong love for the different styles he’s mastered, from classical to jazz and rock. Tracks like the punchy, sax-infused “Street Jazz” and the title tune would be welcome, adventurous additions to smooth jazz radio. On the artsier side, there are three pieces named after Segovia, and the project is dedicated to Feliciano’s mentor and lifelong inspiration.

“People have always seen me as a guitarist and singer, but vocals are always easier to latch onto, so I became known as a vocalist who would throw in a few instrumentals here and there,” says Feliciano, who claims to be the first guitarist to use the nylon string guitar, on his classic 1968 recording of “Light My Fire.” “I just felt it was time to come out with an all-instrumental work, to show other guitarists that I can stand in their league. Because in my mind, I’ve always felt I was a better guitarist than singer! I draw from everything that has defined me musically… jazz, rock, acoustic rock. I’ve been with my Six String Lady most of my life, and nothing’s going to stop me from showing more of what I can do with it.”

For more information about Six String Lady, please go to

camjam_9294203222.gifFans who love the kind of mix of R&B and Latin jazz that classic bands like Malo, Tierra and War brewed in the 70s will love heading Back In The Day, the third disc by the 15 piece, horn driven ensemble Cintron. Led by veteran percussionist Edgardo Cintron and vocalist Rocco DePersia — also a producer and promoter with more than 350 Latin dances under his belt - the band presents an irresistible old school blend of soul, street corner a capella and salsa. Going deeper into the tracking will reveal some solid original songwriting, but the covers of classics like “Suavecito,” “Hey There Lonely Girl” and “Expressway To Your Heart” form the playful, emotional core of the project.

Personal Tastes

1) Grant Geissman, Say That! (Futurism Records) – The versatile guitarist waves adios to his smooth jazz days with this spirited, supremely cool yet frequently burning - and deeply melodic - straight-ahead jazz date straight out of the Wes Montgomery school. An explosive Wes tribute and an extended version of Geissman’s TV Theme “Two And A Half Men” are highlights.
2) John Legend, Get Lifted (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
3) Jamie Foxx, Unpredictable (J Records)
4) Van Morrison, Pay The Devil (Lost Highway)
5) Peggy Lee Sings Lieber & Stoller (Hip-o Select/A&M)

New and Noteworthy

1) Victor Fields, Victor (Regina Records)
2) Pieces of a Dream, Pillow Talk (Heads Up)
3) Chris Standring, Soul Express (Trippin’ N Rhythm)
4) Nestor Torres, Dances, Prayers & Meditations for Peace (Heads Up)
5) Spyro Gyra, Wrapped in a Dream (Heads Up)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 3:22 PM

May 6, 2006

Brian Culbertson Recording Christmas CD, Planning Tour

The popular pianist will light up the holiday season with "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and other seasonal classics.

Dave Koz may have cancelled his annual Christmas tour, but Brian Culbertson is happy to fill the void.

Culbertson has confirmed that he will indeed embark on the first-ever Brian Culbertson Christmas Concert Tour with Bobby Caldwell, Warren Hill, Eric Darius and Ray Parker, Jr.

The tour comes about because just last week Culbertson entered the studio to create holiday music for his first-ever Christmas CD that will be released by GRP on November 7. He has already recorded what he calls a funky arrangement of “Ruldoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with keyboarder and composer Jeff Lorber.

To add a warm feel, Culbertson says CD will have real musicians with real drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and horns instead of computerized music.

Culbertson's latest smooth jazz hit, “Let’s Get Started,” is currently in the Top 5 on Radio & Records' smooth jazz chart.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:47 AM

May 5, 2006

Lee Ritenour's New CD Will Have World Flavor

The guitarist has named his summer release Smoke n’ Mirrors.

LeeRitenour2.jpgGuitarist Lee Ritenour has wrapped up production on a brand-new CD called Smoke n’ Mirrors, which will be his first released for Peak Records, which is co-owned by Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons. The new CD is the first since Rit’s House in 2002.

Ritenour says the upcoming CD is influenced by world music and has numerous featured musicians from Brazil and Africa. Although most of the tunes will be instrumentals, Ritenour recruited a 21-year-old female artist from South Africa named Zamajobe for one track. Other vocal songs featured the female singer Joyce and 33-year-old Daniel Jobim, the grandson of the late Antonio Carlos Jobim.

It was in 1997 that Ritenour released the first of his popular Twist Of” CDs called A Twist of Jobim that featured numerous Smooth Jazz stars. Smoke n’ Mirrors will be released this summer.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:42 AM

May 4, 2006

Saxophonists Visit Boulder Station This Month

Acclaimed saxophonist Najee, riding high on his current CD release, My Point Of View, will bring his unique sound to the Boulder Station Hotel on Saturday, May 13th, in the Railhead Showroom. Rumor has it that the Henderson Jazz Festival tried in vain to snatch Najee for their September event, but couldn't come to an agreement with the artist in enough time to secure his appearance for that event.

Euge Groove, a constant chartbuster on the smooth jazz charts, will appear the following Saturday, May 20th, in the Railhead at Boulder Station as well.

Boy Katindig, regarded as one of the most talented Phillipine exports, has been touring with Peak recording artist, Paul Taylor, for some time now. The jazz keyboardist is expected to do some additional work with saxophonist Eric Marenthal later this year. In the meantime, look for this artist at a local restaurant venue, Soul 2 Soul, on Friday evening, May 5th, starting at 9pm.

The District, an outdoor activity center for shopping, restaurants, and even condo residence for some, located next to Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada, will host Boy on several engagements throughout the summer at one of their outdoor performance areas. His next appearance is slated for Saturday, June 17th.

Posted by Danny Desart at 5:07 PM

May 3, 2006

Chris Standring CD Cover Banned

The guitarist had to re-crop the cover of his upcoming CD after it was deemed too provocative.

Guitarist Chris Standring wanted something hot and eye-catching on the cover of his fourth solo CD, Soul Express. Now it turns out that the cover was just too hot to handle.

Standring received word that some retail outlets, when getting a glimpse of what he had it mind, said they would not carry the CD unless it was redone. Why the fuss? Well, instead of putting just another image of himself on the cover, Standring decided on a provocative image of model Holly Weber with only a strategically placed hand and a slim belt between her and nudity.

Standring's record label, Trippin N Rhythm, has now cropped the CD cover photo to the satisfaction of retail. If you want to see what the current CD cover looks like, you can go to There, you can also visit Standring's Backstage Area to see the full image that was rejected. The image is also pictured here.

Soul Express – which features the hot smooth jazz hit “I Can’t Help Myself,” will be available on May 9. Standring will be joining keyboardist Jeff Lorber and vocalist Jody Watley on the Soul Express tour this summer.


[As admirers of all things beautiful we would like to make this cover available to you here. Peter Böhi]

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:30 PM