July 31, 2006

What We're Listening To * July

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

Greg Vail, The Gospel Truth Revisited (Greg Vail Music)

Jack Prybylski, Window Shopping (SuShan Music)

Bill Cantos, Love Wins (GIC Productions)

Andy Snitzer, Some Quiet Place (Native Language)

Wayman Tisdale, Way Up! (Rendezvous)

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

Kirk Whalum, The Babyface Songbook, Rendevous. What a powerful yet very tender sound all the way through this CD. The memorable songs of Babyface -- 'Can We Talk,' 'I'll Make Love To You,' 'When Can I See You,' 'Someone to Love,' 'Not Gon' Cry,' 'Whip Appeal,' and more. Kirk's playing is just superb and he plays with musicians Rick Braun, Dave Koz, Norman Brown Gabriela Anders for a truly awesome final product. The blending of Kirk and Dave Koz on their saxophones on 'Someone to Love' is one of the best duets I've ever heard.

Doc Powell - CD of the same name. Coming out August 22, 2006, Heads Up. Great listening all the way through. Powell's beautiful melodies and relaxed style of playing will draw you right in. Features Brian Culbertson, Kirk Whalum, Bobby Lyle and many other talented musicians. Includes two fine renditions of Carole King's 'It's Too Late," both plugged and unplugged versions. On this CD Powell has decided to blend electric and classical guitars and the combination is one you won't want to miss.

Philippe Saisse Trio, The Body and Soul Sessions, Rendevous. I'm just getting to know this keyboard player (go to his site and you'll see he's much more than that!). What a talented, consummate musician and this CD in particular showcases how he takes songs which are familiar to us and truly makes them his own, in unique and wonderful ways. Songs like 'Do It Again,' 'September,' 'Lady Madonna,' 'Fire and Rain,' and 'We're All Alone.' David Finck on acoustic bass and Scooter Warner on drums and percussion. If the songs have some meaning for you and you love an innovative piano/keyboard player, this is a CD you will likely cherish.

Wayman Tisdale, Way Up, Rendevous. This CD features a whole host of great players: Jeff Lorber, Dave Koz, Bob James, Kirk Whalum, George Duke, Jonathan Butler, Eric Benet, and Tom Braxton, but there is still plenty of room throughout the CD for the indelible signature style of Tisdale's bass playing. Always energetic and fun with plenty of talent, Tisdale does take us Way Up but also includes 'Get Down On It.' He does just what track 8 says he will: 'Tell It Like It TIS.'

Janita, Seasons of Life, 2006, Lightyear Entertainment. Never far from my rotation of CDs, these very soulful songs allow me to sing along and reminisce about my own 'seasons of life.'

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

Jazzmasters, Jazzmasters V (Trippin N Rhythm): Paul Hardcastle reunites with vocalist Helen Rogers and Snake Davis for more mellow tunes.

Patrick Yandall, Samoa Soul (Zangi): Underrated San Diego smooth jazz guitarist delivers more peppy music perfect for the beach.

Bakithi Kumalo, Transmigration (GuruProject): Bass grooves from a South African legend who performed on Paul Simon's Graceland. Some of the best smooth tunes of the year.

Palace Lounge Presents, Cafe D'Afrique Vol. 2 (Savoy Jazz): Groovy and chilled beats.

Mark Egan, As We Speak (Wavetone): Contemporary jazz from a master who's performed with Pat Metheny. Two-disc CD with John Abercrombie and Danny Gottlieb.

P E T E R * B O E H I

Shilts - HeadBoppin (2006)
Sax player and member of Down To The Bone steps out to the spotlight with this truly great and picture perfect smooth jazz album. Two thumbs up!

Dwayne Dolphin - Ming (2006)
Bass player Dwayne Dolphin comes up with a spirited, solid and deep contemporary jazz album with is very recommended. Don't miss it.

Donald Harrison Electric Band - 3D, Vol. 1 (2006)
Sax player Donald Harrison delivers a polished smooth jazz album with cool sax playing over contemporary grooves. Most of the songs were added to the playlist of SmoothVibes radio.

Forecast - featuring J.S. Floyd (2006)
Cool, groovy smooth jazz album with memorable compositions, catchy hooks and great soloing by all involved. A real gem not to be overlooked!

Alan Hewitt - Metropolis (2006)
Pretty melodies, smooth sounds and a relaxed mood are conveyed by this beautiful album by keyboard player Alan Hewitt. A true favorite of us at SmoothVibes radio.

J E F F R E Y * D A N I E L S

SteveClark.jpgSteve Clark, Can U Hear Me Now? (Hop-N-Bop Records)

Chris Standring, Soul Express (V2 Records)

David Sanborn, Straight To The Heart (Warner Bros / Wea Records)

Maysa, Sweet Classic Soul (Shanachie Records)

Kenny Wright Experience, Comin' At Ya (Knee Deep Records)

K A L E N * M A R I E * G R A N T

Chris Botti - 'Good Morning Heartache' from To Love Again (The Duets) 2005 Columbia
This great collaboration with Neo-Soul artist Jill Scott displays the traditional in a smooth kind of way.

Marion Meadows - 'Suede' from Player's Club 2004 Heads Up
Meadows' sensual and almost provocative style added to the poetic melody of 'Suede' making it great work to listen to during the afternoon rain.

Warren Bernhardt - 'Felinicity' from Family Album 1993 DMP
I heard this on the radio and it replayed in my head for hours. I went to almost every music store in the area and was not able to find this album.

Randy Crawford - 'Cajun Moon' from Naked and True 1995 Mesa/Bluemoon
This mystic song gives an explanation to why love has gone under the strong gospel-like vocals of Randy Crawford.

Philippe Saisse Trio - 'Do It Again' from The Body and Soul Sessions 2006 Rendezvous
Philippe Saisse has played for, produced for, and arranged for many artists over many genres, and this arrangement of 'Do It Again' hits the spot.

D E N I S * P O O L E

'Inner City Blues' featuring Ronnie Laws and The Sounds Of Blackness from the excellent project by Jason Miles, To Grover With Love.

Temptation by Jeff Golub from the 2005 album of the same name and a tune that from time to time creeps into my head.

'Crystal Blue Persuasion' from the self titled CD by Jill Jenson. This cover of the Tommy James and the Shondells hit is worth checking out.

'Deja Vu' by Peter White from his new and already successful CD Playin Favorites. Its an album of covers and this one, taking the excellent Isaac Hayes composition as its source, is way better than Whites current radio number one from the same album.

'Positive Vibe' by Pamela Williams from the album Elixir. Its the second radio single from this album and confirms Williams as the queen of urban smooth jazz.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:33 AM

July 30, 2006

Janita: The Whole Package

by Beverly Packard

SeasonsofLifeJanita.jpgOften a musical artist has a great voice, whether his own or the way he plays his instrument of choice; often there is a talent to compose compelling music, or write memorable lyrics that speak easily to your heart. Some artists are physically attractive and/or have just the right threads (think Nick Colionne, for instance), and some have a stage presence you want to bask in long after the concert has ended, so unparalleled is their ability to connect with the audience and provide a captivating visual affect by their movements and expressions. Only rarely would I expect to find all these things in the person of one artist.

I first met Janita through her publicist, who asked me to review her latest CD. Listening to the CD a couple of times, I realized the voice, the compositions and the memorable lyrics were all there. She sings clearly with a good range and at times a more breathy, sensual style that fits her songs perfectly. Besides singing words, she uses her voice quite effectively as an instrument, as well. Upon seeing her in concert twice – once at Zanzibar Blue in Philadelphia and once in downtown Manhattan at the J & R Music Festival, I saw that the stage presence, punctuated with her sweet countenance, attractive appearance, and genuine appreciation to be before us, rounded out the picture. Finally, having conducted a recent interview with her (below), the maturity and insight she demonstrates confirm my impression that she is a rather unique artist, and has the whole package.

A Finland-born singer who became a phenomenon in her own country by the time she was a teen, Janita settled in New York City ten years ago and has been working hard ever since, hoping, as every artist does, for that moment when the chance comes to touch the lives of many with her music. I believe her moment has arrived.

Her latest CD, Seasons of Life, is a well-blended variety of songs and moods. The songs have a wistful feel, beautifully expressing so many things felt by many women in their ‘seasons of life.’ (Perhaps by men, too, but I won’t speak for them.) She gives words to many things we feel but seldom express, so you’ll find yourself singing along to those songs that particularly catch you where you are in life. She captures not only the longings and discoveries women make along their journeys, but her lyrics also capture differences in men and women and how they typically approach relationships. Just reading the song titles gives you an idea this CD has been borne of the common kind of poignancy we all experience during our own seasons of hope and change.

Watching Janita perform was a pleasant and exciting experience for me after becoming familiar with her music. She sang two full sets at Zanzibar Blue, a well-known jazz club in Philadelphia with great cuisine and ambiance. She was obviously very happy to be there and perform; she was eager to sing as many songs as she could share with us that evening, and it was easy to see the crowd was mesmerized by her. The set list included, ‘That’s How Life Goes,’ ‘No Words,’ ‘I’ll Be Fine,’ ‘Enjoy the Silence,’ a favorite of many which has climbed onto the Radio and Record chart, ‘I Miss You,’ ‘I Can’t Get Enough of You,’ ‘I Only Want You,’ ‘More Than Fantasy,’ ‘Give Me A Sign,’ ‘Let Me Love You,’ ‘Heaven,’ ‘Bear With Me,’ ‘Angel Eyes.’ Band members were Jonathan Maron, bass; Daniel Sadownick, percussion; John Deley, keyboard; Tomi Sachary, guitar; and Tobias Ralph, drums.

Janita-NYC1.jpgThe show at the J & R Music Festival in New York City (shown in pictures here) featured many of these songs, and the only change in the band was bass player Nicholas D'Amato. Despite the oppressive heat of that day in June, Janita and band members showed no sign of wanting to slow down and the crowd only kept growing as her music drew people in. Janita shares easily with her audience in between songs, and one example was her telling us how thrilled she was to realize she was there, right now, at this festival, singing to us, that it was really happening!

Read on to see the interview and what Janita says about her early success, her impressions of the music scene in the states, her own development as an artist and her future hopes.

BJP: Welcome to SmoothVibes, Janita! You were successful in your singing career from teenage years in Finland. What made you want to come to the USA and is it all you hoped it would be?

Janita: By the time I was 16 I had already toured around Finland twice. It's a small country, so you end up performing at the same venues year after year... I guess I had always dreamed of an international singing career and was ready for a new challenge at 17. I am a pretty realistic person and have always been down to earth, so I didn't expect to be a success here in the States straight away. I was ready to work at perfecting my craft as an artist and I'm still a work in progress. I'm sure though that I've evolved way more in the New York environment than I ever would have in Finland -- the motivation to be as good as I can be is just that much higher, when there are so many other amazing artists around you. Moving to NY was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Janita-NYC2.jpgBJP: What are the main differences you find here as compared to Finland, especially in the world of music?

Janita: The biggest difference is the enormity of the music business in the States. There's so much money to be had if you make it big, that there's a lot of people in the business for the wrong reasons. In Finland on the other hand it's almost impossible to get rich as an artist -- you make a good living, that's it. In a way it's good that way, so you can't be motivated by the fortune and fame.

BJP: Who would you say influenced you most in your own musical development -- both important people in your life and also musicians you grew up with?

Janita: Tomi Sachary, my musical collaborator has definitely influenced me a great deal, since he's been involved in every song I've ever recorded. But in terms of people I've idolized, Michael Jackson was probably my biggest hero growing up. I was in LOVE with him: I had the life-size MJ bedspread and everything. Kinda iffy, now that I think of it... Musically I have also been influenced by Meshell Ndegeocello, Bill Withers, Astrud Gilberto, Prince, Stevie Wonder. Really, I think the list is endless.

BJP: Has your band been with you from the start here in the US or have they joined you more recently in your career?

Janita: My band is from the States and has been formed during the years I've spent in NY. It's still not a permanent entity, it changes depending on who happens to be in town and available for gigs, but I do have a couple of main-stays: Danny Sadownick, my percussionist, who's played with the likes of Maxwell and Incognito, Jonathan Marron, my bass-player, who's played with Meshell Ndegeocello and India.Arie and Tomi Sachary, my guitarist, who has worked with me since the beginning of my career.

Janita1.jpgBJP: From reading about you, I realize part of the transition you've gone through is to put your own poetry and writings to music. Can you tell us more about that transition?

Janita: I was a very shy girl at 13 when I first started my career and it never would have occurred to me then to show my lyrics or compositions to anyone. And as I gained more confidence through performances and being in the public eye, I guess I became even more introverted about my inner workings. I always knew that I wanted to write my own music, but I just couldn't bring myself to open up for the longest time. It took an accident, a scaffolding falling on me one day in NY to realize that life is fragile and I have to do what I want to do in life, now. We never know what life throws our way, so we have to be brave and put ourselves out there, so as not to regret not having done it later. Shyness is such a waste of energy!

I started writing songs immediately after that and have now realized that I can't live without that outlet for my emotions.

Janita3.jpgBJP: I find the lyrics and themes of your songs to speak so well to how, especially women, feel in various stages of a loving (or not so loving, as the case may be) relationship -- simple, direct, poignant words that say so many of the things I've thought and felt, but didn't put into words as easily as you have or to music as beautifully as you have. Do you find others telling you how they appreciate the way you truly have captured these 'seasons of life?'

Janita: Thank you for the compliment! Yes, love is something that truly inspires me to write, those emotions have always been the strongest for me. I'm very sensitive and I suffer from it sometimes, but feeling things so intensely is helpful for me in what I do. So I can't complain...

I have always admired Joni Mitchell for using metaphors so beautifully to express emotions, but I find that what works for me is being more direct about what I'm trying to say. It feels more honest for me to just say it like it is. People have certainly expressed to me that they have felt the same exact emotions as I have felt, which of course is the best compliment; that people have been able to relate. We are not so different after all!

BJP: You are the first singer since Basia that has left such an impression on me with the uniqueness of your voice and the way you use your voice as an instrument, as she often does. Is that mostly improvisation on your part when you're performing, or do you have most of that phrasing figured out ahead of time? (It always sounds great.)

Janita: Thank you again. : ) I tend to analyze some things in my life to the point of unhealthiness, but singing is something that has always come natural. I do it all day pretty much everywhere I go, which is why my voice is becoming something that's directly connected to whatever I'm feeling at whatever moment. I think it's the same with any musician who is completely obsessed with their instrument and play it all the time. It just becomes something you rarely think about, you just do it. I still have a long way to go, before I'm where I want to ultimately be as a singer, but the compliment you just gave me sure makes me feel good.

Janita2.jpgBJP: I haven't yet heard you're other CD, but I'm anxious to hear that, too. (I think it's called, I'll Be Fine?) How are the two CDs different?

Janita: I consider I'll Be Fine more upbeat than Seasons of Life -- it has a younger energy. I'm proud of both albums, but there is more maturity in my voice and lyrics on Seasons of Life. I'm constantly growing as a person and as an artist, which of course is natural for everyone and anyone... The changes that I'm going through now will probably be obvious when I do my next project. Albums are like footnotes and it's nice to be able to see so clearly where you've come, where you've been and where you're going as an artist. That's how I think of these two albums, they are representative of the emotions and thoughts I was feeling at the time.

BJP: What is happening now as a result of more people getting to hear you and the Seasons of Life CD? What opportunities are you getting these days?

Janita: I've been traveling a lot this year and have been busy with shows and interviews, which I thoroughly enjoy. I'm in the beginning now with promoting this album and feel like this is the first fair chance in 10 years to get my voice heard in this country. It's been a struggle to get ahead and I know I'm really lucky to have gotten this far. There are so many awesome artists that I know, who are as deserving of what I'm experiencing now as me. I'm certainly going to do my best to enjoy all of these experiences to the fullest, and with this album pave the way for all my future projects. Lots of interesting opportunities are in the air and every time we do a show, something new pops up. There is no short-cut, everything is happening very organically, but right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

BJP: What are your hopes for the future? Are you continuing to write your poetry with an eye to putting it to music? Do you write the melody lines or how do you collaborate with band members to write the songs?

Janita: I'd like to keep doing what I'm doing, hopefully increasingly successfully. Helen Keller said: "Life is either daring adventure or nothing at all." I have certainly experienced both sides of life, but right now I'm living just the right amount of adventure and I'd like to keep it that way.

I've been writing actively for some time now and have lots of ideas for a new album. I almost feel like I've gone backwards a little, that I'm not as mature as I used to be, which I find kinda weird. I guess life works that way sometimes. All of this will be going into the new project, which I will likely be writing with Tomi Sachary, my guitarist and long-time collaborator. I write the lyrics and together we work out the melody lines.

Janita-NYC3.jpgBJP: You're very comfortable on stage and your dancing and movements complement the music very well. How do you get yourself ready for a performance and what are you thinking when you're on stage? Does someone in the band help keep you focused on where you're going next in the performance?

Janita: We have great chemistry as a band and I love hanging out with the boys before and after the show. There's lots of joking around and I'm often laughing hysterically at their antics. We are way more serious on stage and I know my band-mates want to be as good as they can possibly be, I never have to worry about them. I guess all I really have to worry about on stage is doing the best I can to relate the song to the audience and hopefully make them feel like they understand what I'm saying. When I go and see performances of other artists, I'm always impressed most by the ones that make you feel like you've bonded with them on some level. That's what I'm hoping to do too.

Also, one of the most important things about performing is that you have to be in the moment -- you can't be thinking about what you're gonna have for dinner, cause otherwise you lose your energy and your intensity.

BJP: What kind of music do you find yourself listening to in your life now?

Janita: All my life I've listened to a lot of soul, R&B and hip hop, but right now I find myself listening to a lot of rock and folk music, which indeed can be very soulful too. I for example have Death Cab for Cutie, Travis, Neil Young, The Weepies, Patty Griffin and Gnarls Barkley on heavy rotation in my iPod. I know they are all very different from the music that I make, but I'm also hoping to be influenced by all of them in some way. Meaningful and interesting lyrics and heartfelt songs is what all these artists have in common. My taste in music is very broad these days.

On a personal note, I want to spread the word about Milton Nascimento, (listen to Tudo Voce Podia Ser) who is someone I only discovered recently, though he's been around for a while. I think that his is some of the most emotional music I've ever heard, even though I don't even understand the lyrics. Just beautiful!

BJP: That is so interesting -- I'll definitely look him up, it reminds me of how I feel about Amedeo Minghi from Italy -- beautiful music, and even though I have no idea what he's singing, it doesn't matter!

BJP: Before we stop, is there anything you'd like to communicate to your fans?

Janita: Yes. : ) My album Seasons of Life is in stores now and I'll be doing shows around the States to promote it. Fans of my music can sign up on my website www.janita.com to receive advance notification of my upcoming performances in their area. Peace of mind and happiness to all!

BJP: It’s been great talking with you, Janita and I wish you the very best in all your future projects, and I’ll be watching for them!

Janita: Thank you so much for your kind comments, I really appreciate it.

Janita%26Beverly2006.jpgHappy Jazzin'

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

Photos of Janita compliments of Janita.com
Concert photos credits: Rachel Henry

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 11:50 PM

July 29, 2006

Paul Brown Signs To Peak, Releasing Duets CD

Guitarist and producer Paul Brown and GRP go their separate ways, but he lands with Peak Records.

Paul Brown, who has produced more than 40 No. 1 smooth jazz hits and now even has one of his own, has signed a recording contract with Peak Records, which was co-founded by Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons. The guitarist joins Peak’s latest signee, Chante Moore, as well as pianist David Benoit, saxophonists Gerald Albright and Eric Marienthal, guitarists Norman Brown and Lee Ritenour, the Braxton Brothers, and others.

After acting as a producer for more than 20 years, Brown released his debut solo record in 2004 called Up Front on the GRP label, which featured the hit single “24/7.” He followed that in 2005 on GRP with The City, which produced his first No. 1 song this year with “Winelight.” The cover of the Grover Washington Jr. song is still on the smooth jazz charts.

Brown says he’s already recorded several songs for the new CD, including one featuring saxophonist Euge Groove.

"For this record we decided it was going to be more like a Paul Brown and friends kind of a record. So each song will have some kind of duet on it. I’m doing eight instrumentals and three vocal tunes and hopefully will get some well-known singers to do a couple songs. And I’ll probably sing one song. And then I’m going to get all my buddies to come and play on the other stuff."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 11:42 PM

July 28, 2006

Cool-jazz guitarist Joyce Cooling set to release the personal and eclectic Revolving Door on September 12th

Album title inspired by her brother’s battle with mental illness; “Mildred’s Attraction” will be the first track serviced to radio

JoyeCooling_RevolvingDoor.jpgSometimes we’re inspired by those closest to us. For her seventh album, chart-topping cool-jazz guitarist Joyce Cooling turned to her brother for inspiration on her forthcoming Narada Jazz/Blue Note Label Group release, Revolving Door, which will arrive in record stores nationally on September 12th. Cooling’s brother has been battling schizophrenia ever since they grew up together. She wrote the songs that comprise the album with her long-time collaborator Jay Wagner, who produced the collection. A portion of the proceeds from album sales will go directly to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to help support people living with mental illness. The first track being serviced to smooth jazz radio is the uplifting and funky “Mildred’s Attraction,” which will go for adds on August 14th.

Revolving Door is the most personal recording from Cooling to date. It’s an eclectic body of electric and acoustic jazz, R&B, blues and Latin rhythms that allowed the Bay Area resident to stretch creatively. She used ten different guitars on the ten compositions, each with a different sound that was used to fit a specific emotion for each particular song. Cooling croons on several cuts, her voice chill, elegant and jazzy. The melodies and moods are diverse and although the title cut inspired the record, the subject matter, while at times pensive, never becomes depressing or overwrought with despair. Instead Cooling offers compassion and understanding.

“I wanted to make the music real and about something that matters,” explained Cooling. “Revolving Door is different from the rest of our CDs in that we wanted to tell the story first, and then let the music follow. ‘Revolving door’ is a metaphor for a situation we humans often find ourselves in where there is seemingly no beginning and no end to a problem. It can be a frustrating treadmill with the same path ruthlessly cycling under your feet.”

A photogenic natural beauty with a humble, down-to-earth attitude, Cooling is looking forward to playing the revealing songs on Revolving Door in concert, where she hopes to connect with fans in a more meaningful way. She’s already got a few concert dates lined up for the fall with a full itinerary to be announced later.

The New Jersey native is self-taught and she developed her distinctive finger-picking style on her own. After debuting in 1990 with an independently released album, she landed her first #1 radio single (“South of the Market”) in 1997. Reaching her creative stride, Cooling has had several #1 singles and a handful of Top 10 smooth jazz radio hits. She was voted “Best New Talent” in a Jazziz Reader’s Poll, won the Gibson Guitars Award as “Best Jazz Guitarist of the Year” and was nominated as “Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year” by the Gavin Report.

Joyce Cooling’s Revolving Door contains the following songs:

“Mildred’s Attraction”
“Cool Of The Night”
“Revolving Door”
“At The Modern”
“I’ll Always Love You” (Ode to the Audience)
“One Again”
“Come And Get It”
“Little Sister”
“In Case Of Rain”
“Jesse’s Bench”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:02 AM

July 27, 2006

Shilts - In Conversation

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. It was Sting who sung about an Englishman in New York but it would seem that, in smooth jazz terms, there are also quite a few in Los Angeles. Paul ‘Shilts’ Weimar is the latest to follow in the footsteps of Peter White and Chris Standring who, among others, have journeyed from England to California to seek and ultimately find smooth jazz stardom. Although he has only been resident in the LA area since 2004 Shilts is by no means new to the scene. He is in fact the face of the live incarnation of the band Down To The Bone (DTTB), an association that now extends back nine years and when I recently caught up with him at his home studio he took a break from working on new material to talk about the exciting turns that his career has recently taken.

Of course Shilts now has a major hit on his hands. ‘Look What's Happened’ is the first radio single from his CD HeadBoppin and currently 26th most played on smooth jazz radio in the USA. I asked him how the single came to be chosen from a selection that includes nine tracks that are either written or co-written by him. “When you are that close to a project”, he explained, “it can be difficult. Some of those tunes have been with me for as long as five years and not unnaturally I feel that all of them are great. That’s the cool thing about the new relationship I have with ARTizen Music Group. They have huge expertise in this genre. Sure they asked me my opinion and there is no doubt that other tracks on the album will in time make it to radio but I am very comfortable with the calls that ARTizen are making and its paid off with a hit.”

HeadBoppin is Shilts debut album on ARTizen although he previously released ‘See What Happens’ on Higher Octave in 2001. I wondered what, for him, the differences were this time around. “My first solo recording was made as a tie in to the work I was doing with DTTB” he told me. “The title says it all as in part we put it out there to gauge the reaction. It was an experiment but at the time I was still living in England and not around to promote it. This time everything is different. I was on the road playing with Jeff Lorber's band when out of the blue I got a call. It was from Rick Braun at ARTizen. Our paths had crossed on the tour circuit and he explained to me that my name had come up as someone who would fit very well with the focused way in which ARTizen was seeking to selectively extend its roster of artists.”

The project developed from there and the result is not only HeadBoppin but a working relationship with Braun that has seen them co-produce the album, for Rick Braun to appear on six of the tracks and for the two of them to tour together throughout this summer. In fact the tour schedule, made up of solo gigs, DTTB commitments and appearances with Rick Braun, looks quite hectic. I asked Shilts how he was managing to find the right balance and if he anticipated leveraging the interest of his long time DTTB fans for his solo performances. “Really, its all working out great” he explained. “Dates have fallen into place and I’m looking forward to testing out audience reaction when I get to the east coast in August. What I really hope is that the smooth jazz fans who have found my music through the new single will combine with DTTB regulars. That should produce quite an atmosphere.”

In the immediate future Shilts intends to continue to develop his live shows and has a new band that he has brought together for the purpose. Although he does admit to missing English beer and fish and chips he has no regrets about the switch that he and his family have made. “It’s about opportunities,” he confirmed. “Back home there are world class musicians who struggle to find work and to pay their bills. Here the market is opening up. It’s a place where if you work hard and pursue your dreams then the rewards will follow.”

Living the dream Shilts certainly is. In those sun drenched environs of L.A., and by coupling his enormous talent with the real feeling that he has for his music, he is sure to do well.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at 7:17 PM

July 26, 2006

Summer Storm In Vegas

Kyle Eastwood, respected jazz bassist, composer, and arranger, who even collaborated with his father, Clint, for the Oscar-winning Mystic River a few years ago, will be performing at the Suncoast Hotel, August 4th-6th.

The Summer Storm is coming to Vegas, specifically on August 18th at the Railhead Showroom inside the Boulder Station Hotel. The Summer Storm members include Norman Brown, Patti Austin, Alex Bugnon, and Paul Taylor.

The Steven Lee Group, featuring saxophonist Rocco Barbato, still holds down the Monday night shift at the new Redrock Station Hotel and Casino.

Ronnie Foster, legendary keyboardist, is still at the Artisan Hotel on Thursdays and Saturdays starting at 10pm.

Rocky Gordon
is back at the District, at the Greens location, with his band KGB on Friday, August 11th.

Jerry Lopez (Ricky Martin, Bill Champlin, Clint Holmes) has brought his band, Santa Fe And The Fat City Horns, to the Palms hotel on Mondays. This is a great band, featuring Jerry on guitar and vocals.

On an editorial note:
Vegas is not known for original music or launching innovative talent. Culturally the city has been challenged with too many magicians and celebrity impersonators for years. So it comes as no surprise when you hear the varied sounds of the city that you might define as jazz on occasion.

As far as what I have witnessed over the last few years regarding smooth jazz groups, if I hear one more Benson-guitar clone performing Affirmation or Breezin'; or one more saxophonist perform the songs Europa, Mister Magic, or Chicago Song; or one more wannabee jazz vocalist sing Just The Two Of Us, This Masquerade, or Summertime, or Chaka Khan's Ain't Nobody, then I will pray with the voodoo doctor to bring Jimi Hendrix back from the dead to come and burn their instruments and microphones. It's been done already, and overdone.

If this dilemma is plaguing your community, tell your local club and restaurant owners you've had enough.

Give the people what they want, but remember, those people who like those tired sounds are usually in the upper demographic, and not necessarily members of the affluent class. Younger thinking, hip audiences are looking for more. And they also have the disposable income to buy music.

Gen X has entered the smooth jazz arena. Recruit them now!

Posted by Danny Desart at 3:43 PM

July 25, 2006

Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum

185_peanuts.jpgThere I was sitting with my uncle “Peanuts”, who’s literally a legend in a kind of musical microcosm... someone who’s played with Nat King Cole, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald. Once I asked David Sanborn if he knew him and he said, ‘Of course I do. Who doesn’t know “Peanuts” Whalum?’ So my resolution this year was, “I am going to somehow document what my Uncle “Peanuts” does…’ To have him sit there and play songs for me… Oh goodness. It was such an experience! It was hard for me to concentrate on what I was doing. Everything he played I loved. 90% of the songs I didn’t know. I thought I knew a lot of Jazz standards - but, around someone like him, you know nothing. This man is a giant… he’s a five foot five giant! - Kirk Whalum

In the category of Talent Deserving Wider Recognition and Best Kept Musical Secret, Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum shines with unparalleled brightness. On his self-titled debut on Rendezvous Entertainment, the singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist stamps pop, swing, jazz, blues and gospel standards, underexposed classics and inspired originals with his exquisite vocal sensibilities and instrumental savvy, playing both piano and tenor saxophone.

Spanning decades and crossing genres and generations, the 75-years-young Peanut’s musicality and sensitivity find perfect expression on the 11 tracks of an album that is both timeless and classic. Produced by his nephew, Kirk Whalum (the chart-topping, No. 1-selling saxophonist who has been relentlessly occupying the top of the charts for that past few years), Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum takes his place among the great interpretative singers and instrumentalists of all time: Tony Bennett, Johnny Matthis, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, among others.

Backing the singer is a stellar band formed around Peanut’s trio (the artist himself on piano, tenor sax and vocals) with Rob Block on guitar and Jeff Anderson on bass. The A-list of players includes nephew Kirk Whalum joining in on saxophone, Rick Jackson (Amy Grant, Larry Carlton) on additional keys, Chester Thompson (of Genesis fame) on drums, and Lalo Davila on percussion. Additionally, a special guest appearance is made by Kenneth Whalum, III (“Peanuts” and Kirk’s grand nephew and nephew respectively).

Although Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum is a fixture in the city that gave birth to the blues, St. Louis, this gracious gentleman was born in Memphis. “A few years ago”, he says with a laugh. “I began playing violin when I was eight. I had six lessons, which is all the formal musical training I ever had.” From the violin, he moved on to the cornet and a spot in the YMCA band. He and his three brothers were also an in-demand quartet in Memphis and the surrounding areas, where they opened for their father, a well-respected orator and lecturer. “Peanuts” continued on trumpet through his third year in college, when “one of the tenor saxes in the swing band finished college and there was no one to take his place, so I started goofing around with tenor saxophone and that turned out to be ‘the calling’, if you will.

As a member of the Central State Collegians, he played Carnegie Hall, sharing the stage with Woody Herman, Billy Eckstine, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald. He and his college cohorts (including the renowned Frank Foster) were called in on a gig in Dayton, Ohio, when the band that was hired to back Billy Eckstine cancelled. Eckstine was so impressed that when he played Indianapolis, “Peanuts” and company were brought in once again. “On this particular night”, “Peanuts” recalls, “Jazz At The Philharmonic” was in town… So look who’s coming to see Eckstine, but Ella Fitzgerald, Lester Young, Howard McGee, etc. They sat in, so I played with young and McGee and behind Ella.

Following graduation (with a degree in chemistry), he toured with the Lionel Hampton Band on tenor sax, ultimately relocating to St. Louis, playing solo piano at hotels, theatres and clubs around the city, gigging on sax with the likes of Miles Davis and Ed Thigpen when they came to town. “I have a picture with Miles and Ed,” “Peanuts” chuckles. “We’re wearing Zoot suits.”

In the ‘50’s, as part of the Jeeter-Pillars band, “Peanuts” played behind Nat King Cole and his trio. “Whenever Nat would come on and be announced, ‘Lady’s and Gentlemen, Nat King Cole’, the first thing Nat would say is, ‘I’d like to introduce you to my friend.’ He’d call me out of the band, you now, to come and play with him. So every song he played, I played with him… that didn’t strike me then, but jeez, I think about it now, and say ‘Whoa, was that me? Was that really me?”

It may be hard for “Peanuts” to believe, but for anyone listening to the musical magic on Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum, it makes perfect sense.

Although long known for his distinction on tenor saxophone, vocals finally took center stage for “Peanuts” when a club he was playing couldn’t afford a trio during Lent, as business would fall off in a highly Catholic part of the city. “Peanuts” volunteered to do a solo gig, singing and playing the piano. “You’ve never seen me scuffle like that. That week I went to work. I couldn’t play anything, but I could sing and when someone would request a song, I’d try to find something complementary, key-wise, on the piano. I’d sit there and play, laughing. Do you know business picked up… business picked up during Lent.”

PeanutsWhalum.jpgWith Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum, business is bound to pick up again. Romantic and elegant, “Peanuts” and his velvet voice imbue every lyric with added meaning and subtlety. His choice of material is impeccable. Covers of songs like the Elvis perennial, “I Can’t Help Falling”, and Frank Sinatra’s “Why Try To Change Me Now” find perfect balance alongside Sammy Cahn’s rarely recorded lyrical gem “It’s Always Four A.M.” (music by Ron Anthony). With Whalum and Whalum, the latter becomes one of the most evocative and atmospheric songs in memory, making it hard to imagine that anyone but “Peanuts” could match the songs’ bittersweet eloquence. Producer Kirk Whalum says, “It’s the kind of lyric that’s so magical, so carefully thought out. It tells a story, has depth… such a great twist of imagination to say, ‘When you’re all alone, it’s always four a.m.”

Other standout tracks include “I Don’t Know Why”, “The Best Man” and “Beautiful Friendship”. Rounding out the romance is album-opener “I’ll Close My Eyes” which has been recorded by everyone from Cannonball Adderley to Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Shore and Dinah Washington. “Peanuts” makes it entirely his own, with delightful nuance and shading. “The song came out in ‘40’s or ‘50’s; it’s always been very special and dear to me, but the versions back then were slow. On this one, I bounced a bit.”

Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum is a secret that can’t be kept any longer. If his reputation reaches as far as his inspired talent, he’ll be a legend not only in St. Louis (where he’s considered a local treasure) and with jazz insiders, but also around the world.

Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum, the one and only, is unequivocally a giant. With any luck, and “God Willing,” as “Peanuts” is want to say, this man, who should be a household name, “soon will be.”

Kirk is presenting his uncle on August 10, at the Vic in Los Angeles. Then the next night, Peanuts is performing with Kirk Whalum and the Rendezvous All-Stars at the Long Beach Jazz Festival. Audiences will see what SMOOTH really is when they hear the velvety timbres of the Peanut!

He will also join Dave Koz on the Dave Koz & Friends At Sea Cruise in November. When most gentlemen Peanuts' age are passengers on cruises, he will be taking stage and "working" during his trip.

To me, artists like Peanuts are the real American idols.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:55 PM

July 22, 2006

Roku SoundBridge Radio

SoundbridgeRadio.jpgIt is very uncommon for our site to feature a review of audio hardware but there is a new product that has come to my attention which has blown me away. It is a major step forward in the way we consume music in our daily lives, reminding me of the impact Sony's walkman had back in the 80ies. I am talking about Roku's SoundBridge Radio, a Wi-Fi music system in the shape of a normal tabletop FM radio. All you need is a highspeed internet access like ADSL or cable modem and some kind of wireless router (in my case an Apple airport network) and you are all set to receive thousands of Internet radio stations anywhere in your house. Basically you don't need a computer (but it helps to make a few settings over the network or to stream music from your own collection). Additionally, the device is able to recieve AM/FM radio and serve as an alarm clock. It has some premium stereo speakers and a built in subwoofer for great sound and a remote control for your convenience.

With the recently launched SmoothVibes radio channel on the Internet, such devices are instrumental in helping this mode of radio broadcasting to reach a wider audience. Listening to music on the computer has been not as easy to achieve as one would want. You had to set up software, enter addresses and hook up external speakers to your computer. With Roku SoundBridge Radio and the menu guided setup, this has become a breeze which should help the Internet radio stations to become accessible to more listeners. You are allowed to program 18 stations directly into the device; if you need more presets you can solve this problem with a playlist which is stored on your computer (for instance in iTunes).

So the Roku SoundBridge Radio along with the SmoothVibes radio channel is the perfect companion for your life. I am entirely happy with it and you should be, too!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:42 PM

July 20, 2006

Rippington's 20th Anniversary Tour Coming to Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base

RussFreeman.jpgIf you've never heard the Rippingtons up close and personal, here is a great opportunity to do just that! What a great venue in which to hear a band that has helped set the standard for innovative and dynamic music in jazz over the last two decades. Tickets will go fast, so don't delay!

The Rippingtons 20th Anniversary Tour featuring original band members Russ Freeman, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Reid, Kim Stone, Bill Heller and Dave Karasony is coming Saturday, August 19th to Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.

The Ripps will be performing two spectacular shows on that special evening at 7 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $30 per show. Seating is limited to 140 per show.

The Rippingtons, founded by Russ Freeman in 1987, pioneered the smooth jazz landscape and have been a dominant presence in contemporary music ever since.

Their groundbreaking album, Moonlighting, was voted the No. 1 Most Influential Contemporary Jazz Album of all time by Jazziz magazine.

But Moonlighting was only the beginning of memorable Rippington music. Such hit recordings as Kilimanjaro, Tourist in Paradise, Welcome to the St. James Club, Curves Ahead, Weekend In Monaco, Live in L.A., Sahara, Brave New World, Black Diamond, Topaz, Live Across America, Life in the Tropics, Let It Ripp! and Wild Card kept embellishing their legacy one disc at a time.

To mark their 20th anniversary milestone, Freeman, true to his creative and innovative spirit as a composer and producer, opted not to merely crank out a greatest hits package. Instead, he concocted the exciting idea of an all-star Ripps class reunion.

So in addition to a celebratory tour, he came up with a remarkable new CD/DVD package that includes a CD of all news Ripps music and a DVD featuring a colorful retrospective as well as exciting videos from over the years. He gathered all Rippingtons recording and touring members past and present to alternate on 10 brand new compositions and a sizzling medley featuring newly recorded snippets of nine classic Ripps cuts. The end result is a marvelous medley of music simply but aptly entitled The Rippingtons 20th Anniversary.

Performing at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base will be a Ripps reunion group featuring such accomplished artists as Freeman on guitar, saxophonist Jeff Kasahiwa, percussionist Steve Reid, bassist Kim Stone, keyboardist Bill Heller and drummer Dave Karasony.

When Freeman started the band, he vowed it would never break up -- that it would survive the inevitable personnel changes and evolve its sound naturally over time. He didn't break that vow.

So Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel on August 19th promises to be hosting a magic moment in time when patrons can savor where The Rippingtons have been and rejoice that they still are vibrant, creative and excited about the future.

Tickets are $30 each show. Seating is limited to 140 per show.

Tickets can be purchased by:

Calling CD Exchange at 610-777-2310 to order by phone.
Stopping by the CD Exchange, 360 E. Wyomissing Ave., Mohnton, PA, during regular business hours Tuesday through Saturday.
Stopping by Thursday nights at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.
Ordering online at www.berksjazzfest.com

We hope to see you at the show! The Jazz Base is sure to become one of your favorite venues, if it isn't already!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsyvania

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:15 PM

July 16, 2006

Old Pasadena JazzFest

The Old Pasadena JazzFest will soon take place July 22 & 23, 2006 at the L.A. County Arboretum. As alyways there is a great lineup of first rate smooth jazz artists.

Line-up for Sat. July 22: Incognito featuring Maysa, Rachelle Ferrell, Candy Dulfer featuring Jason Miles, Soul Express (Jody Watley, Jeff Lorber, Chris Standring), Marc Antoine & Michael Lington with the Philippe Saisse Trio, Gerald Veasley.

Line-Up For Sun. July 23: Teena Marie, The Music Of Marvin Gaye & Motown (an All-Star Jam featuring Jason Miles, Ledisi, Candy Dulfer, Greg Adams, Dj Logic and very special guest Candy Dulfer!), Rick Braun, Hiroshima (their 25th anniversary), Eric Darius, Nick Colionne... and others!

For the first time, the Old Pasadena JazzFest will be held on the lush grounds of The L.A. County Arboretum. This 127-acre venue is one of Southern California's treasures, with manicured gardens and trees throughout. The spectacular meadow called Bauer Lawn will be utilized for the festival, which will allow more room for general seating, plus plenty of room for the Vendor Village, International Food Court and large shade structures.

More information here.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:57 AM

July 15, 2006

To Grover With Love - In Jason Miles' Own Words

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Albums that can stand the test of time don’t come along every day but one recording that already carries the hallmarks of classic status will be re-released on July 18. The Jason Miles tribute to Grover Washington To Grover With Love first came out in April 2001, sixteen months after Washington’s untimely death and when I recently talked to Miles I first asked him about the knack he has for turning what at first sight appears to be ‘the tribute concept’ into an art form. He was quick to stress that “these records should not be viewed as collections of covers” and anyone who has heard his Grammy winning A Love Affair : The Music Of Ivan Lins, the nod he makes to Celebrating The Music Of Weather Report or, more recently, his What’s Going On? - Songs Of Marvin Gaye will wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments. “It’s all about taking the music to another place” he explains. “What I do, one of the gifts I have, is to gather together just the right group of musicians to create the collaborations that re-imagine familiar songs into something new and fresh but with the feeling and passion of the original artist.” This approach is well demonstrated with his 2005 project Miles To Miles – In The Spirit Of Miles Davis where, with original compositions, he brings to life the spirit and creative vibe of the legendary trumpeter, expanding musical ideas into a realm that was unheard of during the halcyon days of Davis.

With To Grover With Love the thinking was just the same. In 1996 Grover Washington Jr. had featured on the Jason Miles solo album Mr X where he played on the track ‘Chicken And Waffles’. Consequently the bond Miles had with him transcended a mere love for his music. Shortly after the news of Grover’s death had been announced, and in LA to finish up the Ivan Lins project, Miles realized he had to do something. He proceeded to map out what he wanted to achieve and, limited only by the reluctance of some labels to release their artists, pulled together a veritable who’s who of contemporary jazz musicians. The roster included ten different sax players but when it came to getting the record made he first had to experience several rejections before finding a home for the project at the then division of the QVC shopping network, Q Records. He also went on to release the 2002 Brazilian Nights with Q but this was the last CD the label put out before it folded. There was a real risk that Brazilian Nights and To Grover With Love would be lost forever but, showing the same passion and determination that he has displayed throughout his career, Jason Miles stepped in to buy back the masters of both disks.

Now, at its new home of Artizen Records, the To Grover With Love adventure is set to begin again. Miles is thrilled that at long last the record is in the hands of a group of people who ‘get it’ and who have the ability to provide much needed visibility. It’s a wonderful collection that, true to type, includes a version of ‘Mr Magic’ like you have never heard it before and a funky, organic interpretation of ‘Winelight’ featuring the sax of Gerald Albright that will banish recent covers of this classic track into distant memory.

As for Jason Miles, he will be on the road this summer with Candy Dulfer to promote the What’s Going On? CD and also has projects in the pipeline that include a collection of Motown tunes done with a chill vibe and a collaboration with vocalist Mike Mattison.

For more on Jason Miles go to www.jasonmilesmusic.com

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at 3:16 PM

July 14, 2006

Catch Another Great Guitars & Saxes Show on the 2006 Tour!

by Val Vaccaro

This year’s 2006 Guitars & Saxes (G & S) terrific lineup includes guitarists Jeff Golub and Peter White, and saxophonists Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright.

GS_GeraldAlbright.jpg GS_RichardElliot.jpg GS_JeffGolub.jpg GS_PeterWhite.jpg

If you are a smooth jazz fan, and you haven’t already been to a G & S show in the past 11 years (it now has institution-status!), you need to know that you are guaranteed to have a great time! Each of these guys is a consummate musician in his own right and has a wonderful rapport with the audience. Together, the dynamic, playful, and improvisational interaction between the musicians makes for delightful entertainment! The top-notch G & S backing band members for this tour include: Ron Reinhardt on keyboards, Nate Philips on bass, Dwight Sills on guitar, and Ricky Lawson on drums.

Jeff Golub always amazes audiences as an exciting and endearing performer with his diversity on electric guitar on everything from sultry smooth jazz ballads to playful, funky, bluesy, uptempo soulful pop-rock tunes. Golub’s influences range from Wes Montgomery to Jeff Beck to The Average White band; his work with contemporary jazz icons like Bob James, and rockers like Rod Stewart, Billy Squier and Peter Wolf might also have something to do with it.

From the smooth finesse of Wes Montgomery, to edgy, searing, rousing sounds of rock… Jeff Golub is a musician of great emotional depth and range. Jeff has said, “When I was a kid playing rock music, so much of it was jazz… early Cream records, …Traffic, Santana, the Allman Brothers. I’m not happy about the way that music has to be pigeonholed and categorized with words. You have to say what bin it's going to go into in the store, which radio station is going to play it because it fits this description. The things that inspired most of us to play had no description of where they were coming from. It was just a lot of different influences coming together… Things like formats and what is popular come and go, but if you are true to yourself as an artist, that doesn't come and go. That is what is always there, and the people who come to listen to you will always appreciate that. You have to be yourself. You try to be the most charming version of yourself, but you still have to be yourself.”

Golub has certainly proved he has mastered more than one format, which makes for interesting compositions and wonderful performances appreciated by audiences. If you see Golub perform one of his smoldering originals such as “Naked City” or “Stockholm,” you know the incredible range and intensity of Golub’s electric guitar sounds, as well as special cat-like cries and violin sounds. Since I first saw Golub perform at SOB’s (Sounds of Brazil) nightclub in NYC in 1996, I have likened Golub’s musical diversity to the baby-boomer cartoon hero Felix the Cat, who had his magical bag of tricks.

Golub has often received airplay with the catchy duet recorded with Peter White aptly named “No Two Ways About It” (on Golub’s CD in 2000 called Dangerous Curves), which might be included in the set list. However, a show with Jeff Golub wouldn’t be complete without a funky, boisterous Average White Band medley of his No. 1 radio hit “Pick Up The Pieces” (Avenue Blue CD) and “Cut The Cake” (from the CD Do It Again). Speaking of cake, the icing on my wish list to see live has been the classic funky Eddie Harris jazz tune “Cold Duck Time” which Golub recorded with Albright (on Golub’s 2002 Do It Again CD). Audiences hopefully will finally get to see Golub and Albright work their dynamic duo musical exchange live – a real treat! Another song you most likely will hear on the tour is “Uptown Express” - an easy-going groovy, cool tune reminiscent of Wes and the 60’s vibe - spiked with Golub’s spunky spin (from Temptation, Golub’s current CD on the Narada Jazz label).

Also, Golub has a much-anticipated new CD in the works. Since Golub has such an affinity for groovy 60’s vibes, maybe he should consider covering tunes such as the TV theme “Secret Agent Man” or “Love Potion No. 9.” Golub has had some of his compositions on movie soundtracks before – maybe an Austin Powers sequel could include Golub in cameo scenes playing his version of “The In Crowd” (on Golub’s Nightlife CD), or other cool tunes Golub has recorded, or will record in the future! Check the website for updates.

Peter White’s sweet, melodic acoustic guitar sounds have graced twelve No. 1 smooth jazz radio hit songs including “Talkin’ Bout Love,” from his Confidential CD (Columbia). Peter has said, “I play from the heart, which is where music ultimately comes from. It’s about tapping into the soul and allowing the emotions within to pour forth. The battle is to trust your instincts without trying to be too clever, which only ends up corrupting the process and seldom works anyway.”

Peter’s smooth grooves have earned him the title “Guitarist of the Year” four years in a row from National Smooth Jazz Awards. Peter’s new CD is Playin' Favorites (Sony), a follow-up to his popular CD Reflections of romantic cover tunes, as well as his cover of the Isley Brothers’ tune “Who's That Lady" (from the Glow CD). White’s new CD includes the single "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - the old Junior Walker song - and the classic Grover Washington tune “Mister Magic” – a favorite or as White would prefer, a “favourite” (British version) song of fans and musicians alike.

Richard Elliot’s dramatic emotive style, with distinctive growls and sensuous sounds on tenor sax have put his heart-warming imprints on Motown classics such as his now trademark tune “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and his cover of “Secret Love.” Elliot has worked with Natalie Cole, The Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops, The Temptations, and Tower of Power.

Elliot’s current CD Metro Blue (ARTizen Music Group – his label with Rick Braun, manager Steve Chapman and industry veteran Al Evers) is his 14th solo album. So far, Metro Blue includes three catchy hits: The Stylistics’ classic R & B tune “People Make The World Go Round,” an optimistic, passionate original tune “Mystique,” and the soulful song “Inside Out.” According to Elliot, “I wanted to create a different sound that is organic, funky and soulful. I wanted it to have a moody urban vibe, but not an American urban sound; more like a Euro urban sound”.

Gerald Albright’s bright, bluesy and uplifting tone on alto sax and incredibly high altissimo notes are instantly recognizable. He also plays tenor and soprano sax, but it’s his work on alto that stays in my memory. Albright has worked with artists such as Anita Baker, Patrice Rushen, Nina Simone, Barry White, Nancy Wilson and The Temptations. Albright’s cover of Luther Vandross’ hit “So Amazing” demonstrates his incredibly inspiring range and power. Albright’s improvisational prowess and soulful sounds delight on other hit tunes like “My, My, My” and “Bermuda Nights.” The ultimate anthem that Albright expressively soars on is the classic Ray Charles tune “Georgia On My Mind.” A new version of “Georgia…” is on the current CD New Beginnings (Peak Records), his 11th recording as a solo artist. “We Got The Groove” is a catchy jam tune that jumpstarts the new CD. The G & S show will most likely feature a number of these songs.

Last year, Albright toured with Phil Collins, and performed on the “Groovin' for Grover” tour with Elliot and others. This summer, Albright, Elliot and White appear with other smooth jazz artists on a re-release of the CD Jason Miles presents: To Grover With Love (Artizen Music Group) a tribute to the late great saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.

Albright has said “I find the most gratification in the simple but powerful reactions of people in the audience when I play... It’s like through The Creator, I’m a messenger, and my job is to touch someone new every day with the music I play. If people come to one of my shows with the weight of the world on their shoulders, my goal for those few hours is to give them a nice release from their troubles and take them to a fresh, exciting place. … With every note I play, I really want to move people.” That’s true of all of the artists on the G & S tour!

Guitars & Saxes is still one of my favorite smooth jazz shows – a must to see for all smooth jazz fans. The first time I saw G & S I was really impressed; it was in 1996 at the Inter-Media Arts Center (IMAC) Theater in Huntington, Long Island (in New York) with Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Peter White and Marc Antoine. Back in my 1996 review I wrote, “For the sake of contemporary jazz fans across the nation, let’s hope they extend the (Guitars, Saxes and More) tour in the future.” Like so many thousands of fans, I’m glad the show goes on and hope it will continue to for many decades!

Here are some G & S tour dates and places (check the artists’ websites for updated listings):

*GS denotes 2006 Guitars & Saxes featuring
Jeff Golub, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Peter White.


JULY 2006
14 St. Louis, MO The Pageant - *GS
15 Chicago, IL Chicago Theater - *GS
27 Glenside, PA Keswick Theatre - *GS
28 Huntington, NY IMAC - *GS
29 Harrisburg, PA The Forum - PA - *GS
30 Annapolis, MD Rams Head - *GS
31 Alexandria, VA The Birchmere - *GS

01 Alexandria, VA The Birchmere - *GS
02 Annapolis, MD Rams Head - *GS
04 Norfolk, VA Town Point Park - *GS
05 Woodinville, WA Chateau Ste. Michelle - *GS
10 Saratoga, CA The Garden Theatre - *GS
11 Sacramento, CA Radison Hotel - *GS
12 Healdsburg, CA Rodney Strong Winery - *GS
13 Long Beach, CA Rainbow Lagoon Park - *GS
19 Concord, CA Chronicle Pavillion - *GS
25 Newport Beach, CA Hyatt Newport

22 Avalon, CA Avalon Ballroom - *GS

06 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Cabo Wabo

Jeff is a “PORT OF CALL GUEST” of the Dave Koz Cruise and will be appearing at Cabo Wabo in Cabo San Lucas on Monday November 6th

20-27, 2007 Lvs Ft. Lauderdale Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:50 AM

July 9, 2006

Jill Jenson

JillJenson_bw.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. Jill Jenson released her first and self titled CD earlier this year. In doing so she took her first steps into the world of adult contemporary music, a genre that, with only a few exceptions, has done few favors for the majority of female vocalists who have dabbled in it. Yet, in this interesting collection, there is enough to suggest that Jenson could well have a successful career ahead of her. A graduate of University of Miami where she majored in ‘Jazz Vocal’ she returned to her home of Portland Oregon and worked variously as a DJ at KMHD radio, a professional jingle singer and voiceover artist, and as a senior executive and consultant with both AT&T Wireless and Microsoft. This very untypical grounding for a fledgling singing star led to a fortunate turn when, in 2002, she hooked up with her old college friend Tim Cashion who has written and produced for the likes of Bob Seger, Robert Palmer and Grand Funk Railroad. She quit her job and starting working toward what has culminated in the release of her debut CD. Produced by Cashion, and with twelve of the fourteen tracks written or co-written by him, the album also benefits both from the executive production expertise of Matt Pierson and contributions from a stellar line up of backing musicians.

Pierson has been around and, having worked with Bob James, Joshua Redman and Michael Franks, knows what good contemporary jazz should be. This savvy is evident as early as the opening track, the Cashion composition ‘Sunshine Away’. It is tight and pleasing with Jenson’s warm vocals shining through. Earth Wind and Fires ‘That’s The Way Of The World’ is the first of the albums two notable covers and Jenson carries it off in fine style. In this she is helped, in no small part, by the excellent Marc Henderson and Dave Quackenbush on sax and trumpet respectively.

JillJenson_cover.jpgAlthough from time to time Jenson flirts with ballads, both she and the band are clearly at their best when seeking out a quicker tempo R & B groove. Jenson has the depth of voice to inject a little soul and does so nicely with the Swing Out Sister (ish) ‘Little World’. ‘If You Don’t Love Me’ has a catchy chorus and well-blended horns while ‘Find My Way’ has an infectious Latin vibe, tight production qualities and more great sax from Henderson. As said, Jill Jenson can cover quite a range of feeling and style. With the contemporary ‘100 Percent’ she is deliciously jazzy yet, on the gentle ballad ‘A Place In His Heart’, almost evokes the sound of Karen Carpenter.

Best track is the Gray, James, Vale composition, ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’. This mid tempo cover of the old Tommy James and the Shondells hit features the guitar of Chuck Loeb. It has a 5th Dimension thing going on and is definitely one to watch out for.

A two-year project in the making, the CD was recorded at Cashion's Cottage Lake Studio in North Carolina, with some additional sessions in New York City. The wait has been worth it and now offers Jill Jenson the chance to step into the adult contemporary limelight.

For more on Jill Jenson and for details of how to buy the CD go to www.jilljenson.com

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at 9:04 AM

July 8, 2006

Smooth Sailing: Jason Miles, Nick Colionne And More

Reviews of new CDs by Jason Miles, Nick Colionne, Eric Darius, the latest Unwrapped, Maysa, Incognito, Willie and Lobo, Victor Fields and Tom Schuman.

What’s Going On? Songs of Marvin Gaye (Narada Jazz)

The first two songs on veteran producer and keyboardist Jason Miles’ tribute to iconic soul man Marvin Gaye foretell that something special’s at hand. First, Mike Mattison of the Derek Trucks Band alternately sings and growls in the still-relevant protest song “What’s Going On?” Gaye’s spirit is suitably invoked. And the next tune – the equally anthemic “Sexual Healing” – shuffles along with a reggae beat punctuated by Dean Brown’s warbling guitar licks. It’s like no “Sexual Healing” you’ve heard.

Of course, Miles and company – guitarist Nick Colionne, saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and trumpeter Herb Alpert, among others – wrap their chops around many of Gaye’s best-loved tunes. But brownie points need to extended for including lesser-known tunes such as “I Want You,” with Chiara Civello’s sexy vocals bringing the song to life; “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby,” with Guida de Palma’s vocals; and “Distant Lover,” with Bobby Caldwell’s straining voice giving its all. To be fair, all three tunes were pop singles, but they don’t endure today like the biggies do. That would include, of course, “Let’s Get It on,” repackaged here with Alpert’s mellow trumpet lead; “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing,” simply stated with Miles’ keys; “Mercy Mercy Me,” taken in a new direction with Ann Drummond’s flute; and of course, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” with Colionne’s sleek guitar lines.

With now Gaye and previous CDs giving props to Grover Washington Jr., Weather Report and Ivan Lins, it apparent that future soul, fusion and smooth jazz favorites interpretations are in good hands with Jason Miles.

Keepin’ It Cool (Narada Jazz)

Nick Colionne’s smooth guitar licks have sweetened earbuds for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until 2003’s Just Come On In that many listeners sat up and noticed. That’s because the CD offered two hit singles – “It’s Been Too Long” and the No. 1 smash called “High Flyin’.” On his much anticipated follow-up, his first for Narada Jazz, the Chicago-based guitarist once again offers fluid electric guitar ditties influenced by – natch – idols Wes Montgomery and George Benson. In fact, Colionne continues his custom of including at least one song on each CD either originally recorded or inspired by Montgomery. This time it’s a recording called “John L,” a languid number that would feel comfortable in the swingin’ 1960s.

The rest of the CD is similarly compelling and tons more of a total smooth jazz package than his previous work, which presented some mainstream jazz moments. On “This Is the Song,” for example, Colionne seems to be saying that he’s got the format down with a just-about-perfect smooth jazz number that builds to a soaring, irresistible hook. The guitarist adds two, live-n-the-studio bonuses: a reworked version of “High Flyin’ ” and a too-cool take on “Rainy Night in Georgia” with low vocals. Welcome to the show.

Just Getting Started (Narada Jazz)

Technically, 23-year-old sax phenom Eric Darius has indeed started, as he is now three CDs deep. But heck, he is still in college. And he’s on the fast-track to smooth jazz stardom, having spent the past year touring as keyboardist Brian Culbertson’s sexy sax guy. Culbertson is on board as a player and producer, as are Paul Brown and Euge Groove. Thrown in veterans Jeff Lorber, Ron Reinhardt, Paul Jackson Jr., Tony Maiden and Oscar Seaton, and you’ve got a CD guaranteed to make noise.

Fortunately, Darius and friends deliver with catchy, radio-friendly pop-jazz right out of the gate with “Steppin’ Up” and don’t let till the last notes of “Slick.” So is Darius next big thing in smooth saxophone? That’s probably premature, although Just Getting Started is leaps and bounds above his 2004 Narada debut. Then, he revisited a few favorite tunes from his self-produced debut that probably should have stayed there while occasionally flashing brilliance on a few hook-ish nuggets. But with the talent largesse on board for his new project, it was unlikely – nay, impossible – for smooth jazz nirvana to be denied. At the helm of his own compositions, though, like “That’s What I’m Sayin’ ” and “Groove On,” Darius displays a free-wheelin’ style that favors playing more than melody. Refreshing.

Unwrapped Vol. 4 (Hidden Beach)

A few years ago, someone somewhere realized that kids weaned on hip-hop might like to get their freak on listening to their favorite tunes with a funky-jazz makeover. Many CD sales later, there are plenty of CDs doing just that. But it’s working both ways. The funky fusion has also given contemporary jazz fans some hip-hop samples (pun intended) without having to drop dollars on 50 Cent. In fact, it’s a good bet that most indulging in the latest in the popular Unwrapped series haven’t found the courage to pick up recent works by said 50 Cent and Fat Joe, two of the artists re-worked here.

Back on Unwrapped are its primary musicians, saxophonist Mike Phillips, trombonist Jeff Bradshaw, guitarist Dennis Nelson, keyboardist Frank McComb and violinist Karen Briggs. What’s interesting are the couple of old-school tunes, including the grayest beard in the books: the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” bass line intact but given a Latin big band treatment, and “Rollin’ With Kid N Play.” Newer classics include Terror Squad’s “Lean Back” and 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” and “21 Questions.”

The original songs may be all that, but the real winner here are fans who get to hear some top-notch jazz jamming.

Sweet Classic Soul (Shanachie)

When not recording with British funk-jazz band Incognito, singer and songwriter Maysa Leak crafts pop-jazz tunes on CDs that too often get lost among the pile of similarly soulful efforts. But on her latest, just glance at the title to see where Maysa’s going. And with radio’s cover-song-love in full swing, there’s a good chance she’ll perk up some ears. Of course, Maysa has a warm and inviting voice that – critic cliché be damned – make these songs her own. Her strengths are in the lower registers like Anita Baker, which are well-suited to selections like the piano, vocal and drummed-brushed “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack and with Barry White’s “Playing Your Game.”

Elsewhere, Maysa displays her vocal range with the falsetto-ish “Betch By Golly Wow” by the Stylistics and with Luther Vandross’ “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.” Also getting the Maysa treatment are Chaka Khan and Rufus’ “Any Love,” Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do” and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” and Rose Royce’s sublime “Wishing on a Star.”

Any new Maysa CD is worth settling down with to discover her songwriting abilities. With the classic songs on Sweet Classic Soul, she wipes out the middle man, as it were, and allows listeners to waste no time in discovering her joys.

Eleven (Narada Jazz)

Incognito doesn’t need a gimmick, but here it is: Eleven is the veteran UK band’s eleventh recording. There are 11 songs. And an 11-piece band. That aside, the latest groove- and brass-happy outing by Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick and team brings what it has for more than 25 years – in-your-face, positive-vibe funk instrumental and vocal tunes that just won’t stop, y’all. Recording with his touring band for first time, Bluey wisely brings back longtime friend and collaborator Maysa to drench soul on four exquisite tunes.

Incognito has had a few songs on the smooth jazz charts, so there’s a tendency to lump the group in with that crowd. But Incognito rarely gets played anymore – the airwaves are too tame for Bluey’s jam-band jive, which puts the focus on the playing and the groove instead of a repeated 10-second hook. That’s just fine for the club-goers and for the best way to experience Incognito, which is live.

There’s a ‘70s vibe to Eleven that’s best expressed in “It’s Just One of Those Things,” a disco-strings number featuring a duet of Maysa and Tony Momrelle. And on “Baby It’s All Right,” vocalist Imaani sounds like a new version of Chaka Kahn doing her classic “Sweet Thing.”

Zambra (Narada)

The duo of Willie Royal and Wolfgang “Lobo” Fink can normally hang out in the new age bins. But really, these guys deserve a category of their own. Call it Gypsy-chic meets surfer-dude chic (their music was heard in a surfing documentary called “Blazing Longboards,” and they’re both avid wave hoppers). They’re Ottmar Liebert on mild sedatives, but tuned down a notch from the passionate flamenco sound of guitarist Jesse Cook. On their 10th CD, guitarist Fink and violinist Royal called on longtime friend and trumpet superstar Rick Braun to perform and produce, and the result is some hard-earned magic.

In fact, Braun – who has worked with the duo on four other CDs – helps elevate Zambra to the top of Willie and Lobo’s canon. Their music has matured and diversified, assimilating the festive with the mournful. Mournful is easy with a violin of course, but on the CD’s standout track “Donde Vayo” it’s heightened by Royal’s vocalese and Braun’s smoldering, Spaghetti-western trumpet vibe. Braun again shines in “Vellas Al Viento,” where he takes a turn adding vocal flavorings. Braun also penned song dedicated to victims of last year’s devastating hurricane: “Balada Para Katrina.”

Great chemistry, and a cheap trip to Gypsy land.

Victor (Regina Records)

There’s always room for talented R&B vocalists happy to smooth out your workday or precious weekends, and Victor Fields is as good as they come these days. He’s not on the radar like contemporaries Will Downing and Freddie Jackson, but he’s respected enough to have been able to call on smooth stars such as Chris Botti and Jeff Lorber in the past. On his new CD, produced by guitarist Chris Camozzi and mixed by the Braxton Brothers’ Nelson Braxton, Fields kicks things off with a soothing tune written by Chuck Loeb called “This Could Be Paradise.” On that song and others like “Love Will Save the Day,” Fields’ soothing chops are perfect accompaniment to the positive-vibe lyrics.

Like any vocalist on the rise, Fields sprays his songs to all fields. Half the game is choosing what’s appropriate, of course, and he makes spot-on choices with Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady” and his husky version of falsetto country singer Vince Gill’s “Colder Than Winter.” For jazz fans, he wraps his chops around well-worn standards “Lush Life” and “Night and Day,” with strings sweetening the overall effect.

Nothing harsh, nothing too out there. Just mellow and soulful songs that celebrate life, with a voice to die for.

Deep Chill (JazzBridge Music/Monogram Records)

For most of his career, Tom Schuman has maintained anonymity as the keyboardist for contemporary jazz group Spyro Gyra. Once in a while he feels the need to step out, and now we have his fourth solo CD. Contrary to what the clever title, there’s only a hint of chill music on the CD, best shown with “Everybody Knows.” That tune has groovy computer-enhanced vocal inflections. But most of the CD is filled with jazz, funk, R&B vocals, Latin, pop and fusion.

Schuman called on two smooth jazz performers. Saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa, normally fairly laid back on disc, comes alive on “Fearless Fostic.” And Chuck Loeb’s clean and jazzy guitar lines prop up a tune called “Redondo Beach.” Schuman’s cover choices are interesting – Elton John’s “Your Song” gets a lounge-y treatment that grows on you, but it’s time El Barge’s “All This Love” be retired as a vocal track. Conversely, Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back To Me” comes alive as a gospel-flavored piano rag.

Spryo Grya fans who crave the raw energy of Shuman, Jay Beckenstein and the rest of the boys can pick up the band’s recent CD. But for those on the hunt for mellow, adult-contemporary vibes, Schuman’s not a bad option.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:28 AM

July 3, 2006

Contempo July 2006

Maysa-4.jpgOver the past year, a handful of veteran smooth jazz stars turned the concept of old school and contemporary soul cover songs into a small but hard to miss cottage industry. Leading the pack were Richard Elliot and Rick Braun, who launched their own ARTizen Music label with the monster radio hits “People Make The World Go Round” (Elliot) and “Shining Star” (Braun). Kirk Whalum paid homage to a more recent soul legend on his Rendezvous Music debut, Performs The Babyface Songbook, while Kim Waters (on All For Love) took a dreamy, ambient approach to Aretha Franklin’s “Daydreaming” with a great assist from the rich and smoky vocals of Maysa.

Inspired by this session, Maysa — a self-described “Underground Diva” best known to genre audiences for her decade of contributions to British neo soul/acid jazz ensemble Incognito - asked herself why these sensuous dips into retro-romance were always done by the boys. Given the green light by Waters’ label Shanachie to offer the feminine perspective, she began plowing through hundreds of songs that inspired her growing up. Her all-time fantasy top ten list translates effortlessly to her label debut, the mostly easy grooving, but sometimes surprisingly swinging and jazzy, Sweet Classic Soul.

Maysa’s mix of very familiar and obscure songs were popularized by artists who need only one name to inspire warm flashbacks — Stevie, Chaka, Teddy (“Come Go With Me”) and Barry (“Playing Your Game, Baby”), in addition to tracks originated by The Stylistics (“Betcha By Golly Wow,” “Love Comes Easy”), Major Harris (“Love Won’t Let Me Wait”) and Rose Royce (whose “Wishing On A Star” Maysa chooses to launch the listener friendly set). But the singer didn’t set out to just do a nice mix of favorite tunes. Feminists, listen up. Underneath that cool vibe, Maysa — whose four previous solo albums have all touched on issues of raising self-esteem — had a role-reversing agenda.

“I wanted this to be a lady’s mackin’ record, pure and simple,” she says unabashedly. “It’s time we stopped waiting around for the guys to ask us out and took the romantic initiative, which includes setting the mood with our favorite R&B songs. I want women everywhere to be inspired here, but I also admit I did it for myself because I’m out there looking for a husband, too. What’s wrong with girls seducing guys? The fun part was, even though I close the set with songs by Chaka Khan and Roberta Flack, two of the greatest female singers ever, overall I wanted to do men’s songs that nobody would expect a woman to even try.”

Khan and Rufus’ “Any Love” and Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” are by design buried beneath the boy-oriented stuff, but it’s telling that they are Maysa’s greatest artistic triumphs here. Growing up in Baltimore, she learned how to scat not from Ella Fitzgerald (the standard female response) but by listening to and analyzing instrumental solos by John Coltrane and Miles Davis. After wailing powerfully through the discofied thump of “Any Love” for a few minutes, Maysa engages in an inventive scat improvisation — a moment unlike any other on the disc that simply doesn’t last long enough.

She pays haunting homage to Flack on a version that begins with simple piano harmonies and orchestral flavoring. Boding well for Maysa’s potential to do more serious straight ahead jazz projects, the track evolves into a tender trio arrangement, with all instruments performed by project producer Chris “Big Dog” Davis. It’s no surprise that this is Maysa’s self-admitted favorite track on the album; she’s long credited Flack for helping her develop her own sense of phrasing and tone. She also has a personal connection to Stevie Wonder that inspired the funky justice she does to his rollicking “All I Do.” Maysa met him when she was a senior at Morgan State University; upon graduating, she moved out to Los Angeles to be part of the legendary artist’s background vocal group Wonderlove throughout 1991 and 1992.

“I really wanted ‘All I Do’ to mean something, but also to get people on the dance floor,” she says. “He was so strong politically, and his lyrics had the power to induce change. Even though I don’t have the professional connection to the other artists, there are stories behind the reasons I chose them. I first heard The Isley Brothers (“Don’t Say Goodnight”) when I was teaching myself to sing, and they inspired me to want to sound sexy. I’m just trying to be honest here, paying full respect to the artists and writers by doing their songs in my own unique way, but without writing my own stuff on top of it or going on tangents just to be clever.”

Although Maysa has been touring extensively this year with Incognito, there’s no doubt that Sweet Classic Soul goes a long way to helping her further establish an identity apart from the vision of Incognito frontman Bluey Maunick. She’s also currently seeking grants for a proposed educational concert tour she calls “Revenge Of The Underground Divas,” which is designed to teach young singers about the realities of the music business; already signed up are Lalah Hathaway, Ledesi, Caron Wheeler and N’Dea Davenport.

“I think if singers like us had started our careers in the 70s, we’d be on a whole other level, because what we do now was the Top 40 music of the time,” Maysa says. “I just want to remind people of how they felt when they first heard these great songs. In those days, the vibe was, the more musicians in the band, the better. Musicians were allowed to create with each other in the days before everything became so producer driven. It was a time when souls were communicating through music, and it’s nice to revisit that place while giving a glimpse of this deeply personal side of myself.”

In a 2002 review of Steve Oliver’s second recording Positive Energy, I used this space to declare: “With apologies to Disneyland, wherever he is, wherever he’s playing transforms into the happiest place on earth.” Four years, two discs and hundreds of live shows (and smooth jazz cruises) later, it’s great to see that the guitarist and vocalist (sometimes he sings, sometimes he uses breezy “vocalese”) is still as chipper and lighthearted as ever. The title of his second Koch Records CD says it all: he’s downright Radiant. While he invited big guns like Eric Marienthal and Harvey Mason to the show on 2004’s 3-D, here he strips down to a pretty simple production approach — working for the most part with Michael Broening, who produced Marion Meadows’ last two projects - that gives more space to his immediately identifiable nylon strings and voice. It’s hard not to feel the essence of the album concept with perfectly titled tracks like “Feeling Good,” “Tradewinds,” and the Latin-spiced fusion gem “Good To Go.” And while he’s done covers in the past, his takes on “Midnight At The Oasis” and “Imagine” were not as memorable as his rich, soulful “Oliverization” of Stephen Stills’ Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth.” In the midst of all the jubilation and tender romance, the track comes across like stopping for a taste of social consciousness while standing in line for the next car at Space Mountain.

What I’m Listening To:

1) Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat (Reprise) - Amidst all the passing trends in pop music, it’s nice that every decade or so we can count on a brilliant solo project from the Steely Dan singer that features the same classic, brassy pop-soul-jazz the band was poppin’ in the 70s. The expansive musical frameworks allow for a lot of cool, jazzy jamming that makes this another brilliant effort.
2) David Garfield & Friends, A Tribute To Jeff (Revisited) (Creatchy)
3) Barry Manilow, The Greatest Songs of the Fifties (Arista)
4) Erin Boheme, What Love Is (Concord Jazz)
5) Taylor Eigsti, Lucky To Be Me (Concord Jazz)

New and Noteworthy

1) Pamela Williams, Elixir (Shanachie)
2) Matt Marshak, Groovosphere (Nuance Music Group)
3) Steve Briody, Keep On Talkin’ (215 Records)
4) Marion Meadows, Dressed To Chill (Heads Up)
5) Nelson Rangell, Soul To Souls (Koch Records)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 7:45 PM

July 1, 2006

Wayman Tisdale - Way Up

If there’s one thing NBA star-turned-musical giant Wayman Tisdale learned from his former career, it’s that there’s no substitute for hard work. Emerging as one of the most consistent and admired players during his 12 years in the league – segueing from the gold-winning Olympic team to stints with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns – his towering frame, exceptional strength and relentless work ethic made him one of the game’s most dominating power forwards. Tisdale still lives and breathes this work ethic as a musician. True to character, he is a trailblazer in the field of music with his unique use of the bass as a melodic lead instrument.

It’s this single-minded drive that propels the bassist forward while crafting what he considers his most ambitious and mature CD to date, Way Up, and he hopes to take listeners way up with him. Tisdale is at the top of his musical game on Way Up, which will be released in July 2006 from Rendezvous Entertainment, the label co-founded by saxophone star Dave Koz.

On Way Up, Tisdale continues to display the musical skills that landed his first five albums in the Billboard Top Ten. His latest features 11 songs in which Tisdale showcases how he has developed as an artist during the past dozen years. “I feel like I’ve grown up with this album,” he explains. “The way I matured as a basketball player is the same way I’m evolving as a musician, taking more control of this album and gaining the confidence to do this on my own.” The title for the album arose while Tisdale was discussing possibilities at dinner with Dave Koz, who remarked, “This album is going to be way up,” and right then they knew they had the title.

Way Up boasts collaborations with Dave Koz, Eric Benet, George Duke, Bob James, Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler and Jeff Lorber, all a dream come true for Tisdale. “Working with Dave again on ‘My Son’ was a great experience,” says Tisdale. “Being such great friends, it was a high point for me to collaborate with him on this song.” Tisdale is especially excited about his version of “Get Down On It,” which was produced by Darren Rahn, who also produced Tisdale’s last #1 hit “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” “Sometimes remaking such classics can be a challenge,” he explains, “because people are so familiar with the original. But on ‘Get Down on It’ we came up with a fresh approach and it has people bugging out of their heads.”

Label-mates Jonathan Butler and Kirk Whalum are featured on the soulful “Sunday’s Best.” “You can feel the love on this one! Our spirits are inter-twined as we play together.” The three are touring this year as part of the Rendezvous All Stars. “Tell It Like It TIS” is a track written by and featuring funk legend George Duke. The R&B ballad “Sweet Dreams” features a soaring vocal from the Grammy-nominated Eric Benet. Grammy-winning jazz pianist and composer (“Theme from Taxi”) Bob James joins Tisdale on the playful “Conversation Piece,” a song co-written by Tisdale and Rahn.

WaymanPub-RGB.jpgWayman Tisdale was born in Fort Worth, Texas and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The son of a minister, he still embraces his Bible Belt roots which have shaped his strongly faith-based life. Tisdale first fell in love with his chosen instrument while watching the bass players in his hometown church, led by his father, the late Rev. Louis Tisdale. He recalls, “I thought they were the coolest cats. They got to stand and do their thing in the back. I’d watch their fingering and how they played.” One day, his father bought young Wayman and his two brothers a Mickey Mouse guitar each. Although his brothers quickly turned them into paddles and baseball bats, Wayman immediately began teaching himself how to play. “It’s the greatest gift my dad ever gave me,” he says.

A gifted athlete, Tisdale spent much of his youth on the basketball court when not making music. He played for the University of Oklahoma Sooners from 1983 to 1985 and became the first player to have his jersey, number 23, retired. All three years at Oklahoma, Tisdale was a member of the John Wooden Award All-American Team, and in 1984 he played on the U.S. Olympic team which brought home the gold. In 1986 the Indiana Pacers selected Tisdale as the No. 2 pick in the draft, behind Patrick Ewing. For the next 12 years, Tisdale left his mark on the NBA with the Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, scoring more than 12,800 points and pulling down more than 5,000 rebounds in a 12-year career.

Before he retired after the 1997 season, Tisdale had already made the transition toward a career in music. In 1995 he released his debut CD, appropriately titled Power Forward, which went to No. 4 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts and, like all of his music, crossed over into the R&B charts. His subsequent albums In the Zone, Decisions and Face to Face all landed in Billboard’s Top 10, with 2001’s Face to Face going all the way to No. 1. Hang Time, his debut release on Rendezvous Entertainment, set a record for Tisdale staying in the Top Five longer than any of his previous releases. Tisdale has had two #1 radio hits with “Can’t Hide Love” and Hang Time’s “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now.”

In addition to his solo career, Tisdale has played on CDs by some of the most popular musicians in contemporary jazz, including David Sanborn, Brian Culbertson, Everette Harp and the jazz supergroup Maximum Grooves. His playing garnered the attention of Jamie Foxx who in a recent issue of Rolling Stone chose Wayman to play bass in his “dream band.” “Wayman can play, brother, and that’s it,” said Foxx. Tisdale also finds time to develop future musical stars through his company, Tisway Productions. In 2002 he was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame with the Legacy Tribute Award. The NAACP also nominated him as “Outstanding Jazz Artist” for its 2004 Image Awards.

Tisdale currently moves between his homes in Tulsa and Los Angeles with his wife Regina, with whom he has four children. His Tulsa home includes a pond stocked with fish so he can indulge in his passion, fishing, while helping in the garden and horseback riding with his son. Outside of the home, Tisdale regularly takes tae bo with Billy Blanks, calling it his new addiction and the best workout since playing in the NBA.

Yet fishing, tae bo and other hobbies aside, Tisdale says that his first passion is entertainment. “I was born to entertain,” he says. “I just love people and I feel like entertainment goes right in line with my personality. Whether it’s on the stage or playing basketball, it’s just what I’ve been called to do on this earth.”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:01 AM