August 31, 2006

What We're Listening To - August

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

GilParrisCDCover.jpgGil Parris, Strength, released August 22, 2006, 215 Records. Get ready, here's a guitar player who has stormed back onto the contemporary (smooth) jazz scene with the signature sound found on his earlier release, Gil Parris, 1998. His bluesy, funky playing incorporates jazz, rock, blues and smooth jazz and is admired by people like Jeff Golub and Chuck Loeb, to name a few. Produced by talented David Mann, the CD is an exceptional blend of hard grooving and also tender, romantic melody lines easy to fall in love with. Features guest appearances by Bob Baldwin on keyboards, Randy Brecker on trumpet/flugelhorn, and David Mann on saxophone. It had to be difficult to decide which songs to plug for airplay; it's filled with great tunes from beginning to end. The first two to be chosen are 'Jazz Night Out', the first track, and 'Together Again' (my personal favorite).

Steve Reid, Bamboo Forest. After seeing Steve Reid (percussionist extraordinnaire) recently on the Rippington's 20th Anniversary tour, what a pleasure to go back and listen to this CD, which was ahead of its time.

Rippingtons, 20th Anniversary CD and DVD, 2006. A great new CD, typical of the Rippingtons stellar talent. The DVD is a must-see for anyone who enjoyed this band for years or who has discovered them recently and wants to go back to their roots. It's Russ Freeman at his best, talking and reliving the times from the band's inception up to now. You'll learn a lot.

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

Eliane Elias, Around the City (RCA Victor): The veteran Brazilian pianist and vocalist has created her most modern, chill-worthy CD. The lead track, "Running," is divine.

Lee Ritenour, Smoke 'n' Mirrors (i.e./Peak): More guitar magic from Captain Fingers, influenced by world music.

Michael Manson, Just Feelin' It (215 Records): The smooth jazz session steps out on his own again with another fine solo effort. Heads up, Wayman Tisdale fans.

Oli Silk, So Many Ways (Trippin N Rhythm): The British keyboardist is a perfect fit for the label boasting Paul Hardcastle. If fact, if you love Hardcastle's groove and dreamy lyrics, you'll love Silk, too.

Doc Powell, Doc Powell (Heads Up): More great guitar smooth jazz from a master. So melodic, and so enjoyable.


P E T E R * B O E H I

Dave Dunop - The Hang (2006) Cool, slick and smooth trumpet playing over contemporary grooves. Just the kind of stuff that gets soaked up by SmoothVibes radio. Excellent!

Ray Garand - Skylark (2006) Another solid smooth jazz album by Canadian guitar player Ray Garand featuring catchy songs and cool guitar playing. Top class!

Timothy Bowman - Circles (2006) Pretty impressive debut album by guitar player Timothy "TimBo" Bowman offering lots of smooth guitar playing in a Wes Montgomery style over thick contemporary grooves. Very nice!

Oli Silk - So Many Ways (2006) Half of the duo Sugar & Silk this great keyboard player offers his debut solo album boasting memorable melodies and catchy keyboard playing. Jaared guests. Don't miss it!

Jasper Stone - Shine Your Light (2001) Catchy keyboard and synth playing over contemporary grooves characterize this smooth jazz album by this great artist. Very recommended.


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

Bob James, "H" (Warner Brothers/Tappan Zee)

Alphonse Mouzon, The Best of Alphonse Mouzon (MPC Records)

Brian Augers Oblivion Express, Straight Ahead (Castle Music/Sanctuary Records)

Hubert Laws, Land Of Passion (HLaws Music/HuberLaws.com)

Bob James & David Sanborn, Double Vision (Warner Brothers)


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

Mindi Abair – ‘Flirt’ from It Just Happens That Way 2003 GRP
This playful melody is not new to radio airways. ‘Flirt’ is an example of Abair’s niche for good song writing.

Philippe Saisse – ‘Masques’ from Masques 1995 Polygram/Verve
Philippe Saisse, the gifted and talented pianist, keyboardist, producer, arranger, and songwriter, with this chanson mystique or mystic song.

Christian Scott – ‘Like This’ from Rewind That 2006 Concord Jazz
Mellow and relaxing melody with sensual harmonies... We, as listeners, can only imagine how this song ends.

Jose Valentino – ‘Velvet Nights’ from Flute on Fire 2005 (no label)
Valentino, a name that will be repeated, a young flute virtuoso opens his first album with this up beat tune.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation – ‘Funkin' @ The Butt’ from Take Me Back 2006 (no label)
BSFN knows what it means to miss New Orleans and reminisces with this song ‘Funkin’ @ The Butt’ a tribute to a jazz club “The Funky Butt” once located on N. Rampart.


D E N I S * P O O L E

'Still Thinking About You' from the soon to be released CD Just Feelin It from bass guitarist Michael Manson. This one is all mellow groove and loveliness!!

Lynne Fiddmonts debut CD Flow is sensational and the best track on it is the wonderful 'Say'.

Listening to Fiddmont made me hanker for those great female soul singers from the late 70's and early 80's so one of this months choices is the result of the search I made for them. Tucked away in the Denis Poole collection was 'Don't Let It Go To Your Head' by Jean Carn from her 1978 album Happy To Be With You. Who said nostalgia isn't what it used to be?

Narada has an incredible compilation out right now. Its a double CD titled Sweet + Sexy and it counts for two of this months choices. From the Sweet disc comes 'When She Smiles' from Jeff Lorber and turning to things more sexy my pick is 'Temptation' from Jeff Golub.


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

J Thompson, Inside World (AMH Records)

Patrick Yandall, Samoa Soul (Zangi Records)

Marilyn Scott, Innocent of Nothing (Prana Entertainment)

Jazzmasters V (Trippin N’ Rhythm)

Joyce Cooling, Revolving Door (Narada Jazz)

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:07 AM

August 30, 2006

Jazz And The New Songbook Artists, starring Carmen Lundy

CarmenLundy.jpgJoin us in celebrating Jazz And The New Songbook Artists, starring Carmen Lundy Sun. September 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood! Win a $100 Gift Card to amazon.com and an autographed concert poster signed by Carmen Lundy and the New Songbook Artists.

A summit of jazz notables who’ve won acclaim far and wide. Vocalist Carmen Lundy, violinist Regina Carter, pianist Robert Glasper, trombonist Steve Turre, guitarist Phil Upchurch, and a dozen more — open an international tour spotlighting their own compositions.

Tickets: $30 Students and Children 12 & under $12 Ford Amphitheatre www.FordAmphitheatre.org 323.461.3673 for tickets

CarmenLundyContest.jpg

Tour Dates:

09/10/2006 John Anson Ford Amphitheatre Hollywood, CA
09/21/2006 Club Istanbul,TR with the Robert Glasper Trio
09/22/2006 Club Istanbul,TR with the Robert Glasper Trio
09/30/2006 Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival Boston, MA 02118
10/02/2006 UMO Jazz House Pursimiehenkatu 6, Helsinki, 00150,FI
10/03/2006 UMO Jazz House Pursimiehenkatu 6, Helsinki, 00150,FI
10/04/2006 UMO Jazz House Pursimiehenkatu 6, Helsinki, 00150,FI
10/19/2006 Miami Performing Arts Center Miami, FL 33109
10/20/2006 Hyatt Regency Hotel Cincinnati, OH 45245
10/21/2006 Jazz Mentors Program Princeton, NJ 08540
10/22/2006 Jazz Mentors Program Princeton, NJ 08540

03/04/2007 Disney Concert Hall Los Angeles, CA 90001
03/25/2007 -04/05/2007 Italy Tour 2 weeks in various cities in Italy. With The New Songbook Artists.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:44 PM

August 29, 2006

Eliane Elias Redefines Brazilian Cool

The veteran vocalist retuns with Around the City. Chill masters, here's a remix album for ya.

ElianeElias.jpgPianist and vocalist Eliane Elias in the past was known as an amazing jazz pianist who frequently paid homage to her Brazilian heritage. She still is, but Elias, who is now based in New York and has performed on albums by guitarist Earl Klugh and vocalist Michael Franks, has remade herself on a brand-new CD called Around the City that no doubt owes much to the success of Bebel Gilberto.

Gilberto is a favorite among the chill-crowd, who remake her songs with a downtempo bent. They could do the same with Elias' latest, a sublime mix of pop and jazz that features both English and Portuguese vocals. In fact, the two languages are combine on the CD's opening track, "Running," quite possibly the smoothest and best vocal tune of the year. It's impossible to get out of your head.

Making appearances on the CD are trumpeter Randy Brecker (her former husband), bassist Marc Johnson (her current husband), flutist Dave Valentin, percussionist Paulino da Costa and others. Her 18th album, released by the Bluebird record label, has covers of such well-known tunes as Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” and Santana’s “Oye Como Va.” Original tunes include “We’re So Good,” “Slide Show” and “Save Your Love For Me.”

Elias will be making appearances in the U.S. in September in Philadelphia, New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. If you live in or near any of those cities, you deserve a night out to hear this exquisite musician.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:40 AM

August 28, 2006

4th Annual Gardena Jazz Festival

Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson

August 27th was described as a beautiful and gorgeous day depending on where you were in Southern California. The Mayor of Gardena, Paul K. Tanaka and his fellow council members couldn't have asked for a better day to host the 4th Annual Gardena Jazz Festival at the tree-lined Rowley Park.

Thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Steven C. Bradford, Chairman of Gardena Jazz Festival, The City of Gardena provided a safe and relaxed place for the community, elective officials from the surrounding cities, and visitors to the city joining together to enjoy a day of music, make new friends, hang out with neighbors in keeping with the mission statement of the City of Gardena's Recreation and Human Services Department - "To provide high quality, low cost recreation, leisure and human services programs that meet the need and interest of a diverse and growing community".

I'm still kicking myself for not being able to attend the other three festivals in the past. Rest assured I'll be attending all future festivals.

JeanetteHarris.jpgThe festival got under way with the beautiful and lovely talented saxophonist Jeanette Harris. This is the third time that I have had the fortunate pleasure of seeing Ms. Harris. The audience and I were thrilled with her soulful sounds on the following tunes "Gotta Go", "Just The Way It Is", "Take Me There", and "Never Too Much".

LaoTizer.jpgKeyboardist Lao Tizer took the crowd on an inspiring musical journey. I'm glad that I had the chance to see this performance of Mr. Tizer, who is fast becoming a rising star in the contemporary smooth jazz genre. He performed material from his previous CD's - As The Eagle Soars, Arabian Dusk, Praeludium, Golden Soul and Diversify - his latest project. His eclectic set of music performed was "A Night In The City", "Olivas Adobe", "What It Is", Her Poetry", "Improvisation (solo), "St. Stephens Green", "Diversify", and "Uptown". You will be hearing a lot about and from this talented young man in the future.

Keyboardist Marcus Coleman played a set of danceable tunes that brought the party people out of their seats and unto the dance floor. You could see people doing the electric slide throughout the park while listening to "Love and Happiness" and "Funking For Jamaica".

Violinist Karen Briggs mesmerized the crowd by playing some electrifying and beautiful music during her set. I had to get a closer look to make sure that there wasn't any sparks flying off of her violin. Ms. Briggs were aided and abetted by Brandon Coleman (brother of keyboardist in the previous band), Cornelius Mimms on bass and Cedric Anderson on drums. The highlights of her set were "Loving You" by the late great Minnie Rippleton, and "Gangster Paradise". Ms. Briggs received a well deserved standing ovation at the conclusion of her set.

Guitarist Ray "The Weeper" Fuller took the crowd down memory lane while playing a set of R&B and soul classics by artists that he worked with in the past. He begin his crowd pleasing set with "I'll Take You There (The Staple Singers), "Sweet Love" (Anita Baker), "I'll Always Love You" (Whitney Houston), and brought up Peter Michael Escovedo to add some fiery hot percussion to spiced up his closing tune "Spanish Flyer".

The audience and I were in for a special treat with the surprise appearance of Vesta. She held the crowds undivided attention by performing a remixed version of "Use Me" by Bill Withers. This song will be featured on an upcoming CD entitled Vesta Williams Does Classic Soul. This CD will be released in January 2007. Ms. Williams concluded her short set with one of big hits from the past "Congratulations". She ad lib some additional verses for emphasis that hit home with most in attendance.

Everyone was waiting for the festival debut of actor and current jazz vocalist TC Carson aka Kyle Barker of the TV show Living Single. The audience were treated to a set of straight-ahead jazz that also featured the expert backing of Patrice Rushen on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Ndugu Chancler on drums. Mr. Carson (aka-Kyle Barker) opened his entertaining set with "Afro Blue" and continued with "Cherokee", "Without You", "and "My Favorite Thing". His distinct deep baritone voice coupled with a soulful delivery of jazz standards make him a candidate to be nominated for jazz vocalist of the year, if I were a voting member of the Downbeat Magazine Readers Poll. TC Carson (aka-Kyle Barker) featured material from his debut CD Truth.

DJ Paradise, 100.3 The Beat provided music between each performance. James Janisse served as Master of Ceremonies.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:30 PM

August 24, 2006

Stax Academy Names Kirk Whalum Artist In Residence

Kirk Whalum will have an important role at the Stax Music Academy in his hometown of Memphis, where he will be returning to as a full-time resident early next year.

KirkWhalum2.jpgThe Stax Music Academy in Memphis, which opened three years ago, has picked saxophonist Kirk Whalum as its first artist in residence. Whalum, who grew up in Memphis but moved away at age 18, will begin his duties on Sept. 5. Whalum will be much closer to the museum soon, as he recently announced that he is moving back to his hometown early next year and that he and wife, Ruby, are looking for a place downtown.

Since leaving Memphis, Whalum has lived in Paris, Southern California and, for the past 10 years, in Nashville. Besides sharing his many musical experiences, Whalum will perform with academy students in public concerts as well as conduct public and private master classes. He’ll also record public service announcements for the Stax Music Academy and adjacent Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

It was in 2003 that Whalum recorded a CD in Memphis called Into My Soul, giving praise to Soulville's Stax Records and the sound of Memphis music. The one-time Memphis based record label was one of the most popular soul-music labels ever, second only to Motown. Whalum grew up listening to the Stax Recording artists such as Al Green, Otis Redding and John Lee Hooker, among others.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:47 AM

August 23, 2006

Lee Ritenour Engaged To Japanese Pop Star

Anri will be Mrs. Captain Fingers.

Guitarist Lee Ritenour, who just released a fantastic new CD called “Smoke n’ Mirrors,” is engaged to be married to Japanese pop singer Anri, whose music he has been producing since her 2000 CD called Smooth Jam – Quiet Storm.

Ritenour_Anri.jpgAnri, who is 45 on Aug. 31, made her debut in 1979 and sang the theme song for the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998. Among those who have performed on her Japanese pop albums, in addition to Ritenour, are guitarists Larry Carlton and Paul Jackson Jr., bassist Nathan East and drummer Ricky Lawson.

Ritenour, whose nickname is Captain Fingers, produced her latest CD, Sol, which was released in Japan in November. Ritenour, 54, has a son named Wesley from his first marriage and has frequently made trips to Japan during his career to perform and produce music.

"She’s quite a well-known singer in Japan," says Ritenour. "I mean very famous over there. We’ve know each other for years as friends and colleagues. We've had a longtime friendship."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:40 AM

August 20, 2006

19th annual Long Beach Jazz Festival 2006

This year the 19th annual Long Beach Jazz Festival was held August 11-13 in the georgeous Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach and boasted an incredible lineup of performers. This long standing festival belongs to California's finest and usually draws a crowd of several thousand people spread across the premises on beach chairs and blankets creating a unique festival atmosphere. As always the founder of the festival, noted jazz drummer Al Williams, led through the event as master of ceremonies with his wits and knowledge. But first the traditional prayer to the lord was spoken and the mayor of Long Beach got the opportunity to greet the crowd, both things which give the event a special touch.

ChristianHernandezQuintet.jpgEach day the concerts were opened by one of the winners of the Long Beach Jazz Search, a contest which was held during the months before the festival selecting some outstanding groups deserving wider recognition. I always go to these concerts and never have been disappointed, the level of musicianship and above all the enthusiasm of these artists is just great. Friday evening the Christian Hernandez Quartet featuring the leader on guitar played the first show. The players of the band either were teenagers (the bass player Joshua Crumbly just being 14 years old) or in their early twenties, they showed not only tremendous skills for their age but also a deep love for the music of Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane with their mostly straight ahead set. They played several covers, among them were Freddie Hubbard's classic "Red Clay" and "Seven Steps To Heaven". It was great to see that these young people were following in the footsteps of these giants keeping up the spirit.

DavidBenoit.jpgPiano player David Benoit - having had a short trip to the festival living in Palos Verdes - was next with his unique brand of happy, groovy piano jazz ably assisted by a top-notch band consisting of Andy Suzuki (sax), David Hughes (bass), Pat Kelley (guitar) and Jamey Tate (drums). They provided an outstanding show playing the song "Beat Street" from the current release Full Circle, a groovy "Watermelon Man" with a great bass solo by David Hughes and his classic "Linus & Lucy" among others. I always love David's fluid piano playing and catchy melodies, this concert not only delivered this but also brimmed with energy and fun.

RendezvousAllStars.jpgFriday evening was closed by the Rendevouz All-Stars comprising of Jonathan Butler (guitar), Kirk Whalum (sax), Brian Simpson (keyboards) and Wayman Tisdale (bass). Each artists has a catalog of solo albums to draw from so there was not shortage of material. Jonathan Butler played a very heartfelt version of "No Woman, No Cry" while Kirk Whalum played a song from his latest release Babyface Songbook. Brian Simpson delivered his picture perfect smooth jazz hit "It's All Good" with his keyboard around his neck delighting the crowd. The very energetic Wayman Tisdale turned up the heat a notch with his great cover of "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" creating a sizzling party atmosphere. Another welcome highlight of the show was the appearance of Kirk's uncle Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum who at the age of 77 eventually started his career as a recording artist (watch out for his self titled debut album on Rendezvous Records). First crooning in the style of Nat King Cole he later picked up his saxophone and gave us a hot sax battle with Kirk showing us his tremendous talents. Peanuts not only turned out to be a great singer, pianist and saxophonist but also a very nice person to boot. This truly entertaining concert went down very well with the crowd, whenever you have the chance to check them out do so!

KJBand.jpgSaturday at noon the event again was opened by another Jazz Search winner, this time being the Khay Jhay Band featuring Khay Jhay on guitar, backed by keys, drums and bass. The band played funky instrumental music featuring the leader on guitar, who opted for a more rock oriented sound. They provided another hour of good music which was well received.

KimWaters.jpgAfter that saxophonist Kim Waters delivered a very polished show with his smooth sax playing. He was supported by his brother John Waters (bass), Greg Grainger (drums) and Alan Smith (keyboards). He broke it down nicely with his famous "All I Want Is To Please You" and gave us a nice rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" proving why he is one of the most successful sax players on the scene.

PhilPerry.jpgSinger Phil Perry turned out one of the true highlights of the whole event. This singer is truly outstanding and unique, he pours such a tremendous amount of emotion in every not he sings and conveys the message of the songs in a deeply touching way. This guy is just on a level that is breathtaking and after this concert I regard him even higher. He is not only a great singer, but his scatting and whistling was jazz improvisation at its best. He was supported by a world class band featuring Ray Fuller (guitar), Tony Moore (drums), Melvin Davis (bass), Barnaby Finch (keys) and three background vocalists (one of them being Jim Gilstrap). Songs included "My Imagination", "People Make The World Go Round" (with audience participation), "After The Dance" and the touching "Love Don't Love Nobody" which gave me goose-bumps. An overwhelming concert by a singer of the highest calibre, backed by a dream band who delivered a musical backdrop which was just perfect.

EveretteHarp.jpgEverette Harp on saxophone was next, in his band were Darryl Crooks (guitar), Michael White (drums), Charles Love (keys), Larry Kimpel (bass) and an additional keyboard player from Denmark whose name I didn't catch, but he was constantly smiling and nodding his head to the proceedings so he must have had a good time. Everette Harp showed his prowess on the instrument with a very varied and entertaining show, even playing the EWI for one song which provided a nice change. One nice song that stuck in my memory was his Stevie Wonder cover of "Where Were You When I Needed You". His stroll around the audience was a highlight of the show as well. His set was very entertaining and showed an artist of the highest calibre.

Clarke_Duke.jpgWhile each artist usually had one hour to perform (with 30 minutes in between for setting up the next act) the superstar band of Stanley Clarke on basses (acoustic and electric) and George Duke on keys had two hours time to deliver their art. Both being solo artists in their own rights they had also a side career as the Clarke-Duke Project yielding their greatest hit "Sweet Baby" which was delivered during this concert in an acoustic version with George Duke at the acoustic piano. The current release of George Duke is an acoustic album called In A Mellow Tone and the their rendition of "Autumn Leaves" was in the same vein. Another well received song was "No Rhyme, No Reason". Both artists were an important part during the heydays of fusion jazz and this side of them came to the forefront with songs like "School Days" featuring Stanley Clarke on bass and others. They were supported by Phil Davis on keyboards and the absolutely incredible monster drummer Ronald Bruno who is just 23 years old. With this cat on drums the two masters on keys and bass were propelled to new heights showing a mind-boggling level of artistry and musicianship. At the end of the concert it was time for a funky good time and George swithed to funk mode giving us his classic "Dukey Stick", followed by classics like "Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself" and more. All in all a band of superlative players with a tremendous amount of experience which provided a truly great and memorable concert.

BrianCulbertson_LB06.jpgBrian Culbertson and his great band closed the evening with an extended set. As always they provided 90 minutes of entertainment and sheer fun with a polished and professional show. They opened the show with some funky horn playing featuring the leader on trombone, 23 year old Eric Darius on sax and father Jim Culbertson on trumpet, then it was hit after hit with Brian playing his trademark licks on keyboards often breaking it down in order to build it up again to create great climaxes. His love for old school stuff was evident and his musical director on guitar helped out nicely to bring up some gems from the past. I have seen this band numerous times but despite the fact that they didn't change very much of their show over the years I had a funky good time and enjoyed their set thoroughly.

RezaSaleh.jpgSunday at noon the third Jazz Search winners came to the stage. The Reza Saleh Band featuring the leader on bass, backed by a second bass, and the outstanding Jeff Magnus on saxophone next to a rhythm section and singer. The band played mostly in the jazz-funk realm with songs ranging from "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" to "At The End Of The Road" and others. Again this was an entertaining concert with some worthwhile players, especially saxophonist Jeff Magnus who by the way pursues his own career as a solo smooth jazz artist.

Nils_LB06.jpgFirst big name artists was guitar player Nils (who originally hails from Germany, but made California his home over 20 years ago) giving us a selection of his very successful album Pacific Coast Highway. His band consisted of Oliver Brown (percussion) - of KC & the Sunshine fame -, Colin Mason (drums), Alex Al (bass), Gladys Jackson (keys and vocals). The band was grooving nicely on numbers like "Georgy Porgy", "Sneakin", "Pacific Coast Highway", "Comin' Home" and more which set the mood nicely for the rest of the afternoon.

AlWilliamsJazzSoc.jpgTraditionally Al Williams & The Jazz Society feat. Barbara Morrison on vocals had their usual slot Sunday afternoon. Al Williams comes up each year with a different lineup, this year we got the great Dr. George Shaw (trumpet), Andre Delano (sax), Dave Bradshaw (keyboards), Nedra Wheeler (acoustic bass), Anthony Poingsett (percussion) and the leader on drums. They opened their set with a funky version of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island", and a nice rendition of "VSOP" and other songs which ran the gamut from funky to straight ahead. The second half of the show belonged to the mesmerizing singer Barbara Morrison who kicked off her part of the show with "I'm A Woman, I'm An Artist" showing a temendous presence on stage and great command of her voice. This concert was totally enjoyable and I would like to suggest to extend Al Williams' set for the 20th anniversary of the festival, maybe with an array of all-star guests.

GuitarsSaxes.jpgGuitars & Saxes are the package of guitar players Peter White and Jeff Golub and saxophonists Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot. Each artist is a smooth jazz superstar in his own right, they were supported by Nate Philips (bass), Ricky Lawson (drums), Ron Reinhardt (keys) and Dwight Sills (guitar). These guys put out a great show with many highlights, Richard Elliot played a very heartfelt version of Luther Vandross' "Your Secret Love", while Peter White delivered his always popular "Bueno Funk". Gerald Albright played his version of "My, My, My" (always a crowd pleaser), later picking up his bass showing his skills on this instrument (after all he took care of bass duties during Anita Baker's Rapture tour). Later the lover of old school funk broke through with Peter White playing "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" (with great soloing on guitar applying a fuzzy sound), then they segued into "Oye Come Va" giving Jeff Golub a chance to shine. To kick it up a nod they gave us "Cut The Cake" and "Sing A Simple Song" (with audience participation) ending their set in a happy funk fest.

HowardHewett.jpgAfter that things slowed down a little with singer Howard Hewett of Shalamar fame doing a very intimate and soulful set. It was special to see his son at the drums and his beautiful daughter as background vocalist making this concert some sort of family affair. Howard established a great rapport with the audience and soon felt the urge to step down from the stage and sing right within his fans. I had the privilege to be seated right in front of the stage when Howard stepped on two chairs at the next table and sang a couple of songs right near me. It was truly mesmerizing to see this tremendous singer give all his passion, besides his songs had a lot of meaning and people could relate to them very well. Songs included "Without You" and most notably his Gospel classic "Say Amen" which traditionally closes his concerts.

PonchoSanchez_LB06.jpgLatin jazz and Salsa were on when conguero Poncho Sanchez and his band entered the stage. Willing to provide a party and have the people dancing they kicked off their set with a great version of "Watermelon Man", followed by "Afro Blue" and others, featuring all members of the band, most notably the great horn section providing many outstanding solos. Even Al Williams who is an old friend of Poncho sat in on bongos which was great fun, in the end a funky element was employed with their rendition of James Brown's "Out Of Sight". With this great set by Poncho Sanchez another great Long Beach Jazz Festival came to its rousing end.

As two years ago I enjoyed this festival tremendously, I met many friendly people (greetings to fellow music aficionado Darryl "the bar" who took good care of our table at Saturday when the waiters were a little overworked), enjoyed the setting of the festival with the park, the beautiful weather, the cool breeze from the sea and all the vendors and booths at the festival providing a nice diversion during the breaks. I look forward to the 20th edition of the festival which is supposed to be very special due to the 20th anniversary which will be celebrated then.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:13 AM

August 19, 2006

Lynne Fiddmont - Flow

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. There was a time when melodic accessible soul music was the order of the day. Artists such as Angela Bofill, Anita Baker, Phyllis Hyman and Patti Austin were recording songs with sumptuous arrangements that often were complemented by huge yet subtle orchestras. Many of these tunes became cult classics but that was then and this is now. With this style of music no longer welcome at its traditional outlet of urban R & B radio it has become marginalized into a sub genre of adult contemporary or smooth jazz. Consequently it’s extra special when an album of the quality of Flow by Lynne Fiddmont comes along. Full of the shimmering soul sophistication that was the hallmark of those hits of the eighties it’s a wonderful collection of jazz infused soul songs for grown ups. That said there is not one thing about it that is dated. Very much in the mold of what is popularly termed urban jazz but which I prefer to brand as smooth R & B, the production and arrangement expertise brought to it by Tim Carmon, Freddie Washington, but mostly by Lynne Fiddmont herself, makes this very much a piece of 2006.

For Lynne Fiddmont this move from the shadows to center stage is long overdue. Born in St Louis Missouri her career, now spanning in excess of twenty years, made an auspicious start when she got the gig to back the Crusaders on tour, performing live versions of such staples as ‘Street Life’ and ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. Similar assignments followed, first with Bill Withers on his 1985 ‘Watching Me Watching You’ tour, then with Lou Rawls and subsequently with Stevie Wonder where she was background vocalist in his recording / touring group Wonderlove. Now, a long a time resident of Los Angeles, she sings and plays percussion with Norman Brown's live band and has recently worked with Phil Collins as part of his ‘First Final Farewell’ tour. As for Flow its depth and quality is incredible. Right from the opening track, the light but infectious samba infused ‘Holiday’, the anticipation of what’s to follow becomes huge.

The soulfully romantic ‘Cupid’ is simply mesmerizing while the Latin tinged ‘Something That I Can Feel’ is complex yet catchy. It features Fiddmont’s bother Keith on soprano sax as well as her children Courtney and Alana as part of the children’s chorus. The gentle but heartfelt ballad ‘Never Really’ shows off Fiddmont's known ability to carry a song and the title track, doing what its names suggests, allows her vocals to flow atop a compelling languid beat.

Fiddmont originally recorded U R Loved in 1991 with her former husband Wayne Linsey while part of the duo Linsey. Taken from their album Perfect Love it proved to be a quiet storm classic and this acoustic version, with awesome guitar from Michael Ripoll and Paul Jackson Jr., is spine chillingly beautiful. Talking of quiet storm classics, another one in the making is the sexy and adulterous ‘Feels So Right’ that Fiddmont admits to reminding her of something from the Isley Brothers.

There are no weak links. Fiddmont composes eight of the nine tracks herself and the one exception, ‘No Regrets’, a sub three minute postscript, is a tune that she first discovered in 1976 on an album from Phoebe Snow. A personal favorite is the deliciously sultry ‘Say’. With stellar acoustic piano from Mark Stephens, keyboards from Freddie Washington and soulful vocals from Fiddmont that are off the scale this is one that gets in your head and wont go away.

Make no bones about it; this belated but sensational debut release from Lynne Fiddmont is one of the gems of 2006 so far. Released on her own Midlife Records label it is certainly one to watch.

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 8:02 AM

August 18, 2006

Joyce Cooling - Revolving Door

Joyce-Cooling.jpgMuch like Lewis Carroll's beloved Alice who followed a nattily attired talking rabbit down a hole I was equally intrigued as I recently spent an all too short hour speaking with American contemporary Jazz guitarist Joyce Cooling. The San Francisco Bay area composer/musician readily admits that having a conversation with her can be both an adventure and elusive. At one point during our conversation she asks, "Have you noticed with me that you can never get a straight answer? Have you noticed that?"

With most artists you can ask what kind of guitar or drums they play and you get a very technical answer and why they prefer certain types of pickups and a certain style of guitar. With Cooling she uses it as an opportunity to share with you a romantic piece of family lore. She strums the guitar next to her and tells me, "This right here is what I call my beach guitar. It is the very first guitar that I confiscated (from her family)," she confides in me. "It was supposed to be a new family guitar and when I left (home) it was like, "I'll be taking this (with me) thank you," she says laughing.

Cooling then plunges headlong into the history of the guitar. "My uncle, my mom's brother was a Jazz guitarist. He played with Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. He was the real deal! He did the Carson show (in the house band) when it was in New York City. (Prior to Carson) he did the Jack Paar show. He retired when the Carson show moved to Los Angeles," she says. By now I am thinking to myself that is all very nice Joyce but what does this have to do with my question or the guitar you were strumming a few minutes ago?

Whether Cooling realizes it or not she is a very good storyteller and has learned that you must slowly work up to the heart of the adventure. She relates to me how her uncle opened a music store in New York City. "He would handpick every single guitar whether it was going to sell for thirty dollars, three hundred dollars or three thousand dollars. He would play each guitar. He would come home with these very inexpensive guitars and we got one of the thirty dollar guitars," she says. The guitar sitting beside her is the one that came from her uncle's store when Cooling was a little girl. "I love this thing. As a matter of fact I played this on the very last song "One Again" from the new CD Revolving Door," Cooling says. The song "One Again" was inspired by the romance between her aunt and uncle. "I decided to play this guitar that he gave us. It is still my favorite soul guitar to this day," she says. Almost as an after thought she tells me that she has twenty other guitars.

The title of Cooling's album Revolving Door originates with the desire of Cooling and her partner Jay Wagner to create a more keen awareness of the issues faced by families who have a loved one coping with a mental illness. The subject rests close to Cooling's own heart as her brother tries to cope with schizophrenia. A portion of Wagner and Cooling's proceeds from all retail and online sales of the album are being donated to the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI). The image of a revolving door becomes an analogy for people who find they are spinning into situations that they cannot control such as mental illness. On another level Cooling views the analogy being extended to things such as a bad day at the office or a relationship that has gone awry.

Cooling says that because of the media and entertainment industry's portrayal of any type of mental illness as being more closely linked to sociopaths a stigma has arisen within society. She wants to dispel those myths and lend a voice to those in society who have remained quiet. "When you get shame involved people hide it and (it results in) a lack of research," says Cooling.

It is through providing a voice for those who often are not heard that and Cooling and Wagner hope to attract more research dollars for mental illness. Coincidentally the day after my conversation with Cooling an article appeared in Canada's largest newspaper the Toronto Star indicating that of all the G8 countries Canada is the only one that has a negligible amount of dollars dedicated to the area of research for children who have a mental illness.

It has been well documented that Cooling's musical tastes are very eclectic. On the wall in her 'music room' are framed CD covers from artists as diverse as; John Coltrane, The Police, Wayne Shorter, Joni Mitchell, Wes Montgomery, Led Zeppelin, Dexter Gordon, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Bossa Nova legend Elis Regina. In response to my query as to whose music she was listening to on this day she peered inside her stereo and rhymed off the names of Ivan Lins and Indian singer Parween Sultana. Understanding the eclectic musical tastes of Cooling and partner Wagner is a key to appreciating why they have worked so effectively together for seventeen years as writers and musicians. When it comes to music Cooling will tell you that it is like they finish each other's phrases. "As corny as this sounds we are musical soul mates," she says. The diversity of music from which they pull their inspiration allows them to create richly textured compositions.

Cooling refers to Revolving Door as an earthy album. "It has salt and minerals," she says. The CD also gives us an opportunity once again to listen to her vocals. Cooling admits that the more she has evolved as an artist her vocals have surfaced more often. "As time passed there were more and more that I felt I wanted to say," she tells me. Cooling the composer could not put those thoughts across with a strictly instrumental tune so she started to develop the lyrical side of her writing. She poses the question, "How do you communicate that (the missive) behind "Little Sister" on this new CD (without the use of words)?" On the other hand with "Revolving Door" (the title track) how do you put that into a lyric? I had no way of doing it so it became an instrumental. It's more what bubbles up and needs to be said. Is it an instrumental thing or does it really require words? When it requires words it becomes a vocal tune."

Fans of Joyce Cooling should enjoy both the instrumental and vocal tracks from her new CD Revolving Door which will be released on September 9th.

www.joycecooling.com

Posted by Joe Montague at 6:33 AM

August 11, 2006

George Benson, Al Jarreau Call On Superstars

George Benson and Al Jarreau's new collaboration looks to be one of the most highly anticipated CDs of the year.

George Benson and Al Jarreau have recruited an all-star cast for their highly anticipated duets album titled Givin' It Up. The 13-song CD is a mix of cover songs and originals. Trumpeter Chris Botti and vocalist Patti Austin are featured on a song written by Jarreau called “Let it Rain,” while Paul McCartney joins Benson and Jarreau on a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me.”

Elsewhere, there are two new versions of Benson and Jarreau’s most famous songs. Jarreau wrote new lyrics for Benson’s “Breezin’,” while guitarist Benson returns the favor by performing an instrumental version of Jarreau’s “Morning.” The superstar pair also cover Seals & Crofts’ "Summer Breeze,” Paul Young's "Every Time You Go Away," John Legend's "Ordinary People," Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” and Miles Davis' "Four" and "’Long Come Tutu."

Original tunes include “All I Am,” “Givin’ It Up For Love” and “Don’t Start No Schtuff.” Among the many musicians and co-writers on the CD are Marion Meadows, Rex Rideout, Freddie Ravel, Herbie Hancock, Jill ScottPatrice Rushen, Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke.

Givin' It Up, a collaboration between Concord Records and Monster Music, will be released Oct. 24.

Givin’ It Up Track Listing

1. Breezin’ (Bobby Womack/Al Jarreau) - (5:40)
2. Morning (Al Jarreau/David Foster/Jay Graydon) - (5:02)
3. ‘Long Came Tutu (Marcus Miller/Al Jarreau) - (6:37)
4. God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday/Arthur Herzog Jr.) - (3:40)
5. Summer Breeze (Darrell Crofts/Jimmy Seals) - (5:01)
6. All I Am (Rex Rideout/Phillip Taj Jackson) - (3:23)
7. Ordinary People (John Legend/will.i.am) - (5:18)
8. Let It Rain (Al Jarreau/Barry Eastmond) - (4:54)
9. Givin’ It Up for Love (Al Jarreau/Freddie Ravel) - (3:57)
10. Every Time You Go Away (Darryl Hall) - (4:30)
11. Four (Miles Davis/Jon Hendricks) - (5:15)
12. Don’t Start No Schtuff (Al Jarreau/Joe Turano) - (4:44)
13. Bring It on Home to Me (Sam Cooke) - (4:25)

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:14 PM

August 10, 2006

Will Brock: Rhythm and Soul Personified

by Beverly Packard

WillBrockRecordingSession.jpgMusic has a lot of names, among them jazz, blues, soul, rhythm and blues, but I never heard anyone use the term rhythm and soul. No wonder -- it was only recently invented by Will Brock. Do you know him? He has a couple of his own CDs, but you may know him best as that capable and fun-loving keyboard player with Gerald Veasley’s band.

Gerald Veasley has a great band, and he freely admits the love he has for the members of the band. He accepts them as they are and allows them to exhibit their own individuality and that’s true, especially, in the case of Will Brock. At first you might not even notice Will – he sits there quietly before the show, taking everything in, very attentive to Veasley, and you get the impression he’s going to sit there and do whatever Veasley requires for a song. And he does do that extremely well.

But something happens along the way.

Something gets a hold of Brock………and he’s never the same for the rest of the night. He starts to dance in his seat, keeping the beat with his head and shoulders. Taking command of his keyboard, he appears to push it into areas it can barely go, at times shrinking away from it as if it’s going to protest and not cooperate! How can there be such a dynamic relationship between Will and his keyboard? Will explains some of this in the interview below.

The first time I saw him, he seemed to be exercising throughout one of the songs. His whole body is part of fascinating rhythmic movements and he exudes soul. He has more rhythm than almost anyone you’ve ever watched. Every movement is about the music; he seems to have a secret, and you’ve just got to wait until he shares it with you.

By the time Will Brock is launching into what I see as one of his most-prized compositions, ‘Home’ you know that song has got to be his secret. It’s a moving, nostalgic, spellbinding rendition of our collective wish to ‘be back home,’ to reconnect with all that is important and precious to us, to be excited and to be so keyed up (as he is) about this moment in time that, along with him, we can hardly sit still, either, because we, too, are ‘Home.’

Brock is a dynamite keyboard player and a dynamic person as well. He’s Rhythm and Soul personified – I call it R & S, and I could hardly wait to talk with him about his music and find out what's behind all that energy he has.

GVCDReleaseParty1WillBrock2.jpgBJP: Welcome to Smooth Vibes, Will! I'm glad we're finally getting to this interview! How did you get your start in playing keyboard? And 'where have you been’ up until this point in your career?

WB: Well, I started playing piano in my fifth grade band rehearsal hall, kind of fooling around and plucking out ideas with a bunch of other kids who played as well. I wanted to be a saxophone player at the time. The world is a much better place since I let that idea pass.

We would hang out in the band room and play tunes (or something… sort of resembling tunes). I fooled around like that on piano with short stints of lessons hear and there until I was in College. At that point I switched to piano completely as my “primary instrument."

BJP: Did you have that infectious enthusiasm right from the start? Were you sort of dramatic when you were playing, even early on?

GVBirthdayParty3WillBrock3.jpgWB: My friends will all tell you that I’m dramatic about everything. I have always been a little over the top in general. As long as I can remember, in my mind life has been something to get excited about, music in particular. There’s nothing more beautiful than being involved with and surrounded by art. Being able to get inside of an audience, fellow band members and ones self is, like, exciting. That’s what I’m responding to on that stage. Living in that space for an hour or two every night is just downright fun.

BJP: That’s a great way to express who you are, that really fits the Will I’ve seen on stage. You have so much fun, yet you’re so serious in doing the job ‘just right’ -- how do you do both at the same time?

WB: As I said before, the fun part is automatic. The job, however, is the job. To work on this level, a cat doesn’t necessarily need to be the next Herbie or Oscar. One needs to execute what the bandleader wants to hear and bring a voice and personality to the table. Executing takes focus. I focus a great deal of energy on making sure the “thing” is working.

BJP: You have eagle eyes for what’s coming, always watching Gerald and everyone to know your next step which you carry out with precision. You take a lot of pride in how you play. Where did you get your training?

WB: There are several “schools” that deserve credit for my training. I graduated from the University of the Arts with a Bachelors degree in Jazz piano. That experience gave me a fundamental understanding of music on a pretty high level. That’s the obvious answer. The truth is, my real training has been way more involved than that. When I got to Philadelphia, I’d go down to the Old Zanzibar blue (before it got all hip and upscale). On Thursday nights for many years, Barbara Walker had a residency there. I’d hang and sit in with the band, play the two songs I knew (Autumn Leaves and Night in Tunisia with a funk thing on it) and get on the bands nerves ungodly.

I say all that to say, it was that and hundreds of experiences like that, that really gave me a sense of making music person to person. My teachers, the cats who really taught me how to get down, are the philly gig hogs. They play in some dive or another every night to make ends meet. The beautiful thing is that they’re always willing to share a tidbit of knowledge or a story. If one truly wants to learn to “shake the room” and get people excited about the work, those men and women are the folks to teach it.

BJP: That sounds like a fertile background from which to grow. Wish I had been able to be there at Zanzibar Blue in those days. I’ve only been during the ‘hip and upscale,’ more recent years.

WillBrock1.jpgBJP: I have to ask about the song ‘Home,’ of course! How did it come about? It is really wonderful!!

WB: My best friend/big brother Charles Baldwin and I wrote that song. We spent quite a few years writing quite a few songs. Truthfully, “Home” is one of the many that we wrote in a period when we were focusing on songs that one might call timeless. The idea was to come up with songs that folks could relate to now and ten thousand years from now. There was a point when we were writing 1 or 2 of those a day. It was really quite insane now that I really think about it.

Anyway, it was really the only thing that Gerald had heard of mine at the time we started doing it. We did it at a jazz festival once and it’s become a part GV’s set.

BJP: I know from watching you that you have to move around! Is that just part of your natural self, as in, would your Mom tell us you were ‘always moving’ as a child?

WB: Yea… me and still don’t really get along too well. Especially when I’m doing the “thing”. Quite honestly I don’t understand how anyone can be still up under any kind of groove. For as long as I can remember music moved me, literally moved me, to …well… move. I’m guessing my mom would tell you that I was that way from the moment I came into the world.

BJP: I hear you on that and I’m sure most music lovers would agree. I’d say you definitely found your niche! Who would you say influenced you in your style of playing?

WB: It’s funny. My playing is not super influenced by musicians, piano players, and even less so jazz guys. The keyboard thing is kind of a small part of the picture for me. It’s only one of many artistic expressions that I need to be involved in to exist (not as deep as it sounds I promise). So what you hear when you hear me play is my entire artistic life, filtered through music that day. It’s kind of fluid for me. The books I read, the films I check out, art of any kind, it’s all the same to me. I just happen to be able to execute pretty well on the piano so that expression is very clear for folks that stop and listen.

BJP: I know it must mean an awful lot to be able to play with someone like Gerald Veasley – what a great performer and friend he seems to be. How did you two get together?

WB: When I was in School at Uarts, Gerald came and did a guest artist swing with an ensemble called the Fusion Band. I was in the band and He was to play a concert with us. We did a duet (Stella by Starlight) and the vibe was amazing.

After that he’d call me to work on some of his productions and eventually I became a fulltime member of the band. Gerald has been like a brother to me for a long time. It’s to great to be able to absorb the music and life lessons from him. He’s a beautiful person and an awe-inspiring musician.

BJP: Yes, Gerald Veasley is amazing. You also have your own solo career that you’re working on – how is that going and what’s new on the horizon for you?

WB: I’m in the process of writing songs for another project. That is my main focus (Solo Career). I have spectacular band. We put on a super fun show (and modest to boot). Seriously, I’m just working on creating honest music and letting folks hear it. Hopefully that will yield the results I want. We’ll see!

BJP: From what I can see, everyone who hears and sees you in person just appreciates you and your style so much, so I think you’re going to get results! Is there something you’d like your present and potential fans to know about you at this point in your career?

WB: I would like fans to continue getting to know me. I’ll be making music for a very long time so I plan to create long-term relationships with folks that have an interest in good ol’ fashioned soul music. I have a long way to travel in this thing and it should be a fun journey to watch.

BJP: I’m sure it will be. Let me just say you are awesome to watch, you have an infectious smile, you’re totally involved, and when you play it’s just the greatest experience for me, every time you play – I never tire of seeing that passion and raw emotion you communicate, especially during that song ‘Home!’ I hope you keep playing in Reading a couple of times a year!

BJP: Thanks for doing this interview for Smooth Vibes, Will, and the best of luck in all your projects!

WB: Thank you for doing the interview with me!


Please check out Will Brock for yourself at one of the following websites:

http://www.willbrock.com

http://www.myspace.com/willbrock

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Photo Credits: Will Brock and Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 9:28 PM

August 9, 2006

Contempo August 2006

MartinTaylor.jpgAnytime someone asks Martin Taylor about the happy stylistic schizophrenia that has defined his dual careers as a sideman and solo artist, he whips out a classic anecdote given to him by legendary drummer Max Roach. Some years ago, Roach told the veteran British guitarist about a moment in Charlie Parker’s storied life when rabid fans followed the saxophonist after hours from a club where he played to a bar down the street.

They watched Bird — the standard setter of bebop for multiple generations — stroll over to the jukebox and select (are you kidding?) a Hank Williams tune. “Max said that Bird turned around and told his admirers that he really loved country music, and wasn’t going to apologize for it,” says Taylor. “It inspired me to realize that even the masters like him never limited their tastes in any way. “I’m always astonished by people of narrow minds who look down on other forms of music they think of as unsophisticated. What the so-called ‘purists’ don’t understand is that jazz came about through a mixture of people and cultures and music. It’s a mélange of different things. Narrow minds could not have created the art form as we know it.”

That may be one way to explain how Taylor, over the past three decades, could tour the world and play on some twenty albums by violin master Stephane Grapelli — whose band the guitarist joined at 20 - then turn around and record spirited but much lighter weight covers of 70s pop hits like “Midnight At The Oasis” and “That’s The Way Of The World.” The kid inspired by Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Fats Waller has made peppy, virtuoso recordings in the image of his first hero, Django Reinhart, while also finding the trio jazz heart of the theme from “The Odd Couple.”

Taylor also toured for years on and off with Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, then created a graceful solo rendition of “Tennessee Waltz” as a tribute to another influence, Chet Atkins. That was on his gentle hearted 2002 disc Solo, an interesting follow-up choice considering all the attention he got from the smooth jazz community after two major label releases on Columbia, Kiss And Tell (1999) and Nite Life (2001), both of which featured Kirk Whalum on sax.

The Best Of Martin Taylor, a dual CD package from The Guitar Label featuring 26 favorites handpicked by the artist himself, is a great place for the uninitiated guitar fan to experience his joyful, impossible to pigeonhole magic. It draws from a decade of popular international recordings on the UK based Linn Records, those two Columbia crossover discs, and his work over the past few years, which includes 2004’s The Valley. Since the late 70s, he’s played in many groups, used strings, and done a great deal of solo work in addition to numerous duets; a taste of each vibe is included.

Perhaps to draw newcomers (and smooth jazz fans) in quickly, Disc One begins with his soulful, ambient rendition of the Earth, Wind & Fire classic — a tune he believes sums up his playing to a tee. The next five tracks — several of which feature Whalum’s always emotional sax — are smooth sailing from his Columbia discs as well, but it’s fun to go even deeper and hear what he can do with his just guitar; the elegant “True” and hypnotic meditation “The Valley” are unadorned melodic masterpieces. Disc Two ushers in his more traditional jazz side, highlighted by a speedy rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Cottontail,” his slow, string enhanced trio burn on “The Odd Couple,” the Django infused “Undecided” (featuring vocalist Claire Martin and Stephane Grappelli) and the samba-lite “Nuages.”

If you’re a U.S. based jazz fan and have never heard of him, trust the judgment of your peers throughout Europe (he lives in Scotland and France), Australia and Japan, who have been seeing him perform for years as he embarks on up to 100 live dates each year. In the U.S. and Canada, he has done a few jazz festivals, but he is most renowned by true guitar aficionados at acoustic music festivals that incorporate all kinds of music.

“The reason I’m more well known in some places on the guitar circuit than in jazz circles is that, for all the wonderful collaborators I have had, my bread and butter is playing solo guitar,” Taylor says. “I only have one way of playing, one sound, one voice, but I like to put that voice in different settings. Sony saw the work I did on the two albums I did for them as smooth jazz, but I don’t consider myself a smooth jazz artist, even if my focus on melody makes this a natural fit. Breaking in with and learning from Stephane, then overcoming my fear to do my first ever solo gig in 1985, I really focused on listening to the way others play, then developing my own style. But that doesn’t just come from nowhere. It comes from growing up with Art Tatum, Bud Powell and Joe Pass.

“As for ‘Midnight At The Oasis’ and the Earth, Wind & Fire cover, look, I was born in 1956, not 1926 and I remember the first time I heard that song and considered its melodic possibilities,” he says. “I grew up listening to pop music as well, and couldn’t just ignore it. I enjoy edgy jazz and classical guitar, too. I just don’t believe in limiting myself. But because of the diversity, I think if I’ve contributed anything to the musical realm over the course of my career, it’s my solo guitar playing. That’s’ really the core of what I do.”


In an age when so many artists are tailoring every composition to accommodate the narrowminded gods of airplay, percussionist Gumbi Ortiz — a 19 year vet of fusion master Al Di Meola’s band — perfectly defines the playfully genre-busting spirit of indie musicmaking on his festive, action-packed debut Miami (fashioned as a tribute to the New York native’s adopted home state). Sure, there are moments of picture perfect smooth jazz cool, typified by the Jeff Lorber composed “T-Back,” featuring Eric Marienthal, and the moody, seductive Spyro Gyra flavored “In The Groove” with Jay Beckenstein. But along the way are much more colorful free form jazz jams (look at Ortiz and Dave Weckl go at it on the frenetic interlude “Rush Hour Jam” and the easy Latin swing of “Amnesia”), some tasty samba excursions, a touch of retro-soul and even a touch of gospel. You’ve just got to admire a solo debut audacious enough to mix Lorber-controlled slickness with the wild, mindbending insanity of “Calle 8cho.” Other key contributors include Brandon Fields (on both sax and flute), flugelhornist Walt Fowler, keyboardist Rachel Z and the other Spyro Gyra guys (Scott Ambush, Joel Rosenblatt). By the time you’re done “Cruisin’ Collins” (the sensual closing track), you’ll know you’ve been on the year’s most ambitious musical excursion. If only more artists would take risks like this!


What I’m Listening To:

1) Phillippe Saisse Trio, The Body And Soul Sessions (Rendezvous) — Smooth Jazz’s pop cover craze finally elevates to a higher artistic plane on this irresistible date by one of the genre’s most inventive keyboardists. Jamming on a mix of some very familiar and gleefully obscure tunes with acoustic bassist David Finck and drummer Scooter Warner, Saisse sways away from his usual circus of sonic textures and jams to his (and our) heart’s delight on acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes.
2) Michael Franks, Rendezvous in Rio (Koch Records)
3) Regina Carter, I’ll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (Verve)
4) Lisa B, What’s New, Pussycat? (Piece of Pie Records)
5) The Royal Dan: A Tribute (Tone Center)


New and Noteworthy

1) Chris Standring, Soul Express (Trippin’ N Rhythm)
2) Dan Siegel, Departure (Native Language)
3) David Benoit, Full Circle (Peak Records)
4) Sahnas, Romanza (Moondo/Native Language)
5) The Very Best of Tom Scott (GRP)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 8:22 PM

August 8, 2006

Brian Culbertson returning to home of Berks Jazz Fest for a Fall Concert

BrianCulbertson.jpgBrian Culbertson plans to return to Reading, Pennsylvania on October 28th for a special First Energy Berks Jazz Fest Fall Concert

When Brian Culbertson was an introverted 20-year-old just kick-starting his contemporary jazz career with his debut album Long Night Out, few would have imagined that he soon would become an extroverted showman known for his electrifying concerts.

His sensuous, melodic and high-energy style has forged eight hit albums and 20 No. 1 Radio & Records airplay singles in the ensuing 13 years. And he's smooth jazz's golden boy at the box office. His tickets sales are even hotter than his riveting live acts.

Consequently, Culbertson has been the darling of FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest audiences over the years. And the good news is that Culbertson is coming back to Reading for a special FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest Fall Concert.

"An Evening With Brian Culbertson" will be held Saturday, October 28th, at 8 p.m. at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 136 North Sixth Street.

Culbertson the live performer is a visual as well as an audio delight. At times he's swaying sensuously around his keyboards, simultaneously seducing his keys and the women in the audience. At other times he's bouncing around the stage with dynamic energy as he jams with the band. And then there are times when he grabs the trombone and blows hot and heavy with his horn section.

His latest album, It's On Tonight, was unabashedly produced to be a true "instrumental makeout record." Which triggered Jazziz magazine to rave, "With this album, which most effectively transfers that soothing eroticism to disc, he is officially become the Barry White of smooth jazz."

Actually, Brian Culbertson very much remains uniquely himself. And that one and the same Brian Culbertson is certain to enchant and entertain Sovereign Performing Arts Center patrons on October 28th.

Tickets are $39 and $34
Tickets can be purchased by:
Call TicketMaster at 215-336-2000. Press "1" for an automatic purchase. Press "0" to speak with an operator, who will complete your real-time transaction.

Stop by the Sovereign Center box office at 7th & Penn streets, Reading, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Order online at www.ticketmaster.com

Hope to see you at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center!

Photo Credit: Lisa Taylor


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:18 PM

August 7, 2006

4th annual Camarillo Art & Jazz Festival

Ripps_Camarillo.jpgThe 4th annual Camarillo Art & Jazz Festival took place Aug 4-6 in Camarillo, CA and was held in beautiful locations in this nice city one hour north of Los Angeles. I wasn't able to attend the concert by David Sanborn Friday evening but caught The Rippingtons, featuring Russ Freeman, Saturday night. This free concert was held in Constitution Park, a public park in the center of Camarillo with people sitting on the grass in their chairs and on their blankets, creating a nice festival atmosphere. The evening was opened by the band that won the "Battle Of The Bands" contest (sorry, didn't catch their name) providing some nice smooth jazz before the Rippingtons entered the stage. The band is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The lineup consisted of leader Russ Freeman (guitar), Bill Heller (keys), Kim Stone (bass), Steve Reid (percussion), Dave Karasony (drums) and most notably Jeff Kashiwa on saxophone who reunited with the band after having split for a very successful solo career. They provided a great evening with songs from their vast catalog old and new, with Russ Freeman running the gamut from pretty acoustic melodies to hot solos on electric guitar, supported by this great band, most notably by Jeff Kashiwa who is always an energetic and fun part of the show. The band proved that they are still going strong and haven't lost any of their appeal, with some great songs from the current release 20th Anniversary showing that they still know how to stay on top of the scene.

RickBraun_Camarillo2.jpgThe highlight for me was the concert of Rick Braun on Sunday afternoon, held at the Camarillo Ranch House, a beautiful location in a historic park with big, old trees and a nice lawn. I got us some VIP tickets which included a "meet and greet" reception with the artists, a catered lunch and great seats right in front of the stage. The atmosphere was relaxed and all those nice helpful volunteers made the whole event even more enjoyable. Rick Braun came with an all-star band featuring Rayford Griffin (drums), Randy Jacobs (guitar), Jimmy Roberts (sax), Stanley Sargeant (bass) and most remarkably Greg Karukas on keyboards. The band was in fine form and they seemed to enjoy the event having the whole afternoon for themselves. Rick Braun played many of his familiar songs like "Notorious", "Emma's Song", "Use Me" (with great audience participation), "Kisses In The Rain" and others. He even sang a nice version of "My Funny Valentine" showing another side of his talent. In the second half of the show Rick and sax player Jimmy Roberts did their stroll around the audience which was well received, I noticed laughing and happy faces all around me! At the end of the concert they had the crowd on their feet bringing a truly great concert with a smooth jazz version of "Mustang Sally" to a rousing end.

The Camarillo Art & Jazz Festival is an outstanding festival. The crowd is pleasant, the whole event is not too crowded, the locations are beautiful and the people running the festival are friendly and welcoming, and the selection of artists is world-class.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:07 PM

August 5, 2006

Skip Martin of Kool & the Gang and the Dazz Band is Miles High

Grammy winner Skip Martin of Kool & the Gang and the Dazz Band releases his debut jazz CD Miles High today. ‘Are You Ready’ the debut single with Skip on trumpet and vocals, features Wayman Tisdale on bass guitar and 6-time Grammy winner Ricky Lawson on drums. The 13-track CD also features sax man Ronnie Laws, 5-time Grammy winner Al McKay of Earth Wind & Fire and Bruce Conti of Tower of Power. Miles High will be in stores on Tuesday, August 8, 2006.

The idea of Skip Martin’s debut jazz project was pure and simple – “it was just time”. With over 26 album releases as lead vocalist with the Dazz Band, Kool & the Gang and his own solo projects, Skip wanted to record a project where he did his ‘singing’ through his trumpet. “I’ve recorded with both groups in the horn section but never as a solo artist,” stated Skip. The result is Miles High filled with hip, cool, funky, smooth jazz grooves. “You’ll definitely come away ... with ... a sense of what Miles might be doing musically if he were still with us.” (Scott O’Brien for smoothjazz.com).

‘Are You Ready’ is “...a laid back blend of classic styles. If Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd were in the same band they would open their set with this tune...” (Gene Harris, Jr., MBA and Cat Lee for GrooveDoctorsRadio.com). Ronnie Laws appears on the ‘Smooth Sailing’ track in a beautiful trumpet and sax duet – ranging from sultry grooves to profound narratives.

‘Miles High’, the title cut, a tribute to Miles Davis written the night Miles died, clearly shows an insightful range of diverse influences from the modern jazz era known as the Miles Years. “... jazz that can appeal to the novice and seasoned listener...” (Enorman for soulpatrol.netradio).

Al McKay comes through on guitar with the track ‘Old School Rules’ and Bruce Conti also on guitar is featured on ‘Careless Whisper’. The album includes the first recordings of spoken word poet Bronze Paragon on the tracks ‘Are You Ready’ (Spoken Word) and ‘Apropos’ (Spoken Word) – which just make you sit up and listen. “I’m very excited about this project” admits Skip Martin. “It took 2 years in the making with a few starts and stops but the journey was well worth the time.”

The album is beautifully mastered by multiple Grammy winner Bernie Grundman.

MILES HIGH TRACKLIST
1. Do Da
2. Smooth Sailing (featuring Ronnie Laws)
3. Apropos
4. Are You Ready (featuring Wayman Tisdale & Ricky Lawson)
5. I Give My Heart
6. Miles High
7. You Are My Starship
8. Are You Ready (Spoken Word)
9. Old School Rules (featuring Al McKay)
10. Moon Splash
11. Monster Bites
12. Apropos (Spoken Word)
13. Careless Whisper (featuring Bruce Conti & Ricky Lawson)

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:27 PM

August 4, 2006

Guitarist Doc Powell Unveils Dueling Styles On Self Titled 10 Th Anniversary New CD

Heads Up Set Features Guests Brian Culbertson and Kirk Whalum On Single Cover Of Carole King’s Classic Hit, “It’s Too Late.”

It’s taken veteran guitarist Doc Powell two decades and the celebration of his tenth solo record to reveal that he’s been in the closet , hiding his passion for the acoustic and classical style of guitar. But core fans of his patented electric guitar licks won’t be disappointed, because Powell blends dueling guitar styles and yet another dimension to his arsenal of skills on his self-titled new set. The contrasting styles are brilliantly displayed on the records lead single, “It’s Too Late,” an inspired groove-laden arrangement of Carole King’s classic seventies hit which also features special guest appearances by Grammy award winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum and chart-topping keyboardist, Brian Culbertson.

Powell has built a legacy as a musical chameleon, traversing from one genre to another without losing a beat. He’s contributed to over 125 recordings of some of the premiere recording stars in R & B/Pop, like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Teddy Pendergrass, and enjoyed a 12-year stint recording and performing with the late Luther Vandross. He’s also played with jazz greats Lonnie Liston Smith, Bob James, the late Grover Washington Jr., and Stanley Clarke, and with gospel superstars, Shirley Caesar, The Might Clouds of Joy, Ce Ce Winans, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, and performed and recorded with gospel’s record-breaking superstar Kirk Franklin since 2002.

In fact, Powell, who has personally financed and run his own homespun record label, DPR Music Group, with his life partner and wife of 25 years, (and former manager of the late Phyllis Hyman) started recording his new set on buses, in hotel rooms, and backstage while touring with Franklin on his mega three-month national Hero, tour launched in November 2005. Doc Powell, is his third release with Heads Up.

His decision to integrate acoustic with electric guitar comes after picking up a Martin guitar that he started playing five years ago. “The Martin guitar has a voice and tone that is more true to a classical guitar sound,” says Powell, “and I wanted to integrate that with the electric style I’ve most known for playing. At one time, I even thought about naming the record, “Duets,” because I’m showing two sides of myself, and often on the same track.”

On, “It’s Too Late,” Powell even offers listener’s two versions - an electric version that features a sizzling duet between him and Kirk Whalum, with Brian Culbertson adding a touch of elegance on acoustic piano, and background singer Faith Anderson supplying sparse vocals – And an “Unplugged” version that is more organic – with an emotional arrangement and gentle percussion by Pablo Batista. “I wanted a song that was universal and that music fans from my generation could identify with,” says Powell, “and I feel each version is unique and special in its’ own way.”

Like his nine previous recordings, Powell mixes soulful straight-to-the-heart melodies, with infectious and cutting edge grooves, laced with some retro R & B and compelling rock and jazz tones. Since the bulk of the record was written while Powell was touring with Franklin, he used Franklin’s musicians to lay down most of the tracks, including Franklin’s co-producer and musical director, keyboardist Shaun Martin, along with keyboardist Jerome Harmon, Matt Cappy on trumpet, Pablo Batista on percussion, Derek Ray on bass guitar and DJ Ernie Green. He also enlisted the talents of fellow label mate Bobby Lyle on keyboards, who is featured on the CD’s explosive Latin-fueled gem, “Me, Myself and Rio.”

While the musicians show off their prowess on the sexy slo-jam, “Hip Pocket,” the acoustic funky, “Hey,” and the retro grooved, “Another Place And Time,” Powell also branched out to collaborate with Grammy Award winning producer Barry Eastmond (Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Jonathan Butler) who co-produced the seductive and romantic ballads, “Let Go,” and “Together We Can.” “On that track,” Powell attests, “I’m playing octaves on the electric guitar in a Wes Montgomery style, and the acoustic guitar is playing the same thing but in a different tone.”

Powell’s musical journey started in Spring Valley, NY. He began playing guitar at age six and later studied at the University of Charleston, West Virginia. After college he land session work in NY, honing his skills on live recording sessions, cutting commercials, and a few movie soundtracks. He also scored a gig as a solo artist at Mikell’s, one of Manhattan’s hot jazz clubs, where veterans like Art Blakely and The Jazz Messengers, McCoy Turner, George Benson and Miles Davis frequented.

In 1987, he released his first solo record, Love Is Where It’s At, and earned a Grammy nomination (Best R & B Instrumental) for his cover of Marvin Gaye’s signature hit, “What’s Going On.” A string of well-received releases followed, most notably Inner City Blues, which was funded and released on his own imprint, West Coast Records. Recalls Powell, “I took all the money I had earned touring with Luther and was ready to sell it door to door.” In fact, the keyboard Powell used to lay the tracks was a birthday present from Vandross.

DocPowell2.jpgPowell’s dozen years performing with Vandross, catapulted him to another level as a musician, and was highlighted by his legendary rock guitar solo on one of Vandross’s biggest hits, “Stop To Love,” which is still imitated by rockers today. He also performed on Vandross’s history-making 10 days at Wembley Stadium (1989) that broke the previous record held by Elton John. Powell was featured on five of the stars biggest CD’s, including, The Night I Fell In Love, and Give Me The Reason.

In 1996, Powell enjoyed his biggest solo commercial success with his Laid Back, CD. The record yielded two Top 10 hits, including “Sunday Morning,” which made history at smooth jazz radio by achieving the most spins (over 1000) in it’s first week of release. By year end’s Laid Back, was rated the #2 jazz record of the year.

A few years later, Powell surprised his jazz fans with his first entrée into contemporary gospel, I Claim Victory, which Powell created not only to fulfill his own passion for the music, but also a fund-raising tool for his church. Not surprisingly, Powell ended up serving as the band leader for gospel superstar Kirk Franklin on his mega “Hopeville Tour,” which also featured headliners Donnie McCurklin and Yolanda Adams. He later recorded and toured on Franklin’s current platinum-selling Hero CD.

Doc Powell fans will probably revel in discovering his “acoustic side,” and according to Powell, even after twenty years and ten solo records, the real joy in making records has always been the same, “The most exciting thing is the first time someone tells me that he or she connected somehow to what I was feeling at a specific moment,” he lauded, “That’s very satisfying and that’s when I know I’ve been successful.”

CD Release Date: August 22, 2006

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:41 AM

August 3, 2006

Watch Ken Navarro record his upcoming CD "The Meeting Place"

ken_navarro.jpgSmooth Jazz guitarist Ken Navarro has begun to record his next CD. The new CD is called The Meeting Place. It includes 11 new songs and will be released December 1, 2006 exclusively at www.kennavarro.com followed by national retail and radio release on January 16, 2007.

Beginning August 1, there will be an entire section at Ken's website devoted to following the creation and recording of his new music. (http://www.kennavarro.com/newcdkn/mp.htm)

Included will be weekly video and audio previews as well as regular diary entries by Ken following the progress of his CD to its completion. There will also be special offers for visitors to Ken's website to purchase the CD well in advance of the retail release date with free extras only available when purchased at www.kennavarro.com.

In addition, subscribers to Ken Podcast Series (http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=160275933) will receive free weekly podcast updates from Ken.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:22 PM

August 2, 2006

Christian Scott - Rewind That

cscott.jpgAfter only having this CD in the player for ten seconds, you might find yourself wondering what kind of music you just purchased. Maybe you purchased it because Billboard Magazine named Christian Scott as one of the “Faces to Watch - Hot in 2006”. As the CD continues to play, you’ll understand why Christian Scott is truly a face to watch and this is why he is in… The Hot Seat.

In the opening track, “Rewind That”, Scott identifies himself as an individual. The lead guitar begins with a sense of urgency while the drum plays a hard and heavy back beat. Scott and keys come in with a more relaxed feeling. Unlike many current trumpet players, Scott often uses breathy and subtle playing for his softer sound. While his loud statements are played with intensity and stellar articulation.

Christian Scott is a 22 year old New Orleans native and the nephew of Grammy Award winning alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr. Scott attend the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts for high school. Scott independently released his first album (self-titled) in 2002. Concord Music Group signed him at the age of 22, the same age his uncle, Donald Harrison was signed to the same label.

rewindthat.jpgPlaying with Christian is Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone. Smith plays on all songs except for “Rewind That“. On guitar is Matt Stevens. Stevens does not play on “So What“. On most of the tracks, Zaccai Curtis plays the keyboard and Luques Curtis plays bass. Curtis plays the electric bass on “Rewind That” and “Like This“, but otherwise plays the acoustic guitar. On the drums is Thomas Pridgen. On four of the tracks, “So What”, Suicide”, “Kiel”, and “Paradise Found”, Donald Harrison is a special guest.

Notable Tracks on this project are “Like This” - a very romantic slow groove inspired by an R&B song, “So What” - a 1959 Miles Davis composition with a serving of funk, and “Kiel” - a melody for Scott’s twin brother Kiel Scott.

Putting Scott’s music in any one particular genre is near impossible. There is this much Rock and that much Re-bop and this much Funk and that much R&B…. Contemporary Jazz is the safest label to put on Rewind That. Scott chose not to make a straight-ahead album saying that him doing so would be “like meeting a woman and trying to be like her last boyfriend.” Christian Scott’s Rewind That is a “debut” album that does not disappoint. For more information about Christian Scott visit www.christianscottmusic.com.

Chillin Vibes for the Hot Summer
Euge Groove - Chillaxin’ from Just Feels Right 2005 (Narada Jazz)
Marion Meadows - Dressed to Chill from Dressed to Chill 2006 (Heads Up)
Dayve Stewart - Lay Back and Chill from Feel Me 2005 (no label)
Eric Darius - Chillin’ Out from Just Getting Started 2006 (Narada Jazz)
George Duke - Chillin’ from Face the Music 2003 (Jj Tracks)

Posted by Kalen Marie Grant at 7:55 PM