October 30, 2006

What We're Listening To * October

P E T E R * B O E H I

Michael Ripoll - Discovery Anew (2003)
Very solid guitar led smooth jazz album with some songs veering in a latin direction while others are groovy, funky and just fun. Very well played and produced, this one is worth your attention.

The Terry Disley Experience - Bright Side (2006)
Terry Disley is the keyboard player of Acoustic Alchemy and delivers a beautiful smooth jazz album full of memorable melodies and top-notch playing. Very recommended.

Tracey Campbell - Sunshine Embrace (2006)
Acoustic jazz trio featuring Tracey Campbell on piano and vocals. This album is full of subtle yet still groovy playing and catchy songs. A breath of fresh air!

Kerry Wilkins - Follow My Lead (2006)
Groovy, contemporary and very polished album by this great guitar player offering a mix of soul/r&b and cool smooth jazz instrumentals. Thumbs up!

Jacques Saxman Johnson - More Than Smooth (2004)
This great sax player delivers a smooth jazz album which is not only polished, but also brims with great playing and beautiful compositions. Another gem to be found on the indie scene!

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

Rodney Lee, The Satellite Orchestra (Innocent Bystander Records)

George Duke, Don't Let Go (CBS Records)

Jazz Crusaders, Soul Axess (True Life)

Flora Purim, Carry On (Wounded Bird Records)

Brian Simpson, It's All Good (www.bsimpsonmusic.com/www.rendezvousmusic.com)

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

Jonathan Butler – 'Rio' from Jonathan (2005 Rendezvous)

Nick Colionne – 'Always Thinking of You' from Keepin’ it Cool on (2006 Narada Jazz)

Ken Navarro – 'You Are Everything' from Love Colored Soul on (2005 Positive Music)

Raul Midon – 'If You’re Gonna Leave' from State of Mind on (2005 Manhattan)

Paul Taylor – 'East Bay Bounce' from Nightlife on (2005 Peak)

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

Hugh Peanuts Whalum (Rendezvous)

Lino, Miami Jam (Lino Alessio Publishing)

Walter Beasley, Live! (Shanachie)

Lara & Reyes (Fusion Acustica)

Ray Parker, Jr.,
I’m Free (Raydio Music Corp.)

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

Janita, I'll Be Fine, Carport Music, 2001.

Brian Culbertson, It's On Tonight, GRP Records, 2005.

Eric Darius, Just Getting Started, Narada, 2006.

Chuck Loeb, When I'm With You, Shanachie, 2005.

Third Force, Driving Force, Higher Octave, 2005.

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

George Benson & Al Jarreau, Givin' It Up (Concord): A suprisingly organic offering by two superstars, including re-imagined versions of Benson's "Breezin'" and Jarreau's "Morning."

Kyle Eastwood, Now (Rendezvous Entertainment): The bassist's new CD is much more accessible than his previous effort and features some tasty adult contemporary vocal tunes with Ben Cullum, Jamie Cullum's brother. Both "I Can't Remember" and "Leave It" are reminiscent of 2005's Matt Biano featuring Basia CD Matt's Mood.

Jake Shimabukuro, Gently Weeps (Hitchhike): You don't have to take my word that this guy is a wiz on the ukelele -- just check out "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on YouTube. Shimabukuro also offers solo versions of "Misty," "Spain," "Ave Maria" and even "The Star-Spangled Banner." The last five songs feature accompaniment and are unexpected treats: a rockin' "Beyond the Break," a tender vocal version of Shimabukuro's original "Wish On My Star" and a tune called "Hula Girl" that would fit in nicely on smooth jazz radio.

Strunz & Farah, Fantaseo (Selva): The guitar duo just keeps getting better. Look no further for upbeat, sexy, flamenco stylings. Pick track: the beautiful and uplifting "Azure."

Talking Book, Chasing the Green (Third Angels): Classic, soulful grooves and soulful vocals blend nicely in this project by J. Kari. Best track: the old-school groove of "Your Soul Baby," one of the best vocal tunes I've heard this year.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 1:55 AM

October 26, 2006

Michael Lington To Unveil Cigar Line

The saxophonist will be aiming at the high-end market.

Saxophonist Michael Lington will become – as far as we know – the first smooth jazz artist to offer a high-end line of cigars. Lington’s cigars, which will be aged four years and called the Michael Lington Classic, will come in three sizes and are being produced in the Dominican Republic. The cigars, featuring the high-end Connecticut Shade wrapper, will have a black label etched with silver-foil writing and be offered in custom cedar boxes.

Lington says he will officially debut his cigars next month during the second annual Dave Koz & Friends At Sea cruise, which departs from San Diego. The cigars will then be available on Lington’s website at michaellington.com and, eventually, through national distribution at tobacco shops and other outlets.

The first single from Michael’s brand-new A Song For You is titled “It’s Too Late” and is on Radio & Records' smooth jazz chart.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:31 AM

October 23, 2006

Tozzi, Smooth Jazz WJJZ Back - Greater Media sets Nov. 15 Launch in Philly

The dramatic news was music to the ears of loyal and passionate listeners of smooth jazz radio.

MichaelTozzi.jpgGreater Media announced last week that Michael Tozzi will be the program director of the "new" Smooth Jazz WJJZ 97.5 FM in Philadelphia when the format returns to the airwaves on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

"I cannot tell you what a thrill it is to be asked to help in bringing Smooth Jazz back to Philadelphia,” said Tozzi. “Greater Media is a company that many of my friends have been attracted to over the last few years, so I am delighted to be joining a team that is committed to winning in such a competitive marketplace."

Greater Media announced its agreement to acquire 97.5 FM from Nassau Broadcasting Partners last July. The acquisition will be finalized in November.

Greater Media will flip the current format -- Classic Rock WTHK/The Hawk -- to Smooth Jazz WJJZ 97.5 FM on Nov. 15.

The return of WJJZ will quell the firestorm of public outcry from numerous and extremely vocal disenfranchised smooth jazz fans in the market after Clear Channel abruptly abandoned the format in Philadelphia late last August.

"We are very excited about bringing smooth jazz back to the Philadelphia market," said Greater Media Philadelphia VP and market manager John Fullam. "We sensed a lot of disappointment among listeners and advertisers when WJJZ changed its format.

"It's gratifying to be able to relaunch a station with such a loyal following and one that has been successful for so long in Philadelphia and surrounding markets.

“Michael Tozzi is synonymous with WJJZ and is the natural choice to lead the way. Michael's passion, vision and leadership in smooth jazz will serve us well and we are thrilled to have him on our team."

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:19 PM

October 17, 2006

It’s a “Lovely Day”: New album from soul-jazz vocalist Victor Fields out today

cdcoverthinkingofyou.jpgAfter releasing three eclectic, critically-acclaimed albums, vocalist Victor Fields has found a comfortable niche to focus his soul-kissed adult pop songs of love.  His Thinking Of You CD was released today by Regina Records.  Joined by smooth jazz luminaries Richard Elliot (sax), Rick Braun (flugelhorn), Jeff Lorber (keyboards), Nelson Braxton (multi-instrumentalist) and Chris Camozzi (guitar), Fields fully explored the genre while serving up eight R&B cover tunes and two originals co-penned by Lorber on the Camozzi-produced collection.  Naturally suited to his silky vocals, Fields’ version of the Bill Withers’ sunny classic, “Lovely Day,” was serviced to smooth jazz radio last month where it is presently garnering airplay.  
Fields recorded Thinking Of You with Camozzi as close to live as possible at the famed The Record Plant studio in Sausalito, California, not too far from the Bay Area resident’s home.  The album is up-tempo and organic comprised of elegant vocals over funky tracks.  It’s decidedly more fun, more upbeat and more danceable than his previous releases (Victor, 52nd Street and Promise).  Attempting to make each song a musical event, Fields carefully selects interesting and challenging songs that he can make his own by infusing his personality and energy.  His phrasing, color and tone are distinctly jazzy and soulful.  While Fields is naturally drawn to love songs, he’s quick to remind that not all love songs are slow and sad.  In this era of disposable popular music and “flavor of the month” idols, Fields is a refreshing song stylist who truly studies his craft, sings songs of meaning and substance, and strives to create a significant body of work that will stand the test of time.

Thinking Of You has already begun earning praise.  ABYSSJazz Magazine declared, “If you are looking for that soulful R&B crooner with a jazzy feel, Victor Fields is your man.  His voice can be described as satin, velvet, suede…This album is all hits and no misses.  With guest appearances by Richard Elliot on ‘Walking In Rhythm’ and Rick Braun on ‘Creepin’,’ you can’t go wrong.”  SoulTracks wrote, “…the tasteful take given by Fields and the fine musicianship of the band make Thinking Of You a surprisingly enjoyable effort…His (Fields) unassuming, smooth lead plus strong, jazzy arrangements throughout make this a solid effort and fine late-night listening.”  
Last month, Fields delivered a sterling performance with his band at the annual Radio & Records convention in front of an enthusiastic audience of key radio and music industry professionals.  He also filmed an interview that will soon air on the nationally syndicated Smooth Jazz Television show.  On November 10th, Fields will perform a concert in his “backyard” at the Regents Theatre in Oakland. 
Having achieved wealth through business, Fields decided to pursue his true love: singing.  He’s invested his own money into producing his albums and releasing them independently, which certainly isn’t easy.  Top recording artists and musicians work with him because they believe in his talent.  “I’m trying to be the best musically that I can be,” explained Fields.  “I feel blessed to work with such great musicians.  They inspire me to elevate my game and to come up with something special.  What I aim to do is bring elements of old school jazz legends and classic R&B artists and merge them with the best of today’s musical sensibilities.”             
For additional information on Fields, please visit www.victorfields.com.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:07 PM

October 16, 2006

Peter White Sets Record For Weeks at No. 1

“What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” does the trick.

Peter White's “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” has made it into the record books. The guitarist's cover of the Junior Walker & the All-Stars classic has been at the top of Radio & Records' smooth jazz chart for 16 weeks, breaking the record of 15 by Paul Hardcastle, whose “Walkin’ to Freedom” held the previous record of 15 in 1995.

Behind White and Hardcastle are both Richard Elliot, whose “People Make the World Go Round” in 2005 spent 11 weeks at No. 1, and saxophonist David Sanborn’s “Comin’ Home Baby,” which did the same in 2003.

White's record-breaking song is the first single from his new CD titled Playin’ Favorites and features Jeff Carruthers on keyboards and drums, Sam Riney on saxophone, Roberto Vally on bass and DC with programming. It’s the 14th No. 1 song in White's16-year solo career.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:04 PM

October 14, 2006

Chris Botti Purchases Home In Manhattan

Trumpeter no longer has to live in New York hotels.

chrisbotti3.jpgChris Botti’s management team has confirmed that the smooth jazz trumpeter is homeless no more as he has purchased a home in Manhattan. But it’s not just any home – ironically, it’s one that was previously owned by Sting. Botti, of course, was once a member of Sting’s band and has also toured with the superstar with his own band. They are also close friends.

The home is actually a posh Manhattan apartment in SoHo and was reportedly on the market for about $4 million. As has been reported often, Botti has been on the road pretty much all the time for almost seven straight years, living in hotels. It was at the beginning of his current marathon tour, in 1999, that he sold his New York apartment and dumped most of his possessions into a storage locker. Most recently, he had been living in the swank 60 Thompson hotel in Manhattan.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:53 AM

October 9, 2006

Contempo October 2006

WaymanTisdale_bw.jpgWayman Tisdale’s accolade-filled 12 year career as an NBA all-star for the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns worked wonders in preparing him for the one thing many smooth jazz stars take a while to get used to: adoring fans. The ever-jovial, always accommodating 6’9” bassist, who toured this past summer with labelmates Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler and Brian Simpson as part of the Rendezvous All-Stars Package, laughs when his colleagues seem tired after signing some 400 post-concert autographs.

“I can’t say that fast breaks and slam dunks have helped me make great albums or become a good live entertainer,” he says, “but when I was playing basketball, I’d be with my teammates and we would meet and sign T-shirts and basketballs for thousands of fans at a time at malls all over the place. When I sit down to write and record new music, I have no idea who’s going to be listening to it or if they’re going to be a fan. So I really cherish every person who takes the time to wait in line to meet me. Connecting with the audience never gets old for me.”

Judging from the response so far to his second Rendezvous disc Way Up!, those already sizeable crowds around the guy label co-owner Dave Koz affectionately calls “the Jolly Green Giant” are going to get even bigger. The album, which keeps Tisdale’s distinctive and plucky, high toned bass as the melodic lead throughout as he ensembles with Koz, Butler and genre stars Jeff Lorber, Bob James, Kirk Whalum, Tom Braxton and George Duke, was an instant #1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart.

On the strength of the tour and the infectious first radio single, a playful cover of Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It” — which follows in the old school pop-funk spirit of his 2004 #1 airplay hit “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” — Way Up! scanned upwards of 8,000 CDs its first week, more than pop stars Jamie Foxx and Mariah Carey — truly amazing figures for smooth jazz these days.

“I think everyone is just responding to the overall vibe of the album, which is not just a nice feeling, but more like a state of being for me,” says Tisdale. “Wherever people are when they’re listening to it, I want them to feel good, way up and upbeat about life and think better about things afterwards. It’s been over ten years and six albums since my first project Power Forward, and I think the music reflects my feeling that I’m more comfortable with who I am now than ever before.

“I’m also excited that smooth jazz listeners are embracing the bass as a lead instrument, and I wish there were more bassists who would play it the way I do,” he adds. “I feel like I’m just following in the tradition of Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke in making it a viable melodic axe. I approach it not just rhythmically but melodically, as if it were a sax or a human voice. A great song is about telling a story you can sing along to, and that’s what I love to do.”

In addition to featuring titles reflecting the positive, forward thinking vibe of the album title (“It’s A Good Day,” for example), each track reflects a unique individual element of Tisdale’s life. He covers “Get Down On It” and Sly Stone’s “”If You Want Me To Stay” (taking a bluesy approach with the help of Kirk Whalum) not simply for commercial reasons, but because “I’m a real fan of real music. I like to think of myself as the self-appointed ambassador of old school!”

In this vein, he funks it up big time on George Duke’s “Tell It Like It Is,” mixing his bubbly bass, throbbing modern grooves, and splashes of brass amidst Duke’s 70s keyboard flavors. With the help of Jeff Lorber and Eric Benet, respectively, he shows love for his wife Regina and four children (ages 11 to 23) on the tenderhearted romantic gems “Shape Of Your Heart” and “Sweet Dreams.” Koz adds a graceful soprano touch to “My Son (A Song For Bubba),” another lush ballad that Tisdale dedicates to 15-year-old Wayman, Jr. (whose spoken words also appear on the song). Tisdale grew up in a Tulsa church led by his father, the Rev. Louis Tisdale, and faith plays a beautiful role in the expansive, soulful and beautifully ambient closing track “Sunday’s Best,” which features Butler’s soul stirring (as always) wordless vocals.

This blend of happy grooves and candlelight comes across with a huge smile onstage during every Tisdale performance, which sparks a party from the first few notes. Rather than be intimidated by his massive presence, his fellow musicians and fans riff on the physical differences and embrace him like an oversized, shaven head teddy bear. Considering his natural rapport these days with his adoring fans, and his incredible confidence both as a live performer and recording artist, it’s hard to believe that he was once what he calls “the shyest guy in the room,” turning away from the audience a la Miles.

“When I played with the Kings (1989-94), I had friends who had bands that would play around town and ask me to sit in and solo,” he says. “No matter how successful I was on the courts, I remember that I couldn’t even face the audience the first times I played because I was so nervous they wouldn’t like me. But when everyone started responding and asking for more, it got easier. I learned a lot from those Sacramento musicians, and the confidence grew with more experience and time onstage. About five years ago, I really started focusing on what it takes to become a good entertainer. Once I got more comfortable with my axe, that became a given, secondary to the showmanship. The bottom line in smooth jazz is that you can play a million notes on an instrument but if the audience is not entertained, you haven’t done your job. It’s about getting up there and keeping everyone’s spirits way up!”

This past year, “covermania” has taken over the smooth jazz airwaves, with many top artists devoting whole projects exclusively to new approaches to pop hits — Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun, Eric Marienthal and Philippe Saisse, to name a few. Fans getting a bit fed up with the trend might view Peter White’s instantly likeable Playing Favorites (Sony Legacy) as just another jump on the bandwagon, but he was actually on the case 12 years ago — long before the craze started. Two of the incredible 13 #1 Radio & Records airplay hits he’s enjoyed over the years, “The Closer I Get To You” and “Walk On By” (from 1994’s Reflections), have become enduring staples of the format. The acoustic guitarist’s recent rediscovery of the original demos from that hit project sparked his interest in creating a whole new project in this vein. As he did with his 2001 hit “Who’s That Lady?”, he sets out to mine the deeper romance and soul of songs from the past four decades that we all know from their first notes. “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” is the first radio hit, but White seems most inspired on colorful arrangements of “Sunny,” “Hit The Road Jack” (which features voices and cool fingersnaps) and the best track, a brassy, flute spiced take on “Mister Magic,” which was arranged by Paul Brown.

Personal Tastes

1) Tiba, Jukebox Baby (Fynsworth Alley) – This stylish and sexy young singer, who grew up listening to hits of the 40s and 50s on her parents’ Wurlitzer 1015 jukebox, shows a natural gift for mining the great joy, humor, romance and cabaret potential in spirited arrangements of standards and early pop hits, most effectively on the sizzling, Latin-spiced “Sway” and the big band flavored “Tuxedo Junction.”
2) Nancy Wilson, Turned To Blue (MCG)
3) Mike Stern, Who Let The Cats Out? (Heads Up)
4) Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, The Phat Pack (Immergent)
5) Regina Carter, I’ll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (Verve)

New and Noteworthy

1) Glenn Jones, Forever: Timeless R&B Classics (Shanachie)
2) Fourplay, Ten (RCA Victor)
3) Doc Powell, Doc Powell (Heads Up)
4) Lee Ritenour, Smoke ‘N Mirrors (Peak)
5) Soul Providers, Smooth Urban Grooves (Fast Life)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 7:37 PM

October 8, 2006

Sweet 16 - Jazz At Drew

Text and photos by Ricky Richardson

Dennis-Nelson-%26-Everette-Ha.jpgCharles R. Drew University & Honda presented the 16th Annual "Jazz At Drew" Legacy Music Series and Cultural Marketplace and Health Pavilion. This is one of Southern California's most popular music and charity event. This year featured another stellar line-up of jazz, gospel and R&B greats who performed on Saturday, September 30 and Sunday, October 1, 2006 in the grassy outdoor setting on the campus of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science in Los Angeles.

The line-up for Saturday, September 30 featured The Multi-School Jazz Band directed by Reggie Andrews, The Drew University All-Stars featuring Leon Jones and Dr. Casper Glenn, Axx Straight Out of Jamaica with Prezident Brown, Michael Session Sextet, Roy Ayers, Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Band, The Impressions and The Rickey Minor Band with special guest Rose Royce.

The festivities continued on a high note on Sunday, October 1 with Khay Jhay, Orquesta Charangoa, Jazz Disciples, Soul Seekers with Mary, Mary, The Dennis Nelson All-stars featuring Everett Harp, Hiroshima, The Meeting: Ndugu Chancler, Patrice Rushen & Ernie Watts, and closed out with Michael Henderson's Bass Players Ball with Billy Paul, Jean Carne, Angela Winbush, Cherrelle, The Calloway Brothers, DaMia Satterfield, Rodney "Sir Nose" Trotter.

PeteEscovedo.jpgWhat began in 1991 with an audience of approximately 150 people, over the past few years has grown to accommodate some 10,000 jazz fans annually and raises much needed funds to support Drew University, the only historically Black institution for graduate education in health profession west of the Mississippi.

"Jazz At Drew" has proven to be more than a celebration of music. Rather, it is due to the healing power of music that this event endeavors to build cultural bridges thru music, and to continue the University?s mission ?to conduct education and research in the content of community service in order to train physicians and allied health professional to provide care with excellence and compassion, especially to underserved populations.

Jazz-Disciples.jpgAlready a pioneer in education and medicine, Drew University has also evolved into a cultural leader as a result of the prestigious "Jazz At Drew" event, which has historically honored the greats of the jazz world, including James Moody, Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, the late Billy Higgins, the late Joe Williams, and the late Harry "Sweets" Edison. That tradition continues each year with an exciting line-up of internationally known jazz, gospel, blues and R&B performers headlining the two-day music festival, cultural marketplace and health faire in a sprawling garden on the university?s 11 acre campus in the Watts-Willowbrook community.

Mr. Roland Betts, who has served as the Executive Director/Producer of "Jazz At Drew" for 16 years was at the helm for his final festival in that capacity when he announced his retirement from the University as Director of Community Relations and Special Events. He will retire May 2007.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:47 PM

October 7, 2006


TribalJazz.jpgClose your eyes. Imagine, if you can, a place where the various musical genres and styles have gathered; a melodic intersection of sounds culled from the four corners of the globe, inspired by the cultures and passions of the human condition – past, present and future. Now, listen closely as this sophisticated, yet primitive music takes you on a melodic journey around the world, and back…straight to your heart.

Now, open your eyes and meet TribalJazz.

TribalJazz is more than just an exciting new group. It's a movement - an approach to music making that incorporates cultural unification with celebration, meditation and improvisation. It is the brainchild of drummer John Densmore and flautist/saxophonist Art Ellis. Imagine John Coltrane's classic quartet gone tribal filled with accessible and memorable melodies – and you're on the right path.

Their self-titled album's opening two numbers provide a clear barometer of what this pan cultural septet is capable of creating. From the Afro-bob of the opener "Skytrails" to the laidback modal swing of "Blues for Bali," the essence unfolds as a fusion of jazz with Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Latin rhythms.

TribalJazz_JohnDensmore.jpgDensmore, renowned in the rock universe as the founding drummer of '60s Los Angeles rock legends The Doors, is realizing a long-burning dream. "For thirty years I've wanted to make a jazz record. I am finally putting my sticks where my mouth is. I'd played with a few heavyweights at jam sessions, but that was about it. Then I met Art and immediately fell in love with his melodies. And he loves African music, as I do. At heart, we're just a couple of old school jazz dudes who love world music."

The spirit of John and Art's union first came together as proud, proactive parents at a fundraising concert for the music program for Canyon Charter Elementary School, opening for recording artist Randy Newman. Both men had volunteered but neither was in an existing group, so the event coordinators paired them up. Simply put, sparks flew - so much so that people asked them afterward if they were ever going to play together again. Thus, the seed for TribalJazz was planted.

TribalJazz_ArtEllis.jpgArt Ellis, a veteran multi-reed player who’s played with R&B greats Bo Diddley and Freddie Scott (as well as African bands that have opened concerts for Sting, Herbie Hancock, Milton Nascimento and King Sunny Ade), had been writing some new music of his own. "I was working with producer Jimmy Haslip, bassist of the Yellowjackets and a hometown friend. I'd written these tunes and was playing them around town in a jazz quartet, but leaning toward another concept. I had been playing with four Nigerian Master Drummers in my band Magic Cartoons. We'd gig at jazz clubs and have people up dancing! The audiences were eclectic and diverse, both age and color-wise. But it was getting harder to book shows without having a well-produced CD. I ran the concept by John, who immediately began adding both his soulful drum sound and some unique production ideas.”

Excited, they booked some time at Stag Street Studio in the San Fernando Valley - a facility respected for capturing a warm, live acoustic sound - and assembled an incredible, culturally diverse group of musicians to bring the newly arranged songs to life. This included Wisconsin-born pianist Quinn Johnson, a film and TV specialist already seasoned in the ways of Latin Jazz fusion. There was Egyptian bassist Osama Affifi, a regular in Art's group who brought an expansive range via his acoustic upright playing with such acts as L.A.'s B-Sharp Jazz Quartet and singer Vanessa Paradis. There was Italian-born/Armenian-bred percussionist Christina Berio, who'd spent 18 years in Brazil playing with Paulinho Braga, drummer Grady Tate and jazz vocal icon Sarah Vaughan.

They took three songs from the sessions and mixed them at Capitol Studio 'A' with Bruce Botnick, who had engineered all of The Doors' records. Then John's lawyer suggested they send the demo to Hidden Beach Recordings - a record company known as hip and cutting edge. Label President Steve McKeever liked what he heard, but it was a subsequent fateful meeting that sealed the deal.

"McKeever has some serious ears," John states. "With him, I knew his interest in the group wasn't about my past. It was the music. After two meetings and phone conversations, I decided, ‘Enough with the talking,’ and did something without telling him. I asked Art to come to a meeting with his flute and master African hand drummer Marcel Adjibi. I strolled in with a cajon (note: a resonant, box-like Mexican instrument that the percussionist sits on and beats beneath them). I said to Steve, 'I know this seems corny - like something out of an office audition in the '50s - but we're just gonna play for you for a few minutes.' We started cookin' up a groove and you could feel everyone in the office getting into it. He signed us right there."

TribalJazz2.jpgTribalJazz spent months perfecting the balance of multi-cultural elements they would unleash on their debut. "La Tormentas" is a two-tempo guajira with a smoky flute melody based on the Doors “Riders On The Storm.” “Vegetable Wizard" is a playfully seductive samba with Ellis on alto. The lovely "Lyria" (with a breathtaking introductory piano solo by Quinn Johnson) is a hypnotic spatial mediation in 6/8 time that was inspired by the distant constellation Lyra. The driving Afro-groove "Orange Midnight" opens with Art’s poem, which is translated and recited by Aziz Faye in Senegalese. Art explains "He's saying TribalJazz sees the world as one village...from the countryside to the big city. Music explodes with joy and lights up the village like an orange midnight.”

A more sobering view is expressed in "Violet Love," perhaps the most potent song on the TribalJazz CD. "I wrote it the day after 9/11," Ellis shares. "I was absolutely blown away by two things: the event itself and the fact that it leveled everyone into a state of aftershock. All the bullshit disappeared for a few days - football, fashion shows and advertising...things that ultimately don't matter much. People were starting to connect on a deeper level and I saw something very promising in that.” The remix of "Violet Love" features activist/musician/poet Michael Franti, leader of the band Spearhead.

Also exceptionally inspired is "The First Time (I Heard Coltrane)," a deep, reverential bow to the man who so deeply enriched the lives of both Densmore and Ellis: John Coltrane. The Los Angeles bred Densmore wore out his fake I.D. sneaking into LA clubs like Shelley's Manne Hole to see Coltrane's legendary quartet of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and John's Herculean hero Elvin Jones on drums. Years later after befriending Jones and lionizing him in his Doors autobiography, Densmore told him, "YOU gave me my hands." As for Art - recalling the moment of epiphany when a friend played him "My Favorite Things" off the classic Atlantic Records Lp - the Upstate, New York-native gushes, "Next to my kid being born, that was the most spiritual moment of my life." 'Trane moved Ellis to put down his trumpet and switch to flute, soprano, alto AND tenor saxophone!

“We needed something to breathe life into Ellis' vibrant poem ‘The First Time (I Heard Coltrane)’," Densmore shares. "I had a brainstorm: 'Let's get a woman to do it...like she falls in love with the sound of Coltrane's horn.' I know the world class actress Alfre Woodard.” She did a couple of takes then asked if Densmore had any feedback. “I said ‘Well...imagine that the first time you heard that horn, it made you...hot.’ She said, 'Oh,' and that next take was it!"

TJband.jpgFinally, TribalJazz could not ignore the golden opportunity to reshape one of The Doors' classics, "Riders on the Storm," originally recorded on their eighth and final album before lead singer Jim Morrison's death, L.A. Woman (1971). "Whenever we get ready to play it in concert," Densmore states, "I always say, 'Alright you all, we're gonna do ONE Doors song, disguised as a salsa. You're going to have to guess what it is...but I'll give you a hint.' Then I turn over a rainstick."

That rocker Densmore would turn to jazz after all these years should come as no surprise to anyone who has really listened to and watched him in action. "Jazz was my first love," he confesses. "I believe my jazz sensibilities and my affinity for Latin rhythms freed me up in the music I played with The Doors. Like on 'When the Music's Over' when Jim is doing his poetry - 'What have they done to the Earth?!' I don't know why but I just stopped playing time and starting doing these accents. Subliminally, I attribute that to Elvin (Jones). And when bossa nova came to the States from Brazil in the early '60s, The Doors were rehearsing and we thought, 'My God...listen to this stuff!' If you listen closely to 'Break on Through,' it's a bossa beat. I just played it stiff instead of fluid 'cuz I wanted it to rock."

"Dynamics is my thing," says Densmore, who started out on piano at age 8 then switched to drums in his junior high school marching band. Summing up his approach to arranging music, he continues, "It's all about the spaces between pianissimo (very soft) and fortissimo (very loud). I've never been the fastest drummer in the world. When jazz-rock fusion flourished in the '70s, I went nuts. My two feet could never do what (drumming legend) Billy Cobham's could do with one! But I've always been about dynamics. It's what brings the breathing and the drama to the music.”

Surveying the stellar musicians who surrounded him now as members of TribalJazz, Densmore muses, "I have a global village in this band - men and women, White guys and African Americans, young lions and elders like me. Some may consider it yesterday’s news, but I'm still down with Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition. And if any element of that is missing, Planet Earth ain't gonna make it. We all have a unique contribution to make.

"We're playing music for today about today," Densmore concludes, "trying to mix cultures and create some healing. Look at how the planet is these days. I want to build bridges, not bombs. If we don't even start thinking bout unity, we'll never truly conceive it. What better way to do it than through music.”

[Band website]

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:55 AM

October 6, 2006

The 3rd Annual Santa Barbara Smooth Jazz Festival: A Unique Affair

Text and pictures by Doreen Haywood

SantaBarbara2006.jpgThe 3rd Annual Santa Barbara Smooth Jazz Festival held Sunday, October 1, 2006, from 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 pm, was held on the perfectly manicured lawn in the Hilltop area of the Santa Barbara Zoo, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Andree Clark Bird Refuge and Santa Ynez Mountains. Performing were Superstarzz, featuring Warren Hill, Craig Chaquico and Ray Parker, Jr; Julia Fordham, Chris Standring and Vega. Every aspect of the event seemed like it was designed to evoke the feeling of being at a luxurious celebrity garden party rather than your commonplace smooth jazz festival.

Girafffes_SantaB.jpgDespite the light, intermittent rain showers that persisted throughout the event, the intimate crowd, arrived prepared with umbrellas, rain ponchos, jackets and hats, and took full advantage of the unique environment and upscale setting. Passing time between sets, jazz fans were able to peruse and purchase fine art from local and regional artists, Gary Forssell and noted smooth jazz artist Betty Grace Minor of Miner Works of Art as well as purchase other jazz-themed merchandise from a select group of vendors. Additionally, several patrons indulged themselves in luxurious hand, foot and full body massages provided by Hobo International Men and Women. Others took a stroll through some of the 30 acres of lush botanic gardens that is home to 160 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects where more than 500 animals were exhibited in open, naturalistic habitats.

Wente Winery provided an assortment of fine wines, and healthy food items, prepared by the Zoo’s Ridley-Tree House restaurant, were available for purchase. One popular menu item was the whole ear, slow-roasted, corn on the cob with butter and chipotle sauce. Festival goers were treated to a cooking demonstration, using sustainable seafood and organic ingredients, presented by a local chef. Another atypical jazz festival experience was having a Zoo staff member give a brief talk and present two exotic animals; giving the audience an up close view and opportunity to ask questions.

Mark DeAna, festival co-founder, Program Director and Radio Personality on KMGQ, Magic 106.3 the Sound of Santa Barbara, hosted the Sunday event which was sponsored by the Santa Barbara Auto Group and Mercedes-Benz.

Vega.jpgLocal Oxnard band, Vega, opened the show. The six-man ensemble led by Julliard-bound saxophonist Uriel Vega included Omar Reyna, piano; Brandon Winbush, vocals; Jo Camerena, keyboards; Robert Ruiz, drums; Richard “pinky” Reyes, bass guitar; and Henry Karis, guitar. Mexican born Uriel Vega immigrated with his family to Southern California in 1994, where he quickly became known as a musical prodigy, proficient on drums, guitar, keyboard, saxophone and more. The band won the Camarillo (California) Jazz Festival Battle of the Bands and had the honor of opening for the Rippingtons at that festival in July, 2006.

ChrisStandring_SantaB.jpgNext, U.K. born guitarist, Chris Standring, delighted the audience with songs from several of his CD’s, including "Constellation", "I Can’t Help Myself", and "As" from his latest 2006 release on Trippin' n Rythm Records, Soul Express, which is also the name of his 2006 tour that features Grammy-nominated keyboard artist Jeff Lorber and vocalist Jody Whately. Standring opened his set with "Shadow Dance" from his 2003 Groovalicous CD, and ended with the aptly titled, "Hip Sway" from the CD of the same name. Standring, who has lived in Los Angeles since 1991, has certainly captured the laid back coastal Californian vibe infused with a funky R&B spirit.

JuliaFordham_SantaB2.jpgGracing the stage in a stunning red and black bejeweled skirt, sheer red ruffled sleeved blouse over a black silk camisole and donning a matching red acoustic guitar, Julia Fordham empathized with the umbrella-clad audience and sang a few bars of “In the Rain”, as part of her sound check. From there she took us on a musical journey, singing twelve songs, beginning with Italy followed by a low, throaty version of Michael McDonald’s, "I Keep Forgetting". Fordham showcased her diverse pop, folk and jazz styles singing "Genius", "Porcelain", "Concrete Love", "Happy Ever After" and "Wake Up With You (The I Wanna Song)". She also sang "How I Love You Baby", a song from her latest itunes five-song EP, titled Baby Love, in celebration of the birth of her daughter, who cried out in the audience when she recognized her mother’s voice on the microphone. Very at ease with the audience, Fordham encouraged us to “get funky and shake our Santa Barbara thang”, which many did.

RayParkerJr_SantaB.jpgSuperstarzz, featuring Warren Hill, Craig Chaquico and Ray Parker, Jr. closed the festival with solo, duo and trio performances. The artists’ sustained the intimate setting by sharing endearing stories about their early beginnings and some of the mishaps they encountered enroute to the festival. Ray Parker Jr., a singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, shared memories of his early teen years practicing playing the guitar with his Detroit boyhood friend, Earl Klugh. Playing a melody of songs on his box guitar that sustained a long split down the back from its airplane journey, the very charismatic Parker Jr. sang to the women, the lovers, and serenaded his way through the audience, dancing with several women who were eager to be his dance partner. Returning to the stage, Parker, Jr. invited a woman to join him as he sang. His set included his mega hits, "A Woman Needs Love", "You Can’t Change That" and "Jack and Jill".

CraigChaquico_SantaB.jpgWhen introducing legendary Craig Chaquico of Jefferson Starship fame, Parker, Jr. encouraged the audience to check out Chaquico’s legs. It turned out that the airline lost Chaquico’s luggage and he had to perform in a black polo style Tommy Bahamas shirt, cut off kaki green cargo shorts and flip flops. Not deterred by his “surfer dude” wardrobe, Chaquico performed a range of songs including "Café Carnival", "Luminosa", "Gathering of the Tribes", "Return of the Eagle" (which Chaquico dedicated to the US troops in Iraq), and "Sacred Ground". Chaquico also traversed the aisles playing a hot, crowd pleasing number from his Jefferson Starship days, finishing atop a chair with his brown locks blowing in the night breeze.

WarrenHill_SantaB.jpgThe last of the trio to perform his individual set was sax man Warren Hill. Hill made his entrance telling the audience that being at the zoo may pose a problem because it may be difficult to differentiate the animals from the musicians. Hill began his set with a funky version of the Beatle’s “Come Together” and then played an immensely romantic song he wrote for his wife, titled, "Our First Dance". Hill performed searing sax solos and melodic hits, from his Pop Jazz CD, including "Toronto", "Under the Sun" and "Still in Love". Before Hill played "Mambo 2000", he shared how he was inspired to write that tune while trying to entertain his daughter when he was making scrambled eggs for her while at home in Colorado.

Superstarzz, Hill, Chaquico and Parker, Jr. brought the audience to their feet during their two-song finale that included "Ghostbusters" and "Play That Funky Music White Boy".

With an exceptional location and offering smooth jazz fans an opportunity to indulge in the finer things in life, the Santa Barbara Jazz Festival is sure to become a destination festival in the years to come.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:04 PM

October 5, 2006

Yellowjackets Continue 25th Anniversary Tour In Vegas

The Yellowjackets continue to tour in honor of her twenty-fifth anniversary world tour with a stopover in Las Vegas. They will be performing at the Railhead Showroom inside the Boulder Station Hotel-Casino on Saturday, October 7th.

Rocky Gordon and KGB will be performing a special third engagement at the District at Green Valley Ranch the preceding night, Friday, October 6that the Greens location.

Peabo Bryson brings his signature voice to Boulder Station the following weekend, performing his memorable hits including some recent gems that have made the smooth jazz radio airwaves.

Saxophonist Michael Lington is at the Santa Fe in the Chrome Showroom on Saturday, October 21st, followed by Cuban jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval the next weekend in the same venue on October 27th.

Ongoing jazz nights are as follows:
Santa Fe And The Fat City Horns are at the Palms on Monday nights.
The legendary Ronnie Foster and his group at the Artisan Hotel on Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Sunday Night Jazz jam at the Hurricane Bar And Grill is hosted by saxman Tommy Alvarado.

Congrats goes out to drummer Bonny Bonaparte as he tears it up as the new featured drummer with Spyro Gyra.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:37 AM | TrackBack

October 4, 2006

It’s True: organic new collection from saxophonist Steve Cole will be unveiled November 21st

Clubby “Metro” will be the first track serviced to radio

SteveCole_live2.jpgFocusing on performance, improvisation and really playing from the heart & soul, fueled by the metropolitan sounds and influences of his hometown of Chicago, saxman Steve Cole will release his fifth album, True, on November 21st on the Narada Jazz/Blue Note Label Group record label. Cole produced this engaging record that sets the bar high on each song. Prefacing the album release will be the servicing to smooth jazz radio of the house music-inspired “Metro,” which goes for adds on October 23rd.

With a title that takes on a host of meanings, True signifies a return to innocence for Cole, going back to the roots of the music that touched him during his formative years. Recalling Grover Washington Jr., David Sanborn, Spyro Gyra, George Benson and others, Cole also couldn’t help from being influenced by the music from his own backyard and the iconic artists who have emerged from Chicago, such as Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Rufus, and house music. After writing or co-authoring nine new songs, Cole sought musicians of the highest level whom he could “feel, people who truly care and bring the kind of magic that can only happen organically.” Some of those special players were Jeff Golub, Steve Rodby, David Mann, Ricky Peterson, Lenny Castro and Khari Parker.

“People want an honest, human portrayal of the music, music that is truly what you’re about naturally,” explained Cole. “I wanted to focus on giving a unique performance on each track and really playing. How a musician improvises when soloing off the melody reveals the true heart & soul of the artist and the depth of their artistry. I wanted the music on this record to be more expressive, something that people can feel authentically.”

True is a well-crafted album from beginning to end that was recorded as close to “live” as possible. It opens big with “Bounce,” as massive Chicago horns blast you with a sweaty dose of deep-fried funk. The sultry and sophisticated “Cote Seine,” featuring Rodby’s nimble basswork, adeptly blends contemporary and be-bop jazz riffs. A couple salutes to music legends are also standouts: “Curtis” is a soulful nod to Mayfield, while “Just A Natural Thing” pays tribute to Jones. Writing pop anthems like “Take Me” comes easily to Cole. Layers of horns funk up “Something About You.” “Metro” boasts an extended sax solo that’s both expressive and functional. “Closer” is an unabashedly “cuddle up close” slow jam. Cole plays both soprano and tenor saxes on “Come With Me,” in addition to wielding acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards and synth bass.

After studying modern classical music for saxophone at Northwestern University, Cole earned an MBA at the University of Chicago. Making his debut in 1998 with the Atlantic Records release, Stay Awhile, he scored three radio hits out of the box that helped him garner the 2000 Oasis Smooth Jazz Prism Award as Best New Artist. Subsequent albums – Between Us, NY LA, and Spin - have also spawned radio hits; he’s amassed four #1 singles to date. Cole has toured and/or recorded with Brian Culbertson, Junior Wells, Boz Scaggs, Larry Carlton, Jeff Lorber, Freddie Cole, Cyrus Chestnut, KMFDM, Rick Braun and others.

Steve Cole’s True contains the following songs:

“Something About You”
“Cote Seine”
“Just A Natural Thang”
“Come With Me”
“Take Me”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:21 PM

October 3, 2006

Dave Koz To Host Musical Program On PBS Called "Frequency"

The ever-busy saxophonist also announces release date for latest CD: Jan. 30.

Dave_Koz2.jpgSaxophonist Dave Koz, who already hosts two radio shows and a smooth jazz cruise, will soon be able to add that of television host. Koz has been selected as the host of an upcoming series devoted to music called Frequency that will be aired on PBS stations nationwide.

The show will give viewers a backstage look into the lives of a variety of music artists from all musical genres, from emerging artists to more established acts. Each episode will blend performances and interviews by Koz. The 30-minute show, scheduled to debut early next year, will air weekly. The initial, hour-long episode will include an interview with saxophonist Michael Lington, who will also perform. Lington is signed to Koz’s Rendezvous Entertainment record label, and his latest CD, A Song For You, was released recently.

Among the other artists on the hour-long series premiere will be Corrine Bailey Rae, Ben Harper, Steve Miller, Nelly Furtado and KT Tunstall.

"This will be a nationwide program, a music magazine," says Koz. "The thing I love about it is that it is cross-genre, so the first show could have a story about Michael Lington, which it did. It could have Ben Harper, who’s a fantastic singer-songwriter. And it could have everything in between, too. It's kind of a cross between interview and music footage, live music footage as well. I’s recorded out of Capitol Records studios in Hollywood. So it’s emanating from a place where a lot of incredible music has been made."

Koz's upcoming CD called At the Movies will be released by Capitol Records on Jan. 30. The first single, "It Must Be You" featuring guitarist Peter White, is now available on iTunes.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 1:47 AM