Simply Red, Stay (Simply Red): No one writes pop vocal tunes better than Mick Hucknall.
Jackiem Joyner, Babysoul (ARTizen): The 27-year-old hopes to make it big in the smooth jazz world. He deserves a chance.
Jean Luc Ponty, The Acatama Experience (Koch): The legendary violinist is still making great music.
Hiroshima, Little Tokyo (Heads Up): Real contemporary jazz by a top-notch band.
P E T E R * B O E H I
Four80East - En Route (2007)
This Tronto-based band can do no wrong. This album delivers driving contemporary jazz featuring sexy grooves and hip playing resulting in another outstanding smooth jazz album. Just love it!
Nighthawks - Metro Bar (2001)
Ultra cool chill and lounge album with enough jazz elements to please Smooth Jazz lovers featuring the muted trumpet of Reiner Winterschladen and the mellow grooves of multi-instrumentalist Dal Martino. A hidden gem!
Arthur Lipner - Modern Vibe (2004)
I discovered vibraphonist Arthur Lipner only recently. This album offers lots of groovy covers of tunes like "Let's Stay Together" or "Love The One Your With" featuring funky vibes playing and heavy organ. Especially the outstanding rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine" is worth the price of admission. Check it out!
Blue Latitude - El Encanto (2007)
Blue Latitude offer an accessible blend of guitar-driven smooth jazz and latin elements over contemporary grooves, the melodies keep you humming along and the spirit is upbeat. Quality music throughout, another hidden gem to be found at CDBaby.com.
Wilbert Longmire - With All My Love (1980)
One of those treasured albums of the past only available on LP from the legendary Tappan Zee label, produced by Bob James and Jay Chattaway. Guitarist Wilbert Longmire provides some great instrumentals and sweet vocals to warm your soul. They don't make music like that anymore!
J E F F * D A N I E L S
George Benson, Give Me The Night (1990 Warner Bros / Wea)
Doc Powell, Doc Powell (2006 Heads Up)
Postmodern Jazz feat. Roy Ayers, Love Not Truth (2006)
Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, Sweet Surrender (2007 Shanachie)
D E N I S * P O O L E
'Soul Dance' by Norman Brown from his brand new CD Stay With Me. This Paul Brown / Jeff Carruthers / Norman Brown composition features terrific sax from Sam Riney and is a picture perfect example of in the pocket contemporary jazz.
'We Can't Stay Together' by the Bar-Kays from their album House Party. Featuring the incredible yet underrated Shirley Brown her vocal bi-play with Larry Dodson is outstanding and turns this heartfelt duet into an enticing slice of ageless soul.
'Without Your Love' by Lamb & Meyer from the CD Don't Get No Better. With Paul Jackson Jr. Nathan East and Herman Jackson in attendance this compelling mid tempo track features great vocals from Lamb and Meyer and is seriously good.
'Guess You’ll Never Know' by Jeff Bradshaw from his 2003 release Bone Deep. Bradshaw doing what he does best in using a combination of sumptuous sounds and backing vocals to weave his hypnotically evocative magic.
'Who Knows' by Acoustic Alchemy from their CD This Way that hits record stores across America on June 6. Brass driven yet replete with the melodic vibe that the Alchemy are all about this one will get in your head and won't go away.
J O N A T H A N * W I D R A N
Keiko Matsui, Moyo (Shout Factory!)
Acoustic Alchemy, This Way (Blue Note)
Euge Groove, Born 2 Groove (Narada Jazz)
Ryan Shaw, This Is Ryan Shaw (Columbia/One Haven/Red Ink)
B E V E R L Y * P A C K A R D
Gerald Veasley, At the Jazz Base
Steve Veale, Blue Horizon
Chieli Minucci, Sweet On You
Frank Gambale, Thinking Out Loud
Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson
Los Angeles - WOW! I can't believe that another year has gone by and that I was able to celebrate the 21st Annual UCLA JazzReggae Fest with thousands of music lovers from all over Southern California, on May 27 and 28, 2007.
The weather Gods looked down favorably upon this event. The Memorial Day weekend was pleasant with a nice Caribbean breeze blowing from the north east.
The 2007 version of the festival has evolved into Jam Day on previously featured Jazz on Sunday.
I?m glad that the UCLA Cultural Affairs Commissioned decided to keep some jazz on the line-up. I?m hopeful that more jazz would be added in the near future considering the positive impact that Christian Scott had on the crowd.
Trumpeter Christian Scott was the lone jazz artist on the bill for Jam Day of the Jazz Reggae Fest. There were probably a handful of people who were aware of this tremendously talented trumpeter from New Orleans. I?m fortunate to have witness Christian Scott arriving on the jazz scene during my many trips to the Crescent City for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I recognized his potential early on while he performed with his uncle-legendary saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. Mr. Scott is from New Orleans the birthplace of jazz. He follows in the footsteps of trumpet giants from the Crescent City: King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Nicolas Payton as well as Irving Mayfield. Christian Scott represents the next generation of jazz cats/young lions who toured extensively with his uncle Donald Harrison Jr. The sprawling outdoor Intramural Field was transformed into an intimate jazz lounge for Mr. Scott?s set. He thrilled the capacity audience throughout his set of original tunes - ?Anthem?, ?Dialect? - written in response to Hurricane Katrina, ?Line of Fire?, ?Rewind That? and closed with ?Litany Against Fear.? Trumpeter Christian Scott was aided and abetted by David Bryant - keyboards, Luquses Curtis - bass, Matthew Stevens - guitar, and Jamire Williams on drums. This tight band left a lasting impression on me as well as many members of the audience assembled for the JazzReggae Fest.
The group Les Nubians consist of siblings Helene and Celia Faussart were another highlight that left a lasting impression. They were regally dressed for the festival. They held the crowds undivided attention throughout their set. Their music reflected their African roots, mixed with some jazzy nuances, funky rhythms and a dash of British soul delivered in their uniquely elegant and expressive French style. I was captivated by their stage presence and delivery on the following tunes - ?J?veux d? la musique?, ?Taboo?, ?To The Queen?, ?Makeda?, ?Temperature Rising?, and Sans Regrets.?
Jam Day also featured the marvelous talents of Dujeous from New York, rap artist Lupe Fiasco, Soulive, J*Davey and concluded with an always crowd pleasing set from Jill Scott a sensational Grammy Award winning vocalist.
Day Two of the UCLA JazzReggae Fest served up a different vibe on Monday. Reggae was music of choice dished out in various forms - roots reggae legend Luciano was the headliner. Other notable performers were Cham, General Degree, Mr. Peppa, LovaBoy, ElJai, Joseph Israel, Syren, Ms. Triniti/E Dee turning up the heat with some dancehall and soca.
A good time was had by all in attendance at the 21st Annual UCLA JazzReggae Fest 2007. This is the largest student run festival in the country.
The 21st Annual UCLA JazzReggae Fest 2007 took the first step to becoming a no-waste, sustainable festival with eco-limos to transport the artists, planting trees to off-set emissions, and featured a sustainable resource area to educate festival-goers. Recyclable plates and utensils were offered in the international food court.
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. May 11, 2007: On route to the USA for the second leg of their 2007 stateside tour, Acoustic Alchemy blew into the Cinnamon Club, Altrincham for their only appearance in the north west of England this year. Here, in the southern suburbs of Manchester and with Smooth Radio 100.4 DJ Steve Quirk at the helm, the band was in tremendous form and provided the packed audience with surprises that they could not have anticipated. With the brand new CD This Way not out in the USA until June 6 the Alchemy played selected tracks from it and also handed their fans the chance to purchase signed copies. Without doubt the album is destined to be one the most significant contemporary jazz releases of 2007 and marks yet another phase in the bands musical evolution. Their gradual metamorphosis from a seriously acoustic unit to today’s mix of melody and funk has been achieved in part by the astute introduction of guest saxophonists yet with ‘This Way’ the band has pushed the envelope one more time. The addition of trumpet, flugelhorn and even trombone, combined at times with sax to form a fully fledged horn section, has added another dimension. Yet fundamental to what Acoustic Alchemy is all about are the enduring performances of Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale. Their hallmark combination of steel and nylon stringed guitars is the platform for everything that follows and additionally allows the flexibility for the band to play with a variety of line-ups. Last year they successfully flirted with the trio format and at the Cinnamon Club, with Julian Crampton on bass, US natives Greg Grainger on drums, Yorkshire boy Fred White on keyboards and without a horn player in sight, the stage was set for a selection of their more acoustic driven gems.
They opened with an expansive take on ‘No Messin’ from the Radio Contact album and quickly followed it with ‘Say Yeah’ from their 2005 release American English. This gave Gilderdale the chance to build his scat singing, which on the album never grew beyond a ‘bit part’, into a master class and they stayed with American English for ‘The ‘Crossing’. Re-imagining the tune to factor out the horn backing, that on the CD was so expertly provided by Snake Davis, they made it a real delight and when they turned the clock back to the 1991 album Back On The Case for the tracks ‘Jamaica Heartbeat’ and ‘When The Lights Go Out’ the outcome was just as good. It whetted the appetite of the audience for some of the bands earlier work and that hunger was fed first with the spectacular ‘Ariane’ from Blue Chip and later with the equally impressive ‘Lazeez’ from the June 1996 Arcan Um.
Of course much of the hype of the night surrounded This Way. The first glimpse of it was by way of the Latin tinged ‘Carlos The King’ and with Gilderdale switching effortlessly from acoustic to electric guitar this moody atmospheric track really hit the spot. The bands homage to Jamaican guitar legend Ernest Ranglin, the aptly titled ‘Ernie’ did just the same and they also found time to include the jazzy ‘Tied Up With String’ before reverting to their back catalogue for ‘Tuff Puzzle’ from AArt. Rounding off a picture perfect performance by one of the circuit’s most charismatic live bands was the enthusiastically demanded encore number, the passionate ‘The Moon And The Sun’ from American English. Readers of the Secret Garden in the Tuscan AZ area who are looking forward to seeing Acoustic Alchemy at the Rialto Theater on June 22 for the first date of their US tour need to know they are in for a real treat.
Check back here soon for a complete review of This Way. For more on Acoustic Alchemy’s tour schedule go to www.acousticalchemy.net
‘We All Love Ella: Celebrating The First Lady Of Song’ June 5 On Verve Records
A sensational assemblage of stars honors the incomparable songstress Ella Fitzgerald on the Phil Ramone-produced We All Love Ella: Celebrating The First Lady Of Song (June 5, Verve Records). These stars’ love of Ella shines through on their musical performances, but they also cite Ella’s artistry and music as moving and influential to their own careers.
You can almost hear Natalie Cole smile as she sings Ella’s famous hit “A Tisket A Tasket.” This was the first jazz song Cole ever learned and she practiced it so she would sound exactly like Ella. “When I was seven, I was singing like a 30 or 40 year old woman,” she laughs.
k.d. lang was 20 when she bought her first Ella record and “studied it and studied it and studied it...from then I studied her as a musician.” lang’s sultry and subdued “Angel Eyes” is a beautiful tribute to Ella’s original.
Legendary producer Phil Ramone says, “There is something magical about doing the work of Ella Fitzgerald that gives you a tremendous painting to start with.”
Diana Krall calls Fitzgerald “the greatest improviser, jazz scat singer…a completely natural and amazing woman.” She offers a tender rendition of “Dream a Little Dream” with celebrated pianist Hank Jones for the record.
Dianne Reeves highlights Ella’s sunny side, saying, “The biggest influence she had on me was there was so much joy in her singing. She absolutely loved singing and you could feel it,” a mood that’s apparent on Reeves version of “Oh, Lady Be Good.”
Breakout singer Ledesi said Ella made “Blues in the Night” “seem so easy.” Although she discovered it was harder than she thought, she delivers a remarkable performance.
In Ella Fitzgerald’s lifetime, she won 13 GRAMMY® awards and sold over 40 million albums. Her catalog continues to be as popular as ever and her iconic stature is undiminished. Fitzgerald would have turned 90 on April 25, 2007.
We All Love Ella: A Celebration of the First Lady of Song is produced by hitmaker Phil Ramone and filled with passionate performances of classics made famous by Ella and sung by world-renowned singers and break-out stars Michael Bublé, Natalie Cole, Etta James, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Queen Latifah, Ledesi, Dianne Reeves, Linda Ronstadt and Lizz Wright.
1) A Tisket A Tasket - Natalie Cole
2) Lullaby of Birdland - Chaka Khan
3) The Lady is a Tramp - Queen Latifah
4) Dream a Little Dream of Me - Diana Krall & Hank Jones
5) Mr. Paganini - Natalie Cole & Chaka Khan
6) Oh, Lady Be Good - Dianne Reeves
7) Reaching for the Moon - Lizz Wright
8) Blues in the Night - Ledisi
9) Miss Otis Regrets - Linda Ronstadt
10) Someone to Watch Over Me - Gladys Knight
11) Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me - Etta James
12) Angel Eyes - k.d. lang
13) Too Close for Comfort - Michael Bublé
You won’t find Dave Koz’s three shows in Nashville beginning May 24 listed on his website. He’s not the headliner, just a special guest. But Koz says his appearance with the Nashville Symphony is a culmination of a life-long dream as it’s his debut live performance with an orchestra.
The three performances are titled Mancini at the Movies and feature conductor Albert-George Schram and vocalist Monica Mancini. Mancini, the daughter of the late, famed composer Henry Mancini, will be performing songs that her father composed specifically for the movies. Two of those songs, “The Pink Panther” and “Moon River,” are featured on Koz’s At the Movies CD and will be performed by the saxophonist.
"To me, this is like a dream come true," says Koz. "This is what I want to do. I mean, you want to talk about doing movie music with an actual orchestra in a beautiful performing arts center. It doesn’t get any better than that, so I’m very excited this facet of my career."
Saxophonist Warren Hill has unveiled a new website, popjazz.com, that he says can benefit both musicians and fans. The site’s main feature is to allow musicians to have a presence on the site to let their fans know about their music, touring and news.
Those already on the site include Chieli Minucci, Ray Parker Jr., Don Grusin, Andre Berry, Will Donato and Allen Hinds. All the content is free to access, however there is a subscription option for fans who want to access an online jukebox and to get other perks. Hill says the site is already getting a few thousands hits a day.
Those who go to the site now can help pick the next single that Hill will offer to radio: the original Gimme Some or his cover of the Doors' Light My Fire. Those who vote on the songs, which will be on Warren's next CD, will be then given the option to download both for free.
After Hours previewed at radio by cover of Stevie Wonder classic
“Dreams do come true” and “Timing is everything” are just a couple of time-honored clichés that come to mind when you hear Jamie WilliamS’ story. Ever since he was a young teenager, the saxophonist dreamed of recording an album. In the making for the past ten years, After Hours, his debut collection of R&B, funk, contemporary jazz and pop instrumentals, is finally scheduled for national release July 10th on the Jamie WilliamS Music record label. The album’s producer, Veit Renn (*NSync, Backstreet Boys), connected WilliamS with Jennifer Hudson. She performed with him at a few of his local concert dates in Orlando, Florida. The two connected and Hudson agreed to sing a version of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” for the disc. The single was serviced to radio to preview the album release around the time Hudson won an Academy Award for her role in Dreamgirls.
WilliamS wrote seven songs for After Hours and collaborated with Renn on another, the breezy, samba-seasoned “Tropica’.” The album opens with the edgy jazz-hip-hop mélange “2 Cool.” “Better Than Life” is a romantic pop ballad that WilliamS wrote for his wife, Ana. “Shut Up & Dance” mixes an energizing dance groove, lilting pop melodies and cool jazz nuances. The soulful title track was inspired by WilliamS’ after-hours experiences playing nightclubs. The head-bobbing, booty-shakin’ “Can U Feel It?” is a sweaty R&B groove equipped with a potent, feel-good pop hook. “Over The Top” is an aggressive contemporary jazz track with horns a-blazin’ that goes for the kill right from the first note. “Calculated Risk” is a sultry mid-tempo soul-jazz cut. Hudson delivers a show-stopping vocal on “Overjoyed,” while WilliamS’ sax wonderfully accentuates her performance. Guitarist Bradley Catron wrote the funky, horn section-powered “S.O.S.” jam. The album closes with a poignant message of “Love,” the Musiq Soulchild original, with RAab (currently touring with Justin Timberlake) providing the passionate vocal chorus.
“After Hours depicts all the feelings and emotions I’ve experienced. I think we were able to capture the passion I have for music as well. Each tune is different and the record is how I’ve envisioned it (would turn out) all these years,” said a pleased WilliamS. “It truly is a dream come true to release my debut album. Working with pros like Veit (Renn), RAab and the other musicians on the album was such a blessing. I’m grateful for the energy, ideas and creativity they brought to the record. As for Jennifer (Hudson), well she’s a true professional and a pleasure to work with. She’s an incredible talent. I’m thrilled to see the success she is having now and honored to have her on the album.”
A native of Richardson, Texas, WilliamS was in high school when he was coaxed into seeing David Sanborn play. The dream to become an artist was born that night. He fully committed himself towards realizing that goal by taking lessons, practicing and jamming with friends, including trumpeter Roy Hargrove. WilliamS earned a full scholarship to the prestigious University of Miami music school, which lead to gigs with Miami Sound Machine, Jon Secada and Hiram Bullock, Sanborn’s long-time guitarist. After graduation, WilliamS became active with his church and moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he immersed himself in the music scene by playing regular gigs at the House of Blues. Later, he moved to Nashville, where he wrote jingles for Black Entertainment Television, became a session player and coached other musicians and vocalists. Seeing another Sanborn concert while on vacation served as inspiration for launching his solo career. WilliamS moved to Orlando, formed a hot band and played all the local venues and jazz festivals. It was Catron who introduced him to Renn and everything came together organically for WilliamS after that. Additional information can be found at www.jamiewilliamsmusic.com.
Jamie WilliamS’ After Hours contains the following songs:
“Better Than Life”
“Shut Up & Dance”
“Can U Feel It?”
“Overjoyed” (featuring Jennifer Hudson)
You won’t have to wait another three years for a new CD from saxophonist Dave Koz. Koz has confirmed that he has already begun work on a holiday CD to be released in time for the Christmas holidays. The as-yet titled project comes 10 years after Koz released his first CD of holiday songs, December Makes Me Feel This Way. His second, A Smooth Jazz Christmas, was offered in 2001. Two songs are confirmed for the new project: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Deck the Halls.” Both have new arrangements by pianist Brian Culbertson. Versions of the two songs have previously been available through the Best Buy stores’ Sweet Tracks holiday promotion, with “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” offered in 2006 and “Deck the Halls” in 2004.
Koz says the CD will be in stores before the beginning of this year’s Dave Koz & Friends: At the Movies Christmas Tour. "When I think of the most beautiful Christmas songs and songs of the holidays, it’s always more of that kind of intimate and warm and inviting feeling," Koz says. "Christmas music for me has always been like that wonderful blanket that you can put on. It just makes you feel great all over. And some of the songs are a little upbeat and fun, but for the most part it’s like Bing Crosby singing ‘White Christmas’ or ‘The Christmas Song’ by Nat King Cole. Or Ella Fitzgerald singing any song around Christmastime. It’s more about that classic sound that just puts you in that holiday spirit."
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. For all sorts of reasons the brand new CD from Norman Brown, Stay With Me, could not have come at a better time. The previous success Brown had with Urban AC radio when garnering airplay for his 2004 vocal debut ‘I Might’ proved he is no stranger to the urban influences currently permeating the landscape of contemporary jazz. Now, with Stay With Me, he totally embraces urban jazz and nails it with ten incredible tracks that are without a single weak link. In fact he writes or co-writes nine of the songs and, as well as displaying his inventive talent as a guitarist, also expands considerably on his vocal prowess. Additionally, it helps that for three of the tracks he has the cutting edge production skill of Paul Brown on tap.
Norman opens up with ‘Lets Take A Ride’ where he slips effortlessly into a superb example of mid tempo guitar driven smooth jazz. It features Herman Jackson on keyboards with whom Brown has been collaborating since as far back as his 1992 debut Just Between Us. Jackson is also around for the equally smooth ‘Every Little Thing’ on which Browns smoky vocal really shows off a different and exciting side of his talent. Repeating the feat on ‘So In Love’ he produces a mellow, sumptuous winner and although with ‘You Keep Lifting Me Higher’ Brown ratchets the tempo accordingly, Nikkole’s sexy vocal ensures the vibe remains silky smooth. ‘It Ain’t Over BWB’ finds Kirk Whalum on sax and Rick Braun on both trumpet and flugelhorn helping Brown to get funky in a controlled kind of a way while with the title song the album moves ever closer to its urban jazz roots.
That this Brian McKnight composition has serious crossover potential is due in no small measure to the fact that, as well as sharing vocals with Brown, McKnight also uses his considerable production skills to inject the track with all the best qualities of modern R & B. Brown takes the vocal credits all for himself on the sensuous ‘So In Love’ and when he returns to smooth jazz guitar for ‘A Quiet Place’ the result is stunning. Built around a hypnotic yet catchy vibe it would in any other circumstance be the albums killer cut. However some of the real gems of this CD have the production genius of Paul Brown written all over them. His expertise is first felt with ‘Pops Cool Groove’ where, as well as producing, he shares the writing credits with Norman Brown and the always excellent Jeff Carruthers. With keyboards from Carruthers, sultry sax from Anthony Long, the usual standout bass of Alex Al and playing from Norman that is evocative of Paul Brown's own style this smoky chill out number never disappoints.
‘I Need You’ finds Norman in a wonderful collaboration with the acoustic guitar of Kenneth Williams who also provides ideal backing to Norman’s soulful vocals. Of course Paul Brown gets the production just right and does so again with another Secret Garden favorite, ‘Soul Dance’. This Brown Carruthers Brown composition features terrific sax from Sam Riney and is a picture perfect example of in the pocket contemporary jazz. A delicious 55 second ‘hidden track’ rounds off the collection and confirms Stay With Me as a top class example of urban jazz at its very best.
Stay With Me is Browns debut on Peak Records and was released on April 24th. It has much to commend it and is all set to become one of the albums of the year.
Saxophonist Dave Koz has added another member to the 2007 edition of the Dave Koz & Friends: A Smooth Summer Night tour: Kelly Sweet. The 19-year-old from vocalist from Utah has a smooth jazz hit with the song “Raincoat,” a selection from her debut album released in March, We Are One. Koz is featured on the song on a version mixed especially for smooth jazz radio. Says Koz: "The first I heard of her was when played at her manager’s wedding. When they were doing a smooth jazz version of her hit single ‘Raincoat,’ they wanted me to play on it. So I heard it and I was like, absolutely, I’d love to do this."
Sweet will join previously two previously announced performers, pianist David Benoit and vocalist Phil Perry. Sweet has already performed more than 500 concerts in the U.S., including opening gigs for Anita Baker, Paul Simon and Kenny Loggins.
Each show on the tour will be a "double feature," with the performers playing their respective hits during the first half of the show, then joining together on numerous selections from Koz's At The Movies CD. Koz and Sweet will debut on Sweet’s “Raincoat.” Playing keyboards and serving as musical director is pianist Brian Simpson. Rounding out the band are Bill Sharpe on bass, Stevo Theard on drums and Randy Jacobs on guitar. The tour launches June 3 in Columbia, MD, and wraps up at the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 19.
Jazz Under The Stars #1 will be held sunday May 27th at the Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain State Park. To kick off this season will be saxman Euge Groove, with Paul Brown, and special guest Steve Oliver.
The man who redefined the sound of the jazz alto saxophone over the last 30 years, David Sanborn, will deliver the goods for three big nights at the Suncoast Hotel, May 4-6.
The Rippingtons, with Russ Freeman at the helm, will perform in the Chrome Showroom at the Santa Fe Hotel on May 12th.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, with their hot horn sound, kickin' rhythm section, and smokin' vocals, appear one night only at The Green Valley Ranch Resort on May18th.
Delbert McClinton, who's sound of caucasion soul, funk, and r&b, will bring it on at The Boulder Station Hotel, Friday, May 25th. The following night hosts one of the great, ageless bands of all time, Toto, whose sound is as fresh today as it was 25 years ago.
Rocky Gordon, who's new CD, Alone In The Crowd, was released on Monday, May 7th, will perform on Friday, May 25th for the Orleans Pool Party. The poolside parties are hosted by radio station KOAS 105.7 and are held weekly at The Orleans Hotel starting at 7pm.
Dynamic young R&B-jazz saxophonist’s single breaking at radio, album receives accolades as the artist prepares to take the stage
It’s rare for a musician still in their mid-20s to possess the depth of talent, maturity and vision that saxophonist-flutist-songwriter-producer Jackiem Joyner has. The buzz that began gestating late last year produced the birth of Babysoul, Joyner’s debut album that was released today in record stores nationally by the ARTizen Music Group. Joyner’s original R&B, soul and contemporary jazz songbook heralds the arrival of a true artist and serves as a harbinger that the future of instrumental music is poised for reinvigoration and re-imagination in the astute hands of the next generation.
Babysoul grooves seductively from beginning to end. Although the sax is Joyner’s primary instrument, he croons equally as passionately through his flute. He explored unique ways to engage the two disparate voices in harmonious and complementary discourses on five of the collection’s eleven tracks. In fact, Joyner, who produced the album and wrote ten songs for the disc, played most of the instruments on the record. Rick Braun, the album’s executive producer, contributed trumpet and flugelhorn and Peter White issued gorgeous acoustic guitar riffs on the first radio single, “Stay With Me Tonight.” Joyner beautifully covered the sexy “Say Yes,” originally recorded by Floetry.
Breaking a new artist takes time, patience, commitment, creativity and a comprehensive approach that embraces technology. That’s the formula ARTizen has deployed to introduce Joyner. Top label executives began touting Joyner and his music to prominent industry tastemakers, radio programmers and members of the media late last year. Joyner took the stage for cameo appearances at concerts headlined by label principals and smooth jazz icons Rick Braun and Richard Elliot. In addition to the usual radio blitz to support a single, ARTizen teamed with the SmoothJazz.com network of terrestrial and online radio stations to add muscle to their attack. Viral emails, banners on the SmoothJazz.com site, and interactive links with media player, information about Joyner and purchasing links have helped propel “Stay With Me Tonight” into the Top 15 and it’s still rising. Joyner was invited to perform at radio-sponsored concerts in San Diego by KIFM (May 26), in Reno by KJZS (June 20), and for the JazzTrax Big Bear Festival (June 23). Additionally he’s got shows booked in Riverside, California (August 4) and the Catalina Jazz Festival (October 13 & 20). More dates are being added for the summer and fall.
The media is watching both Joyner and taking note of the label’s efforts. All Music Guide stated that ARTizen in “…2007 got behind the very funky and contemporary, sometimes hip and often retro but always super soulful Jackiem Joyner. Joyner came to the airwaves after amassing a great résumé for his mid-twenty-something age: playing with Marcus Johnson, Bobby Lyle and Jaared, co-headlining a 2004 (tour) with Ronnie Laws and Angela Bofill, and opening gigs for everyone from India.Arie to Boney James.” Jazz Review declared, “Debuting with Babysoul is a watershed moment in Jackiem Joyner’s life as he transitions from sideman, opener and back-up player to a full fledged star in his own right…After years of playing with the big guys, Jackiem Joyner has learned what he’s about in the music world, incorporating the best in his own music. Young, yet multi-talented, Joyner has a long and bright career in front of him. Babysoul has all the ingredients a true professional provides in a hit album.” Baltimore Times observed “His style shows his age, for though it is of a quality level of any sax player who has been at the top of the charts for years, you can tell his youthful influences…” Smooth Jazz Therapy concluded “Babysoul is an extremely accomplished collection and signals an association between Joyner and ARTizen that could well be a partnership made in heaven. With the nurturing qualities of the label gelling with the obvious talent and sizzling potential of the artist, the name of Jackiem Joyner is bound to be around for a long time to come.”
Additional information is available at www.myspace.com/jackiemsoul and www.artizenmusicgroup.com.
Grammy Award-winning guitarist Norman Brown has just accomplished something that has eluded him his entire career: a No. 1 record. Brown's debut CD Stay With Me for Peak Records entered Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart at the top spot after selling more than 7,000 copies, ahead of Simply Red’s new CD Stay. Four previous albums by Brown – Just Chillin’, Celebration, Better Days Ahead and After the Storm – reached as high as No. 2.
In addition, Stay With Me entered the Billboard 200 charts at No. 107, giving him another career highlight – it’s the highest-charting release for Brown, who has made the Billboard 200 chart on three previous occasions. The CD also debuted at No. 28 on the R&B charts.
One of the reasons Brown has expanded his audience beyond the smooth jazz market is that he's been able to capitalize on his vocals.
"I've always felt like I could do what a lot of the great jazz artists in the past have done," he says. "Starting with Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and into the future with George Benson. People like this were able to bring a whole new audience over to instrumental music because they were singing. So I’ve been finding the right songs, which has been successful so far."
Little Tokyo embraces the sounds and sensibilities of Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and beyond
Since Hiroshima's inception in 1980, the group has assumed the artistic mission of bridging cultural divides through the power of music. Founded in east L.A. by Japanese Americans Dan and June Kuramoto, Hiroshima has borrowed from numerous cultures - Asian, Latin American, African American and more - and merged these influences into a unique and innovative whole that is solely their own. The result is a brand of music that speaks to nearly every aspect of contemporary culture.
The goodwill mission continues with the May 22, 2007, release of Little Tokyo (HUCD 3123), Hiroshima's fourth album on Heads Up International. The album title, a reference to the well known Asian neighborhood in southern California, is Hiroshima's nod to the increasing importance in 21st century America of maintaining a positive and all-inclusive world view from our own respective back yards.
"We're always looking at things from a multicultural perspective," says Kuramoto. "We live in southern California, where the ethnic population is in the majority. We see this as the coolest thing about America. Its strength and its vision comes from its multi-ethnicity. Those differences are going to give us the strength to be more unified. The more we homogenize, the more we give up that notion of cultural diversity, and the less we'll understand each other."
Indeed, the eleven tracks on Little Tokyo embrace numerous musical styles and showcase a band that deftly weaves them together into a satisfying tapestry. "Midnight Sun" is the album's infectious opener, a slightly mysterious but highly melodic track that's front-loaded with a Middle Eastern hook yet spotlights the work of two taiko drum masters, longtime group member Shoji Kameda and his teacher, Kenny Endo. "We have both the student and the master playing on this record," says Kuramoto, "and on some of the tracks they're playing together. Each is an outstanding musician in his own right, and when they play together they truly complement each other."
Kameda and Endo reappear - together and separately - at various points along the way ("Hidden Times," "Shades of Honor," "Hiro Chill" and elsewhere), adding an exotic dimension at every turn.
The second track, "On the Fence," gets under way with an opening riff by keyboardist Kimo Cornwell and bassist Dean Cortez that is deceptively laid back yet energized at the same time. The track blossoms into a lighthearted arrangement that enables Kuramoto and Cornwell to trade licks and stretch their artistic muscles without crowding each other or the song itself.
Guest keyboardist and Heads Up labelmate James Lloyd, on loan from Pieces of a Dream, steps in for the catchy "Lanai." The track allows plenty of room for the Asian sensibilities of June Kuramoto's koto work and the contemporary jazz flavor of Dan Kuramoto's tenor sax.
The midtempo "Sir Charles" is perhaps the most culturally and stylistically blended track in the set, with June Kuramoto's koto deftly juxtaposed against the congas, timbales and other gadgetry of guest percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia. At any given moment in this four-and-a-half minute track, one is likely to hear elements of Asian, Latin, rock and pop music.
"Quan Yin (Goddess of Compassion)" features Karen Hwa-Chee Han on erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument whose hypnotic timbre falls somewhere between the violin and the female human voice. The song sits atop acoustic bassist Dean Taba's simple but solid jazz riffs, and features generous contributions from Kimo Cornwell and June Kuramoto's koto.
The syncopated closer, "Little Tokyo Underground," is Hiroshima's tip of the hat to jazz cats who are daring enough to take chances by setting up funky grooves and working them to their maximum potential, regardless of prevailing musical sensibilities. "Everything is just so marginalized these days, and played so safe," says Kuramoto. "So many musicians are so afraid to stretch themselves. There's so little that they're allowed to play if they want to survive commercially. But we as a band have always believed that there's more to it than that, and we will continue on our journey to explore those possibilities, regardless of the next fad on the horizon."
Kuramoto understands that Hiroshima's optimistic view of multiculturalism may be difficult for some to grasp, but to his way of thinking, the artist's role has always been rooted in idealism over realism.
"Optimism is not generated on likelihood," he says. "What I do know is the lessons I've learned from guys like Miles Davis and James Moody - or various other prominent or groundbreaking artists throughout history, for that matter. You have a vision, and you live according to that vision every day, in everything you do and everything you create. Look at Van Gogh, one of the great painters of all time. He never sold a painting in his life, but he changed the way the entire world looks at art and artists. That's the role of the artist in society - to constantly reshuffle the deck and force the rest of us to look at the world in a different way."
Learn more about Hiroshima and their music at www.hiroshimamusic.com.
Get ready to be blown away. Saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa has finished recording tracks for a brand-new CD titled Play!, which will be his sixth overall and fourth for the Native Language label. Kashiwa says the CD’s title comes from his decision to let his sax take on an even more prominent role than it has in the past. And, for the first time, Kashiwa only plays one sax throughout the CD, the deep-sounding tenor. Play! features all original songs, including “The Lucky One,” “Changes,” “Blue Jeans,” “New View” and “Remember When.” In addition, Acoustic Alchemy guitarist Miles Gilderdale co-wrote and performs on the the song “Movin’ Up.”
"I was searching for a title for the CD,and I didn’t want it to be so thought-provoking and so heavy," Kashiwa says. "Not to belittle the music in any kind of way; I’m very proud of this album. But people always ask me, what’s the album like? And my answer is: I wanted to play more on this album. You know, dig in, really get into my horn and play, as if you were seeing me live. No more of the polite eight-bar solos. I really want to extend them."
Kashiwa's band includes Dave Hooper on drums, Melvin Davis on bass and Allen Hinds on guitar. Joining the core trio is guest Russ Ferrante of the Yellowjackets on keyboards. The new CD will be released on July 17th.
Having heard the CD in its entirety, I can tell you that it's one of the best sax records of the 2000s as Kashiwa forgoes the safe route and plays like his life depends on it.