July 31, 2007

What We're Listening To * July

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

Norman Brown, Stay With Me (Peak Records 2007)

Lonnie Liston Smith, Renaissance (RCA 2004)

Karma Auger, Blue Groove (Castle Music UK 2006)

Brian Auger's Obilivion Express, Live Oblivion (Castle Music UK 2006)

Billy Cobham, Drum N Voice 2 (Nicolosi Prod It 2007)

D E N I S * P O O L E

'Reggae Man' by Eddie Gip Noble from the CD Love TKO. With just a hint of a reggae beat, and a foundation from Andre Berry on bass that is colossal, this rhythm drenched foot tapper checks all the right boxes.

'Sweet Somethin' by Rick Braun and Richard Elliot from their forthcoming CD R n R. Anchored by the pulsing bass of Nate Philips and replete with the velvety horn of Braun and Elliot this is smooth jazz how it˘s meant to be.

'Lets Get Close' by Brian Simpson from his soon to be released Above The Clouds. Replete with a vibe that oozes sensuality this is mood music of the highest order.

'Who Knows' by Acoustic Alchemy from their current CD This Way. As catchy as you will get anywhere its jam full of Carmichael and Gilderdale˘s melodic playing and blessed by the outstanding flugelhorn of Kevin Robinson.

'City Slicker' by Jay Soto from his breakthrough album Stay Awhile. Featuring both Jeff Lorber and Gary Meek this piece of groove driven jazz is nothing short of a masterpiece.

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

Marc Antoine, Hi-Lo Split

Soul Ballet, Lavish

Elliot/Braun, RnR

U-Nam, Back from the 80s

Kirk Whalum Roundtrip

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

Jay Soto, Stay Awhile, NuGroove, 2007.

Drew Davidson, This Journey, 2007

Basia, Brave New Hope

Amedeo Bianchi, The Rhythm of Life, 2000

Donald Fagen, The Nightfly

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

Candy Dulfer, Candy Store (Heads Up): An amazing, fun CD by the veteran Dutch saxophonist. One of the year's best.

Marc Antoine, Hi-Lo Split (Peak): The Spainish guitarist returns to the style that made him fans worldwide. An easy selection to add to your collection.

Ricardo Silveira, Outro Rio [Another River] (Adventure Music): Lovely rhythms from the Brazilian guitarist.

Katja Riekermann, Katja (Digital Zoo): Smooth jazz sax music from Germany. Katja is a member of Rod Stewart's band and was seen by millions during the recent telecast of the Concert for Diana in London. Definitely worth a few thousand spins.

B-Side Players, Fire in the Youth (Concord): Reggae, funk, soul. Lively up yourself.

P E T E R * B O E H I

Aaron Blake - Desire (2007)
Guitarist Aaron Blake delivers another superior smooth jazz guitar album on this independent release. Picture perfect and catchy from beginning to end. Don't sleep on this one!

Euge Groove - Born 2 Groove (2007)
This saxophonist belongs to the very best of the scene and this latest release doesn't disappoint. Cool grooves and hot playing prevail. Thumbs up!

Candy Dulfer - Candy Store (2007)
Dutch saxtress Candy Dulfer turns up on Heads Up Records with an album which was recorded with her Duch band, but definitely is on a very professional level. Once you get past those Prince-drenched opening tracks you discover some very well done and groovy smooth jazz tracks. Well done, Candy!

Marc Antoine - Hi-Lo Split (2007)
Guitarist Marc Antine pops up on Peak Records with his latest release and it's a winner. Acoustic guitar melodies with a Spanish flavor over contemporary grooves yield a really nice album. Like it a lot!

Tom Browne - Love Approach (1980)
Sticking to the tradition of mentioning a great album from the past I would like to direct your attention to this excellent album of trumpet player Tom Browne, released on the GRP label and definitely breaking new ground. Not only his hit "Funkin' For Jamaica" can be found here, but lots of top-notch contemporary jazz. Always worth to come back to!

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:21 AM

July 24, 2007

Rick Braun And Richard Elliot - R n R

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. With the title track from Rick Braun and Richard Elliot’s much awaited duets album already taking the airwaves by storm there seems little doubt that R n R will prove to be one of the smooth jazz events of 2007. Due in record stores across the USA on August 28 R n R is a feisty collection of horn driven grooves that checks all the right boxes and which is enhanced by a stellar line-up of guest musicians that includes Greg Karukas, Jeff Lorber and Chris Standring plus production input from Jeff Lorber, Philippe Saisse and Rex Rideout.

Succulent zesty numbers abound and this is typified both by the title track and with ‘Curve Ball’ where Elliot and Braun give each other the space in which to individually shine while still coming together to generate what is in every respect a veritable horn fest. ‘Down and Dirty’ is a funky swinging number that is right on the money. It evokes, in places, a Tower Of Power kind of a vibe and this essentially retro feel is also evident with the jazzy ‘Q It Up’ and the in the pocket ‘Da JR Funk’. Given that Elliot had such a lengthy tenure with Tower Of Power this is hardly surprising but, that said, R n R is by no means a visit to nostalgia-ville. Examples of up to the minute contemporary jazz are everywhere. ‘Better Times’ has a deliciously sultry groove, ‘The Stranger’ is smoky, jazzy and could well become addictive while the heartfelt ‘Que Paso’ gives Braun and Elliot the chance to take it south of the border. ‘Two Hearts Tango’ with its tight romantic groove and full bodied yet tender playing from Braun and Elliot is seriously good and ‘Sao Paulo’ makes its physical debut after previously only being available as a download from the ARtizen Music Group website. In fact it has become a surprise smash and has enjoyed an extended stay on the top thirty chart of most played on smooth jazz radio.

Personal favourites include the lusciously opaque ‘Sunday Night’ and the stunningly mellow ‘Sweet Somethin’. Anchored by the pulsing bass of Nate Philips and replete with the velvety horn of Braun and Elliot this is smooth jazz how it’s meant to be.

R n R will be released on Braun and Elliot’s own label, the ARtizen Music Group. Place your order now and for more go to www.artizenmusic.com

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 10:12 AM

July 19, 2007

Smooth Cruise Names New Host: Norman Brown

Brown_N_Standing.jpgGuitarist Norman Brown, whose "Let’s Take A Ride” is the No. 1 Smooth Jazz song in the country, has been named the new host of the 2008 All-Star Smooth Cruise, formerly the All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise. Until recently, keyboardist Brian Culbertson was set to host the cruise, which will depart from San Diego in January, for the second year in a row. Trumpeter Rick Braun hosted the inaugural year.

The change is due to new management, Haven Entertainment, which bought the rights to the cruise from AAI Events. As part of the change, Haven Entertainment is going through the process of re-selecting artists to perform. As of now, in addition to Brown, confirmed performers include jam-show host Nick Colionne, Marion Meadows, Paul Taylor, Chieli Minucci and Boney James. A full list of performers is expected to be announced shortly on the cruise website at allstarcruise.com.

Because of the changes, those who have already made deposits will be able to get a full refund if they wish, and Haven Entertainment will be sending out an e-mail to those people soon.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:31 AM

July 17, 2007

Larry Carlton Creates 335 Records

Carlton_L_07.jpgThree-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist and Fourplay member Larry Carlton, saying he has announced his independence from established record labels, has now created his own. The name of Carlton’s new independent label is no surprise – 335 Records. Carlton is known by his many fans as Mr. 335 due to his 1969 Gibson ES-335 guitar, which he first played in the early 1970s with the legendary Crusaders. Anyone can now purchase a guitar built by the famed Gibson guitar company named ES-335. In addition, Room 335 is the name of the studio that Larry built several years ago at his home near Nashville.

The first CD offered by 335 Records is Live in Tokyo, which Carlton recorded with fellow guitarist guitarist Robben Ford. It's available on his website. Carlton’s next solo CD will be with his own label, and he is also expected to sign artist to release their music on the label, as well.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:08 AM

July 13, 2007

Down To The Bone - Supercharged

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. Ever since 1997, when they burst onto the scene with the seminal Manhattan To Staten, Down To The Bone has been all about the groove. The brainchild of non musician Stuart Wade, Down To The Bone came out of the acid jazz movement that was prevalent in the UK during the early 90’s. The bands seventh disc, which was released on June 18, is the aptly named Supercharged and is it’s most powerfully funky yet. The forte Wade has for using his production nous to bring alive his musical idea’s through a frequently changing group of ultra-talented performers has again reaped rich dividends. With the addition of a full horn section to complement Paul ‘Shilts’ Weimar’s blistering sax, his desire to arrive at more of a live jam attitude is fulfilled in spades and exemplified by the storming title track.

In fact the entire album is ‘supercharged’. Cuts like ‘Funkin Around’ and ‘Make It Funky’ provide one thumping number after another and throughout evoke something akin to Tower Of Power goes large.

The raw power of Supercharged is such that when, in relative terms, Down To The Bone choose to turn it down the effect is instantly pleasing. For ‘Parkside Shuffle’ Neil Angilley’s jazzy piano blends beautifully with Shilts sax while Corrina Greyson’s soulful vocal on ‘Shake It Up’ is just right. Jon Radford also comes up big on trumpet for this one and, with the Incognito like ‘Smile To Shine’, the vocal of Hil St Soul (aka Hilary Mwelwa) creates a delightfully retro vibe. Wade includes the legendary Roy Ayers on both vibraphone and vocals for ‘Electric Vibes’ and, in so doing, finally gets the chance to work with one of his greatest inspirations. It’s a track that shifts from smouldering to downright explosive and is in every respect an Ayers master-class.

Still, after all that, Supercharged, and Down To The Bone, is all about the funk. The tracks ‘Cosmic Fuzz’ and ‘Greedy Fingers’ merge with others such as ‘Space Dust’ and ‘Hip City’ to maintain the intensity at ‘funk factor 6’. With top notch performances from Julian Crampton on bass, Tony Remy on guitar and Nigel Cowley on keys along the way the combination leaves the listener exhausted yet wanting more and makes Supercharged an album with which to party and then some.

For more on Down To The Bone go to www.downtothebone.com

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 11:42 AM

July 12, 2007

Candy Dulfer Getting Married In 2008

Candy%20Dulfer%20-%20%20Carin%20Verbruggen%20photography%20and%20concept%20Ferry%20Drenthem%20Soesman%2002_5x7.jpgThirty-eight-year-old Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer has announced that she is engaged to her longtime boyfriend and bandmember Thomas Bank.

They plan to marry sometime next year in the garden of their home, a converted barn north of Amsterdam. Dulfer and Bank have been boyfriend and girlfriend for more than a decade.

It was back in 1996 that Bank, who plays keyboards and co-writes songs, first appeared on Dulfer’s music, performing on her CD Big Girl. Bank is the primary producer on Dulfer's upcoming CD, Candy Store, her debut for the Heads Up record label that will be available on Sept. 18.

"We want to get married in our own garden," Dulfer says. "We want to have fun and a party and a band. We might even play ourselves. We’re not in a hurry."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:36 AM

July 6, 2007

Chieli Minucci: Composer Extraordinaire Earns the Emmy

emmy_award_75pg.jpgThose who know Chieli Minucci’s music already know what a fine composer he is and that he’s been able to crank out a Special EFX CD followed by a Chieli Minucci CD nearly every year for a number of years. (These days, Minucci and Special EFX are one and the same). But you may not realize how far and wide his composing abilities stretch beyond the world of contemporary jazz, to include television and radio station clips, as well as children’s musicals. When there is music to be composed, not just that which needs to be expressed from his own heart, but for a specific purpose directed by someone else, Chieli Minucci seems to easily get the job done.

This is a special time for Chieli, having won the Emmy for Music Composition for a Daytime Drama for his composing/producing work on CBS Guiding Light. The Emmy was presented June 14th in Hollywood, California, by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 34th Annual Daytime Creative Arts & Entertainment Awards. As an avid fan of his contemporary jazz music, it was a real treat for me to see him walk up on the stage with fellow composers to accept the award. Visit www.emmyonline.org to see the video playback for youself. Simply scroll down on the right side of the window, all the way to Music Direction and Composition – Drama, and double click to watch the clip (about two hours, ten minutes into the clip playback). Chieli is obviously happy and excited that Guiding Light won the Emmy.

I had the opportunity to interview Chieli about the Emmy awards and his latest CD, Sweet Surrender.

In our interview before winning the Emmy, Chieli had some interesting insights to share about writing for daytime drama. He said, “When I was younger, in my 20s, I wasn’t impressed with people who scored music for television. I was somewhat snooty, but later when I got involved in this type of composing, I found it to be a great outlet for writing and playing and arranging music that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise, not to mention the recording of it all.”

As a composer, writing jingles or writing for television has been the right road to travel for Minucci. “As for Guiding Light, we got a new executive producer who wants all kinds of music in the show. The music is stylistically suitable for shows such as Law and Order, and there are different kinds of night clubs on the show, so all kinds of musical styles are featured. So instead of having to compartmentalize the music, I have the opportunity to write in all styles, except smooth jazz, ironically!”

Speaking of Minucci’s skill in composition, he has added another CD to the repertoire of his vast collection of Chieli Minucci/Special EFX CD’s. This one, entitled Sweet Surrender, came out in March and is proving to be yet another successful endeavor in his busy career. It’s a surrender of sorts to places where Chieli’s been on his musical journey. Each song is a tribute to various phases of his evolution as an artist. Some songs hearken back to the days of George Jinda and Chieli as the original founders of Special EFX, and some speak to the solo CDs Chieli has composed, such as Renaissance. Chieli provides his own description of these songs in the liner notes, as he’s done on some other CD’s, and it’s always interesting to see where he’s coming from with each composition.

Those of us who’ve listened to many of the past CDs will see the influence of those tunes on the ones he created for this CD. For instance, the title track, 'Sweet Surrender,' reminds me of the sweet, more serene tunes Chieli has composed over the years, such as 'Ballerina' (Just Like Magic), 'Bella' (Masterpiece), 'You’re My Reason' (Night Grooves), 'Love is Always Young' (Got It Goin On), 'When Love Cries' (Body Language), 'Fantasies' (Party) as well as 'Quiet Beauty' and 'The Lady and the Sea' (Special EFX Collection). I told Chieli I think of all these songs of his as ‘lullabyes for adults’ -- songs that promote peaceful thoughts and a relaxed mood, songs that settle you down when you’re keyed up or worried about something. He liked the metaphor.

There are so many highlights throughout Sweet Surrender. One of them is his collaboration with Philip Hamilton’s , entitled, 'Chant.' Listeners are sure to enjoy that and also the tune Chieli and bass player Jerry Brooks have often played at concerts, entitled 'Rush Hour.' I've often wondered how in the world they could follow each other on this song when I’ve heard it live. Listening to it a few times on the CD gives me a better sense of the song’s progression, and also the skill of Brooks on bass. Brooks is an awesome player! Chieli and Jerry put a nice intro as a track before they get into their intense conversation on guitar and bass. I asked Chieli where this intro came from (entitled 'Dawn') and he told me, “'Dawn' was just part of a medley, while we were making stuff up on stage…..an afterthought, actually.” What an afterthought!

The CD starts off with two make-you-want-to-dance tunes. Chieli wrote the first song, 'Guitarzzz,' for some Guitarzzz concerts (Chieli's alternate band project, co-leading along with Chuck Loeb and Paul Jackson, Jr. Both this one and the single song 'Mystical,' are upbeat, very catchy tunes. Chieli mentioned his record company (Shanachie) is enthusiastically behind the record, and it’s getting a lot of airplay and is on the charts for 15 weeks now. Sweet Surrender as an album entered the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts at #14.

'Astralcats' is fun, hearkening back to 'Courageous Cats,' and in this one Chieli has some super fast Frank Gambale-like speedy fingers (though I noticed this in many other songs, too). There’s a lot going on in this and many of the songs. As Chieli explained, ‘There’s a lot of layering of sounds and tones, that’s the whole idea. Some of the songs, like 'Cry of My Soul,' use a lot of guitars. I don’t know which guitar to listen to, there are so many parts that were layered. In learning about arranging, you discover that you can have a lot of layering going on, yet still have clarity and space in the music.”

I have to concentrate to stay with the songs 'Ascension' and 'New Bop.' Ascension reminds me of 'Destiny' (Got It Goin’ On); it’s different and I like it. I find myself wanting to take it apart, somehow, to understand it better. And 'New Bop' has something called hemiolas, a word Chieli introduced to me about this song a few months ago. I took advantage of the chance to ask him what it means. It's a term he learned in college -- "It's like when a rhythmical phrase is accented in such a way as to suggest a 'new' rthym. It's like a rhythm riff within a rhythm riff." Those of you who have appreciated the complexity of this music for longer than I have will no doubt be immediately comfortable listening to these two.

'Cry of My Soul' is a perfect title to a tune with a lot of emotion. It reminds me of Chieli’s powerful 'Without You' (Night Grooves) as well as his renditions of 'Because We’ve Ended As Lovers' and 'Europa.' And 'Play With Me,' featuring David Mann (seen in picture below, second from right), is one of my favorites on the album. Chieli mentioned this was originally recorded as a lyrical tune.

'Children’s Day' is a fitting tribute to the annual Children’s Fair in the area of Forest Hills where Chieli grew up. I love the way all the different harmonies come and go. It’s easy to see how Chieli can compose for children, as in Nickolodeon’s Dora the Explorer and now Thomas the Tank Engine. This really catches the essence of children’s kind of fun. Chieli explained it’s an old song from long ago, a melody he came up with in trying to write a rhythm song, one that starts with a conga player and clapping. It didn’t work as a world piece but he could adapt it to this newer song.

And of course the last one is Chieli’s acoustic duo with acoustic bassist Wayne Batchelor, 'Au Naturale.' That is so very complex, reminiscent of 'Beginnings 'from It’s Gonna Be Good. I wondered if he could actually remember how he played it, and did he write it down or is it just what came to him at the time of recording. Chieli said he had already played parts of it, and decided to turn it into something. “It’s good to add a duo or trio or solo piece to add to the texture of the record.”

Chieli’s been quite busy, having played on a cruise this past winter, (and scheduled to play on the upcoming Brian Culbertson All Star cruise next January.)

EFXband.jpgOne of his latest accomplishments was working on a composing/scoring collaboration with Philip Hamilton for an upcoming Sundance Film Festival short, a project Philip Hamilton (seen in picture, far left) brought to him, entitled, 'Lifted.' It's produced/directed by Randall Dottin and will likely be submitted next year. A record was cut of this soundtrack. Chieli is also offering a trio performance including Jerry Brooks (his bass player), Lionel Cordew (his drummer) – the first of these is September 7th at the Long Beach Jazz Festival. (Brooks and Cordew pictured here left and right of Chieli, along with keyboardist Jay Rowe, far right). In addition, he is scheduled to perform in another Guitarzz concert with Paul Jackson, Jr. and Chuck Loeb in West Bend, Wisconsin (Milwaukee area) on September 8th.

Chieli has a lot of music available for downloading at his site, www.chielimusic.com. Among all the available music are CD material that was never released. One set of songs, East of the Sun, is a collection of some mideastern, new age tunes that provide peaceful, meditative listening. And there is Travels, a CD that was never before released. It's both soothing and stimulating, as its title would imply. Chieli has also added downloadable songs/solo transcriptions for the musicians out there who are curious to learn Cheli's songs, note for note.

In other news, Chieli has completed the score for the live stage show version of the long-running hit British children’s TV show, Thomas the Tank Engine – Thomas Saves The Day, which is now touring across the USA. Chieli has written and recorded songs for this project and as he explains, “I took the music from the tv and dvd’s and rearranged it according to the needs of the script. After rearranging came recording, and it’s a long piece of music to get the audience in the mood for the show. It’s called 'Journeys,' lasts 18 minutes, leading into the story line about the train and life and fantasy, and it’s very metaphorical. This was a very symbolic piece for me, as it was written right before my dad died.” (The late Ulpio Minucci composed for Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and also scored the music for Robotech, a hit tv and dvd series, and greatly inspired Chieli in especially the composing aspect of his own musical career.)

So you can see, Minucci is quite a busy, sought-after musician these days. I wonder how he can produce all of this and constantly be so creatively inspired. As he puts it, “There’s inspiration but there’s also craft, and it’s like any craft that a person learns, whether it’s writing books or creating in some other way –when you know your craft, you get busy working at it day after day, you don’t need to wait until you ‘feel’ inspired.”

Words of wisdom from a master craftsman himself. To quote Jazziz Magazine, “Chieli Minucci is both an influential elder statesman and true innovator." I'm sure many in the music world would join me in saying, 'Amen to that.'

Happy Jazzin'

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

Photo Credits: National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Chieli Minucci, Michael Packard

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:11 AM

July 5, 2007

Jazz Under The Stars #2 and #3

Sunday, July 1st, welcomed Jazz Under The Stars #2 at Spring Mountain State Park with special guests Spyro Gyra, performing selections from their latest release, Good To Go Go, as well as gems from the past. Thirty years, twenty seven albums later this band has never sounded better, especially with the addition of drummer, Bonny B. David Pack, of Ambrosia fame, also performed selections that he has re-recorded recently for smooth jazz airplay like "The Biggest Part Of Me".

Jazz Under The Stars #3 will take place on Sunday, July 29th, with headliners Rick Braun, and saxtress Mindi Abair.

Rocky Gordon and his band, KGB, will kick off their CD release party for his Alone In The Crowd release, Saturday, July 7th, starting at 7pm at Lake Las Vegas, presented by Montelago Village Resort, and sponsored by Findlay Toyota, and KXPT 97.1 The Point, with hosts Ric and Jackie Gould of the highly rated Original Sunday Morning Jazz Show.

Craig Chaquico returns to Las Vegas for one night only in the Chrome Showroom at Santa Fe Station, Saturday, July 14th.

Gershwin Sings Gershwin, brings the legacy of George and Ira through the talents of Alexis Gershwin and the Gershwin Singers and Orchestra at the Suncoast Hotel, July 20-22.

Posted by Danny Desart at 2:04 AM

July 1, 2007

Object Thrown From Kenny G's House Injures Girl

We’re learning more about an incident that occurred on the beach in front of Kenny G’s Malibu house that injured a young girl. On June 23, a girl visiting Little Dume Beach with her family was struck in the head with an object allegedly thrown from the property belonging to the famed saxophonist. Brooke Porter, who is 9, was visiting the beach with her family and suffered a bleeding injury to her head. After the incident, Brooke’s father, Bart Porter, jumped over the fence of Kenny’s estate and was met by Kenny’s wife, Lyndie Benson, who later acknowledged that someone had indeed thrown something from her house.

However, Benson disputes the father’s claim that it was a rock that was thrown at his daughter and that it was intentional. He claims that whoever threw the items targeted Brooke and her brother, a 12-year-old with Down Syndrome and autism. Benson says the object was a rolled up PowerBar, and that a friend of her 13-year-old son, Max, threw it. Benson paid for the young girl’s treatment at the Malibu Urgent Care, where she received four stitches and is scheduled to undergo an MRI. An investigation is being conducted by the local sheriff’s department, while Bart Porter is filing a lawsuit and considering filing criminal charges.

We know that Kenny wasn’t at the house at the time of the incident. He was in Bend, Oregon, performing at the grand opening of a new golf course.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:04 PM