August 31, 2007

JVC Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl sets a new standard for entertainment!

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

Sunday, August 19, 2007, 6:00 pm – 10:15 pm, Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA

At precisely 6:00 pm on a typical 81° warm and sunny Sunday California afternoon, 94.7 the Wave’s morning host, and beloved radio personality, Pat Prescott, opened the 24th annual JVC Jazz Festival at the legendary Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl, as it is commonly referred to, sits facing a lovely backdrop of the beautiful Hollywood Hills and offers patrons choices to enjoy picnicking on the lovely lush grounds before the concert or during the concert in garden or terrace box seating, super seats and benches in a sprawling amphitheatre setting. The Bowl was bustling with over 14,000 picnic basket wielding patrons who arrived early to enjoy edible delicacies of all sorts presented on custom table-scapes accompanied by crisp linens, fresh flowers, candles, wine and other beverages. The Bowl is always a place filled with light chatter, laughter, and waves and hugs between old and new friends who make this outing a group affair.

The JVC Jazz Festival is a world-wide, 7-series production that includes the North Sea Jazz Festival, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; and the JVC Jazz Festivals in Chicago, IL; Newport, RI; Concord, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Paris France; and Warsaw, Poland. Produced by George Wein and sponsored by technology innovators, JVC, the highly popular JVC Los Angeles festival is the last JVC concert in the states for the year.

The three main acts were:

  • Summer Romance starring Jim Brickman and Michael Lington
    Jim Brickman, piano and vocals; Michael Lington, saxophone; Ricky Lawson, drums; Roberto Vally, bass; Kim Hansen, keyboards.
  • Earl Klugh and His Little Big Band
    Earl Klugh, guitar; Al Turner, bass; Ron Otis, drums; David Lee, keyboards; Al Duncan, keyboards, flugelhorn; Lenny Price, alto saxophone, wind synthesizer; Josie James, lead and background vocals; Lamont VanHook, Valerie Pinkston, background vocals; Dr. Jeff Jarvis, trumpet and Director of Jazz Studies at Cal State Univ. Long Beach; Dan Kaneyuki, tenor saxophone and student Cal State Long Beach; Mike Briones, trombone and student Cal State Long Beach.
  • Dave Koz and Friends At The Movies Summer Tour 2007 With Special Guests David Benoit, Phil Perry and introducing Kelly Sweet
    Dave Koz, saxophones; David Benoit, piano; Phil Perry, vocals; Kelly Sweet, vocals; Brian Simpson, Musical Director, keyboards; Steve Theard, drums, vocals; Bill Sharpe, bass, vocals; Randy Jacobs, guitar, vocals.

Composer, recording artist, radio personality and concert headliner Jim Brickman opened the show with the title song from his 2006 CD, Escape. The richly romantic piano instrumental had light Mediterranean overtones which on the CD are performed by smooth jazz guitarist Marc Antoine. Turning to his 2002 BMG/Windham Hills Recording, Valentine, Brickman performed the title song, “Valentine” and “Simple Things”, accompanied by saxophonist Michael Lington with Brickman adding soothing vocals.

Next, Denmark born, Michael Lington, took center stage with a passionate version of “All in Love is Fair” from his 2006 CD, A Song For You released by Rendezvous Records. Lington’s has the perfect combination of a rich saxophone sound and genuinely warm personality that allows him to make a seemingly effortless and instant bond with the audience. His three-song set included two top10 hits, “Pacifica” and the gotta clap, snap or shake tune, “Show Me”, both from his 2004 CD, Stay With Me. Rounding out the set, Brickman and Lington invited audience participation to accompany their combined rendition of Brickman’s “Partners In Crime”.

At 6:55 pm, while the weather was still holding above 75° and the sunset was still in the distance, Earl Klugh took the stage to a hearty round of applause. The Grammy winning acoustic guitar player began his nine-song, hour-long set with the instantly likeable up tempo “Move”, from his 1994 CD of the same title. Reaching even further back, 27 years earlier, which is older than at least a quarter of the of the fans in the audience, Klugh performed “Take it From the Top” which was originally released in 1983 on vinyl for Capital Records. Next, Josie James joined Klugh to deliver sultry vocals on “Now and Again” which Klugh recorded with Roberta Flack in 1999 on his Peculiar Situation CD. “Living Inside Your Love”, evoked an automatic, soft, sing-along response from the audience and ushered in an ultra mellow vibe. The switch to “Mobimeitos Del Alma” (Rhythms of the Soul) “, a deeply rhythmic jazz samba, was a foot tapping refreshing change in tempo. Returning to more classic Klugh, with” This Time”, Lamont Van Hook flawlessly carried the vocals for this tune that which was originally released as an instrumental and later recorded with lyrics written and sung by Al Jarreau. The set continued with a full-throttle opening of “Twinkle” which garnered the most applause, especially after a searing alto sax solo by Lenny Price, who strutted, trotted, skipped, fell to his knees and bent over backwards without missing a beat. Keeping the tempo on hyper, Klugh plunged into a hot and saucy tune titled “Dr Macumba” from his 1977 CD titled Finger Painting. This eleven-minute arrangement featured solos by Al Duncan on trombone; Ron Otis on drums and Al Turner on bass who slapped the guitar like it had stolen something. The final song, “Back in Central Park” was from Klugh’s 1983 Low Ride CD, chosen by Klugh as a reminder of his early years of playing in New York’s Central Park. The set included a diverse selection of numbers that all conveyed the very distinctly rich sound that has made Klugh a legend worth hearing whenever he’s in a nearby town. Klugh’s next US performances will be on 9/9/07 at the Liberty Jazz Festival in New Jersey City, New Jersey and on 10/27/07 at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in Cerritos, CA where he will be performing with Brenda Russell.

Arriving on the stage about a half-hour past sunset at 8:09 pm, was the headlining act, Dave Koz and Friends At The Movies Summer Tour 2007 With Special Guests David Benoit, Phil Perry and introducing Kelly Sweet. The two-hour set featured 20 songs, showcasing the superb talents of each performer, including the “killer band” comprised of Brian Simpson, Musical Director, keyboards; Steve Theard, drums, vocals; Bill Sharpe, bass, vocals; and Randy Jacobs, guitar, vocals.

The opening number, “Give It Up” from Koz’ 2003 Saxophonic CD showed the choreographed footwork of Koz, Jacobs and Sharpe which ignited applause and whistles from the audience even before Koz jumped on the piano stool while both he and Benoit continued playing at a feverish pace. Other songs in the first hour included:

  • “Honey Dipped” (Koz, Saxophonic, 2003)

  • “Tender is the Night”, featured vocals by multi-octave vocalist, Phil Perry, who garnered the first standing ovation of the last set. The pairing of Koz and Perry on this summer tour reunited the two musicians after 17 years. The two last appeared on tour together when Koz was on his first tour promoting his Lucky Man CD on Capital Records in 1990.

  • “Beat Street” (David Benoit, 2006, Full Circle CD, Peak Records), featuring solos by Theard and Simpson and ended with Benoit and Simpson on dueling keys.

  • Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo” brought Klugh back to the stage to perform a very swinging, traditional, bluesy jazz standard with Koz, Benoit , Sharpe and Theard taking alternate solos.

  • Next up was newcomer, 19-year old Kelly Sweet who has already performed over 500 concerts in the US, including gigs for Paul Simon, Kenny Loggings and Anita Baker. Sweet performed two songs, “Raincoat”: and “We Are One” from her acclaimed 2007 debut We Are One CD. This is Sweet’s first national tour. Her crisp, clean voice carries the sound of “experienced innocence”.

  • Phil Perry returned to not only sing Christopher Cross’ hit, “Ride Like the Wind” but he also showed his sense of humor and acting ability as he moved mockingly like he was riding in the wind. Perry clad in all white including a white straw hat, took turns matching his vocal scats with Jacobs’ scats on bass.

  • “Silverlining” ended the first hour.

The last hour of the show in the darkness of the night simulated the feel of being at the drive in as it began with a brief video clip introducing Dave Koz’ latest concept CD, At the Movies. On the CD Koz collaborates with guests India. Arie, Anita Baker, Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Donna Summer and Vanessa Williams and features eleven songs that were Oscar winners and four of them appear in the Top 10 of the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Top Movie Songs. Nearly each song was accompanied by props and/or background dancers who were perfectly costumed for each movie theme and never distracted from the well-delivered musical performances.

The final hour brought these musical performances:

  • “Time Goes By” from the movie Casablanca where Koz walked the perimeter of the stage clad in a in trench coat and hat playing a sax solo.

  • “Moon River” from the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s featured Perry and included another scatting competition between Perry and Jacobs on bass.

  • The Pink Panther from the movie of the same title.

  • Koz played an emotionally charged version of “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, dedicated by to his mother, Audrey, who passed away two years ago right before the inaugural sailing of Koz’ first Dave Koz and Friends at Sea 7-day smooth jazz cruise. The stage lighting also carried the theme and was lit in five bright rainbow colors on the inside shell of the Bowl.

  • Benoit, who was presented with a white jacket, dark shades and a mock martini, by a “Bond-ese girl” was joined by Koz to perform the James Bond theme song, “Shaken Not Stirred”, which is also the title song of Benoit’s 1994 CD.

  • Next, Koz returned to the stage dressed like Austin Powers, accompanied by two dancers dressed in psychedelic print tops and boots. Staying completely in character, Koz asked the crowd, “Do I make you horny?” and the crowd erupted in laughter and cheers as Koz performed the “Austin Powers” theme song.

  • Bill Sharpe, dressed in a black, maxi leather coat, dark shades and a black beret took center stage to sing and perform Shaft to the sheer delight of the audience who in perfect unison performed the background vocals and chorus amidst smiles and shouts.

  • The classic “It Must Be You” made famous by the movie Tootsie starring Dustin Hoffman was performed by Perry to a spellbound audience. Perry’s commanding yet tender rendition was nothing short of mystical, spiritual and luminous. His evocative voice sent chills up and down my spine and brought the audience to their feet for the second standing ovation and was accompanied by wild screams and feverish applause.

  • “Car Wash” from the movie of the same name kept the audience on their feet but now they were dancing, smiling, singing and obviously reminiscing while the dancers on stage were clad in short-shorts, bikini tops and carried buckets and towels as they simulated washing down the set. Sweet, who returned to the stage, performed vocals and joined the fun with Koz doing “the bump”, an 80’s dance step.

When Koz, his special guests and the band left the stage after Car Wash, I felt it was the perfect ending to an unbelievably well executed concert. But, Koz proved me wrong and returned to the stage with his band to perform “I’ll Be There” made famous by the Jackson Five and recorded by Koz on his 1999 CD, The Dance. Koz, who was clearly emotional, thanked the crowd for their support and promised to “be there” for them and then turned to Simpson, Sharpe, Jacobs and Theard and had each play solos indicating their commitment to “be there” as well.

The audience, who was also full of emotion, was pushed over the top as Jacobs became possessed by his bass guitar and began rapidly spinning, swirling, falling to the ground collapsing backwards then jumping up and down doing air splits, followed by him playing the guitar between his knees in a very Jimmy Hendrix kind of fervor. And, if that wasn’t enough, Theard, the drummer who had been holding down the beat and quietly providing background vocals the entire concert, belted out a high pitch chorus that nearly made the audience run up on stage and grab him. It was a wild, pleasant and surprising ending that will be as memorable as the entire 4-hour concert.

My final thought is that Dave Koz is considered one of the smartest businessmen in the music industry because he never loses sight of the importance of the show side of show business.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:04 PM

August 30, 2007

Inglewood’s Fifth Annual South Bay Jazz Festival: Saturday, September 1, 2007: A Labor Day Weekend Tradition

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

JonathanButler_live.jpgIn California, there is no shortage of smooth jazz festivals with A-list artists performing. On any given weekend during the peak summer months, there’s some festival, concert or smooth jazz event worth attending. Although the Inglewood Jazz Festival, a.k.a Jazz in the Park, cannot rival the attendance at mega festivals that have 2-10,000 people in attendance, it certainly meets and exceeds what avid smooth jazz fans value.

Here’s what you get at Jazz in the Park:

  • An awesome, A-list, artist line-up: Jonathan Butler, Down to the Bone featuring Shilts, Pete Escovedo’s Latin Orchestra, and Loose Ends.
  • All entertainment on one stage so you don’t miss anything or have to trek from one spot to another.
  • Easy, convenient and inexpensive self parking or quick, efficient and FREE shuttle bus transportation from nearby lots.
  • Fast and easy entry without having to stand in line ten hours in advance.
  • Reasonably priced tickets with a great view from any of the seating choices.
  • Grassy, manicured lawns and paved paths (so ladies you can wear any type of shoes you choose from sandals to heels). Plus, big shade trees to help beat the heat.
  • Regular “brick and mortar” bathrooms in addition to porta-johns.
  • Great vendors for shopping, food and beverages that are just steps away…not around the corner and down the bend.
  • An Artists’ “meet and greet” Corner where you can purchase cd’s and get your favorite memorabilia autographed.
  • Another great plus for families, groups, friends, couples or individuals:
  • Prepare, pack and bring your own picnic baskets with your favorite “eats and treats”. However, personal bottles of water are the only beverages allowed.

Pete_Escovedo.jpgWhen: Saturday, September 1, 2008
Where: Ed Vincent Park, 700 Warren Lane, Inglewood, CA, 90303
Time: Gates open at 11:00 am, show starts at 1:00 pm
Costs: $38 lawn, $58 open orchestra, $88 table seating for 8 with
umbrellas, $118 VIP seating within the first two rows of the stage and
catered lunch backstage.
Venue: Outdoors, Park
Contact: South Bay Entertainment Group, 310.671.6400
Tickets:, 310.671.6400, 310.419.4504 or
purchase and print your own tickets at,

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: This venue is accessible for persons with disabilities… call ahead for any special needs.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:26 PM

August 29, 2007

Brian Culbertson Just Added To The Super Cruise

By the Jazz Gypsy

SuperCruise2.jpgOctober 14-19, 2007, Baltimore, MD to Bermuda
Royal Caribbean, Grandeur of the Seas or call 310.972.4547

A smooth jazz cruise is a jazz lover’s paradise! You can’t beat a vacation at sea rubbing elbows with the best performers in the industry that will provide nearly round the clock entertainment: Brian Culbertson, Boney James, Kim Waters, Maysa, Alex Bugnon, Pieces of a Dream, Down to the Bone, Lalah Hathaway, Ledisi, Ken Ford, Spur of the Moment, and Plunky. Add in the special entertainment: Sinbad & WHUR’s Audrey Chapman, plus the ports, activities and amenities on the ship and you’ve got the makings of a vacation of a lifetime.

The full ship chartered, 2,446 passenger luxury liner has less than 150 cabins remaining at very affordable prices. For cabin availability and information go to or call Debbie at 301.972.4547.

The Super Cruise is presented by the Capital Jazz Fest which celebrated their 15th year in 2007. Guitarist, Chuck Loeb, calls The Capital Jazz Fest “the Woodstock of jazz festivals” because tens of thousands of music lovers make an annual pilgrimage to the Merriweather Post Pavilion, located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. to experience a three-day roster of only the top smooth and contemporary jazz artists. Attended by everyone that considers their selves to be devoted smooth jazz fans, the Capital Jazz Fest is a “not-to-be-missed” festival.

Dates for 2008 are set for June 6-8.

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: VIP tickets go on sale early so sign-up for their mailing list to get advance notification and information on their line-up at

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:35 PM

August 28, 2007

Time for R n R: soul-jazz stars Rick Braun & Richard Elliot unite for funky, horn-powered duet album

Album hits stores as the title track is poised to go #1 on the radio chart
Rick-and-Richard.jpgThe mercury continues to rise from coast to coast as the nation has been hit this summer by a sizzling wave of funk and contemporary jazz courtesy of two of the hottest horn men in the game: trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Richard ElliotR n R, the album of duets by the luminaries who combined have released 24 albums and are capable of fully stocking a jukebox with their chart-topping hits, arrives in record stores today from the ARTizen Music Group record label with the promise of keeping the party grooving through next summer.  The first radio single, the indelible title track that sounds both vintage and fresh, is top 3 and set to pounce on the #1 spot.  Braun and Elliot wrote and produced the dozen original funk, R&B, contemporary jazz and pop songs that comprise what is certain to standout as the album event of the year in the genre.

The highly-anticipated collaboration between Braun and Elliot has been brewing for over a decade.  Over the years, they’ve toured together and have made appearances on each other’s albums.  Three years ago, they partnered with a couple of music industry veterans to create the ARTizen Music Group.  It then became a question of “when.”  The stars finally aligned earlier this year when the duo entered Braun’s studio to record without any preconceived ideas.  They gathered grooves from a variety of sources, such as Jeff Lorber, Rex Rideout and Philippe Saisse, and wrote the melodies as they recorded, which was a unique process for them.  Braun and Elliot were backed by a talented collective consisting of Chris Standring, Dwight Sills, Gregg Karukas, Lenny Castro, Ricky Lawson and Nate Phillips.  The result is an album rich with spontaneity that exudes the raw, dynamic energy of a live performance.                
To help launch the album at retail, Braun and Elliot will be at Borders stores in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC on September 4th & 5th to perform a short set and sign CDs.  Braun and Elliot have spent much of the spring and summer co-headlining the perennially successful Jazz Attack concert tour with Jonathan Butler and Peter White, which helped whet fans’ appetites for the new disc.  Jazz Attack dates continue through the fall and in between, Braun and Elliot are out individually headlining concert dates with their own bands.        
Although the album was just unveiled, critics are already hailing R n R.  Soul Tracks declared, “This masterwork of comfortable grooves show(s) conclusively why these are among the gurus of the smooth jazz genre.”  All Music Guide stated, “The music…flows from their collective musical minds like a natural extension with the same elements of spontaneity, soul, and sex appeal.  Each tune is based on a particular rhythmical feel or texture: shuffle, boogaloo, Latin, funk, even 20th century cool and bebop colors… With great performances emanating from both Braun and Elliot,
R n R is exciting and lively, yet warm, sexy, and mellow.  It is in this experimental way that you begin to grasp the depth of their combined signature sounds and the impact it will have on their devoted and new fans alike.  Highly recommended.”  Smooth Jazz Vibes wrote, “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…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.”  Urban Network said, “The gentlemen have teamed this year for a soulful duo project featuring the first single/title track ‘R n R,’ which sounds like something the legendary Adderley Brothers might have thrown down in 2007.  The duo wax dark and mysterious on the other highlights: ‘Sweet Somethin’,’ ‘The Stranger’ and ‘Down and Dirty.’  Also impressive is the tricky appropriately titled ‘Curve Ball.’” Jazz Review opened by asking, “Could one expect anything less than perfection from two of the most colossal and prolific names in all of smooth jazz?...this is one album that proves to be worthy of all the accolades it will surely receive.  It proves yet again that those at the top of their game are there for a very, very good reason.”
Additional information is available at, and

Posted by Peter Böhi at 11:03 AM

August 27, 2007

Tom Braxton - Imagine This

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. Tom Braxton’s new CD, Imagine This, hit record stores across the USA on August 21 and is already causing quite a stir. It’s his first on the Pacific Coast Jazz label and follows the outstanding 2004 effort Bounce that was produced by Wayman Tisdale and which featured a plethora of top-notch tracks including the hugely radio friendly title tune. The album proved, if proof was indeed necessary, that sax-man Braxton is a master of smooth, sophisticated contemporary jazz and now with Imagine This his status is boosted even further. This is not only by virtue of the eleven faultless cuts but also through the galaxy of smooth jazz stars, including Kirk Whalum, Kirks brother Kevin Whalum, Tim Bowman and Brian Simpson, who have clamored to collaborate with him.

The album starts out in fine style with Braxton’s cool cover of the Steely Dan hit ‘Peg’. It’s the first track to be selected for radio play and is sure to find instant favor with the smooth jazz networks. That said magnificent tracks abound and with ‘Kaanapali Beach’ Braxton evokes warm sunshine and waves breaking on Hawaiian beaches. The subtle horn section of Don Bozman, Larry Spencer and Pete Branham is particularly effective while backing vocals from Kevin Whalum and Selinza Mitchell really capture the mood. Braxton has a skill for painting pictures with his music and does so again with ‘Evening Drive’ where, helped by Tim Bowman on guitar, he creates a languid ‘driving with the top down’ vibe. Later, he slackens the tempo even further for the atmospheric ‘1 a.m.’. With a sultriness engendered in part by more of those same luscious horns this is a superb example of classy contemporary jazz and when Braxton calls on Brian Simpson’s piano virtuosity for ‘Escape’ they together whip up a jazzy, melodic masterpiece.

The feisty up tempo ‘Good To Go’ really fizzes while completely at the other end of the emotional rainbow is the tender ‘Downtime’. It’s a number to chill by and chilling of a different kind is on offer with the expansive ‘Rest Assured’. At just under seven minutes in length this moody odyssey has jazz credentials that are unquestioned and as Braxton takes his time he is ably assisted by the excellent Arlington Jones on keyboards.

Braxton’s music is often grounded in his faith and he shares this inspiration through his version of ‘Revelation Song’ that is quite simply beauty personified. Kirk Whalum is another artist whose discography contains a sacred element and here, as the two of them combine for the album’s title cut, Braxton’s soprano sax blends delightfully with the tenor of Whalum. This gently exquisite tune is a real stand out and another personal favorite is Braxton’s interpretation of the Patrice Rushen smash ‘Haven’t You Heard’. Originally from her 1980 release Pizzazz, on which the then fledgling session musicians Gerald Albright and Paul Jackson Jr both appeared, it is given a new lease of life by Braxton who in doing so fashions what is likely to remain as one of the best covers of 2007.

Imagine This has certainly got it all going on. Six of Braxton’s own excellent compositions, production from him throughout and smooth jazz sax of the highest order all make the statement that Tom Braxton has arrived. For more go to

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 3:54 PM

August 24, 2007

The 1st Annual Inland Empire Jazz Festival is scheduled for August 24, 25, & 26, 2007

Written by The Jazz Gypsy
BrianCulbertson_bw.jpgThe 3-day Jazz Festival features host jazz great Brian Culbertson and co-host film star Vivica A. Fox and guest Steve Cole.  Culbertson, and Cole will perform along with Gerald Albright, Paul Jackson, Jr., A. Ray Fuller, Cal Bennett, Jackiem Joyner, Jeanette Harris, Impromp2, Michael Ward, LA Mambo Combo, Jazz Junkies, Derrick Edmunson, Panther and Aaron Fetcher.   
In addition to the jazz concert on Saturday and Sunday, there will be a student jazz competition on Friday, an art walk, carnival, vintage car exhibition and activities for persons with disabilities and their families.  The festival is also one of a kind in presenting a range of jazz styles including New Orleans, Dixieland, Bebop, Mainstream Jazz Fusion, Free Funk and Smooth Jazz.
This charity event, presented by Operation REAPP & SEBA, will benefit local charities that work with persons with disabilities and at-risk youths.  The dates and times are Friday, August 24th from 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, Saturday, August 25, from 11:00 am – 10:00 pm and Sunday, August 26, 2007 from 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm. 
The entire Festival will be held at the 150-acre Cucamonga-Guasti Regional Park which features a fishing lake, children’s play area and plenty of family activities that enhance the experience of relaxation, fun and music.  The park is located at 800 N. Archibald Ave., Ontario, CA 91764.  Discounted tickets are now available by calling  909.941.5920 or go to

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:20 PM

August 23, 2007

VF Outlet Named as New Sponsor for Berks Jazz Festival

BerksJazzFest_Logo2008.jpgFollowing is a press release given August 23rd in Reading, Pennsylvania regarding new sponsorship of the Berks Jazz Festival. With members of the Berks Arts Council present, Berks Jazz Fest manager John Ernesto, various media people (including radio), as well as jazz artists Gerald Veasley, Chieli Minucci and Nelson Rangell, Connie Leinbach, Berks Arts Council President, made the announcment.

READING, Pa. - VF Outlet, Inc. has become the title sponsor for the Berks Jazz Fest for 2008 through 2010, presented by the Berks Arts Council.

"The Berks Jazz Fest is an important musical, cultural and economic event that has become a vital part of Greater Reading," says Steve Fritz, President of VF Outlet, Inc., about the collaboration. "VF Outlet is thrilled to be a part of this long standing tradition."

In fact VF has come full circle since it helped launch the festival in 1991, as the title sponsor.

The Berks Arts Council has presented the Berks Jazz Fest since 1991, when it began as a weekend event with about two dozen events. It has been a 10-day event since 2000, and has burgeoned into a world-class event featuring more than 130 events and attracting an audience of more than 45,000.

"During Jazz Fest, the streets, shops, hotels and restaurants are filled with jazz patrons, all of whom spend an estimated $6 million in Berks County in just 10 days," says Connie Leinbach, Executive Director of the Berks Arts
Council. "With VF's partnership, both of our organizations will reach new fans and customers."

GPU and its successor company FirstEnergy had been the title sponsor since 1999.

"We are grateful for FirstEnergy's support of this event since 2003 and are pleased that they will continue to be a major sponsor of the festival," Leinbach adds.

The 18th edition of the festival runs from Friday, March 28, through Sunday, April 6, 2008. Major ticketed acts will be announced December 2. Current information is located on the web at

Berks Arts Council's mission is to encourage and promote all of the arts, to develop an appreciation of the arts and to enrich and enhance the quality through education, collaborations and presentation with other arts
organizations. The Arts Council presents the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, Berks Movie Madness Film Festival, Bandshell Concert Series, the Pagoda Awards, the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts re-granting program, the Music Composition Program, and provides art exhibition opportunities for member artists. For more information about Berks Arts Council call (610) 898-1930, or visit .

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:33 PM

August 22, 2007

Kenny G Joins The All Star Smooth Cruise

The new look All Star Smooth Cruise from Haven Entertainment has just got a whole lot bigger. None other than contemporary jazz superstar Kenny G has been added to the lineup and is scheduled to play as part of the highly anticipated pre-cruise show in San Diego. He is the latest addition to a roster of artists now approaching epic proportions which, in addition to host Norman Brown, includes Boney James, Paul Taylor, Acoustic Alchemy, Nick Colionne, Marion Meadows, Chieli Minucci, Larry Carlton and Shilts. That’s not all. Both Fourplay and Patti Austin are also new inclusions and when the soul sensations of Kool & The Gang, The Spinners and the Four Tops are factored in, the cliché of ‘something for everyone’ really does become a reality. Multi platinum keyboard player Alan Hewitt will be performing and handling the back stage artist interviews, Steve Oliver will be there to share his unique guitar style and, in an ironic twist, the ‘godfather’ of smooth jazz cruising, Warren Hill, will also guest.

The All Star Smooth Cruise departs San Diego on January 19, 2008. For more information on the complete line-up go to

Posted by Denis Poole at 6:30 AM

August 20, 2007

Dave Koz and Friends At the Movies for Christmas Tour


Dave Koz and Friends are At the Movies for this year's Smooth Jazz Christmas tour! Here's the latest press release from the Berks Arts Council.

READING, PA -- The Berks Jazz Fest promises to jazz up Christmas with the return of Dave Koz and pals, making a stop in Reading during their Dave Koz and Friends, A Smooth Jazz Christmas At The Movies, With Special Guests Jonathan Butler, Wayman Tisdale and Kimberley Locke, of American Idol fame. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Dave Koz and Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas, and the show's third appearance in Reading.

Join the holiday fun on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in West Reading. Reserved tickets are $55 and $49.

Multi-Grammy nominee and pop instrumentalist/saxophonist extraordinaire Koz always is treated like music royalty during his Berks Jazz Fest appearances. Concertgoers on Nov. 28th will be treated to the artists' hits, as well as Christmas and holiday standards. Koz also will be covering a selection of music from his new release, At The Movies. Koz and friends will be joined by musical director Brian Simpson, a Rendezvous Recording Artist.

Koz's latest work, At The Movies, showcases the timeless melodies from American and foreign cinema, including "Over The Rainbow," "Moon River," "The Pink Panther," "The Way We Were," "It Might Be You," and more.

Rendezvous artist Jonathan Butler, a gifted singer, two-time Grammy-nominated songwriter, guitarist and producer, released Brand New Day in June. As a teenager, the South African native broke racial barriers in his native country with his first single on the Jive Records label. Over the years, Butler solidified his presence in the 1990s with a body of music that crossed color and age lines.

Wayman Tisdale is a former NBA star, Olympic gold medalist and popular jazz bassist whose latest CD, Way Up, is one of this year's best-selling jazz releases, debuting at No. 1, and spending 30 weeks in the Top 10 on
Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart. His current radio single, the title track "Way Up," on its way to the top, is currently at No. 2 on R&R's Smooth Jazz chart.

Tisdale suffered a leg injury after a fall in February; it was then discovered that the injury was due to a cancerous cyst in his leg. Tisdale is on the road to recovery and is working on a new album, titled Rebound.

Kimberley Locke's name may ring a few bells. The second runner-up on the second season of "American Idol" in 2003, this singer later released her Curb Records debut album, One Love, and has had five consecutive top 10 Adult Contemporary hits, including two No. 1 songs, "8th World Wonder," and a holiday recording of "Up On The Housetop." She's also a model and has been involved in several television projects and Disney recordings. Locke's sophomore album, Based on a True Story, the follow-up to One Love, came out last fall on Curb Records.

This year's Dave Koz and Friends Christmas show promises to get the audience in the holiday spirit, so we hope you join in the fun!

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, 7th & Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. 6th St.,
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit
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Plan now for a Happy Jazzin' Christmas!

KozBeverly%5B1%5D.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 2:29 PM

August 18, 2007

Contempo August 2007

syprogyra_bandpic.jpgRather than make a big to-do with some sort of major retrospective or another greatest hits package, Spyro Gyra celebrated its 30th anniversary as recording artists last year the only way the band knows how: adding 60-some live shows to over 5,000 others and recording yet another high energy disc, Wrapped In A Dream, which earned the band its ninth Grammy nomination this year.

The category: Best Pop Instrumental Album, a designation that barely captures the dazzling stylistic rollercoastering Spyro brings naturally to all its projects. The slot was created several years ago to recognize in the pocket smooth jazz artists like Norman Brown, Boney James and Dave Koz. Then again, the Recording Academy had to put Jay Beckenstein and the giddy, ageless wonders in his band somewhere.

“That’s been the blessing and curse of our whole career,” says the group’s founder and saxophonist, “that we don’t fall into anyone’s categories. Are we jazz, smooth jazz, fusion, Latin, all of the above or none of the above? From a marketing standpoint, our curse is that we’ve defied categorization, but creatively, that’s a blessing. On stage and in the studio, we live in this world of combining all of these things, including the R&B that’s so much a part of smooth jazz. But that’s just one of the many things we do.”

If the high-spirited, almost constantly pulsating Good To Go-Go, Spyro’s fifth release on Heads Up, gets the Academy’s attention, they may have to shift the band into the world music realm. The vibrant calypso, playful reggae and overall Caribbean slant of tracks like “Jam Up” and “Island Time” (both featuring the glorious steel pans of labelmate Andy Narell) provide the foundational vibe of the disc; Beckenstein was also thinking a different kind of global when he wrote the bubbly, sensual funk jam “The Left Bank” based on an imaginary travelogue of Paris running through his head. The song titles say it all about the celebrating going on, from Beckenstein’s playful “Simple Pleasures” to guitarist Julio Fernandez’s blistering “Funkyard Dog” and keyboardist Tom Schuman’s intensely soulful and catchy, ultra-melodic “Get Busy” and “Wassup!”

The source of the happy island bopping? Spyro’s hot new drummer/percussionist Bonny B (short for Bonaparte), a dreadlocked. Trinidad-born groove master who began playing live with the band in late 2006; Beckenstein first saw him play at a Latin extravaganza in Las Vegas, where B is a first call drummer. In addition to his rhythmic skills, he’s also a great songwriter and vocalist who provides colorful indigenous rap and cool voicings on his tune “Jam Up!” Beckenstein is pleased to note that his band’s newest member is also a powerhouse singer in the Stevie Wonder/Marvin Gaye tradition. These days, that is the ultimate ingredient for a smooth jazz airplay hit. Not that Spyro will necessarily be exploiting his voice like that anytime soon.

“Bonny has an astounding voice, and the opportunity to do more vocal things is there,” Beckenstein says, “but we’ll worry about specifics when we get to the next project. The cool thing is that making Good To Go-Go was such a fun, effortless process that we all can’t wait till we get to make another. Everything just flowed so naturally. Bonny has been a big difference and has really triggered a renaissance for us. We’re really excited about making music with this guy, who is not only a great drummer but also a great spirit. The guys have always gotten along well personally, and our friendships have deepened over the years. Bonny’s talent adds the kind of creative spark that reminds us why we’re still excited about making music. That positive energy couldn’t help but translate into a more upbeat and buoyant record.”

In addition to going in a more tropical direction musically, the band was after a more unified, live sounding, less produced feeling — which translates especially well to the SACD version of the disc being released in 5.1 Surroundsound. With the Bonny B infusion, the band had been sounding super-hot on the road in recent months, and Beckenstein wanted to capture that fire in the studio as much as possible.

“There’s a more unified sound than on most of our recent albums,” he says. “In the past, we always sort of produced from tune to tune. If one needed more reverb, we gave it some. If one called for big production, it got it. If another required a sparse arrangement, the same. In the past, there might be more reverb on a ballad, where the funk tune would be dry. This time, we made an effort to put every single track in the same sort of sonic space, so it sounds natural and organic. The drums sound the same on every tune, the reverb on my sax is the same, and everything feels more live. We’re so into these songs, in fact that when we tour this summer, we plan to perform every one of them — with maybe a medley of our old hits to satisfy the fans who go way back with us.”

No matter how critically acclaimed or Grammy nominated Spyro Gyra has been, at the end of the day — on the rare occasions when the band reflects back on its incredible success - Beckenstein says the buck stops with those fans. “If you had asked the 28 year old Jay how long this ride would last, I’d have said, of course it would go on at least another 15 years,” he laughs. “Somewhere in the middle of our run, I might have said, we’d all be surprised if it goes another 15. At this point, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t last another 15. That’s how excited we are right now. There are a lot of reasons for that. It’s about a band whose members are diligent, kind, considerate and talented. But it’s really our fan base that is responsible. They keep coming to the shows and buying the CDs and inspire us to make music that delights us and in turn, brings them joy. We love what we do, but we understand that we get to keep doing it because they stay so interested.”

Currently gearing up to release their first dual album together, smooth jazz superstars Rick Braun and Richard Elliot are making good on their promise to make ARTizen Records — the label they co-own with their manager Steve Chapman and Al Evers — accessible to new artists. While HeadBoppin’, the brilliantly funky label debut from Down To The Bone’s irrepressible saxman Shilts, didn’t catch on with radio and audiences as they hoped, they’re excited about the strictly urban vibe of their latest sax signee, Jackiem Joyner. Only 26, Joyner brings a solid sideman pedigree to his debut Babysoul, including numerous gigs with Marcus Johnson, Bobby Lyle and Jaared; co-headlining a tour with Ronnie Laws, Angela Bofill and Jean Carne; and opening for India.Arie, Boney James, Spyro Gyra and George Benson.

It’s always hard to predict what will fly with smooth jazz fans that can’t get enough of their favorite star veterans and only selectively let young guns into the big leagues. But some of Joyner’s song titles show a sense of optimism that is as bright as many of his performances on the disc — “Elevation,” “Say Yes,” “Just Groove,” and perhaps as an ode to his age, closing with a sensuous declaration of “Innocence.” The soulful first single doesn’t have the most original title — “Stay With Me Tonight,” no relation to Jeffrey Osborne — but the combination of Joyner’s melodic style and Peter White’s sweet acoustic guitar is hard to resist.

Elliot and Braun also planned to showcase Joyner on select dates of their big Jazz Attack tour this summer.

Personal Taste

1) Ryan Shaw, This Is Ryan Shaw (Columbia/One Haven/Red Ink) – James Brown may be gone, but his soul train keeps chuggin’ thanks to this fiery new vocal powerhouse. A sizzling mix of covers and originals, some toe-tappin’, some romantic, this is retro-soul on steroids, taking us back to the days of Booker T., Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.
2) Donny Osmond, Love Songs of the 70s (Decca)
3) Jeff Golub, Grand Central (Narada Jazz)
4) Michael Buble, Call Me Irresponsible (143/Reprise)
5) Julie Dexter/Khari Simmons, Moon Bossa (Brash Music)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 8:23 AM

August 17, 2007

Long Beach Jazz Festival 2007 - Hot Summer Jazz Festival

Photo and Text By Ricky Richardson

Long Beach - For two decades the Long Beach Jazz Festival has been showcasing the best in jazz, R&B, and smooth jazz as the premier jazz festival in Southern California.

To mark the 20th Anniversary of the festival, founder Al Williams delivered as promised to pull out all the stops. Highlights for this year’s festival included a nightly fireworks show with performances by some of the best and brightest in the jazz, smooth jazz and R&B genres. The festival debuted the inaugural "Long Beach Jazz Festival Lifetime Achievement Award" and the "Al Williams Jazz Heritage Award".

For the first time, an additional stage was set up in the pavilion area to showcase local talent.

Friday night - Pastor Raymond LeBlanc of First Lutheran Church of Long Beach said the opening prayer to officially get the festival underway. Reggie Harrison - Long Beach City Manager, presented Al Williams a Proclamation on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Long Beach Jazz Festival.

Jazz-Legends-Awards.jpgThe Gerald Wilson Orchestra came out swinging hard with some straight ahead jazz. Gerald featured most of the band as featured soloist. The band opened with "Blues For The Count" featuring Brian O’Rourke in the piano chair. Gerald received two Grammy nominations one for the song "Romance" - (Best Instrumental Composition) and a Grammy nomination for the CD Theme for Monterey (Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance). Saxophonist Scott Mayo was the featured soloist. The band also played a tune by Miles Davis that they helped to popularize "Milestones" featuring the saxophone section - Kimasi Washington, Carl Randall, Randall Willis, Scott Mayo, Luis Van Taylor and Jack Nemis. They closed their set with "Blues For Yna Yna."

The Long Beach Jazz Festival presented Gerald Wilson with its inaugural "Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the jazz world. Another award was presented to Howard Rumsey. Mr. Rumsey received the "Al Williams Jazz Heritage Award" for his contribution to the west coast jazz club scene for his clubs Concerts By The Sea (Redondo Beach, California) and the world famous Lighthouse Jazz Club in Hermosa Beach, California.

The second half of the program featured Dianne Schuur (vocals, piano). Deedles as she is fondly called captivated the audience with her charm, sense of humor and most importantly of all-her high reaching vocal octaves. She opened her set with a name sake tune "Deedles Blues" arranged by Frank Foster of The Count Basie Orchestra. Ms. Shuur continued with "I’m Traveling Light", "We Will Be Together Again", she sang "Save Your Love" with her husband by her side, finished her set with "Everyday I Have The Blues", "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Besame Mucho".

Warren Hill and Guitar & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Golub, and Tim Bowman closed out the festival on Friday night.

Saturday - The Long Beach Jazz Festival organizers continued the tradition of having The Jazz Search Winners be the opening act for the final two days of the festival. Phinnie O’Leary Jackson a vocalist with lots of potential was the winner of the vocal section of the competition. Look out for her debut CD - Phinnally Phinnie in early 2008.

Eric Darius who has toured extensively with various smooth jazz artists is finally the leader of his own group. The title of his latest CD - Just Getting Started - is an appropriate title in that Eric is letting the smooth jazz community know that he plans on being around for the long haul. Eric performance was my favorite of Saturday afternoon. Eric and his tight band had people up and dancing on "Groove On", "Joy Ride", "Love TKO", "Chillin Out", "Let’s Stay Together", "If I Ain’t Got You" by Alicia Keys when he ventured out into the crowd to serenade several lucky women. He continued his crowd pleasing set with "Slick", "Back At Cha", "Steppin Up", and concluded with "Night On The Town."

Jody-Watley-and-Everette-Ha.jpgSoul Express featuring a couple of original tunes by guitarist Chris Standring, followed by saxophonist Everette Harp. They concluded their set with an appearance by Jody Watley. She took the crowd down memory lane with some hits from the past - "Looking For A New Love", "Still A Thrill", "Your Love Keep Working on Me", "Borderline" and concluded with "Real Love."

Vocalist Leela James came out performing a high energy set of R&B tunes before she slowed the tempo with some original tunes from her debut CD - A Change Is Gonna Come. Leela James is a small woman with a gutsy voice who entertained the crowd with some soul/neo-soul tunes.

1 + One featuring Ndugu Chancler and Patrice Rushen and Jazz Attack consisted of Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler, Richard Elliott and Peter White were other artists contributing to the success of Saturday’s program.

Sunday, the festival opened with a nice set by The George Lesiw Band. They performed material from their debut CD - Anuta Was Here that reflects the tradition of improvisional jazz mixed with fusion and "rockin’ blues." This tight band from New England has a loyal following on the East Coast. The tight trio features George Lesiw - electric guitar, Preston Murphy - acoustic bass and Gil Hawkins Jr., - drums.

Jazz-Society.jpgAl Williams Jazz Society played some straight ahead jazz to the delight of the jazz purist in the crowd. Barbara Morrison - a popular jazz and blues vocalist captivated the crowd with "Summertime", "Endangered Species", and "Down Home Blues", and finished another crowd pleasing set with "They Call Me Sundown." In between songs, she kept the crowd in stitches with a couple of hilarious jokes.

The final day of the festival could have been labeled Sax Attack in three parts. Part 1 featured Ronnie Laws followed by - Part 2 - a high octane set from the Sax Attack (Steve Cole, Kim Waters and Jeff Kashiwa) and finally, Part 3 - a set by Najee.

Vocalist Lalah Hathaway the daughter of the late great vocalist Donny Hathaway was also popular with the crowd.

The festival wouldn’t be complete without an explosive hot Latin jazz and salsa set by conguero Pancho Sanchez, a perennial crowd favorite.

The festival concluded with some fireworks.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:00 PM

August 16, 2007

Brian Hughes Offers Live CD On Website

Hughes_Brian_Playing.jpgSmooth jazz guitarist extraordinaire Brian Hughes has released his first-ever live recording and it’s titled, simply enough, Live. The eight-song CD, which checks in at more than 72 minutes, was recorded at Maison de la culture Frontenac in Montreal. It features bassist Tim Landers, drummer Tal Bergman, percussionist Ron Powell, and pianist Les Portelli.

Among the CD’s songs are “For You,” “The Beat,” “Omaha Unbound” and “Thinking of You.” Live is being offered exclusively at Brian’s website at You can either purchase the entire CD or just individual songs.

There may be more Hughes music in store. A show in Los Angeles on Aug. 11 was recorded, and Hughes says he hopes to offer a DVD of it later this year.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 2:58 AM

August 14, 2007

Jeff Kashiwa's Play Debuts At #2 On Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart

Play, the brand new CD from contemporary jazz saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa, has debuted at #2 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart.  The album, which features over a dozen great tracks, was released July 31 on Native Language Music.  Play is Kashiwa's fourth outing for the label. The Seattle native is out on the road now in support of this release. Dates, venues, and cities are listed below.

One of the most diverse sax players in all of contemporary jazz, Jeff Kashiwa established himself as a dynamic live saxophonist during his amazing decade-long tenure with The Rippingtons. Kashiwa used some of his down time from the group to lay the foundation for his solo career, which has included five previous albums and a #1 hit on the Radio & Records chart with "Hyde Park (The Aah, Ooh Song)."

At the emotional core of his new CD Play are the eight Kashiwa-produced tracks recorded live at Sounden Studios with his band Coastal Access. In addition to longtime members Allen Hinds (guitar), Melvin Davis (bass) and Dave Hooper (drums), the saxman brought in legendary Yellowjackets keyboardist Russell Ferrante to play sparkling acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes, along with famed percussionist Lenny Castro.

Coastal Access is the ensemble appearing on Play's first single, the sizzling retro soul-flavored funk jam "Forever." The fiery track is already getting a great response from NAC radio.  Some of Play's other songs include the exotic, reggae-tinged "Blue Jeans"; the sensuous "New View," and a lush ballad, "Fall." The adventurous "Way Out West" features drum programming by Kashiwa's Native Language labelmates  Four80East. "The songs cover a lot of stylistic territory, from funky pop to more classic traditional jazz," said Kashiwa. "They're all part of my new definition of ‘play' - to be free, to engage in joyful activity. We just got in the studio and said, let's play. Let's really play!"

Norfolk Jazz Festival
Norfolk, VA

Long Beach Jazz Festival
Long Beach
The Sax Pack

The Rippingtons Reunion Band

The Rippingtons Reunion Band

The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Blue Jay Jazz Festival
Blue Jay, CA
Coastal Access

Chastain Park
The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Icicle Ridge Winery
Leavenworth, WA
The Northwest All Star Band

Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club
Jackson Hole

Hyatt Newporter
Newport Beach
The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Mablehouse-Barnes Amphitheater
The Sax Pack

Thornton Winery
The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Sheraton Reading Hotel
Coastal Access

Sheraton Reading Hotel
Coastal Access

San Antonio
The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Lyman Center
New Haven
The Sax Pack

IMAC Theater
The Sax Pack

San Bernadino County Fair
The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Tangier Restaurant and Cabaret
The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Capitol Theatre
Davenport, IA
The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Rossi's Steakhouse &  Blue Star
The Rippingtons Reunion Band

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:16 PM

August 12, 2007

Paul Taylor - Ladies' Choice

In extending this month's CD reviews, staying focused on the talent from the desert seemed only natural to focus on another Las Vegas based musician.

Paul Taylor's sound has become very identifiable in smooth jazz. Within the first few minutes of listening to Ladies' Choice, it is evident whose voice is behind the alto saxophone. His signature sound on both alto and soprano saxophones has been one of the tools that has helped keep his career on an even course.
In Ladies' Choice, the artist has utilized the talents of two credible producers, Rex Rideout, and Barry Eastmond. Eastmond works his magic on the vocal tracks, "How Did You Know", and "Open Your Eyes", both co-written and sung by guest Regina Belle. Eastmond has a prior history working with Anita Baker, and facilitates a similar approach with Belle.
Belle stands out beyond the other guest vocalists. who include LaToya London, Terry Dexter, and Lauren Evans. Although all are fine vocalists, there is nothing that stands out about the latter three's performances, or even the song choices.
What really shines on this album are the uptempo renditions of the tracks, "Ladies' Choice", "Overdrive", and "Point Of View", all featuring alto sax. "Streamline" is also a nice track with the soprano saxophone as the featured lead.
Taylor has obviously switched direction this time around, and this project reflects that in a positive way. This more aggressive approach and diversity is a welcome change.

Posted by Danny Desart at 5:41 PM

August 11, 2007

New Chieli Minucci Music Available Only In Digital Format

Minucci.jpgChieli Minucci is offering a new CD of never-released material, but you won’t find it in a record store. The guitarist has released a CD titled Travels as a digital download only on his website,, the second time he has done so. Minucci says the music is separate from his Special EFX sound, although it overlaps stylistically. The music is a compilation of two projects, both of which are long-form compositions originally used for pre-show music for the theatrical productions Dora the Explorer – Live, Go, Diego Go - Live and Thomas and His Friends – Thomas Saves the Day.

Minucci says he's now put much more of a personal touch to these pieces, and they transcended their original purpose. The compositions are "Journey,"which has three parts, and “Bienvenidos” which has five. Each of the eight compositions are $1 each.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:32 PM

August 10, 2007

Rocky Gordon - Alone In The Crowd

Although this column has not reviewed CDs before, it only seemed appropriate to initiate some reviews as was intended several months ago.

Outside of the several talented artists making smooth jazz charts today are upcoming artists. The first review from this column will be devoted to one of several artists who resides in the desert.,

Rocky Gordon, originally a Philadelphia transplant to Vegas, recently released his contemporary jazz CD under the Misatajo umbrella, a fairly new indie label.
The release, Alone In The Crowd, features a combination of dance, funk, and latin grooves on a variety of tracks.
Gordon displays his saxello-soprano sax virtuosity with great warmth and a solid tone, which includes some fine bop-like ideas throughout each of his solos on this album.
The Great Escape, To Yourself Be True, the only tune where the artist plays alto sax, and The Dream Messenger, stand out as the tracks most applicable for radio play, with memorable hooks and a strong concept from the arrangements. Tom Schuman’s production is complimentary throughout the first two mentioned. Schuman also lends his production expertise on the title track, Alone In The Crowd, with a nice understated solo. Although I would have preferred a slightly more aggressive side to Schuman’s solo effort based on his ability to “deliver the goods” technically and creatively.
Nuovo Strada Di Spero, which in Italian means New Street Of Hope, has a very Sergio Mendes Brazilian feel, accompanied by real and synthesized background voices, with a very well stated melody.
A Fresh Start is the most sophisticated chord structured composition, and is the best example of what could be described as “contemporary” in jazz.
The musicianship and production are solid, although at times it feels a little too slick, as many projects tend to sound these days.
The only composition not written by the artist is a cover of Sarah McLachlin’s hit, Angel, which seemed to drag on about a chorus too long, and the only track which the CD could have probably survived without.
All in all, Gordon is a talented composer and saxophonist who has a niche that could establish a place in contemporary jazz in time.

Posted by Danny Desart at 12:45 AM

August 8, 2007

Chris Botti Bonus DVD To Have Plenty Of Extras

Botti_Italia.jpgOn Sept. 25, trumpeter Chris Botti will offer his fans a special version of his Italia CD that comes with a DVD. This extra version features four exclusive bonus audio tracks from the Italia session. The songs are “Emmanuel,” which Botti originally recorded for The Young and the Restless soap opera and has only been available online to this point; a version of Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain”; “If I Loved You” with vocals by Paula Cole; and the standard “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” which has been covered most famously by Vic Damone and also the Platters.

The DVD will also take you through recording and photo sessions with footage of Botti recording Italia in London, Los Angeles, and Italy. You can also go behind the scenes with Botti and Andrea Bocelli in Italy as they rehearse their duet "Italia" and see Botti recording "Nessun Dorma" and "The Way You Look Tonight" in London with a full orchestra. Also included will be interviews with Botti, songwriter David Foster and producer Bobby Colomby.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:48 PM

August 6, 2007

Summer Storm Coming To Vegas

Of all the great performances going on in August in the desert, the most anticipated event is the Summer Storm that will take place at the Boulder Station Hotel on Saturday, August 25th. Four great smooth jazz artists are scheduled to appear. Guitarist Norman Brown, vocalist/pianist/composer Peabo Bryson, Soprano sax master Marion Meadows, and keyboard great Jeff Lorber will be tearing it up in the Railhead Showroom.

Master bassist Stanley Clarke gave an electrifying tour de force at the Green Valley Ranch Resort, Saturday, August 4th.

Jeffrey Osborne brings his great pop-r&b-smooth vocal style one night only at the Boulder Station Hotel on August 17th.

And the super-successful series, Jazz Under The Stars, will host its fourth edition for 2007 on Sunday, September 2nd at Spring Mountain State Park with event guests, saxman Richard Elliot, and smooth jazz guitarist Joyce Cooling. Gates open at 6pm, performances scheduled at 7pm. Kudos to Michael Schivo, one of the few indie promoters who has mastered this series every year by providing each event with great talent, including his annual City OF Lights Jazz And R & B Festival.

Posted by Danny Desart at 7:51 PM

August 5, 2007

20th Long Beach Jazz Festival

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Long Beach Jazz Festival (LBJF), August 10, 11 and 12, 2007 – Southern California’s premier jazz festival. For the past 19 years, over 750,000 music lovers have gone through the gates of the Long Beach Jazz Festival to experience the music of a Who's Who of legendary talent including Nancy Wilson, Herbie Hancock, Cab Calloway, Eddie Harris, Roberta Flack, Art Blakey, Lou Rawles, Gerald Wilson, Wayne Shorter, Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Roy Ayers, Diane Schuur, Chuck Mangione, Chic Correa, Gene Harris, Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Smith, Stanley Carke, Bobby Caldwell, Hugh Masakela, Gil-Scott Heron, Freddie Hubbard, George Duke and the list goes on.
To mark the 20th Anniversary of the Festival, founder Al Williams promises to pull out all the stops. Highlights will include a nightly fireworks show, performances by some of the best and brightest in the Jazz, Smooth Jazz, and R&B genres and the announcement of the first annual "Long Beach Jazz Festival Lifetime Achievement Award" recipient and the "Al Williams Jazz Heritage Award honoree."  Additionally, there will be a couple of surprise musical guests.

The three day lineup for this year’s festival include (not in order of appearance):

Friday, August 10:
Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Golub, Tim Bowman
Warren Hill
Gerald Wilson Orchestra featuring Diane Schuur

Saturday, August 11:
Jazz Attack featuring Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler, Richard Elliot, Peter White
Leela James
Soul Express featuring Jody Watley, Everette Harp, Chris Standring
1 Plus ONE featuring Ndugu Chancler, Patrice Rushen, Eric Darius
Jazz Search Winner

Sunday, August 12:
Poncho Sanchez
Lalah Hathway
Ronnie Laws

The Sax Pack featuring Kim Waters, Steve Cole, Jeff Kashiwa
Al William Jazz Society featuring Barbara Morrison and Special Guests.
In 1978, Al Williams co-founded the Queen Mary Jazz Festival aboard the Queen Mary. In 1987, he founded the Long Beach Jazz Festival and established the festival site at beautiful Rainbow Lagoon Park. The festival has since become one of the top three annual events in Long Beach, attracting jazz aficionados from all over the United States and abroad and a favorite of those on the Jazz Festival circuit.
The festival through the years, has also been responsible for breaking new talent, as well as, exposing concert attendees to the fresh musical sounds of today’s top jazz recording artists such as, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Poncho Sanchez (a festival favorite), Dianne Reeves, Al Jarreau, Rochelle Ferrell, Keiko Matusi, Bobby Caldwell, Norman Brown and so many more.  According to Festival founder, Al Williams, “These past 19 years have been a truly remarkable and incredible experience; the festival has exposed thousands to the world's greatest jazz musicians and vocalists, and has kept all forms of jazz music 'alive' and available for many generations to enjoy.”
Tickets are available through Rainbow Promotions at (562) 424-0013, Ticketmaster outlets or online at
Ticket ranges include: VIP tickets – $150 on Friday and $175 per seat on Saturday and Sunday – include a three-course gourmet dinner, wine service and VIP hospitality. Reserved Box Seat tickets are $60 on Friday and $75 on Saturday and Sunday. General Admission/Lawn Seating is $45 in advance and $50 at the gate. Gates open at 5:00 pm, with a show time of 7:00 pm on Friday. Saturday and Sunday gates opens at 11:00 am with a show time of 12:00 pm. The Long Beach Jazz Festival takes place at the Rainbow Lagoon in Long Beach (CA).
This year’s sponsors include Cadillac, Budweiser, Black Music America and Time Warner Cable.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:01 PM

August 4, 2007

Let Freedom Ring with Jazz

Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson

The-Minority-Report.jpgLos Angeles - The nation celebrated its 231st Independence on July 4, 2007 with block parties, patriotic parades and speeches family picnics on the beach or at local parks.

I joined several hundred people for "The 5th Annual Vision Outside" 4th of July Jazz Festival in Leimert Park village. Thanks to Bernard Parks, Councilman, District #8 and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, this festival is fast becoming a must attend event for 4th of July. Jazz announcer James Janisse served as Master of Ceremonies.

The group Minority Report kicked off the festivities grooving on "Cold Duck Time" by Eddie Harris. This is a local group put together and led by Billy Mitchell. Audience members were witnessing the future of jazz under the guidance and leadership of Billy Mitchell. The band featured Billy Mitchell - keyboards, Yu Ooka - guitar, Masanori - bass, Matt Star - drums and special guest Daniel Richardson on saxophone. One could hear some early John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderlly in Daniel"s saxophone solos. The band provided more toe tapping funk on "Night Rhythm", a nice swinging version of "Killer Joe" and closed out with "Access Denied" laced with elements of rock.

Rogelio is a gifted singer/guitarist from Panama who presented a perfect blend of reggae and tropical rhythms with a soothing touch of jazz. He treated the crowd to "Roots Rock Reggae" by Bob Marley, "Sitting On the Dock Of The Bay." I thought for a moment that I was listening to Al Jarreau when Rogelio scatted on "Freedom To Live." He continued to entertain the crowd with a classic Latin tune "Mucho Corazon" (Lots of Heart) which he sung in Spanish. He ended his set with "It"s Too Late."

Atman-Jazz-Ensemble.jpgThe Atman Jazz Ensemble was a gem of a discovery. This tight band was formed in 1995 and consists of some of the most talented jazz musicians in the Los Angeles area. Ralph Gibson - tenor and soprano saxophones, Ron Sewer - trumpet and flugel horn, Tateng Katendig - piano, Mark Boykin - bass and Fritz Wise - drums. They treated the jazz purists to some standards and original straight ahead jazz and post bebop compositions. Feet were tapping and heads were swaying on "Firm Roots" by Cedar Walton, "Short Story" by Joe Henderson and "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes." Hoping that you will be able to check out this band if/when they are performing around town. (

Bobby-and-Jud-Matos.jpgThe Bobby Matos Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble turned up all of the burners, as if it wasn"t hot enough already with a set of Latin jazz and bomba music of Puerto Rico. The Vision Theater back lot served as a perfect dance floor. The rich legacy of Afro-Cuban music was showcased and mixed with musical elements of Miles, Coltrane, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Wayne Shorter, and Eddie Palmieri. They opened their set with "Bronx Trane" homage to John Coltrane that featured the wonderful saxophonist Frank Fountaine. The salsa dancers were happy to be rewarded with a continuous set of music - "Mas Bajo" (More Bass) by Tito Puente and "Flowers For Rose" written by Frank Fountaine. I didn"t get the name of the bomba tunes played. One of the tunes featured an extended solo by violinist Yvette Devereaux. The crowd rewarded her with a loud thunderous applause. The group consisted of Bobby Matos - timbales, Jud Matos - percussions, Robertito Melendez - congas, Theo Saunders - piano, Edwin Livingston - bass, Frank Fountaine - saxophone/flute and Yvette Devereaux - violin.

The Billy Mitchell Group closed out the festival. A typical live show by this group is easily summed up as "tremendous fun". The band opened with a blues version of "Things Ain"t Like They Used To Be" by Duke Ellington. People were up and dancing like they used to do back in the day at the Club Alabam and other clubs on Central Avenue. The group changed the vibe by taking the crowd to Brazil with the song "Berinbao." This samba featured Munyungo Jackson and Dr. Roland Holmes on congas. Jacque Lesure - guitar, Quentin Dennard - drums and Curtis Robertson on bass were allowed to stretch out throughout the set. David Whitfield a star on Broadway delighted the crowd with his rendition of "My Funny Valentine" and "You Made Your Move Too Soon."

The 5th Annual Vision Outside 4th of July Jazz Festival concluded with spectacular fireworks at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:22 PM

August 3, 2007

Peter White Christmas CD Songs Selected; Tour Dates Set

White_Xmas.jpgGuitarist Peter White, trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Mindi Abair have selected and are recording the songs for their first-ever holiday CD tied into the annual A Peter White Christmas tour, which features all three artists. The CD is tentatively scheduled to be released on Sept. 11 by the ARTizen Music Group, co-founded by Braun and saxophonist Richard Elliot.

White, Braun and Abair, in addition to playing their chosen instruments – White will also play the harmonica – will also be handling lead vocals on A Peter White Christmas With Rick Braun and Mindi Abair, whose songs include “The Christmas Song,” “Greensleeves, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and medleys of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town/Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Happy Christmas/O Holy Night.” In addition, guest vocalist Jeffrey Osborne is featured on “Silent Night” and other guest artists include bassists Brian Bromberg and Nate Phillips, percussionist Lenny Castro, keyboardist Ron Reinhardt and drummer and vocalist Rayford Griffin.

The CD is representative of the live show and also has Abair's original song "I Can't Wait for Christmas" and a new original from the saxophonist titled "The Best Part of Christmas." You can also hear White's arrangement of "The Christmas Song" and "River," as well as Braun's arrangements of "Jingle Jingle Blues" and "The Little Drummer Boy," among many others.

Ninenteen shows have just been announced so far for this year’s A Peter White Christmas, which begins Nov. 24 in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Peter White Christmas With Rick Braun and Mindi Abair

The Little Drummer Boy
The Christmas Song
I Can't Wait For Christmas
Greensleeves (What Child is This)
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Jingle Jangle Blues
Silent Night
The Best Part of Christmas
Santa Claus is Coming to Town/Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
White Christmas
Happy Christmas/O Holy Night

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:35 PM

August 2, 2007

Brian Simpson - Above The Clouds

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. When I reviewed Brian Simpson’s breakthrough CD It’s All Good I described it as one of the few genuinely ‘complete’ albums of 2005. The title cut and its follow up ‘Saturday Cool’ produced two massive radio hits and fast-tracked him into the forefront of public awareness. In fact for Simpson, who is in his tenth year as musical director for jazz saxophonist Dave Koz, It’s All Good proved to be a tremendous validation of everything he had worked toward for so long. With his brand new release, Above The Clouds, due to hit record stores across the USA on August 28 his consummate skills both as writer and performer are again on display for all to enjoy.

Already selected as the first single for radio play, the tight and catchy ‘What Cha Gonna Do?’ typifies what Simpson’s music is all about and this penchant he has for ‘in the pocket’ smooth jazz is further demonstrated by ‘One More Time’. It has a haunting quality that is breathtaking and which makes it a standout among many yet just as compelling is the feel good ‘Juicy’ where the piano – sax chemistry generated between Simpson and Kirk Whalum is nothing short of precious. Indeed one of the features of Above The Clouds is the quality of the collaborations that Simpson crafts with a veritable ‘who’s who’ of contemporary jazz luminaries. In addition to a unforgettable guitar solo from Chuck Loeb the infectious ‘From The Hip’ is bolstered by the luscious horn section of Darren and Jason Rahn while with the title track it's George Duke who provides the memorable vibe sounds and mini moog solo. This mid tempo smoker is evocative in the extreme and also conjuring up images of places far away is the delightful ‘Bali’. Simpson’s warm yet thoughtful keyboards mesh sensationally with picture perfect guitar from Ramon Stagnaro and he stays in reflective mode for ‘The Last Kiss’ where his jazzy intricate tones create music that is perfect to chill to.

Simpson’s staggering versatility stems in part from traveling the world with pop divas Teena Marie, Sheena Easton, and Janet Jackson as well as touring with George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, George Howard, Billy Cobham, Gerald Albright and of course Dave Koz. He uses all this and more to blend both classical and blues influences into the deconstructed piano solo ‘Memories Of You’. It serves as a gateway to the hard driving ‘That’s Right’ where Michael Brecker on sax (who sadly died in January of 2007) provides the straight ahead bludgeon for Simpson to counter with his rapier like contemporary keys.

Although Simpson’s outstanding 1995 solo debut Closer Still remains largely as a sumptuous piece of buried treasure it does include the song ‘April’ that he recorded for his oldest daughter. He followed that on It’s All Good by dedicating ‘Blues For Scott’ to his son. Now the tradition continues with ‘Fiona’s Song’. This lovely melodic ballad written for his 11-year-old daughter finds Simpson generously sharing the spotlight with the wonderful sax of Dave Koz and the ultra distinctive bass of Wayman Tisdale yet still making the tune entirely his own. It’s a contender for best track on the album but just edging it is ‘Let's Get Close’. Anchored by a killer bass line from Larry Kimpell and replete with a vibe that oozes sensuality this is mood music of the highest order.

The most important thing for Simpson has always been about connecting with people, especially in the live setting, through the music that he writes. Now with ‘Above The Clouds’ he is making a statement that after so many years behind the scenes Brian Simpson is, as a solo artist, here to stay.

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Posted by Denis Poole at 2:55 PM