October 31, 2007

What We're Listening To ** October

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

markberman.jpgMark Berman, The Genesis Project (Mark Berman Music)

Shannon Kennedy, Never My Love (Angel Eyes Creation Record)

Chris Botti, Italia (Columbia)

Dave Koz, Memories Of A Winter’s Night (Capitol)

Peter White Christmas (ARTizen Music Group)

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

RachelZ_GoodEvil.jpgRachel Z, Department of Good and Evil, 2007

Louie Shelton, Hot and Spicy, 1998.

Kirk Whalum, Cache, 1999

Special EFX, Collection

T Square, Wordless Anthology III

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

Jonathan Butler, Live in South Africa (Rendezvous): Glorious live music they way it should be. Includes a bonus DVD of live performances and insights into Butler's South African roots.

Marcus H. Mitchell, R&R (Lightyear): Saxophonist creates one of the most memorable, hummable songs of 2007: "Saturday Night," with keys work by Jeff Lorber.

Larry Carlton, Greatest Hits Rerecorded, Volume One (335): Can't wait for volume two. Features a new band and fresh arrangements of gems such as "Smiles and Miles to Go" and "Hello Tomorrow."

Jeff Oster, True (Retso): Fabulous trumpet music by Jeff Oster produced by new age icon William Ackerman.

Ben Tankard, Let's Get Quiet: The Smooth Jazz Experience (Verity): Soulful, sexy and catchy.

P E T E R * B O E H I

davidhughes2.jpgDavid Hughes - Foreign Shores (2007)
This album by bass player David Hughes is a monster! With a great lineup of top-notch guests he delivers an album that sparkles and delights. "Brazil" is a gem. Simply outstanding!

Randy Muller - Boom Chang Bang (2007)
Brass Construction's Randy Muller delivers an ultra-cool flute-led smooth jazz album with contemporary grooves and great songs. Absolutely solid and not to be overlooked!

Clifton deMarks - Classical Mode (2007)
This keyboardist comes up with a smooth jazz gem full of cool grooves, nice melodies and great keyboard playing. Very recommended!

Marcos Ariel - 4Friends (2006)
This album by Brazilian keyboardist Marcos Ariel is a beauty, light grooves and jazzy piano playing with easy-on-the-ear melodies yield very relaxing results.

Yutaka - Love Light (1981)
And as usual a trip down memory lane with this LP by Japanese koto and keyboard player Yutaka Yokokura. This album marks one of the early Grusin-Rosen Productions and has players like Eddie Daniels, Dave Grusin and Kazu Matsui on it. A classic of the genre!

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

pamelagivens.jpgPamela Givens, Tell Me A Story (http://www.pamela-givens.net) (2006)

Brian Hughes, LIVE (http://www.brianhughes.com) (2007)

Queen Latifah, Trav'lin' Light (Verve 2007)

Najee, Rising Sun (Heads Up 2007)

Randy Scott, Breathe (MEGAWAVE RECORDS 2007)

T H E * J A Z Z * G Y P S Y

SOMETHING OLD: To pay homage to the standard bearers
Cannonball AdderleySomething Else (Blue Note Records, 1958)

SOMETHING NEW: To remind me not to despise small beginnings
J BoykinMy Name is Jay (Soul Shine Records, 2007)

SOMETHING CONTEMPORARY: To keep me forever young
Norman BrownStay with Me (Peak Records, 2007)

SOMETHING FEMALE: To keep me bonded with my sisterhood
LedisiLost & Found (Verve Forecast, 2007)

SOMETHING FROM AFRICA: To nourish my cultural heritage
Salif KeitaThe Best of Salif Keita (Wrasse Records, 2004)

D E N I S * P O O L E

donatowill.jpg"Morning Noon Night" by Will Donato from the CD Will Call. This extremely atmospheric chunk of smooth jazz is, maybe, the best track on the album. Built on a decidedly sultry vibe it shimmers with the superb use of peripheral yet stunning backing vocals.

"Joy Ride" by Alan Hewitt from his CD Metropolis. As anticipation builds ahead of the release of Alan's new CD that is due out early in 2008, its worth looking back to this wonderful track that opens with a magical fifty five seconds of "in the pocket" piano playing that in turn sets up a truly exceptional slice of feel good contemporary jazz.

"The Wave" by Kirk Whalum from the 1988 CD And You Know That. Given the recent release of the Mosaic compilation The Ultimate Kirk Whalum its fitting to single out this track to demonstrate just how far ahead of its time the music of Whalum has often been.

"I’m Not The Same" by Les Sabler from the CD Sweet Drive. With Rahsaan Patterson and Toni Scruggs working their vocal magic this soulful smoker has spine tingling guitar from Sabler and a gentle melody that blossoms in the care of Gary Meek on sax.

"Ojal Valley" by Larry White from his brand new CD Coronado Breeze. Blissfully simple yet intoxicatingly haunting the tune is just one more reason why this album is so special.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:00 AM

October 30, 2007

Gotcha! - Lerman returns with Meow Baby

Saxophonist back in the groove with February 26th album release
DannyLerman.jpgThe fact that the album title comes from a line from an episode of Kojak proves that saxophonist Danny Lerman knows how to have fun.  He also knows retro cool when he sees it.  Lerman took a page from the 1970s when recording his second album, Meow Baby, which will be released February 26th on Sugar Whiskey Records, his label distributed by Lightyear Entertainment/EMI.  He adopted old school sensibilities by utilizing live musicians and having a hand in writing all the new compositions for the disc.  Tal Bergman, who worked on Lerman’s debut album, produced ten songs on Meow Baby and a few tracks were produced by urban-jazz icon Norman Connors.  Radio programmers are already whetting their appetite for the CD with “Gotcha!,” a deep-pocketed groove that bursts into a chorus as sweet as one of Kojak’s Tootsie Pops. 
Since his last album release, Lerman traveled and performed around the world, including Turkey, Israel, Holland, South Africa, Venezuela and Mexico.  He brought influences and musicians from the countries he visited into the studio when recording Meow Baby.  While the tracks swing towards contemporary jazz, urban and adult pop, there are also traces of World Music, Middle Eastern, Latin and South African rhythms. The South Bend, Indiana native, who plays alto and soprano sax, recorded the majority of the collection in Los Angeles where he was joined by Randy Brecker, Hubert Laws, Howard Hewett, Paul Jackson Jr., Bobby Lyle, and Munyungo JacksonBergman, who played drums on records by Rod Stewart, Billy Idol, Loreena McKennitt, Herb Alpert, and Chaka Khan, was behind the kit on most of the album.

“Tal brought infectious rhythms that were both exciting and exotic.  His strong rhythmic influences made the tracks spicy,” explained Lerman.  “I wanted this record to be a glimpse into my world, including some of the friends that I’ve made in my travels.  I put both myself and the places I’ve been into the music.  There’s definitely variety on this record; you don’t know what’s coming next.  I’ve found some great players from all parts of the world and they brought their unique perspective to the album.”        
To help launch the album, Lerman has lined up a few concert dates in the Los Angeles area in mid-January with additional tour dates now being booked for the West Coast, Midwest and East Coast.  He’s an entertaining performer who has shared concert bills with Herbie Hancock, Sergio Mendes, Richard Elliot, David Benoit and Eric Marienthal.  When he’s off the road, Lerman occasionally performs free concerts in South Bend nursing homes.  He has a gig lined up next month at the Ronald McDonald House for seriously ill children and their parents.
Lerman recently inked a pact with Conn-Selmer for saxophones, which will include sponsorship, marketing and advertising support, clinics and special events. 
Making his debut with the album Danny’s Island, Lerman climbed into the top 20 on Radio & Records’ contemporary jazz chart and had a #1 single at Chicago’s top urban radio station, WGCI-FM.  The cut, “Take My Breath Away,” featuring R&B vocalist Danny Boy, appears on Meow Baby as a bonus track.  Additional information is available at www.dannylerman.com
Lerman’s Meow Baby is comprised of the following songs:
“Meow Baby”
“Summer In a Hummer”
“No Ordinary Love”
“The First Time”
“No Words”
“South Beach Serenata”
“Snoopy’s Dance”
“Amadeus’ Kiss”
“Don’t GoGo There”
“Baby Goes to Market”
“If Only”
“You Take My Breath Away”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:18 PM

October 27, 2007

Audio Caviar’s Transoceanic sails into record stores

Diverse CD from prodigious collective is an elegant sonic delicacy
For the first time in the United States, the complete 17-track debut album, Transoceanic, from the accomplished collective Audio Caviar was released last week (October 23) by Well-Oiled Records, a division of entertainment conglomerate The Machine Productions.  Group members Ralph Johnson and Morris Pleasure teamed with Marcel East (Fourplay, David Benoit, Bob James) to produce the sonic passport to an audacious audio adventure through an expansive array of soulful R&B, sophisticated contemporary and traditional jazz, and multicultural World Music.  Prefacing the album release, “Dominique,” featuring an exquisite piano melody embedded in a mid-tempo R&B groove and a dreamy chorus crooned by Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey, was serviced to radio where it is currently being added to playlists.           
Having proudly played a role in creating an enduring legacy as an original member of EWF, drummer-vocalist Johnson was hungry to forge a separate identity for his musical wanderlust.  Joined by former EWF musical director, keyboardist-bassist-flugelhorn player Pleasure and Danish guitarist Steen Kyed, Johnson envisioned recording an album as a traditional jazz trio.  But once inside the nurturing environs of recording studios in Copenhagen and Los Angeles, the compositions and recordings experienced a metamorphosis, blossoming into elaborate and substantive endeavors that brazenly push the boundaries.  Audio Caviar members had a hand in penning a dozen songs for Transoceanic, which was completed by songs written by Miles Davis (“All Blues”), Ivan Lins (“The Island”), Jonathan Butler (“Jodie”) and a trio of Danish songwriters (“Hookline”).  Lending their talents to the opus were George Duke, Howard Hewett, Dori Caymmi, Paulinho De Costa, EWF’s Verdine White, Al McKay (original EWF guitarist) and the EWF horn section.

Setting the stage with an inspirational interlude (“Transoceanic Prayer”), “Hookline” is an urban-jazz original anchored by Pleasure’s piano and embellished by a vocal chorus.  Kyed steps to the fore on “Now That I’ve Found You” and “Jodie” with heartfelt acoustic guitar leads.  The slamming “5th House” is a Latin fiesta along a shuffling, Cha-Cha rhythm.  After a couple interludes – the soothing trumpet-led “Serengeti Sunset” and the kinetic drum-work on “Eventually Live” – things get bluesy and jazzy on “All Blues.”  “Tel Aviv” is a challenging, erudite composition on which eclectic World Music stylings engage a prominent rhythm section comprised of a funky acoustic bass and a staccato drumbeat.  Butler’s African chanting makes “Legends Of Ratava” an interesting meditation.  Kyed’s gorgeous guitar interlude (“Sofie’s Theme”) leads right into “The Island,” a classy samba number spotlighting Caymmi’s haunting vocals and Duke’s intricate piano renderings.  The uplifting “Welcome” is a sparsely produced, sunny jaunt.  R&B vocalist Hewett pours his heart into song on “Love Comes In Time,” a timeless romantic ballad with a cinematic chorus.  Pleasure revisits the entire album on a solo piano sojourn called “Closing Prayer” that ties the collection together in a perfect bow.  A vocal version of “Hookline,” boasting Danish singer Daniel’s caramel growl serves as a bonus cut.                   
For Johnson, Audio Caviar is no whimsical side project.  Although he is still highly active with EWF, with whom he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he is fully committed to piloting Audio Caviar to success.  Johnson, along with Pleasure, a classically trained pianist who has toured and/or recorded with Janet Jackson, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Roberta Flack, and Rachelle Ferrell, and Kyed, who is a member of the Danish band TAO, have begun writing material for the second Audio Caviar CD.  Additional information is available at www.themachineproductions.com

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:28 PM

October 23, 2007

Brian Culbertson's Next CD: Old-School Funky

CulbertsonPiano07.jpgEarly in November, keyboardist Brian Culbertson will enter the studio to record a brand-new project that he says will be an old-school funk record. The CD will be his follow-up to It’s On Tonight, which he released in July of 2005 on the GRP record label, the same label that will release the as-yet untitled CD. “It’s On Tonight” spent more than 100 weeks on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart and featured the No. 1 smooth jazz hits “Hookin’ Up” and “Let’s Get Started.”

The new CD, to be recorded mostly live in the studio, will have both original and cover songs. Two of the cover songs, which Culbertson says will not be typical of the originals, are the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band” and David Bowie’s “Fame.” The CD is scheduled to be released in April to coincide with the annual Berks Jazz Festival in Pennsylvania.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:26 PM

October 21, 2007

Upcoming Paul Hardcastle CD Will Have New Vocalist

PAUL-5.jpgBritish-based instrumentalist and producer Paul Hardcastle has finished recording the latest in his Hardcastle CD series, Paul Hardcastle 5. Hardcastle alternates between his Hardcastle and Jazzmasters projects and his last CD, 2006’s Jazzmasters 5, featured the No. 1 smooth jazz hit “Free As the Wind.”

Paul Hardcastle 5 will offer mostly instrumentals and several songs with 25-year-old British vocalist Becki Biggins, who is also a saxophonist. Hardcastle’s previous CDs over the years have generally featured vocalist Helen Rogers, as well as Paul’s daughter Maxine Hardcastle. The 13-track CD features such titles as “Lucky Star,” “In the Beginning,” “Return of the Rainman,” “Don’t You Know” and “Blew My Mind.” Paul Hardcastle 5 is scheduled to be released Jan. 22 by the Trippin N Rhythm label.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 9:10 PM

October 20, 2007

Jazz At Drew - Good For Your Health

Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson

Malcolm-Jamal-Warner.jpgCharles R. Drew University & Honda presented the 17th Annual "Jazz At Drew" Legacy Music Series and Cultural Marketplace and Health Pavilion. This is one of Southern California's most popular music and charity events. This year featured another outstanding stellar line-up of jazz, gospel, R&B, and Latin jazz greats who performed on Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7, 2007 in the grassy outdoor setting on the campus of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science in Los Angeles.

The Drew University All-Stars got the festival under way. The All-Stars include University and hospital employees and friends. The audience was treated to an invigorating music performance by the group on the tunes "R.J. Song", "My Dreams", and "Stolen Moments."

The Locke High School 40th Anniversary Re-Union Band kept the momentum up and moving forward on "Straight No Chaser", "81" by Ron Carter, "Sister Sadie" by Horace Silver, and "Impressions" by John Coltrane." Vocalist Niomisha Wilson (aka-Nio Renee) performed "Inseparable" by Natalie Cole.

The Leimert Park All-Stars set opened with The Kabasa Drummers and Dancers. The All-Stars entertained the crowd with some original tunes.

Jose Rizo's Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars with special guest guitarist Kenny Burrell served up a spicy set of Latin Jazz on "Baile Mi Gente" with a saxophone solo by Michael Sessions, "Yes or No" by Wayne Shorter, "Iron Man James"-written for the Master of Ceremonies James Janisse, "Caramba" by Lee Morgan, Ah Leu Cha" by Charlie Parker and concluded their set with a salsa tune "Mama Vieja."

Guitarist David T. Walker featuring Clarence McDonald - piano/organ, Byron Miller - bass, and Ndugu Chancler on drums were groovin' throughout their crowd pleasing set.

Bassist Malcolm-Jamal Warner & Miles Long captivated the crowd with some original spoken word/neo soul tunes. The highlights were "Sexy Lady" and "The Beat Don't Move Me Like It Used To Do' a sort of Dear John letter addressing the state of hip-hop and rap music.

Sheila-E.jpgSheila E. & The E Family Orchestra with Peter Michael heated up the festival grounds with some smokin' hot Latin jazz.

Popular Los Angels based Doo Wop group Renaissance and the group Lakeside rounded out entertainment for Saturday at Jazz At Drew.

The future of straight-ahead jazz and bebop are in good shape as witnessed by the superb performance of Dimitri Noble & Nobility featuring Mike Hunter, Kamasi Washington, Darryl Harris and Robert Turner and the Keschia Potter Quartet.

The Pan African Peoples Arkestra featuring many band members from the Leimert Park All-Stars. They had the audience undivided attention during their set. They performed "The Call", "Leno's Pad" - featuring a marvelous drum solo by 12 year old Mekala Sessions, "Donde Esta La Shay?" (Latin tinge tune written by Nate Morgan) and closed out their set with "Little Africa" proceeded by a poem recited by Kamau Daaood.

We had church at Jazz at Drew thanks to Gus Gil Gospel Hour. Dr. LaDoris McClaney - "An Angel to Many" served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Foot stomping, hand clapping, handkerchief waving entertainment was provided by The Soul Seekers and The Mighty Clouds of Joy. It was a delight to witness two spiritually uplifting gospel groups.

My straight ahead jazz palette was filled up once again with the dynamic musical performances of the following three groups. The Curtis Fuller Super Band featuring Nicolas Payton, Rene McLean, Carl Allen, Luke O' Reilly & Corcoran Holt, The Cedar Walton Quintet featuring Steve Turree, David Williams & special guest: Javon Jackson & Al Foster, and Hubert Laws performing "Moment's Notice", "Dat Dere", "What A Night" and concluded his set with "Land of Passion", and "Family" with vocalist Debra Laws.

The 17th Annual Jazz At Drew and The Charles R. Drew University presented a special enjoyable, elegant Sunday evening performance celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Music of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions and The Music of Jerry Butler dedicated to Susan Kelly, PhD, FAPS (President & CEO, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science). This spectacular evening featured The Rickey Minor Symphony Orchestra with special guest Jerry Butler who performed "For Your Precious Love", "Brand New Me", "Let It Be Me", and "Only The Strong Survive." The Impressions performed songs from the soundtrack to the 1960's non-violent civil rights movement "Amen", "Choice of Colors", "Keep on Pushing", "People Get Ready" and "This Is My Country."

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

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

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

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:34 PM

October 18, 2007

All Aboard! Last Chance For 2007 Catalina Jazztrax Festival

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

The final weekend of the Catalina JazzTrax Festival begins this week and if it’s even half as good as the first two weeks you’ll want to be there, since the first two weeks of JazzTrax brought unbelievably great familiar, new and emerging talent to the historic Casino Ballroom. Outstanding performances were delivered by every performer during weeks one and two, where most artists garnered multiple standing ovations from seasoned jazz fans who traveled from around the globe to be a part of the decade anniversary of this festival. Below is a brief review of performances that were exceptional.

Newcomer Jesse Jay’s set included original songs that were fresh and infused with a contemporary Latin flavor that is sure to set her apart and quickly move her to the forefront once her debut cd, Tequila Moon, is released in February 2008.

Nick Colionne’s set was absolutely incredible and will probably be voted the best performance of the festival. Colionne can easily be considered one of the best showmen in the industry, based not only on his ability to connect with the audience but also because of his extraordinary talent as a musician. Playing everything from contemporary jazz to smooth jazz to blues to rock and roll, Colionne had the audience in the palm of his hand. Colionne’s pairing of storytelling, humor and superb musical talent make him a musical tour de force. His show is an “experience” that is unrivaled in the smooth jazz industry.

Other performances of note where delivered by newcomers Lao Tizer, and Jackiem Joyner and emerging artist Ollie Silk. Both Joyner and Silk, in their separate sets, exercised full command on stage with perfectly executed performances that equaled that of their contemporaries, making it hard to believe they are new and emerging artists.

On the ferry ride back to the mainland, I had an opportunity to talk to Silk and ask him about his experience at Catalina JazzTrax for the second year. Silk, who was voted debut artist of the year in 2006 by JazzTrax and Smooth Jazz News, said “the designation was a double whammy that was quite unexpected and a privilege that blew me off the ground”. When I asked Silk what did he think contributed to his outstanding performance this year, he replied, “experience and confidence”. “Last year was my first show in the US and since then I’ve been learning what the big guys know from experience, like Peter White… what the audience appreciates. It helps to know what the audience wants. Like the noon crowd [at Catalina], they just had their breakfast and coffee and they want to ease into the music and they want a little humor”, Silk continued. He concluded by saying, “I’ve been in the audience so I know what they want.” Based on Silk’s performance he certainly has not only learned a lot but is also aptly able to demonstrate what he has learned.

Three other exceptional sets were Candy Dulfur’s high energy, funky, and fun performance; Michael Lington’s soulful, feel-good, up tempo set, and Jazz Attack’s (Rick Braun, Richard Elliott, and Peter White) groove-till-you-can’t-move closing night concert Sunday night.

The line-up for this third and final week is:
• Friday, Oct. 19 – 7:30 p.m. - Lao Tizer, Tim Bowman
• Saturday, Oct. 20 – Noon - Jackiem Joyner, Pieces of A Dream,
• Saturday, Oct. 20 – 7:00 pm - Greg Karukas, Kirk Whalum
• Sunday, Oct. 21 – Noon - U-Nam, Paul Jackson, Jr.
• Sunday Oct. 21 – 7:00 pm - Jesse Jay, Norman Brown’s Summer Storm (Norman Brown, Jeff Lorber, Marion Meadows, Peabo Bryson)

Although I’m predicting fabulous performances from all the artists again this week, I am particularly excited to see performances by Tim Bowman and the popular and nearly legendary East coast Band, Pieces of A Dream. Although Bowman was scheduled to appear at Catalina last year, his performance was cancelled due to an unexpected illness by one of his family members. And even though we got to see a glimpse of Bowman when he toured this year with Guitars and Saxes, along with Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and Jeff Golub , this will be a rare opportunity to see Bowman take center stage with his own show.

Another performance to look forward to is Pieces of A Dream, (Pieces) whose band is comprised of James Lloyd (keyboard), Curtis Harmon (drums), and Eddie Baccus (saxophone). Co-founders Lloyd and Harmon have been performing together in the greater Philadelphia area for over three decades under the names Classic Touch, A Touch of Class and Galaxy before renaming their group in 1979 to Pieces Of A Dream after the Stanley Turrentine hit song of the same name. “Pieces” was discovered by the late, great Grover Washington Jr. who produced their first three recordings, Pieces of a Dream, We Are One and Imagine This.Pieces” high-energy style and natural flair for over-the-top entertainment is sure to win the musical hearts of many on the West Coast that may not have seen them perform live before.

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: Another great reason to hop over to the island this weekend is to see and purchase the artwork by fine artist Bettie Grace Minor. Minor has an awesome array of fine art of nearly every major smooth jazz artist. To see a preview, visit http://www.minerworksofart.com/

Posted by JazzGypsy at 6:47 PM

October 17, 2007

Nu Groove Records - The Comeback Kid

NuGroove_Label.jpgIn January 2007, smooth jazz took a step "back to the future."  The legacy label Nu Groove records was re-launched after an almost 10-year hiatus.  Original founder David Chackler decided to revitalize the legendary label, re-acquiring the rights to the Nu Groove name from his prior partners who had acquired the company in 2004 from Chackler, and two years later shuttered it.

Originally the home of Michael Lington and Down to the Bone, Nu Groove had been the benchmark for aggressive, funky and genre bending smooth jazz.  David Chackler, in conjunction with Adam Levy (N coded Records), and the folks at Red\Sony Distribution, decided the industry was ripe for Nu Groove to rise again, and represent the progressive "edge" of smooth jazz, and urban adult music.

Amazingly enough in just a few short months, Nu Groove re-staked its claim on the smooth jazz market when newcomer Jay Soto hit the Top 10 in the R&R charts and received a host of stellar reviews.  The hard work of Nu Groove and Soto paid off when Brian Soergel in the Jazz Times proclaimed that Soto had "justifiably earned his way into the smooth jazz charts."

Nu Groove artists have continued to gain attention in both the States and Canada. Bassist Michael Manson has climbed up to the Top 30 and two Nu Groove artists have received a total of four nominations at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards.  Saxophonist Darren Rahn has been nominated as Wind Instrumentalist and Album of the Year.  Guitarist Dave Sereny was nominated as Guitarist of the Year and Album of the Year as well.

"I think it is incredible that in less than a year since the relaunch of Nu Groove that we have achieved such unprecedented success. It is a tribute to the staff here at the label, our partners at N Coded, and our distributor RED\Sony, and the "mind blowing talent" we have been able to acquire. In this short timespan we have already achieved Top 10 status with the Jay Soto release and the Top 30 with the new Michael Manson single.  With the recently released Bob Baldwin DVD, a developing roster of talent that includes genre hit maker Darren Rahn, and artists like J Dee, Dave Sereny, Dee Brown, Nate Harasim, and others, we are expecting 2008 to be an even more successful year," said Chackler.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:25 PM

October 16, 2007

Tom Grant Readies First Smooth Jazz CD Since 2000

GrantTom.jpgKeyboardist and composer Tom Grant, whose 30-year-career has produced such memorable smooth jazz hits singles as “Angels Crossing” and “Change,” is now composing music for a brand-new smooth jazz record that will release on his Nu-Wrinkle record label next year.

The CD will be Tom’s first smooth jazz project since “Tune It In” in 2000, which featured the hit single of the same name. Since that CD, the Portland, Oregon-based musician has release a holiday CD, a solo piano CD, jazz CD and a duets project with vocalist Valerie Day. He also offered a CD titled “Reprise” that featured his best-known songs will all-new arrangements.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 1:53 AM

October 12, 2007

Eric Marienthal - Just Around The Corner

EricMarienthal_Corner.jpg‘Just Around The Corner’ In Stores And Online Oct 16th 2007 On Peak Records

After over 20 years since first breaking onto the contemporary jazz scene as a member of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, Eric Marienthal is a true global phenomenon. One of the most in-demand session musicians in Jazz, Marienthal has worked with a wide variety of pop superstars, including Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and Johnny Mathis.

On his latest solo effort Just Around The Corner, Marienthal’s passion and versatility shine with tracks such as “Times Square,” which features the keyboards and programming of co-writer Lu, and the old school ambience and synth echoes of “Flower Child”, which displays the melodic chemistry Marienthal shares with long-time collaborator Jeff Lorber.
“Just Around The Corner is a melody-driven, straightforward pop instrumental date that honestly reflects the musical groove I’m in right now” says Eric about the new release.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:53 PM

October 6, 2007

Contempo October 2007

candy_teaser.jpgIn 1989, 20-year-old up and coming Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer was thrust into the global limelight when Eurythmic and film composer Dave Stewart tapped her to play on his simple but undeniably catchy composition “Lily Was Here,” theme from the Dutch film De Kassiere. The song hit #1 on the Dutch radio charts, hit #6 on the U.K. singles chart and #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Though she hardly felt ready for prime time, Dulfer was an instant contemporary jazz superstar, with a Grammy nominated gold selling debut album (Saxuality), a concert appearance in Knebworth, England with Pink Floyd and a tour with pop superstar Prince. Seventeen years later, “Lily” is still a smooth jazz format staple. Yet for a long time, as she came into her own as an artist, the self-critical saxophonist had a hard time listening to the song and playing it live.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love it now,” she laughs, “because finally after all these years, I can look back and see a young girl and Dave Stewart working together with something magical happening. But that first year after I did it, as everyone in the world was going crazy over it, I hated it. When I heard it, I was so hard on myself and literally cringed at every note. I realized as I was growing, I was a much better player than I was when I made that. ‘Lily’ put me somewhere I knew I didn’t belong, and I thought people would find out I wasn’t a very good player. I really would have preferred to have more years to hone my chops before emerging as an artist.

“Over the years, though,” Dulfer adds wistfully, “I had to deal with people who loved the song so much, some who had asked their wives to marry them while listening to it, others making babies to it, that I had to adjust to the fact that maybe it wasn’t so bad. Looking back at it more nostalgically, I can see beautiful things about it, being this bold young girl Dave pulled out of nowhere. For a long time in concert, I overplayed it or played it too heavy, trying to overcompensate, but now I just let it flow and put a lot of passion and love into it.”

Writing and producing with longtime musical cohorts Thomas Bank (keyboards) and Ulco Bed (guitar), Dulfer puts generous amounts of re-energized passion, love and cool flow into her aptly titled Heads Up debut Candy Store — a feisty collection that blends her longstanding penchant for bright funky melodies and bouncy grooves with silky ballads and, most impressively, includes ample improvisations that reflect her tremendous growth as a true jazz player.

Over the years, as she’s built rabid fan bases among European and U.S. jazz audiences, Dulfer has received a lot of interesting input from both sides of the Pond. In Holland, if she plays more than one slow song, people protest that there’s too much “elevator music.” At U.S. festivals, the crowds love the dance stuff and her wild alto adventures, but she still has a letter from Broadcast Architecture (which many radio stations rely on for market research) telling her to “stop playing self-indulgent solos” on disc. But Dulfer believes that life isn’t that happy or sad every day, and the music she makes should reflect both vibes of the journey.

Adding to the major funk quotient on Candy Store (typified by all out wild, edgy jam tunes like “Candy,” the buoyant anthem “Summertime” and the horn-drenched “Music=Love”) is the R&B keyboardist, songwriter and vocalist Chance Howard, a huge presence physically and musically, whom the saxophonist met when the two played on Prince’s 2004 Musicology tour. Howard is also a longtime member of the famed Minneapolis based groove band Morris Day & The Time.

“Thomas, Ulco and I have a unique, unspoken vibe when we write, and even though Chance is from the States, he fits in perfectly with the music we love, and everything clicked perfectly,” says Dulfer, who invited Howard to stay at her small form in Holland, an hour outside of Amsterdam during the making of Candy Store. “We’ve got the same click with him, and he just has a great soul-funk ear.”

Dulfer worked with two English producers (George Stewart and John Kingsley Hall) on her previous, electronics dominated studio album Right Into My Soul, but from the minute she, Bank, Bed and Howard started in on Candy Store, everything felt more free and loose and she was digging the fresh variety of organic sounds they were coming up with. The key was not thinking about sales and target audiences, but just having fun.

“Creatively,” she says, “being natural turned out better for us. But when we were done, we thought maybe there were far too many styles here. Like the reggae tune ‘Smokin’ Gun’ and that crazy Latin dance thing ‘La Cabana.’ We wondered what the U.S. record companies would think. Dave Love from Heads Up expressed interest but we thought it might be too all over the place. He got the tape and called and said, ‘Are you kidding? I love it.’ He totally got behind it. I’m really happy because Candy Store is a testament to the kind of music I really like to make. A little something for everyone, with so much stuff to check out and keep you excited. It’s like me, I can walk into the store to buy some CDs and I walk out with a pair of heels, makeup and perfume. I like when a place can mesmerize you into doing something you didn’t know you would do.”

Since jumping onto the contemporary jazz scene in the mid-90s with a uniquely exotic hybrid sound he called Classical Soul (also the name of his 1994 debut), Marc Antoine has been the genre’s answer to expedia and travelocity. The Parisian born, wanderlusting acoustic guitarist’s album titles have conveyed his status as a musical citizen of the world (Universal Language) and his desire to hop in the car (or plane) and just start Cruisin’. He released Madrid, the birthplace of his wife Rebecca, in 1998 and it’s now his family’s home. And that’s only a few hours drive from the Mediterraneo.

After experimenting sonically with DJ beats on his second Rendezvous Music album Modern Times, he’s back to a more organic vibe on his Peak Records debut Hi-Lo Split. The official story goes that on a visit to Los Angeles, his manager invited him to participate in a weekly poker game and Antoine had a major case of beginner’s luck. But when we listen to the mix of styles swirling around his infectious as ever melodies — shuffling old school R&B (“For A Smile,” “Voodoo Doll”), dynamic Latin flavors (“Cancun Blue”), Brazilian (“Bossalectro”) and cool chill ambience (“Panacea,” “Tomorrow”) — it might be more fun to imagine Antoine in a tux, with millions at stake in a casino on Monte Carlo.

Also noteworthy is Hi-Lo Split’s status as a truly homegrown creation. Not only did Antoine record everything in his home studio, he also wrote a majority of the songs, guitar in hand, by his indoor pool; the tiled floors created a cathedral like acoustic effect. The sessions were an international affair, naturally, as the guitarist flew in his longtime keyboardist and homeboy Frederick Gaillardet from Paris and used Cameroon native Andre Mange on bass. Antoine also hired a local Spanish horn section. The only fudging Antoine did can easily be overlooked, given the high cost of airfare and the power of the digital age. L.A. based percussion god Luis Conte emailed his parts from California.


1) Alan Bergman, Lyrically (Verve) – The Oscar winning lyricist — who along with wife Marilyn and numerous legendary composers, has penned some of the most memorable pop songs of all time — does a beautifully arranged, Burt Bacharach-type recording of his magical hit parade. His graceful voice and the sharp, generally low-key arrangements allow the listener to hone in and appreciate anew the incredibly inspiring poetry The Bergmans have contributed to our culture for over 40 years.
2) Down To The Bone, Supercharged (Narada Jazz)
3) Jeff Kashiwa, Play (Native Language)
4) Late Night Rendezvous (Rendezvous Music)
5) Paula Cole, Courage (Decca)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 7:15 PM

October 5, 2007

Even If You’ve Been Naughty, You Deserve A Soulful Little Christmas!

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

CulbertsonXmasPoster07.jpgHopefully you’ve been nice enough this year that you won’t get a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking. But even if you’ve been naughty, you still deserve to treat yourself, your friends and relatives to Brian Culbertson’s 2007 A Soulful Little Christmas.

For many smooth jazz fans, early spring to late summer is when they can feast on a wide variety of smooth jazz events. From multi-day festivals to single concert performances, there’s a multitude of events to choose from. For me, the smooth jazz festival season begins in March with the granddaddy of all festivals, the Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, PA and my smooth jazz festival season ends with the third and final week of the Catalina Jazz Festival in Avalon, CA, another top 10 US smooth jazz festival. After that, at least comparatively, there’s not much to choose from.

Fortunately, all of us “smooth jazz junkies”, we don’t have to give up our smooth jazz habit cold turkey because the smooth jazz Christmas tours can help ease our “withdrawals” of going from a smooth jazz feast during the spring and summer to what feels like a famine in early fall. This year, Brian Culbertson’s A Soulful Little Christmas featuring, Brian Culbertson, Gerald Albright, Nick Colionne, Howard Hewitt and introducing newcomer Victoria White is sure to provide enough holiday cheer to keep us from going into a complete downward spiral of withdrawal.

With a 19-city US tour planned, A Soulful Little Christmas tour should be coming to a city near you or close enough to a city near a relative or old friend that you’ve been meaning to visit. What better way to rekindle a relationship or keep a good relationship going than by picking up the phone and inviting an old friend or a distant relative to a wonderful holiday concert with YOUR favorite artists. That’s a win-win and a sure way to keep that lump of coal out of your stocking, at least until next year!

NickColionne_wbgr.jpgView the full A Soulful Little Christmas tour schedule on Nick Colionne's website at www.nickcolionne.com. Colionne, who was named International Instrumentalist Artist of the Year at the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, will end 2007 with the following performances:

Oct 6 - Avalon, CA – Catalina JazzTrax Festival
Oct 7 - Chicago, IL - "In The Limelight" Benefit & Celebrity Auction
Oct 13-14 - Rehoboth Beach, DE - Annual Autumn Jazz Festival
Oct 26 - Davenport, IA - Smooth Jazz Fall Festival - Quad Cities
Oct 28 - Estero, FL - Jazz On The Green
Nov 4 - Rancho Mirage, CA - Art Affaire Festival

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: Colionne's latest CD Keepin' It Cool on Narada Jazz/Blue Note makes a great stocking stuffer or holiday gift.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 4:19 PM

Eldar Comes To Vegas

There are two distinct talents today who carry the tradition of Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. They are Taylor Eigsti, and Eldar. Both are barely around twenty years of age, but have been on the scene as prodigies for some time. Now Eldar will visit Vegas, performing one night only in the Chrome Showroom at the Santa Fe Station Hotel on October 20th. This is a "don't miss" opportunity.

Etta James brings her signature sound back to the showroom at the Orleans Hotel, October 10th through the 14th.

Tower Of Power, an annual regular at the Suncoast Hotel, will return there October 5th through the 7th.

The alluring alto voice of Oleta Adams will also make an appearance at the Santa Fe Station Hotel on October 13th.

Songstress Diane Schuur returns to the Railhead Showroom at the Boulder Station Hotel on Friday, October 26th, followed by guitar master Al DiMeola, Saturday, October 27th.

Santa Fe And The Fat City Horns are riding high on their live CD and DVD release, Let The Healing Begin.

Posted by Danny Desart at 6:34 AM

October 3, 2007

What is hip? Greg Adams performs w/special guests for MusiCares, Oct. 12, 13, 2007


Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Photos courtesy of Ripa Records.

October 12, 13, 2007, 8:00 pm
Spaghettini Grille & Jazz Club
3005 Old Ranch Parkway
Seal Beach, CA 90740

Who doesn’t know Greg Adams? Adams was a founding and 25-year member of Tower of Power and the architect of Towers’ big horn sound. The trumpeter is also an arranger, composer, conductor, and record executive on his own label, Ripa Records (www.riparecords.com).

With the release of four exceptionally fantastic cd’s, (Hidden Agenda, 1995, Midnight Morning, 2002, Firefly, 2004 and Cool to the Touch, 2006), Adams will soon be better known for his solo career than he is for the single “What is Hip?", arguably one of Tower’s most popular songs of all time. Adams received a Grammy nomination in 1981 for the best arrangement accompanying a vocal for this 80’s era-defining tune.

Albulm cover.bmp

On Saturday, October 12 & 13th, Adams and his band will performing two shows each night, beginning at 8:00 pm, at Spaghettini’s in Seal Beach, CA, as a fundraiser for MusiCares. Each night, they will auction off a score of a replica of Adams’ original score of “What is Hip?” It is the second score that Adams had to generate for the recording booth when Tower did the Sheffield Labs "Direct" record. Handcrafted in pencil in Adams' own hand, this11-page, limited edition of 10, numbered and signed by Adams, comes with a Certificate of Authencity. The bidding will start at $500 for this score that retails for $1,500. Adams will donate all of the proceeds to Music Cares.

Music Cares logo.jpgMusiCares is a charity for musicians in need of assistance that ensures that music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical or personal need. “Whether it’s drug or alcohol abuse, homelessness or heath care, there are so many musicians that fall through the cracks and they don’t have anything to show for their life’s work”, said Adams in a recent interview. “Music Cares has other very large $5,000 a plate fundraising dinners at UCLA with celebrities like Andre Agassi and David Foster and I’m just trying to do my part,” Adams continued.

MusiCares representatives will be on hand to provide it's passion and information about the MusiCares ® Foundation and Spaghettini will sponsor a raffle of their world class Sunday Brunch for four ($10.00) Valued at $260.00. Spaghettini's Entertainment Director, "Q", will be the master of ceremonies for this auction.

During the two-night performance, Adams will be bringing in some celebrity musicians to perform with his band. Admission is free; however, due to the popularity of this event, it’s suggested that you call ahead to reserve a table or seat (for which there is a charge).

The Jazz Gypsy Tips: Get your FREE download of Greg Adams new single, “Five to Eleven” on Adams' website, www.riparecords.com. Also, check back in a few days to read the revealing, 40-minute, "Beneath the Surface" interview with Greg Adams.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 4:38 PM

Les Sabler - Sweet Drive

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. If there is a magic formula for making top notch smooth jazz then guitarist Les Sabler has surely found it. His brand new CD release ‘Sweet Drive’ not only features his own picture perfect playing but also includes some of the best contemporary jazz talent around. Rather than marvelling at just how Sabler has managed to assemble so many great performers in the same place at the same time, its more than enough to simply delight in the artistry on show. From the solid foundation provided by the percussion of Alex Acuna, drums from Vinnie Colaiuta and acoustic bass from Brian Bromberg (who also produces), to the soulful heart provided by a horn section to die for, everything about ‘Sweet Drive’ is just right. Those horns, billed here as the Seawind Horns, in fact come courtesy of Jerry Hey, Gary Grant, Bill Reichenbach and Dan Higgins. When the flute of Gary Meek is factored in, plus keyboards from Jeff Lorber and guest performances on sax from Mark Hollingsworth and Eric Marienthal, ‘Sweet Drive’ is an album that just can’t fail.

With four choice covers blending with eight originals, this terrific concoction is quickly up and running with the Stevie Wonder composition ‘You’ve Got It Bad Girl’. The velvety tones of the Seawind Horns merge with stunning vocals from Toni Scruggs and Rahsaan Patterson to create a gorgeous backdrop against which Sabler does his mellow thing. Scruggs and Patterson are delightful and recurring features of the whole album and Scruggs is particularly outstanding when combining with Richard Jackson on Aretha Franklin’s ‘Daydreaming’. As dreamy as the title suggests it ought be this wonderful interpretation is blessed with a subtle string arrangement from Tom Zink and when Zink returns with Scruggs and Jackson for ‘Can You Stop The Rain’ the result is a deliciously fresh take on this haunting Peabo Bryson classic.

The title track is quite simply as fine an example of great smooth jazz as you will hear anywhere. Composed by Allon Sams, it has a cool sax solo by Eric Marienthal at its centre and handsome Hammond B3 from Ricky Peterson while more ‘in the pocket’ contemporary jazz is on the agenda with ‘Club Street’. This is the first cut lifted for radio play and as Gary Meek switches to sax his interplay with Sabler, Lorber and Bromberg makes it really special. ‘Food Chain’ is Sabler’s own composition and, complete with horns and Hammond B3, has all the attributes necessary to recall the golden age of 80’s jazz fusion. Another funky horn arrangement, this time from Mark Hollingsworth, sets up ‘Twenty Two’. It’s a jazzy mover that often threatens to explode but in fact stays tightly in control and when Sabler changes moods for the mellow ‘Who I Am’ he demonstrates a sensitivity in his playing that is perfect for the occasion.

The mid tempo ‘Struttin’ has Sabler laying down his groove amidst more luscious horns and in ‘Could You Be’ he may well have created the kind of sultry stunner that gets in your head and wont go away. Sabler and Marienthal are totally in sync for the familiar David Pack melody ‘Biggest Part Of Me’. Here Patterson and Scruggs again work their vocal magic and when they return for ‘I’m Not The Same’ they contribute to what is arguably the albums stand out track. This soulful smoker has spine tingling guitar from Sabler and a gentle melody that blossoms in the care of Gary Meek on sax.

‘Sweet Drive’ hits record stores across the USA on September 25 and is not to be missed. For more go to www.lessabler.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 8:47 AM

Larry Carlton Reworks His Hits

Carlton_GreatestHits.jpgThree-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist Larry Carlton is now offering a unique retrospective titled Greatest Hits Rerecorded, Volume One. Although artists in the past have reworked songs from the catalog in various ways – such as making electric songs acoustic – Carlton says this is truly different. It is.

To breath new life and spirit into the songs, he re-recorded nine songs with a new rhythm section featuring Jeff Babko on keyboards, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Paul Cerra on sax and Travis Carlton – who happens to be Carlton's son – on bass. In addition, all of Larry’s guitar solos are different than the originals. Among those songs are “Smiles and Miles to Go,” “Kid Gloves,” “Room 335” and “High Steppin’.” The CD is released on Carlton’s own 335 Records and can be purchased by going to his website at larrycarlton.com.

Highly recommended, and let's hope it isn't too long before Volume Two is offered.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:24 AM | TrackBack

October 2, 2007

Pack your bags and head West to Catalina for Week 1 of the Catalina Island Jazz Festival

JazzTrax Decade Anniversary Photo.jpgWritten by The Jazz Gypsy
Photos courtesy of Jazztrax.com & Catalina Island Express

Catalina Jazz Festival
Oct. 4-7, 11-14, 18-21

Catalina Express

What do you get when you combine all the best elements of a great vacation destination with the best elements of a great smooth jazz music festival? Heaven on earth a.k.a. the Catalina Jazz Festival.

Those in the know are already packing their bags and preparing for the first weekend of the decade anniversary Catalina JazzTrax celebration that begins with an incredible slate of great musicians:

Descano Beach.jpgThursday, Oct. 4th
4:45 pm - Wrigley Ranch Unplugged Session - Ray Parker, Jr.

Friday, Oct. 5th
7:30 pm & 9:00 pm shows - Paul Brown, Marion Meadows

Saturday, Oct. 6th
Noon & 2:00 pm shows - Jesse Jay, Nick Colionne

7:00 pm & 9:30 pm shows - Nils, Candy Dulfer
After Party on the beach at Descanso

Sunday, Oct. 7th
Noon & 2:00 pm shows - Lao Tizer, David Pack

7:00 pm & 9:30 pm shows - Four 80 East, Mindy Abair
After party at The Landing Courtyard

Is it too late to get a hotel?
A myth always circulates that all the best hotels are sold out months or weeks before the festival begins. However, that’s far from the case. More than 30 hotels occupy the ocean fronts and hills at Catalina, ranging from quaint bed and breakfasts to luxurious, ocean-view suites. Up-to-date hotel availability is available at www.catalinachamber.com.

Catalina Express Photo.jpgWhat the best way to get there and back?
Catalina Island Express offers up to 30 departures daily from ports in Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point, CA. in addition to a special 11:45 pm late night ferry back to Long Beach (Downtown Landing) every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night during Jazztrax. Fare prices vary according to age and senior (55+) discounts are available.

You can also enjoy priority boarding, comfortable seating in a more intimate lounge environment and a complimentary beverage with packaged snack served by cabin attendants for a $10 upgrade each way in the Commodore Lounge. Leather trimmed seats in the Lounge are wider, recline for comfort and offer individual tray tables. In addition, the Commodore Lounge’s upper level location on the JetCat Express, Starship Express and Catalina Jet catamarans offer panoramic windows for great ocean views.

Traveling in a party of up to 8? Then consider upgrading to the Captain’s Lounge for increased privacy, and exclusivity. Captain’s Lounges offer pre-boarding privileges, complimentary champagne, plush seating and amenities for just a $40 upgrade (room charge) per party over the normal fare. Catering is available for passengers traveling in the Captain’s Lounge.

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: Advance ferry reservations are highly recommended as certain departure times sell out. Also, if applicable, don't forget to ask for the senior (55+) discount.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 9:50 AM