February 28, 2008

Saxman Lerman is back on the prowl with Meow Baby

Album released to strong reviews as “No Ordinary Love” captures hearts at radio

If cats have nine lives, perhaps soul-groove saxophonist Danny Lerman is on his third. On February 26th he released his third album, Meow Baby, on Sugar Whiskey Records, his record label distributed by Lightyear Entertainment/EMI. Lerman’s mélange of accessible contemporary jazz, funk-da-fied R&B and shimmering pop melodies incorporates Latin, South African, Middle Eastern and World Music nuances that were inspired by his extensive travels and performances around the globe over the past decade.

Lerman co-wrote a dozen songs for Meow Baby and recorded two covers – John Lennon’s “Imagine,” featuring Howard Hewett’s caramelized vocals, and a sensual instrumental version of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love,” which is presently steaming up radio playlists. Appearing as a bonus track, “You Take My Breath Away” was originally released on Lerman’s top 20 debut disc, Danny’s Island. Drummer Tal Bergman (Rod Stewart, Billy Idol, Loreena McKennitt, Herb Alpert, Chaka Khan), who worked on Danny’s Island, returned to produce ten tracks in addition to providing exciting, exotic beats. Seminal urban jazz artist Norman Connors produced a few additional tracks. In the recording studio, Lerman’s lethal hit squad was locked and loaded with notorious musicians such as Randy Brecker, Hubert Laws, Paul Jackson Jr., Bobby Lyle, and Munyungo Jackson.

In anticipation of the album release, Lerman has been active on the concert trail over the past five weeks. He began in mid-January with a trio of Los Angeles-area concerts and continued with dates in the Midwest and West Coast. Earlier this month, Lerman performed the National Anthem before a Notre Dame ice hockey game in his hometown, South Bend, Indiana, which was a thrill for the still avid hockey player-turned-musician. On March 25th, he’ll perform the anthem before the Chicago Bulls NBA game at the United Center.   

The initial reaction to Meow Baby has been overwhelmingly positive. Here is a sampling of what some have written:

All Music Guide: “Lerman aggressively pursues his rhythms and grooves with the kind of musicality that has been championed by the like of Dave Koz, Jimmy Sommers and Eric Marienthal… With 15 compositions to lighten your mood, set a romantic theme, or just keep you chillin' to his contemporary saxophonics, Danny Lerman and his special guests have delivered a set that is as personal as a love song and as accessible as a sunny day on a tropical island.”

Baltimore Times: “The CD is very hot…The influences of the various countries can be heard on the album. The combinations of the sax, flute and trumpet, not to mention the guitar styles of Paul Jackson Jr. make for an excellent work of art.”

Reno Gazette-Journal: “Saxophonist Danny Lerman's approach to contemporary jazz is like a paleontological expedition, a layer cake that represents a variety of musical influences coalesced through his sensibilities… The cheeky track ‘Don't GoGo There’ features trumpet work by Brecker and is a prime example of how the song's inspirational DNA, the execution and production combined to provide a layered offering, dripping a buffet of styles…At the center of it all is Lerman's horn, a frequently mellifluous approach that can erupt into a growl -- rather than the meow referenced in the album title.”

Jazz Review: “There is a musicality that leaps off the disc and a degree of composition consistent with the best music currently heard on smooth jazz radio… There are a number of strong tracks on the disc. The opener, ‘Meow Baby,’ is a great composition in the new tradition of up-tempo and strong groove oriented music making the airwaves these days, and ‘The First Time’ floats as prettily as a sailboat on a calm sea.”

Smooth Jazz Therapy: “The pedigree of ‘Meow Baby’ is impeccable. Featured percussion from Munyungo Jackson plus production by Tal Bergman and Norman Connors all add to the quality yet, that said, this is very much Lerman’s project. He co-writes a dozen of the songs and, with sumptuous playing from beginning to end, is making a statement that Danny Lerman is all set to move into the upper echelon of smooth jazz saxophonists.”

N2Entertainment.net: “…Lerman shows he hasn't lost his groove or any signs of a sophomore slump… This isn't one of those CD's you'll be skipping around tracks as every single one is a sure-fire hit…”

Trish Hennessey of WSMJ-FM 104.3 Baltimore: “It's a breath of fresh air!" 

Additional information is available at www.dannylerman.com.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:48 PM

February 27, 2008

Paul Hardcastle Searching For His Own Idols

HardcastlePaul08.jpgBritish-based instrumentalist and producer Paul Hardcastle, whose “Lucky Star” is the No. 1 smooth jazz song in the country, has just started an American Idol-like contest searching for talented singers. Hardcastle says he’s looking for outstanding, soulful voices that would fit into the smooth jazz or R&B music formats.

He says that his fans can look for exciting new projects soon from a new record label he’s creating called, appropriately enough, Hardcastle Records. As you may know, the creator of “American Idol” and similar worldwide versions of the show is British entertainment executive Simon Fuller. Fuller called his company 19 Entertainment after Hardcastle’s 1985 dance hit titled “19” since he managed Hardcastle at the time.

If you’re interested in having Hardcastle hear a sample of your voice, e-mail a demo in mp3 format or another format to Feedbacktrax@mac.com. For more information, you can go to Hardcastle's website at paulhardcastle19.com.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:09 AM

February 22, 2008

Ragan Whiteside - Class Axe

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. The infrequency with which the flute is heard only adds to its magic as a contemporary jazz instrument. Now, in the skilled hands of the wonderfully soulful Ragan Whiteside, its potential knows no bounds. Her 2007 CD Class Axe is an absolute revelation and, given the album features production from both Bob Baldwin and Dennis Johnson, it has all the credentials necessary to provide Whiteside with the mainstream breakthrough that, on the strength of this collection, she so richly deserves.

Even before she had won the 2006 Capital Jazz Challenge, Mount Vernon, NY based flautist, vocalist, and songwriter Ragan Whiteside had already caught the attention of keyboard maestro Bob Baldwin. She played flute on his 2004 project Brazil Chill and a year later Baldwin included her on his follow up, All In A Day’s Work. In fact, for Class Axe Baldwin writes (or co-writes) six of the fourteen tracks and plays keys throughout. Included within this mix are a number of intro’s, interludes and reprises that serve to fuse the entire work together and whereas Whiteside’s collaborations with Baldwin tend to be strictly instrumental, her pairings with Johnson allow for further exploration of her vocal prowess.

The sumptuous Johnson – Whiteside composition ‘So Glad’ is a shimmering example of her combined talents and there is more of the delightful same with ‘How Do You Know’. This soulful chiller features a keyboard solo from Baldwin and has a turned town yet edgy vibe that Whiteside carries over to ‘Options’. Written by Johnson and Baldwin this is but one of several examples of top notch smooth R & B and when ‘Call Me’ draws Whiteside to the urban side of the tracks she calls upon rapper Short Fuze to invoke a streetwise edge.

Baldwin’s interactions invariably illuminate Whiteside’s instrumental abilities and this is particularly so with the mellow ‘Gonna Fly’. It finds Whiteside in outstanding form and with Baldwin contributing on keyboards, drums and strings they together deliver a complete gem. In similar vein is the excellent ‘In Love’ and with ‘3 AM’ they again unite for a tune that, as its title suggests, is a superb example of late night mood music. The Latin infused ‘Meu Amigo, Meu Amante’ really permits Whiteside’s flute to dance and when she switches back to vocals for ‘Break Me Down’ the result is an earthy smoker of the highest order.

In many ways ‘Funktuation’ is at the heart of the album. It’s hypnotic yet zesty neo soul vibe provides Whiteside with the opportunity to demonstrate her stellar playing which here, expertly coupled with understated backing vocals, really stands out from the crowd. Later in the album the song is joyously reprised then pops up yet again as a hidden bonus track. Far from being overkill, it is simply three times the charm.

Class Axe is predominately mellow, always soulful and a great example of Whiteside’s art. It finds the sweet spot where contemporary jazz meets smooth R & B and comes highly recommended.

For more go to www.raganwhiteside.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 5:36 PM

February 20, 2008

Philippe Saisse Moves To California; Signs To Koch

saisse_2007_1.jpgKeyboardist, composer and producer Philippe Saisse, has moved to Southern California after many years of life in New York City and in the New York suburb of Scarsdale. Saisse, who was born and raised in France, is finally settled in with his wife Laura and young son Dorian after what he calls a whirlwind move.

In a career-enhancing move, Saisse has decided to live in the western Los Angeles County city of Calabasas, which he jokingly refers to as the smooth jazz capital of the world. Among the many smooth jazz performers who live in or near the area are Jonathan Butler, Rick Braun, Chris Standring, Norman Brown, Greg Adams, Paul Brown and Euge Groove.

Saisse has plenty to keep him busy, as he is now writing music for the follow-up to his The Body & Soul Sessions, which featured the No. 1 smooth jazz single “Do It Again.”

He hopes to offer the CD, to be released by the Koch record label, in the fall.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:53 AM

February 18, 2008

Michael Lington Marries Former Miss Australia

Lington_wife.jpgSmooth jazz star Michael Lington is single no more, as the saxophonist has posted a picture of himself and his new wife, Shivaune Christina, on his website. There were married late last year in a secretive ceremony. The picture is from a recent issue of 944, a style and celebrity magazine with regional issues in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County, California.

Lington and his wife were photographed attending a chartity event in Los Angeles. Lington is 38 and his new wife, who is 28 and six-feet tall, represented Australia at the 2003 Miss Earth beauty pageant. She has worked in modeling and television broadcasting and owns Angelic Services, a media relations company focused on talent and relationship management.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:01 PM

February 17, 2008

Snake Davis - Talking Bird

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. Saxophonist Snake Davis has long been the UK’s leading exponent of contemporary jazz and pop tinged R & B. His recording credits are almost too numerous to mention but include sessions with M-People, Lisa Stansfield, Ray Charles, Tom Jones, Culture Club, Hamish Stuart, George Michael, Tina Turner, Cher, Kylie Minogue, Paul McCartney, Swing Out Sister, Dave Stewart, Paul Young, Pet-Shop Boys and Robert Palmer. Both with his own band and as a solo performer Davis makes hundreds of appearances every year and has also toured with soul legends Edwin Starr, Rose Royce, Sister Sledge, Tavares, Odyssey, The Three Degrees, Mary Wells, Ruby Turner, Martha Reeves and Eddie Holman. A perpetual ‘go to guy’ for recordings by both Acoustic Alchemy and Paul Hardcastle, Davis is now reigniting his own solo career with the brand new CD Talking Bird.

His 2001 debut Snakebites promised much and when Hysteria followed two years later it seemed only a matter of time before Davis would break through into the mainstream. Although five years have since elapsed, it is obvious from the very first notes of the album’s opening title cut that the wait has been worthwhile. This fulsome smooth jazz anthem flows like a river and in similar vein is the soulful, horn driven ‘Harlem Stroll’. Reminiscent of his playing on Acoustic Alchemy’s ‘The Detroit Shuffle’ it is a contender for the album’s best track yet in truth standouts abound. ‘KikBak’, with its funky edge and killer beat, is a wonderful example of sophisticated contemporary jazz while ‘Refuge’ features more of that big trademark Snake Davis sound. When he switches to flute for ‘Cross The Line’ the outcome is intense, complex but always interesting.

‘Day Of The Snake’ finds Davis showing off his jazzier side whereas in complete contrast is the outstanding beauty of the bluesy ‘Dreaming On’. This chilled out smoker includes excellent guitar from Mark Cresswell and when Davis blends a warm soulful groove with zesty world rhythms the result is the captivating ‘Dragonfly’.

The final touches to Talking Bird were applied in late 2007 as Davis toured Japan with Eikiche Yazawa. Consequently it’s no surprise that an oriental feel permeates much of the collection. The stunningly deconstructed ‘Naima’ is a case in point while even better is ‘Fuji-sighting’. This intoxicatingly mellow number is an absolute joy and another Secret Garden favorite is ‘Shiro Sunset’. Here the violins of Veronika Novotna create a melancholy vibe that Davis carries on with his sublimely tender playing.

Recorded during 2007 in Lancashire, Buckinghamshire and Tokyo Talking Bird was released in the UK on February 4, 2008. Complemented by excellent support from Paul Birchall on keys, Bryan Hargreaves on drums, Neil Fairclough on bass guitar and Dave Bowie with double bass, it is Snake’s best album to date and deserves to get him noticed.

For more go to www.snakedavis.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 9:31 AM

February 12, 2008

Contempo January/February 2008

Heading into its 18th year in 2008, The Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, Pennsylvania is an annual mecca for some 45,000 jazz fans for a few key reasons beyond an exciting ten-day lineup. Aside from its small city community spirit — the heart and soul behind the music is some 300 local volunteers — Berks is unabashed in its appeal to smoothies and jazz purists alike, juxtaposing Brian Culbertson and Pat Martino, Stanley Jordan and Rick Braun, Dave Brubeck and Mindi Abair in any given year.

JasonMiles_Studio.jpgBeyond that, while most festivals just hop from one big name to another, Berks these last few years has offered some tasty one time only all-star gatherings paying homage to icons like Marvin Gaye, Ivan Lins and Luther Vandross. The unofficial house ringleader for these events is Grammy winning keyboardist Jason Miles, who knows something about mining the old Rolodex for sweeping album projects that defy common logistical sense. He’s been the unofficial Quincy Jones of contemporary jazz over the past decade, helming star-studded discs paying homage to Gaye, Lins, Grover Washington, Jr. and Weather Report.

For Berks 2007, Miles reached back to the 60s soul that shaped his diverse musical sensibilities and put together a dream lineup of modern artists and still brilliant old school sidemen to help him re-imagine his favorite all-time R&B and soul-jazz songs. In an industry that generally shies away from live album releases, Shanachie Records shows progress by releasing this explosive concert on disc as Soul Summit. The subtitle “Can You Feel It?” comes from the easy grooving, wistfully brassy song by saxman/flutist Karl Denson and featuring Denson, Incognito singer Maysa and a host of sensual backup singers. For Miles, that track, that title, “got the message across.”

“Back when I was growing up, a lot of us didn’t know that what we were listening to was ‘soul music,’” he says. “I played organ in different bands in the late 60s and I loved Booker T and the MG’s, Howard Tate, Dyke and The Blazers and The Staple Singers. Soul is one of the building blocks of American music. From Memphis to Chicago blues, from the Mississippi Delta up to the Detroit of Motown, it represents the cultural history of our country. What was the first instrument man ever heard? The heartbeat. The music comes from that. We need to build off this legacy if we want the music to survive. With Soul Summit, I wanted to dig into these songs with the idea of revisiting classic music with a modern sense.”

To that end, he built his dream band beginning with famed Motown “Funk Brother” bassist Bob Babbitt, British skin legend Steve Ferrone (known for picking up the pieces with Average White Band and now a member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) and guitarist Reggie Young (Elvis, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles). The guest list grew to include saxman/flutist Karl Denson (Lenny Kravitz), singer Maysa (from Incognito), blues/soul singer songwriter Susan Tedeschi, Mike Mattison (gravel voiced lead singer from The Derek Trucks Band) and — paying as much homage to Tower of Power as the groovin’ side of smooth jazz — blistering saxman Richard Elliot.

Elliot loves playing “Shotgun” with his own band, but the experience of doing it here amongst old soul legends — where the tenor man blazes out of the gate and sets the hard driving energetic tone for the tracks to come — was somehow transcendent. He also gets in some deeper blues-soul licks than his smooth jazz catalogue allows on Miles’ hypnotic, simmer-soul composition “Chicken And Waffles,” which the keyboardist originally cut with Grover in 1996.

“When I was starting out in the early 80s, I played on sessions at Hitsville West with the Four Tops, Temptations and Smokey Robinson, who were experiencing career resurgences at the time,” Elliot says. “But Bob Babbitt and the Funk Brothers were on their original tracks that I was listening to growing up. That made Soul Summit something of a poignant experience for me. There’s an inherent, intangible quality in the way guys like him, Steve Ferrone and Reggie Young play that just comes from years of doing it. All of that is saved into a level of experience that you can’t get any other way but by touching and feeling the music of that era. Soul music to me is the one genre where the expression of pure emotion is mixed with the exactness and precision that comes with great R&B timekeeping.”

The fun part of the way this musical cirque du Miles covers the waterfront comes from some creative mixing and matching. Young played on the original “Son Of A Preacher Man” nearly 40 years ago and he adds the same simmering blues touch here behind Tedeschi’s raspy vocals and the blazing horn section. Tedeschi also adds torchy heartache to Irma Thomas’ “It’s Raining.” The deep voiced but underrated soul diva Maysa is to this generation what Stax singer Linda Lyndell was to hers, which makes her the perfect choice to lead a fiery run through “What A Man,” which was reworked in the 90s by Salt ‘N Pepa with En Vogue; one of Miles’ goals is to educate young listeners, and this song is a great way to do it — i.e. all of today’s R&B had its roots back in the Stax (and Motown).

Before Soul Summit wraps with an extended crowd pleasing medley of James Brown songs (it ain’t soul without the Godfather), Miles tackles something more unexpected because it’s as much jazz as R&B driven: his connection to the late flute icon Herbie Mann. The concert goes all retro-soul/jazzy with a wistful, laid back, Denson led version of Mann’s 1969 classic “Memphis Underground”; Young played on the original track. Miles, again handing the reins to Denson’s lead flute, also includes the similar-vibed “Memphis 2000,” an original he and Mann recorded (with Ferrone on drums) in 1996.

Miles promises that Soul Summit isn’t just a one-time thing, adding, with the hope that some funky lightning can strike again, “The convergence of all these exceptional musicians onstage and on the recording was a meeting of perfection. The groove and vibe between the musicians, along with the response from the audience, let us know that something special was going on.”

Ferrone adds, “What made it memorable was that I ate the best Philly Cheesesteak sandwich I ever had! Oh, and with the show and rehearsal, it was two days of playing with some of the greatest musicians ever. ‘Shotgun’ was my favorite, the way Richard burned through the thing and scorched the rhythm section. You’ve got to be impressed with guys like that.”

GilParris_Video.jpgWhat do David Letterman’s right hand man Paul Shaffer, Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams and trumpet god Randy Brecker have in common? All are buddies of one of the East Coast’s most versatile guitarists, Grammy nominee Gil Parris, who gathered for an exciting night of jamming pop/jazz in January 2007 at the Irvington Town Hall just outside NYC. The concert is now a can’t miss DVD called Gil Parris and Friends, which the guitarist — in a clever promotional tactic - is giving away with the purchase of any one of the five discs in his eclectic catalogue. The latest of these, Strength, was one of the best indie discs of 2006 but suffered from the folding of its label, 215 Records. Parris, who does over 200 dates a year in the Tri-State Area (NY, New Jersey, Connecticut) and has shared bills with Spyro Gyra, Bob James, George Benson, Robben Ford, Joshua Redman and Chris Botti, is now marketing it independently. The album’s song “Duck Walk,” a blues funk duet with Brecker, was a longtime #1 in the summer and fall 2007 on Music Choice, America’s top cable radio channel.

For more info on Parris, check out www.gilparris.com.

Personal Taste

1) Mark Berman, The Genesis Project (Mark Berman Music) – Someone was paying attention in Sunday School! The veteran NYC pianist and Broadway conductor explores the first chapter of the Bible with a witty, Manhattan Transfer-ish vocal harmony driven mix combining elements of rock, soul, samba, gospel and blues. This engaging set celebrates Judeo-Christian traditions while drawing attention to our connection to the earth itself.
2) Shannon Kennedy, Never My Love (Angel Eyes Creation Records)
3) Chris Botti, Italia (Columbia)
4) Dave Koz, Memories Of A Winter’s Night (Capitol)
5) Peter White Christmas (ARTizen Music Group)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 4:10 PM

February 10, 2008

WQCD 101.9 New York Shuts Out Smooth Jazz

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. As well as leaving a huge gap in the market, the news effective from 4-00 pm on February 5 that WQCD 101.9 in New York has switched formats from smooth jazz to rock has delivered a damning indictment on the state of smooth jazz radio in the USA. In fact where the genre does manage to survive, especially when buried within the choice deprived play lists served up on radio by Broadcast Architecture, it is as a watered down version of its once glorious self. Worse still, those mainly independent artists who strive to recapture the music’s traditional edginess struggle to find an outlet. Consequently let’s thank heavens for the publicists, websites and streaming radio stations who are prepared to offer a voice to those performers who otherwise would never be heard. Steve Quirk’s Fusion Flavours at Smooth Radio 100.4 is a shining example. Now in its eighteenth year the show streams worldwide every Sunday at midnight UK time when Quirk’s carefully researched blend of music from both established and up-coming performers provides the perfect antidote to syndicated radio.

Meanwhile its likely that those New York listeners who inadvertently tune into rock at WQCD 101.9 may well hear and relate to Bruce Springsteen’s pointed 1992 commentary on television choice, ‘57 Channels (And Nothin On)’. For smooth jazz fans it now fits radio just as well.

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 11:52 AM

February 9, 2008

Lee Ritenour At Santa Fe Station

Guitar great Lee Ritenour returns to Vegas at the Santa Fe Station in the Chrome Showroom on February 15th. Great chops with a contemporary approach that only borders "smooth".

Wayman Tisdale will also make an appearance at the Santa Fe Station on the leap year date of February 29th.

The Killer Groove Band
, featuring Rocky Gordon, returns again for the annual Sunny 106.5 FM's Chocolate Affair at the South Point Hotel. The upscale event features wine and chocolate in many varieties. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door.

Tickets are going fast for the annual City Of Lights Jazz And R&B Festival. Two great days.
Saturday, April 26th
Norman Brown
Paul Taylor
Alex Bugnon
Chante Moore
Pieces Of A Dream
Bobby Caldwell
Steve Cole

Sunday, April 27th
Morris Day & the Time
Tony, Toni, Tone
East Bay Soul
Greg Adams
Lenny Williams
Tom Scott

Posted by Danny Desart at 10:23 PM

February 8, 2008

See & Hear Ken Navarro Record His New CD "The Grace Of Summer Light" Right Now!

Top charting & award winning contemporary jazz guitarist Ken Navarro has begun to record his next CD. The new CD is called The Grace of Summer Light. It includes 10 new songs and will be released May 5, 2008 exclusively at www.kennavarro.com followed by the national retail release on June 17, 2008.

There is an entire section at Ken's website devoted to following the creation and recording of his new music.

Included are audio previews as well as regular diary entries by Ken following the progress of his CD to its completion. There are also special offers for visitors to Ken's website to purchase the CD well in advance of the retail release date with extras only available when purchased at www.kennavarro.com.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:38 PM

February 7, 2008

Dave Koz Will Offer Best-Of CD And New Material In 2008

KozGladd.jpgSaxophonist Dave Koz has announced that he will be releasing two CDs in 2008. First, Koz expects to offer his first-ever best-of CD featuring his No. 1 smooth jazz singles, a long list that includes “Let It Free,” “Honey-Dipped, “All I See Is You,” “The Bright Side” and “Can’t Let You Go,” among many others. The best-of CD will also have a few new songs. Then, Koz says he will focus on a new CD of original music that would not be a continuation of his current, Grammy-nominated At The Movies. That would make it his first CD of original material since Saxophonic, released in October of 2003.

Meanwhile, you won’t have to wait very long for some even more new material by Koz. On Feb. 12, he will offer Double Feature, a CD and DVD combination based on his At The Movies that will have two bonus songs in addition to the DVD showing the creation of the project.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:58 PM

February 6, 2008

Heads Up International Signs Contemporary Jazz Supergroup Fourplay

Quartet To Perform At 50th GRAMMY Awards After-Show Party On February 10th
Heads Up International, one of the world’s premier crossover jazz labels and a division of the Concord Music Group, today announced the signing of an exclusive recording agreement with Fourplay, the innovative quartet that has maintained a consistent presence on the cutting edge of contemporary jazz since their inception more than 15 years ago. Fourplay will make their Heads Up debut with a yet-to-be-titled album scheduled for release in summer 2008.

The band is scheduled to perform at an after-show party following the Grammy® Award ceremonies at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on “Grammy® Sunday,” February 10, 2008. Fourplay’s after-show performance is scheduled for the Jazz Lounge in the west hall of the Staples Center.

Fourplay, whose current lineup consists of keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East, guitarist Larry Carlton and drummer Harvey Mason, has enjoyed consistent artistic and commercial success by grafting elements of R&B and pop to their unwavering jazz foundations. In a span of seventeen years and ten albums, the quartet has continued to explore the limitless dimensions and permutations of jazz while at the same time appealing to a broad mainstream audience.

“Fourplay has been a formidable and high-profile entity in contemporary jazz for almost two decades, with a track record of musical innovation that speaks for itself,” says Dave Love, President of Heads Up International. “Each artist in the band’s lineup is an immense talent in his own right, but the synergy of all four players adds up to an even greater whole. We’re very excited to have them on the Heads Up roster, and we’re very much looking forward to a great record this year.

Bob James, a founding member of the group, echoes Love’s optimism for a prolific partnership between band and label. “We’re very happy with the enthusiasm that’s been demonstrated by the Heads Up team,” says James. “It’s up to us now as a band to create music that will justify the excitement that everyone is feeling about this partnership. That’s a challenge that we take very seriously, but it’s a challenge that we welcome with every new record we make.”

Nathan East sees independent labels like Heads Up as the place to be, given the current record industry climate. “While the major labels are trying to keep the ‘record business’ alive, the indies are doing a better job at keeping the ‘music business’ alive. The independents seem to be able to offer a more hands-on approach than the majors, which is definitely a benefit to the artist.”

Harvey Mason agrees that the industry has entered an era where joining an independent label is a smart move: “Fourplay is very excited about the fresh opportunities that abound in these transitional times in the music industry,” he says. “We look forward to partnering with Heads Up as a means to build on the Fourplay brand which has proudly existed for twenty years.”

While the exact direction of Fourplay’s Heads Up debut has yet to be determined, Larry Carlton promises that the band’s maiden voyage with the label “will be a continuation in the growth of the Fourplay sound. We look forward to delivering the next chapter in the Fourplay story and having Heads Up deliver it to the world.”

“We’ve set a high standard for ourselves in almost two decades of making records together as Fourplay,” says East. “I look forward to making an adventurous, classy and soul-filled record that showcases our talents individually and collectively. Until the last note is played, it’s hard to predict the exact direction. That’s what we love about jazz – the improvisation that happens in the moment. That’s a concept that Heads Up completely understands.”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:39 PM

February 2, 2008

Peak Expands Roster With Jeff Lorber Signing

Lorber_Jeff_08a.jpgKeyboardist and producer Jeff Lorber, whose latest CD is nominated for a Grammy, follows saxophonist Mindi Abair as the latest artist to sign a recording contract with Peak Records, the expanding smooth jazz record label co-founded by Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons. Peak is a subsidiary of Concord Records.

Lorber joins a roster that in addition to Abair includes The Rippingtons, Marc Antoine, Gerald Albright, Paul Taylor, Norman Brown, Lee Ritenour, Will Downing, Eric Marienthal, David Benoit and Jessy J. Jeff’s most recent CD, He Had a Hat, which featured the smooth jazz hit “Anthem for a New America,” was released on Blue Note Records. The CD is nominated in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category, and Lorber will find out if he’s a winner when the Grammy Awards are held Feb. 10.

Jeff’s first CD for Peak – which features collaborations with veteran smooth jazz composer and producer Rex Rideout – will be released on June 10.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 11:08 PM

February 1, 2008

Saturday April 26th And Sunday April 27 2008 With 14 Of The Biggest Names In Smooth Jazz And Rhythm And Blues

LasVegasJazzRBFest(Las Vegas) Michael Schivo, founder and producer of The 16th Annual Las Vegas City Of Lights Jazz & R&B Fest, is celebrating 43 years as Nevada's premier Pop, Rock and Jazz concert promoter and has teamed up again with Las Vegas Events (LVE) the Las Vegas mega producers of the city’s largest tourists events, and The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 105.7 Smooth Jazz, And KCEP Community Radio to co-sponsor the 16th Annual Las Vegas City of Lights Jazz & R &B Festival, Saturday, April 26th and Sunday April 27th. By popular demand this years 2 day Festival will return to Hills Park at Summerlin. Hills Park at Summerlin is located in the respected Northwest quadrant of Las Vegas.

The Park has a professional venue feeling and an intimate synergy revered by the jazz patrons. The Park has many shade trees and a Pavilion which also offers shade. This year the Festival again will have 2 musical parts and separate tickets for the Saturday April 26th Jazz Festival from 1pm to 10pm and Sunday April 27th Stone Soul R&B Picnic from 2pm to 8pm.

As usual, the Jazz Festival and Rhythm and Blues Festival have been booked with handpicked musicians to entertain throughout the day and night. Jazz artists performing on Saturday April 26nd will be Grammy award winning guitarist Norman Brown, the stylish vocals of Chante Moore, hot saxman Paul Taylor, French composer keyboardist Alex Bugnon, the souful groove of Pieces Of A Dream, R&B vocalist Bobby Caldwell, Chicago saxman Steve Cole and Smooth Jazz guitarist Nils.

On Sunday April 27the afternoon begins with A Stone Soul Picnic with Rhythm and Blues and Funk Luminaries, Morris Day And The Time, Rufus,Tony Toni Tone and East Bay Soul with Greg Adams, Lenny Williams and Tom Scott. All of these Rhythm and Blues artists will make for the perfect afternoon and evening of picnicking and family entertainment. Minors when accompanied by a paying Adult will be admitted free thru age 12.

Quote Schivo: "Last year's Festival was an extreme party, filled with the groove that it takes to be crowned “The biggest and liveliest Jazz and R&B party in the west” Last years Festival sold out 2 days in advance and so we strongly urge patrons to buy either show well in advance as tickets will be in high demand once again …..Schivo adds “The Las Vegas City of Lights Jazz and Rhythm & Blues Festival continues to spiral itself into a very special light, and as our Festival continues to gain momentum, it will rank with the likes of all first-rate European and big-city-USA spring and summer Music Festivals, perhaps more so because Las Vegas is truly a one-of-a-kind city."

Past Jazz stalwarts that have graced the festival include: The legendary Jazz Crusaders, Boney James, Norman Brown, Lee Ritenour, Hiroshima, Andy Narell, Rick Braun, Brian Culbertson, Joe Sample, Gerald Albright, Fattburger, Larry Carlton, Poncho Sanchez, Flora Purim and Airto, Ronnie Laws, The Yellowjackets, Hugh Masakela, Chuck Mangione, Richard Elliot, Peter White, Jonathon Butler, George Duke, Down to the Bone, Ronnie Jorden, Paul Jackson Jr., Paul Taylor and many more. The Jazz Festival, established in 1993, has hosted capacity crowds in years past as people from all around the Country participated. Last year 38 states were represented at the Festival.

Tickets go on sale Saturday January 26th 2008 throughout Las Vegas exclusively at the following Las Vegas Ticket Outlets: All three Mr. Bill's Pipe and Tobacco Stores, and UNLV Performing Arts Center Boxoffice, and by phone at 1-800-969-VEGAS. Additional tickets will sold in the Los Angeles area at Inglewood Tickets, 310-671-6400

Patrons of the Festival are permitted to bring into the park picnic baskets filled with their favorite food and beverages,(glass containers ARE allowed) as well, there will be various concessions at the festival in our Jazz Village.


This year's Jazz and R & B Festival will offer free admission to each event for children 11 years of age and under, and a reduced ticket price to each event for children 12-18 years of age for $20, which will be available at the on-site festival box office on the day of the event only.

VIP EARLYBIRD TICKETS for both days include early seating with its own cash bar and up graded water flushing facilities and are $110.00 in advance PLUS any tax and ticket outlet Service Charges and fees..

GENERAL ADMISSION tickets each day are $60.00 PLUS any tax and Service Charge and fees.

Patrons wishing to purchase both days will receive a discounted ticket of $ 155.00 plus any taxes and service charges or fees for one VIP/Early Bird and 1 GA ticket either day or both days VIP EARLY BIRD are $200.00 and GA Tickets will be $110.00 plus services charges ect.


All tickets in Las Vegas and Nationally go on sale January 26th, 2008.. For additional information please see our website located at www.yourjazz.com. For recorded Jazz Festival information or messages please call our Jazz & R&B Festival hotline at 702 228-3780

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:48 PM