March 31, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: LA Chillharmonic Brings a New Cool to Berks

by Beverly J. Packard

IMG_0676.jpgRichard Smith on guitar. Greg Adams on trumpet. Brian Bromberg on bass. Michael Paulo on saxophone. Gregg Karukas on keyboard. Joel Taylor on drums. Berks Jazz Fest Horns on trombone, sax and trumpet. Put them all together and what do you have? A new band, never before to have played at the Berks Jazz Festival. Yes, the players are all familiar names. And the sound of the band's music is enhanced by each member’s earlier performances and CD’s. But this band proved, as the saying goes, that the sum is greater than its parts.

What an awesome afternoon of music Berks fans were treated to on Saturday, Day 2 of the Berks Jazz Festival. My first impression when seeing their name on the list of shows back in November was that it was a great combination of players for a one-time show. Now I’ve learned that LA Chillharmonic is more than that – it’s a concept for a brand new band, Richard Smith’s brainchild, and it’s sure to leave its mark on the jazz scene. So Berks now has the distinction of being the site of the very first performance of LA Chillharmonic.

IMG_0650.jpgJazz fans love jazz jams, be they totally impromptu or planned out ahead of time or somewhere in between. This show reminded me of a great all-star jam session and that’s why it was so exciting. It was a party and I’m sure many of us wanted to just stand on our chairs and dance the afternoon away along with the band. Even the word ‘chillharmonic’ is quite appropriate for these artists, all of whom are relaxed and fun players. Of course we know they practice diligently, especially Brian Bromberg, who has practiced ‘all his life’ (inside joke you will understand only if you were in attendance) -- still, these players seem to effortlessly communicate to us their own ability to 'chill.' The result is an audience who can also manage to tune out the cares of the day and escape into the music, a place where jazz fans love to be.

The songs were a wonderful mix of original numbers, numbers that featured each artist and came from some of their former CD’s, and covers of people like Herbie Hancock, Sade, Earth, Wind and Fire, etc. The title track from the CD coming out in August, entitled LA Chillharmonic, should move up the charts with no trouble. The music was upbeat, funky, with great intros, transitions from one player to another, and memorable endings. The arrangements, credited to Greg Adams, were superbly crafted.

GregandBrian.jpgGreg Adams played a great rendition of Sade’s 'Smooth Operator' from his earlier CD. Also included was Herbie Hancock's Canteloupe Island. Earth, Wind, and Fire songs which had been previously recorded were played, to the crowd’s delight. ('Sing a Song', Richard Smith’s Soulidify), ('That's the Way of the World,' from Michael Paulo’s CD My Heart and Soul) and ('September', Brian Bromberg's You Know That Feeling ) The Crusaders 'Put It Where You Want It' was played during the encore after a rousing petition by the audience for the band to return to center stage after their last song.

So who are these players, really? Richard Smith, professor of guitar at University of Southern California who travels to Europe regularly to teach and play, mainly in Sicily, Crete, Korfu and Southern Italy. Ask him if he's Italian; he has a lot of great experiences to relate! Greg Adams, former 25 year member of Tower of Power, a veteran player who brings a lot of wisdom and has done a number of his own CD's. Brian Bromberg, who is fast becoming a Berks Jazz Fest 'staple' and is just an amazing, amazing bass player (both guitar and upright). Brian would drive for 12 hours in a snowstorm to get to Berks, just ask him. Gregg Karukas, who has quite a spunky and fun personality to complement his awesome talent. Joel Taylor was the drummer extraordinaire.

As for the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Michael Anderson on saxophone, Rob Diener on trumpet, and John Loos on trombone, these three are becoming more and more in demand during the festival. They've been doing a great job of adding even more depth to the performances of a number of bands.

LA Chillharmonic will debut with their first CD in August on Artistry Records. Everything is just beginning for this awesome group of players who are sure to find success in offering something a little different for the jazz audience. It will be exciting to see in what directions this new concept takes them. I would encourage you to catch up with them when you have the opportunity!

Happy Jazzin',

Richard and Beverly 2.jpgBeverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, PA

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:30 PM

March 30, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Gerald Veasley & the WJJZ All-Stars

Berks08_Veasley2.jpgBassist Gerald Veasley and the WJJZ All-Stars provided the late night show which was broadcasted live by WFMZ TV, the amiable bass player had his band with him (among them saxophonist Chris Farr) plus a string of friends to follow later. They opened the show with several tracks from their brand new CD Your Move which went down very well with the audience. Soon he added his first guest, guitar player Chuck Loeb, to the stage who was instrumental in this album, Chuck displayed his usual spirited playing and was a crowd pleaser, especially with his own composition "The Music Inside", the title track from this album from 1996, that evoked a few shouts of appreciation.

Berks08_Veasley.jpgThen Bobby Lyle came to the stage to give us some great piano playing, he contributed his version of "Minute By Minute" and some mind-boggling soloing on the keys. Then it was time for crowd-pleaser Rick Braun and his jazzy trumpet playing, during his own "Cadillac Slim" he did a stroll through the audience, followed by Chris Farr on sax, raising the bar one notch. Overall the vibe was relaxed and the band took their time, later Gerald Veasley played "Forever", a hommage to his wife, just accompanied by drums and keys, a signature song of his which is always a highlight of his concerts, plus a rousing rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Do I Do". The show lasted well past midnight, the two hours flew by and left a very satisfied audience.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:32 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Chris Botti

Berks08_Botti.jpgTrumpet player Chris Botti played at the Sovereign Performing Arts Centre Saturday evening, the concert was sold-out and expectations were running high. The leader was accompanied by a stellar group of players, he had Mark Whitfield on guitar, the outstanding Billy Kilson on drums, Robert Hurst on acoustic and electric bass and Peter Martin on piano and keyboards with him. He opened his show with "Ave Maria" which soon changed into a twisted funky groove with mind-boggling interplay between the guitar of Mark Whitfield and the complex drumming of Billy Kilson. The material on display ranged from opera ("Caruso") to Leonard Cohen compositions but no matter what source the music came from, it always kept a tremendous tension, oszillating between the introspective and the expressive, yielding a music experience that just was out of this world. The band provided some serious jazz, the interplay between these world-class players was a joy to hear and watch. The icing on the cake was singer Sy Smith with her crystal clear voice and great jazz phrasing who delivered a few songs. This show was a true highlight and the best concert at the festival so far. Chris Botti is in a class of his own and witnessing him and his band live is always great.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:24 PM

March 29, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Brian Bromberg

Berks08_Bromberg.jpgThe Berks Jazz Fest 2008 started Friday evening with a concert by bassist Brian Bromberg which was held in the intimate Jazz Base, the jazz club at the Sheraton in Reading. I attended the first of two sets. Brian was in a great mood and ready to play, he had his array of basses with him and delivered a broad range of songs, among them Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" which appeared on his latest album Downright Upright, followed by smooth jazz tracks from his release Desire featuring saxophonist Gary Meek, another highlight was a tune from his Japan-only release In Spirit Of Jobim, an album done with a full orchestra that still awaits its release in the US. The other band members were Tom Zinc on keyboards, Joel Taylor on drums, Larry Antonino on bass (which made sense because Brian Bromberg focussed on soloing with higher tuned bass instruments). Speaking of instruments, Brian Bromberg played his 300 year old acoustic bass, a semi-acoustic piccolo bass guitar, and several electric basses, displaying stunning artistry with his double-tapping technique and spirited soloing. The band was in fine form yielding a top-notch concert and a worthy opener of the festival.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:41 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2008: Kenny Blake

Berks08_Blake.jpgI headed over to the Abraham Lincoln Hotel where the Kenny Blake Quartet was scheduled to appear in the L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret. Despite the fact the Kenny Blake hasn't released an album for a while his name is still held in high esteem and his music is warmly appreciated. He played two sets with his band, he had piano, bass and drums plus a singer who delivered a few songs, some leaning towards pop, but he quickly made up for it with some great instrumentals which made me wonder why he is not more at the forefront of today's music scene. At the end of the concerts the band created quite some heat with their renditions of Herbie's "Cantaloupe Island" and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", even Sade's "Smooth Operator" - which has been played to death by various smooth jazz radio stations - created a highlight of the concert. Let's hope that we hear more of this great saxophone player in the future.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:14 PM

March 27, 2008

VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest to feature Miles' Global Noize

World premiere of Miles' Global Noize promises to get crowd moving at the VF
Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

READING, PA -- March 24 -- Over the past few years, keyboardist/producer
Jason Miles has produced and performed in numerous star-studded shows at the
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest that pay homage to great icons in the jazz and R&B
worlds, including Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and this year, Grover
Washington Jr. In 2007, he also tapped into the era of the greatest soul
songs of all time with the powerful collective Soul Summit.

For the world premiere of his latest project and CD, Global Noize, he joined
up with the versatile hip-hop and jazz turntablist DJ Logic.

The mission of Global Noize is about more than bringing great music to the

The show is Saturday, April 5 at 10:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Reading Hotel.
Tickets are $39 and $34.

The 18th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts
Council, runs March 28 through April 6 and offers fans a wide array of
musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, big band
and gospel. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout
Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival.

"We know how the world is these days," Miles said. "People don't hate each
other; governments hate each other. We are trying to bring everyone

Global Noize is a melding of sounds from all corners of the globe -- artists
from India, Brazil, France and other parts of the world have come together
for the project.

It's truly a global effort," Miles said. "We want to make some noise, but a
hip kind of noise."

Joining Miles and DJ Logic for the show will be Christian Scott, Jeff
Coffin, Bernie Worrell, Cafe, Brian Dunne, Carl Burnett, Jerry Brooks and
Falu, plus World Fusion Dancers Azhia and Dellaneira.

Miles added even more star power with very special guest Me'Shell
Ndegeocello, a singer and bassist who performed with John Mellencamp on his
hit single "Wild Night." Hailed by some as a redeemer of soul music,
Ndegeocello has had some cult hits of her own, including "If That's Your
Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)," from her 1993 debut release Plantation
Lullabies, an album that earned her three Grammy nominations.

Her eighth and latest album,The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams, was released last year.

Bernie Worrell is a master keyboardist known for his work with Parliament
Funkadelic and Talking Heads. Most recently, Brian Dunne has been touring
with the Average White Band (and just finished their most recent recording),
Chuck Loeb's Band and Sara Devine.

Cafe is a Brazilian percussion master. Jeff Coffin is the sax player for
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Christian Scott is a hot up and coming
trumpet star from New Orleans who has earned two Grammy nominations and
released his second Concord Records disc Anthem in 2007. Carl Burnett is the
guitarist from Branford Marsalis' old group Buckshot LeFonque and Down To
The Bone. Falu is an amazing, emerging singer from India.

The project came about in a very unusual way. While in Morocco for his Marvin Gaye tribute, he, along with his wife,Cathy, and DJ Logic went on to Marrakesh. Out of this unique, transforming experience came the real inspiration for the project, and the Global Noize CD, which will be released April 29.

Featured on the album are Meshell Ndegeocello, Billy Martin, Vernon Reid,
John Popper, Cyro Baptista, Bernie Worrell, Karl Denson and more.

"Even though this is a late show, we guarantee nobody will be falling
asleep," Miles said. "This is music to move to. If people want to dance, we
welcome that."

Other featured artists and shows at this year's festival include the return
of the ever-popular Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Peter White,
Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber; jazz guitar great Pat Martino; blues legend
Buddy Guy; master guitarist Chuck Loeb; saxophonist Eric Marienthal; alto
saxophonist Candy Dulfer; the gifted and charismatic trumpeter Chris Botti;
guitarist Paul Brown, vocalist Kenny Rankin, fellow guitarist Marc Antoine
and saxman Eric Darius; Berks favorite and keyboardist Brian Culbertson;
trumpet great Rick Braun and saxman Richard Elliot; and guitarist Nick
Colionne with keyboardist Brian Simpson.

Additional marquee artists include popular keyboardist and vocalist Joe
McBride; the Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with special
guest, reed player Paquito D'Rivera; saxman Euge Groove and keyboardist Alex
Bugnon; violinist Regina Carter in a quintet; the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project,
high-energy jazz dance performers; New York's Finest Jazz Band, an 18-member
group performing jazz and pop standards; Sherrie Maricle and the all-female
DIVA Jazz Orchestra; Simone, daughter of legendary singer Nina Simone, the
Rob Stoneback Big Band; the return of Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band; and
the considerable blues talents of Maria Muldaur, Bonerama, the Clarence
Spady Band, Campbell Brothers and Eric Bibb.

Jason Miles is bringing another special ensemble show to the Berks Jazz
Fest. Miles and an all-star roster will be Celebrating the Life & Music of
Grover Washington Jr., the late legendary saxman. The show, To Grover with
Love, brings together some of the top names in the business, including Patti
LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck
Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams and Ralph MacDonald.

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St.,
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit
Order online at
For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived
releases, click on

For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization
that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in
Berks County, click on

Major Ticketed Events
Thursday, March 27 -- Berks Jazz Fest Kickoff Concert: Andrew Neu Group
featuring the Bright & Tight Horns, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $10.

Friday, March 28 -- Brian Bromberg Band, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base,
Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25
Friday, March 28 -- An Evening with Nancy Wilson, Sovereign Performing Arts
Center, 7:30 p.m., $47 and $41
Friday, March 28 -- Buddy Guy, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $40
and $35
Friday, March 28 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15
Saturday, March 29 -- LA Chillharmonic featuring Brian Bromberg, Richard
Smith, Michael Paulo, Gregg Karukas, Greg Adams plus the Berks Jazz Fest
Horns, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Saturday, March 29 -- Simone and the Rob Stoneback Big Band, Gerald
Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $25

Saturday, March 29 -- Chris Botti, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 7:30
p.m., $47 and $41
Saturday, March 29 -- Jump Rhythm Dance Project, Miller Center for the Arts,
8 p.m., $20
Saturday, March 29 -- Kenny Blake Quartet, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15
Saturday, March 29 -- Gerald Veasley and the WJJZ All-Stars Rick Braun,
Bobby Lyle, Chuck Loeb, Chris Farr and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 10:30 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead, Miller Center, 1:30 p.m., no
Sunday, March 30 -- Paul Brown's Guitar Night featuring Kenny Rankin and
Marc Antoine plus saxophonist Eric Darius, Sheraton Reading Hotel Ballroom,
2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, March 30 -- Sweet Honey in the Rock, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 3
p.m., $45, $35, $25
Sunday, March 30 -- Celebrating the Life & Music of Grover Washington Jr. --
To Grover with Love: Patti LaBelle, Walter Beasley, Everette Harp, Kim
Waters, Maysa, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Will Lee, Buddy Williams, Ralph
MacDonald, and musical director Jason Miles, Sovereign Performing Arts
Center, 7 p.m., $49 and $43

Monday, March 31 -- Michael Manring & David Cullen, Gerald Veasley's Jazz
Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12
Tuesday, April 1 -- New York's Finest Jazz Band, Sheraton Reading Hotel,
7:30 p.m., $15
Wednesday, April 2 -- Bill Evans' Soulgrass with special guest Sam Bush,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32

Thursday, April 3 -- MusicReport with special guests Lynn Riley and Aaron
Graves, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $12

Thursday, April 3 -- Nick Colionne with special guest Brian Simpson, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $32
Thursday, April 3 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck
Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Brian Bromberg, Pat
Martino, Joe McBride, Brian Simpson, Ricky Lawson, Andrew Neu and more,
Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10 p.m., $35

Friday, April 4 -- Pat Martino Quartet, Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base, Sheraton
Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30
Friday, April 4 -- The Caribbean Jazz Project featuring Dave Samuels with
special guest Paquito D'Rivera, Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 7:30 p.m.,

Friday, April 4 -- Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Scottish Rite Cathedral,
7:30 p.m., $47 and $41
Friday, April 4 -- New Orleans Funky Friday: Maria Muldaur and Bonerama, Inn
at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $32
Friday, April 4 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15
Friday, April 4 -- Candy Dulfer, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30
p.m., $39 and $34
Saturday, April 5 -- Euge Groove plus Alex Bugnon, Sheraton Reading Hotel
ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34
Saturday, April 5 -- Sherrie Maricle & The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Abraham
Lincoln Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $28
Saturday, April 5 -- Tribute to Chet Baker: Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley's
Jazz Base, Sheraton Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Saturday, April 5 -- Guitars & Saxes featuring Peter White, Gerald Albright,
Jeff Golub and Jeff Lorber, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47 and $41

Saturday, April 5 -- Clarence Spady Band plus Campbell Brothers plus Eric
Bibb, Inn at Reading, 7 p.m., $37
Saturday, April 5 -- Regina Carter Quintet, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30
p.m., $38
Saturday, April 5 -- Joe McBride Trio, L'Arte della Vita Jazz Cabaret,
Abraham Lincoln Hotel, 10 p.m., $15
Saturday, April 5 -- World Premiere: Jason Miles/DJ Logic Global Noize
featuring Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Christian Scott, Jeff Coffin, Bernie
Worrell, Café, Brian Dunne, Carl Burnett, Jerry Brooks and Falu, plus World
Fusion Dancers Azhia and Dellaneira, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 10:30
p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Chuck Loeb with special guests Eric Marienthal, Tom
Scott, Will Lee, Carmen Cuesta, Lizzy Loeb, Rob Mounsey, Cafe, Cliff Almond
and more, Sheraton Reading Hotel ballroom, 2 p.m., $39 and $34

Sunday, April 6 -- Brian Culbertson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $47
and $41

Dana Hoffman
Co-Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
610-371-5146 fax
Catherine Catanach, APR
Director of Development and Marketing
Berks Arts Council
5th fl., GoggleWorks Center for the Arts
Reading, PA
ph. 610-898-1930

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:29 AM

March 18, 2008

Shilts Leaving DTTB, Joins Was (Not Was) For Tour

shiltsphoto.jpgSaxophonist Shilts, a longtime member of the British smooth jazz group Down to the Bone, has left the band after 11 years to concentrate on his solo career. His last two shows with the band will be in June at the Capitol Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C., and in August at the Long Beach Jazz Festival in California.

In addition to his solo shows, however, Shilts is now touring with the eccentric Detroit group Was (Not Was). The band, which formed in 1979, is touring with Shilts and its original lineup including Don Was, David Was, Harry Bowens and Sweat Pea Atkinson. Shilts was suggested to the group by current Was (Not Was) member Randy Jacobs, a guitarist who like Shilts has performed many times in trumpeter Rick Braun’s band.

Meanwhile, Shilts will release a new album in June for ARTizen Music Group, the record label founded by Braun and Richard Elliot. It’ll be his followup to 2006’s HeadBoppin.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:42 AM

March 15, 2008

Marcus Miller - Marcus

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. Some releases are more special than others and when an artist of Marcus Miller’s stature steps up with a new offering then its time to take notice. Marcus is the Grammy-winning bass supremo’s seventh studio album and is every bit as eclectic as one would expect from someone who has done everything and worked with everybody. Indeed, the varieties and shades that Miller has been able to combine into this diverse thirteen track selection seems to be a perfect culmination of what is now, for him, thirty plus years in almost every aspect of the business.

Performing from an early age and, as a teenager, writing music for Lonnie Liston Smith, Miller has appeared as a bassist on over five hundred albums including discs by such artists as Joe Sample, Wayne Shorter, Donald Fagen, Chaka Khan, McCoy Tyner, Mariah Carey, Bill Withers, Elton John, Bryan Ferry, Frank Sinatra, and LL Cool J. He has toured with Miles Davis and continues to be a ‘first call’ studio musician in his home town of New York.

As a producer Miller was responsible for David Sanborn’s Grammy winning Voyeur, the follow ups Close Up and Upfront plus another Grammy winner, the 2000 Inside. He has also produced for Miles Davies, Al Jarreau, the Crusaders, Wayne Shorter, Take 6, Chaka Khan, Kenny Garrett and Luther Vandross with whom he had a musical relationship that started out when they met in Roberta Flack's band and endured right through to Luther’s untimely death.

Miller stepped center stage in 1993 with the release of his solo album The Sun Don't Lie. Tales followed in 1995 and Live & More was released in 1997. M2, his first release of the new millennium, won the 2001 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album and was selected by Jazziz as one of the 10 Best CDs of the Year.

Now, with the soul and R & B inspired Marcus, he has got another winner on his hands. Miller includes seven of his own compositions and each of them encapsulates the funkiness for which his playing is famous. The opening track, ‘Blast!’ is a perfect of example of his art which, despite its distinctly Moroccan vibe, is pure funk throughout. Equally so is the aptly titled ‘Funk Joint’ and when Keb Mo steps up on vocals for the streetwise groove of ‘Milky Way’ the result is an urban gem of great quality. Much the same can be said of ‘Cause I Want You’. This hypnotic chiller features spoken word vocalist Shihan The Poet and incredible backing vocals from Ulisa, Kenya, Tavia and the Ivey Sisters. In fact guest artists abound and Lalah Hathaway, who featured on Miller’s previous CD Silver Rain, contributes both as co-writer and performer for the sassy ‘Ooh’. It’s a tune that is further illuminated by Gregoire Maret on harmonica who returns again and again to both enthrall and delight.

Perhaps the best of Miller’s own compositions is the intoxicating ‘Strum’. Tom Scott is huge on sax, Paul Jackson Jr his usual excellent self on guitar and with more great harmonica from Maret they merge to deliver a song that is seriously infectious. Miller uses another of his own songs, ‘Pluck’ as the funky bridge to what is arguably the albums best track. ‘Lost Without U’ by Robin Thicke proved to be a tremendous urban hit and it says much about Miller’s interpretation that it easily surpasses the original. With more sumptuous backing vocals and additional ad libs from Hathaway it is clearly destined to be one of the best covers of the year yet completely different but just as good is the magical ‘When I Fall In Love’. Maret again weaves some of his special magic and with Miller taking the lead on both clarinet and bass they together create a timeless masterpiece of immense beauty.

Clarinet is again Millers chosen instrument for ‘What Is Hip?’ and this stunning version of Tower of Power’s 1973 success is further enhanced by the sax of David Sanborn. He stays on to add a jazzy vibe to Miller’s exceptional version of the Deniece Williams classic ‘Free’ for which Corinne Bailey Rae’s understated vocal works to perfection. Miller gets back on the funky track for his take on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ and retraces familiar steps for the Miles Davis composition ‘Jean Pierre’. All the more notable is the fact that the 1981 album We Want Miles, from which this tune originally came, featured a young Marcus Miller on bass.

As contemporary jazz moves into a distinctly urban phase of its evolution Marcus Miller is, not for the first time, showing himself to be right on the cutting edge. Marcus is an album with something in it for everyone and comes highly recommended.

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 9:21 AM

March 11, 2008

Kenny G May Move To China For Six Months

KennyG_Playing2008.jpgSaxophonist Kenny G, who has announced plans to create a music academy in China, is now seriously contemplating his next step: moving to Shanghai for the first six months of 2009 to help get the process rolling. Kenny is a frequent visitor to the country, where last year he debuted his G-Series line of saxophones in Shanghai before unveiling them at a trade show in the U.S. this past January. Kenny also recently performed at the closing ceremony of China's Special Olympics.

The saxophonist, who lives in Southern California, says an academy in China would be his way of giving back, and he wants to make it easier for students to start playing musical instruments. He adds that, in an effort to make the academy accessible to all, he’s looking for a sponsor to help with costs. By the way, Kenny has six shows planned in China during late April and early May.

"There’s a lot of stuff I want to get done over there," Kenny says. "My music’s super popular there, and I think I can get a lot accomplished. I want to partner with somebody, so I have find the right endorsee and the right sponsor. I know that the future’s there for me in that sense, giving back and having an academy where I can teach students. And maybe I’ll do a master class like once every quarter. They’ll be teachers there that can teach music the way that I would teach it. I can show them my style of teaching and hopefully help a lot of people get really into music."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:52 PM

March 10, 2008

Three Decades of Jazz

Photos and Text By Ricky Richardson

View-Park-Prep-Jazz-Ensembl.jpgHollywood - This year will mark the 30th Anniversary of the Playboy Jazz Festival presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the historic Hollywood Bowl.

Organizers of the festival, aware of this milestone, went all out in announcing the line-up for the highly anticipated event of the summer.

The first order of business was to invite guests to the grounds of the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills for the recent Press Conference. The guests consisted of media, Public Relations representatives, music industry representatives as well as musicians who will be performing at the Playboy Jazz Festival and at the free community concert series.

The View Park Prep Jazz Ensemble directed by Fernando Pullum provided some straight-ahead jazz standards to the delight of all in attendance.

The line-up was announced at the appropriate hour by Darlene Chan, Associate Producer, Playboy Jazz Festivals, and The Festival Network, LLC and Bill Cosby who will return to host the 30th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival.

Today, celebrating 30 years of electrifying performances, magical moments and extraordinary music, Playboy Jazz Festival will once again present a world class roster of talent at the 30th Anniversary Jazz Festival, Saturday, June 14th and Sunday, June 15th, at the world famous Hollywood Bowl.

Featuring renowned jazz greats, today’s top talents, and popular festival favorites, the two day affair will showcase the many variations of jazz to satisfy the various musical tastes of all in attendance.

Herbie,-Dee-Dee-and-Bill.jpgThis is the line-up for the 30th Anniversary Playboy Jazz Festival. Please note that this is not the order of appearance. 2008 Grammy Award Winner Herbie Hancock is the festival headliner who will be performing on Sunday evening.

Saturday-featured line-up will be Al Jarreau, Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band with special guest Eddie Floyd, The James Moody Quartet, Dr. John from New Orleans, the soulful sounds of Tower of Power, R n R featuring Rick Braun and Richard Elliott, Hiromi’s SonicBloom, Sherrie Maricle & The Diva Jazz Orchestra, Cos of Good Music with Ambrose Akinmusire, Dwayne Burno, Ndugu Chancler, Benny Green, Billy Harper, Jerry Peters and David T. Walker, Richard Glasper and The Hamilton High School Academy of Music Jazz Ensemble “A” under of the direction of Dan Taguchi.

Peter-and-Michael-Lington.jpgSunday-once again will feature Herbie Hancock and his band featuring Dave Holland, Vinnie Colaiuta, Chris Potter and Lionel Loueke, crowd favorite KEB’ MO’, Roy Hargrove Big Band, Guitar & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub, Jeff Lorber and Peter White, Dee Dee Bridgewater Red Earth: A Malian Journey, Ivan Lins with special guest Oscar Castro-Neves from Brazil, The Monk Legacy Septet featuring Ben Riley, Plena Libre a hot group from Puerto Rico, Ryan Shaw and The View Park Prep. Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Fernando Pullum.

The good news is that there is a couple of ways to order tickets for this year’s festival. You can go to the stack of Los Angeles Times newspapers that you haven’t read yet. Please retrieve the March 2nd ARTS & MUSIC Calendar Section, go to page F-5 for information about ordering tickets for the festival. New this year! Tickets will be available through Ticketmaster starting February 27, 2008. Patrons can purchase tickets online at, over the phone by calling (213)365-3500 or (714) 740-7878, and at any Ticketmaster outlets or by downloading a ticket order form at There is also a link to the Ticketmaster website on the Playboy Jazz Festival website. The bad news is that tickets are going really fast.

Festival goers can use Park & Ride shuttles to get to the Hollywood Bowl hassle free. Please call (323) 850-2000 for more information. Please call the Playboy Jazz Festival Hotline (310) 450-1173 for updates about the festival and the free community concert series.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:55 PM

March 9, 2008

What We're Listening To ** February

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

Ed Johnson & Novo Tempo, The Other Road (Cumulus): Original Brazilian music from the Bay Area. None finer these days.

Michael Manson, Up Front (NuGroove): The bassist reworks some older songs and creates some new ones. If you like Wayman Tisdale, you'll love this.

John Tropea, Take Me Back to the Ol’ School (STP): Veteran guitarist John Tropea's music is true to the CD's title, with exceptional covers of a re-harmonized “Let’s Get It On” and a jazzy take on “The Long and Winding Road” with Lalah Hathaway.

Randy Muller, Boom Chang Bang, Groovin’ U (Wavehill): Veteran musician and flutist Randy Muller has created an urban smooth jazz CD the right way. He includes a new, soulful version of his disco hit with Skyy, “Call Me.”

Irene and Her Latin Jazz Band, Summer Samba (Irene Nachreiner): I'm a sucker for Brazilian music, and any CD with "Summer Samba," "So Danco Samba," "One Note Samba" AND "Besame Mucho" has got to be worth a listen. Los Angeles native Irene Nachreiner has a nice, airy voice to complement the classics. Recommended.

P E T E R * B O E H I

Al Williams III - Heart Song (2008)
Beautiful, smooth and soulful saxophone playing in a contemporary setting, very well done and absolutely up to par with the best. Very recommended!

Rick Braun & Richard Elliot - R n R (2007)
These two guys are a match made in heaven, they blend so well together delivering their great brand of groovy playing with a live feel and top-notch artistry. They are in a class of their own!

Nate Harasim - Next In Line (2007)
Keyboardist Nate Harasim is a recent newcomer and this album full of groovy, catchy tracks and great piano playing is an absolute gem. Two thumbs up!

Gerald Veasley - Your Move (2008)
Finally a new release by this truly outstanding bass playing that doesn't disappoint. Groovy tracks delivered by a good band yield some superior results. Take it from me!

Jason Miles presents: Soul Summit - Live At The Berks Jazz Fest (2008)
This is a live recording from last year's Berks Jazz Fest of the "Soul Summit" night under the guidance of Jason Miles, this truly remarkable concert is a joy from beginning to end. I have attended this concert, but only in hindsight I realize the brilliance of those world-class players, the level of musicianship on display is just awesome.

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

Pat Metheny Trio, Day Trip (Nonesuch) (2008)

Metro, Express (Marsis Jazz) (2007)

Patti Austin, Intimate Patti Austin (Mosaic Contemporary) (2007)

Marcus Miller, Free (Jvc Victor) (2007)

Poogie Bell Band, Get on the Kit (Jvc Japan) (2007)

D E N I S * P O O L E
‘Soul Town’, by Neil Warden from his stunning new collection Blue Soul Groove. Guitar man Warden hails from Scotland and the chilled out vibe he generates with the sax of John Burgess is a feature of this smoky track. The tune is further enhanced by the featured keys of Ronnie Rae Jr.

‘First Time’ by Danny Lerman from his fresh new CD, Meow Baby. This mid-tempo delight strides along on Lerman’s rhythmic melodic playing and, with keyboards from Fred Cron that are just right, is simply as good as it gets.

‘Funktuation’ by Ragan Whiteside from her latest release Class Axe. A zesty yet hypnotic neo soul vibe provides flautist Whiteside with the opportunity to demonstrate her stellar playing which here, expertly coupled with understated backing vocals, really stands out from the crowd.

‘Liquid Soul’ by Chris Standring from his soon to be released CD Love and Paragraphs. This tender tune glides like magic atop its own hypnotic beat and, in every respect, is the stuff of which musical dreams are made.

‘Pimp Talk’ by Cynthia Layne from her breakthrough album Beautiful Soul. This sultry smoker shimmers with tight bass from Eugene McGee and terrific keys from Reggie Bishop. Even at this early stage there is little doubt it will remain as one of the best tracks of 2008.

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

Kenny G, Rhythm & Romance (Concord/Starbucks Entertainment)

Jaared, Addiction (Trippin N Rhythm)

Paul Hardcastle, Hardcastle 5 (Trippin N Rhythm)

Jessy J, Tequila Moon (Peak Records)

Cannon Reloaded: All Star Celebration of Cannonball Adderley (Concord)

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

Chris Geith, Timeless World, 2008. A wonderful release by Chris Geith, who's already made a great impression on many listeners. This one is full of energy and warmth, compelling movement, and a touch of mystery -- all living up to the essence of a title that takes us beyond the typical. The CD is further enhanced by the inclusion of 'Restless Heart,' favorite from an earlier CD and simply the most stunning rendition I've heard of 'Have I Told You Lately.'

Michael Manson, Up Front, featuring a host of well-known artists; Ray Fuller, Norman Brown, Tom Braxton, Michael White,Lenny Castro, Steve Cole, George Duke, Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun, Jeff Lorber, Najee and Paul Jackson Jr.

Chieli Minucci, Jewels. Always a favorite, this CD shows a side of Chieli some of you may not know. Don't miss out on adding it to your collection.

Scott Wilkes, Boundless. Featuring Nathan Brown, Russ Freeman, Paul Jackson, Jr., Jeff Kashiwa, David Owens, John Patitucii, Steve Reid, Matthew Von Doran.

Donald Fagan, Kamikiriad

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:49 AM

March 6, 2008

Stations Casinos Dominates Jazz Scene In Vegas

Stations Casinos has stepped up their schedule for jazz, pop jazz, and reggae for the month of March.

The Squirrel Nut Zippers bring their signature brand of jump, jive, and swing to the Red Rock Casino Hotel March 7th.

Top charting smooth jazz saxophonist Euge Groove appears in the Railhead Showroom at the Boulder Station Hotel the following night, March 8th.

Saxophonist Najee brings his soprano sax sounds to the Boulder Station Hotel later in the month on March 21st.

And for reggae fans of The Wailers, they appear for one night only at Green Valley Ranch Resort on March 21st

Earth, Wind, & Fire
, coming off a recent stint at the Las Vegas Hilton in Vegas, return March 28th at the Red Rock Station Hotel.

Singer and guitarist Jonathan Butler will perform for one night at the Santa Fe Station Hotel Casino on March 29th.

That same night at Green Valley Ranch Resort will host another of the house stomping swing band renditions with a return visit by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

All performances iwe a kudos to one Vegas hotel casino chain, Stations Casinos.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:40 PM

March 5, 2008

Denny Jiosa Records Sunny With Original Singer

JiosaDenny08.jpgDenny Jiosa, a great Nashville-based guitarist, has released a new smooth jazz CD titled Dreams Like This, his sixth overall and first of all-new music since 2002’s Body 2 Body. Jiosa is well-known for his smooth jazz single "Lights of the City” from his 1996 CD Inner Voices.

Dreams Like This – an enhanced CD featuring performance and interview videos – offers Jiosa’s version of one of the most popular songs of all time: “Sunny.” In a major coup, Denny played his version to Bobby Hebb – who wrote and recorded the song in 1966 – and Hebb liked it so much he agreed to perform on it.

As a promotion for the new CD, those who subscribe to the mailing list at will receive a free copy of Denny’s Jazzberry Pie CD if they purchase Dreams Like This by March 8.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 8:03 PM

March 2, 2008

Bradley Leighton - Soul Collective

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. In the world of innovative contemporary jazz 2008 may well prove to be the year of the flute. Its spine tingling vibe has the ability to take the art form to another place and one protagonist with the potential to do just that is the extraordinary Bradley Leighton. His brand new album, the aptly titled ‘Soul Collective’, is replete with a deliciously soulful vibe and it is testimony to Leighton’s growing stature within the genre that a galaxy of stars have come out to collaborate with him.

There is none more in this respect than the legendary Tom Scott who adds his distinctive sax to the succulent ‘Wake Up Call’. With his hip, brass adorned backdrop creating the ideal canvass for Leighton’s intricate yet rhythmic playing they together create four minutes of magic that is a sensation from beginning to end. When Scott returns to lend a hand with the Hall and Oates classic ‘She’s Gone’ his interplay with Leighton is a pure delight. The fact that the tune generates a luscious horn driven warmth is due in no small part to the excellent trumpet and trombone of Mic Gillette. This Bay Area icon and former Tower of Power mainstay is also called upon to play a part in the two numbers for which Leighton joins forces with Pacific Coast Jazz label-mate Tom Braxton. The first of these, ‘It’s On’ is a tremendously zesty slice of smooth jazz while the Latin infused ‘Café Con Leche’ is a wonderful showcase for Leighton’s talents.

The restrained yet jazzy ‘Undercover’ is one of five tracks composed by Allan Phillips who also arranges, produces and plays keyboards throughout. It features another of Tower of Power’s exclusive alumni, trumpeter Greg Adams, plus guitar from Fattburger stalwart Evan Marks. In fact Marks makes a contribution to seven of the nine cuts. When he gives way to Sherrod Barnes for Leighton’s re-imagining of the Bobbi Gentry hit ‘Ode To Billy Joe’ it’s the keyboard and production touches of Jason Miles that faultlessly complement Leighton’s picture perfect playing. Rhonda Smith also features on bass and, with the addition of Katreese Barnes on vocals, it’s this same Miles, Sherrod Barnes and Smith partnership that holds down the groove for Leighton’s take on Wayne Henderson’s ‘Keep That Same Old Feeling’.

If ever there was a doubt that the flute could be funky then the totally compelling ‘Rock Me Softly’ proves it for all time. The tune is another welcome chance to enjoy the muted trumpet of Greg Adams and when Leighton brings him back one more time the result is the retro tinged ‘That Man’. Written by Paula Prophet, who also provides the distinctly 5th Dimension like vocals, the track is further blessed by more magnificent sax from Tom Scott.

‘Soul Collective’ follows Leighton’s 2006 album ‘Back To The Funk’ and is his fourth in all. It has the red thread of joyous warmth running right through it and is sure to be one of the highlights of 2008.

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 3:09 PM