July 31, 2008

Long Beach Jazz Festival: Three Days Of Great Music with Kem, Michael Franks, Kirk Whalum, The Commodores, Roy Ayers, Down To The Bone And More

“And The Beat Goes On” For Jazz And R&B Lovers Alike

Southern California’s premiere music festival presenting the best in Jazz and Rhythm & Blues for the 21st year. The Long Beach Jazz Festival takes place the weekend of August 8, 9, and 10, 2008. Once again, the festival venue is the breath-taking seaside setting of Rainbow Lagoon Park on Shoreline Drive in Long Beach, California, where for two decades now thousands of faithful music fans have made the Long Beach Jazz Festival an annual family affair.

True to its reputation as the most soulful and well-rounded summer music festival in sunny Southern California, the 21st Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival for 2008 is loaded with an extraordinary and exciting array of musical talents for every taste. Not only is it a jazz festival celebrating straight ahead and contemporary jazz, but also this year’s weekend of magic includes top-flight star talent from worlds of classic R&B, Neo Soul and Blues — ideal for the more seasoned as well as the newer generations of listeners.

Festival founder, Al Williams and his band Al Williams Jazz Society, featuring incomparable vocalist Barbara Morrison will once again delight jazz lovers with its highly anticipated set on Sunday. “I am really pleased to have such a great variety of artists this year” says Williams, in anticipation of 2008’s star-studded festivities.

Kem_LBJF08.jpgThe smoothly soulful and classily jazzy singer Kem kicks off the 3-day festival Friday night, previewing material from his highly anticipated third project, Album III (his first in three years). Additionally, a special appearance by chef G. Garvin, the entertaining host of TV One’s popular cooking show, “Turn Up the Heat,” will share techniques and recipes from his new book "Dine in with G. Garvin" (slated for release the first week of October).

2008’s lineup also includes singer/composer Michael Franks - the master of poetically sensual and witty lyrics - tenor saxophone superstar Kirk Whalum and conga drum master Poncho Sanchez, a torchbearer of jazz and funk with tropical Latin flair. An amazing assemblage of soul-jazz legends will perform under the umbrella title “The Superstars of Jazz Fusion” starring vibraphonist Roy Ayers, keyboard wizard Lonnie Liston Smith, trumpeter Tom Browne, founding Jazz Crusaders trombonist Wayne Henderson and singer extraordinaire Miki Howard.  

Female musicians are thoroughly represented by the piano artistry of frequent LBJF participant Keiko Matsui, the versatile spice of saxophonist/singer Mindi Abair, and the sweet, fleet-fingered guitar style of Joyce Cooling.

Old school soul music lovers will swoon for the sounds of West Coast vocal legends The Whispers and the Grammy Award-winning Commodores, while neo soul fans can check out the rousing and righteous sounds of acclaimed singer/songwriter Chrisette Michele, funk-soul-jazz party starter’s Down to the Bone, and modern soul-jazz stars Nick Colionne on guitar and Euge Groove on sax.

This year, Linda Morgan from Rainbow Promotions, LLC is coordinating the Long Beach Jazz Talent Search, an event that encourages upcoming, jazz musicians.  Two winners will be selected to open the festival on Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets are available through Rainbow Promotions, LLC at (562) 424-0013, or online at Ticketmaster.com.  VIP tickets are $150 per seat for Friday and $175 per seat /per day on Saturday and Sunday — includes dinner, wine service and access to mingle with jazz artists. Reserved box seat tickets are $60 per seat on Friday and $75 per seat/per day on Saturday and Sunday.  General admission/lawn seating is $45 (prior to July 30) and $50 at the gate.  For the Friday show, gates open at 5PM, with a show time of 7PM until 11:30PM.  For the Saturday and Sunday shows, gates open at 11:00AM with show times of 12 NOON until 10:30PM.

Cadillac, Budweiser and TV One are among the main sponsors of the 2008 Long Beach Jazz Festival. Media sponsors include KTWV-FM, KJAZZ-FM, KJLH-FM and Jazziz Magazine.

Rainbow Promotions, LLC is responsible for producing the Long Beach Jazz Festival each August, and various special events and mini-concerts presented year-round.  For 21 years, Rainbow Promotions, LLC. has produced the Long Beach Jazz Festival, a three-day city event averaging 24,000 in attendance.  For more information regarding the Long Beach Jazz Festival, go to: www.LongBeachJazzFestival.com, or www.RainbowPromotions.com

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:25 PM

July 27, 2008

Gerald Albright - Sax For Stax

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. Over the last twenty years , and with the possible exceptions of Grover Washington Jr and Kirk Whalum, only Gerald Albright can be credited as having made a genuinely genre framing contribution to sax driven contemporary jazz. In fact Albright has been setting the agenda since the advent of his1987 solo debut Just Between Us. Since then he has released a succession of CD’s the latest of which is Sax For Stax, Albright’s tribute to the legendary record label that defined southern soul from the 1950’s to the mid 1970’s. The release of the album, which consists of eight passionately rendered covers of Stax classics plus three originals written with Memphis in mind, coincides both with the 50th anniversary of Stax and Concord Music Group’s re-launch of the famous label. It’s a collection with all the drive and energy one associates with the golden age of soul that Stax represents and the entire project is enhanced by the stellar array of guest performers who step up to play a part.

The revered reputation as a session musician that Albright still retains was crystallizing long before the launch of Just Between Us. Almost right out of college this native of South Central Los Angeles was working with Patrice Rushen, Anita Baker, Ray Parker, Jr., Atlantic Starr, Olivia Newton-John, The Temptations, Maurice White and many more besides. He played the famed signature tenor solo on Rushen’s smash hit ‘Forget Me Nots’ and in the early eighties struck up an enduring collaboration with Jeff Lorber when, as a young sax man, he replaced the soon to be famous Kenny G in The Jeff Lorber Fusion band. Albright has sold over 1,000,000 solo albums in the U.S. alone. He was one of the ten featured saxophonists who performed at President Clinton’s inauguration and has also featured at several private functions for the Clinton’s. Fact is Albright oozes class and with Sax For Stax he has never sounded better.

The album opens in feisty style with the Isaac Hayes composition ‘Theme From The Men’. Brilliantly evocative of the period it is electrified by violinist Mark Cargill whose string arrangements are excellent throughout. Of course Isaac Hayes was a considerable presence in the Stax stable. Albright takes ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ which appeared on Hayes 1971 release Black Moses and, complete with vocals from Will Downing, turns it into a stunning delight. Later he does much the same with another Hayes classic, the spine tingling ‘I Stand Accused’. The original, from the Isaac Hayes Movement, was an eleven minute plus odyssey but here Albright condenses it into the sexiest five minutes of instrumental R & B you will hear anywhere.

Ledisi is one of the most promising R & B vocalists around today and her contribution to the ultra earthy Staples Singers smash ‘Respect Yourself’ is outstanding. Other notable guest performances include that by Earth Wind and Fire’s Philip Bailey on ‘What You See Is What You Get’, which was a hit for The Dramatics back in 1971, and also Kirk Whalum who steps up to add his unmistakable tenor sax to the Albright original composition ‘Walkin Down Beale Street’.

Albright delves into the Stax songbook to pull out two real gems from Johnnie Taylor. First he puts a jazzy spin on Taylor’s 1973 hit ‘Cheaper To Keep Her’ and follows up with an ultra funky take of his 1968 breakthrough ‘Who’s Making Love’. Albright transfers this same funky vibe to his very own retro tinged ‘W. C. Handy’ Hop’ which he infuses with more of the emotion so evident in his version of the familiar Eddie Floyd chartbuster ‘Knock On Wood’. Selected as the first track to be lifted for airplay it is already making an impression on the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio. Yet, amid the riches of some of the best music ever made, it’s a Gerald Albright original that steals the show. ‘Memphis Passion’ is a tremendous example of Albright’s soulfully jazzy playing and solidifies his position as one of the most successful saxophonists to have straddled the fence of jazz and R & B.

Co-produced by Albright and Rex Rideout Sax For Stax is, for many, the chance to revisit a magical era in the annals of popular music. For those who did not experience it the first time around there has never been a better moment to start. For more go to www.geraldalbright.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 6:50 PM

July 23, 2008

Euge Groove Donates Saxophone To His High School

Groove.jpgIt’s well-known that many school music programs have experienced troubles with funding over the past few years. Euge Groove wants to help where he can, which is why he’s donated his personal Selmer Ref 54 tenor saxophone to the band program at South Hagerstown High School in Maryland, which he graduated from in 1980.

The saxophone, valued at $9,250, will be raffled off. Euge says the sax was the main one that he toured and recorded with for three years. He also used it on his Just Feels Right album, which featured the smooth jazz hits “Get Em Goin’” and “Chillaxin.”

If you want to help by purchasing a $25 raffle ticket, you can go to eugegroove.com, where Euge has a link to the school’s site.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:38 PM

July 15, 2008

Mick Hucknall - Tribute To Bobby

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 main, artists tend to be products of the music that shape them. Certainly this belief is reinforced by the current proliferation of new releases that can be loosely classed as ‘tributes’. However, although Gerald Albright (with his homage to the music of Stax) and Brian Culbertson (who is single handedly ‘bringing back the funk’) are both rekindling the influences of their formative years, Simply Red front man Mick Hucknall has chosen to tread a different route. His Tribute To Bobby doffs a cap to R & B pioneer Bobby Bland who first sprang to musical prominence in the latter part of the fifties, before in fact Hucknall was born. Consequently his is a story of discovery made possible in part by the rare grooves of the sort typically showcased in the clubs of North West England around the time that Hucknall was starting out as a performer. It’s likely that it was in such a setting that he first heard Bland’s 1957 breakthrough hit ‘Farther Down The Road’ which is the first track from Tribute To Bobby to be selected for radio play and, despite its hard driving bluesy feel, is finding favor on smooth jazz radio across the USA.

The album is, for Hucknall, clearly a labor of love and the big brass enriched ‘Ain’t That Lovin’ You’ gives a clear indication of how this brand of music undoubtedly impacted Hucknall's own, now very familiar sound. The rocking introduction to ‘Poverty’ subsides into those same bluesy blue eyed tones that Hucknall delivers from the heart and he does much the same with ‘Yolanda’, a tune that in its original form signposted the way to the funk that followed. ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’ is so bluesy that the steamy heat of a Mississippi afternoon is almost tangible while ‘Stormy Monday Blues’, presented by Hucknall in energetic style, is everything the title suggests it should be.

The torrid intensity of ‘I Pity The Fool’ contrasts delightfully with the soulful ‘Lead Me On’ which rekindles memories of days when production techniques were simpler and the music was allowed to speak for itself. In similar vein is ‘I’m Too Far Gone’. With a deliciously languid yet compelling beat it’s a song indicative of that which laid the foundation for mainstream 60’s soul and Hucknall returns to this vibe, first for the soulfully laid back ‘Chains Of Love’ and then again with ‘I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)’. This mid tempo mover, complete with a Memphis Horns thing going on, fits Hucknall to perfection and these same ingredients are again superbly combined for ‘Cry Cry Cry’. Despite an ambience from an earlier time there is a genuine Simply Red feeling about it and perhaps, for Hucknall, there is the rub. Much like an actor from a long running television show Hucknall’s wonderful voice is synonymous with the band he created back in the early eighties. Whether his fans are ready to make the distinction between Hucknall the front man and Hucknall the solo artist remains to be seen but there is no doubt that with Tribute To Bobby he has checked every box imaginable.

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 6:32 PM

July 12, 2008

Chris Botti At Green Valley Ranch

Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, NV. will showcase two acts in July.

The first performance will be on July 18th with two great artists on stage together. Trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Richard Elliot match sounds for the first time at the venue as part of their continued tour together.

Chris Botti
follows Braun and Elliot the following week at Green Valley Ranch on July 26th.

Freddie Jackson makes a rare appearance at Club Madrid, inside the Sunset Station Casino Hotel that same night.

The forty year history of Pogo's, Las Vegas' longest running jazz club, is still hosting the Friday Night Jazz Jam, as it has since 1968. However, saxophonist Rocky Gordon, and his band, KGB, bring their contemporary jazz sounds to Saturday night, July 12th. Gordon's father, Irv Gordon, a prominent jazz saxophonist as well who passed away last November, was a regular fixture for years at the same club. Pogo's just went under new ownership this year.

Santa Fe & the Fat City Horns continue their run Monday nights at the Palms to a consistent packed house.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:07 PM | TrackBack

July 11, 2008

Back by Popular Demand: Antonio Pontarelli Returns to Spagettini’s, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Photos by The Jazz Gypsy

AntonioPontarelli.JPGSpaghettini Grill & Jazz Club
3005 Old Ranch Parkway,
Seal Beach, California 90740
Tel: 562-596-2199

Seal Beach’s finest jazz club and grill was electrified by a new young talent, artist Antonio Pontarelli. The 17 year old electric violinist, vocalist and composer is a fast rising star that will soon eclipse a host of other musicians young and old. Pontarelli who began playing the violin at the age of three has already amassed a list of awards as long as your arm, and has been featured on several magazine covers. These accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider that Pontarelli is still too young to even drive.

Although Pontarelli is “labeled” as a modern rock artist, he is skilled in playing all genres of music, including jazz. His opening set included "Sweet Georgia Brown", "Misty", "I’ve Got Rhythm", "Honeysuckle Rose", "Giant Steps", and "Straight No Chaser" but it was only a teaser of what was to come. Following a brief intermission, Pontarelli hit his musical stride playing from his jazz-rock-funk repertoire, which included a head banging rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s "All Along the Watchtower". Pontarelli turned the usually sophisticated and sedate dining patrons into an energetic and excited crowd that expressed their appreciation for being able to hear a fresh new musical voice that extends beyond what is normally heard on the smooth jazz circuit.

So exactly how does Pontarelli fit into this niche called smooth jazz? Consider the music of electric violinists’ Michael Ward, or Karen Briggs or guitarist Jeff Golub. And, actually, I’d like to see duet between Pontarelli and Golub……and I’m guessing by the reaction of the "Spag" patrons who saw Ponarelli last month that they’d enjoy a paring like that also.

For more information on Pontarelli, visit his website at www.antoniomusic.com or his myspace page at www.myspace.com/antoniopontarelli.

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: Mark your calendars for these upcoming performances at Spagettini's you don't want to miss:
7/13 - Chieli Minnucci - Wine and Jazz cd signing
7/17 - Steve Oliver
7/18 - Greg Adams
7/20 - Nils
7/31 - Tom Braxton
8/2 - Jackiem Joyner
8/15 - Marcus Johnson
8/21 - Althea Renee
8/23 - Incendio
8/29 - Greg Adams
8/31 - Poncho Sanchez

Posted by JazzGypsy at 8:39 AM

July 10, 2008

Larry Carlton Gets Lifetime Achievement Honor

carltonLarryxa.jpgLegendary guitarist Larry Carlton, who has appeared on more than 3,000 CDs, has had a successful solo career with 31 albums and is a member of the smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay, has been honored with the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award by Guitar Player magazine.

Carlton, who has won three Grammy Awards, recently celebrated his 60th birthday and is as busy as ever. He’s got a full slate of shows this summer, is working on some new projects and his new Fourplay CD, Energy, will be available on Sept. 23.

To see a video tribute to Larry created by Guitar Player, go to Larry’s mr335tv.com website. You’ll hear a bunch of Larry’s music as well as viewing a slide show featuring just a few of CDs he’s performed on over his long career.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:18 AM

July 3, 2008

First-Call Bassist Dave Carpenter Dies

carpenter_dave.jpgDave Carpenter, a respected, first-call jazz bassist who worked with scores of legendary names in all musical styles on more than 200 recordings, died June 23 of a heart attack at his home in Burbank, Calif. He was 48. Carpenter was a favorite among smooth jazz artists – most recently, he performed on saxophonist Dave Koz’s At the Movies CD and saxophonist Tom Scott’s Cannon Re-Loaded: All-Star Celebration of Cannonball Adderley.

Carpenter also performed on CDs by Mindi Abair, Jeff Golub, Lee Ritenour, Eric Marienthal, Harvey Mason, the Benoit/Freeman Project, Marc Antoine, Bobby Caldwell and Al Jarreau. Most recently, Carpenter had been playing in a trio with pianist Alan Pasqua and drummer Peter Erskine and had just released an album called “Standards."

This is surely a big loss for anyone mesmerized by Carpenter's work on the upright bass.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:24 PM