August 31, 2008

1st Annual Smooth Jazz Festival Bregenz 2008

The 1st annual Smooth Jazz Festival in Bregenz took place August 29/30th in Bregenz, Austria which is located right next to Switzerland and Germany, so smooth jazz fans from all across Europe gathered there for some of their favorite music at the lake of Constance. The organizers took great care in creating a laid-back atmosphere to enjoy the music with bars, a catering area and scattered tables and chairs to bring a piece of Southern California to our shores. I applaud Christian Boessner and his crew for taking the efforts (and risk) to bring smooth jazz to Europe, and - with the exception of some smaller concert events in the past -, this has been the first official attempt to bring smooth jazz to a larger audience in Europe.

Bregenz08_Gabin.jpgConcerts started each day at 5:30pm with a gig to warm up, followed by two main acts, finally closing the evening with different DJ-acts. Friday was not too well attended despite a good line-up. Lounge-band Gabin from Italy opened the festival with their groovy and jazzy brand of music fronted by a great singer, their hit "Into My Soul" went down very well with the crowd.

First main act was guitarist Chieli Minucci (of Special EFX fame) with Alex Bugnon on keyboards and Marion Meadows on saxophone, backed by the band of Pat Appleton, who did a good job. Chieli Minucci and friends jammed heavily with extended solos, crossing fusion territory often, only few moments of the concerts were more laid back, Marion Meadows was my favorite part of the show with his smooth playing, I particularly enjoyed his solo on the Stevie cover "Cause We've Ended As Lovers".

Bregenz08_DePhazz.jpgUnexpected highlight of the first evening were De-Phazz, the lounge/chill band around leader Pit Baumgartner, they delivered a top-notch show full of humor and fun, with great musicianship and catchy songs, singers Pat Appleton and Karl Frierson both carried the show and left the audience in an upbeat mood.

The evening was closed by Praful who was backed by a turntables/sampler artist and a percussion player, he played various saxophones and the flute over house grooves delivering some of his best known songs.

Saturday was better attended and really delivered the first real smooth jazz treat of the festival with the show of Peter White, but first it was talented singer Pat Appleton with her band warming up the crowd. Unfortunately she played more pop/rock music which didn't do much for me, so she seemed to be a bit out of context at this festival.

Bregenz08_White.jpgThe first headlining band was guitarist Peter White with saxophonists Jaared and Rocco Ventrella, backed by the band of Pat Appleton. Peter White eventually was able to create some real smooth jazz vibes and mesmerize the audience, people rushed to the front of the stage in droves. Peter White is a such a consummate performer, and his mix of smooth jazz songs and well selected covers (among them "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", "Who's That Lady" and "The Closer I Get To You") resulted in a truly great show. Jaared played his saxophone with lots of emotion and delivered a beautiful song from his current release Addiction, the Earl Klugh cover "Jamaican Winds" which was a highlight of the show. And newcomer Rocco Ventrella on saxophone played his heart out, he proved that he is a musician to reckon with and I look forward to hearing more of him. As surprise guest Pat Appleton came to the stage to sing a classic Basia song together with Peter, later Marion Meadows joined the band. I was in Smooth Jazz heaven, and when they played a few bars of Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" with three horns and acoustic guitar, it almost knocked my socks off! This concert was absolutely brilliant and the highlight of the whole festival - and sadly the only one deserving the tag "smooth jazz".

Bregenz08_Dulfer.jpgThe festival was closed by super-star Candy Dulfer, this time she had a trumpet player in her band which yielded some great horn lines, the big black guy she had in her band at this year's Berks Jazz Festival was not there, so the soul element was definitely lacking, instead she opted to give us lots of hard-hitting funk. The concert was very loud and very groovy, and Candy worked hard to bring us in a party mood. Personal highlights were "Every Time" from her Candy Store album with an extended guitar solo by Ulco Bed and her world-hit "Lily Was Here", the rest of the show was very professional and polished although smooth jazz played only a minor part. Her encore was "Funky Nassau" which says a lot. Nevertheless, it was a good concert by a world-class band.

After that Adani & Wolf played a house DJ-set with Rocco Ventrella on saxophone added as live musician, which brought the festival to a close.

Looking back at the 1st annual Smooth Jazz Festival, I must say that I am happy to see people willing to put such an effort together and I really hope that the festival met their expectations financially and artistically, so it will be continued next year. I really liked the setting and felt comfortable there, and I am confident that some of this year's flaws in the organization will be worked out next year, as this is a learning process for all involved. Musicwise I hope that they will live up more to the term "smooth jazz" next year and will draw a larger crowd, so smooth jazz really can catch on in Europe.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:22 PM

August 28, 2008

If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: The JVC Jazz Festival Produces Another Festival Winner


Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Photographs by Mario

Sunday, August 17, 2008, 6:00 pm
Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA

This year, the JVC Jazz Festival is celebrating its twenty-fifth year of presenting jazz performances in the US and abroad. From its inception, in Bad Segeberg, North Germany, the JVC Jazz Festival has presented extraordinary talent. The line-up from the first festival in 1984 included such legends as Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, B.B. King, Freddie Hubbard, Spyro Gyra, Steps Ahead, David Sanborn, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan and Miles Davis. Since then, the JVC Jazz Festival has presented nearly 50,000 exceptional artists to over 4 million fans the world over.

The 2008 JVC season began in May in Miami (May 16-17), followed by New York (June 15-28), the North Sea (July 11-13), Chicago, IL (July 18-20), Newport, RI (August 8-10) Concord, CA (August 16), Los Angeles, CA (August 17) and will conclude in Paris, France (October 10-18). This season more than 100 jazz musicians representing a wide-spectrum of music will perform.

I caught up with the festival on a beautifully mild summer night in LA on August 17 at the legendary Hollywood Bowl where the sold-out event was co-sponsored by JVC and The Los Angeles Philharmonic. Beneath the brightly lit dome of the”Bowl”, twenty-four year old New Jersey born saxophonist Eric Darius lit up the stage with a stimulating performance of Al Green’s tune, “Let’s Stay Together”, followed by two more songs from his 2004 cd’ “Love TKO” and the title song, “Night on the Town” where Darius left the stage to serenade the appreciative crowd in the garden and terrace box seats. Darius also performed the title song from his new 2008 Blue Note/Capital Records release, “Goin’ All Out” and ended his set with “If I Ain’t Got You” and "Slick" from his 2006 cd, Just Getting Started. Darius’ high-energy, crowd-pleasing performance was followed by two-time Grammy award-winning saxophonist David Sanborn.

Born on July 30th sixty-three years ago in Tampa Florida, (where Darius currently resides), Sanborn has had a stellar career. At twenty-eight, Sanborn performed at the inaugural JVC Jazz Festival in Germany, and has gone on to play with such musical icons as Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Paul Simon, and James Taylor. With an illustrious career spanning more than four decades, Sanborn has released almost as many cd’s as Darius is old….twenty-three to date. With a treasure trove of original songs from which to choose, Sanborn delighted the crowd with “The Dream, and songs from his Double Vision cd as well as his latest 2008 release, Here and Gone. Seeing the back-to-back performances of newcomer Darius followed by the legendary Sanborn shows the type of innovation in programming that makes the JVC Jazz Festival a winner, year after year.

Up next, sassy, and soulful New Orleans born (Oakland raised) Verve recording vocalist Ledisi took the stage and captured the ears and hearts of the crowd. Weaving no-nonsense commentary between and even during her songs, Ledisi introduced the sophisticated LA crowd to what she called “funknicity”. The extremely talented neo-soul performer stretched her powerful musical chops from soul to jazz and back again singing a dozen songs from her two-time Grammy nominated cd, Lost and Found, including "Alright", "In The Morning", "My Name is – Leddy’s Theme", "Blues in the Night – We All Love Ella" and “Joy”. Revealing snippets of her personal struggle in and out of the music business, Ledisi comically counseled and inspired the ladies on how to be strong, independent and fierce women of character. Ledisi, which means “to bring forth” in Yoruba, honored her birth name bringing forth the ancestral voices of Ella, and Sarah while maintaining her unique originality and innovation.

The third saxophonist on the bill was saxophonist/songwriter/producer James Oppenheim, a.k.a. Boney James. Born in Massachusetts, raised in New Rochelle, N.Y., and now a resident of Los Angeles, James was clearly a crowd pleaser and warmly received as a “favorite son”. Delivering a smooth, soulful sound, James played instantly recognizable hits from over five of the ten cd’s he has released in the past decade. “Into the Blue”, “All Night Long”, “Stone Groove”, “Let It Go”, “Total Experience”, Aquas De Marco”, “Grazin in the Grass” and a medley which rounded out his set. With the crowd on their feet, swaying, and singing, the boundary between performer and audience seemed to disappear. The magic that only music can deliver made the crowd of over 18,000 people seem like an intimate gathering of friends and set the tone for the closing headliner, James Ingram.

IngramJVC.jpgWith a voice that’s as smooth as silk in 2008 as it was nearly four decades ago, Ingram seamlessly picked up the emotionally elevated crowd and took them even higher as he brought them down memory lane. With a string of hit songs, including “One Hundred Ways, “Just Once”, “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?”, Baby Come to Me”, “Pretty Young Thing”, “I Don’t Have The Heart”, and “Secret Garden”, Ingram kept the crowd on their feet ‘till the very last note. And, unlike other large events, there was no early mass exodus to the parking lots and shuttle busses. Rather, fans lingered taking time to savor the many memorable moments from another very successful festival. To Executive Producer, George Wein and co-sponsors JVC and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, we are glad that you recognize that you have a winning formula and understand that ….If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: When attending events at the “Bowl”, save gas, and stress by taking the affordable and convenient shuttle. However, you should definitely purchase your shuttle ticket ahead of time so that you have priority and guaranteed seating.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 6:16 AM

August 27, 2008

Wayman Tisdale Has Portion Of Leg Amputated

Tisdale_Bass.jpgOur best for a speedy recovery goes out to smooth jazz superstar Wayman Tisdale, who this week had the lower part of his right amputated due to bone cancer. The 44-year-old Tisdale said on his website that he has “complete faith that with the Lord's blessings, this surgery will eliminate the cancer from my body."

It was in February 2007 that Tisdale first learned he had a cancerous cyst below his right knee after he broke his leg in a fall at his home in Los Angeles. Following a five-month regimen of chemotherapy, Tisdale underwent eight-hour knee-replacement surgery. He later said he was 100 percent cured of cancer, and in June released a comeback CD appropriately titled Rebound.

Tisdale will be taking some time off to recuperate but says he expects to resume touring this fall and still plans to host the Smooth Jazz Cruise in January. "There's a lot more music inside me," Wayman said on his website, "and once I am back on my feet, I look forward to sharing my joy with my fans, friends and fellow musicians."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:59 PM

August 22, 2008

The Soul of the Long Beach Jazz Festival

Text by Ricky Richardson, pictures by Peter Böhi


A precedent record setting throng of people crowded unto every inch of grass at the Rainbow Lagoon for the 21st Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival, August 8-10 presented by Rainbow Promotions. Nary could a speck of grass be seen by mid afternoon as a colorful array of blankets, towels, beach chairs, pop-up tents and umbrellas blanketed the grounds of the festival. Southern California’s premiere music festival presenting the best of jazz, R&B, Latin jazz and neo-soul was sold out for the entire weekend. A pleasant jazzy breeze hovered over the festival all weekend.

The festival got under way on Friday night with welcoming remarks from Al Williams - jazz festival founder, local city officials and sponsors. Pastor LeBlanc delivered a prayer for the festival. Festival organizers honored our military by playing a recording of “America” by Ray Charles while the crowd stood facing the American Flag on the stage.


The musical portion of the festival got under way with a Friday Night Cool Down with the talented guitarist/vocalist Joyce Cooling. Singer/composer Michael Franks returned to the delight of the crowd with his well-known witty and sensual lyrics. Kem a popular neo-soul singer brought the house down with his soulful voice singing material from his current CD’s Kemistry and Kem Album II.

LBJF_08_MichaelFranks.jpg LBJF_08_Kem.jpg

The Long Beach Jazz Festival Talent Search contest is an event that encourages upcoming jazz musicians. Two winners were selected with each given the honor of opening the festival on Saturday and Sunday. Lina a very talented singer/songwriter performed some jazz standards as well as original material from her previous CD’s Stranger on Earth and Morning Star. I look forward to seeing and hearing from this emerging star.

On Saturday in the festival pavilion area Luis Cruz Beltran and Jose Rizo Jazz On The Latin Side All-Stars cooked up some hot salsa and Latin jazz.

Chicago native Nick Colionne - guitarist/vocalist is a popular artist on the smooth jazz circuit. He emerged onto the stage with an explosive energy opening his set with two original tunes. He slowed the tempo down on “Rainy Night In Georgia” and dedicated a tune to a member of the crowd entitled “Melting Into You.” He caused a mild frenzy while roaming thru the crowd playing his guitar and posing for photographs.


Keyboardist Keiko Matsui flew in from her home in Japan to for the festival. She dazzled the crowd with material from her latest self produced CD Mayo. She concluded her set with a Latin tinge song to get the crowd dancing. Funk/Soul/Jazz group Down To The Bone laid down some danceable grooves that rocked the crowd.


Saxophonist/singer/songwriter Mindi Abair is my home girl from Tampa, St. Petersburg, Florida. Her tight band consisted of a guitarist, bassist and a drummer. The entire group inter-acted well with the crowd as well as with each. The crowd was entertained on “Smile,” “Save the Last Dance,” “Every Time,” “Flirt,” “Mojo,” and she allowed the band to stretch out on “The Joint.” She concluded her set with “Lucy’s” a popular song on the airwaves.


Saxophonist Kirk Whalum is a versatile musician whose sound has been described as melodic, soulful and vibrant stirred in with some R&B, gospel, rock and jazz. He was wailing with some Memphis soul on the following “All I Do Is Think About You,” “After Thought,” “Use Me” with his brother Kevin Whalum supplying the vocals, and “Misty” with some straight ahead jazz grooves.


The Whispers one of the most respected and enduring vocal groups in the music industry took the crowd on a ride down memory lane with some of their classic hits and performed songs from their latest CD For Your Ears Only to close out the festival on Saturday night.

Saxophonist J Anton Boykin the jazz search winner opened the final day of the festival. The 19 year old wowed the crowd with an eclectic mix of smooth jazz, gospel, Latin and R&B from his debut CD My Name is J.


The Al Williams Jazz Society featuring Ms. Barbara Morrison was next up to entertain the crowd. They dedicated their set to Ronald Henry a long time employee of Rainbow Promotions. The group performed “Angels Passing” and “Everything Must Change” in memory of Mr. Henry. They also performed “Cold Duck Time” by Eddie Harris and Les McCann. Vocalist Barbara Morrison joined the group to sing “I Love Being Here With You” and of course the feeling is mutual with the crowd. She also performed a song by Percy Mayfield “Send Me Someone To Love.”


The Super Stars of Jazz Fusion was my favorites of the entire weekend. Hopefully, we will be seeing more of these pairings at future festivals. The All-Stars consisted of Roy Ayers, Tom Browne, Miki Howard, Lonnie Liston Smith and Wayne Henderson. The crowd and I were grooving to the sounds of funk-fusion, soul-jazz, acid-jazz, jazz funk, jazz bop and neo-soul.


Sax man Euge Groove was “Born 2 Groove” gave the crowd an energizing, funky grooves to dance to throughout his always pleasing set.


One of the festivals most pleasant surprises came during the performance of soulful vocalist Chrisette Michele. She performed songs from her debut CD I Am. Looking around, I could see several people singing along to “Let’s Rock,” “Like A Dream,” “Love Is You,” and homage to Motown on “Reflections” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”


Also performing on the Second Stage were Lina, Karina Nuvo, violinist Michael Ward and the ever popular DW3.

There isn’t much one can say about conguero Poncho Sanchez that hasn’t already been said. He and his group have been heating up the Long Beach Jazz Festival with some fiery Afro-Cuban rhythms for almost two decades.

Tight funk band the Commodores closed out the festival on a high note. They performed one classic hit after another “Easy,” “Night Shift,” “Brick House,” “Still,” “Zoom,” “Sail On,” and “Three Times A Lady.”

Now is the time to start to get on the mailing list for Rainbow Promotions to stay abreast of futures shows like the one in February 2009 and to be one of the first people on your block to purchase tickets for the 22nd Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival, August 2009.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:50 PM

August 15, 2008

Dave Koz Sells Rendezvous Record Label

koz_xab08.jpgSaxophonist Dave Koz and his partners at Rendezvous Entertainment, a record label founded six years ago, have sold their business to Mack Avenue Records. According to Koz, Rendezvous will continue to release music under the Rendezvous brand, although there is no official announcement yet as to which Rendezvous recording artists, including Wayman Tisdale and Jonathan Butler, would be kept. The deal is similar to one earlier this year, in which bassist Brian Bromberg sold his Artistry Music Group, also to Mack Avenue.

During its tenure with Koz, who co-founded Rendezvous with industry veterans Hyman Katz and Frank Cody, the label released CDs by Tisdale, Butler, Kirk Whalum, Marc Antoine, Praful, Patti Austin, Brian Simpson, Kyle Eastwood, Philippe Saisse and Michael Lington, among others. Rendezvous also offered compilations CDs, including two volumes of Rendezvous Lounge and the tribute CD For Ever, For Always, For Luther, Volume 2.

Koz says it was vital that Rendezvous be sold to a label he trusted. "That’s one of the things that was very, very important to my partners and I, seeing as how we were very dedicated to our artists and our brand. Here was a place that would be a great new home for our artists. We felt very confident with that. And also that the Rendezvous brand, which does stand for something, will continue in the future as well. So those are two parameters that were met, making this feel good for all of us. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone to know that the music business over the last couple of years has changed so dramatically, making it virtually impossible for a young, completely independent company to thrive."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:25 PM

August 14, 2008

Michael Lington Performing On Labor Day Telethon

Lington_Young.jpgSaxophonist Michael Lington will get some national television exposure as he has been invited to perform during the 42nd annual Labor Day Telethon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Lington will be performing “Baker Street” from his upcoming CD Heat, which will be released Sept. 2. He will be joined by American Idol Top 10 finalist Ace Young, who also signs the song on Lington's CD. The Labor Day special hosted by Jerry Lewis reaches millions of viewers across the U.S. and this year will be held on Sept. 1.

Lington says his publicist was the one who first came up with the idea of appearing on the Labor Day Telethon. "One of the first thing he said was look, your album comes out on Sept. 2, and Labor Day weekend is the telethon. I want you to get on that show. And Ace Young was already doing the telethon. So we all came up with the idea of doing ‘Baker Street’ on the telethon together. They loved it over there, and now we’re doing it."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 1:27 AM

August 10, 2008

Dave Koz In Vegas

Smooth sax guru Dave Koz, who has done a fabulous job as the afternoon host for the local smooth jazz station, KOAS 105.7, is making a special guest appearance for one night at the Boulder Station Hotel on August 22nd in the Railhead Showroom.

Jeffrey Osborne will be at the Santa Fe Hotel in the Chrome Showroom on August 16th.

Legendary guitarist Larry Carlton will perform a three night concert weekend at the Suncoast Hotel, August 15-17.

Hometown favorite The Killer Groove Band (KGB), with saxophonist Rocky Gordon, opens the Advertising Community Talent Show, Friday, August 15th, at the Fiesta Hotel (westside) starting at 6pm. Proceeds to benefit Safe Nest.

The local jazz scene features saxophonist/vocalist Tommy Alvarado and his band at the Blue Martini on Tuesday nights.

Last heard was keyboard great Ronnie Foster and his group holding down Thursday nights at the Ice House Lounge.

Tom Peters Lounge has been hosting local jazz with various performers on Friday nights.
And Take 1 has a great jam session on Sundays starting at 1pm with The Gents Of Swing featuring Joe Darro on keys and vocals.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:32 PM

August 9, 2008

Shilts - Jigsaw Life

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. Up until now the music of high octane sax player Shilts has, in the most part, been characterized by the big funky sound of Down To The Bone. His long association with the band has resulted in numerous tours, six DTTB albums and the platform from which to launch his own solo career. His 2001 debut See What Happens and the 2006 follow up Head Boppin were both generously populated with examples of the immensely forceful sound for which DTTB is famous but now things are set to change. His latest CD, Jigsaw Life, that hit record stores across the USA on July 22, is his first for the rapidly emerging nuGroove label and, although traces of his funk roots linger, this choice gathering of ten original compositions shows a new and diverse side to his considerable talents. Shilts produces, writes or co-writes throughout and additionally calls upon some of the best musicians around to collaborate with him. Bill Steinway, Randy Jacobs and Nate Phillips all lend a hand and the fact that Shilts has previously shared the DTTB stage with both Steinway and Jacobs simply adds to the cohesion of the entire collection.

Shilts (aka Paul Weimer) hails from London, England and has been playing saxophone since his early teens. At the age of 15 he was asked to join the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Great Britain and while with them gained experience by supporting such great jazz stars as Nancy Wilson, Buddy Greco, Rosemary Clooney, George Shearing and Mel Torme.

A professional by the age of 16, Paul was soon working in nightclubs and backing the likes of Rose Royce, The Temptations, Four Tops, and The Drifters. Refreshed from a travel spree that saw him work in Hong Kong, the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean he firmly established himself on the London session scene where he recorded with artists that included David Bowie, Jimmy Paige, Bill Wyman and Lulu. He hooked up with UK pop band Breathe who went on to have a sequence of top 10 hits in the USA but Shilts never lost sight of his love for jazz. He co-formed System X with five other like-minded London session musicians and this different exposure led to him being noticed for his soulful, funky saxophone style. He joined British Acid Jazz group The Brand New Heavies in 1994 and stayed with them for six years. In 1995 he took time out to tour with chart toppers Jamiroquai but it was during his time with the Heavies that Shilts met keyboard player Neil Cowley. That in turn led to an introduction to Chris J Morgans at Internal Bass and Stuart Wade, who was then and is now, the creative force behind Down To The Bone. Chris and Stuart asked Paul to form and front the live incarnation of DTTB and the rest, as they say, is history.

Jigsaw Life opens with the mellow(ish) ‘Piece By Piece’. Shilts originally composed the tune for Rick Braun and Richard Elliot but it was never recorded and here its ‘in the pocket’ smooth jazz vibe immediately shows a different side to the ‘in your face Shilts’ that fans of DTTB will recall. That said Shilts has not entirely dispensed with the funk. The tight, funky yet always in control ‘Back On The Hudson’ is the first single to go radio and glistens with wonderful keys from Bill Steinway and equally memorable ‘slap bass’ from Nate Philips. ‘Ain’t It Marvelous’ also evokes some of Shilts more animated DTTB moments whereas the down and dirty funk driven groove of ‘Outside The Box’ is truly something to savor. ‘A Promise Is A Promise’ is characterized by its lilting rhythms and warm melody whilst Shilts own measured backing vocals serve to embellish the soulfully turned down charm of ‘Smile For Me’.

Shilts drives the jazzy yet sophisticated ‘Too Close To The Edge’ to a catchy horn driven crescendo while ‘Time Gentlemen Please’ finds him weaving more of his intricately jazzy patterns. Sandwiched between Randy Jacobs Latin tinged acoustic opening and his equally memorable electric guitar finale ‘Broken Silence’ is blessed with the haunting tones of a string quartet, outstanding Hammond B3 from Steinway and Shilts own intoxicatingly restful playing. As delightful as its different this one is a real gem yet even better, and Secret Garden selection for best track on the album, is ‘Listen Up’. With a vibe to die for and more great keys from Bill Steinway this is a terrific example of up to the minute smooth jazz.

Jigsaw Life is a superb measure of just how much Shilts has developed as a writer, producer and performer. His growing maturity is breathtaking and his new found diversity is sure to add to his already significant following. No doubt about it, the new look Shilts rocks!

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 3:30 PM

August 7, 2008

Contempo August 2008

SteveTyrell.jpgSteve Tyrell has spent the better part of the last ten years spreading the gospel of The Great American Songbook, wowing thousands of fans across the country with his gravelly voiced magic and scoring Top 5 hits on the Billboard Traditional Jazz chart with his collections A New Standard, Standard Time, This Time Of Year and This Guy’s In Love. He also added a touch of class to his multi-decade pop producing resume with a Grammy win for Rod Stewart’s Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III, which hit #1 on the Billboard 200; the Tyrell produced follow-up Thanks For The Memory, reached #2. This quite unexpected whirlwind phase of his career happened by request after Tyrell sang the closing credit numbers on the soundtracks he produced for the hit Steve Martin comedies Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride 2.

Fans of Tyrell the vocal interpreter are always amazed when the Texas native reaches back nearly 40 years for some precious pop anecdotes from his early days in New York when he was in charge of A&R and promotion for Scepter Records. Working side by side with the legendary songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, he not only placed their songs in the movies that made them famous but also brought his pal B.J. Thomas to pop culture consciousness via “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” which Tyrell produced. Tyrell also enjoys telling a story about Dionne Warwick, who changed “Message to Martha” to the much more recognizable, female point of view hit it became, “Message to Michael.”

While Tyrell brought tons of charm, heart and soul to his previous two bestsellers Songs of Sinatra and Disney Standards, this colorful foundational history gives Back To Bacharach, his debut on his own New Design Records (distributed by Koch), a more personal touch that brings his multi-faceted career full circle. The lushly arranged fourteen track recording, a dreamy trip back to a golden era in pop music and a compendium of the songwriting duo’s legendary hits, features Bacharach himself on the sensually melancholy “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” and co-producing a fresh twist on “This Guy’s In Love,” which has the original artist, Herb Alpert, chiming in with his unmistakable trumpet. Bacharach also appears on the all-star collective “What The World Needs Now” with a cast of stars including Rod Stewart, Dionne Warwick, James Taylor and Martina McBride. Picking up Warwick’s mantle elsewhere is the graceful power of Patti Austin, who duets beautifully with Tyrell on “I Say A Little Prayer” (which earned Tyrell his first gold record, done coolly this time from the guy’s POV) and a gently soulful take on “Don’t Make Me Over.”

While the songs on Back To Bacharach remind Tyrell of a joyful time in his life when he was a kid making pop history at the start of his career, the inherent sadness in some of them cuts deeper than it did back then due to the death of Stephanie, Tyrell’s wife and frequent songwriting/producing partner of 25 years, in 2003. The previous year, Tyrell was all set to do his big Bacharach-David tribute and called Bacharach in to work on several tracks. When Stephanie was diagnosed with cancer, the singer put everything on hold, completed This Guy’s In Love with other standards he’d already recorded and spent the last 18 months of his wife’s life by her side. Stephanie Tyrell died the day before This Guy’s In Love was released; Burt Bacharach and James Ingram performed “A House Is Not A Home” at her memorial service. The proceeds of the new version of “What The World Needs Now” will go to the National Colorectal Research Alliance (NCCRA) in remembrance of Stephanie and Jay Monahan, the late husband of TV journalist Katie Couric who died of the same disease.

“When I made my first few albums,” the singer says, “I was always happy, living the good life and celebrating this amazing marriage and musical partnership. I certainly didn’t know the pain I know now and all these great songs that Burt and Hal wrote resonate with me in a way they couldn’t have at any other time — particularly ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ and ‘A House Is Not A Home.’ They’re just such heartbreaking songs and I could feel them differently because my world was now open to brokenheartedness. Even over four years later, they’re still painful for me to perform sometimes, yet in a good way, they’re also so cathartic. People hear me sing them and the ones who have ‘been there’ know just what I’m trying to convey and what Burt and Hal meant forty years ago when they wrote them. “

Having finally gotten Back To Bacharach out of his emotional system, Tyrell finds himself at a unique crossroads. He can always return to the Songbook, but his Texas roots may come out next in a country-themed record. He also worked a lot early on in his career with Allen Toussaint and Dr. John and may head thematically to New Orleans. No matter the direction of future recordings, however, Tyrell will always be in the business of making old songs everybody loves sound as cool as the first time we heard them. “I consider the Bacharach-David songs the next generation of the Great American Songbook, rooted in the timeless influence of Gershwin,” he says. “These tunes and the songs I’ve done on my earlier albums have a certain elegance and romanticism to them that most of today’s music doesn’t have. The writers who composed them were wearing suits and sportcoats to the session, not jogging clothes. I have to confess that before I recorded those tracks for Father of the Bride, I was a rock and roll kid at heart and didn’t know a lot of the treasures of the Songbook. But I quickly fell in love with the songs and they fell in love with me. We rock kids thought we were so cool growing up in the 60s, but these artists that came before that, Billie, Duke and Louis Armstrong, they’re the ones that invented cool.”

With the release of Tales From The Beach, Incognito’s debut on Heads Up Records, the hard grooving, ever-evolving U.K. based collective closes in on three decades of fusing American R&B, the coolest aspects of the famed acid jazz movement and the exotic influences of musicians from around the globe. The ensemble’s supremely funky, old school vibe was perfectly captured by the title of their 2004 Narada jazz disc Adventures In Black Sunshine, which makes the summery title of their latest jam all the more curious — till we discover that group founder and sonic mastermind, guitarist Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick, is talking about the shores of his native island Mauritius (off the coast of Madagascar). “When I was a kid,” he says, “my first taste of music came from those beaches. I spent a lot of time listening to the hotel bands or the bands playing around the bonfires and cookouts. There were beaches everywhere and I was always watching live musicians play. So for inspiration for this album, I went back to various beaches around the world— in Italy, Indonesia and elsewhere — and just let the music flow.” Maunick’s colorful, bouncy guitar, Francis Hylton’s jumping basslines, cool 70s soul atmospheres and sizzling horn accents are the foundation for stories sung by a batch of sensual soul singers: Maysa (a longtime part of the Incognito experience and popular solo artist who leads on four tracks), Joy Rose, Tony Momrelle and Imaani. While most of their tracks feature solo performances, the four of them team up for the high spirited anthem “Feel The Pressure” that sums up the happy ensemble action Incognito is legendary for.

Personal Taste
1) Sekou Bunch, The Next Level (Trippin N Rhythm) – The famed session bassist and recent Survivor contestant makes an explosive, edgy and funky bid for Wayman Tisdale-styled smooth jazz stardom with this fun-filled debut featuring Boney James, George Duke, Everette Harp and Sheila E.
2) Don Immel, Long Way Home (Elemental Music)
3) Ludovico Einaudi, Divenire (Ponderosa Music & Art)
4) Gail Jhonson, Pearls (NuGroove Music)
5) Thom Rotella 4-tet, Out of the Blues (Thom Rotella Music)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 8:49 PM

August 4, 2008

Jeff Lorber Covers Amy Winehouse Hit Song

Lorber_Jeff_08a.jpgKeyboardist and producer Jeff Lorber has just wrapped up production of a new funky and soulful CD co-produced by smooth jazz veteran Rex Rideout. The CD, Heard That, is Lorber's follow-up to the Grammy-nominated He Had a Hat, which featured the hit single “Anthem for a New America.”

The CD of original material does have one cover song: an instrumental version of British singer’s Amy Winehouse’s "Rehab,” which was mixed by Paul Brown and features Rick Braun on trumpet. In addition to the title track, which was co-written with saxophonist Eric Darius, the CD features titles such as “Don’t Hold Back,” “Gamma Rays,” “Don’t Stop” and “The Bomb."

Heard That, Lorber's debut for Peak Records, will be available on Sept. 30. I've listened to an advance version, and this is definitely a CD you'll want.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:52 PM

August 2, 2008

Jazz Legends on Central Avenue

Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson

Gerald-Wilson-Orchestra.jpgThe 13th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival was held on July 26 and July 27 on historic Central Avenue. This year’s festival, like the ones held in the past was a huge success.

Everybody was raving about the new set-up for the festival which featured a huge canopy that covered the stage as well as the crowd. The vendors were situated along the side streets off of Central Avenue.

Every year the festival gets under way with a panel discussion with musicians who were apart of the excitement of Central Avenue back in the day. Trumpeter Clora Bryant shared insights with the crowd about the history of Central Avenue and painted a good picture of life on “The Avenue” with the clubs and the prominent jazz musicians of the 1930’s and 1940’s who played along “The Avenue.”

Thousands of jazz aficionados crowded “The Avenue” to hear some straight ahead jazz, bebop, blues and Latin jazz. I could feel the energy and excitement of “The Avenue” back in the day by looking at the crowd, many of whom frequented “The Avenue” during those vibrant times. Great music was showcased by wonderful musicians who performed for an appreciative crowd at the festival. Ernie Andrews (a legend of Central Avenue), Al Williams Jazz Society, Justo Almario Quartet, Gerald Wilson Orchestra (another legend who recently celebrated his 90th birthday), and Barbara Morrison closing out the festival on Saturday.

Jazz America opened the show on Sunday. This is the future of jazz. These students were doing their part in keeping the legacy of Central Avenue alive. Vocalist Phyllis Battle, Michael Sessions, Nedra Wheeler, Poncho Sanchez and Nate Morgan kept the crowd glued to their seats and actively listening to various hues of America’s number one art form: JAZZ.

Poncho-Sanchez.jpgFor the past 13 years, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival has been serving as a unique cultural event that pays tribute to the early heart and soul of African Americans in Los Angeles. Each year, the festival draws in talented jazz and blues artist to celebrate the rich cultural history of the area.

Spearheaded by Councilwoman Jan Perry (9th District), the Central Avenue Jazz Festival is a collaboration of government agencies (City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs & Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles) and local non-profit agencies (Coalition for Responsible Community Development Corporation and Los Angeles Conservation Corps) working together to preserve the rich cultural and history in South Los Angeles.

Ernie-Andrews.jpgThe Central Avenue Jazz Festival is held on Central Avenue and 42nd Street in South Los Angeles, in front of the historic Dunbar Hotel. The Dunbar Hotel plays an integral role in African American history in Los Angeles as it is where the jazz greats like John Coltrane and Billy Holiday stayed when visiting the area.

Central Avenue was part of an early national music circuit that included Harlem, Chicago, New Orleans, and Memphis’ Beale Street, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Oakland as well as my hometown of Tampa, Florida. The corridor was densely packed with jazz dens and all-night “breakfast clubs” lighting up the avenue with their neon lights. All the prominent jazz musicians of the 1930’s and 40’s played along Central Avenue at venues like Club Alabam, the Last Word, the Downbeat, the Memo Club, Ivie’s Chicken Shack, the Finale Club, and Shepp’s Playhouse among other venues.

Each year, the festival continues the decades old tradition of hosting famous and well-know jazz professionals.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:37 PM