September 22, 2008

It’s all smiles as a happy Kim Pensyl returns with a new contemporary jazz album

When Katie Smiles due October 28th, “Slap Happy” leading the way at radio

Blessed with a bountiful life of jazz, music, love, family and education, pianist Kim Pensyl united his passions in a celebration of intimately inspired melodies and robust rhythm tracks on his fourteenth album, When Katie Smiles, scheduled for release October 28th from Penton Music Productions. The eleven new compositions written, arranged and produced by Pensyl mark his return to contemporary jazz where he previously charted four top 10 Billboard contemporary jazz albums. Powered by a deep bass and thick drum beats, the first single that was just serviced to radio, “Slap Happy” boasts Pensyl’s nimble contra piano melodies in the foreground while he peppers the background with haunting keyboard fills.

A labor of love like his previous releases, When Katie Smiles finds Pensyl poignantly relishing mundane pleasures sparked from the simple give and take exchanges between people.  He infuses his music with the same outlook by allowing his talented quartet to interact and improvise spawning moments of spontaneous splendor.  His melodies are joyous, contemplative, heartfelt and eloquent, thoughtfully yet organically given space to breathe, unfold and flow in uncluttered arrangements.  The production sounds live and warm as Pensyl’s piano and keyboards are enriched yet never out-muscled by the bass (Andy Woodson), drums (Reggie Jackson), electric and acoustic guitars (Kevin Turner) or percussion (Jim Ed Cobbs).  In addition to the single, spotlight selections include the snappy title track that opens the collection, the beautiful and audaciously arranged “Where’d Love Go?,” the exquisite and expansive “Grand Lake,” the inviting and homey “Gentlewind Dr.,” and “Love Comes First,” which closes the album in a cinematically sweet mood.
“As on all my albums, When Katie Smiles is about communicating feelings born of my life experiences.  This makes each album something very personal, emotional and expressive, but it also makes me a bit apprehensive since I put myself in such a vulnerable position by sharing my feelings so openly.  However, the chance to communicate deeply with listeners is certainly worth the risk.  It creates a bond of understanding that I treasure,” explained Pensyl.  “My music is a positive light, deeply committed, and is offered with sincerity in the hope it will bring joy to others by sharing part of my life.”

Pensyl’s lust for music was born in the heart of the Columbus, Ohio native during the musical heyday of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  He first picked up the trumpet and extensively studied composition, arranging, production, engineering and performing.  He explored genres of music with fervor from jazz, big band, chamber and orchestral to rock, R&B and pop.  After graduating The Ohio State University School of Music with honors, Pensyl moved to Southern California where he earned a Master’s degree in composition.  He returned to Columbus after gaining valuable experience on the road performing and writing arrangements for various touring groups.  Pensyl captained his own band at local gigs and also played solo piano dates.  This led to the recording of his debut album, Pensyl Sketches #1, which was released twenty years ago.  In 1989, ASCAP named him Best New Jazz Writer and two years later, NARM selected Pensyl Sketches #3 as Jazz Album of the Year.  Twice Pensyl made Billboard’s top 20 Contemporary Jazz Artists of the Year.  The dedicated family man who still wields the trumpet and piano has recorded with Toots Thielemans, Joey Calderazzo, Steve Rodby, Chieli Minucci, Alex Acuna, Adam Nussbaum, Andy Narell, Chuck Bergeron and Will Kennedy among others.  He’s toured extensively throughout the world and has performed with his band on PBS, BET Jazz and Mexico TV.  His albums have been diverse collections of modern acoustic jazz, contemporary jazz, solo piano renderings and even Christmas music. 
Remaining a wide-eyed student of music himself, Pensyl took on the role of teacher in 2000 when he accepted a faculty position at The Ohio State University.  Four years later, he joined the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati where he is an integral part of the Jazz Studies program.  Pensyl writes for and performs with guest artists at the university such as Arturo Sandoval, Bob Mintzer and Terri Lyne Carrington.  He enjoys sharing his immense knowledge, vast experience and great love of music with his students.  Enthused and committed to challenging himself in his writing and performance, Pensyl plays concerts regularly in Ohio and is anxious to take the band out on the national circuit in support of When Katie Smiles.  Additional information is available at 
The songs contained on Pensyl’s When Katie Smiles are:
“When Katie Smiles”
“Slap Happy”
“Where’d Love Go?”
“Here Comes The Rain”
“Grand Lake”
“Beside The Shallow Pond”
“Gentlewind Dr.”
“Summer Days”
“Once Again”
“On This Day”
“Love Comes First”

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:20 PM

September 20, 2008


The Soul Express will be passing through on September 27th in the Chrome Showroom at Santa Fe Station. The Soul Express consists of top smooth jazz artists like vocalist Phil Perry, saxophonist Everette Harp, and guitarist Chris Standring.

Earlier in the month The Killer Groove Band, local favorite and recording artists on the rise in the contemporary jazz world, played to a packed outside venue at Lake Las Vegas on September 6th.

Saxophonist Michael Lington was a hit with a packed house at the Santa Fe Station on Friday, September 19th.

Acclaimed pianist and composer Keiko Matsui shares the night with another great composer and vocalist, Seal, at the Green Valley Ranch Resort on Saturday, September 20th.

Locally, the legendary organ and keys of Ronnie Foster and his group can be heard at the Blue Martini through October on Tuesday nights.

Posted by Danny Desart at 7:00 PM

September 19, 2008

Young, Gifted and Oh so Soulful: A Conversation with Jackiem Joyner

Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Photographs courtesy of Jackiem Joyner

jackiem_1068.jpgPerhaps it’s no coincidence that Jackiem Joyner, the 2007 Smooth Jazz News Debut artist of the year, shares the same birth month and day (February 7th) with two pioneers in music, saxophonists’ King Curtis and composer, lyricist and pianist, Eubie Blake and that he was born in the same city (Norfolk, VA) as two well-known saxophonists, Ernie Watts and Clarence Clemmons (Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band). However, coincidence has nothing to do with Joyner’s extraordinary talent.

In a recent conversation with this multi-talented musician I asked Jackiem, “What percentage of his musical talent could be attributed to nature vs. nurture?” The self-taught saxophonist, flutist, pianist, drummer, composer, and arranger thoughtfully replied, “It is a 100 percent gift that I had to tap into. So, here is the math…God gives me a talent that is 90% ready. The 10% is nurture or being obedient with the talent and nurturing it”.

In hearing Jackiem’s story, one might concur with Joyner that his talent and success has been orchestrated by a higher power. However, evenly weaved between the events of his life, emerges a clear picture of an artist who has not taken his divinely endowed gift for granted but has invested time to find his own voice and take his natural ability to the next level.

Jackiem Charvez Joyner was raised by his mother in Syracuse, NY, along with his sister and three brothers. At around age eleven, Joyner was so inspired by his church’s choir and their drummer that he would wait until after church service concluded to go up and play the drum set. Soon, without any formal training, Joyner was playing the drums and singing regularly at local churches.

Joyner made a major transition about four years later when he was a junior in high school. When Joyner wanted to join his high school band as a drummer, his band teacher asked him to switch to the tenor saxophone to round out the other instruments in the band. Without hesitation, Joyner picked up and began to play the sax with only a few quick instructions from his band teacher on how to position his fingers. After three weeks of playing the sax, Joyner’s music teacher had the principle and other teachers come to hear me play in the band room. It was during this time that Joyner fell in love with the sax and shortly thereafter formed a band called Inkrees. The band consisted of his two brothers who played bass and trombone, a good friend who played keyboard, a drummer, and Joyner on saxophone.

Inkrees performed at local talent shows and school recreational centers like the Boys and Girls Club until 1999 when Joyner won the local and state NAACP’s “Act-So Competitions and placed second in the nationals. Joyner participated in Act-So for three consecutive years and performed with the United States Band of Liberty in 1997 and 1999. Since then, Joyner has performed as a solo artist.

Jazz Gypsy: What makes your sound different?

Joyner: I am able to get into a zone that is engulfed by music and people can tell that I'm playing from the heart and soul.

Jazz Gypsy: Is that where jazz improvisation comes from?

Joyner: It’s not really jazz improv because that’s more technical. What I do is more soulful because it’s based on feelings.

Jazz Gypsy: How do you classify yourself as an artist?

Joyner: I don't really know were to start. Some say I'm a smooth jazz artist. Some say I'm Just a funky player. I tend to classify myself as funky R&B Instrumentalist.


Jazz Gypsy: Musically, who were you influenced by?

Joyner: Michael Jackson along with Stevie Wonder. Stevie had a huge impact on my approach to writing. I think my musical style is like Ne-Yo or Chris Brown. I also like old song chords like “Can’t Hide Love” and the work of Anita Baker and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Jazz Gypsy: Do you have any formal music training or education and which contemporary and traditional jazz artist have you been influenced by?

Joyner: I was self taught and strongly influenced by contemporary artists like Najee, Boney James, Kenny G, Kirk Whalum and Gerald Alright. As a matter of fact, the first time I heard Gerald play “My, My, My”, I was amazed. Also, Candy Dulfur was the first saxophonists’ I tried to copy or pattern myself after. When I first started playing the sax, I kept replaying a cover song she did or a month or two. I also spent two years studying the work of Charlie Parker.

Jazz Gypsy: I read that you toured with Keiko Matsui and went to Johannesburg, South Africa. What was that like?

Joyner: I’ve been to Africa three times and now I have friends there. Africa has an amazing spirit and now I know that is where rhythm comes from. I just returned from performing in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 29th, at the Joy of Jazz Theatre as part of Keiko’s band. Previously, I toured with Keiko in Jo’berg when she produced her Moyo cd. "Moyo" means heart and soul in the Swahili language. My first trip to Africa was in 2002 when I traveled on a United Nations plane to The Republic of Sudan which is in northeast Africa. I accompanied the pastor of my church to play the sax on that missionary journey where we were greeted by 1,000 children from a nearby refugee camp when we landed.

Ukrain, Blk&wht.jpg

Another interesting experience I had on tour with Keiko was a tour to Eastern Europe where we played in Istanbul, Turkey, Bucharest, Rumania, Kaliningrad, Russia, Lugansk, Ukraine, Odessa, Ukraine, Kiev, Ukraine, Donetsk, Ukraine and Lviv, Ukraine. On this tour the architecture was amazing but it was very, very cold and depressing because of frigid temperature, gray skies and the fact that there were no leaves on the trees. But surprisingly, this is where I did some of my best composing while on a 12-hour train ride. The environment was so different that it makes me want to get out of the States and travel more.

Jazz Gypsy: Tell me about your debut Babysoul cd.

Joyner: I wrote the songs on Babysoul after I came back from touring with Ronnie Laws. That tour was my first major tour and it is where I gained my “soldier boots” because it was very tiring going from city to city. I took about a year to write all the songs and each one has a special meaning. The first song I wrote was “Stay With Me”. “This Time Around” is about starting something new. The title song, “Babysoul”, is about my introduction into the world as an artist. “Elevation” is an inspirational song I wrote to keep me motivated and inspired to succeed despite some challenging experiences I had with people in the industry. And, “Share My Tears” is an early song I wrote about my grand aunt who died that I was very close to, having spent every summer with her when I was younger. During the writing process for Babysoul, I needed to block things out, like the television and the internet, because I wanted to make a statement about direct reflection and how I had matured and grown on the outside.

Jazz Gypsy: How do you approach your work and what are you working on now?

Joyner: I’m working on a new cd that I hope to release in early 2009. This cd with be funky. I have to map out songs and determine what message I want to convey. It’s a challenging thought process that takes weeks of listening and incorporating my experiences.

Jazz Gypsy: Tell me about the greatest obstacle you’ve had to face as a musician.

Joyner: Well, there are many obstacles and sometimes the worse enemy if self, so to speak. There is always something present….always obstacles when you’re trying to move ahead. And, sometimes getting past self can be the hardest thing to do which includes things like procrastinating or worrying that things won’t go right with my band.

People don’t realize the many hours of work required for each show. And, I’m still growing and learning how to deal with circumstances and how to respond on the spot. A good example is when I had a reed brake at a show in Las Vegas and I had to quickly toss the lead to the band or when one of my sax screws came loose and had to be fixed right before I had to play a very important part when the audience was absolutely quiet. Although I spend a lot of time preparing for a show, I’m learning the how to respond in the moment.

Myspace cover-1.jpg

Jazz Gypsy: What advice do you have for young musicians?

Joyner: To keep practicing and be open to learning other instruments. Also, I hope to start offering clinics and concerts for high school students to give them an opportunity to talk, play and perform. I’d like to work with kids who are in band that love it. I would like to spark the flame that’s within then and help them find the hidden treasure within. That is how other musicians inspired me and I’d like to do the same for others. I want to share my approach to practicing that will help them maintain what they’ve learned in practice.

Jazz Gypsy: You recently played in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. How was that?

Joyner: I’ve performed in Denver three times and I’ve co-hosted a radio show with Denver’s on-air smooth jazz personality Becky Taylor so I have a lot of fans there. I didn’t perform at the Pepsi Center or INVESCO Field but I was a headliner at the week-long Jazz and Blues Festival which was the premier music event during the Democratic National Convention.

Jazz Gypsy: That was a major festival with a lot of music heavyweights.

Joyner: Yes. It was great to be included in such an awesome line-up that included Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Hugh Masekela, George Duke, Walter Beasley, Arturo Sandoval, Pieces of A Dream, Eric Darius, Pamela Williams, The Blackbyrds, Poncho Sanchez, Bobby Lyle, Warren Hill, Nick Colionne, Maysa, Jonathan Butler, Marion Meadows, Kevin Toney, and Jeffery Osborne among others.

Jazz Gypsy: There have been a lot of advances in technology. How are you using technology in your career?

Joyner: I use technology a lot. There are so many avenues of technology that didn’t exist before that are now available like Myspace, You Tube and Facebook. I use those avenues for online marketing. My music production is also facilitated by computer technology, since there’s been a huge leap forward in software sounds. I can record new sounds on my hard drive, master and mix sounds on my laptop and do mixing and performing with a keyboard attached to a lap top. The advances in technology have been great.

Jazz Gypsy: Not too long ago, I heard Richard Elliott & Rick Braun talking about what an amazingly dedicated and hard-working artist you are and that was why they chose to sign you to their R&R label. Tell me about that.

Joyner: My brother and I used to play Richard Elliott’s Chill Factor all the time. We played it in church and when we were in the high school band. I never thought I would be signed by Elliott years later. From the very beginning, I’ve taken the work of being a musician seriously. I always study the material because I’m dedicated to being an artist. As a result of my strong work ethic, sometimes I am very hard on my band.

Jazz Gypsy: You’re represented by Steve Chapman, right?

Joyner: Yes. Steve Chapman is the only English person I know. At first, I felt intimidated because he has such an impressive artist roster. I thought I was expected to act a certain way. But, I quickly found out that Chapman is a really cool, down-to-earth, regular guy. And, he’s also very funny. I’ve learned the thing that makes the best manager is having a good personal relationship based on friendship.

Jazz Gypsy: Outside of the musical arena, what are some of your other accomplishments?

Joyner: In high school I played a lot of sports. I was a strong forward or center on the basketball team and I loved to dunk. I was a distance runner on the track team and ran the 800 meter, 55 meter hurdle and the 400 meter. I’ve worked as a barber, growing up cutting the hair for my three brothers and I done my own hair for the past eight years. I also design websites like my own Myspace page and I play around with flash and html on my website

Jazz Gypsy: So, with all those talents, if you weren’t working as a musician, what would you be doing?

Joyner: If I was not working as a musician I would completing studies to major in Chemical Engineering. I've completed 2 years so far.

Jazz Gypsy: Now, for an odd question. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have take five cd’s with you, which would they be?

Joyner: [laughing] Can I take my own?

Jazz Gypsy: Sure.

Joyner: In that case I’d take my first release, Babysoul, my upcoming cd, a cd by Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum’s Babyface cd and one by Yolanda Adams.

Jazz Gypsy: Thanks, Jackiem. This was a great conversation.

Joyner: You’re welcome.

Jackiem's Tour Schedule
September, 20 2008 - 08:00 PM - Green Valley Casino - Las Vegas, NV, w/Keiko Matsui
September, 25 2008 - The Grape – Charlotte, North Carolina
September, 27 2008 - 06:00 PM - Mable Amphitheatre, Atlanta, GA
September, 28 2008 - 08:00 PM - Oceanside Pier Amphitheatre-San Diego, CA, San Diego, CA
October, 4, 2008 -12:00 PM - Catalina Island Jazz Festival - Catalina Island, CA, Catalina Island, CA
October, 11 2008 -12:00 PM - Catalina Island Jazz Fest - Catalina Island, CA, Catalina Island, CA
October, 19 2008 - 12:00 PM - Catalina Island Jazz Festival -Catalina Island, CA

Posted by JazzGypsy at 5:48 AM

September 13, 2008

Kevin Toney Offers Solo Piano CD

If you like solo piano CDs, you might be interested in Kevin Toney's latest. It's the first solo project for the veteran musician, who was a member of the Blackbyrds and is best-known for his smooth jazz hit single “Kings.”

A Grateful Heart features 10 new, original compositions with titles such as “Stars in the Sky,” “Morning Prayer,” “Giving Thanks” and “Beautiful New Clothes." Relaxing and heartfelt, it's a throwback to an earlier era. It's released by Toney's K-Tone Productions, and you can find out more about it by going to Toney's website. You can also listen to samples at the site.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:33 PM

September 12, 2008

Wayman Tisdale: Ain’t No Stopping Him Now

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

WaymanCostumeNight.jpgOne of the things I’ve always admired about bassist Wayman Tisdale is his happy-go-lucky attitude and his super-size smile. In an industry where many artists appear untouchable or off-limits, Wayman seemed to be an artist of “the people”, always stopping to say hello, take a photograph or sign an autograph. I was fortunate to see him up close and personal on several of the smooth jazz cruises and he always lit up the room with his infectious personality and laughter, elevating the mood of everyone around him.

In a recently released video message, with his bass by his side, Wayman is sitting on his couch at home showing his bandaged right leg while thanking his fans, management team and friends for their support during his medical challenge. Singing the words to his song, “It’s Alright”, Tisdale assures us that not only will he be on the smooth jazz cruise he’s set to host in January 2009 but that he’s going to lead the party and stay up the whole time. Although the message is short, it sends a very powerful and inspirational message confirming that Wayman is a man of faith with an undeniable spirit of grace under pressure who really does believe ….Ain’t No Stopping Him Now!

Video message:
Wayman Tisdale Smooth Jazz Cruise:

Photo: Me & Wayman in the Crow's Nest on costume night during the 2006 Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise

Posted by JazzGypsy at 5:30 PM

September 10, 2008

Guitars And Saxes Does Christmas

For 14 years, the popular Guitars & Saxes has been a staple of the smooth jazz summer touring season. This year, for the first time, the tour will be celebrating the spirit of the holidays with the Guitars & Saxes Christmas tour. On board for the first edition, which is expected to be an annual event, are saxophonist Richard Elliot, guitarist Paul Brown and saxophonist Jessy J.

Elliot has performed on the regular Guitars & Saxes tour, while Brown will be making his debut. For Jessy J, it’s a step up, as she not a starring member of this year’s summer tour with Jeff Golub, Peter White, Gerald Albright and Jeff Lorber, but instead as a member of the backing band.

The tour, which is now adding dates, is scheduled to open on November 29th in Nevada with a special, one-time-only guest – vocalist Bobby Caldwell. Other shows are in Seattle and San Ramon, California.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:46 PM

September 9, 2008

Breaking news: A cure for musical malaise has been discovered!

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

Daryl WilliamsResized.jpgWhen: Thursday, September 11, 2008
Where: Spaghettini Grill & Jazz Club
3005 Old Ranch Parkway
Seal Beach, CA 90740

Bassist, composer, producer Darryl Williams will be delivering a sure cure to help you beat the workday blues or anything else that ails you. This Thursday at Spaghetini’s, Williams, who is the bassist for Euge Groove and has a list of other noteworthy credits, will be performing with his own band.

Williams’ arsenal of potent prescriptions include "Take it Slow", "That Was Then", "Time, Good Bye", "On The Move", "La Jolla Shores", "Costa Rica", "Everything Must Change", "Gentle Thoughts", "When It Rains", and "The Truth", all from his new CD, That Was Then.

Convenient, self-administered dosages are recommended, if you are unable to get a live injection on Thursday.

Prescription: That Was Then
Frequency: Listen until your new music deprivation disorder disappears.
Instructions for Use: For best results, this music should be ingested live; however, everyday dosages of That Was Then will yield the same results.
Side effects: May cause intense smiling, a euphoric attitude, heightened sensual feelings, or the desire to be a better person.
Warming: Listen at your own risk. This music is highly addictive.

Free trial-size samples are available at

Posted by JazzGypsy at 4:49 AM

September 8, 2008

Philly's smooth jazz station WJJZ gone - again

120px-NewWJJZLogo.gifPhiladelphia's smooth jazz station WJJZ had to give up again only two years after their applauded relaunch due to "limited success with smooth jazz as judged by the marketplace".

You may recall the vocal protest by loyal listeners in August 2006 when the station switched to adult contemporary, which prompted the relaunch of WJJZ in November 2006 with Michael Tozzi at the helm. As it turns out, WJJZ didn't become commercially successful forcing them to abandon the smooth jazz format - again. I guess WJJZ has gone definitely now, which is a sad day for the Philly area and smooth jazz fans.

More information can be found here.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:09 PM

September 5, 2008

Larry Carlton Covers Songs - By King Of Thailand

carltonLarryxa.jpgIn addition to his work with with smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay and throughout his long solo career, legendary guitarist Larry Carlton has also played the music of numerous musicians as one of the most prolific studio musicians ever. Soon, though, Carlton will offer a CD that has a unique origin: All the songs are Larry’s interpretations of music written by the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Needless to say, the King is a fan of Carlton’s and asked him to perform last year for his 80th birthday celebration in Thailand. The result is a nine-song CD titled The Jazz King, comprised of eight songs written by the King and one new track written by Carlton, “Celebration.” Among those joining Carlton on the CD are Fourplay members Nathan East and Harvey Mason, as well as saxophonist Tom Scott, guitarist Earl Klugh and Carlton’s wife, vocalist Michelle Pillar.

The King of Thailand is considered to be a accomplished jazz musician. He plays the sax and has recorded with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Maynard Ferguson and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Carlton says “The Jazz King” will be released soon on his own 335 Records.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:10 PM

September 3, 2008

Peter White, Columbia, Split After A Decade

WhitePeterXX08.jpgGuitarist Peter White and his label, Columbia Records, have ended their decade-long relationship as Peter has signed a contract with Peak Records, the expanding smooth jazz record label co-founded by Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons.

A new CD of all-original material is expected to be released in March 2009.

The upcoming CD, White's 11th, follows 2006’s Playin’ Favorites, which featured two No. 1 smooth jazz singles, “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” and “Mister Magic.”

White joins a roster that includes Mindi Abair, Jeff Lorber, The Rippingtons, Marc Antoine, Gerald Albright, Paul Taylor, Norman Brown, Lee Ritenour, Will Downing, Eric Marienthal, David Benoit and Jessy J.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:47 AM