October 31, 2008

What We're Listening To ** October

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

Dave Koz, Greatest Hits (Capitol): Four new songs make this CD worth your collection, and the best is the new smooth jazz single "Life in the Fast Lane."

Tom Grant, Life Is Good (NuWrinkle): The veteran pianist returns with his first new smooth jazz collection in years that reminds you how much he's been missed.

The Millennium Promise Jazz Project feat. Kirk Whalum, Promises Made (Koch): This benefit for Africans in need of survival tools is led by Kirk Whalum, with assists from Earl Klugh and George Duke. Familiar tunes include "Stand By Me," "Eleanor Rigby" and "What's Going On."

Milton Nascimento Jobim Trio, Novas Bossas (Blue Note): A must-have for lovers of the Brazilian icon with the sweet voice, featuring Daniel Jobim, Paulo Braga, Paulo Jobim and Rodrigo Villa.

Toninho Horta, To Jobim With Love (Resonance): An all-star cast, including Bob Mintzer, Gal Costa and Gary Peacok, join guitarist Toninho Horta for this swinging set.

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

Buddy Rich & the Big Band Machine, Speak No Evil (Wounded Bird Records) (2008)

Fourplay, Energy (Heads Up) (2008)

Gerald Albright, Sax for Stax (Peak Records) (2008)

Michael Ray Tyler, Grazing The Land  (2008)

Craig Pilo, Just Play  (Rue De La Harpe) (2007

P E T E R * B O E H I

Mark Barrios - West Tampa Style (2008)
Cool and groovy latin jazz guitar player reminding me of Carlos Santana in parts, but definitely in a laid-back smooth jazz setting. Every track is a winner!

Roger Smith - Sittin' In (2008)
Keyboardist Roger Smith delivers an outstanding album full of groovy urban tracks and top-notch keyboard playing, excellently recorded and produced. Thumbs up!

Sekou Bunch - The Next Level (2008)
This is album by bassist Sekou Bunch boasts great guest artists (Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Sheila E, Everette Harp and others) and artistry on the highest level, the cover of Ramsey's "Sun Goddess" is a winner. Very recommended!

Nick Colionne - No Limits (2008)
This guitarist can do no wrong. His latest release is another gem full of great songs and guitar playing, his song "Melting Into You" is a future classic. What a talent!

Kenny Pore - Inner City Dreams (1984), You Don't Know Me (1985), At This Moment (1987)
Going back in time, this guitarist and composer/producer delivered a string of albums in the 80ies that are classics of the genre. By employing the best LA session players the results are simply outstanding, especially the heart wrenching sax solos of Brandon Fields are a treat. The records were re-released on the Sessions Vol. 1 & 2 CD which have gone out of print in the meantime. Magical moments!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:17 PM

October 30, 2008

Contempo October 2008

Next time you’re at a summer festival grooving to Guitars & Saxes or one of the three big smooth jazz cruises clapping along to Rick Braun, Mindi Abair or Wayman Tisdale, take a look around and ponder the demographics for a second. The music is hip and edgy, but the genre is decidedly the playground of the cool and urbane middle aged. Considering that most of smooth jazz’s core artists range in age from their mid-thirties to early 50s, it’s hardly surprising that their fans have roots in the same generation. Smooth jazz offers refuge for those who grew up on old school soul and leave the rap, hip-hop and whatever else defines urban pop nowadays to their offspring.

There’s no doubt that kids and young adults would dig Brian Culbertson and Dave Koz as much as Usher, Nelly or Justin Timberlake if given the chance — there just haven’t been many attempts to cater to this vast potential audience. What will it take to get these fans to the shows and download Candy Dulfer along with Rihanna and Chris Brown?

Eric Darius may just have the solution, and on his third album and Blue Note debut, he’s Goin’ All Out to make it happen. A genre veteran at the ripe old age of 25, he makes no bones about what he’s trying to accomplish on the disc’s ten highly rhythmic, infectiously melodic and stylistically varied tracks that feature some of his most urgent and sensual playing ever. His previous two releases, 2004’s Night On The Town and Just Getting Started (2006) scored airplay hits galore, but his aim this time was to take some bold steps forward and offer up some joyful noise to multiple generations.

“When I first started writing music for this project,” says the multi-talented Tampa born and based artist, “my goal was to create an album distinctive from anything else I’ve ever done. Immersing myself over the years in so many styles and cultures, from hip-hop to reggae, Latin, pop, gospel and funk, I wanted to mix up a lot of these elements into tracks that would appeal to everyone, including the younger demographic. The term smooth jazz is almost always automatically associated with this older sophisticated crowd, but I thought it was important to say something new as an artist and to give the kids in my generation who are not normally exposed to jazz something to relate to. The tradeoff is, I hope that it will inspire them to listen to more jazz and embrace this kind of hybrid music.”

Matching his horn, dynamic beats and infectious melodies and atmospheres to his musical idealism - and seriously not worrying about smooth jazz airplay, at least most of the time - Darius dives in with the party hearty crashing hip-hop rhythms, neo soul swirl of “Just Like That,” which, he says, “puts the listener in the mind frame of steppin’ out in the club, with lights and cameras flashing.” Darius is a big fan of superstar hip-hop/pop producer Timbaland, and puts his type of hypnotic double-up kick drum beats behind the sensual emotion of “Vibe With Me.” The saxman enjoyed success with his passionate cover of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” and makes some sharp twists and turns on two songs the kids have been digging in recent years: Ne-Yo’s “Because Of You” (which Darius first heard at a club in Tokyo) and the seductive Grammy winning Mary J. Blige song “Be Without You.”

The most “out there joint” on Goin’ All Out, is by far “Feelin’ Da Rhythm,” a feisty explosion of sizzling horn textures and booming reggaeton/dancehall grooves. Darius comes by this island hopping thing naturally; his parents were raised in the Caribbean and he grew up on the tropical and reggae music that inspired the popular new hybrid sound in the early 90s. Mainstream smoothies shouldn’t despair if they think Darius is getting a little too young for their tastes - the lighthearted, easygoing “Just For the Moment” (featuring the always exuberant Norman Brown on guitar and vocals) and retro-soul tinged “Ain’t No Doubt About It” are harmonically soaring, smack dab in the pocket joyful expressions.

Since terrestrial stations in the format tend to reward artists for doing the same old thing release after release, Darius is something of a genre revolutionary, preferring to try new concepts and push envelopes like his heroes Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock than stagnate in an artistic safe zone. But how does he view his odds of actually pulling in the youth vote? Is having a colorful myspace page that boasts over 120,000 visits and through which he communicates with his fans enough? He’s also got a batch of video clips on YouTube that have thus far received thousands of views.

“I see great possibilities now to reach out and win over this new generation. It’s definitely a challenge, but at my age I’m in a perfect position to reach out and show them some cool things. I don’t take the responsibility lightly. The good news is, it’s already happening, because I see younger people at a lot of my shows, and I’m getting tons of messages on myspace from middle and high school kids inquiring about jazz, the saxophone and my type of music. All I need to do is play for them and that will stimulate their interest in jazz. Now that there’s myspace and YouTube, they can see videos in other places besides MTV and VH1. It’s really about making the grass roots effort and showing them that this music is as happening as anything else they’re listening to.”

Whatever the ultimate results are of his quest to bridge the contemporary jazz generation gap, he’ll always be about connecting with his fans. “They’re the reason I do what I do,” he says, “and I’m very passionate about making a difference in their lives and putting smiles on their faces. Now it’s time get more kids my own age and younger to smile, too!”

If there was ever any doubt that our friends to the north know what’s cool, it was erased when Nick Colionne succeeded Chris Botti as “International Instrumental Artist of the Year” at the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. Beyond his status as a top headliner for shows and festivals across the country, the guitarist - has also become legendary for his electrifying performances on each of the annual All-Star Smooth Music Cruises since 2005 and for hosting the after-hours “Nick At Nite” jam sessions. His quick wit and expert comic timing also served him well as the host of this year’s Seabreeze Jazz Festival on Florida’s emerald coast. He’s also the genre’s most dapper and sophisticated fashion plate in the genre thanks to his crisply tailored, colorful Stacy Adams suits. The Chicago based performer has been living up to the name of his breakthrough hit “High Flyin’” since bursting on to the national scene in 2003, and now, on his Koch Records debut, he’s doing more than just Keepin’ It Cool, the name of his 2006 disc. He’s boldly declaring there are No Limits with an album that genre crosses easily from jazz, R&B, funk and blues and includes more of his low toned, seductive vocals than ever before. He embraces the urban dance phenomenon known as the Steppers’ Circuit with the thumping retro-funk of “Steppin’ Back” and adds just the right amount of bluesy organ to his high energy ode to his hometown “The Big Windy.” Shifting gears completely, all those cruises and balmy Caribbean breezes inspired the breezy, Brazilian flavored “Ports of Call.” WGN-TV and Radio pegged him right when they proclaimed him “Wes with a new millennium twist,” and he pays homage to Mr. Montgomery on “Headin’ Wes Before Dawn.” But he’s equally effusive digging into the James Brown vibe on the wild horn jam “Godfather J.”

Personal Taste

1) Sony Holland, Swing, Bossas, Ballads and Blues (Van Ness Records) – Globally popular for her tours and residencies in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok, the stylish San Francisco based singer swings effortlessly from Jobim to Paul Simon, Roberta Flack to the Great American Songbook - but saves some of her most impassioned jazz expressions for the eight originals penned by her husband Jerry Holland.
2) Steve Oliver, One Night Live (Nu Groove Records)
3) David Sanborn, Here and Gone (Decca)
4) Lee Ritenour/Dave Grusin, Amparo (Decca)
5) Eldredge Jackson, Listening Pleasure (JEA Records)

Posted by Jonathan Widran at 2:48 PM

October 28, 2008

3rd Force’s William Aura Planning School In Nepal

William Aura, leader of the smooth jazz group 3rd Force, has announced that he has collected nearly $2,500 so far toward the building of a school in rural Nepal. Aura has visited the area many times on humanitarian missions, and footage that he shot in India and Nepal, where many Tibetan refugees have resettled, was featured in a recent documentary titled 10 Questions For The Dalai Lama.

Aura’s school will be located near a river in a remote Himalayan valley about 300 miles southeast of Kathmandu. About 50 students now study three hours a day outside in the elements. Aura’s school will replace a traditional straw-thatched roof with wood and bamboo, which is in abundance nearby. If you would like to contribute, you can visit the Aura Imports website, which is designed to aid the harsh economic conditions of the Tibetan people by offering jewelry, clothing and other items handmade by young Tibetan artists and craftspeople in exile.

William Aura describes how Buddhism and his travels to Nepal, where he is building a school, help him to stay centered: "I’m a student of Buddhism. It’s not really religion to me. It’s more of a school of thought. I love traveling there and working with the young people and teaching English when I’m there and studying in the monasteries and just finding something that’s very relaxing and peaceful to me. It helps me become more mindful and appreciative of everything we have."

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:01 PM

October 25, 2008

Jeff Lorber - Heard That

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. Perhaps keyboard maestro Jeff Lorber does tight, vibrant, in the pocket smooth jazz better than anyone else on the scene today. In production terms much the same can be said of Rex Rideout so when a project comes along on which they both collaborate then it’s certainly time to sit up and take notice. Enter Lorber’s brand new album Heard That which, as well as being full of all the good stuff that he and Rideout are guaranteed to bring, also features a veritable clutch of breathtaking guest performances.

Of course Lorber has been on the cutting edge of contemporary jazz since the release of the self titled debut album from the Jeff Lorber Fusion in 1977. As a producer he has helped fashion the careers of jazz luminaries such as Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Eric Marienthal while as a solo artist he has delivered a sequence of totally memorable collections of which this latest offering finds him at his fusion soaked best.

Lorber’s hip take on the familiar Amy Winehouse song ‘Rehab’ adds to rather than takes away from the original. It’s already making an impression on the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio but genuine Lorber fans will be wowed by the riches that lay elsewhere. A case in point is the groove drenched title tune that is co-written by Lorber and Eric Darius. Driven along by Gerald Albright on alto sax it is a wonderful showcase for Lorber’s keyboard talents whilst when he is joined by Rick Braun on trumpet and the wonderful Alex Al on bass the result is the melodically rhythmic ‘Don’t Hold Back’. The retro buzz of ‘Gamma Rays’ comes courtesy of Gary Meek on flute. In every respect this is a cut that evokes contemporary jazz the way it used to be and is one of several tracks mixed by Paul Brown and his Pro-Tools sidekick DC. This pairing again adds a splash of their special magic to the complex and jazzy ‘The Bomb’ which fizzes in a way that only Lorber’s music can. In fact this and five other songs are written by the Lorber – Rideout combination and, truth to tell, every of them is a gem. An understated vocal from Chelsea Nicole anchors the slinky ‘Don’t Stop’ and the pleasingly mid tempo ‘Take Control’ is also dappled with cool vocals that this time come from Lauren Evans. ‘Night Sky’ is clearly one of the albums very best tracks and in the groove from the ‘get go’ yet just shading it as Secret Garden favourite is ‘You Got Something’. With a lavish veneer of horns from Gary Meek and Ron King, a mid tempo vibe to die for plus the subtlest of vocals from Phillip ‘Taj’ Jackson, this could well be the hottest urban jazz cut of the year so far.

Heard That is Lorber’s debut on Peak Records and was released across the USA on September 30. It comes highly recommended. For more go to www.lorber.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 6:30 PM

October 24, 2008

Walter Beasley Records Song For Barack Obama

Saxophonist Walter Beasley, who has already officially supported presidential candidate Barack Obama on his website, is now the first major smooth jazz artist to include a song for Obama on a CD. Beasley’s “Free Your Mind,” which is due in January on Heads Up, features a tune called “Barack’s Groove” that was written and produced by Phil Davis.

The song is one of 11 new ones on the CD, which is Beasley’s follow-up to Ready for Love, which included the No. 1 song of the same name. New songs include a tribute to George Duke called “DukeZillia,” as well as a tribute to the late trumpeter and vocalist Mark Ledford from the Pat Metheny Group called “Message to Mark.”

Posted by Brian Soergel at 10:39 PM

October 20, 2008

Jazz Slows Down To A Crawl In Vegas

Jazz, smooth or otherwise, has suddenly come to a dramatic halt in Las Vegas for the month of October

Station Casinos, who have brought many great artists to the Boulder Station Hotel and the Santa Fe Station Hotel, has either streamlined or cancelled acts in October. However, look for Hiroshima to perform November 1st at Santa Fe Station, followed by Euge Groove at Boulder Station on November 22nd.

Chris Botti
will perform two dates in November at two Station Casino resorts at two different venues, November 28th at Green Valley Ranch Resort, and November 29th at the newest venue, Aliante Station.

The Suncoast Hotel, once a force for bringing in legendary artists like Chuck Mangione and the funk band, Tower Of Power, has been dry for jazz entertainment for some time.

The Killer Groove Band managed to sneak in a District At Green Valley Ranch performance, but that was about it.

Pogos Tavern, which has hosted Friday night jazz since 1968, is continuing on so far with traditional jazz. But patrons have expressed discontent for the changes the club has exhibited since new ownership and management took effect back in the early summer.

Every other month jazz saxophonist and vocalist Tommy Alvarado switches Tuesday night duties at the Blue Martini with the legendary keyboardist Ronnie Foster. And so far it seems that this will continue until further notice.

But why the drawback of jazz entertainment? One word, economy. That's right. The economy has affected entertainment in general in town, and the fewer dates in the fourth quarter of this year are going to reflect the budget cutbacks by hotels, clubs, and restaurants who have hosted jazz for several years.

We wish well for all Vegas venues that they may weather through these trying times.

Posted by Danny Desart at 7:17 AM

October 14, 2008

DeNate - Reminisce

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. As well as being arguably the best contemporary jazz release of the year so far Reminisce by DeNate also heralds the brand new pairing of keyboard player Nate Harasim and vocalist Deborah Connors. Discovered (and encouraged to combine) by nuGroove President and industry veteran David Chackler they have not only delivered a debut of stunning quality but also struck upon a format that, on today’s smooth jazz scene, is refreshingly unique.

With talents that encapsulate performing writing and production DeNate has found a sublime knack of coming up with songs that are sometimes catchy, often hypnotic but invariably memorable. They demonstrate all these attributes and more with the sumptuous title cut where, not for the only time, Connors shows off vocals that have a distinctly Lisa Stansfield feel about them. In fact every note that she vocalizes has a breathy seductiveness to it and, not surprisingly, this is particularly the case with the aptly titled ‘So Sexy’. The mid tempo ‘You are My Everything’ also checks all the right boxes and provides an exquisite platform for the DeNate combination to really flourish while ‘All You Are To Me’ has an atmospheric groove that typifies much of what the duo is all about. ‘Let Your Body Move’ provides a zesty departure from the wonderful mood music that permeates much of the album but DeNate is quickly back ‘on message’, first with ‘I Can Take You There’ (with its vibe to die for) and again for ‘Still Be Strong’ which features outstanding bass from Mel Brown. It’s a tune that finds Connors at her ‘Stansfield-esque’ best and is one of eight tracks written by Harasim and Connors. Just as significant, the two choice covers that complete the collection have been beautifully selected to complement their own incredible work.

Their fresh take on Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams’ is particularly notable with Connors turning in a performance of which Annie Lennox would be more than proud whilst even better is DeNate’s interpretation of the timeless ‘Secret Garden’. The many covers that have followed in the wake of this Quincy Jones blockbuster has proved, that such is the power and structure of this magnificent song, it is almost impossible to do it badly. However, DeNate grab the chance with both hands to add something new and different. The fresh twist afforded by the vocal duet of Connors and Maurice Mahon is nothing short of sensational while Harasim’s subtle production is just right. It allows the tune to build with breathtaking effect and, on most albums, this would undoubtedly be the killer cut. However, just edging it is DeNate’s own ‘Missin’ You’. This incredibly turned down gem finds Connors in typically sultry mode, Harasim picture perfect on keys and Michael Powell making an understated, yet colossal, contribution on guitar. Already it is certain to be one of my top tracks of 2008.

Reminisce by DeNate was released across the USA on August 19 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 DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at 12:01 PM

October 13, 2008

Maysa - Metamorphosis

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. Out today across the USA, Metamorphosis is the seventh solo CD from singing sensation Maysa Leak. Variously produced by Rex Rideout, Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis and the Jason MilesDJ Logic pairing of Global Noize it offers twelve sumptuous tracks that ooze sophistication and which feature notable contributions from some of the leading contemporary jazz session players around today.

This is particularly well demonstrated by the opening track ‘Simpatico’ where thumping bass from Melvin Davis and the drums of Michael White provide a rhythmic platform from which Leak proffers her soulful tones. It’s a number on which Rex Rideout, both as producer and keyboard player, really excels and much the same can be said of Chris Davis with ‘Take Me Away’ where Maysa seamlessly blends a cool sample of Jean Carn’s ‘Don’t Let It Go To Your Head’ into this emotional smoker. Of course since the early nineties, when she auditioned for the band by phone, Maysa has been famous for being one of the voices of Incognito. The complex yet compelling ‘Happy Feelings’ evokes her best Incognito moments as does ‘Never Really Ever’ for which Rex Rideout again plays a part. Both tracks contrast nicely with the gentle deconstructed splendour of ‘Love So True’ while also in turned down mode is the silkily soulful ‘I Need A Man’.

Earlier this year producer and keyboard player Jason Miles collaborated with DJ Logic on a project they named Global Noize. Here Leak taps into their hip rhythmic and eclectic style with ‘A Conversation With The Universe’ that she co-writes and performs with them. The tune’s world vibe represents a tasty departure from the Maysa norm and when, with ‘Walk Away’, she finds the ideal R & B ballad it’s a cool arrangement from Ledisi that incorporates a stunning brass infused play out line which comes courtesy of Melvin Jones on trumpet.

Dedicated to her mother and co-written by Leak, Rideout and the excellent Michael Ripoll, ‘Grateful’ is illuminated by Ripoll’s wonderful acoustic guitar and when Maysa turns to Najee on flute for ‘My Destiny’ he strikes the perfect chord with which to complement her picture perfect delivery. Najee is joined by Nick Colionne for ‘Higher Love’ where together they weave some exquisitely jazzy patterns that underpin Leak’s zesty Latin tinged vocal and Colionne returns to lead off what proves to be a staggering three minute ten second guitar introduction to the outstanding ‘Lets Figure It Out’. In the expert hands of producer Chris Davis this superb slice of chill out music evolves both into a feisty dance floor filler and the album’s best track.

Metamorphosis is an impressive collection of all-original material that may well be the album to take Maysa to the next level of appreciation. Check it out.

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 11:55 AM

October 12, 2008

Groovin’ To Your Health at Jazz At Drew

Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson

Los Angeles - The weather forecast for the past weekend, October 4-5, 2008 called for scattered showers. That didn’t dampen the spirit of the people in attendance. The weather forecast strengthened their resolve to attend the 18th Annual Jazz At Drew Legacy Music Series, Cultural Marketplace and Health Pavilion. This was apparent due to the fact that this was the final outdoor music festival for the year. The theme for this year’s festival was “Building Cultural Bridges Through Music: Highlighting the Healing Art of Medicine and Music.”

Is there a doctor in the house? This was answered with a resounding yes! I’m speaking also of Dr. Gaynell Colburn, who kicked off the annual Jazz At Drew, presented by Honda. She opened her set with “Get Here.” Dr. Colburn is a vocalist and percussionist and has performed with legends such as Patti Austin, Dave Valentin, and Herbie Hancock and has toured with Stevie Wonder. Saxophonist J Boykin joined the group for the remainder of her set. J is a new person on the smooth jazz circuit, on the fast track of making a name for himself. He performed material from his debut CD. The tunes performed were “My Name is J,” “Just J,” and dedicated “So Amazing” to the memory of Luther Vandross and finished with “Lost Without You” by Robert Thicke. Dr. Colburn closed out her set with “Check Out Time.”

Multi-talented bassist, music director, composer and producer brought along some of his friends to entertain the crowd. Guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. and a trio of excellent vocalist were featured as soloist. The vocalist consisted of Amy Keys, Teresa Bailey and Dorian Holly. Collectively, they did a good job with “Lady Marmalade,” “What You Won’t Do For Love,” “All I Do,” “I Wish,” “All of Love,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Let’s Get It On,” “and “Before I Let Go,” got the crowd up on their feet to dance and sing along with the band.

Malcolm Jamal Warner and Miles Long and the LA Multi-School Hip Hop Orchestra led by Reggie Andrews were a nice collaboration that produced some great music.

The Latin Jazz All-Stars helped to heat up the festivities with some hot Latin Jazz and salsa from the song books of Hilton Ruiz, Pete Escovedo and Miles Davis. This was another tight band that consisted of trumpeter Ray Vega, conguero Chembo Corniel, pianist Arturo O’ Farrill, drummer Phoenix Rivera, timbalero Pete Escovedo, bassist Yunior Terry and trombonist Francisco Torres. These musicians have an extended background in and are masters of Afro-Cuban, Salsa, Brazilian music and Latin Jazz.

Vocalist Chrisette Michele is another newcomer in the neo-soul genre who is also on the fast track to becoming a star. Her crowd pleasing set featured tunes from her debut CD I Am and featured a tune from an upcoming CD to be entitled Like a Lady. She entertained the crowd with “Let’s Ride,” “Like A Dream,” “Love Is You,” “I’ll Always Be Your Joy,” “The Best of Me,” “Let’s Last Forever,” “War Cry,” and “We OK.”

Chicago-based smooth soul vocal group, The Chi-lites along with all of their glory was another crowd favorite. Their timeless music lit up not only the Drew University festival grounds, but the entire surrounding area, giving all in the area a musical treat. They modernized one of their hits for the upcoming election “For God’s Sake Give More Power To The People” to “More Power To Barack Obama.” Other hits followed “Oh Girl,” “Have You Seen Her,” “Got To Have You Baby,” and Write A Letter To Myself.”

Third World capped off day one of Jazz At Drew with their signature sound of reggae. The group received the Jazz At Drew Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Jazz At Drew All-Stars featuring Leon Jones and Jabari Betts kicked off the final day of the festival. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon with a nice breeze for festival attendees.

Karen Briggs with saxophonist Mike Phillips, guitarist Chieli Minucci, Vesta, keyboardist Lao Tizer, Loose Ends, and Sheryl Lee Ralph set was full of high energy of R&B, soul and funk.

It took a while, but I finally got a chance to hear some mainstream, straight-ahead jazz. Trumpeter Wallace Roney Quintet was the highlight for me for the entire weekend.

The Festival continued in a straight-ahead mode with the music of Nate Morgan’s Swingin’ Exile with Miguel Ferguson, Ken Rosser, Joel Ector, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon.

A Capella group Renaissance performed both days of the festival. The festival continued on a high note with a dash of contemporary smooth jazz of Jeff Lorber Band, funky, soul-drenched Latin jazz of Poncho Sanchez and concluded with Les McCann featuring the Javon Jackson Quintet. Les McCann was the 2008 Jazz At Drew Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:14 AM

October 10, 2008

Kim Waters Paying Tribute To Marvin Gaye

On his last CD, 2006’s You Are My Lady, saxophonist Kim Waters scored a smooth jazz hit with the legendary Marvin Gaye’s most famous songs, “Got to Give It Up.” Now, Kim has finished a new CD, his 16th, titled I Want You: Love in the Spirit of Marvin.   The 11-song CD has two songs composed by Gaye, the title track “I Want You” – which has lead vocals by Vivian Green – and “Distant Lover.”

The remaining nine tunes, as the CD title suggests, are all originals that Waters wrote and hopes listeners will feel have some of that Marvin Gaye magic to them. Among those songs are “Let’s Get On It,” “Groove With Me,” “Some Dreams Come True” and “Smooth Sailing.”

I Want You: Love in the Spirit of Marvin will be available Oct. 28.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 2:50 AM

October 7, 2008

Kirk Whalum Wants You To Join Him On Twitter

Have you heard of Twitter, the free social networking site? Like blogging, Twitter lets you write messages that other people can read.   But unlike blogging, Twitter limits your messages to 140 characters. It’s a self-described micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates, which are known as “tweets.”

Smooth jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who already posts a blog on his website, has now opened a Twitter account and is calling on his fans to do the same. So now you can join Whalum as he "tweets" about jazz, his travels, current projects and even random ideas. You can create your own Twitter profile along with Whalum and share quick messages about your day-to-day experiences. It can also a great way for music students to follow the course of a professional jazz musician.

For more information, go to twitter.com/kirkwhalum.

Whalum's latest project is Promises Made, an all-star benefit album by The Millennium Promise Jazz Project Featuring Kirk Whalum.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 10:20 PM

October 3, 2008

Rare West Coast Appearance: Chieli Minucci and Special EFX

Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Photo provided by Chieli Munucci

Chieli 3 resized.jpgChieli & Special EFX
When: Friday, October 03, 2008, 8:00 pm
Where: Spaghetinni Grill & Jazz Club
3005 Old Ranch Parkway
Seal Beach, CA 90740

Don’t miss a rare West Coast performance by Chieli Minucci and Special EFX at Spaghetinni in Seal Beach. Chieli is Smooth Jazz’ most musically diverse guitarist and Special EFX is Smooth Jazz’ most prolific band, with a combined 23 cd’s released since 1982. Minucci & Special EFX are beyond sensational with a vast repertoire of musical styles from pop to rock to all genres of jazz. Although Spaghetinni’s always presents good musical talent, Chieli and Special EFX are the “best of the best” and this show is sure to be the performance of the year at Spaghetinni’s. Therefore, early arrival and reservations are highly suggested.

Chieli will also be performing this weekend at the 18th Annual Jazz at Drew Festival.

Chieli Minucci special appearance w/the Karen Briggs All Star Band
(Mike Phillips, Vesta, Loose Ends, Lao Tizer & Sheryl Lee Ralph)

When: Sunday, October 5, 2008
Gates open at noon, Concert Begins at 1:00 pm
Where: Jazz at Drew
Charles Drew University Campus
1731 East 120th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90059
323.563.9690 - ticketmaster

The Jazz at Drew festival goers should get permission slips from their doctors before they attend Sunday’s show. And, anyone with a weak heart should avoid the Karen Briggs All Star Band. Just thinking about each individual artist in her all star line-up gives me heart palpitations……Karen Briggs….tick, tick, tick,…..Mike Phillips….tick, tick, tick,….Loose Ends….tick, tick, tick,…Chieli Minucci….tick, tick, tick….Lao Tizer….tick, tick, tick., ….Vesta…….kaboom! I just can’t imagine how they are going to keep the crowd under control once all of these mega-hyper performers descend upon the stage.

Also performing at Jazz at Drew:

Saturday, October 4, 2008
Les Mc Cann featuring Javon Jackson; Jeff Lorber ; Poncho Sanchez; The Wallace Roney Quintet; Nate Morgan’s Swinging ‘N Exile; Renaissance, Karen Brigss All Star Band (Mike Phillips, Chieli Minucci, Vesta, Lao Tizer, Loose Ends, Sheryl Lee Ralph

Sunday, October 5, 2008
Chrisette Michele; Third World; The Chi-Lites; Ricky Minor Band & Friends; Malcolm Jamal Warner’s Miles Long & LA Multi-School Hip Hop Orchestra; Latin Jazz All Stars (Pete Escovedo, Steve Turre, Ray Vega, David Valentine, Yunior Terry, Artuo O’Farril, Phoenix Rivera, & Chembo Corneil); Jazz at Drew All Stars featuring Leon James & Jabari Betts.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 6:14 PM