December 30, 2008

Dave Koz On A Float For Rose Parade

Guess who is performing with past celebrities and cast members in the Dancing With The Stars float during the nationally televised Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena? If you’re thinking Dave Koz, you guessed right.

Koz is a confirmed fan of ABC’s reality series and has even attended live shows. And it just so happens that Cloris Leachman, a contestant during the last season, is the Grand Marshal of this year’s Rose Parade. Koz, who just concluded his annual Dave Koz & Friends Christmas tour, says he’s going to make sure to get plenty of sleep the night before.

The annual Rose Parade, first staged in the late 1800s to showcase the mild Southern California winter weather, is now in its 120th year and will be televised live on Jan. 1 at 8 a.m. Pacific time. The parade, whose theme this year is Hats Off to Entertainment, will be broadcast on ABC, NBC, Univision, HGTV and the Travel Channel, among others, and will also been seen in more than 200 international territories.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 12:34 AM

December 29, 2008

Darren Rahn -- Once In a Lifetime

Once In a Lifetime is a smooth jazz gem that completely slipped under my radar, as it’s been around now for a year. Saxman Darren Rahn (who is actually quite the all-around musician, proficiently switching off to bass, keys, and drum programming when and where he deems it necessary) is joined here by some familiar heavyweights and fellow comrades in the form of Dave Koz, Wayman Tisdale, and Jeff Lorber. What they add to this already sassy project begs to be personally witnessed.

This young man has done wonders in terms of stepping in and implanting himself in this glorious arena of smoothness. His work can be heard on such smashes as Tisdale’s “Way Up,” “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” and “Get Down On It.” From what I hear, his headline performance at the 2006 Catalina Jazz Festival was of the stuff smooth jazzers crave. If this latest release is any indication of that, I’m a believer!

Thirteen of the 14 cuts here were written by Rahn (now, that’s originality in a form I can truly appreciate!), and the one cover, “Take My Breath Away,” is so masterfully undertaken that he can proudly claim the style as his own without reservation. From cuts so slick with groove and swagger like the opening track to the soulful, whispery, let-me-massage-your-soul pieces like “A Greater Love” and “Heartbreak” to funky movers like “On the Rebound” with Tisdale’s tell-tale bass lines and the popping, melodic “Groove Du Jour” (perhaps my favorite--well, next to “A Greater Love” or maybe…oh, you get the picture).

The deeper you go into this album, the more difficult it becomes to pull away, as each cut is just a delectable precursor to the next. Rahn has tapped into something musically special here…himself. Grab a listen.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 10:27 PM

December 28, 2008

The Secret Garden Top Ten Covers Of 2008

The smooth jazz cover has, in recent years, become something of an art form. Far removed from a straight forward copy of another artists work, these re-imaginings have breathed new life into music that, typically, originated in the classic soul era of the 60’s and 70’s. Even these boundaries have, of late, been frayed so, by way of paying homage to the very best that this sub genre has to offer, here is my very personal choice of Secret Garden Top Ten Covers of 2008.

‘I Stand Accused’ by Gerald Albright from the CD Sax For Stax. Albright takes this spine tingling Isaac Hayes classic and makes it entirely his own. The original, from the Isaac Hayes Movement, was an eleven minute plus odyssey but here Albright condenses it into the sexiest five minutes of instrumental R & B you will hear anywhere.

‘She’s Gone’ by Bradley Leighton from the CD Soul Collective. This Hall and Oates smash finds flautist Leighton in collaboration with sax icon Tom Scott to incredible effect. The fact that the tune generates a luscious horn driven warmth is due in no small part to the excellent trumpet and trombone of former Tower of Power mainstay Mic Gillette.

Read on for the remainder of this year’s top ten covers.

‘September’ by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band from the CD Act Your Age. The band’s spectacular take on Earth Wind and Fire’s seminal ‘September’ features Lee Ritenour on guitar and the wonderful Patti Austin on vocals. Quite simply it has never sounded better.

‘Holding Back The Years’ by Al Williams from the CD Heart Song. This beautiful rendition of the Simply Red worldwide hit ‘Holding Back the Years’ demonstrates to perfection the melody filled finesse of this ultra smooth saxophonist.

‘Let’s Stay Together’ by guitarist Jim Adkins from his CD City Streets. The way Adkins caresses this Al Green anthem into a tranquil delight is totally indicative of his art.

‘Whole Lotta’ by Don Immel from the album Long Way Home. Something of a show stealer, this slow and sultry overhaul of the Led Zeppelin classic is a joy from beginning to end. As the exquisite singing voice of Chandray Moore weaves its special magic the initial trepidation experienced by seeing a Zeppelin number on the track listing is quickly dispelled.

‘Imagine’ by Danny Lerman from his CD Meow Baby. Paul Jackson Jr leads the way on guitar, Bobby Lyle is on keys, Larry Kimpell plays bass and with picture perfect backing vocals by Lynne Fiddmont and Kenya Hathaway this soulful interpretation of John Lennon’s timeless song checks all the right boxes. Howard Hewitt on lead vocals is nothing short of awesome.

‘Mountain Dance’ by David Benoit from his homage to his own musical greats, Heroes. Given how the music of Dave Grusin impacted my own contemporary jazz education and the fact that ‘Mountain Dance’ is the theme tune to one my all time favourite movies (Falling In Love starring Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep), the inclusion of this one was never in doubt.

‘Can You Stand The Rain’ by Roger Smith from the CD Sittin’ In. It’s always elating when Tower of Power keyboard player Roger Smith releases a solo album and this sensitive song that originates from First Edition’s 1988 release Heartbreak fits his soulful style to perfection.

‘End Of The Road’ by Michael Manson from the album Up Front. Manson turns to sax man (and fellow Chicago cat) Steve Cole for his tender version of this ‘Babyface’ Edmonds tune. It’s a track where Manson proves he can play mellow bass with the best of them and, when the full sounding vocals of the soulful chorus kick in, it is obvious he has created a dazzling example of smooth R & B.

Well, that was my top ten! If you have your own list of favorite covers from 2008 why not e-mail it to me at denis.poole@yahoo.com. Happy New Year!!

Posted by Denis Poole at 10:43 AM

December 23, 2008

Spyro Gyra -- A Night Before Christmas

Veteran contemporary jazz group Spyro Gyra is parading its signature form on some of the most splendid and admired traditional Christmas classics, as well as more modern holiday compositions, on its latest, A Night Before Christmas. This memorable collection features, of course, the masterful sax work of musical powerhouse Jay Beckenstein, as well as the genius of all of the other shining stars in this immortal union that we’ve enjoyed for decades in varying forms of membership.

From the telling sax on “O Tannebaum” to the bluesy, crystal clear vocals of Christine Ebersol on “It Won’t Feel Like Christmas” to so many of the traditional tunes transformed here by the magic of this group’s interpretations, this is one of those albums you can proudly add to your library, dig out year after year, and hear for the very first time every time.

Everything Beckenstein and his group has ever embarked upon smacks of meticulous and painstaking attention to detail while ensuring that it’s an enjoyable experience not just for fans, but for the group itself. A Night Before Christmas is no exception.

If I had to single out my favorites here, I’d have to include all of the bluesier cuts like the aforementioned “It Won’t Feel Like Christmas,” as well as “Christmas Time Is Here,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (I’ve always so loved this piece with its cool dialogue!), and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Of course, the handling of the older, more traditional cuts like “Winter Wonderland,” “The First Noel,” and “The Christmas Song” is certainly replete with that extraordinarily smooth style and manner claimed solely by Spyro Gyra. Speaking of "The Christmas Song," this is an absolutely appropriate finale, highlighted by colorful drummer Bonny B's ever-buoyant vocals--including just marvelous scat work!

This is Spyro Gyra. Plain and simple. For those of us who live in the colder climates and experience the winter season, nothing says Christmas like a warm offering from one of the true smooth/contemporary jazz mainstays. To those in warmer climates, this one will add that touch of coolness when and where needed. In either case, grab this one, either get nestled near the fireplace, or just hang out enjoying the warm sun, and have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 5:43 PM

December 22, 2008

What We're Listening To ** December

P E T E R * B O E H I

NuGroove Records: Grooves For The Season (2008)
Sold via the label's website and Circuit City, this truly groovy selection of Christmas carols played by the label's roster of artists (Jay Soto, Gail Jhonson, Michael Lington, Bob Baldwin, Steve Oliver, Michael Manson, Shilts and more) delivers some very fine music which is just perfect for this time of the year. Dance around the Christmas tree!

Dotsero - A Season Of Wonder (2008)
This contemporary jazz band from Denver, CO comes up with a great holiday album featuring the band grooving over some really hot arrangements, they are one of my favorite bands and this CD has been a welcome addition to my holiday albums. The packaging will put a smile on your face!

Don Immel - Long Way Home (2008)
Trombone player Don Immel floored me with this ultra-smooth and polished album, offering cool grooves and nice playing, his slowed down and chilled version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" has to be heard to be believed. Very recommended!

Alex Lattimore - Promise (2008)
Singer Alex Lattimore has a velvety voice reminiscent of Will Downing going down like sweet wine, the music is laid-back, jazzy and very classy, an absolute gem that stands out and makes you feel good. This one will caress your soul!

Hagood Hardy Orchestra - Mystic Morning (1985)
As usual a nod to the past with this Japan-only LP from 1985 by pianist Hagood Hardy who delivers a lush, laid-back orchestral album with crystal clear production and flawless playing by the jazzy band. If you like the Belair Strings, this one will be right up your alley!

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

Grady Nichols, Take Me With You (Grady Nichols): The Oklahoma saxophonist returns with another strong effort.

Incognito, More Tales Remixed (Heads Up): A groovin' time will be had by all.

Eldredge Jackson, Listening Pleasure (JEA): The CD by the saxophonist is produced by Wayman Tisdale.

Jeff Lorber, Heard That (Peak): Funky stuff from the keys master.

The Terry Disley Experience, The Jazzcracker & Other Delights (Disleyworld): Former Acoustic Alchemy pianist swings with the season.


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

J-Mood, A Midnight Clear (Blue Canoe Records) (2008)

BK Jackson, On The Move (bkjackson.com) (2008)

Jazz Crusaders, Kick The Jazz (Wmgw Records) (2008)

The Slow Club Quartet, Expressionism (2008)

Dotsero, A Season of Wonder (CinderblockRecords.com) (2008)


D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Overnight Success’ by Angie Whitney from the CD That’s What Love Is All About. Urban tinged, classically soulful and with a string arrangement that is stunning, this wondrous tune from vocalist Whitney has an intoxicating vibe and overall is destined to become one my top twenty tracks of the year.

‘Practice Makes Perfect’ by the sensational Dionyza from her debut album Quite Like Me. The daughter of legendary Motown singer-songwriters Michael and Brenda Sutton delivers a fresh takes on a melodic soul theme that really flows. In every respect it is a complete gem.

‘Golden Love Light’ by Pete Gitlin from his latest project Full Circle And The Great Temptation. Rolling atop a delicious mid tempo groove, and with vocals from keyboard player Rachel Eckroth that are really something special, this is without doubt the real smooth jazz deal.

‘Christmas Bells Medley’ by the outstanding DeNate from the nuGroove Christmas compilation Grooves For The Season. DeNate has been one of the finds of 2008 and here this fine duo of keyboard player Nate Harasim and vocalist Deborah Connors has never sounded better. Grooves For The Season is the best seasonal album of the year and makes you wish that Christmas could last forever.

Finally, for 2008, ‘Dove’ by Grady Nichols from his brand new album, Take Me With You. This tight and urgent rendition of the one of 2003’s best club classics takes contemporary jazz into an area where it might just engender a new generation of listeners. Sax-man Nichols looks to have a bright future.


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

The Rippingtons, 20th Anniversary, 2006.

Gerald Veasley, Your Move, 2008

Josh Groban, Live at the Greek, 2004

Basia, Sweetest Illusion, 1994

Jeff Golub, Dangerous Curves, 2000


R O N A L D * J A C K S O N

Oli Silk, The Limit's the Sky (Tripp N Rhythm Music): Can one have a more apropos name than Silk for some of the smoothest, tightest keyboard jazz combined with solidly “toothy” funk? Find it all here with Oli Silk’s latest, a continuing voyage along the sea of quality.

Les Sabler, Sweet Drive (The Music Force Media Group): Cool, vibrant guitar licks and chords highlight this worthy project by seasoned guitarist Les Sabler who’s brought in a host of smooth jazz luminaries like Eric Marienthal, Jeff Lorber, Brian Bromberg, just to name a few, to help with the tasty ingredients for this magnificent recipe of aural treats.

The Quiet Storm Players, After Hours (Calvin Records): Sweet, relaxing covers from a duo that obviously has more than a finger on the heartbeat and soul of smooth jazz. Some Sade tunes are included and well-represented here, as are selections from Earth, Wind & Fire, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and the Isley Brothers. This album, soaked in romance, will surely stoke the fires of love.

Brian Oneal, Daisy (BCO Media): Keyboardist Brian Oneal ushers in a generous set of 14 original “smoothers” for your listening pleasure. If melody is your thing, you’ll certainly find it here in abundance. Each tune is carved out in catchy hooks and finesse that is guaranteed to find favor among even the most discriminating tastes.

Jason Miles, Soul Summit (Shananchie Records): This live soulful extravaganza, presented here by the man who brought us back-to-back tasteful tributes to the late great Grover Washington, Jr., takes place at the Berks Jazz Fest. It features great covers of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, and others. It receives contributions from many of our most notable artists, including the graceful Maysa, sax giant Richard Elliott, and Susan Tedechi. Jason Miles is clearly on a roll!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:00 PM

December 21, 2008

Grady Nichols - Take Me With You

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. Grady Nichols cites his upbringing in rural Arkansas as the reason why he got into smooth jazz. He fell in love with the instrumental music that he heard played on the Weather Channel and contacted the broadcaster for its play list. Now, a few years and five solo albums later the rest, as they say, is history. Nichols latest offering is the eclectic Take Me With You which looks set to cement his position as one of the best young saxophonists around. It includes notable contributions from Jeff Lorber and is, in every respect, the real contemporary jazz deal.

A case in point is the hugely accessible title track that features vocals from Jenny Labow. It has a catchiness about it that is compelling and when, later in the album, it is reprised as a ‘house mix’ the result is equally good. Take Me With You strikes a nice blend of original music and well crafted covers. Among the latter is the tender interpretation of the Robert Palmer classic ‘Every Kind Of People’ that is built around a picture perfect vocal from Leigh Nash and is, without doubt, a clear contender for ‘best cover version of the year’. Right up there with it is Nichol’s turned down instrumental take on Kylie Minogue’s hypnotic ‘Cant Get You Out Of My Head’ and when Nichols switches to his own compositions he comes up with ‘Nashville’ which has appropriately ‘country’ undertones, a pleasant melody and good smooth jazz credentials.

‘Bad Attitude’ offers up more edgy mid tempo jazz sax that drives to a thumping crescendo while in complete contrast is the thoughtful ‘Slow Motion’. Here Nichols is perhaps closest to discovering a mellow vibe but he does not stay there as with ‘Ascent (Something For The Common Man)’ he delivers a number that is in the best traditions of ‘feel good’ jazz anthems. It’s the sort of tune that is sure to delight legions of festival goers in the coming year and another winner comes in the form of ‘After The Rain’ which is blessed by soulful and uplifting vocals from Tony Mason. One of three collaborations that Nichols enjoys with Jeff Lorber it is, in this regard, in the company of the zesty ‘Runaway’ for which Lorber makes a significant contribution on keyboards and also ‘Give Love’ where down and dirty vocals from Toni Estes sets the scene for a jazzily funky concoction.

‘Bellisimo’ is a wonderful chunk of textbook mid tempo smooth jazz with a nice vibe and a title that describes it to perfection whilst even better, and Secret Garden selection for ‘album’s best track’, is ‘Dove’. This tight and urgent rendition of what was one of the best club classics of 2003 takes contemporary jazz into an area where it might just engender a new generation of listeners.

Grady Nichols has already been described by no less than Jeff Lorber as “the awesome new sax-star for a new millennium”. With Take Me With You he is one step closer to making that a reality.

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 6:26 PM

December 18, 2008

Millienium Promise Jazz Project feat. Kirk Whalum -- Promises Made

As can always be expected from the illustrious saxman from Memphis, Kirk Whalum, along with other artists performing under the pseudonym, The Millennium Promise Jazz Project, delivers another very creative blockbuster here with the release of Promises Made. This effort is part of a most promising fundraiser to combat extreme poverty, hunger and disease. Specifically, the proceeds from this album heavy with nostalgia are being channeled to Africans in need of essential survival tools. Now, how many of you did not expect such a humanitarian gesture from one whose spirituality and generous soul would allow him to do no less? Also, for those who didn’t know, Whalum is spelled
C-L-A-S-S.

On May 15th, 2008, the Lincoln Center event came off proudly and without a hitch, and the evidence of Whalum’s unwillingness to ever fade into obscurity in any way is emphatically presented here on this marvelous, Whalum-style smooth undertaking.

The album features classics like “Stand By Me,”“Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” “People Get Ready,” “I’ll Take You There”and “War,” among some other delectable hits. As The Millennium Promise Jazz Project, Whalum is joined here by guitarist Earl Klugh, pianist Takana Miyamoto, Take 6 and keyboardist/producer extraordinaire George Duke. Lineups like this simply command attention. The attraction here is not just Whalum's ever-effervescent and oft bluesy playing style, but the sheer innovativeness with which he approached this recording. It’s as if you are hearing many of these for the very first time. Only one as talented as Whalum can pull this off time and time again with his tell-tale soulful sax and the bevy of formidable gospel-style vocalists.

To say that this recording should be a huge success, which probably has already happened, would be one of the biggest understatements of modern time. So it is that the prolific and always uplifting Kirk Whalum presents yet again another to be placed in his “masterpiece” column.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 2:59 AM

December 14, 2008

Brian Culbertson Rocks Vegas

Although it's kind of strange to say an artist rocks a town in the name of jazz, that's exactly what Brian Culbertson did to a packed house Friday night, December 12th, in the Railhead Showroom at the Boulder Station Hotel.

Other events this month will be Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performing a Christmas Concert at the Green Valley Ranch Resort on Friday, December 19th.

Long time resident, talented singer, and performer Clint Holmes, brings his blend of jazz, pop, and whatever he chooses, to the Suncoast Hotel for three nights, December 19-21.

The funkiness and jazz prowess of Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns keep the house vibin' at the Palms Hotel every Monday night.

Local jazz favorite, The Killer Groove Band, is taking off December to record their very first album together. The band features saxophonist Rocky Gordon, a solid recording artist in his own rite, along with members Kelly Dorn, Mitchell Pappas, Robert Ferguson, and Randy Fisher.

Posted by Danny Desart at 8:49 PM

December 13, 2008

Tim Bowman -- Tim Bowman

The satiny guitar of Tim Bowman just keeps getting better with each magnificently melodic release. His latest-- self-titled—is so palatable that it takes a real effort to stop playing it and move on to something else. It’s that magnetic. The effortless riffs and clear, cool, bright chords have always pierced the fabric of a Bowman tune in a way that clearly defines and distinguishes this very polished guitarist time and again. This release is certainly no exception.

We get an extra treat in the form of splendid vocals from his son, Tim Bowman, Jr. The passion and enjoyment is clearly evident in his contribution. The musical genes in the Bowman family must be of unspeakable dimensions!

Add to that the contributions from the one and only charismatic saxman Kirk Whalum, keyboard mastermind Jeff Lorber, and brother Bryan Bowman (also on keys), not to mention all of the other heavyweight cohorts like Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub, Najee, Nate Phillips, and Freddy Fox, and you’ve got one of those explosive, can’t-miss, straight shooting projects that’s bound for the outer spheres of the universe. Appeal, form, structure, phrasing, originality, and just a plain pleasure to enjoy, this Tim Bowman project, like all of his projects before it, will hit the spot.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 7:45 PM

Marcus Miller -- Marcus

One of the most electrifying and prolific—not to mention monumentally talented-- bassist/producers in the business, has stepped forward with yet another resoundingly creative and superior release in Marcus.

Marcus Miller definitely needs no introduction. Even novices have certainly heard the name floated about in conversation about musical innovators and key playmakers. His list of accomplishments and liaisons is too extensive to tackle here and now, but trust me when I say that, if you’ve heard or seen a prominent jazz or R&B musician, he or she has probably had some direct or indirect association with this master of the bottom. Well-traveled, accomplished, and gifted are terms that are simply too mild to adequately describe Miller.

The CD, Marcus, comes with so much energy and creativity that you’re practically overwhelmed with it all right from the beginning. Case in point: You will be very hard-pressed to identify a tune with more intensity, hot chops, and super-cool hooks than the opening track, “Blast!” Still, listen further--as you most assuredly will--and there will be tunes competing for your attention beyond this torrid opener.

Try his crafty and flawless covers of “Free,” with sweet vocals provided by Corinne Bailey Rae, Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” a smooth bass clarinet version of “When I Fall In Love,” and renditions of Robin Thicke’s “Lost Without U” and Tower of Power’s “What Is Hip?” Then, tackle the originals like “Funk Joint,” Pluck,” “Milky Way,” and “Strum.” Diverse offerings are not new to contemporary or fusion jazz, but never have they been offered with more fire, soul, touch, and ingenuity. There are conventional (and not-so-conventional) guitarists, both aspiring and well-established, who will marvel at the funk-loaded licks. No wonder he has been admiringly dubbed by peers as the “Thumbslinger!”

If you’ve not had the profound pleasure of owning one of Miller’s creations, grab this one and feel the pull, the drive, the unparalleled heat of funk. I should think that you will find it difficult to deny any understanding as to why the man has the following he has. Will you be among them? I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that one if you enjoy music with both power and class.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 7:37 PM

Jim Adkins -- City Streets

Jim Adkins is one of those gifted, quality musicians whose guitar has that calming tendency while losing none of the tell-tale soulful yet subtle funk that’s often intermixed in smooth jazz in varying degrees. Adkins has the right formula for the mix, and it works every time for me. With a magnetic style, beckoning hooks, and high-end melodies, he is noted for stroking the notes of a well-constructed chord as if he were stroking a delicate flower or a lovely woman. On his latest project, City Streets, the highs, the lows, the midrange are all perfectly calibrated and send forth such magical tone that it’s no wonder that this guy stays at the top of his game with each recording.

City Streets is truly a continuation of Adkins’ clear insight and vision with respect to the smoothest of jazz guitar. The title and opening track is very indicative of the ride he will engineer when you hear this. This is all so cool-air refreshing, such that it will melt away your cares if only for the lilting time you spend with this recording. You almost have to set aside some Jim Adkins time each day to put things in proper perspective and maybe realize that there is a positive solution to whatever bugs you in your life at the moment.

There are several cuts here to absolutely love (I couldn’t find one that begged exception). However, one that simply mesmerized me was “Mystic Vista,” which carries such a heady exoticism about it, even in its moderate tempo cadence, because of its eloquently structured melody, hook, and riffs. In one word: Wow! Then again, you’ll find plenty on this set that strive to rival it, and, in the opinions of many of you, some cuts will rival it.

In my eyes, Jim Adkins has easily established himself as a serious force in this genre. In the eyes of his colleagues and fans, he definitely should be there. For smooth jazzers who’ve yet to experience him, I’m sure you will easily place him there after one good listen. Grab this one and covet it as a masterful production from a masterful artist who obviously aims to please.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 7:31 PM

December 12, 2008

2008's Best Smooth Jazz CDs

Just my opinion. But of the hundreds of CDs I listened to in 2008, here is a list of some of the best smooth jazz CDs of 2008.

1. Ken Navarro, The Grace of Summer Light (Positive): Spellbinding homage to Pat Metheny.
2. Earl Klugh, The Spice of Life (Koch): Sweet nylon-string guitar.
3. Chris Standring, Love & Paragraphs (Ultimate Vibes): No one has better hooks. He's at the top of his game.
4. Fourplay, Energy (Heads Up): Consistently strong.
5. Jeff Lorber, Heard That (Peak): Jam music for fans.
6. Wayman Tisdale, Rebound (Rendezvous): Melodic, memorable.
7. Denny Jiosa, Dreams Like This (Sonic Canvas): Creative genius from an incredible guitarist.
8. Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra, The Scent of Light (SSRI): Strongest effort in years.
9. Jessy J, Tequila Moon (Peak): Great saxophone/vocal debut.
10. Jamhunters, Music Speaks Louder Than Words (Gateway): Chill/smooth mixture extraordinaire.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:12 AM

December 10, 2008

Chuck Loeb Scales Back For Upcoming CD

Smooth jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb has completed a new CD titled Between 2 Worlds that was recorded in New York and Berlin. Loeb says the CD dispenses with much of the technology of his previous recordings and instead focuses on the basic trio of guitar, bass and drums. But he does get contributions from smooth jazz superstars, including Brian Culbertson, who has a trombone solo, and saxophonist Eric Marienthal, as well as trumpeter Till Bronner and bassists Gerald Veasley and Will Lee.

The CD also features vocal contributions from Loeb’s wife, Carmen Cuesta, and daughter, Lizzy Loeb. Titles include the cover track and James Taylor's “Mean Old Man,” as well as “Let’s Go,” “Mittens,” “Let’s Play” and “Hiram,” the latter a tribute to the late guitarist Hiram Bullock. In addition, the song “360” is dedicated to fellow guitarist Pat Metheny.

Between 2 Worlds will be released by Heads Up on March 24.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:01 PM

December 7, 2008

nuGroove Records - Grooves For The Season

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. Throughout 2008, and almost unnoticed, the resurgent nuGroove Records has been building a roster of artists that, quite simply, is representative of the hottest up and coming smooth jazz talent around. If anyone is in any doubt about this then look no further than nuGroove’s brand new holiday sampler Grooves For The Season that is available exclusively from Circuit City. Not only does this exciting yuletide offering embrace the natural fit that contemporary jazz has with seasonal music but also shows off the remarkable line-up of ‘A List’ players the label now boasts.

In this respect there is none better than saxophonist Michael Lington and his sophisticated rendition of ‘Silent Night’. It has a vibe that transcends Christmas music and much the same can be said for the funk fortified ‘We Three Kings’ which gives guitar player Jay Soto the chance to provide a welcome reminder of why his radio hit ‘Slammin’ stayed on the chart for no less than 42 weeks. The ultra cool playing of Dee Brown fits his medley of ‘Hark The Herald Angels’ and ‘Sleigh-Ride’ to perfection while when Bob Baldwin segues ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Behold Him’ into one delicious combination, the result, unsurprisingly, is stunning.

Wonderful guitar from Steve Oliver provides a spine tingling take on the classic ‘Carol Of The Bells’ and Smooth Jazz Therapy favourite Gail Jhonson is at her usual immaculate best with ‘Come All Ye Faithful’. J Dee (he of ‘Trippin On The Edge Of Funk’) makes ‘We Three Kings’ sound appropriately groovy and its more sax, this time from the excellent Andre Delano, that lights up the superb ‘Jolly Old St. Nicholas’. Bass-man extraordinaire Michael Manson doesn’t disappoint with the beautifully sensitive ‘Angels Serenade’ while ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’ is in the funkily capable hands of shooting star Darren Rahn. He has been on of nuGroove’s most significant signings and in this respect he is in the good company of ex Down To The Bone front-man Shilts. In contrast to his usual ‘in your face’ style he handles ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ with great reverence and delivers what in most situations would be the album’s best track. However, just shading it is the ‘Christmas Bells Medley’ from the outstanding DeNate. Of course DeNate has been one of the finds of 2008 and here this fine duo of keyboard player Nate Harasim and vocalist Deborah Connors has never sounded better.

Grooves For The Season is the sort of album that makes you want Christmas to come early. Be good to yourself, buy the CD, light a roaring fire and enjoy.

For more go to www.thenugroove.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 6:44 PM

December 5, 2008

Berks Jazz Fest 2009 Artists Receive Grammy Nods

Here is the latest news release from the Berks Arts Council regarding the Berks Jazz Fest. VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest will feature performances by a few artists who have received Grammy nominations. The 19th edition of the festival, which runs March 27 through April 5, 2009, features more than 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, Pa.

READING, PA -- December 4 -- Several artists scheduled to perform at the 2009 VF Outlet Berks Jazz fest received Grammy Award nominations on December 3, 2008.

Gerald Albright, Randy Brecker, Bela Fleck and Take 6 are among the nominees for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, being telecast live Feb. 8, 2009 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Gerald Albright is nominated in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for his June 2008 Peak Records release Sax for Stax.

He will be performing his Sax for Stax show at the festival with Kirk Whalum on Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 2 p.m. in the Reading Crowne Hotel Ballroom (formerly known as the Sheraton Reading Hotel).

In 2008, Albright celebrated two key anniversaries a year late with the release of his on-fire, classic funk and soul-kissed second Peak Records disc Sax For Stax. 2007 marked 20 years since he burst onto the contemporary urban jazz scene with his debut Just Between Us. It was also the year that Stax Records, now part of the Concord Records family, celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Randy Brecker scored a nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album with Randy in Brasil, his September release with Mama Records.

Brecker will be performing with Metro, featuring Chuck Loeb, Mitch Forman, Dave Weckl, Gerald Veasley and Bobby Franceschini on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Reading Crowne Hotel.

Perhaps best known for his influential and groundbreaking work with his saxophonist brother Michael — collectively known as The Brecker Brothers — Brecker has been shaping the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than three decades, gracing hundreds of albums by everyone from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Chaka Khan to George Benson, Frank Zappa and Steely Dan.

Legendary banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, who is bringing the world premiere of Bela Fleck: The Africa Project to the festival on Monday, March 30, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. at the Miller Center for the Arts, has been nominated as part of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones for two categories: Best Pop Instrumental Album for their latest release Jingle All the Way on the Rounder label; and Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Sleigh Ride," a track from Jingle All the Way.

Often considered the premier banjo player in the world, Fleck is the winner of eight Grammy Awards and has been nominated 20 times in more categories than anyone in history: country, pop, jazz, bluegrass, classical, folk, spoken word, composition and arranging. Over the years, Fleck has shared Grammy wins with Asleep at the Wheel, Alison Brown and Edgar Meyer.

Take 6 has been nominated for Best Gospel Performance for "Shall We Gather At the River," a track from their recent Heads Up International release, The Standard. With its roots in gospel, doo wop and the sophisticated jazz-influenced singing groups of mid-century America like the Hi-Los, the eight-time Grammy-winning a cappella vocal group Take 6 is both a throwback to an earlier, more genteel era of American music and a precursor for a number of male pop groups of the ’90s and 2000s. Its members currently include David Thomas, Alvin Chea, Cedric Dent, Mark Kibble, Claude V. McKnight III and Joey Kibble (who replaced Mervyn Warren).

Take 6 will be joined by Wayman Tisdale for a smooth and soulful show Sunday, March 29, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

To order tickets**:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Order online at berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived releases, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org.

**Please note that tickets for events at the Reading Crowne Hotel (formerly the Sheraton Hotel Reading) will show the Plaza Reading Hotel as the venue. The correct venue title for these events will be the Reading Crowne Hotel effective January 1st, 2009.

Beth Renfro
Berks Arts Council
Reading, PA 19603
www.berksarts.org

Here's hoping you get to see every one of the Grammy nominees during the Berks Jazz Fest!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:18 AM

December 1, 2008

Stars shine bright at VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

PagodaBerks.jpgBerks Arts Council has announced the artists lineup for the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, to be held March 27th through April 5th, 2009. The 19th edition of the festival features more than 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, Pa.

The 19th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 27 through April 5 and will bring to fans a wide array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, soul, blues, big band and one-of-a-kind ensemble shows. Shows are held at major venues as well as intimate club and restaurant settings, making it a rather unique 10-day festival.

Featured artists at this year's festival include veteran stars Peter White and Mindi Abair; the world premiere concert of Bela Fleck: The Africa Project; superstar saxman Boney James; festival favorite Brian Culbertson; the Sax for Stax duo of Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum; urban pop/jazz ensembles Average White Band and Pieces of a Dream; world-renowned bassist Victor Wooten; powerful and moving vocalist Phoebe Snow; the Sax Pack of Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters; piano-based McCoy Tyner Quartet; festival veterans Joe McBride and Kenny Blake; guitarist extraordinaire Chieli Minucci & Special EFX.

Fans also can enjoy the soulful sounds of Take 6 plus Wayman Tisdale; pianist David Benoit and saxman Warren Hill; renowned saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen; the acclaimed Tierney Sutton Band; the Brian Bromberg Quartet; steel pan master Andy Narell and the Cantonsville High Steel Drum Band; Tim Price, Rachel Z and the Department of Good and Evil; and Nelson Rangell with the Reading Pops Orchestra performing My American Songbook. The festival finale features Jazz Attack with the always-entertaining Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and Jonathan Butler.

Blues is back in abundance at the 2009 Berks Jazz Fest, with two Severn Soul & Blues Revues, featuring Steve Guyger, Big Joe Maher, Tad Robinson, Roy Tyler and New Directions, and the Severn Records All-Star Band in the first show; and Clarence Spady, Darrell Nulisch, Lou Pride and the Severn Records All-Star Band rounding out the second show. Blues fans can also enjoy guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, The Billy Price Band featuring special guest Fred Chapellier; and The Derek Trucks Band.

Fusion fans will get their fill with all-stars Steve Smith & Vital Information; and veteran-led Metro, featuring festival favorite Chuck Loeb, Mitch Forman, Dave Weckl, Randy Brecker, Gerald Veasley and Bobby Franceschini.

Great ensemble and tribute shows offer unique musical experiences to all fans this year.

Soul Summit II, presented by Jason Miles, features soul-drenched music and an all-star lineup with Maysa, Simone, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, Bob Babbitt, Reggie Young, and Steve Ferrone plus the Soul Survivors.

East Bay Soul brings the funk and R&B with Greg Adams, Phil Perry, Michael Paulo, Lee Thornburg plus the Joyce Cooling Band.

Artists paying tribute to some of music's greats include the Gerald Veasley Band celebrating the Music of Stevie Wonder, with Najee, Nnenna Freelon, Joe McBride and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns in a fourth show televised live by WFMZ-TV Channel 69.

There is also the return of the very popular Rick Braun's Tribute to Chet Baker; and Bobby Lyle & Paul Jackson Jr. will have a tribute to Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery.

This year's festival has something for everyone, with smooth and straight-ahead jazz, smokin' blues, soulful singing, unique ensembles, rousing tributes and much, much more.

Tickets go on sale Saturday, Dec. 6, at 10 a.m.

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading
Visit the Sovereign Performing Arts Center Box Office, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 215-336-2000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Order online at berksjazzfest.com

For more information on the festival, including artist bios and archived releases, click on www.berksjazzfest.com
For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes all the arts in an effort to enrich the quality of life in Berks County, click on www.berksarts.org.

Major Ticketed Events
Friday, March 27 -- The Tierney Sutton Band, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Friday, March 27 -- Peter White and Mindi Abair, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49
Friday, March 27 -- Severn Records Presents: Severn Soul & Blues Revue featuring Steve Guyger, Big Joe Maher, Tad Robinson, Roy Tyler and New Directions, and the Severn Records All-Star Band, Inn at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $38

Friday, March 27 -- Joe McBride & Kenny Blake, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Jazz Cabaret, 10 p.m., $20
Friday, March 27 -- Victor Wooten, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39
Saturday, March 28 -- Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39
Saturday, March 28 -- The Music of Gershwin & Porter presented by Doc Mulligan and Friends, Miller Center for the Arts, 3 p.m., $18

Saturday, March 28 -- Steve Smith & Vital Information, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $30

Saturday, March 28 -- Brian Culbertson, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49
Saturday, March 28 -- Severn Records Presents: Severn Soul & Blues Revue featuring Clarence Spady, Darrell Nulisch, Lou Pride and the Severn Records All-Star Band, Inn at Reading, 7:30 p.m., $38

Saturday, March 28 -- Uptown JAZZUP featuring Erich Cawalla & Jen Kinder, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Jazz Cabaret, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, March 28 -- The Music of Stevie Wonder with Gerald Veasley Band with Najee, Nnenna Freelon, Joe McBride and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39

Sunday, March 29 -- Average White Band plus Pieces of a Dream, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39
Sunday, March 29 -- Anat Cohen, Miller Center for the Arts, 3 p.m., $28
Sunday, March 29, Take 6 plus Wayman Tisdale, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49
Monday , March 30 -- Bela Fleck: The Africa Project, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $45
Tuesday, March 31 -- Andy Narell and the Cantonsville High Steel Drum Band, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $20
Wednesday, April 1 -- Brian Bromberg Quartet, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m., $20
Wednesday, April 1 -- Joe Bonamassa, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $39
Thursday, April 2 -- Chieli Minucci & Special EFX with the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 7:30 p.m., $35

Thursday, April 2 -- Berks All-Star Jazz Jam featuring Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg, Chieli Minucci, Paul Jackson Jr., Dave Weckl, Bobby Lyle, Mitch Foreman, Kim Waters, Steve Cole, Jeff Kashiwa, Nelson Rangell and more, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $39

Friday, April 3 -- Bobby Lyle & Paul Jackson Jr., Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Friday, April 3 -- Jason Miles presents Soul Summit II featuring Maysa, Simone, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, Bob Babbit, Reggie Young, Steve Ferrone plus The Soul Survivors, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49

Friday, April 3 -- Phoebe Snow, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $45
Friday, April 3 -- The Billy Price Band featuring special guest Fred Chapellier, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $25

Friday, April 3 -- Tim Price & Rachel Z and the Department of Good and Evil, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Jazz Cabaret, 10 p.m., $15

Friday, April 3 -- The Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39

Saturday, April 4 -- East Bay Soul featuring Greg Adams, Phil Perry, Michael Paulo, Lee Thornburg plus Joyce Cooling Band, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39

Saturday, April 4 -- Metro featuring Chuck Loeb, Mitch Forman, Dave Weckl, Randy Brecker, Gerald Veasley, Bob Franceschini, Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Plaza Reading Hotel, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., $35

Saturday, April 4 -- Boney James, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7:30 p.m., $49
Saturday, April 4 -- McCoy Tyner Quartet, Miller Center for the Arts, 7:30 p.m., $45
Saturday, April 4 -- Rick Braun’s Tribute to Chet Baker, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Ballroom, 10 p.m., $35
Saturday, April 4 -- Tim Price & Rachel Z and the Department of Good and Evil, The Abraham Lincoln Hotel Jazz Cabaret, 10 p.m., $15

Saturday, April 4 -- The Derek Trucks Band, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 10:30 p.m., $39
Sunday, April 5 -- David Benoit plus Warren Hill, Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, 2 p.m., $39
Sunday, April 5 -- Nelson Rangell and the Reading Pops Orchestra, Miller Center for the Arts, 2 p.m., $40
Sunday, April 5 -- Jazz Attack featuring Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and Jonathan Butler, Scottish Rite Cathedral, 7 p.m., $49

Please note: The Sheraton Reading Hotel will become the Plaza Reading Hotel on Jan. 1. In this release, it is listed as the Plaza Reading Hotel.

I'm sure you'll agree the lineup is magnificent for this year's festival. Get your tickets and I hope to see you there!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, PA.
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 8:59 PM