March 31, 2009

U-Nam's "Unanimity" headed to stores on April 28

Paris-born guitarist U-Nam has opened the “funkgates” on his latest album, Unanimity, scheduled for release on April 28 on the Trippin N Rhythm record label. The drive on this project is so infectious that you can actually feel and visualize the energy spewing forth. The combination of R&B grooves, jazz runs, and the unmistakable funk factor give this one a running start toward the top of the charts.

The opening, rather atypical piece (at least from a jazz perspective), “Viva La Revolucion” is a slowly marching brief tune that is so clean, melodic, and universal in appeal, while “Funk-4-U-Nity” is one of those “down & dirty” jams that begs motion and calls for a clear understanding of just what funk is all about. Following that, the up-tempo and catchy “Shine On” is a hook-rich and soulful offering that’s sure to get a huge chunk of airplay. Then, there’s the highly electric, stratospherically-charged title track which just sizzles with the vibrancy of U-Nam’s Ibanez guitar coupled with superior and harmonic backing vocals.

Gathering together some superb help from master flutist/saxman Najee, Matt Rohde on Rhodes, and canary-like vocals from Marva King, as well as stellar support from his own group of fine musicians (Franck Sitbon on the Rhodes, piano, clavinet, organ, and backing vocals; Dennis Bennarosh on percussion; Mike White on drums; and a keenly sharp collection of horns and strings), U-Nam (who’s personally handling guitars, basses, and keys) puts forth a sterling effort here bound for the highest musical ground.

Getting back to the tunes offered here, there are worthy selections that evoke memories of tunes and artists past--as well as cuts that demonstrate U-Nam’s ability to compose, mold, and play quality original material. The hooks throughout are distinct, the melodies are refreshing and pleasurable, the alternately bluesy and lightning riffs and chops (e.g.,”4 Ever Urs” and “My Heart and Soul”) from U-Nam’s Ibanez are fluid and masterful, the bass lines are definitely bottom-heavy and chock full of funk, and the percussions and drums add that undeniable rhythm and “flava.”

There’s flash and an occasional surprise throughout this album. A case in point would be the moderately paced “Soul Boy Reincarnation,” which begins as a handsome arranged slice of smooth jazz and funk and ends up with a nod to some cool ragtime. Love it! Oh, and then there’s a cleverly arranged cut that, while original, offers a throw-back chorus reminiscent of my favorite R&B duo of all time, Sam & Dave, as snippets of “Hold On I’m Comin’” are heard in “(Hang On) U- Is Comin’.” I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Martha & The Vandellas monster oldie, “Dancing In The Streets,” as performed by the marvelous Marva King. Just try to sit this one out! Loving the mix between jazz and blues the way I do, I have to also tip my hat to the strollin’ “Losin’ My Mind.” Excellent work.

I tell you, one is truly in for a potpourri of listening treats with this project, as U-Nam sets out to truly provide the listener with some quality and diverse sounds. All in all, Unanimity is one of those productions that will enjoy a long, happy life everywhere smooth jazz and serious grooves are taken seriously.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 11:24 PM

March 30, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Take 6 / Wayman Tisdale

In the evening, we got the double bill of accapella vocal group Take 6, followed by bassist Wayman Tisdale & band, the concert took place at the Scottish Rite Cathedral and was tagged Smooth and Soulful.

The six male vocalists of Take 6 are masters of vocalese, the art form of just singing and using the voice to create sounds, that brought them 10 Grammies over the years. They did a very entertaining show, from gospel to rock to r&b, everything was covered in a convincing way. The audience was excited, especially the trip down memory lane where every member featured some of his favorite music of the past, yielded great renditions of songs by Michael Jackson, Boys To Men, The Doobie Brothers and Stevie Wonder. Apart of that, several originals by the group were performed that showed their unique vocal skills, leaving the audience in awe.

After a short intermission, it was time for bassist Wayman Tisdale to take the center stage. As you may know, Wayman Tisdale had been battling bone cancer for the past two years, he has completed therapy and is getting better now, but the disease has left its mark on him. He has visibly lost weight and needs a cane and an assistant to walk. He performed sitting, but all these handicaps didn't prevent him from delivering a great show backed by a top-notch band, among them bassist Andre Berry. He played many great covers of those "old school" songs like "Can't Hide Love", "Ain't No Stopping Us Now", "Get Down On It", a great funk-medley, among them "Fire", I also like the inclusion of a vocoder to his bass allowing him to communicate. Despite his physical problems, Wayman Tisdale proved that he is willing to play and continue to bring the music to his fans, providing another great show. I wish him all the best!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:59 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Pieces Of A Dream / Average White Band

Sunday afternoon we got the double ticket of Pieces Of A Dream and Average White Band as part of Smooth Jazz 92.7FM Listener Appreciation Day, an afternoon of music in front of a sold-out house at the Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom.

Pieces Of A Dream are veterans of the scene, they started their career with the help of mentor Grover Washington Jr. in the early 80's, and are still on the forefront of today's smooth jazz scene. The band is led by founding members Curtis Harmon on drums and James Lloyd on keyboards, plus members Eddie Baccus on sax, David Dyson on bass and - newest official member - Rohn Lawrence on guitar. They put on an energetic show, featuring material from their new CD, Soul Intent, like "Hindsight"; and, several classics, among them "Fo-Fi-Fo" and and a tribute to Grover Washington Jr., giving Eddie Baccus the opportunity to shine. They were joking around and had a good time, as did the capacity crowd. A Pieces Of A Dream concert is always an enjoyable experience, they deliver a powerful performance full of catchy melodies and superior playing, satisfying your smooth jazz expectations.

Next up were the Average White Band, originally hailing from Scotland with a career that started in the early 70's, yielding many classics. The band is fronted by original members Alan Gorrie on bass, guitar & lead vocals and Onnie McIntyre on guitar & vocals. The rest of the band underwent several changes over the years, the current lineup consists of Fred Vigdor on sax, Rocky Bryant on drums and the outstanding Klyde Jones on keyboards, guitar, bass & vocals. They quickly won over the crowd by starting the show with a short version of "Pick Up The Pieces", before exploring the large catalog of the band. Alan Gorrie really incorporates AWB for me with his voice and trademark bass playing, while the rhythm guitar of Onnie McIntyre anchored things. Freddie V really nails the sax parts down and delivered many great solos, but most notable player was Klyde Jones, who really added another dimension to the proceedings with his soulful singing, mean bass playing (during the parts of the show when Alan Gorrie picked up his guitar) and Benson-like guitar playing. The songs played ranged from "Cloudy" to "TLC", "Person To Person", "I'm The One" and - for the encore - the inevitable "Pick Up The Pieces" that added Eddie Baccus to the horn section, bringing the concert to a great end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 3:42 PM

March 29, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Gerald Veasley

The late night show Saturday night took place at the Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom, bassist Gerald Veasly and his band led an all-star cast through The Music Of Stevie Wonder, and they really stuck to the theme and exclusively played Stevie Wonder compositions, which yielded a very entertaining concert. They kicked off the show with "Do I Do" and "Don't You Worry Bout A Thing" featuring Chris Farr on sax, Gerald Veasley's regular sax player, who did a great job bringing the crowd up to speed. Then Joe McBride gave us a powerful rendition of "Higher Ground", followed by singer Nnenna Freelon, who sang three songs (among them "My Cherie Amour"), before Najee played "As" beautifully on flute -- he is such a great flautist. He also played the sax to a few more songs, before it was time for Gerald Veasley to shine, he showed his prowess on the instrument, pulling out all the stops, baffling the audience. I am always impressed with the impeccable technique of this great player. Together with Chris Farr and the band they brought the concert to its close, for the rousing encore they brought back Joe McBride and Najee to play "Superstition", which went down very well with the crowd. This song - among a few others - was ably supported by the four piece Berks Jazz Fest Horns.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:25 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Brian Culbertson

Brian Culbertson appeared Saturday evening at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, still Bringing Back The Funk, the same show which was brand new last year, and showed a lot of maturation in the meantime. The lineup changed a little, as guitarist Sheldon Reynolds was no longer in the band, and as a welcome return, his father Jim Culbertson on trumpet was back. While last year, I felt like as if i were hit by a truck when the band started, this year everything still was very funky and powerful, but much tighter and less stressful, and therefore more enjoyable. Most of the material played was from Bringing Back The Funk, but Brian also gave us plenty of his older smooth jazz material to keep the crowd happy, slowing things down for a while. I also enjoyed the horn battles when Brian on trombone chases his horn player around the stage. As usual, it was an energetic and fun show on the highest level, and the house rocked!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:23 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Kirk Whalum & Gerald Albright

Saturday early afternoon saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright celebrated the Sax For Stax, among other things on their show which took place in the Plaza Reading Hotel Ballroom (formerly the Sheraton). As they let us know during the show, they will spend the whole year touring the country and are prepared to bring their music to the fans. Some songs were performed in tandem, while on others they alternated as leaders. They were backed by a stellar band, among them bassist Melvin Davis and guitarist Gary Goin, providing the perfect background for them to shine. The gamut of songs was wide and reached from older classics out of their catalogs to more unexpected songs. Highlights were Gerald Albright's rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" and a lengthy tribute to the saxophonists who influenced them - from Cannonball Adderley to Maceo Parker - which not only was very entertaining, but also revealed the tremendous background of these artists. Both were in a great playing mood, the camaraderie was evident, and all involved - players and audience - had a great time.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:20 PM

March 28, 2009

Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Peter White & Mindi Abair

The 19th annual Berks Jazz Festival started with a bang with the concert by guitarist Peter White and saxophonist Mindi Abair. It was held Friday evening at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in front of a capacity crowd. The two artists played a lot together in past, especially during their holiday tour called "A Peter White Christmas" featuring Mindi Abair and Rick Braun, so their camaraderie was no suprise. They were backed by Mindi Abair's band, among them players like Andre Berry on bass and Rodney Lee on keyboards, doing a great job, with the guitar player adding some burning solos on electric guitar. Peter White gave us a selection of his well known hit songs and covers of r&b classics like Grover Washington Jr.'s "Mr. Magic", "I'll Be Around", The Temptations' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" or the Isley Brother's "Who's That Lady" and more; out of his own catalog, "Bueno Funk" was a sure hit with its alternating funk and slower parts, while Mindi Abair gave us "Lucy's" and the smashing "Flirt" which was the bomb! She also sang a couple of her pop songs, one just accompanied by Peter White's guitar. Mindi looked georgeous as always in a black mini dress, smoke black stockings and high leather boots playing her sax with conviction and enthusiasm, having the crowd in the palm of her hand. It was a great concert and a worthy opening of the Berks Jazz Festival with many greats concerts ahead of us!

Photo: Michael Packard

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:14 PM

March 27, 2009

Benefit Show For Ramsey Lewis Bassist

A benefit show for Cleveland Eaton, a former bassist with the Ramsey Lewis Trio who is featured on the hit songs “Wade in the Water” and “Hang On Sloopy,” will be held March 28 at the Open Door Café in Mountain Brook, Alabama. Eaton, who has been diagnosed with cancer, will himself perform during the evening, which will raise money for his medical costs.

Eaton, 69, performed on numerous CDs with Ramsey Lewis after replacing original member Eldee Young. If you’d like to help with a donation, you can visit Eaton’s website at

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:46 PM

What We're Listening To ** March

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

Chuck Loeb, Between 2 Worlds (Heads Up Music): Iconic guitarist Chuck Loeb's latest album, scheduled for release on March 24, is (as usual) illustrative and satisfying. Here, he embarks on a contemporary jazz/Latin/blues-laden voyage that spans both sides of the Atlantic, with recordings taking place in New York and Berlin.

Darren Rahn, Talk of the Town (NuGroove Records): Canadian-born Darren Rahn is the epitome of the success story many aspirants in the music business imagine for themselves. His grasp of the principle of disciplined hard work, coupled with the dedicated mastery of his art (via study at the University of Northern Colorado, resulting in him becoming a masters level jazz graduate) have reaped generous rewards for this artist in ways many can only hope to experience at some point in their lives. Here on Talk of the Town, his 3rd album, Rahn continues blazing that indelible trail of excellence.

Shaun Labelle, Desert Nights (Innervision Records): Veteran producer/multi-instrumentalist Shaun Labelle, at the urging of so many of his cohorts and others in the business -- particularly his close friend/”big brother,” saxman Everette Harp -- steps out of the shadows on this classy and funky “conversation” with listeners. Desert Nights sweats profusely and gyrates criminally as it takes its time to deliver as much aural sensations as possible.

Chris Standring, Love and Paragraphs (Ultimate Vibe): This 2008 release by Chris Standring clearly demonstrates that the guitarist has a style of playing that is both strong and precise, while not being overbearing. The crispness is immediately noticeable. What’s also noticeable is the melody on each piece. It’s consistently alive and discernible. Whether you’re in a foot-tapping mood or a reflective one, he has something that will catch you clean.

Kilauea, Diamond Collection (BrainChild Records): Here's an oldie (1995) that warrants revisiting. It contains hits from the band's first 4 albums and a couple of new compositions (well, "new" then). There is also a Diamond Collection 2 album, and I intend to reach back to grab that one, as well. Such tight, structured, and oh-so-smooth melodies were always such an integral component taken seriously by founder/Grammy award winner Daniel Ho and his entire group of classy musicians.

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

Boney James, Send One Your Love (Concord Records) (2009)

Smooth Players West, Souljazz Explosion (2006)

Players, Galaxy [IMPORT] (Sony / Bmg Japan) (2007)

The Motet, Music for Life (Harmonized) (2004)

Jeff Kashiwa, Back in the Day (Shanachie) (2009)

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

The Rippingtons, Modern Art (Peak)

Boney James, Send One Your Love (Concord)

Novello, B3 Soul (NuGroove)

Ronny Smith, Just Because (Pacific Coast Jazz)

Darren Rahn, Talk of the Town (NuGroove)

P E T E R * B O E H I

Darren Rahn - Talk Of The Town (2009)
Picture perfect smooth jazz by saxophonist Darren Rahn featuring some of the genre's best players like Jeff Lorber, Tim Bowman, Bob James and others. Excellent!

Marion Meadows - Secrets (2009)
Brand new release by smooth sax player Marion Meadows, this album is ultra-polished and goes down like sweet wine. Quality stuff!

Spyro Gyra - Down The Wire (2009)
After all these years Spyro Gyra still deliver top-notch contemporary jazz, this one is another strong album full of great tracks and superior musicianship. Don't miss it!

Jeff Cascaro - Mother And Brother (2008)
Some soulful singing over warm, contempo grooves featuring singer Jeff Cascaro, pushing all the right buttons sending you a shiver down your spine. Oozes class!

Lyman Woodard - Saturday Night Special (Wax Poetics Re-Release, 1975)
WaxPoetics re-release this sought after gem by organist Lyman Woodard on a limited run of 1500 hand-numbered double LP sets, so rush out and get your copy of this legendary jazz-funk gem now for the first time offered in its entirety. Essential stuff!

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Break It Down’ by Criss Starr from the EP On The Keys. This hypnotic cut is quite simply the most amazing 5 minutes and 34 seconds of mellow jazz fusion you will hear this year.

‘Forget Me Knots’ by Darren Rahn from his CD Talk Of The Town. When not pursuing his increasingly successful solo career, Rahn is very much part of the band DeNate. In fact he recently joined what previously was the pairing of keyboard player Nate Harasim and vocalist Deborah Connors after playing a part in their debut CD Reminsce. Here the duo makes a memorable appearance on this outrageously off the chain rendition of Patrice Rushens seminal tune.

‘Eleanor Rigby’ by Vail Johnson from his album Come Together. Johnson is best known as Kenny Gs touring bass playing and the great man pops up to lend a hand on this chilled out version of the Lennon & McCartney classic.

‘Miss You’ by Leela James from the album Let's Do It Again. In the organic setting of a live studio Leela uses this Rolling Stones mega hit to deliver what is likely be one of the best covers of 2009.

‘Fresh From The Groove’ from sax-man Dominic Amato's self titled album. This feisty uplifting track has an infectious hook and all the rhythm and melody you will ever need.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:36 PM

March 26, 2009

David Benoit's Cat: The Next Reality Star?

Could Smooth Jazz pianist David Benoit’s pet cat become the next reality TV star? You’ll find out this summer when David and his family appear on an episode of Housecat Housecall" on the Animal Planet channel. The show, which debuted in 2008, is hosted by veterinarian Katrina Warren. Each episode has Warren visiting the home of people who are having any number of problems with their cats.

The episode with the Benoit family, which centers on their cat Brownie, will most likely air in June.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:16 AM

March 23, 2009

Hey Nineteen! That's Reading's Jazz Fest!

pag1.jpgNot entirely true to the referenced Steely Dan song, the age of the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Festival doesn't resemble that of a young woman without knowledge of the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, but rather symbolizes a mature and experienced voice in the quest to celebrate jazz in all its forms and from its beginnings to the present.

The maturity and experience of those putting together the Berks Jazz Festival attests to the wisdom they have gathered over the years. Everything from the line-up, including legendary and new artistic talent, to the location of shows, the local outreach that brings the participation and excitement of so many restaurants and businesses, the logo, right down to the lodging and special touches for visitors -- all this shows that Berks knows what you love and wants to make sure you, the listener, are the recipient of all things jazz during this festival. Worthy of note is that festival is coordinated and overseen by the Berks Arts Council and then is largely executed by a huge group of volunteers who give freely of their own time and talent before, during and after the festival.

Up-close-and-personal contact is a highlight of these ten days at Berks, both for artists and fans, and many are busily arranging breakfasts/brunches/lunches/dinners with those they've gotten to know personally over the years. Add to this group those representing recording companies and all forms of media, and you have quite a joyous reunion occurring throughout the festival.

The artist line-up has been posted here often, and you can also see it by going to There is an emphasis on traditional jazz, contemporary jazz and everything in between. Sometimes bluesy, sometimes funky, sometimes full of soul, but always that awe-inspiring improvisation that breaks out during any song and any show. Being in the audience at a festival like this is a great way to find out what the group of artists playing on your favorite CD will do when they're right in front of you! You won't believe it until you see it, as returning fans know, and it keeps them coming back.

There are other important highlights of the festival. For one, there is a worthwhile effort to engage young musicians who can benefit from the influence of artists who are traveling here as well as local artists during the festival. There are camps and workshops designed to promote accomplishment in music for the next generation. Another highlight is that in addition to the main ticketed events, there are countless free events to take advantage of in various venues, restaurants, churches, and anywhere people gather. All of this is listed on the site, as well.

LogoBJF09merchdesign.gifOne of the keys to success at Berks is that the atmosphere reflects a spirit of generosity. Artists are generous with each other on stage, allowing each other full expression of their talents; fans are generous in getting to know each other, introducing artists to new fans and allowing all fans to enjoy the connection to the artists; media are not in competition with each other but enjoy and appreciate each others' work in taking pictures, sharing their magazines, doing on-site interviews and engaging in other promotional activities for the artists.

There is a fun atmosphere of shopping both at the local Vanity Fair Outlets and also inside some of the venues. You'll see some classy pieces of jewelry, some of which promote the jazz lifestyle and provide us with fun. You might choose a jazzy pin that lights up (it will be easy for your friends to find you in the dark!). Also available are lamps that have instruments built right into them -- talk about jazz providing a source of light in your life, that would do it! Then there is the table with Jazz Fest merchandise from years past, along with new items for this year. There are prints of jazz-themed colorful paintings to provide a pleasing reminder of a memorable time long after you arrive back home. Fans may be able to buy something or perhaps even be given an item promoting an artist, ie, my Nick Colionne earrings of which I'm very proud. Yes, they are in the shape of a guitar pick, have Nick's name on the his guitar logo. Some might think that's silly, but to me they're a fun reminder of the awesome playing and fun personality of this guitarist and of the times I've been at his shows.

What should you bring along to Berks? As always, your keen listening ears and your jazzitude (new word, there) -- you can be serious about your jazz, you can be silly with your jazz, you can be somewhere in between and travel back and forth between serious and silly for the entire ten days or however long you are here -- the music speaks to each of us in different ways at different times. One thing is certain, however, we all love the music and the music brings us together, not only at Berks, but perhaps especially at Berks.

So I'm looking forward to seeing all of you at some point during the festival! You'll find me with Peter Boehi from Switzerland, publisher of this site who is again our house guest for the ten days, or Jonathan Widran from California, established music journalist who writes all the bios for Berks and is also managing jazz editor of the new magazine, Wine and Jazz. You will see me with Mary Bentley and Bonnie Schendell of the online jazz magazine SmoothViews, or Melanie Maxwell of Smooth Jazz News, Steve Quirk from jazz radio in England, Dave Love from Heads Up, Jack Forschette of Koch Records, or the many artists I've come to know. I'll probably check in with John Ernesto, general manger of the festival or Connie Leinbach, who's the executive director of the festival, or,, it's not possible to list them all, there are so many to connect with!

If you've never been to Berks, please join us this year and you'll soon be connecting with many others like yourself, and your list might quickly become longer than mine!

Happy Jazzin' at the 19th Annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest,

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council

BEV INTERVIEW 2.JPGHere I am with Diane Dayton, of the Cool Jazz Cafe radio show, who interviewed artists and media and fans at the Meet the Artists event, held each year on Thursday evening of the jazz festival.

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:44 AM

March 21, 2009

Diana Krall - Quiet Nights

Some music is intended to paint a romantic scene – a candlelit dinner, a walk along a moonlit beach. Quiet NightsDiana Krall’s twelfth album – ain’t about that. Using Brazil as a musical point of reference, the award-winning pianist and singer is not suggesting a night out; she means to stay in.

“It's not coy. It's not ‘peel me a grape,’ little girl stuff. I feel this album’s very womanly – like you're lying next to your lover in bed whispering this in their ear.”

She’s not kidding. From Krall’s refreshing version of “Where or When,” to an utterly soul-stilling rendition of “You’re My Thrill,” the ten songs on Quiet Nights are disarming in their intimacy. Even those already familiar with the breathy vocals and rhythmic lilt in Krall’s music – and now there are millions – will be taken aback by just how far the music pushes, unabashedly, into the realm of sweet surrender. “It’s a sensual, downright erotic record and it's intended to be that way.”

Krall is the first to credit the musical team she assembled – her loyal quartet, ace producer Tommy LiPuma, engineer Al Schmitt plus legendary arranger Claus Ogerman – for much of the seductive power on Quiet Nights. But there’s a deeper, palpable sense of maturity that she brought to the recording as well. “Most of my singing and playing on the album is really just first or second takes. ‘You're My Thrill,’ was a second take – “Too Marvelous,” first take.”

“She’s completely matured,” says Tommy LiPuma, who should know, having first worked with Krall in 1994. “Even in the past few years. She approaches her vocal phrasing much more like an instrumentalist than a straight singer. It’s in her reading of the lyrics, and the timbre of her voice, much more misty like Peggy Lee in her mature period.” (“I didn't want to over sing -- I was drawing also from Julie London very strongly on this album,” Krall confesses, noting that such influences are not always conscious on her part. “It just came out that way.”)

As such, the Brazilian focus of Krall’s new album could not have been a more natural next step. “She's been very sympathetic to this music for a long time,” notes LiPuma. “When we did The Look of Love, we were very much leaning in the bossa nova direction. Quiet Nights is really a celebration of this music. Diana sings three Brazilian classics, she rhythmically turned four standards into that style, and three ballads. So really there are ten songs on the album of which seven are just straight up bossa novas.”

It makes sense that Quiet Nights (also the English name of the bossa nova classic “Corcovado” that is the title track) draws much of its musical spirit from the land that puts the “carnal” into its annual Carnaval celebration. “I was inspired to do this record because of my trip last year to Brazil,” says Krall, who returned to Rio de Janeiro to shoot a concert for a new DVD release. “Then I just kept going back and found that everywhere you go you still hear the sounds of Jobim and bossa nova.”

For those who may not remember or weren’t yet around, Brazil’s bossa nova wave (literally “new bump” or “new way” in Portuguese) was the widely popular musical style, based on the country’s traditional samba rhythms, that swept up from the sidewalk cafes of Rio in the early ‘60s and seduced the entire planet with its hypnotic, swaying beats, sultry melodies, and new, exciting harmonies – all with generous room for jazz improvisation. Antonio Carlos Jobim (who composed “Quiet Nights” and “The Girl from Ipanema”) and Joao Gilberto (“Este Seu Olhar”) are two of the pioneers of the music, revered as national heroes in Brazil to this day.

“It’s their standards – even the kids know all the songs,” says Krall. “In concert, I started singing “Este Seu Olhar” and the audience just opened their mouths and sang along – like a choir! It’s in their blood.”

Claus Ogerman was the arranger on many of bossa nova’s first wave of recordings, working with the likes of Jobim and Gilberto, as well as Frank Sinatra, Stan Getz and Bill Evans. That he pulled himself out of semi-retirement in Munich to work on Quiet Nights says much of his respect for – and enjoyment working with – Krall.

“I think Claus really fell in love with her the first time around,” says LiPuma, who introduced the two in 2000. “He had sort of stopped doing new projects except composing his own music, piano concertos, violin concertos and such. Now, I've worked with Claus since the early '70s – on his own recordings, with Hank Jones and Michael Brecker – a Joao Gilberto album in 1977 (Amoroso) which is one of Diana’s favorite albums. But he still says that The Look of Love (Krall’s 2001 multi-platinum success) was probably the best album that he had ever been involved with. So he’s very conscious of what she is capable of doing.”

Ogerman’s arrangements are as defining an element on Quiet Nights as any other, adding an astonishing level of sophistication to its mood and languid flow. There are moments when time slows to the point that normally momentary emotions have a chance to collect and be fully expressed. Ogerman’s challenge was to find a fresh, ear-catching approach to familiar territory. “Claus has worked on a lot of these tunes before,” LiPuma says. “But for the most part he approached them much differently. He emphasized the minor chord side-- slightly darker on certain things, like ‘Quiet Nights.’ Diana has complete confidence in him and just gave him total freedom.”

Krall laughs relating how Ogerman jokingly understated his contribution. “Claus told me, ‘It's a gloomy string orgy’ – he has a very dry sense of humor. There was a lot of him saying, ‘I've written these things a hundred times, now I'm gonna really do something crazy. And some of the arrangements he did are pretty wild.

“When we did ‘Walk On By,’ he said ‘Ja, I think this is gonna be good.’ And then we listened to those French horns playing the Burt Bacharach melody? We all had a meltdown. There's a lot of space with just the orchestra playing. It's reminiscent of Ravel's ‘Bolero’ and so beautiful I didn't want to fill it up with a jazz solo. I refused to play piano in some of those parts because I wanted to leave the space and let the arrangements do their thing.”

Krall confirms that, in a manner that would satisfy the most pure jazz sensibility, Quiet Nights was built from the band up – meaning that each tune began as a quartet performance, featuring longtime sidemen guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton (in a scene where things change fast and often, it says a lot that Krall has forged such uncommonly lasting relationships – including her backup, her producer and her arranger.)

“The trust I have with Claus is complete. We met in New York, where I played him 25 tunes and from there we edited it down to 15. He wrote the arrangements and after that there was no editing, no changes.”

LiPuma describes how the recording process continued: “Claus wrote the charts and then we did the rhythm tracks to his specifications. But it wasn’t like it was a routine – Diana loves going in there with the quartet. She's been at this a while and has a certain manner of doing things. She knows that it’s about trying to find the groove. She feels much more comfortable in doing it with just a quartet, then bringing in the strings and so forth afterwards.”

Krall – at the age of 43 – has experience in her favor. Born in Nanaimo, Canada, to a musical family – her father is a stride-style pianist and serious record collector -- she grew up absorbing music that guided her future growth. She attended Berklee School of Music in the early ‘80s, then moved to Los Angeles where she continued her studies with bassists Ray Brown and John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and pianist Jimmy Rowles; Rowles convinced the young pianist to focus on her singing as well. By 1990, Krall relocated to New York City and began performing with a trio, and in 1993, she released her debut album on a small Canadian independent label.

Fifteen years later, she can look back over a stellar career path: in ’99, signed to Verve, her career exploded when When I Look in Your Eyes won a GRAMMY® for best jazz vocal and became the first jazz disc to be nominated for Album of the Year in twenty-five years. In 2002, The Look of Love was a #1 bestseller in the US and a five-time platinum album in Canada. 2004’s The Girl in the Other Room, was her first to focus on her own songwriting (with six tunes co-written with husband Elvis Costello); 2005’s Christmas Songs proved one of the season’s best-sellers; and 2006’s From This Moment On was an upbeat, critical success that coincided with the birth of her twin sons – a life-affirming event that LiPuma feels enhanced Krall’s continuing growth as a musician. “Motherhood definitely agrees with her—and marriage. I think she's really come into her own.”

As moving as Quiet Nights is -- deriving from Krall’s feelings for Brazil and bossa novas – the singer is not shy in admitting that its sensuality is as much about her home life. “It’s my love letter to my husband – just an intimate, romantic album.” As they say in Rio – obrigado!

# # #

Diana Krall Quiet Nights available March 31, 2009

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:48 AM

March 20, 2009

What's In Your Library?

Welcome to Smoothvibes’ latest feature, What’s In Your Library?, where we will periodically select certain gems from our own respective libraries—albums or CDs that could be a few to several years old but that, in our opinion, should be in all smooth jazzers’ libraries. We hope that the column will direct some well-deserved light on a few artists and/or albums that may have flown under one’s radar screen. Enjoy!

Nightbyrd – Moonlight Serenade (Dreamwhisper Music)
“Who is Nightbyrd?” some may ask. Allow me to help with that. Nightbyrd is a musical project created, arranged, and recorded by Ben Rutstein (acoustic guitar, percussion, keyboards) and Doug Marcum (acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass, keys). The duo focuses quite effectively on smooth Latin jazz that possesses some of the sweetest and most exotic melodies I’ve heard in quite a long while. The Moonlight Serenade CD, released in 2004, is so loaded with mesmerizing melodies that it conjures up in my mind images of all the Latin parties I attended earlier in my life, with all the ambience, color, and feeling of goodwill that went into those gatherings. The call of the majestic trumpet by Bill Armstrong on track two’s’ “It Happens Every Time” is so moving and exact that you can’t help feeling that you’re in some Spanish village during a full-blown fiesta. Truly, I have not heard this quality of Latin jazz placed in such a fine, textured context as is demonstrated here. It’s an addictive album, forcing one to play it over and over again just to be caressed by the melodies as they sweep over you in waves of blissful passages and depth. I have zillions of songs and albums on my person Ipod, yet I keep returning to this album religiously!

Cool and as exotically thick-tongued and romantic as the Latin culture itself (which I absolutely adore, by the way---or can’t you tell??), this album speaks volumes in any language. If you love Latin jazz, you just might spring hearts in your eyes over this one. Available via CDbaby and Amazon. On a scale of 1-10, this is a clear 20! Ronald Jackson

The Rippingtons – Life In The Tropics (Peak Records)
While we’re on the topic of Latin jazz, Russ Freeman and Co. released a hottie in 2000 called Life in the Tropics. Now, we all know by now that Freeman, being the consummate guitarist/producer/composer, can transition easily from the contemporary jazz of his early Rippington days to the now familiar Santana-like or Hendrix-like compositions and riffs that have dominated quite a few of his later projects. Life in the Tropics is as good an example of the blazing adeptness and acuity of this renowned artist’s skills as any. With a boldness and swagger that challenges the best of Latin guitarists, Freeman and Company charge onto the Latin scene with a blistering nod to the illustrious Latin culture with tracks like “The Rhythm of Your Life” (the call to the party of parties) with hot Latina vocals by “Daisy” Lourdes Villa who also co-wrote this firestarter. There’s the appearance of another luminary, Peter White, on the marvelously penned “Caribbean Breeze.” Talk about dance music! This adds a whole new meaning to the term. Then, there’s the Santana-like “South Beach Mambo” and, for a nice twist, the reggae-heavy closing track, “Island Aphrodisiac.” Wow! is all that comes to mind.

Throughout this amazing production, you are treated to splendid contributions by the likes of Paul Taylor, Howard Hewitt, Dave Koz, and Eric Marienthal, just to name a handful. Truly one treasure to have in your library. One of Freeman’s best, in my opinion. Ronald Jackson

The Roberts Bros., Sugar & Spice, (BDM Records)
Here’s a duo worth tracking down if you like your jazz packed with punch, thickness, funk, soul, and rhythm. Even though this album, released in 2000, received extensive airplay on many smooth jazz radio stations across the country and in Canada, and they received a nomination for the Prism Award for the “Best New Up and Coming Artist” by the Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards in 2001, I’ve encountered many who are still unfamiliar with the work of this impressive duo.

Each member has been quite busy with several individual projects in the business and, as a result, is quite possibly better known individually than as a duo. For example, Jimmy Roberts is a veteran saxophonist who, in the ‘80s, 90s, and early 2000, was an integral part of the Rod Stewart story. He’s shared the stage with such luminaries as the legendary Etta James, The Eurhythmics, Gregg Karukas, and David Benoit. In 2006, he released a solo album entitled “For We Are Never Alone,” a quality production heavy in both the contemporary jazz and spiritual realms. Peter Roberts has produced and written songs for artists including George Benson, La Toya Jackson, Daechelle, The Beu Sisters, Irene Cara, Survivor, Lisa Frazier, and Under Suspicion, just to name a few.

Combining their talents was a brainstorm that could reap benefits for ages to come, Sugar & Spice is proof positive of that. If you haven’t already done so, make space for this one in your library. There is also a hot follow-up called “Twins,” released in 2008, that I’ve yet to review. Stay tuned! Ronald Jackson

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 1:18 PM

March 18, 2009

Smooth Transitions In Vegas

With the recession of smooth jazz (or disappearance), other forms of jazz keeps developing in Vegas.

Clint Holmes mixes his blend of jazz and pop vocals at the Orleans Hotel March 20-22.

The Bootlegger Bistro will be hosting late Saturday nights jazz and blues, midnight to 4am, for the listener who wants more of the edge.

The Killer Groove Band, who stake claim to being the only contemporary jazz group in town, will be performing Saturday, March 21st, at the E-String Grill, starting at 7pm.

The legendary jazz keyboard / organist Ronnie Foster can be seen and heard about town, his next outing at the Black Label Lounge April 25th.

With no March headliners coming to town, it's evident that the smooth jazz scene is now relegated to Sunday brunches, the most current at Pantevinos, which host small trios, and is sponsored by Smooth Jazz 105.7 The Oasis.

Posted by Danny Desart at 4:28 AM

March 15, 2009

Leela James - Let's Do It Again

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Let's Do It Again by the wonderful Leela James finds her making music the old school way. With eleven of the greatest tunes ever written she is, in her own words, “taking it back as she moves forward” and paying her respects to some of the artists that have influenced her own musical development. What this means to Leela is turning back time to record live in the studio, drawing her energy from the musicians performing around her and rekindling the same excitement that back in the day characterised the output from studios such as Stax, Motown and Muscle Shoals. The result is a joyous celebration of some of the most soulful sounds of the last forty years and for those who were there it is certain to bring back glorious memories. However, for those who were not, this is a heaven sent opportunity to capture the magic of the music and of Leela James.

Leela James’ debut album A Change Is Gonna Come seemed to arrive from nowhere. With production from luminaries such as Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq and Wyclif Jean it was a striking combination of original songs and well chosen elucidations that included the impressive title cut which Leela used to tip a hat to the timeless Sam Cooke. The momentum the CD provided launched her into three years of intensive touring that twice found her at the Montreux Jazz Festival and also on the road with BB King during his farewell tour. She has soul to burn and this becomes immediately obvious with the opening track of ‘Lets Do It Again’, her sassy yet faithful interpretation of Betty Wright’s seminal ‘Clean Up Woman’. It’s a tune that sets the tone for what is to follow and lays a foundation for infectious grooves such as ‘Nobody Wants You When Your Down And Out’ that Leela fashions entirely in the style of Bobby Womack’s 1973 blockbuster.

Leela had the opportunity to open for James Brown during his tour of Europe so its not surprising that here she finds a place for his ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. Soul Factor 10 would be a great way to describe her handling of it and this too would be a fitting label for the slinky ‘I’d Rather Be With You’ that was a hit for funkster Bootsy Collins in 1976. Delving further into the vaults Leela reignites the underrated Womack & Womack’ tune ‘Baby I’m Scared Of You’ while equally delightful is her sensitive handling of Angela Bofill’s ‘I Try’. From the 1979 Angel Of The Night it was a tune which at that time helped build Bofill’s reputation as a consummate interpreter of sophisticate soul ballads and Leela stays with that era for Phyllis Hyman’s sensational breakout hit ‘You Know How To Love Me’. Without doubt this is one of the albums standout tracks yet just as good is Leela’s fine version of the Staple Singers ‘Lets Do It Again’.

This moody gem articulates everything that is good about soul music and when she effortlessly steps beyond the genre into musical areas that have inspired her, the result is a heart felt rendition of the Foreigner anthem ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’. That said, she is quickly back in ‘soulsville’ to ensure Al Green’s ‘Simply Beautiful’ remains completely loyal to its title but its her version of the Rolling Stones mega hit ‘Miss You’ that totally steals the show. In fact Leela has been performing the number for some time as part of her live concerts and here in the organic setting of a live studio she delivers what will prove to be one of the best covers of 2009.

Let's Do It Again hits record stores across the USA on March 24 and is for soul lovers everywhere.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on

Posted by Denis Poole at 4:26 PM

March 13, 2009

Rick Braun Working On Solo CD And Chet Baker Tribute

Fans of trumpeter Rick Braun will be pleased to now that he is working on not one, but two CDs. A new solo project, What It Takes, is being co-produced by Philippe Saisse and features a mix of funk, smooth jazz and world music. The CD, to be offered by Artisan Records, will be Rick’s first solo project of original material since 2003’s Esperanto.

In 2005, Braun released a covers CD Yours Truly and in 2007 offered RnR, a project with saxophonist Richard Elliot.

The other CD is a tribute to one of Rick’s heroes, the late trumpeter Chet Baker, and features Saisse, bassist Brian Bromberg and drummer Ricky Lawson. Braun, of course, will be playing the trumpet and well as singing. The CD is an outgrowth of live shows in honor of Baker that Braun began last year. He will be doing the shows again this year, including next month at the Berks Jazz Festival.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 3:40 AM

March 12, 2009

The Rippingtons -- Modern Art

In 2006, guitarist Russ Freeman and his band of oft-changing members famously known as The Rippingtons set out to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary on the contemporary jazz scene. Since the debut album, Moonlighting, was released in 1986, Freeman & Co. have ground out magnificence as if it were a foregone conclusion that magnificence is all they can create. Well, judging from yet again another such production with the release of Modern Art, one would be hard-pressed to challenge that conclusion. This collection of new, refreshingly fresh material, 99% of which is penned by Freeman, comes with a yet another regrouping of the group as veteran bassist Kim Stone is replaced—but not shoddily so—with sharp, funky bassist Rico Belled. Though I will sorely miss Stone’s stylish and weighty bass, Belled fits really nicely and brings his own commanding touch to the bass lines that the band seems to relish.

The album is also marked by the return, if only temporary, of alumni sax man Jeff Kashiwa. His contribution here only serves to shed light on why Freeman made certain that the illustrious artist stayed put with the group for nine glorious years before venturing out on his own and establishing a successful career as a giant in his own right.

For a few albums, Freeman mesmerized so many (yours truly included) by incorporating a heavy dose of the elegance, exoticism, and sweetness of Latin-laced compositions (e.g., Life in the Tropics and Wild Card). Here, though, he returns to the original trademark sound he introduced to us over 20 years ago (witness the title and opening track and “Body Art”) and also rolls out the funk and some blues elements with as much ease (check out cuts like “One Step Closer,” “Jet Set,” and the ultra-funky mid-tempo finale, “Love Story,” featuring master trumpeter Rick Braun – nope, nothing like the Mancini tune you may have in mind!), as well as trying his hand at some European flavors (“Paris Groove”).

As any serious Ripps fan knows, Freeman has an affinity for theme-based albums, as he loves to share his life’s experiences and loves with his audience. Cases in point would be Black Diamond (where he spotlights the joys of skiing), Let It Ripp (golfing), Life in the Tropics and Weekend in Monaco (both pretty self-explanatory). With Modern Art, we’re treated to his affinity for, not surprisingly, art. In fact, I’ve seen samples of his “photo realistic illustrative” artwork. Great living, breathing stuff.

Freeman’s Rippingtons and their sure-handed handling of the entire set leaves no question that this supergroup has all of the angles of this genre covered with bullish authority. They’re just plain good! This latest effort is every bit as good as--if not arguably better than—its predecessors. In fact, it may well replace Life in the Tropics as my personal fav. Major feat. This is definitely not one to bypass.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 5:25 PM

March 11, 2009

Smooth Jazz Contributor Needs Transplant

Armsted Christian, a professor of music at Berklee School of Music in Boston and a frequent contributor to smooth jazz projects, is in need of a double lung transplant. The 57-year-old singer and songwriter, who has performed with Gerald Albright, Walter Beasley, Marion Meadows, Chieli Minucci, Najee, Will Downing and others, has what is usually a fairly benign illness called sarcoidosis, which was first diagnosed in him in 1976.

But doctors say Christian, whose lungs are badly scarred and constantly infected, is one of the rare patients whose life is threatened by the disease. His condition qualifies him to be placed on an organ donor waiting list for a double lung transplant. To help raise money for Christian’s medical costs and to support his sarcoidosis research foundation, a benefit is planned March 14 in his hometown of New Bedford, Mass.

To learn more, or to make a donation, go to

Posted by Brian Soergel at 7:23 PM

March 6, 2009

Spyro Gyra – Down The Wire

Talk about veracity and staying power. The powerhouse group, Spyro Gyra, has seen 30 years come and go without missing a beat (pardon the pun) in providing stirring, superior contemporary jazz. With driving rhythms, witty nuances, meticulous hooks, chords, and melodies, Down the Wire, the latest triumph for the group—to be released in late April—will again stake a firm claim on the fertile turf of this genre.

Jay Beckenstein, as much as icon as any in the business, is and has always been quite the entertainer, live and in the studio. Growing up listening to Louis Armstrong, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie has obviously paid dividends for this prolific leader and sax man for the group. Add to that the longtime devoted and extraordinary skills of keyboardist Tom Schuman and guitarist Julio Fernandez, as well as the dazzling style and presence of Trinidadian drummer Bonny B and the mightily supportive bottom provided by bassist Scott Ambush, and you don’t have to wonder how the group stays at the top of its game--release after release.

Down the Wire delivers different touches and textures throughout. There’s the driving and funky title track featuring monstrous thumps and runs by Ambush and Bonny B laying down that irresistible backbeat. That’s followed by the beautifully mellow second track, “Unspoken,” featuring guest alumnus/percussionist Geraldo Velez (who reappears on track 7, “Flower for Annie Jeanette,” by the way). Track 5, “The Tippin’ Point” highlights some cool, melodic straight-ahead swing jazz interplay between Beckenstein and Schuman. Amazing stuff. The interesting time signature and brilliant runs on “Ice Mountain” at track 6 get a major thumbs-up from this reviewer, and some Latin fire gets stoked up on “La Zona Rosa,” which is a hot, rhythmic piece featuring Marc Quinones--another alumnus and current member of the legendary southern rock group, the Allman Brothers Band. Ah, then there’s the smokin’ finale, “Make It Mine,” where we’re treated to not only Bonny B’s muscular drumming style but his spirited and clever vocal prowess and a heavy dose of funk bass, Scott Ambush-style. What a way to exit!

There you have it. Spyro Gyra as…Spyro Gyra…again. Veracity, creativity, and consistency in excellence continue to dominant this group’s mantra. Don’t worry; the end of April isn’t that far away…

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 2:11 PM

Marion Meadows -- Secrets

You know Peter White when you hear him, you know Paul Taylor when you hear him, serious followers of smooth jazz know Keiko Matsui’s beautiful Far East melodies and her gentle keystrokes when they hear them, and you certainly know the tell-tale soulfully sweet sax of Marion Meadows, one of the true masters of this rich sound we’ve come to appreciate as smooth jazz. From his 1991 For Lovers Only release to this splendid group of compositions set forth here on Secrets, set for release in late April, Meadows has proven time and again that his love of music and his cool, pristine approach to its beauty is not a “secret” but something he lives to share openly and with all the daring that his marvelous sax can muster.

Secrets is a most creative, organic collection of moods and styles (no studio “additives” or “preservatives” such as drum machines and overdone synths), ranging from his tell-tale mid-tempo cuts like the opening and title track and “Soul Sugar,” as well as “The Child In Me” (each of which comes at you with a different degree of smooth and suave self-assurance) to a mellow and rather spiritual nod demonstrated on “You Lift My Heart” (sung by Charlie Karp) to the exotically rhythmic “Sand Dancers,” which requires a different style of dancing shoe (or maybe no shoes at all) with its swaying and very melodic island flavor. Then, there’s the “slanky” funky-with-attitude “Playtime” (clearly one of my favs here) with its catchy hook and robust, effective vocals by Will Brock, who also wrote the tune. Yes, this production has the complete Marion Meadows feel, and, as we've come to regularly expect, it feels great.

The artist sums it all up this way: “ I’ve been involved in a lot of projects, both my own and group efforts, and my main objective is to keep growing as an artist and engage the fans who have invested so much emotion in my music and my career.” As one who’s followed and invested such emotion in this incredible talent, I can offer my thanks to his dedication. Secrets, once on the streets, won’t be one for long. Just let it hit the airwaves, and stores may have a hard time keeping this one in stock.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 2:04 PM

March 5, 2009

Darren Rahn - Talk Of The Town

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Mega talented songwriter, producer and multi instrumentalist Darren Rahn has come up huge with his latest CD Talk Of The Town. His third solo project after Once In A Lifetime and Soulful its nine original compositions, coupled with three of the best covers you will hear this year, are certain to enable him to seize the spotlight and further enhance the already burgeoning reputation of nuGroove Records.

Darren Rahn hits the ground running with the opening cut, the staggeringly good ‘Tale Of Two Cities’. It confirms, if confirmation is indeed required, that he does groove drenched smooth jazz as well as anyone on the scene today and with ‘Free To Be Me’ there is more of the delectable same. Here the playing of Rahn is nothing short of spine tingling and he is helped in no small part by the always excellent Jeff Lorber who makes telling contributions on acoustic piano and moog synthesizer. Lorber sticks around to lend a hand for Rahn’s urban tinged ‘Tell Me Want You Want’ but perhaps is at his best with the sensuously smoking ‘Secret Crush’ where his solo on acoustic piano is breathtaking.

In part, it was with Wayman Tisdale that Rahn made his name as a ‘go to’ producer for work on the albums Way Up and On The Rebound. His collaborations with Jay Soto, Eric Darius, Dave Koz and Tim Bowman have been equally memorable and both Tisdale and Bowman repay the favor by joining Rahn on ‘Talk Of The Town’. Tisdale is at his unmistakable best for Rahn’s controlled cover of Chaka Khan’s 1981 blockbuster ‘What Cha Gonna Do For Me’ while ‘With You By My Side’ finds Bowman in melodic guitar interplay with Rahn’s sexy sax.

Of course, when not pursuing his increasingly successful solo career, Rahn is very much part of the band De’Nate. He recently joined what previously was the pairing of keyboard player Nate Harasim and vocalist Deborah Connors after playing a part in their debut CD Reminsce. The duo make a memorable appearance on ‘Talk Of The Town’ for Rahn’s outrageously off the chain rendition of Patrice Rushen’s seminal ‘Forget Me Knots’ which appears destined for inclusion in the Secret Garden top ten covers of 2009.

The horn driven title track benefits from Rahn’s own fabulous playing and he is joined for this deliciously in your face number by his brother Jason on trumpet and flugelhorn. Jason Rahn also features on the equally brass infused ‘Duplicity’ whilst in complete contrast is the tender ‘Our Love’. This turned down gem really flows and, although Rahn finds time for a cool cover of the Hall & Oates smash ‘I Can’t Go For That’, perhaps the biggest surprise in an album chocked full of them is the superb ‘Easy Does It’. Warm and comforting it comes complete with an infectious hook, picture perfect playing from Rahn and the wonderful spectre of the legendary Bob James rolling back the smooth jazz years with a truly memorable piano solo.

Talk Of The Town is a magnificent piece of work and comes highly recommended. For more go to

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on

Posted by Denis Poole at 3:45 PM

March 4, 2009

Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson To Tour This Summer

After several years of fronting the Dave Koz & Friends: Smooth Summer Nights tour, last summer saxophonist Dave Koz hit the road solo with just his band. For this summer, Koz will add one friend and sometimes another friend on the U.S. tour. Koz will be joined by pianist Brian Culbertson on all of the shows, with occasional appearances by guest vocalist Peabo Bryson.

They will be backed by a mix of musicians from both Koz and Culbertson’s bands. Koz's tour, which for the second year in a row will not retain the Smooth Summer Nights moniker, will get a name at a later date, says Koz's management. There is only one date confirmed so far: Aug. 23 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, with Bryson featured at that performance.

Many more dates are expected to be announced soon, which is the first time that Koz and Culbertson have hit the road together since 2002.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 2:36 AM

March 3, 2009

31st Annual Playboy Jazz Festival Announced

Photos and Text by Ricky Richardson

Start spreading the news! The most highly anticipated announcement, second only to those made at the recent Academy Awards, and was made on February 25th at the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills.

Hugh M. Hefner and the entire Playboy Jazz Festival organization hosted a special news conference on the East lawn of the Playboy Mansion, to announce the artist line-up for the 31st Annual Playboy Jazz Festival to be held on June 13th and 14th at the historic Hollywood Bowl.

Several headliners of the festival were in attendance at the Press Conference along with artists scheduled to perform at the various Playboy Jazz Festival Free Community Concert Series. VIP guests and artists at the Press Conference were excited to be apart of the celebration of the announcement of one of the jazz world’s premier events. Wayne Shorter, Patti Austin, Quincy Jones, on hand to introduce his protégé - Alfredo Rodriquez, Jack Sheldon, Ndugu Chancler, Kenny G, Norman Brown, Pete Escovedo, Luis Conte, Susie Hansen, Johnny Polanco, Erin Davis (Miles Davis son).

The 2009 festivities mark the 31st consecutive year that the Playboy Jazz Festival will present an entire weekend of jazz at the renowned Hollywood Bowl including the very popular pre-festival community events offered free to the general public throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

Each year the 2009 Playboy Jazz Festival presented in conjunction with the L.A. Philharmonic Association serves up an eclectic smorgasbord of jazz as well as other genres of music. The 31st Annual Playboy Jazz Festival will feature a tasty buffet of straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, pop, Latin jazz, salsa, New Orleans R&B and brass band, jazz sprinkled with a touch of reggae, African juju music and two amazing and talented high school jazz ensembles.

Bill Cosby will return as Master of Ceremonies, Hugh M. Hefner, Executive Producer, Richard Rosenzweig, President Playboy Jazz Festival, George Wein, Producer, with Darlene Chan and FestivalWest Inc., Producer/Playboy Jazz Festival Festival.

Saturday, June 13th, 2009-2:30P.M.-11:00P.M.

  • The Neville Brothers

  • Remembering the Miles Davis Classic Kind of Blue @50 with Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band

  • Summer Storm: Starring Norman Brown, Wayman Tisdale, Eric Darius and featuring Gail Johnson

  • Jon Faddis

  • The Jack Sheldon Orchestra

  • Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings

  • Pete Escovedo Orchestra featuring Sheila E., Peter Michael and Juan Escovedo

  • Esparanza Spalding

  • Cos of Good Music

  • New Birth Brass Band

  • Los Angeles County High School For The Arts Jazz Ensemble directed by Jason Goldman

Sunday, June 14th, 2009-2:00P.M.-10:30P.M.

  • Wayne Shorter Quartet-with Brian Blade, John Pattitucci and Danilo Perez

  • Kenny G

  • Patti Austin

  • King Sunny Ade

  • Dave Holland Big Band

  • Monty Alexander’s Jazz & Roots

  • Oscar Hernandez & The Congo Room All-Stars

  • Anat Cohen Quartet

  • Quincy Jones Presents Alfredo Rodriquez

  • North Hollywood High School Jazz Ensemble, Directed by Jonathan Kenion

Ticket information: Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. Patrons can purchase tickets online at, over the phone by calling (213)365-3500 or (714)740-7878, and at any Ticketmaster outlet or by downloading a ticket order form online at For more information, call the Playboy Jazz Festival Hotline at (310)450-1173 or visit

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:42 PM

March 2, 2009

Legendary vocalist Phoebe Snow coming to Berks Jazz Fest

Sometimes, in the aftermath of heartbreak and loss, comes triumph. So it is with legendary vocalist Phoebe Snow. You can call her what you want: a rock belter, a rhythm-and-blues shouter or a moody folk-jazz diva. She is all of the above and everything in between. Her powerful yet soulful performance is sure to stay with her audience long after the last song is sung. Snow will be performing during the 19th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest in the intimate Miller Center for the Arts, Friday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45.

A fully formed musical talent when she emerged in the mid-1970s with the hit “Poetry Man," Snow has remained one of the most distinctive voices in popular music. A single off her self-titled debut album, "Poetry Man" became a top 5 single, and won Snow a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist and established her as a formidable singer/songwriter. Platinum records, the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and legions of fans followed.

In 1975, Snow gave birth to her daughter, Valerie, who was born severely brain-injured. At the expense of her career, Snow devoted her life to caring for Valerie.

When Valerie passed away at the age of 31 in March 2007, Snow said she wasn't sure she'd survive the heartbreak.

However, Snow not only survived; she made a comeback.

Her new CD, Phoebe Snow - Live, is her first in-concert album. It was recorded on July 30-31, 2008, at the historic Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, N.Y.

Other 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; 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 Brian Bromberg Quartet; steel pan master Andy Narell and the Catonsville 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 and 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. East Bay Soul brings the funk and R&B.

Artists paying tribute to some of music's greats include the Gerald Veasley Band celebrating the Music of Stevie Wonder 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.

The 19th annual Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 27 through April 5 and features an expansive array of musical styles, including contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, big band, gospel and bluegrass. Shows are held at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, making it a truly unique festival. For more information on the festival, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit 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, visit

To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center Box Office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or visit
Order online at

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:05 PM