May 31, 2009

Joyce Cooling – Global Cooling (and interview)

Joyce Cooling is happy. No, I don’t just mean her mood at any given point in her obviously productive and lucrative career. I mean she represents happy. Her music sings happy, it cries happy, it feels happy. Her latest release, Global Cooling, with all of its smoothness and bluesiness and even exoticism, is happy. You feel the smiling groove from the opening notes of track one, a mid-tempo funky blues ditty, and that feeling follows you throughout this fine production.

From the moment the sassy, bluesy “Grass Roots” jumped off to the up-tempo title track with its pumping, driving rhythm section (kinda reminds one of the disco era), courtesy of Billy Johnson and Jay Wagner, to the sweet and sensual “Save This Dance For Me” with its modest hints of the Latin touch to “Cobra” with its tasteful nod to Indian culture and all of the exoticism of the East--and then through all cuts beyond, Cooling again shows why she is among the finest and most imaginative smooth jazz artists around.

The talented guitarist’s handling of themes and ideas is superb, as is evidenced in the hints of her leanings toward environmentalism which are on display on “What Are We Waiting For?” as she talks about a sun that may or may not warm you “to your core” and as she refers to a “clean machine that’s very green…to get us off gasoline.” The album even grabs a piece of Brazil in a couple of places, like on “Dolores In Pink,” and then there’s Joyce with some pretty ripe jazz rap on “We Can” (you’ve gotta witness this one firsthand!).

Oh, and one can’t omit the appeal of the tongue-in-cheek teasing found on “Chit Chat,” a reference to the chatter found at any table or around any water cooler as folks talk about celebs they’ve never met as if they knew them intimately. The lyrics are cool here and hit the mark. I could go on and on about this topic, but that would actually take me off topic.

The album is just so inundated with groove, rhythm (as in “Rhythm Kitchen”), and spirit that it’s an understatement to say it’s truly a work of art. I recently interviewed this fascinating woman, and I’d be horribly remiss if I didn’t share that experience with you here and now.

Ronald Jackson: I’ve always admired your distinctive sound and technique. I know you’ve played with a lot of greats like Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd, and Al Jarreau, and you list a great deal of artists as your influences (from Joe Henderson to the late, great Jimi Hendrix). Who would you say has played the biggest role in influencing you and your style?

Joyce Cooling: My uncle, who was a phenomenal jazz guitarist and musician, has probably influenced me the most. He played with people like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and many other jazz greats. He has since passed on, but if I could play music with anyone today, it would be him.

Ronald Jackson: I learned a short while ago that the late, talented bassist Wayman Tisdale was self-taught. Now, I read that you also are self-taught. Amazing. Does that also mean that you didn’t read or write music when you first began, and do you read and write now?

Joyce Cooling: I can read chord charts, but really struggle with notes on a page. It’s so much easier and faster for me to do things by ear.

Ronald Jackson: Another part to this same question: Since I’m discovering that so many are self-taught and may not read or write music, what would you say to those aspiring musicians who feel that they can’t possibly perform well unless they’re proficient in reading and writing music? Is exhaustive knowledge of music theory a bit overemphasized, in your opinion?

Joyce Cooling: I don’t think that any knowledge is overemphasized, as it all contributes to a greater understanding and insight into whatever you are trying to learn. Music is something that is so deep and far-reaching by nature that you never “arrive” -- meaning that there is always something else to learn or improve upon no matter how proficient you may be. It seems to me that any path that provides more knowledge is a road worth traveling.

Ronald Jackson: Having reviewed your Revolving Door album, I learned that you are also an advocate of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of that album went to that organization, as will a portion of the proceeds from this latest effort. What a worthy and noble cause and gesture! How is work in that area going now? Are you currently involved in any benefit concerts or other activities for the organization?

Joyce Cooling: We are always working on something for NAMI as it is near and dear to my heart. I grew up with a brother who has schizophrenia, and NAMI saved us as a family. So little is understood about diseases of the brain that people afflicted with mental illness and their families often find themselves in a dark, tumultuous ocean without a life raft. NAMI threw us a buoy.

On the immediate horizon, we are doing a walk for NAMI in San Francisco on Saturday, May 30th in Golden Gate Park with our walk team, “Music for the Mind.” If anyone is interested in walking with us or joining our team, all of the info is posted on our website at www.joycecooling.com.

We’re also playing at the NAMI National Convention in San Francisco on July 7th and are playing a benefit for NAMI Urban Los Angeles on July 16th. Again, all of the info is on our website.

Ronald Jackson: By the way, aside from the obvious play on words with this current album’s catchy title, there seems to be much more significance there, such as perhaps a concern for or commitment to environmental issues. Would I be correct in that assumption?

Joyce Cooling: Yes, you are correct. By the way, Global Cooling is a green product. We used 100% renewable source/ recycled paper and non-toxic inks. We used minimal packaging and no shrink wrap.

Besides the eco-friendly packaging, Global Cooling is also about what I like to call our global neighborhood. I love the fact that our world is shrinking with the digital age. We are now in touch with music lovers and kindred spirits from all over the world. Universal concepts have always turned me on, and the music on Global Cooling celebrates our interconnectedness.

In addition, we wanted Global Cooling to be like taking a fun trip where you can visit different places. It’s still contemporary jazz, but we musically touch down in some cool places.

Ronald Jackson: Regarding concerts, I imagine you’re planning a Global Cooling tour. Where will it take you? From a purely biased vantage point, I also have to ask: Do you have any plans to visit the Washington, DC, area at some point in the near future? We so love you here.

Joyce Cooling: We love playing in the DC area and look forward to a return visit. Have gig, will travel! All our dates are posted on our web site.

Ronald Jackson: Of all your magnificent albums, do you have a favorite? If so, any reason why?

Joyce Cooling: I suppose I am always partial to our latest CD. Recording a collection of songs is like taking a snapshot of where you are musically and creatively at the moment. Since things are always evolving, I guess the last snapshot is the one that feels the most relevant to me. Having said that, there are things that I love and hate about all of my CDs. Sometimes you feel like you really nailed something and hit what you were trying to do. Other times I listen back and am flooded with thoughts of woulda, shoulda, coulda. I don’t listen back very often and prefer to move forward.

Ronald Jackson: Thank you, Joyce. All the best to you with Global Cooling and all of your ventures. Before we close, any final thoughts or words to smooth jazz aficionados in general and to your fans in particular?

Joyce Cooling: Thank you, Ron, for taking time to chat with me. I appreciate your support and for keeping us in your corner and on your radar!

My final thought would be to let our music friends know that they are IT. We are interested in what they think and in communicating with them directly. The digital social networks and, of course, our live shows, allow us to be in touch with our music friends. They mean the world to me, and they are the reason we do this as well as the reason we are able to do this. A huge thanks goes out to them, and I’m looking forward to continuing a close, interactive relationship!

‘Nuff said. Here is class with a capital “J.” Global Cooling should be well on its way to the top of the charts by the time you read this.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 5:10 PM

May 28, 2009

What We're Listening To ** May

P E T E R * B O E H I

Terri Lyne Carrington - More To Say... (2009)
Female drummer TLC releases a superlative album, it is deep and has a lot of substance, featuring smooth jazz and contemporary grooves by a stellar line-up of the highest order. "Hold Me Again" and the soul-jazz version of the Beatles' "Let It Be" will blow your mind. A revelation!

Jay Soto - Mesmerized (2009)
Guitarist Jay Soto offers another picture perfect and mesmerizing smooth jazz album full of top-notch playing and catchy compositions. Smooth jazz bliss!

Gregg Karukas - GK (2009)
Keyboardist Gregg Karukas delivers another smooth jazz gem, strong compositions and great playing from beginning to end, just perfect. Gregg rules!

Chris Botti - In Boston (2009)
I just watched the Blu-Ray of this concert that defies categorization - Chris Botti crosses every musical border you can imagine boasting a dizzying array of world-class guest artists ranging from Sting to Yo-Yo Ma, backed by the Boston Pops and his incredible band in the gorgeous Boston Symphony Hall. From jazz to pop to classical, it is a great amalgam of music. World class!

Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue (50th Anniversary Box Set, Collector's Edition) (1959)
As usual I would like to make a nod to a classic album of the past, and after the Chris Botti DVD, this milestone of music history by Miles Davis is an appropriate choice. 50 years after its original release, Legacy bring to us this incredible super deluxe packaging with a gatefold media carrier that contains a 180 gram single-LP pressing on blue vinyl, two discs complete with previously unreleased tracks along with a bonus DVD. Also included is a 60-page 12x12 book, memorabilia envelope, and large fold out poster. Still mind-boggling after all these years. Belongs to every collection!

       
B R I A N * S O E R G E L

Jimmy Sommers, Time Stands Still (NuGroove)

Cindy Bradley, Bloom (Trippin N Rhythm)

Ben Tankard, Mercy Mercy Mercy (Verity)

Craig Chaquico, Follow the Sun (Shanachie)

U-Nam, Unanimity (Trippin N Rhythm)


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

The Greyboy AllstarsWhat Happened to Television? (Sci Fidelity Records) (2007)

Gregg KarukasGK (TRIPPIN & RHYTHM) (2009)

Philippe SaisseAt World's Edge (Koch Records) (2009)

Paul Brown & Marc AntoineSecrets (Peak Records) (2009)

Quincy JonesSounds...And Stuff Like That!! (A&M)  (1990)


D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Sycamore Soul’ by Cindy Bradley from her brand new CD Bloom. Thano Sahnas delivers a huge contribution on guitar and, as Bradley’s smoky flugelhorn blends to perfection with producer Michael Broening’s tight keys; the result is smooth jazz of the highest order.

‘First Love’ by Netherlands based producer and keyboard player Cook Daniel from his album Dangle Grooves. Picture perfect guitar from Marcel Fisser, a vibe to die for and wonderful vocals from Alma Nieto all combine to deliver what is, without doubt, a tranquil masterpiece.

‘Grass Roots’ by Joyce Cooling from her new release Global Cooling. Producer Jay Wagner is his usual superb self on keys and as luscious horns combine with Cooling’s classy playing the result is truly memorable.

‘The Rover’ by Philippe Saisse from his album At Worlds Edge. Jeff Golub provides distinctive guitar and with subliminal vocals from Jasmine Roy that are nothing short of incredible this is destined to become one of the tracks of the year.

‘Statue of a Fool’ by Will Downing from the album Classique. This Motown gem (a.k.a. ‘Name It After Me’) proved to be a solo masterpiece for original Temptations lead tenor David Ruffin back in 1976 yet in Downing’s capable hands it sounds brand new.


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

Paul Brown/Marc Antoine, Foreign Exchange (Peak Records) — One of the best collaborations I’ve heard to date.
 
Cynthia Layne, Beautiful Soul (Owlstudios) — Great jazz/soul vocals.
 
Joyce Cooling, Global Cooling (Group2 Productions) — No surprises here, as the guitarist struts her quality stuff.
 
Tony McGhee, The Jazzy Side of Smooth (self-published) — Great local talent.
 
Kiss the Sky, Kiss the Sky (Motown) — An oldie but goodie from the vault of Paul Hardcastle.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:47 PM

May 27, 2009

Smooth Jazz Dead? Look again!

O.k., here’s how the optimist in me sees this dramatic—and seemingly traumatic-- scenario being played out by broadcasters, advertisers, and program directors all across “Radio America:” The smooth jazz format is being flipped more than a stack of pancakes at IHOP. There’s no denying that anymore (although I admit to being in such a state of denial for quite awhile). For advertisers and broadcasters, being the kind of marketing beings they were trained to be, the format is spelling so-called disaster to them now, even though it was the rave for well over 20 years. Why? I’m told because there is frustration over “what the music has become.” What has it become that is such a turn-off? And who’s saying this, by the way?

Anyway, all of this means that one source of information about new releases and CD signings, after-work parties, etc. has been drastically reduced, although one of my colleagues here has just reported the “resurrection” of the genre in Chicago--just as the dirt was being poured over its gravesite.

Keeping things in perspective, I just happen to know many, many smooth jazzers who, like me, consider themselves quite resourceful. Until the artists stop making recordings and stop performing live, we will always have ways of finding out what’s happening. There’s Art Good’s Jazztrax.com; there’s Amazon.com and CDbaby.com, both of which offer samples of releases; there are the web sites, like Smoothvibes.com, that get and review new releases, often directly from the labels; there are the smooth jazz live venues that are still effectively advertising upcoming shows, and so on and so on. Online stations and the like are not the only sources remaining, and serious smooth jazzers know this. Now we hear of stations finding the courage, resourcefulness, and commitment to keep the genre intact and alive.

When record sales for the genre slip significantly and the concert halls become hard to fill, then I say: PANIC! Until then, what will keep smooth jazz alive will be, quite simply, its resourceful fans…who, by the way, complained long and loudly about the lack of new material and the stale repetition of music on the contemporary stations, anyway. Now that smooth jazz has been thrown a lifeline in Chicago, I am also happy to hear that fans there will soon experience what it’s like to be taken seriously and have their concerns addressed regarding the format. We are always aware that there are artists who have been seldom aired and who are deserving of airplay.

So, fans, please, let’s not panic because the stations and their representatives and cohorts are telling us to do so. Take a look again at the resources, as well as the encouraging move by WLFM (The “L”), and just keep on jazzin’! Just one man's opinion, but I am both hopeful and confident that it's shared by many. I'd love to hear from you on this, so please feel free to e-mail me with any comments. Do keep 'em clean!

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 2:29 PM

May 26, 2009

Torcuato Mariano—So Far From Home

So Far From Home is the fifth effort by Argentinian guitarist Torcuato Mariano and is quite a refreshing and crisp production. His skill on guitar is more appealing with each release. There are those signaling that this may be his best to date. That may well be true, although I still hold a certain affinity for his 2006 “Lift Me Up” release. The very pleasant hints of Brazil and Latin influences on this latest project do a remarkable job of enhancing the mood and flow of the album.

Mariano lists several artists who have influenced or caught his ear, but the artist he considers to be his primary influence is rocker Jeff Beck, whose unique style often included some really decent jazz fusion material. Apparently, Mariano listened well, as is evidenced here.

So Far From Home has some melodic moments that are both stirring and appealing. There’s “Back to the Road,” a mid-tempo “conversation” that has a lot of rock and fusion guitar bite and clarity. Adding some nice sax work by Marcelo Martins, it’s definitely one of my favorites here. The tight and funky “British Time” gets my vote, as well, for its spunkiness and brilliant instrument phrasing. The romantic and soothing piece, “Tell Me Your Dreams” is quite enough to coax those dreams out of you with ease. In addition, the coolness of some great straight-ahead tendencies blend well with smooth jazz elements on “DF,” and the exotic allure of Brazil abounds in “Ipanema Sunset.” The adept guitarist even treats the blues with his own interpretation, flavor, and soulfulness in, appropriately, “Blues Days.”

Diversity is the order of the day on this project. Obviously conceived with such eclecticism in mind, Mariano has hit his mark dead-on here.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 2:20 PM

May 25, 2009

Tony McGhee--The Jazzy Side of Smooth

Last year, I wrote at Jazzreview.com about an up-and-coming drummer, Tony McGhee, his right-hand man, a heavy-handed funk bassist named Darryl Braswell, aka “Brazz,” and their smokin’ release, Who Is Tony McGhee? Anyone following my lead and picking up a copy of that album quickly and happily discovered the answer to that question. Well, to further elaborate on this artist’s—and his cohort’s—identity, the pair has just released a follow-up album, The Jazzy Side of Smooth, which keeps the groove in that slick, funk vein.

The bite and “phatness” of the bottom-heavy tunes here are quite prevalent. After a brief and interesting “Intro,” the project comes out of the starting gate with a smooth and snappy little piece called “Come On Let’s Ride.” This overall “ride,” by the way, gets quite interesting very early on as, on its heels, comes the tight, slinky, and funky “Bounce,” surely to appeal to all those sexy ladies who love to take their time strutting their stuff on the dance floor in that oh-so-deliberate, seductive fashion. That’s a visual that’s simply commanded by the piece.

Other funksters include “Lil’ Heartbreaker,” “Brazztone” (hmm…wondering how they arrived at that title?), and “Cha Cha Momma” with its catchy vocals and hook (I just wish this one had been longer. It’s quite an addictive groove and is my fav here). These are just the tip of the iceberg, as the album struts tasteful funk throughout.

The Jazzy Side of Smooth is not only laced with good, solid funk, it’s well-written and contains very tasteful melodies, runs, and quite decent vocal harmonies. It’s a consummate piece for the jazz funkster who likes his/her material with teeth. The Jazzy Side of Smooth is available via CDbaby.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 5:49 PM

May 24, 2009

Smooth Jazz Rides The 'L' To Find A New Home At WLFM Chicago

No sooner had WNUA 95.5, Chicago slammed shut its door on smooth jazz than WLFM, which broadcasts from atop the John Hancock Center, activated its 87.7 FM frequency in the Chicago-land area and acquired broadcast rights from the Smooth Jazz Network for the smooth jazz format. The new station will go by the nickname of ‘The L’ and will have the catchy slogan of “Smooth Jazz Rides The L, WLFM 87.7 FM, It’s New Radio Home In Chicago”.

Although initially the output will be nothing more and nothing less than the syndicated programming from Broadcast Architecture that some blame for the demise of the radio we knew and loved, press reports suggest that ‘The L’ plans to reconstitute the cutting-edge community approach to smooth jazz in Chicago that, in its heyday, WNUA demonstrated so well. One of its main goals will be to create a station that has a very strong Chicago identity with a musical mix that represents what Chicagoan’s have been asking for

Over the next few months ‘The L’ will use extensive market research to formulate an increasing amount of locally based programming. However, for now, we should all rejoice that, in Chicago, smooth jazz is back on the dial.

Posted by Denis Poole at 4:11 PM

May 22, 2009

KKSF And WNUA Pull The Plug On Smooth Jazz

WNUA 95.5, the once proud voice of smooth jazz in Chicago, is no more. Effective May 22nd, 2009 at 9-55am the station flipped formats and, in so doing, sadly deprived a city that has music pulsing through its veins of an outlet which had served it well for the past 22 years. Although the station will retain an ‘on-line’ smooth jazz presence this is another indication that the days of contemporary jazz radio as we knew it and loved it are now strictly limited. As a frequent visitor to the mid west this hammer blow carries with it a very personal significance and I am saddened that an entire listening community has, in effect, been disenfranchised.

The news from Chicago only made what was already a bad week for contemporary jazz radio even worse. On May 18 KKSF 103.7, which has been providing San Francisco and the Bay Area with smooth jazz for the last twenty years also switched formats, in this case to something it is describing as ‘103.7 The Band’ but which in reality is no more than an oldies station playing hits from 60’s and 70’s.

Both broadcasters have cited economic considerations and a loss of advertising revenue as the main drivers for this change and KKSF even claims the decision was only made following ‘exhaustive market research’.

One is left to ponder on just where does the genre go from here.

Posted by Denis Poole at 7:41 PM

May 21, 2009

Way Up: Wayman Tisdale Remembered

by Val Vaccaro

It was a sad day on May 15, 2009 when we heard the surprising news in the smooth jazz world that 44 year-old bassist Wayman Tisdale passed away from bone cancer in a hospital in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sincere condolences go out to Wayman Tisdale’s family (his wife Regina, his four children, and new granddaughter), and all of his friends, fellow musicians, and fans.

In 2007, after Tisdale had fallen down a flight of steps and broke his leg, he had knee replacement surgery and chemotherapy. In August 2008, Tisdale had the lower part of his right leg amputated. Recently, it seemed that Wayman Tisdale had happily recovered and was a proud cancer survivor. In early 2009, Tisdale released a new CD aptly titled Rebound – with the double meaning of recovery in life, and in reference to the sports term of regaining possession of the ball during a basketball game, in the winning spirit. In April 2009, sports cable TV channel ESPN in the U.S. aired an inspirational feature story on Wayman Tisdale.

In January 2009, Tisdale enjoyed being surrounded by his family, friends, musical peers, and over 2000 smooth jazz fans. They rallied around Wayman to celebrate his music, his ‘recovery’ and the wonderful human being he was – on the smooth jazz cruise he hosted for Jazz Cruises LLC.

Just this past March, Wayman performed a show at Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, Pennsylvania at the Scottish Rite Cathedral as part of a “Smooth and Soulful” double-header show which also included the group Take 6. Tisdale had lost weight, needed the help of a cane and an assistant to walk, and he performed sitting down – but as SmoothVibes publisher Peter Boehi wrote, Tisdale still sounded great, and was planning to tour throughout 2009.

A decade ago back in 1999, I had the pleasure to see bassist Wayman Tisdale perform for the first time at the Beacon Theater in New York City (as part of a show with Gerald Albright and Will Downing) and had written an article on the show for the JVC Jazz Festival program.

The next time I caught up with Wayman was in June 2001. Tisdale and his band were opening for Kirk Whalum on a CD 101.9FM Smooth Cruise in NYC. It was then that the 6 foot 9 inches tall bass guitar player, towering over the crowd, wearing one of his sequined shirts, got to really shine on bass guitar and show off his musical prowess – including his great, catchy cover of the Earth, Wind and Fire tune “Can’t Hide Love” from Tisdale’s CD Face to Face. That was a special show in 2001 because lots of audience members had still never seen Wayman perform, and Kirk Whalum also joined in to play, along with Tom Braxton - the saxophonist in Wayman Tisdale’s band.

Fast forward to 2004 - Wayman had become a big smooth jazz star with his radio hit “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” from his CD Hang Time. That year, I had the pleasure of seeing Wayman Tisdale play on the Dave Koz Tour at the Westbury Music Theater in Long Island, New York.

As a person, Wayman Tisdale was a dual-achiever – a great role model and an inspiration having been both a successful NBA player and a smooth jazz star.

Twenty five years ago, Wayman Tisdale had the honor of winning a gold medal playing on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team in Los Angeles with teammates Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, and Chris Mullin. In 1986, Wayman Tisdale was chosen as the No. 2 draft pick behind Patrick Ewing for the Indiana Pacers. For twelve years, Tisdale scored more than 12,800 points, and made over 5000 rebounds playing for the NBA with the Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, before he retired from playing basketball in 1997.

Before he joined the NBA, Wayman Tisdale was a three-time All-American at the University of Oklahoma (in his freshman, sophomore, and junior years at college) where to this day, Tisdale is still the all-time leading scorer (in one single game alone, he scored 61 points)! Just last month in April, Wayman Tisdale received the news that he will be inducted on November 22, 2009 into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, along with Indiana State’s Larry Bird and Michigan State’s Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Now that induction will be posthumously, but at least Tisdale knew of this honor before he passed on.

Wayman Tisdale always loved music and had been playing the bass guitar since he was about nine years old. In 1995, Tisdale finally started to live out his other dream as a contemporary jazz musician – and released his first CD Power Forward. Since 1995, Wayman Tisdale has successfully recorded and performed his enthusiastic, catchy, upbeat R&B influenced smooth jazz music, releasing eight albums including his 2009 CD, Rebound. Tisdale garnered a number of hit songs on the radio, including his popular covers of “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” and “Can’t Hide Love.” Tisdale’s CDs often appeared in the Top 10 albums on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts and crossed over onto the R&B charts.

Wayman Tisdale also received admiration from actor Jamie Foxx. (Jamie Foxx – who received an Academy award in his role as Ray Charles in the 2005 movie “Ray” has recorded his own records as a musician - his CD Unpredictable was a platinum-selling number one record on the Billboard albums charts.) In a recent Rolling Stone magazine interview, Jamie Foxx had said that his “dream band” would include Wayman Tisdale, Herbie Hancock, Wynton and Brandford Marsalis and Prince. That would have been something to see!

Back to Wayman. The greatest compliment an artist can receive is having an instantly recognizable sound – when you hear the first notes on the bass guitar over the airwaves of the radio, on the Internet, or in a store or airport, you know immediately that it is Wayman Tisdale – something that was acknowledged by the legendary bassist Marcus Miller, among many others. I remember telling Wayman that I had read about Marcus Miller’s compliment when I saw Tisdale at a solo performance release party for the CD Way Up at the record store FYE in midtown Manhattan on a rainy afternoon in June 2006. Wayman’s manager, Earl Cole (who also manages Kirk Whalum), was there at the store quietly supporting Wayman by his side.

In September 2006, I was happy to talk with Wayman Tisdale at the CD101.9 FM Liberty Jazz Festival. It was a jovial atmosphere in the backstage area with Wayman Tisdale, David Sanborn, Kirk Whalum, Kirk’s Uncle - vocalist Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum, and Jeff Golub all chatting together before the show. In my article on the Liberty Jazz Festival for SmoothVibes.com, I wrote: “Hear a note or two, and you instantly recognize the buoyant bass sounds of Wayman Tisdale on songs like his current hit "Get Down On It" on his 7th CD, Way Up (2006 Rendezvous).” Wayman Tisdale was truly at the top of his musical game that evening along with his fantastic “Rendezvous All Stars” tour mates that year - Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, and Brian Simpson as the finale act at the Liberty Jazz Festival.

On his website, Wayman Tisdale fondly called his fans “WayTru Fans.” Wayman and his family recently established the Wayman Tisdale Foundation, with the mission of helping to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals with cancer and amputees by providing support and resources. Wayman’s inspirational words to others were: "Never give up because you can make it. If I can do it, so can you!" Wayman’s legacy will live on now through his Foundation and his music.

What I will always remember and one of the things that I’m sure family, friends, and fans will truly miss was Wayman Tisdale’s endearing, wonderfully winning smile – his big, charming baby-faced infectious grin always lit up the room with his warm friendly, and gracious personality. One word that may best describe Wayman and his music is “joy.” Thanks Wayman, for being “WayTru” and bringing us the joyful gift of sharing your enthusiastic personality and melodic, optimistic music with the world. We will miss you.

On Wednesday, May 20, 2009, there was a public viewing to pay respects to Wayman Tisdale, and also a service where attendees could share their memories later that evening at the Friendship Baptist Church in Oklahoma.

On Thursday, May 21, 2009, the BOK Center in Oklahoma opened its doors at 8am to welcome family, friends, and fans of Tisdale; that morning, at 10:30am, Wayman Tisdale’s band played a tribute to him, and at 11am, the funeral was scheduled to begin (with all events free and open to the public).

Later that Thursday evening on May 21st, a musical tribute took place at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame at the Jazz Depot presented by the Jazz Hall and drummer Arthur Thompson and hosted by comedian Jonathan Slocum. Wayman Tisdale’s musical friends scheduled to perform included: Kirk Whalum, Dave Koz, Marcus Miller, Gerald Albright, Najee, Tom Braxton, Everette Harp, Kim Waters, Raphael Saadiq, Marvin Saap, Fred Hammonds, Mike Philips, Arlington Jones, Bernard Wright, Lenny White, Cornell Morell, Arthur Thompson and many others. The proceeds from the show will benefit the Wayman Tisdale Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides support and resources to people in need, including individuals with cancer and amputees. Tisdale’s family also asked that in lieu of flowers or gifts, contributions be made to the Wayman Tisdale Foundation.

For the rest of 2009, at every concert event Wayman Tisdale was scheduled to perform at - and every time we see an ad for one of those concerts – it will be a reminder that Tisdale’s presence will be missed.

One of Wayman Tisdale’s roles in life seemed to be to make people happy with his music. Wayman Tisdale was also a spiritual man – his father was a Baptist Minister, and on his first CD Power Forward, he recorded the song “Amazing Grace.” On Wayman Tisdale’s current CD Rebound, the final song track is called “Grateful,” an emotional song with gospel great Marvin Sapp. The world is grateful to have known Wayman Tisdale and to have his music. I imagine that Wayman Tisdale will be “Way Up” there smiling down watching everyone at all of the tributes (at live shows and on future recordings) to him, knowing he was truly loved and appreciated by his family, his friends, so many great musicians, and his fans. At the present time, Wayman Tisdale’s website has not yet been updated since his passing… just another reminder that the shining star of Wayman Tisdale’s spirit will always live on.

Live concert photos by Bazpix.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:17 PM

May 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!

Cynthia Layne – Beautiful Soul

Cynthia Layne—no newcomer to music, with 15 years of performing under her belt-- is an attractive, very polished, sexy-smooth vocalist whose style on her 2008 release, Beautiful Soul, is often described as neo-soul, or some blend of R&B and soul (often, these terms are interchanged and don’t really speak to any significant distinctions). Personally, I find that this talented young lady displays a feel for great jazz vocals and smart lyrics, in addition to the obvious R&B overtones, and there are characteristics that feature atypical (for R&B) phrasings and chords. No, there’s so much more than R&B or neo-soul to this nightingale. There are some real intangibles that I feel define her as much as anything else.

This is a marvelous collection of well-conceived and produced diverse pieces that are truly tailor-made for the vocal stylings of Layne. It’s soulful, it’s jazzy, and it’s all smooth and palatable. A lot of it is definitely the stuff from which romantic evenings are painted and inhaled. It’s not at all difficult to feel this refreshing vocalist, to allow her inside your soul to caress those broken and uneasy places. The music she uses as her vehicle comes elaborately wrapped in elegance and class, as is evident in tunes like”I Can’t Change You,” “All I Need,” and the title track (which holds a lot of jazz flavor), all of which have a totally different texture and touch from that of the very R&Bish “Pimp Talk,” an equally fine tune but with a more biting edge. The latter is an effective knock on guys who can’t quite get it together in terms of appreciating a good woman. Definitely an ear-catcher. Then, there are some good ol’ unbridled rhythm and soul pieces, as showcased on the more up-tempo songs like “Will U Be There” and “Mystery.” Oh, did I fail to mention the funk element? Just try on the George Duke-like funk of “Free Yourself” for size.

Yes, the diversity of Layne’s talent is on full display on this very melodic album. Truly one you should be proud to have in your collection.


Shakatak—Emotionally Blue

I recently wrote here at SJV about the UK acid and smooth jazz sensation, Shakatak, and its latest release, Afterglow. I mentioned that I’d like to get my hands on the release just prior to this one, entitled Emotionally Blue. Well, I’ve now had the pleasure of listening to this gem released a couple of years ago, and just like clockwork, it is dependably Shakatak with all of its fluid motion, electricity, harmony, and funk. Vocalist Jill Saward and Co. simply refuse to disappoint.

Emotionally Blue is full of crisp cuts from a band that’s never skimped on quality. The vintage and signature Shakatak sound is here in abundance on tunes like the title track and “Osaka Skyline.” These tunes display the cool, swank flavor and swagger of the music, with Bill Sharpe’s keys doing their thing in setting the buoyant, yet oft bluesy, mood. Then, there are the funk pieces that simply beckon you to naturally follow as they bop and strut down the musical path with attitude.

One of the qualities I’ve always admired about Shakatak is the crystalline, silky vocals of Jill Saward and the handling of the harmonies. This is an integral part of the group’s identity, as much so as Sharpe’s trademark keys work or the glossy and tight sax work often on display. There is truly so much to admire about this upstanding group that it’s increasingly hard for me to believe that they’ve not included any live performances in the States in my recent memory. That has to pinch a little for us Shak fans here, and I reiterate what I said in my previous review: Shak, you’ve gotta make the States scene. We love you here, and your distinct sound is so welcome. Don’t let us down. Bring that splendor here for us all to witness!

Anyway, give this one a listen and see if you don’t agree that it—like so many of their other smashes--is a fit for your library.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 8:08 PM

May 17, 2009

Paul Brown and Marc Antoine – Foreign Exchange

One would have to wonder why this incredibly exotic collaboration of guitar virtuosos, Foreign Exchange , didn’t happen until now. No matter, we’re all the happy recipients of it now. What a wonderfully melodic blend of iconic talent, depth, and insight. The bluesiness and smoothness of songwriter/producer/performer Paul Brown (who stayed out of the public eye until his inevitable rise to prominence on the public scene could be denied no more) and the refreshing and brilliant exoticism of the smooth guitar sound of Marc Antoine (one of the most pleasant, buoyant artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, by the way) was simply a stroke of genius bound to pay dividends in more ways than one.

I had so much fun reviewing this one and determining who was playing what (which isn’t really that difficult, considering their very distinct sounds and differences—all of which made this recording that much more appealing).

There are the bouncy and invigorating Latin-tinged tunes showcasing the Antoine touch like “Feel the Love” and the jazzier “Wine Night,” combined with the bluesy, funky, and smooth presence of Brown’s experienced fingers on cuts like “Brother Earl,” “On The Down Low,” and “French Connection,” which still points a finger at the Antoine influence, as well. Then, there’s the magnificent handling of some light Brazilian cool with “Flight of the Conchords.” Also, the moving, driving title track is so full of melody and a lively hook that it is truly representative of the entire album and the union between these two guitar greats who are so different yet so similar.

Each tune is a journey across lands and cultures that “get it,” and each tune shows an eagerness to share the powerful magic possessed by these two with all who’ll listen.

Blues, Latin, Brazilian, the smoothest of smooth jazz, and just a major cool presence all exist here to mark this project as one bound to rise to and remain at the top of the charts as a clear embrace of foreign exchanges of musical ideas and styles that will surely appeal to many an aficionado of smooth jazz, as well as to fans of either or both of these gentlemen. A fun project for those in the studio, no doubt, but it’s also one cool party for those of us who watch and listen from outside that studio.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 5:39 PM

May 16, 2009

Sax For Stax At Boulder Station In May

Sax For Stax, with Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright, will perform their tribute to the hits from the old Stax Records days in the Railhead Showroom at The Boulder Station Hotel on Saturday, May 23rd.

Lake Las Vegas continues their summer jazz series in May on Saturdays, with Ronnie Foster, May 9th, The Killer Groove Band, May 16, The Brothers Ali, May 23rd, and Darrin Michaels, May 30th.

Natalie Cole performs at the newly opened M Resort on Saturday, May 23rd.

David Sanborn brings back his blue, funk, jazz groove to the South Point on May 29th.

New releases to check out:
Spyro Gyra's new Down The Wire album is one of the most diverse and creative CDs to come along in a long time. Get it! This is what contemporary jazz is all about. They cover all types of rhythms, from swing, to funk, to latin. Unspoken, The Tippin' Point, and A Flower For Annie Jeanette ,are just a few of the gems on this collection. And the soloing is superb by all members.

Marion Meadows new release, Secrets, is one his most creative album to date. Compositionally there is a great deal of depth from selections like The Child In Me , The Shade Tree, Urban Angels, to Here To Stay. Matched with Marion's signature soprano saxophone sound, including some fine subtle clarinet and tenor work, make a refreshing Spring release.

Both artists on the Heads Up record label. But now with the exit of Dave Love as the label head, it will be interesting to see if the direction of Heads Up maintains the solid artist roster it has built in the last ten years

Posted by Danny Desart at 9:20 PM

Wayman Tisdale, Fallen Giant

As one of my colleagues has already noted here, and as many already know by now, jazz bassist and former NBA basketball star Wayman Tisdale passed away yesterday after a two-year battle with bone cancer. To say that Wayman was an icon both onstage and on the court is an understatement.

The jovial, pleasant giant saw the fruit of his labor manifest itself in the form of some of the most dedicated and excited fans around, and rightfully so. A prince among his peers and fans alike, Wayman always sported a “can do” attitude, as is evidenced by his recent album, “Rebound,” and time and again each time he hosted the Smooth Jazz Cruise, an event always guaranteed to be a memorable party. I am one of those who routinely joined Wayman on those cruises, and I’m signed on for the next two, as well. Obviously, the next cruise--and all subsequent cruises--will be bittersweet as we recall the man who embodied the essence of smooth jazz and wowed smooth jazz aficionados everywhere with his winning and infectious personality.

I will sorely miss this gentle giant, and, like my Smoothvibes colleagues and fans everywhere, my heartfelt sympathies go out to his family. Now more than ever, we need to rebut those naysayers who have predicted the demise of smooth jazz by dedicating our devotion and support of the format Wayman so loved and to which he devoted so much of his energy, even to the end. God bless and keep you, big guy. You will always be in our hearts, and I am sure your eternal party has just begun.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 5:54 PM

May 15, 2009

Wayman Tisdale Passes Away

Smooth Jazz Bassist Wayman Tisdale has died at the age of 44.   Wayman passed away today (May 15) after a long battle with cancer. In early 2007, doctors discovered a cancerous growth in his right knee and he underwent chemotherapy. In August of 2008, Wayman had the lower part of his right leg amputated. Our sincere condolences go out to Wayman’s family – his wife Regina and his four children – Danielle, Tiffany, Wayman Jr., and Gabriel.

Picture taken March 29, 2009 at the Berks Jazz Festival.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 5:48 PM

May 14, 2009

Down To The Bone -- Future Boogie

Here we go again! After granting us a “breather” from the happily exhausting Supercharged, Down to the Bone, one of the heaviest, funk-laden, and groove-smart groups in modern time, is back with yet another relentless funk-in-motion smash in Future Boogie. These guys just know how to get folks to dispose of the chairs in a party room! With guests appearances by Hil St. Soul and the iconic master vibraphonist Roy Ayers (who should be a candidate for the eighth wonder of the world), the return of the absolutely coolest keyboardist in the U.K., Neil Angilley, and produced by the group’s “rock,” Stuart Wade (who writes a majority of the tunes here), one has to wonder what else could have possibly been done to ensure another over-the-top smash project by these "dancemongers."

Future Boogie has all the tastiness of a juicy filet mignon with all the trimmings and misses no opportunity to stomp and thunder through with all of the funk it can muster in any given tune. As is always the case with DTTB, you get a generous dose of each tune (nothing under 5 minutes and a handful well in excess of 7 minutes). I can imagine these guys just chuckling with joy as they envision what they’re doing to folks the world over. Imagining a gyrating, dance-crazed global party prompted by their thick music has to be one sensational high. No wonder they’re never in danger of being toppled as one of the absolute finest in acid jazz, or jazz/funk, or whatever you care to deem this high-energy concoction.

Track after track has its own personality, and Hil St. Soul’s appearance on “Should’ve Been You” and “The Brighter Side” as well as Ayers’ funky contribution at track 4 with “Good to Me” only stoke the flames of an already raging blaze of sound. Add to that such selections as “Spiderlegs” and “Get On It,” both of which feature some of the baddest collection of horns in the business, as well as the ingenuity and command of the Neil Angilley touch on keys, and you instantly know that Stuart Wade remains one of the most “in-touch” and prolific maestros around. The other cuts here are also of equal heat, and none takes a back seat to any of the others.

While “funk” and “dance” always come to mind as appropriate adjectives when referring to this supergroup, much credit has to be given to the professional and sharp manner in which they present melodies, hooks, rhythm, and, of course, soul on each of their projects. Future Boogie is no exception to that steadfast work ethic. Bring your dancing shoes-- and your appreciation for high-end quality—to this funk ball.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 5:06 AM

May 13, 2009

Dave Koz, Nick Colionne And Brian Simpson At The Pizza Express

April 9, 2009, and only forty eight hours after arriving in London, Brian Simpson, Dave Koz and Nick Colionne had incredibly transformed themselves from being three of the most successful solo contemporary jazz artists of recent times into what might yet prove to be the hottest smooth jazz super-group that the genre has ever produced. In town to play the second of six sell out shows at the legendary Pizza Express Jazz Club, and bolstered by the impressive content of their collective discography, the fact they blew the doors off with a delicious amalgam of energy, sensitivity and outstanding artistry was all the more remarkable for the fact that before flying in from the USA they had never previously shared the same stage.

Months of planning and electronically sharing each others music had clearly brought them to exactly the same creative page and as the show opened with the Koz classic ‘Honey Dipped’ from his Saxophonic collection there was little doubt that the audience was in for a considerable treat. When the spotlight switched to Colionne for the title track of his current CD No Limits the contribution of Koz on sax was nothing short of explosive and as Colionne went to the Keepin It Cool album for the sizzling ‘High Flyin’ it opened up the opportunity for more high energy input from Dave Koz.

In recent years Brian Simpson has added to being the consummate sideman and long time Musical Director for Dave Koz by becoming one of the most impressive soloists on the scene today. His 2005 It’s All Good (his first for fully ten years) was a runaway hit and both the title track and the equally delightful ‘It Could Happen’ had the Pizza Express crowd in raptures. ‘What Cha Gonna Do’ from the current CD Beyond The Clouds engendered a similar reaction but he was perhaps at his extraordinary best with the seductive ‘Let’s Get Close’. Word is that Simpson will have a brand new album ready for the Spring of 2010 which, with an incredible array of guest performers already promised, looks all set to take him ‘three for three’.

Throughout his career Dave Koz has never been slow to identify new ways to spread the message of contemporary jazz. The hugely accessible CD At The Movies is a case in point and at the Pizza Express his wonderful interpretation of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ created an interlude of spellbinding beauty. His 1999 album The Dance remains as one of his best and its massive hit ‘Together Again’ brought back memories of the last visit Koz made to London, in November 1999, with the Guitars and Saxes show. He went all the way back to 1993 for ‘You Make Me Smile’ from his Lucky Man project and in so doing afforded the opportunity for bass player Frank Felix to really shine. The line-up was completed by drummer Tony Mason who is best known for his work with Incognito and when the band returned to ‘The Dance’ for ‘I’ll Be There’ it was Mason who delivered with an exceptionally cool drum solo.

This former Jacksons hit proved to be the perfect encore number but, truth to tell, ‘show-stoppers’ were everywhere. Nick Colionne’s superb rendition of the Stylistics hit ‘Hurry Up This Way’ (with Simpson outstanding on keys) was magical but anyone who had previously seen Colionne play live would have gambled on the performance of the night being his marvellous vocal version of the 1970 Brook Benton hit ‘Rainy Night In Georgia’. From the CD Keepin It Cool it proved to be exactly that and, although sequenced for relatively early in the show, set a benchmark that lesser players would not have been able to maintain. As it was the standard remained astonishingly high throughout and turned this, the latest in a sequence of smooth jazz events promoted by the internet radio network Sky FM, into one of the best live shows imaginable.

Posted by Denis Poole at 10:19 PM

London Goes Bonkers For Smooth Jazz

Don't tell people in London that smooth jazz is on the skids.

Dave Koz, Nick Colionne and Brian Simpson have just returned from a triumphant multi-night gig at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London. Colionne's manager, Carol Ray, says that all six shows sold out, people were being turned away at the door, and there were standing ovations aplenty. In addition, all three artists sold out of the CDs they brought. Needless to say, the club was ecstatic over the shows and the standing-room-only crowds.

"I wish we could have you all here forever," said club manager Soufiane Maadad. "The music was great, you were all great. Looking forward to having you again."

Adds Ray: "My head is still in London; the warmth of that city and the audiences every night was overwhelming. They literally roared at the beginning of the shows during the introductions, not just applauding politely. They really set the tone and Nick, Dave and Brian responded with the most unbelievable shows."

The backing band was Frank Felix on bass and Tony Mason on drums. Both are Londoners. Felix was formerly with Acoustic Alchemy and Mason with Incognito.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 2:31 AM

May 12, 2009

You’ve Never Seen Anything Like This!

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

Sunday, May 24, 2009 - 5:00pm to 9:00pm
20th Annual KSBR Birthday Bash 2009
Village Green at Oso Viejo Community Park
24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo
www.KSBR.org

Unless you been to the KSBR Birthday Bash in Mission Viejo, you’ve probably never seen a standing room only stage filled with A-list jazz artists jamming for four hours. With 50, yes 50, different artists rotating on and off the stage in various all-star configurations, playing each others music and improvising along the way, the audience experiences a once in a lifetime concert because it would be impossible for the music to happen in exactly the same way again.

Per tradition, the artists are revealed one per day on KSBR.org beginning May 1st. However, some extremely special guests cannot be announced prior to the event due to other contractual restrictions. Already announced artists are Greg Adams, Brian Allen, Johnnie Bamont, Michael Paulo, Joey Navarro, Johnny Sandoval, Lee Thornburg, James Wirrick, Bill Cantos, Chieli Minucci, Boney James, Gregg Karukas, Dan Siegel, & Nils.

The 20th Annual Birthday Bash comes as KSBR also celebrates 30 years of bringing jazz to Orange County and as Saddleback College radio station KSBR (88.5 FM) celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The Bash is returning for the 2nd year to the beautifully manicured and spacious grounds at the Village Green at Oso Viejo Community Park. Reserved “VIP” seating will again be offered directly in front of the stage, with no change in ticket price from previous years. VIP pass holders will enjoy reserved parking immediately adjacent to the venue, new banquet facilities for an enhanced pre-Bash dining experience, a larger stage for better sight lines, and more space in the VIP area for increased leg and elbow-room. VIP Platinum and Gold seats are priced at $175 and $100.General Admission Lawn Seating is $45. Although the Bash always has a variety of delectable food for sale, fans may bring their own food & drinks.

Tickets may be purchased at www.KSBR.org or at the Saddleback College Box Office, (949) 582-4656. For VIP & Gold tickets call (949) 582-4501.

The Jazz Gypsy Tip: From experience, seasoned Bash attendees know that year after year artists of legendary status perform at the Bash but can't be announced prior to the event . So, get your tickets early b/c you'll be blown away when the final line-up is announced.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 11:22 AM

May 11, 2009

Norah Jones To Star In Upcoming Indie Film

Grammy Award-winning vocalist Norah Jones, who made her motion picture starring debut in My Blueberry Nights, will star in her second motion picture this summer. Jones has a role in a film titled Wah Do Dem (What They Do), which stars fellow musician and New Yorker Sean Bones. Bones, whose real name is Sean Sullivan, plays reggae music and will release a CD this summer that has an appearance by Norah.

Wah Do Dem is set in Jamaica and features Bones on his solitary odyssey after his girlfriend, played by Norah, dumps him days before their departure. The movie features plenty of reggae music and famed Jamaican actor and musician Carl Bradshaw, who appeared in the 1972 movie The Harder They Come with Jimmy Cliff.

Wah Do Dem (What They Do) will make its world premiere in June at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 4:10 AM

May 4, 2009

Craig Chaquico Returning With A New, Sweet CD

Veteran smooth jazz guitarist Craig Chaquico has finished a new CD titled Follow the Sun, which will be released by the Shanachie record label on May 19. Chaquico's first non-holiday CD in almost five years follows Midnight Noon, which boasted the smooth jazz hits “Her Boyfriend’s Wedding” and “Dream Date.”

"Why Follow the Sun?" asks Chaquico. "Well, when you think about it, most of us jazz musicians come out after the sun goes down. So we kinda follow the sun. We’re sorta like night-blooming jazz-men."

Follow the Sun features nine original songs and a guitar-cover of saxophonist Kenny G’s first major hit single, “Song Bird.” The CD features plenty of Chaquico’s trademark guitar playing, Latin rhythms, and several rock-guitar passages that recall his days with the legendary rock group Jefferson Starship. Titles include “Fantasy in Paradise,” “Barefoot in the Sand,” “The Coast of Orion” and “Lights Out San Francisco,” the latter with vocalist Rolf Hartley.

The CD could be one of the best of Chaquico's career. The many stylings and adventuresome playing raise it to the top.

Posted by Brian Soergel at 6:40 PM

May 1, 2009

Ronny Jordan - At Last

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!

Ronny Jordan, At Last, (N-Coded Music)

Quietly powerful, gentlemanly, debonair, funky acid jazz? Almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Well, this is what comes to mind whenever I hear a Ronny Jordan album. This veteran British guitar virtuoso who is widely regarded as the originator of acid jazz always seems to bring it all and leave it there either in the studio or onstage---but has always done in such a mannerly fashion. Always the English gentleman. The monster layers of funk and the driving rhythms and bottom almost speak contradictorily to this quiet giant, but that’s the beauty of his music, character, and versatility.

As I’ve implied, Jordan is quite an unassuming, unimposing, yet clearly superior artist who exudes the type of taste and class of which only the best can boast. The licks, the melodies, and overall productions are always made of the stuff seldom approached by anyone who’s not at the top of his or her game in the world of jazz.

I could have chosen any number of this superb artist’s albums to review, but I chose At Last not just because it’s chock full of aural goodies from track one to track 10, but also because of the deep, solid, and permeating presence it exhibits. Here, as with many of his other projects, Jordan’s guitar speaks passionately in every tune, and there’s enough body and soul here to satisfy anyone seeking a good firm vibe. The man and his music clearly complement each other. Whether you classify him as acid or smooth or anywhere in between, he satisfies—immensely.

Sit back and take a mental stroll with Jordan on the very popular title track, “Night & Day,” “Heaven,” “Word of Mouth,” “Tease,” or any of the others offered here, and you’ll get my point. Don’t have this one yet? What are you waiting for? By the way, his latest will be heading our way sometime in the very near future, I’m told. If you have none of his material, why not let At Last be your introduction? You’ll then be somewhat prepared for what’s next... and I’m pretty certain that you’ll want whatever’s next!

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 7:35 PM

Shakatak--Afterglow

The sensational UK jazz/funk group Shakatak, featuring the usual smooth and sultry vocals of Jill Saward and the suave, distinctive keys of Bill Sharpe (along with healthy doses of George Anderson on bass and Roger Odell on drums)—just keeps on trucking along. Not missing a single beat, literally, this marvelously groove-tight veteran band has always possessed the ability to turn heads with its unique blend of smooth jazz, funk, and even a hint of the disco era. Remember the tune, “Dazz,” by the group Brick back when? Shakatak has always had that special ability to kick out some runaway “disco jazz” while also throwing in that heavy funk and then smoothly caressing you with the mellowest of rich tunes and melodies. You can see the strobes and globes of the ‘80s on a couple of cuts and yet still feel so today when listening to these very talented artists who have withstood the test of time and consistently kept their groove alive and well.

The group’s latest release, Afterglow, is actually available only as an import (the group has, much to the chagrin of its fans here in the States, concentrated much of its energies on the overseas circuit), as is its 2007 release, Emotionally Blue, another project I’ve yet to experience and review. Because of its lack of concert dates here in the States, I’d once thought the band has dissolved. Thankfully, I was wrong---very wrong! I only hope that they will heed the words of this writer, words that I’m sure represent the feelings of a multitude of other U.S. Shak fans, and toss in a few State dates! I am fully confident that they would be one excellent experience for all who attend.

All musical feels are represented here. Check out the wide and very appealing diversity of this production as you listen to the disco-like “Footprints” and “Groove Me Tonight” while “Tower of Babel” gets sweaty with deeply laid funk, and the title track, “First Light,” and “Out of Town” just plain smooth away your rough edges with serious soul rhythms and bravado.

Afterglow bears witness to the fact that this is and has always been a quality group that stays plugged into the vibe of jazz listeners who like their music tinged with that something different. THe group's signature sound is as unchallenged today as ever. Yes, Shakatak's mark on smooth jazz is undeniable for any who take this soulful and fun form of jazz seriously.

In closing, I have two messages. To Shakatak: Don’t forget that you have fans here in the U.S. who love you! Share your live musical riches with us, and I bet you’ll see that love show up at the concert halls and jazz festivals in abundance. To Shak fans: After listening to this one, you will surely come away with the satisfying feeling of drowning in the afterglow.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 3:53 AM