Here’s an interesting and romantic project, True Love, from the gorgeous Latina sax sensation, Jessy J. With the stylish contributions from producer/guitarist Paul Brown (who actually produced this effort, as well as Tequila Moon) and keyboardist Gregg Karukas, among others, the artist has managed to lock into her rich Latin heritage for a light, airy, laid-back journey through the tropics and beyond. There are distinct differences between True Love and Tequila Moon, and I’m still deciding if I like this latest venture better—or even as much--as that debut wonder, but this project is replete with comfortable and pretty melodic passages and hooks, as well as sexy Latin vocals, that soothe and beckon and certainly take nothing away from this young lady with a host of gifts.
As is the saxophonist’s style, lots of Latin flavor race through this polished recording from the opening track, “Tropical Rain” to the hot finale, “Baila.” My favorites are many and certainly include the aforementioned “Baila” (in my opinion, this one is simply the most demanding when it comes to calling you to the dance floor) and the title track.
Ah, the imagery conjured up throughout this release definitely involves beaches, exotic drinks, and late night sambas, cha-chas, salsas, and Brazilian grooves. If you’re not there with someone, find someone. This is truly meant for two, unless you’re just in a reflective mood calling for complete solitude.
While I’m not floored by the Brazilian touch (sorry, that’s never seemed to grab me), I can say that, when one is pretty much “funked out,” this is where you might come for any number of “time-outs” offered here. She also shows here, particularly on track 9, “Brazilian Dance,” that she knows her way around a sax in settings other than typical smooth jazz for example, and she demonstrates this with clever and classy runs and cool phrasings.
True Love, scheduled for release on August 4, does an amazing job of making sure that the added emphasis on the Latin flavor, almost to the exclusion of all else, is fitting and capable of upholding her sudden and deserved rise in the world of smooth jazz. While more laid-back than Tequila Moon, it loudly proclaims this Latina’s pride in her colorful and exotic culture. A pride well placed.
People often talk about hearing an artist as he or she has never been heard before. Well, truer words were never spoken when listening to this new project, Burnin’, from master saxman Paul Taylor, scheduled for release on July 21. Here is Taylor in a new but no less electrifyingly appealing fashion. His use of the tenor sax on 9 of the 10 tracks, with a lot of retro or old school touch (think Junior Walker & The All Stars and other drivers and churners of that era), is a welcome and fresh diversion.
How this approach came about is humorously interesting. As Taylor puts it, “The focus on the tenor happened by very happy accident. I thought it would be cool to bring my tenor along with my soprano and alto to the sessions…When I got to the studio and opened up my cases, I saw that the soprano was damaged.” Now, a more unprepared, unimaginative, and rigid artist might have postponed the sessions and replaced the soprano. Taylor, being quite insightful and adventurous, decided to plow ahead and write, along with veteran producers/keyboardists Barry Eastmond and Rex Rideout, some of the gutsiest and tightest material Taylor has released to date.
When you hear such tracks as “Groove Shack,” you just want to look for the nearest jukebox and see if a Junior Walker tune has been punched up. Yet, there’s still a very Paul Taylor signature on tunes like “Remember the Love,” full of sultry romance and charm. The funk element is very much present on this project, as well. “It’s Like That” is proof enough of that, and other tracks here lend witness, as well.
Granted, I had to settle into Taylor’s new touch, having been so used to the seductive call of his alto and soprano saxes. I wondered if I could train my mind’s eye to seeing him perform tunes that I’d usually liken to Richard Elliot or any number of others who wear the tenor regularly. I wonder no more. This just confirms that this artist can adapt to any style, anywhere, without so much as the bat of an eye.
I’ve followed Taylor for much of his career since his early years with world class pianist/keyboardist Keiko Matsui to and beyond his Kazu Matsui-produced debut album, On The Horn. I’ve never been disappointed with the charismatic, melodic, and spot on approach Taylor always seems to bring to the studio and to smooth jazz in general. Burnin’ continues his tradition of excellence in a big way, this time with a creative little twist.
B R I A N * S O E R G E L
Jay Soto: Mesmerized (NuGroove)
Joyce Cooling: Global Cooling (Group 2)
Torcuato Mariano: So Far From Home (NuGroove)
Will Downing: Classique (Peak)
J E F F * D A N I E L S
Gabriel Mark Hasselbach, Cool Down (2009)
Jay Soto, Mesmerized (Nu Groove Records) (2009)
Down to the Bone, Future Boogie (Shanachie) (2009)
Gary Burton Quartet , Live [LIVE] (Concord Jazz) (2009)
P E T E R * B O E H I
Mark Whitfield - Songs Of Wonder (2009)
Guitarist Mark Whitfiled has been touring with Chris Botti for the past few years, this is a great solo album dedicated to the catalog of Stevie Wonder. It features guests Chris Botti and John Mayer. Smooth, jazzy and soulful!
Najee - Mind Over Matter (2009)
The latest release from saxophonist and flautist Najee is another higlight in this artist's career. Strong playing, great songs, top-notch production yield a great CD. Not to be missed!
Joyce Cooling - Global Cooling (2009)
The team of keyboardist Jay Wagner and guitarist Joyce Cooling deliver another nice album full of catchy melodies and groovy playing that keep your head nodding. Can't resist the charm of this woman!
Joseph Vincelli - Cocktail Mix (2009)
This is a live recording of saxophonist Joseph Vincelli, featuring passionate playing and picture perfect smooth jazz songs, his band is outstanding. Absolutely top-notch!
Victor Feldman - In My Pocket (1977)
As my nod to the past, I would like to mention this audiophile LP by Victor Feldman, featuring Hubert Laws and Harvey Mason. On this direct-to-disc session, they had to nail it at the first attempt, and they did! Re-issued on CD as "Rio Nights".
D E N I S * P O O L E
‘Soul Sugar’ by Marion Meadows from his current CD Secrets. This Michael Broening composition is replete with the warm and comforting vibe that Secrets is all about. The almost languid beat builds a platform for interplay between Meadows and Broening which quickly becomes seriously addictive.
‘Say It Baby’ by sax player and vocalist Paula Atherton from her stunning new album Groove With Me. Lionel Cordew on drums and bass-man Schuyler Deale lay down a massive foundation and, between blowing up a storm on sax, Atherton still finds time to combine with Naomion for some high calibre backing vocals.
‘Say I Do’ by Jackiem Joyner from the CD Lil’ Man Soul. With an unhurried sexy groove this is a cut that says everything about what top-notch urban jazz should be.
‘Hindsight’ by Pieces Of A Dream from the recording Soul Intent; With a sultry laid back aura that checks every box imaginable, James K Lloyd’s mesmerizing keys and great sax from Eddie Baccus Jr., this is without doubt the best contemporary jazz track of the year so far.
‘Desirable’ by Tea from the album Dreams; Tea is the production team of guitarist Frank Balloffet and drummer - keyboard player Phil Bunch who, for this latest project, have gathered together some outstanding guest performers. This particular piece of magic finds Chana in dazzling form on vocals, the legendary Brian Auger immense on Fender Rhodes and Randall Willis making a noteworthy contribution on alto sax.
R O N A L D * J A C K S O N
The Motown Collection, (Time Life) -- In what is now a weird twist, I had previously ordered this fantastic 10-CD package of sheer blissful nostalgia which comprehensively covers the Motown years and artists. Of course. with the great Michael Jackson's passing, the collection is now all the more timely, as many of the Jackson hits, as well as a bonus DVD, which includes the Jacksons, are included. This is truly a must-have.
Jeff Lorber, Heard That (Peak)
Walter Beasley, Free Your Mind (Heads Up)
Paul Taylor, Burnin' (Peak)
Joe McBride, Lookin' For a Change (Heads Up)
Last Thursday, June 25, I had the distinct satisfaction of attending a concert by the Jazz Attack (Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, and Rick Braun) at one of our esteemed local hot spots for smooth jazz, the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, VA. To say I definitely received my money’s worth is like saying LeBron James is an "o.k." basketball player!
These guys are only one of two acts I’ve seen so far this year that could qualify, in my mind, as the concert of the year. Seriously. Flawlessly exhibiting style, charm, charisma, a genuine love for the music and its fans, the Jazz Attack was the concert you always hope you’ll get but perhaps, more than once and for whatever reason, don’t.
Combining the artsy flair, top-tier skill, and musicianship they each easily and unquestionably possess with comedic barbs and skits to keep the audience engaged and at a fever pitch, the group stormed through a magnificent set (with superb, crisp sound quality, I might add. Kudos to the sound engineer that evening) that left us all gasping and deliciously exhausted.
From trumpet master Rick Braun’s initial kickoff and entrance (through the audience, as is a custom of his) to the familiar sound of his classic “Cadillac Slim” through the fiery, fat sound of sax wiz Richard Elliot’s covers of “Rock Steady” and “Move On Up” in a rousing medley to the ever-effervescent and engaging Jonathan Butler and his jamming opener, “Wake Up,” these guys poured it on non-stop. The magic further included the soulful and nostalgic call of Elliot’s sax on The Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round” and the all-too-funky "Who," as well as Butler’s trademark vocal proficiency on "Sarah Sarah," his version of Bob Marley’s gut-wrenching “No Woman, No Cry,” and his spritually uplifting "Brand New Day." There was also Braun's smooth, cool, and tight "Notorious," and a sneak preview of his upcoming album featuring a rhythmic little Latin jazz ditty. The group initially closed with Braun’s always-hot cover of “Grazin’ in the Grass,” then encored with Butler’s “Lies” with plenty of audience participation.
Those in attendance have to feel immensely gratified that they were there. Those outside of the Birchmere circle of fans who have not yet witnessed this experience should definitely watch for it in their respective cities and add it to their must-see list.
The Killer Groove Band performed at the Whitney Library Amphitheater in Las Vegas on June 14th, and debuted material from their upcoming release called "Get Out" on Misatajo Entertainment. The band was very well received and had the opportunity to bond several generations of jazz aficionados.
Andre Rieu, dutch violinist and showman, who has sold more than twenty-five million albums worldwide, performs at the Orleans Arena on Wednesday, June 24th.
Blu7 performs this week at the House Of Blues in Las Vegas. Blu7 is also another very original, eclectic jazz ensemble emerging in the City Of Lights.
Darcus Speed, talented r&b jazz vocalist, performs weekends at Bugsy's.
Saturday nights have been hosting packed crowds at the Palms Hotel with Santa Fe And The Fat City Horns and their funked up fat grooves shaking the walls of the house.
“In the classical world, the flute has a huge stature, but it has struggled in recent years to be considered as a solo jazz instrument on the same level as the saxophone or guitar or piano.” So says jazz flutist Alexander Zonjic. Well, with his persistence and perseverance-- along with that of fellow flutists like Althea Rene and Nestor Torres-- the flute, as an enticing entity with its own personality and presence, is certainly on course to being anything but “lightweight.” This is quite evident with Zonjic’s latest effort, Doin’ the D, a reference, by the way, to a popular catchphrase in the Detroit area, where Zonjic has resided for the better part of 30 years. The phrase is said to mean spending an evening or a weekend checking out any of the various cultural attractions offered by the city’s rich musical history and cultural diversity. This recording captures the essence of that adventure.
This album contains some seriously colorful melodies and hooks by Zonjic and includes the masterful contributions of such stellar jazz celebs as Jeff Lorber, Maysa, Kenny G, Bob James, James Lloyd, Rick Braun, and Chieli Minucci. The opening track, “Top Down,” smacks of Lorber’s artistry and songsmithing, while track 2, “From A to Z,” has that funky rhythmic drive symbolic of a Pieces of a Dream tune, and well it should, considering that keys wiz James Lloyd wrote and sits in on this one, as well as one other.
Not to be outdone, Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” gets a workout from Kenny G on sax. Some nicely vibrant Latin flavor (a touch never to be ignored in today's smooth jazz arena) is also brushed on in “Passion Island.” Toss in Maysa’s always amazing vocal talents on a cool take of “Undun,” originally written and recorded by Canadian rockers, The Guess Who, and a funky little Lorber piece (Lorber penned a number of these tunes, by the way) called “Tourista”-- which features trumpeter Rick Braun--and you’ve got a really well-rounded album. Of course, all of these contributions are well-served by Zonjic’s lilting, soothing, and oft even funky flute offerings. With such a delightful blend of tastes and feels, this project is truly one for the senses.
While Zonjic doesn’t lend any writing to this project (instead, he graciously redirects that spotlight onto his musical colleagues), each tune here is electrified by the powerful presence of his dancing flute, and it is that presence that gives this project that extra caress and lift and should allow the flutist to claim this one as one of his finest to date. Indeed, a well-conceived and most pleasurable effort.
This latest from veteran saxophonist Najee is pure Najee with new motivation and vision. Mind Over Matter, the CD’s title (a title inspired by the late Miles Davis’ improvisational approach to songwriting toward the end of his career), is due to hit stores on August 25 and focuses on the feel and groove of the music as opposed to the usual mechanics of it all (phrasings, harmony and melody balancing, etc.). This is an at-its-core production that simply goes with the flow, and what a flow it is. Najee’s inherently polished skills in both musicianship and songsmithing remain clearly intact and devoid of the ho-hum of some jazz that’s rushed through just to keep the bills paid.
The album is full of freshness and evidence of the serious yet fun experience that Najee brings with him to the studio with each recording. The opening track, a mid-tempo light yet funky and smoky piece, is flavorful and catchy. The second track, co-written by newly highlighted saxman/writer Darren Rahn, has the hook, rhythm, and melody that fit Najee like a glove. Then, there’s the title cut, a groove-rich tune with a pinch of spicy funk and a lot of that smooth jazz rhythm we’ve all come to know and love. This one not only features some really well-done sax runs by Najee but some sharp keyboard action from co-writer Will Brock.
A cool horn arrangement and the suave vocals of Eric Benet do the trick for the slinky and soulful “We Gone Ride,” then it’s back on the dance floor with the moving “Stolen Glances,” a piece written by the iconic composer/keyboardist Jeff Lorber. One listen and you can’t help discerning that the veteran keys wizard had his hands all over this one, as his flair for that mid-tempo pausing kind of funk seeps through unambiguously. Of course, Najee’s sax does wonders with this fine collaboration. The same thing holds true with the other piece on which these two collaborated, “One More Thing.” As its finale, the album escorts in the fine, smooth vocals of Gary Taylor to complement the soul-stirring sax work from Najee with a mellow R&Bish nod in “Moon Over Carolina.”
And so it goes throughout the album. Once again, Najee proves why he’s lasted so long in this business of smooth. Placing mind over matter does work as is evidenced on this hefty project.
Five tunes. Ordinarily, seeing an album offering just 5 tunes might give one pause. That’s if they were just 5 tunes. These are five tunes from the very talented and insightful violinist Noel Webb who manages to wrap so much of himself in a tight fusion net that he unfurls here with equal doses of fervor and finesse. Give It All does just what its name commands and in electrifying fashion. These are not even long tunes (average is about 4 ½ minutes). Geez, it’s over before you can grasp what’s going on, you say? Wrong! This short ride is as enjoyable and defined as any 12-track project you’ve experienced. Obviously when you’ve limited yourself to such a short amount of time to strut your stuff, you want it to be with everything you’ve got. Webb has done that here.
The opening, very catchy tune sets the indelible mark on this project, and the rest of the album simply sails along, punctuating that opener. The fresh version of the classic “Where is the Love” with some really effective vocals provided by Trena Steward and Joel Gaines is quite refreshing, as is the popping, rather funky mid-tempo ditty at track three, “Take the Journey”, and track four with its lazy, soulful melody caressed by Webb’s fluid violin. Track 5, appropriately entitled “Cool,” is a finale that leaves us with a slinky, catchy melodic groove that has a mind of its own as it rolls along before the hook explodes in a marvelous crescendo.
Noel Webb is one who can definitely get away with a truncated CD. This production is loaded with some nicely arranged aural pleasures that most won’t have a problem replaying and replaying, despite its length. More is not always better. Sometimes, as singer Joss Stone once put it, “Less is More.” Case in point is certainly found in Give It All.
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. Sax-man Marion Meadows has been at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz since 1990 and the release of his debut album For Lovers Only. Over the intervening years eight more highly acclaimed collections have followed with the last four being on the consistently outstanding Heads Up label. Now he is all set to strengthen that association with his ninth solo recording, Secrets, which hit record stores across Europe on June 8, 2009.
Indeed, from as far back as his 2002 CD, In Deep, a significant feature of Meadows music has been the input as writer and producer of Michael Broening. With Secrets Broening again sprinkles his groove drenched magic over six of the twelve choice cuts and, in the company of regulars Mel Brown on bass and guitarist Freddie Fox, helps deliver some of the best contemporary jazz you will hear this year or next. With four more original compositions and two sublime covers Meadows ensures that Secrets is an album of the highest quality imaginable.
The mid tempo title track is resplendent with that delightfully familiar Meadows – Broening vibe and this same partnership is responsible for ‘Urban Angels’. As the title suggests, and despite an urgent beat, it possesses a distinctly angelic tone whilst even better is ‘The Child in Me’. Tender yet compelling this textbook example of mellow smooth jazz finds Meadows at his impressive best and has already become a firm Secret Garden favourite.
That said, highlights abound and in this respect there is none more so than the spicy ‘Sand Dancers’. Written by Orly Penate and Roberto Vazquez (who both contribute hugely on keyboards, piano and horns) this tantalizingly inviting number shimmers with electrifying bursts of strings and a blazing injection of horns. Its zesty Latin twist allows the track to really flow and much the same can be said of the Broening – Meadows penned ‘Flirt’. Not for the first time Meadows playing is sumptuously smooth and when for ‘The Shade Tree’ he combines with the highly regarded Impromp2 it proves to be a chilled out masterpiece. Impromp2 is in fact the pairing of Johnny Britt and Sean Thomas who have been playing sophisticated cross-over jazz since the 1995 release of their MoJazz debut You’re Gonna Love It. Here as writers, producers and performers they bestow a distinctly Michael Franks aura to the entire piece while, elsewhere, heartfelt vocals from long time Gerald Veasley band member Will Brock gel perfectly with Meadows’ impassioned playing on the lively ‘Playtime’.
Legendary guitarist and rock singer Charlie Karp is outstanding for the breathtakingly tender ‘You Lift My Heart’ where his husky voice finds the ideal foil in Meadows’ wondrous playing. Co-written and produced by the prolific Brian Keane it’s a tune that exemplifies the eclectic nature of Secrets and, as Meadows returns to smooth jazz territory, the understated but totally in the pocket ‘Let The Top Down’ has Michael Broening’s writing and production skills stamped all over it. The utterly pleasing hook comes courtesy of Jessie McGuire on trumpet and he stays around for Meadows’ cool take on the Bobby McFerrin classic ‘Friends’ for which Brian Chartrand on vocals takes the lead. Chartrand returns for the steamily funky ‘Here To Stay’ that was originally the killer cut from the Pat Metheny CD, We Live Here. Meadows feisty interpretation reveals Rachel Ekroth in dazzling form on Hammond B3, Jay Rowe immense on piano and is, without doubt, one of the album’s outstanding tracks. However, equally good is the Michael Broening composition ‘Soul Sugar’. With yet more of the warm and comforting vibe that Secrets is all about, the almost languid beat lays a foundation for interplay between Meadows and Broening that quickly becomes seriously addictive.
Secrets is a wonderful album and comes highly recommended.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.
Well, there are “best of” collections and then there are testaments to legacies. Heads Up recording artists Hiroshima couldn’t have tagged their latest project in a better manner. Having more years under their recording/performing belt than some artists have had birthdays, this veteran jazz fusion group dropped in on us with its unique brand some 30 years ago and has been welcomed back with robust enthusiasm ever since. Legacy, in stores on August 18, captures some sensational moments in the group’s career, and while including original members, also includes appearances and stellar performances by guest artists embraced as "family" by the group (e.g., Terry Steele -- "Save Yourself For Me" will always be one of my favs!).
I understand that founders Dan and June Kuramoto hope to build a series from this pilot. Personally, from what they’ve presented here, they could do that successfully and easily. By the way, they’ve not only chosen the tunes well, but they’ve made certain that more than a few lengthy ones are tossed in. Such generosity is not lost on this writer.
As wonderful to behold in person (witnessing June Kuramoto on the koto is something at which to truly marvel) as they are on record, Hiroshima has been secure and secured in its position in the jazz world for as long as I can remember. Their signature sound has yet to be matched. Imaginative compositions and melodies boasting of the tight, meticulous integration of East and West music, coupled with charming collective personalities, have worked wonders for this fine group over the years, and, with Legacy, you can see how they’ve withstood the test of time oh-so-easily.
The album opens with the tasteful, groove-tight “Winds of Change,” weaves its way through more of my favs (“One Wish” and “Dada”), and just has fun taking us all on a very cool reminiscent journey of truly classy music that utilizes elements of soul, jazz, funk, and Eastern charm to punctuate and affect.
Here’s a group that really needs no introduction, but always deserves a grand entrance. As mentioned earlier, there are all sorts of “best of” collections available in any genre in abundance. To term this project as just another such production not only is diminishing but is inaccurate because this is certainly only the tip of the iceberg of “bests” for Hiroshima.
Jason Weber is one of those cool, smooth saxmen who can pour out funk, attitude, and polish all in one note. Five is the latest undertaking by this artist who now has--you guessed it--five albums under his belt, each with its own personality.
I first learned of Weber a while back, just after the 2002 release of his funky Something Blue album. I was so impressed then that I dashed off a note of personal congrats to him (I don’t even think I had started reviewing CDs as a contributing editor or staff writer for any site then). It certainly gives me great pleasure to report here that the man still “has” it and simply lays on the line all of his fine smooth, funk, and bluesy touches, just as he did “way back” in 2002.
Over the years, Weber has established himself well and competent enough to accompany such artists as Gerald Albright, Nathan East, Everette Harp, and Steve Ferrone (who appears with him on this latest endeavor). Still, I think he is long overdue for the personal spotlight he deserves, as is evident in this satisfying production.
The opening track, "U Know U Like It," is a mid-tempo funk groove that gets the motor started on this quality album. Its melody, body, and call to the individual soul of smooth jazz are most evident and becoming. It’s followed by a mellow, tastefully soulful piece called "For The Children." Something about this tune makes its title so very appropriate. It seems so befitting the love and protectiveness that parents and others should feel for the little ones. That may be a lot to read into a track without lyrics, but I certainly would find it easy to set words to this piece that would reflect such sentiment.
As you will quickly note with track 3, "La Isla Bonita," Weber can turn a mean Latin melody, as well. In fact, this is probably my favorite track here. Very rhythmic and alive with all of the exoticism of a Latin island, dancing yourself away to such a peaceful setting with this one shouldn’t be hard at all.
"Some Day" is a tune that especially hints at the soulful stylings of veteran saxman Richard Elliot (in fact, you’ll find a lot of similarities between the two artists in a few other instances, though there are also very distinct differences, to the credit of each). In addition, Weber’s apt handling of Santana’s "Europa" at track 9 and Desiree’s "You Gotta Be" at track 10 are sure to catch and keep any listening ear, and what would a Jason Weber album be without a parting nod to some good ol’ jazz funk as classily displayed on the finale, "D-Funked?"
Weber has obviously devoted himself to stylish compositions that help shape him as a complete jazz entity to fully appreciate. Five goes a long way in helping with this objective. Visit CDbaby.com and give it a listen. It’s good quality stuff that may well work for you as much as it did for me.
Written by The Jazz Gypsy
There's no better way to spend the upcoming weekend than at the legendary Hollywood Bowl enjoying great food, good friends and exceptional jazz at the 31st Annual Playboy Jazz Festival.
2009 PLAYBOY JAZZ FESTIVAL
Saturday, June 13, 2009, 2:30 P.M.--11:00 P.M.
Sunday, June 14, 2009, 2:00 P.M. -- 10:30 P.M.
Hollywood Bowl, 2301 North Highland Ave, Los Angeles, California 90068
TALENT: Saturday, June 13, 2009, 2:30 P.M.-11:00 P.M.
The Neville Brothers
Remembering the Miles Davis Classic Kind of Blue @ 50 with Jimmy Cobb's So What Band, featuring Wallace Rodney, Vincent Herring, Javon Jackson, Larry Willis & Buster Williams
SUMMER STORM Starring Norman Brown, Phil Perry, Eric Darius, featuring Gail Johnson
Jon Faddis Quartet
The Jack Sheldon Orchestra
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Pete Escovedo Orchestra, featuring Shelia E, Peter Michael and Juan Escovedo
The Jack Sheldon Orchestra
COS of Good Music, featuring Dwayne Burno, Ndugu Chancler, Anat Cohen, Luis Conte, Tanya Darby, and Geoffrey Keezer
New Birth Brass Band & the
LA County High School for the Arts Jazz Ensemble
TALENT: Sunday, June 14, 2009, 2:00 P.M.-10:30 P.M.
Wayne Shorter Quartet featuring Brian Blade, John Patitucci, Danilo Perez
King Sunny Ade
Dave Holland Big Band
Monty Alexander's Jazz & Roots
Oscar Hernandez and the LA Salsa All-Stars
Anat Cohen Quartet
Alfredo Rodriguez, presented by Quincy Jones
North Hollywood High School Jazz Ensemble
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. As if from no-where, and courtesy of her brand new project Groove With Me, singer, songwriter and woodwind player Paula Atherton has dramatically emerged as a major player on the contemporary jazz scene. This sensational collection features eleven of Atherton’s original compositions plus one well chosen cover and, with the perfect blend of instrumental and vocal cuts, oozes quality throughout. The production of Lou Gimenez (who also makes significant contributions on acoustic and electric guitars) is never anything short of top-notch and with some fantastic guest musicians to lend a hand the entire recording is a total delight.
New York based Atherton has opened for the likes of Chuck Loeb, Patti Austin, Tito Puente and saxophonist Najee. In 2004 her debut CD Let Me Inside Your Love made its mark on the national contemporary jazz charts while in 2006 a cut from this album, ‘I Long For Your Love’ was included on the compilation Ladies of Jazz that also featured Natalie Cole, Candy Dulfer and Eliane Elias. Her television work includes appearances on the Today Show, Good Morning America and, as bandleader, for the Lifetime network show, Girl’s Night Out. In addition, Paula performed at fundraisers during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and in 2002 wrote the score for the independent film ‘The Definition of Insanity’.
She has crammed this musical pedigree into every note of Groove With Me which opens with the zesty ‘Marimba Island’. It’s a track that evokes white crested waves breaking over warm white sand and shimmers with Atherton’s wonderful flute playing. This terrific example of textbook smooth jazz is in the good company of the funky yet melodic ‘Block Party’ which is blessed by Chieli Minucci on guitar and the outstanding Dave Delhomme on keyboards. Atherton on alto sax is tremendous and she stays with alto for ‘There Ain’t Nothing’. Opening with a clear hint of those killer chords from the Boz Scaggs classic ‘Lowdown’ the tune drips with all the rhythm and melody you will ever need and finds Atherton delivering on every conceivable level.
When, later, she reprises the song with her own picture perfect vocals the result is just as good and, given Atherton’s prowess as a vocalist, it’s surprising that she sings on only three other tracks. The first, ‘Whenever You Come Around’, is a breathtaking example of smooth R & B that has the added benefit of Darin Brown on keys whilst the heartfelt ‘Send Down An Angel’ allows Atherton to demonstrate another side of her myriad talents. The equally romantic ‘Falling’ provides more of the pleasing same but when Paula is joined by former Tower of Power trumpeter Greg Adams for the ultra funky ‘JB’ they together crank up the volume for a high octane tribute to the great James Brown. Baron Raymonde on tenor and baritone sax adds extra horsepower while the whole piece fizzes with a horn driven frenzy. This same energy is a key component of the aptly titled ‘Funk It Up’ for which Atherton calls on noted keyboard player Onaje Allan Gumbs and it is a feature of the CD that she is able to move seamlessly from the up tempo to the tranquil and all points between. For the tender ‘Winds Of Change (Yes We Can)’ she is at her melodic best on soprano sax and whereas ‘Light As Air’ is jazzy, interesting and beautifully performed the album’s only cover, the Ashford & Simpson composition ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’, is big, brassy, and thanks in no small part top more great trumpet from Adams, funky too.
To select a favourite from a collection replete with riches is no easy task but, all things considered, this accolade goes to the edgy mid tempo ‘Say It Baby’. Lionel Cordew on drums and bass-man Schuyler Deale lay down a massive foundation; Brown is again immense on keys and, between blowing up a storm on sax, Atherton still finds time to combine with Naomion for some high calibre backing vocals.
Groove With Me is a real gem and comes highly recommended. For more on Paula Atherton go to www.paulaatherton.com
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.
Smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz and the legendary Capitol Records have ended their almost 20-year partnership as Koz has been signed by the Concord Music Group. The label is expected to release a new CD by Koz later this year.
It was back in 1990 that Koz released his self-titled debut on Capitol, and followed that in the 1990s with Lucky Man, Off the Beaten Path, December Makes Me Feel This Way and The Dance. This decade has seen Saxophonic, At the Movies, Memories of a Winter’s Night and Greatest Hits. The latter CD features the current Top 5 single “Bada Bing.”
In 2002, Koz co-founded Rendezvous Entertainment, where he released music by other artists but not his own. Last year, Rendezvous was sold to Mack Avenue Records. Koz joins an impressive list of artists at Concord, including Boney James, Kenny G and Vanessa Williams. Concord also releases smooth jazz music through its Peak and Heads Up labels.
Popular smooth jazz guitarist Peter White has finished a brand-new CD titled Good Day that features all-new original songs. The CD is his follow-up to 2006’s Playin’ Favorites, which boasted two #1 Smooth Jazz singles, “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” and “Mister Magic,” which combined spent 24 weeks at the top of the charts.
Produced by White, DC and Philippe Saisse, the guitarist says that seven of the CD’s 10 songs sprang from ideas that he has accumulated over the past 10 to 15 years. Those songs include “Always, Forever,” “Temptation,” “Mission 2 Mars” and “Bright,” the latter dedicated to the late Wayman Tisdale.
Other songs include the title track by Michael Egizi, who also co-wrote Peter’s smooth jazz hit “Turn It Out”; “(UN) Forgiven,” based on a musical idea by David Kochanski and DC; and “Love Will Find You,” recorded around a pre-existing track by White's brother, Danny White, and featuring new vocals by Basia.
Says White: "My last CD, ‘Playing Favorites,’ was all cover songs. So I won’t be doing any more cover songs for quite awhile, I think. But I’m been working on a new album, and I brought in Philippe Saisse, who I think is a genius. And he’s really kicked it up quite a few levels. I think the world doesn’t want another mediocre smooth jazz album. I have a feeling it might be my best album ever. That’s all I can say. I mean, I’ve really taken my time with it and I’ve been drawing on material that I’ve had over the last 10 years that I’ve stockpiled to put the album together."
Good Day track listing
Good Day (White/Egizi) – 5:55
Always, Forever (White/DC) – 5:08
Just Give Me a Chance (White) – 4:39
Love Will Find You (White/White/Basia) – 3:16
(Un)Forgiven (Kochanski/White) – 5:18
Temptation (White) – 6:18
Mission 2 Mars (White) – 5:46
Bright (White) – 4:13
Lamont’s Lament – Ramon’s Revenge (White) – 6:56
Say Goodnight (White) – 3:38
Trippin N Rhythm, the U.K. based Smooth Jazz label that releases CDs by Paul Hardcastle, Gregg Karukas, Oli Silk and others, has signed American trumpeter Cindy Bradley and will release her major-label debut CD at the end of the month. The CD, titled Bloom, features the smooth jazz hit single of the same name.
To promote the CD and single, the label is now offering “Bloom” as a free download. To get the single, go to trippinrecords.com. Bradley’s CD, due in stores June 23, includes nine other original songs written and composed by Bradley and Michael Broening. Guests include Marion Meadows, Tim Bowman, Jaared and Jay Soto.