September 30, 2009

What We're Listening To ** September

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

Ben Tankard, Mercy Mercy Mercy (Verity): More heavenly vibes from the amazing pianist, with a cover of Sade's "No Ordinary Love."

Greg Adams, East Bay Soul (Ripa): Adams' fifth solo CD features his rollicking Easy Bay Soul band. There's even some rap.

Gabriela Anders, Bossa Beleza (E1): The Argentine native now living in New York sings in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Matt Marshak, Family Funktion (Nuance): The guitarist returns with another upbeat winner.

Jesse Cook, The Rhumba Foundation (E1): Canadian Jesse Cook turns on the flamenco heat with orginals and a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia. Best smooth track: "Bogota By Bus."

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

Marcus Johnson,  Poetically Justified (Three Keys Music) (2009)

Christoph Spendel, Summer Notice [IMPORT] (Blue Flame) (2009)

The Sax Pack, The Pack Is Back! (Shanachie) (2009)

Bob Baldwin, Lookin' Back (Nu Groove Records) (2009)
Rick Braun, All It Takes (Artistry Music) (2009)

P E T E R * B O E H I

Brian Bromberg - It Is What It Is (2009)
This is a smashing album full of energy and joyful musicianship of the highest order, it is a breath of fresh air among all those ultra-smooth albums without rough edges that seem to be the order of the day, kudos to Brian for keeping up the banner of true musicianship. The lineup is superb and features the best of the best, but above all rides the hard hitting bass of the leader keeping things together. Premium quality!

Jeff Golub - Blues For You (2009)
This is another great album of an artist staying true to himself, more so, giving us the kind of music that probably is closest to his heart, and it shows. Whenever I see him live, I get a feeling of honest musical expression, and this album has been done in this spirit. Some raunchy blues tunes, a truly outstanding cover of Albert King's "I'll Play The Blues For You" among guests like vocalists Peter Wolf, Billy Sqier, John Waite and Marc Cohn make this a great piece of music, Kirk Whalum guest on another track. As the marketing blurb says: "The CD is hitting the sweet spot between jazz, blues & rock." But the emphasis is definitely on the blues!

Dan Siegel - Sphere (2009)
A great new CD by keyboardist Dan Siegel which was produced by Brian Bromberg, so you know we get the real deal. The players are top notch, among the guests are Tom Scott and Larry Carlton, the playing is acoustic and warm, but still groovy and melodious yielding some very accessible results. Another return to true musicianship and honest musical expression. Thumbs up!

Drew Davidsen - Around (Again) (2009)
Guitarist Drew Davidsen comes up with a smooth jazz gem in the shape of this CD. His releases always struck a chord with me, but with this one he has surpassed himself. Mellow grooves, natural and warm playing and great melodies prevail. Gerald Veasley and Jay Rowe guest on the album. With this release, Drew Davidson has joined the top players of the genre. Don't miss it!

The Chris Hinze Combination - Bamboo Magic (1978)
As usual, my nod to the past goes to Dutch flautist Chris Hinze's "Bamboo Magic" from 1978, recorded in New York and featuring some of the finest session players, among them Richard Tee and Michel Brecker. I am so thankful that the soundtrack to my youth was filled with such great music!

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Anytime’ by Art Sherrod Jr from his forthcoming album Seasons. Featuring vocalist and keyboard player Frank McComb this turned down chiller takes Sherrod, with sensational consequences, deep into quiet storm territory.

‘1000 Miles’ by Joe McBride from his current album Lookin For A Change. This reworking of Vanessa Carlton’s 2002 blockbuster shimmers with McBride’s sensational playing and immaculate bass from Roger Hines. In every respect it is a wonderful piece of work.

‘Mission 2 Mars’ by Peter White from his brand new album Good Day. This innovative yet feisty track features the masterful production touches that makes Philippe Saisse the ‘go to guy’ for so many of the genre’s current A-list performers, a thumping beat, and keyboard interjections from Saisse that are absolutely to die for.

‘Heading Wes’, by Galaxy Lounge, from the CD Welcome To The Party. Over the years a plethora of contemporary jazz artists have, each in their own way, tipped a hat to the great Wes Montgomery and here Galaxy Lounge, aka Jon Grindstaff, provides his own tribute to the legendary guitar ace.

‘Dedication’ by guitarist Mark Harper and the late Wayman Tisdale from Harpers up-coming album The Mark Harper Project. Currently being serviced to radio, this sumptuous duet is a fitting tribute to the humanity of Tisdale and a sneak preview of what, for Harper, may prove to be a notable solo career.

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

Kloud 9, Everything is Good 2Nite (Shanachie)-- A "best of" compilation from the R&B duo with some really smooth remixes and bonus tracks (including a remake of Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall").

Aaron Bing, Secret Place (Century) -- Flavorful CD from a saxman who will remind one of Kenny G, one of his major influences. A must-listen!

Jesse Cook, The Rumba Foundation (Coach House) -- Jesse Cook at his finest, with Latin grooves of a Colombian flavor. He traveled to Bogota to join forces with a group called Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto. The result is astounding. Due out on September 29.

Avenue H, Off the Floor, (self-produced)--Debut album from a group of serious funksters who combine jazz, funk, and world in a blazing show of excellence.

Karen Devroop, Reminiscing, (self-produced)--Another hot debut from a hot new artist (by the way, the first name is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable). Devroop hails from South Africa. With a saxful of smooth goodies, he (that's right--he) captivates with a catchy and mellow groove to be remembered.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:31 PM

September 26, 2009

Rippintons Back At Boulder Station Hotel In Vegas

The Rippingtons, featuring Russ Freeman, are back in Vegas at the Boulder Station Hotel in the Railhead Showroom, October 10th.

Blu7, a local band making some waves in the community for their cutting edge jazz, world beat, fusion sound, are at the Rhythm Kitchen, Friday, October 2nd.

The Killer Groove Band , another Vegas based favorite,will also perform Saturday, October 10th, at the Rhythm Kitchen, followed by a one night performance for the last Jazz At Lake Las Vegas of the season, Saturday, October 17th.

Michael Lington returns to Vegas performing in the Chrome Showroom at the Santa Fe Station Hotel, October 23rd.

Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns are still tearing up those funky Saturday nights at the Palms Hotel, TFN.

Posted by Danny Desart at 10:03 PM | TrackBack

Joe McBride - Lookin For A Change

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. Lookin’ For A Change is the aptly titled and brand new release from smooth jazz pioneer Joe McBride. A departure from his own special brand of piano led contemporary jazz, the album provides interesting reinterpretations of nine familiar pop tunes (plus three McBride originals) that he frames within ‘straight ahead’ jazz arrangements and delivers in classic jazz quartet format. It is his eighth recording for Heads Up International and his first since Texas Hold Em in 2005 which at the time I described as being the classic Joe McBride blend of contemporary jazz and R&B. He is an artist who for the past twenty five years has helped shape a genre and he brings all this experience and more to the delightful Lookin’ For A Change.

McBride was born 1963 in Fulton, Missouri and began playing piano at the age of four. He started singing in high school but, as a teenager, he contracted a degenerative eye disease that eventually caused him to loose his sight. Despite this his passion for music was never impaired and he continued his studies at the Missouri School for the Blind, the University of North Texas and at Webster University in suburban St. Louis where he majored in jazz performance.

Around 1983 McBride made the journey to San Diego, CA where the adult contemporary scene was already strong. He played there with the group Fattburger and guitarist Steve Laury. In 1985 visited his brother in Dallas for what he expected to be a two-week stay. However, faced with the numerous performing opportunities that he found there, he chose to make the city his base and quickly became a regular performer on the local jazz club scene. Also during this period he met a young trumpeter named Dave Love. The two became friends and when Love founded the Heads Up International label he quickly signed McBride to a record deal. In 1992, via the Heads Up connection, McBride featured on Kenny Blake’s debut album Interior Design and began touring with the Head Up Superband, a line up that included Blake, Gerald Veasley and Henry Johnson. He also opened for major stars of the smooth jazz and soul genres including Whitney Houston, Larry Carlton and the Yellowjackets but in that same year stepped out as a leader with his first CD Grace.

The street smarts that emanate from such a musical upbringing are, with Looking For A Change, there for all to see and this is particularly so with his tender rendition of Coldplay's classic tune ‘The Scientist’. Entirely different but just as good is his understated take on the Cameo hit ‘Word Up’ while McBride’s soft singing tones and melodic keys find a perfect fit with Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’.

McBride’s delicate version of the John Mayer song ‘Say’ is a joy and the Latin groove he injects into the Corrine Bailey Rae tune ‘Like A Star’ makes it sound brand new. Elsewhere the Gnarls Barkley breakthrough hit ‘Crazy’, with its jazzy swagger and McBride’s cool vocal, is as pleasing as it is surprising whilst he again comes up big for the pop – blues – jazz amalgam of Rob Thomas’s ‘This Is How A Heart Breaks’.

Much covered and an inspired choice is the sultry Gavin DeGraw composition ‘Don’t Wanna Be’. It’s a fine example of how McBride has mastered the art of fusing musical styles and this is also the case with ‘1000 Miles’. A real Secret Garden favourite, this reworking of Vanessa Carlton’s 2002 blockbuster shimmers with McBride’s sensational playing, immaculate bass from Roger Hines and is in every respect a wonderful piece of work.

The quartet is completed by drummer Elijah Gilmore and Dan Wilson on guitar. The foursome are arguably at their very best for the album’s three original compositions where they merge subtle hints of R & B with hugely accessible straight ahead influences. The vibe they generate with the feisty title track is a case in point and although ‘Secret Rendezvous’ is more restrained, the relaxed interplay between these fine musicians is notable. Of McBride’s own material perhaps the easy paced yet heartfelt ‘It’s Over Now’ best encapsulates what he is all about. His skill in injecting soul into most everything that he does never wavers and with Lookin’ For A Change he is beckoning listeners from different generations and in so doing bridging musical divides.

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 4:48 PM

September 16, 2009

Melba Moore and Phil Perry--The Gift of Love

Every now and again, I’ll slip into something R&B just because some material is just far too enticing to ignore based on a label/”pigeonhole” or the general theme of a site. I’ve reviewed Leela James and Gianna and held a conversation with Kloud 9. They’ve all proven to be more than worthy of such attention. On September 29, two of the most brilliant voices to ever grace soul, R&B, jazz, and any other genre you can imagine—crooner Phil Perry and the incomparable Melba Moore--will join forces on The Gift of Love to belt out some of the sweetest and most inspirational covers of quality gems to ever come along. With uncanny pitch and harmony, these two do so much for music past that it brings tears to one’s eyes. The R&B cuts like “You’re All I Need to Get By” are one thing, but the spiritual-tinged inspirational pieces are also sure to happily carry you to church as you chime in on the choruses. This CD, so full of heart and soul and loaded with moving, smartly selected tunes, is bound to capture you where you live.

It’s such a blessing to us all that Melba Moore can still belt like the canary she was when starring in Broadway hits like Hair and Purlie. It’s all still there, as creamy, yet as stinging, as only she can deliver. Perry is likewise nowhere near hanging up the pipes, as his falsetto carries as much force, bite, and sweetness as it’s always carried. Singers like these two will always remind us of what vocals were when we had Tammy Terrell and Marvin Gaye (a duo to whom these two pay respect, among others) stood before us and left it all on the recording studio--or stage--floor. Why buy another CD full of covers, you ask? Just listen, and I think you'll have your answer.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 10:42 PM

U-Nam to Host Cellar Nightclub’s Weekly "ONESOUL Jazz Series"

International recording artist, U-Nam, will be hosting The "ONE SOUL Jazz Series" every Sunday evening from 6PM - 9PM, beginning October 18, with special guest Oli Silk at The Cellar in Long Beach, California. U-Nam will open the show with his 6-piece band of world renowned musicians and feature chart topping keyboardist Oli Silk. Oli's current hit, "Chill or Be Chilled" from his current CD entitled, The Limit's the Sky, climbed to #3 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart and remained in the Top 10 for 4 months. He has been a featured keyboardist with Peter White's Band, Euge Groove and Marc Antoine to name a few .

Hailing from Paris, France, U-Nam best known for his #1 instrumental single, "Street Life" from the CD entitled, Back from the 80's , topped Billboards Top 10 charts for an entire year. U-Nam's recently released CD, Unanimity, is sure to take the world by storm with his unique guitar sound and funky soul filled melodies.

The Cellar is located at 201 E. Broadway (on the Promenade) in downtown Long Beach and offers an intimate vibe not unlike the nightclubs of a bygone era. Tickets are $15 (general admission) and $25 (VIP seating). For more ticket information, visit On October 25, U-Nam will host the Official Grand Opening of the Jazz Series and will be celebrating his birthday at The Cellar, as well. VIP's and Press from all over the country are expected to attend along with several surprise guest musicians for a great night of smooth jazz and funk.

Other artists scheduled to appear with U-Nam are Michael Paulo (November 8) and Gregg Karukas (November 22). For more information on the series, visit

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 10:17 PM

September 13, 2009

Kloud 9 -- Interview

Twin brothers Kendall and Kelvis Duffie (aka Kloud 9) flew somewhat under the American radar before the introduction of their smooth and hot release, Enjoy the Ride, but they have been seducing audiences in the U.K. for some time now. Finally, American R&B and smooth jazz fans are starting to “get it,” and the duo has just signed with Shanachie Records and has re-released Enjoy the Ride, a pearl of an album, under that label. The sweet vocals and tight arrangements surely indicate that these guys will be around for years to come. I spoke with both Duffie brothers on September 11. Here’s what they shared with me.

RONALD JACKSON: First of all, congratulations on both releases of your latest project, Enjoy the Ride, as well as signing with Shanachie Records. I’ll bet the signing had to be a thrill and a milestone for you.

KENDALL & KELVIS: Definitely.

RONALD JACKSON: You originally started out as members of a contemporary gospel outfit. Is that right?

KENDALL: Yes, Well, we’re originally from Chicago but we grew up in Denver, CO. It was there that we met our first producer by the name of Jerry Weaver. He’d moved to Denver from L.A. where he’d spent a majority of his career. He was a guitarist for Aretha Franklin, produced Janet Jackson’s first album, and had worked with various other artists. He moved to Denver because he wanted to do more Christian and inspirational music and that’s where he stumbled upon us. He worked with us for several years, giving us our name, Meekness. He gave us our first professional taste of music.

RONALD JACKSON: Are you from a musical family?

KENDALL: Our mother was a church musician and a singer, and we grew up like many artists in any genre, getting our chops in church. We’d get around the piano and sing with her. Often, we didn’t even want to sing but she would call us up to sing, telling us that we had to give God the honor. Our mom was the musical genius behind what perpetuated us to do what we’re doing. In fact, when she was pregnant with us, she said that, every day during the nine months she carried us, she would play and sing to us. Hearing that hit me extremely hard and really served as a motivator for me.

RONALD JACKSON: You’re pretty close to Maysa and Incognito. How did you come to meet them, and how did that meeting lead to your current relationship with them?

KENDALL: That relationship was born out of a trip that became an extended stay in London back in 1999. To get the whole picture, I’ll have to give you a bit of detail about us.

The Kloud 9 thing started after Meekness disbanded in the early 90s, we moved to Nashville to further our careers. At the time, we were continuing in the gospel industry as artists. After moving to Nashville, we lost our mother to cancer and, so, we took a bit of a layoff. During that layoff, we ended up doing other things, individually, though still musically. All the while, it was just killing me not to be really creating music the way I wanted to create music. So, Kelvis and I got together and decided to try something together. We didn’t want to restrict ourselves to just gospel. We have always been Christians, but we also enjoyed smooth R&B and always listened to artists like the Jackson Five, the Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder, and the like. So, we wanted to do material like that. We chose the name, Kloud 9, because it was representative of the type of sensation we wanted to create in people. Of course, the “K” in Kloud names represents the first letter of our names.

We put a few tunes together and started shopping around for labels. In the 90s, most labels were looking for the “rugged sound,” which wasn’t us, because we had a clean and smooth sound. So, there was disappointment. But I’m a firm believer that disappointment and failure don’t define you; they refine you.

We had been to the U.K. in the late ‘80s when we had the gospel group, and I knew that there was a great appreciation for great music overseas. I decided to head there and was determined not to return to the States until I found an outlet for my music. I packed my suitcase, took my keyboard, $800, and headed out alone. I spent many nights for 2 years sleeping on floors. I didn’t have the money to even pursue my plan to visit every major and independent label in London, so I eventually bought a map, and I would literally walk 5 – 6 hours one way, for 15-20 minute appointments until I had literally worn out the bottoms of my shoes.

I eventually met a guy who took me to a studio owned by a guy named Ray Hayden who produced Maysa’s first solo album. So, it was through Ray that I met Maysa. The funny thing is that she and I had met as part of a blind date arrangement but, when we met, we found that our love for music was so kindred that we just focused there and clicked automatically. One day, I was walking to an address she had given me for a rehearsal, and as I approached it, I heard these incredible familiar horns in the distance, and in this warehouse were Bluey and Incognito. So, it was there that I met Bluey, and it was amazing how quickly we clicked.

RONALD JACKSON: So, tell me about Enjoy the Ride. You released one version in 2008, originally in the U.K., and that became available in the States under the Expansion record label. Then, Shanachie signed you and re-released the CD with new material. Is that right? What new material appears on the latest version?

KELVIS: Right. Once we got the deal with Expansion, which is a U.K. label, we wanted to offer that sound to the States on the heels of our U.K. popularity. After initially releasing the album in the U.K. in 2008, then releasing it in the States, we added a couple of new tracks for the U.S. version, including the single with Incognito called “Everything Is Good Tonight,” and Shanachie re-released the album once we signed with them.

We just celebrated our 10th anniversary, so we’ve also released a “best of” album that captures a lot of our earlier material and remixes. It includes the new single with Incognito and a remake of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. The album’s out on the internet now and is a commercial release under Expansion Records.

RONALD JACKSON: I understand that you’ve toured with the Isley Brothers and the Whispers. Your style is often compared to theirs-- and some have even mentioned Phil Perry whose vocals do seem to belong in that style group. Is that just coincidental, or did you consciously set out to capture that style?

KENDALL: Every artist is inspired by another great artist. Certain music, like that of the Isleys and Michael Jackson, just seeps into your subconscious and, in our case, while we may have our own style, we just can’t help letting that Isley Brothers or Michael Jackson style influence us a little.

RONALD JACKSON: You produce most—if not all--of your own material as well as material for other artists. I understand that you’ve even produced gospel material for others. Anyone we know or for whom we should keep an eye open?

KENDALL: I just produced Vicki Yohe’s latest album, Reveal Your Glory...Live From the Cathedral, which is doing very well on the Billboard gospel charts. She’s best known for her single “Because of Who You Are.” I’ve also produced pieces for jazz flutist Althea Rene and a fantastic new R&B vocalist named Gianna. We really feel that we’ve been greatly blessed to do what we’ve always aspired to do.

RONALD JACKSON: On a much more personal note, is either of you married? Any kids?

KELVIS: I have been wonderfully married for 16 tears, and I have 2 kids: Kelvis, who’s 9, and Niko, who’s 4. Kendall, on the other hand, is available and looking, ladies! (laughs)

KENDALL: I’m single, but I’ve also been quite married to my music, and my “kids” are my songs. Not that I’m not open to marriage, mind you. I believe that time will come. But, for now, I’m quite content with my music.

RONALD JACKSON: Kelvis, are your kids musically inclined?

KELVIS: Yes, especially Niko. We’re watching him very closely. There’s a lot of potential there.

RONALD JACKSON: So, what lies on the immediate horizon for Kloud 9 now that you’re with Shanachie? Is there an Enjoy the Ride tour under way or lined up? If so, where will it take you?

KELVIS: Well, there have been several spot dates with Maysa during her Metamorphosis tour and a couple of other appearances, as well, like in DC and CA. Of course, I guess you could say that each date has its own “Enjoy the Ride” tour incorporated.

RONALD JACKSON: Any advice to the aspiring artists out there who still struggle to get to where you are now?

KELVIS: Just remember that music is a business. While you may be a great singer, there are many, many great singers who never get discovered because they don’t have the proper representation. Surround yourself with great people and learn the business. It’s all 90% business and 10% talent.

KENDALL: Just adding to that, if you’re serious, just stay focused on that dream. Let your desire be the driving force that keeps that fire going.

RONALD JACKSON: Where can one get further information on Kloud 9?

KENDALL: People can reach us on MySpace (, on Twitter, on Facebook (“soultwins”), and on almost all of the other social network sites. Of course, Enjoy the Ride is practically everywhere music is sold, including on Amazon.

RONALD JACKSON: Thanks so much to both of you. All the best to Kloud 9 for your continued success. You certainly deserve it.

KENDALL: Thank you, and thank you so much for doing this and giving us your great support.

Here’s one gracious, charismatic, and focused duo quite deserving of the recognition it has garnered and will garner moving forward. America, do as the U.K. has done: Sit back and Enjoy the Ride.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 6:55 AM

September 8, 2009

Peter White - Good Day

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 well as being the United Kingdom’s most illustrious contemporary jazz export Peter White has created his own special place in the genre with a distinctive sound built entirely around rhythm and melody that is often embellished with touches of exciting production. Indeed, for almost twenty years White’s music has defined the essence of smooth jazz. However, although his previous releases, the 2006 Playin Favorites and Peter White Christmas that followed a year later, proved to be significant successes, his last all original CD was Confidential in 2004. At the time I commented that it was his finest work to date but now he is back with the outstanding Good Day. Out today worldwide; the album features ten all new self penned compositions plus significant production and performing input from the exceptional Philippe Saisse.

Good Day opens with the easy paced title track that could be used as a descriptor of how great smooth jazz should sound. Co-written by White and long time Euge Groove collaborator Mike Egizi it’s a tune that shimmers like light on water and is added to by the programming of DC who is best known for his work as part of Paul Brown’s formidable production team. Characterized by what could accurately be described as ‘the Peter White sound’ it is in the good company of ‘Just Give Me A Chance’ that seems all set to put a smile on the saddest of faces. The luscious horns, that come courtesy of Shannon Kennedy and Dan Savant, simply add to the warmth of the entire piece while in similar mood is the equally inviting ‘Bright’. Already racing up the charts of most played on smooth jazz radio this melodic cut has all the makings of a future Peter White classic and is in fact his tribute to the late Wayman Tisdale with whom he shared the stage several times.

‘Ramon’s Revenge’ is driven by passionate flamenco rhythms and carries with it an expansive, cinematic quality that is helped in no small part by the Latin percussion of Ramon Yslas. White retains a Latin flavour for the ultra accessible ‘Always Forever’ and although ‘(Un)forgiven’ starts out in tranquil mode his magnificent guitar work drives it to what becomes an impassioned finale. This sophisticated tour de force includes snippets of White’s familiar accordion, splashes of oboe and flute from Shannon Kennedy and musical arrangements that exemplify the skills of Philippe Saisse.

The sunshine dappled ‘Love Will Find You’ has interesting origins. The number was brought to White by his brother Danny who had written it with his former Matt Bianco band-mate Basia. White earns partial writing credits for his reworking of the song and the way it is overlaid with his own melody. A happy easy paced Latin rhythm coupled with Basia’s smooth vocal completes the pleasing picture and pleasing is a word that also comes to mind with ‘Say Goodnight’. Tailor made for those moments in his live shows when the audience grow quiet and hang on to every one of White’s sumptuously melodic notes this is the sort of tune that, within smooth jazz, makes him unique.

That said; those familiar with White’s work will know that he can groove with the best of them and he does just that with the smoky ‘Temptation’. Built around White’s foolproof constructs of rhythm and melody, and with a killer bass line that is masterfully held down by Dwayne ‘Smitty’ Smith, this is among the CD’s best tracks but right up there with it is another White – DC composition, the innovative yet feisty ‘Mission 2 Mars’. It features more of the masterful production touches that makes Philippe Saisse the ‘go to guy’ for so many of the genres current A-list performers, a thumping beat, and keyboard interjections from Saisse that are absolutely to die for.

Good Day is already well set to be one of the albums of the year and is a worthy addition to the discography of an artist who never ever fails to deliver. For more go to

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

Posted by Denis Poole at 7:40 PM

September 7, 2009

Smooth Jazz Festival Munich 2009

The Smooth Jazz Festival Munich 2009 was the successor to the first annual smooth jazz festival that took place last year in Bregenz, Austria at the lake of Constance. For a while it seemed to be unsure if the festival would be repeated, but this summer the announcement of the follow up festival at Munich reached the eagerly waiting smooth jazz fans in Europe. While last year's festival was organized by a team of people, this year Christian Bössner did the whole job on his own, which must have been a major chore. I am glad to report that he succeeded on all levels, obviously having learnt a few things from last year's festival.

The festival was moved to Munich in Germany. The location was a former power station called Kesselhaus that had been converted to an event hall. It was a bit smaller than last year's location, had a nice bar/food area and tables and a seating area in the back. The official festival hotel was a few miles away from the Kesselhaus where most of the fans and all the artists were staying, which yielded several opportunities to mingle with the artists and have a few chats with them. I met many friends from the industry, like Hans-Bernd Hülsmann who runs, Craig from and several smooth jazz aficionados I knew from earlier events.

The major artists were backed by a German band called the Heavy Mellow Quartet from Berlin who did an admirable job. They accompanied all the US artists and showed no sign of weakness during their many hours on stage, they did a flawless job and adapted well to each and every performer, additionally they showed their skills with their soloing at many occasions. They must have had to learn over 50 songs and probably had minimal rehearsal time, but at the concerts, they delivered.

The festival was opened by Steve Oliver who gave his great brand of guitar led smooth jazz, topped with his vocal artistry, which is absolutely unique and part of his trademark sound. Among the songs played were also his hits "Chips & Salsa" and "High Noon", providing a decent opening set for the festival.

Next was Michael Lington who played some heartfelt, picture perfect smooth jazz drawing mostly from his own catalog, one of the highlights was his rendition of "Everything Must Change" which he played in the crowd surrounded by cheering fans. For the second part of his set, Steve Oliver joined him considerably turning up the heat.

Friday evening was concluded by Club Des Belugas, a lounge/nu-jazz band from Germany, who appeared with two singers, a horn section, a great percussionist, entertaining the crowd until past midnight.

Saturday was a day off that I spent at the Hofbräuhaus with some friends, a stylish way to kill some time in Munich, before the festival continued in the evening with a killer lineup.

Marcus Johnson played the first set backed by the Heavy Mellow Quartet with lots of funky and soulful keyboard playing, playing songs from his latest release Poetically Justified and some classics from his large catalog, personal favorite was his version of "Moanin'".

First highlight of the evening was the pairing of Peter White, Rick Braun and Richard Elliot who did a high-energy show allowing each of those players to shine and play their favorite songs. Rick Braun played his classic "Notorious", while Richard Elliot gave us "Rock Steady", "Move On Up" and "People Make The World Go Round". Peter White did his R&B medley featuring "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" and "Who's That Lady", later he did "Bueno Funk", the show was closed with "Gazing In The Grass". This was as expected a top-notch, entertaining show by some of the very best players of the genre.

The evening was closed by Brian Simpson and Dave Koz, two of my favorite smooth jazz players. The first half of the set belonged to keyboardist Brian Simpson who just has a knack for a great melody, he also played his biggest hit to date called "It's All Good". Then Dave Koz joined the stage and played some of his classics, special was his heartfelt rendition of "Over The Rainbow" from the Wizard Of Oz. At the end of the show, Michael Lington appeared as surprise guest, turning up the heat and bringing this great festival to a close.

This was a perfect evening of top-notch smooth jazz and a genuine representation of the genre, a thing that was partly lacking last year. This year they hit the nail on its head and I was totally thrilled with the great music on display. The festival was well organized, there was no big flaw, and the number of people attending was definitely better than last year, so I guess the future looks bright for the festival. Smooth jazz is starting to establish itself in Europe, so we all are looking forward to the next issue of the festival in 2010. Kudos to Christian Bössner for a job well done!

More festival pictures

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:47 PM

September 6, 2009

Art Sherrod Jr - Seasons

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. Seasons from sax-man Art Sherrod Jr is his second CD and follows All 4 Love that was released in 2005. It represents a significant step on a musical journey that began in his native Texas, continued in Maryland and, along the way, has allowed him to share the stage with such smooth jazz luminaries as Natalie Cole, Angie Stone, Will Downing, Marion Meadows, Norman Connors, Phil Perry, Chuck Loeb, Kim Waters, Najee, Roy Ayers, Pieces of a Dream, Everette Harp and Bob Baldwin. In fact Seasons includes contributions from several of these A-list performers but rather than puzzling at just how Sherrod has managed to assemble so many great artists in the same place at the same time, it is adequate to luxuriate in the sublime artistry his musicality so effortlessly engenders.

Seasons opens with the strident ‘To The Floor’ that finds Sherrod at his jazzy best. With up coming French guitarist U-Nam also providing some groove drenched interventions this is a track that is sure to enliven even the most tired of dancing feet while much the same can be said of ‘East Coast Steppin’. Although not strictly a ‘steppers’ anthem this intoxicating number has the potential to become seriously addictive and when Sherrod turns his attention to a silky smooth interpretation of the Earth Wind & Fire blockbuster ‘That’s The Way Of The World’ he provides what clearly will become one of the best covers of the year.

Underpinned by a tight and hypnotic beat ‘Just Chillin’ features smooth sax superstar Gerald Albright and when guitarist Chuck Loeb steps up for the intricate yet infectious title cut the result is a rhythm and melody filled throwback to old school contemporary jazz. In fact Sherrod steers a capable course between instrumental smooth jazz and more overtly urban elements. A fine example of the latter is ‘You’re The One’ that is bolstered by vocals from former Pieces of a Dream songstress Tracy Hamlin and shimmers with Sherrod’s cool playing. It’s in the good company of ‘Thinking Of You’ which despite mellow beginnings picks up some sassy attitude that is helped in no small part by a hip vocal from Will Downing. Indeed by judicious use of some of the best backing vocals you will hear anywhere Sherrod delivers a sequence of spine chilling gems that sit somewhere between smooth R & B and urban jazz. A case in point is the gospel themed ‘We Fall Down’ where Sherrod’s impassioned playing is off the chain while totally different but just as good is the warmly inviting ‘Sunday Morning’.

Marcus Johnson has long been one of the edgiest keyboard players around and his interplay with Sherrod on the compellingly mid tempo ‘Smooth Groove’ is one of the highlights of the collection. In fact standouts abound and although the sultry ‘Everything Will Be Alright’ has sensuality dripping from every note it is just shaded as Secret Garden top track by the wonderful ‘Anytime’. Featuring vocalist and keyboard player Frank McComb this turned down chiller takes Sherrod, with sensational consequences, deep into quiet storm territory.

Seasons by Art Sherrod Jr is out on the excellent boutique label Pacific Coast Jazz and comes entirely recommended.

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Posted by Denis Poole at 3:33 PM

September 2, 2009

Four80East – Roll On

If you’re expecting Roll On , the latest Four80East offering, to be a typical Four80 East electro/smooth jazz kinda funky thing, you’ll not be disappointed. However, you may find some really decent additional effects, like the funky slap bass and lead bass contributions thrown in for a lot of good measure here. Toronto-based producers/composers/programmers and Boomtang Records owners Rob DeBoer and Tony Grace take the group’s fans on yet another interesting journey into electronica-enhanced jazz.

This group has always prided itself on innovativeness and diversity. It delivers that here once again. In addition to the funky opening and title track with its nifty hook, take a listen to tunes like “One Night Only” and its heavy bass lines and presence, as well as the very typical Four80East signature sound on “Shot In the Dark,” “After All This Time,” which actually does take its time developing into a nice smoldering groove, and the very hot, sultry closing track, “Back in 5,” which bears a cool resemblance to Paul Brown’s “Cosmic Monkey” from a few years ago, but with a lot of Four80East sound effects interjecting themselves in model form.

Four80East’s unique quality and sound have found their mark for many, and that’s obviously what keeps the group on the main radar screen of smooth jazzers. Roll On does nothing to hurt that uniqueness and even opens the door to the possibility that you’ll hear more innovation as the group stays with the tide of smooth jazz tastes.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 3:57 AM