J E F F * D A N I E L S
Marcus Anderson, From The Heart (MarcusAnderson.net) (2009)
Euge Groove, Sunday Morning (Shanachie) (2009)
Darryl Williams, That Was Then (2009)
Rob Tardik, The Right Time (Guitardik Music) (2009)
Kevin Peter Jones, Magnetic Journey (Kevinpeterjones.com) (2009)
P E T E R * B O E H I
Gil Parris - A Certain Beauty (2009)
Guitarist Gil Parris comes up with a great album covering blues, jazz, rock, funk and r&b with tons of great playing and strong compositions, guest artists include Chris Botti, Bob Baldwin, David Mann, Randy Brecker and David Sanborn among others. Simply outstanding!
Steve Raybine - In The Driver's Seat (2009)
This is a groovy feelgood album by vibraphonist Steve Raybine full of funky grooves, fat horns and catchy melodies by a top-notch group of players. A breath of fresh air!
Everette Harp - First Love (2009)
Now this is a significant album by one of the best saxophonists of the genre. It is a definitive departure from his previous work venturing into more adventurous territory with jazzier and looser playing yielding superior results. A musical triumph, hinting where smooth jazz might develop in the future.
Euge Groove - Sunday Morning (2009)
Saxophonist Euge Groove plays it safe on this laid-back and polished picture-perfect smooth jazz album. Should play nicely in the background of a decent party.
Hidefumi Toki & Cruising - Night Cruise (1995)
My nod to the past goes to this absolutely great, groovy, funky and uplifting album by Japanese saxophonist Hidefumi Toki. Jazz-funk of the highest order, catchy compositions, top-notch playing - get it if you can!
D E N I S * P O O L E
Brian Bromberg’s ‘Martinis At The Velvet Lounge?’ from his outstanding new CD It Is What It Is. A hint of a Latin beat, wonderful piccolo bass from Bromberg and splashes of flute from Gary Meek all serve to deliver a tune that is beautifully warm and truly special.
‘Optimistic’, by Melba Moore and Phil Perry, from the duo’s soulful new album, The Gift Of Love; the churning beat and joyous vibe of this great cover of the Sounds of Blackness 1991 hit is terrific.
‘Five To Eleven’ from East Bay Soul’s self titled blockbuster. Written by Greg Adams and James Wirrick, this evocatively mellow gem has, much like the entire album, all the attributes of being a real keeper.
‘Secret Of The Way’ from Jim Peterik’s Lifeforce. A real surprise packet from the writer of the seminal ‘Eye of The Tiger’ this is perhaps the most overtly smooth jazz tune on the album. Peterik’s Russ Freeman like guitar engenders a delicious groove that, when coupled with an enthralling rhythm, delivers the sort of sound likely to provide him with real contemporary jazz credibility
‘What If…’ by Anthony James Baker from his five track EP Looking Ahead. With Darren Rahn on alto sax, this sumptuously mid tempo cut underpins to perfection Baker’s claim of providing “smooth jazz with a hard edge”.
R O N A L D * J A C K S O N
Matt Marshak, Family Funktion (Nuance Music) -- Blue, smooth, and funky with a vibe that just tears it up.
Brian Bromberg, It Is What It Is (Artistry Music) -- The funk just keeps driving Bromberg, and vice versa!
Jeff Golub, Blues For You (E1 Music) -- Golub as I've been waiting to hear him--in his blues element--and shining!
George Anderson, Positivity (Maxwood Music) -- Shakatak bassist steps out with his solo debut with some serious smooth and funky grooves.
Tom Braxton, Endless Highway (Pacific Coast Jazz) -- The saxman bolts out of the studio with another quality item, packed with superior sax work that epitomizes the very essence and spirit of smooth jazz.
This press release from Beth Renfro, Marketing/Public Relations Director for the Berks Arts Council:
READING, PA -- October 21 – The Berks Arts Council announces a line-up change for the “Remembering Grover Washington Jr.” concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, in the Miller Center for the Arts on the campus of Reading Area Community College in downtown Reading. Special guest sax man Eric Darius will replace Walter Beasley in the original lineup, joining bassist Gerald Veasley, a member of Grover's band and a longtime friend. This special concert also features keyboardist Donald Robinson, who was musical director for Grover's band for years, and saxophonist Chris Farr, musical director for Veasley's band.
No stranger to Berks audiences, Darius took the contemporary jazz world by storm with his 2004 Narada Jazz debut, Night on the Town. He followed that success with Just Getting Started. His latest release is Goin' All Out, which peaked at No. 9 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz chart.
The show, a rousing kick-off event for the milestone 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, March 19 to 28, will feature many of Grover's classic hits as well as music from Grover's holiday CD, Breath of Heaven. Tickets are on sale now, and are $40. All seats are reserved, and only 500 tickets are available for this special show.
Grover Washington Jr. was probably the most successful contemporary jazz artist of his generation. His blend of R&B, soul, pop and jazz earned him a glowing reputation with music lovers and DJs. His discography boasts three decades of creative and heartfelt albums. Breath of Heaven, a funky yet serene holiday release, was nominated in 1998 for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.
Gerald Veasley is the founder of Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza Reading.
For tickets contact CD Exchange, 360 E. Wyomissing Ave., Mohnton, PA, or call, 610-777-2310 to order by phone.
The 20th Anniversary VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest will be presented by the Berks Arts Council March 19 to 28, 2010. For complete jazz fest information, visit www.berksjazzfest.com.
We hope to see you at what is sure to be a memorable show.
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
By Ricky Richardson
Los Angeles - The 4th Annual Taste of Soul will go down in the history books as one of the hottest events in October. Some of the hottest smooth jazz artist performed on the Budweiser Stage hosted by 94.7 The Wave Smooth Jazz Radio Station. The Taste of Soul featured a variety of the best soul food restaurants in Los Angeles.
Over 106,000 people (families, friends) came out to enjoy the festivities on a hot humid day, October 17, 2009.
The Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper and The Wave 94.7 FM, once again teamed up to host Los Angeles’s largest block party on the streets of Crenshaw Blvd. - between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Rodeo. Further on up the road on the KJLH Radio Free Stage, gospel and R&B music were spotlighted from 11-6PM. For the fourth year in a row, this festival was held without any incidence.
Due to the hot weather, I limited my movement at this event. I found a nice shaded spot near stage right of the Budweiser Stage. I could see and hear the featured artist on stage clearly.
The crowd and I were rewarded with the tasty sounds of smooth jazz and the sweet treat of some R&B music.
The Chosen Gospel Recovery group returned to kick off the program shouting out Praises and blessing to Our Lord and Savior.
The Sai Whatt Band was limited in their set due to technical difficulties. I encourage you to go see this popular L.A. Based band that performs regularly at the Dynasty and The Townhouse in Los Angeles. Their mini set consisted of some classic R&B tunes “Joy and Pain,” “What’s Going On,” “Got to Get On Up,” before their set was cut short and the crowd demanded an encore.
Alana - the soulful, sultry diva from the Desert and her band Masterpiece consisting of Howard Alston, saxophone, Romel Veal, guitar, Bill Pickman, bass, Paul Vargas, keyboards/trumpet and Kenny Williams, drums. This tight band performs all over Los Angeles, and you can catch them at La Louisanne. They delighted the crowd and me with the following tunes “Funkin’ For Jamaica,” “I Heard It Thru The Grapevine,” “I Got To Use My Imagination,” “Ain’t Nobody,” and “Proud Mary.”
The 4th Annual Taste of Soul was also the birthday of Danny Bakewell Sr., Publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel. This was yet another reason to throw a huge party on the “Shaw” another name for Crenshaw Blvd. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was in attendance for the celebration and presented Mr. Bakewell with a Los Angeles City Proclamation.
Keyboardist/vocalist Gail Jhonson finally was featured front and center with her own band. She is also the Musical Director for Norman Brown. Her incredible talent was a vocalist, keyboardist and composer were prominently featured during her crowd pleasing set as she performed material from her CD Pearl, and a medley of tunes dedicated to the late great bassist Wayman Tisdale.
The surprise performers of the festival were DW3. This band with three vocalists knocked the crowd off of its feet as they showcased their remarkable vocal abilities and versatility performing everything from R&B, Old School and some Latin. Their set list consisted of “What You Won’t Do For Love,” “Can’t Hide Love,” “and a medley of Michael Jackson hits. The crowd was dancing throughout their set and gave the band a standing ovation.
Talented guitarist/Musical Director Ray Fuller made return engagement to the Taste of Soul. This is a great testament to this amazing guitarist and his band.
My home boy from Florida saxophonist Eric Darius has been heating up the smooth jazz chars and festivals all over the world since he busted on the scene. His infectious energy was felt at The Taste of Soul as he wailed on the following tunes “Let’s Stay Together,” “Love TKO,” “Going All Out” and slowed the tempo down with “If I Ain’t Got You,” by Alicia Keys.
Stormin Norman Brown brought down the house as he closed out the festival with a high propone set featured on all of the front burners.
Talaya Trigueros and Pat Prescott of 94.7 The Wave served as MC’s for the Budweiser Stage. DJ Jonathan Phillips kept the dancers grooving in between featured performers.
Despite the heat, a wonderful time was had by all at this annual event with a plethora of music, food, family and friends gathered together for a ton of fun. Book your flight now for the 5th Annual Taste of Soul, October 16th, 2010.
Drew Davidsen, jazz guitarist who recently burst onto the contemporary jazz scene on the east coast, is now expanding his horizons and joining the jazz scene on the west coast. Invited by none other than Art Good to grace the stage at the Catalina Jazz Trax Festival, it's a great opportunity for Davidsen to showcase both his raw talent and his passion for music.
Davidsen's band will include his regular saxophonist Dave Krug, who in his 22 years has already evolved into an outstanding player, along with the dynamic Jesse Powers, bass player, and well-established players Bill Steinway on keyboards and Moyes Lucas on drums. During the Catalina show, Davidsen will focus on his latest CD, Around (Again), which features his hit single, “Astro.” Astro has been receiving a good amount of airplay and has climbed the XM Radio Watercolors Channel 71 chart to #4.
Although Davidsen’s musical career spans a number of years, he’s a relative newcomer as a smooth jazz musician. Yet in the span of just two years, he’s already got two top-notch CD’s under his belt with more music floating around in his head for a third CD.
A Balimore native,Davidsen followed an interesting path to the music he loves to play these days. His father had a passion for music as well as science, and eventually chose science for himself, but cultivated a love of music in his son by taking him to concerts featuring artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Pass and Ray Charles. His dad’s love of science led him to become an astrophysicist, instrumental in discovering technology that was used in the Hubble telescope. Hence, Davidsen chose the name ‘Astro’ for this irresistible high energy tune that serves as a tribute to the talent of his late father.
Both Around (Again) and Davidsen’s first CD, entitled Journey, contain a number of tracks that could easily be hit singles. Already a master composer, Davidsen’s talent in putting together memorable tunes is truly amazing and something fans of this genre won’t want to miss.
If you’re already on Catalina Island, come on over to hear Davidsen on Sunday, October 18th, at 7 PM, immediately preceding George Duke. If you’re not able to attend this impressive festival this weekend and you’re stuck on mainland USA or elsewhere in the world, you can still enjoy Davidsen’s music. Simply visit drewdavidsen.com to hear some clips and then order some of his music for yourself. You'll be glad you did!
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
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. Since 1985, acclaimed bassist and producer Brian Bromberg has been confounding the music industry with an ever increasing catalogue of straight ahead and contemporary jazz offerings that are often driven by specific sounds and themes. His 2002 Wood was built around acoustic bass, Metal had electric bass as its centrepiece and with Jaco Bromberg celebrated the artistry of fretless bass pioneer Jaco Pastorius. He last tickled the sound buds with his 2007 Grammy nominated Downright Upright and is now back with the entirely different It Is What It Is.
In fact part of Bromberg’s magic is his totally predictable unpredictability and with this decidedly funky 13 track collection he not only features what turns out to be an absolutely killer horn section but also calls upon fellow A-listers George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Rick Braun to lend a hand.
It Is What It Is opens with the big band tinged title cut. It signposts the place where straight ahead jazz collides with that of a more contemporary leaning and is enhanced by the jazzy trumpet of Willie Murrillo, great keys from Lorber and top notch piano from the incomparable Rushen. In total Jeff Lorber contributes to six of the album’s tunes and he is again to the fore with the ultra funky ‘Mr Miller’ where Marienthal and Gary Meek on saxes blow up a proverbial storm. ‘Excuse Me’ is another horn drenched smoker to which Bromberg adds some seriously good bass and he uses ‘Slap Happy’ to provide a fittingly frenetic finale that finds the entire ensemble rocking on to a feisty conclusion.
Much of the conversation surrounding It Is What It Is will revolve around its two covers. The Quincy Jones composed theme from the hit television show ‘Sanford And Son’ is cram full of the fulsome horns that are such a feature of the entire CD and when Bromberg turns his attention to a stripped down version of the B52’s seminal ‘Love Shack’ he ramps up the rhythm in a way that makes it feel brand new. The melody that on first listen sounds like it is played on guitar is in fact Bromberg’s piccolo bass and he uses this instrument to equally good effect for the mid tempo ‘The Anticipation’ where Eric Marienthal is again superb and Dan Siegel on keys makes a significant contribution.
As reflective as its title suggests, ‘The Mirror’ proves to be a Bromberg master class in how great tenor bass should sound and another tune with a distinctly onomatopoeic quality is the big, swaggering and sometimes complex ‘Elephants On Ice Skates’. It delivers exactly what the listener expects while the beautifully understated ‘Heaven’ allows Bromberg ample opportunity to display his virtuosity.
Bromberg turns down the energy for the captivatingly melodic ‘Life’ and confirms, if indeed confirmation was needed, how effective the bass can be as a solo instrument. A complete joy from beginning to end it is among the album’s outstanding tracks and in this respect is in the good company of the excellent ‘Saul Goode’. Here a dangerously infectious horn riff coupled with Bromberg’s catchy playing proves to be a key factor and a further Secret Garden favourite is ‘Martinis At The Velvet Lounge?’ A hint of a Latin beat, more piccolo bass and splashes of flute from Meek all serve to engender a vibe that is wonderfully warm and truly special.
In fact the word special is one that could be applied to It Is What It Is in its entirety. Go out and buy it now.
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.
Since 1994, Mekiel Reuben has been teasing our jazz sensitivities with tantalizing offerings. Here, with Cookin’ in East L.A., he seeks to stays true to form.
For those unfamiliar with the saxman, let’s start with a little bio. Born in the windy city (Chicago), Reuben later ventured out and took up residence in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. After several years of touring and performing with several theatrical/dance companies there, he decided to continue following his dream of becoming a recording artist in the States and would later return here to study with the legendary saxophonist Bill Greene, in addition to studying at Los Angeles City College and West Los Angeles City College. When he had compiled over a hundred original compositions, he started his own label under the name of MekMuse Records. He now has several releases to his label’s credit: Miles Away (a dedication to Miles Davis) in 1994, Simply Peaceful in 1996, Shadows of Love in 2000, Hangin’ in the Moonlight in 2005, and this well-done 2009 release. Quite the accomplishment for an independent artist. Also of considerable note is his 20-year (and counting) dedication to helping disabled students at the Benjamin Banneker Special Education Center in Los Angeles whenever he’s not on tour.
Now, to the CD, Cookin’ in East L.A. This album provides some steady funk in the form of either originals or competent interpretations of covers-- and there are quite a handful of covers here (I know, I know, but don’t shy away. They’re good!). In fact, he opens with the Chaka Khan classic “Ain’t Nobody” with a pretty nice slice of funk and mid-tempo rhythm. It is a tad sluggish for me, but his sax does attempt to fill a lot of the void. However, anything lacking in the first cut is pretty much nullified by the “phat” grooves that follow, as with the 2nd track, “Sure Thang,” another mid-tempo groove with a lot of bottom and swagger. The rhythmic track that follows, “Blackwood,” carries with it some light magic, as well.
I have to tip my hat to Reuben for his handling of the Patti Austin/James Ingram signature charmer, “Baby Come To Me,” done quite well, indeed. His sax works hard to show that this can be accomplished without one disturbing the charm and grace of Austin’s and Ingram’s rendering of the tune. He succeeded quite notably, in my opinion. He also renders an interesting take on Jim Croce’s hit “Operator,” as close to the coziness of the original as one can hope to get, though the nostalgia of it does make you miss the folk rocker. Reuben’s own “Love Triangle” and the cover of crooner Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’” bring that snappy, soulful funk to which I am extremely partial, and he delivers it with the zest I always seek, as well. Lots of supportive bottom, and—in the case of his original--a really decent hook and melody. Of course, what else but drive and danceability would you expect from a cover of the classic Kool & The Gang hit “Too Hot?” He closes with the sharp and decently funky title track with a lot of bounce (and a few chuckles thrown in for effect).
Mekiel Reuben has talent to boot, and his selections here are, for the most part, smart and full of body. There are clear indications that he knows how to “bring it.” Watch this cat closely.
Berks Arts Council has released the following on an upcoming holiday show to be held In Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the Berks Jazz Fest:
The late saxophonist and Philadelphia native Grover Washington Jr. touched the lives of so many -- music lovers and musicians alike. He was an inspiration, and his legacy lives on through many of today's top players.
"Remembering Grover Washington Jr.," a concert paying tribute to the legend and presented by the Berks Arts Council, is set for Friday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m., at the Miller Center for the Arts on the campus of Reading Area Community College in downtown Reading. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. and are $40. All seats are reserved, and only 500 tickets are available for this show.
The 10th anniversary of Grover's passing is in December, so it's fitting to have a tribute concert hosted by a longtime friend and member of Grover's band, bassist Gerald Veasley. A Berks Jazz Fest favorite, Veasley will be joined by special guest Walter Beasley. Also joining them that night will be Veasley's band, featuring keyboardist Donald Robinson, who was musical director for Grover's band for years; and saxophonist Chris Farr, musical director for Veasley's band.
The show, a rousing kick-off event for the milestone 20th annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, will feature many of Grover's classic hits as well as music from Grover's holiday CD, Breath of Heaven.
Grover was probably the most successful contemporary jazz artist of his generation. His blend of R&B, soul, pop and jazz earned him a glowing reputation with music lovers and DJs. His discography boasts three decades of creative and heartfelt albums. Breath of Heaven, a funky yet serene holiday release, was nominated in 1998 for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.
This heartfelt tribute to one of the most influential jazz musicians of our time is a must-see show.
360 E. Wyomissing Ave.
610-777-2310 to order by phone
Dana L. Hoffman
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Now, as I sit here listening to this fusion-heavy offering from one Patrick Bradley, a keyboardist with obvious skill and presence, I am reminded again of how many artists fly so low under the radar that it is almost a duty to us all to bring their style and sound to the ears of Smooth Jazz America (and the world) if we hope to keep the genre alive and relevant. How is it that these guys with these fresh ideas “miss the boat” with so much to offer? This album, Come Rain or Shine, released back in 2007, was totally invisible to me until I began sniffing around in the shadows of the land of the “big and bright.” Lo and behold, up pops this product worthy of grabbing a seat and lending an ear.
Nothing terribly flashy, nothing terribly “out there,” just a certainly fitting project for those seeking a bit of variety and some new spunk in their smooth and fusion jazz. Come Rain or Shine has the markings of what you just may be seeking.
Now, Bradley is not totally an unknown, at least among artists (sax giant Eric Marienthal is featured on this project, for crying out loud!). Bradley began playing keyboards at the age of eight and has an impressive and diverse background of smooth jazz, jazz fusion, gospel, funk, rock, and classical music under his belt. It shows. He has sold internationally in 12 countries and has reached # 26 on Radio Waves top 100. His internet presence continues to grow, as well. So, this guy is not completely off the screen, but a little recognition here in Smooth Jazz America certainly wouldn’t hurt the man. He possesses good insight into what constitutes a groove that will sail.
There are tunes of note here, and what immediately struck me was the voice of one Darlene Koldenhoven who provides the vocals on a cool little ditty called “Gabby’s Groove.” Remarkable job. There’s also a cut called “Summer Sunday”” that lays out some serious fusion work with Bradley displaying that he is no novice to the intricacies of fusion...and the man can flat-out play! Add that to some really nice and innovative interpretations and renderings, like that shown on “Mending Fences,” “Peach Cobbler,” and just a whole host of other tracks here (including one hot finale), and you’ve got a consummate product.
I understand that certain jazz fusion is not everyone’s cup of tea, but this music, a mostly light and airy variety of fusion, has the potential to (ugh, here comes the cliché!) easily lighten your load and brighten your day—but I don’t mean that as some empty cliché. I was truly excited by this artist. Maybe it’s his melodies, his style, his hooks, whatever. I do believe that he has much to offer, if only “the door” will remain open, and I think listeners play a big role in that happening.
Just give Bradley a minute of your time and see if he can’t convince you to listen for perhaps a few more minutes, and then a few more, and so on… Maybe you won’t stay for the full ride; maybe you will. You can’t know until you sit back, relax, and listen.
Russ Hewitt, reviewed here a while back, has made the first cut for the 52nd Grammy Awards in 5 categories for his fine release, Bajo El Sol: Best Pop Instrumental Performance (“Lydia”); Best Pop Instrumental Album, Best Instrumental Composition, Best Instrumental Arrangement, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical . His new single, “Lydia,” has hit the top 25 on the Smooth Indie chart and # 34 on the Smooth AC charts. Hewitt is also currently the # 1 Smooth Jazz artist played on Music Choice Satellite/Cable TV for 14 weeks and counting.
Also, the smooth R&B vocal group, Kloud 9, also reviewed here much earlier, has been nominated for a Nashville Music Award for Urban Recording of The Year for their Enjoy the Ride album. They’re also on the Grammy Ballot in 3 categories: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group ("Can't Be Love"); Best R&B song ("Can't Be Love"); and Best R&B Album (Enjoy The Ride).