I wish to all the readers of Smooth Jazz Vibes a happy new year full of great music!
D E N I S * P O O L E
‘Go’ by Brian Culbertson from the exquisite Live From The Inside CD and DVD combination. Co-written by Culbertson and ex Earth Wind & Fire mainstay (and now Culbertson band member) Sheldon Reynolds this original tune has that infectious swagger and feel good vibe characteristic of Culbertson’s best music.
‘As You Like It’ by Euge Groove from his great new album Sunday Morning. A new release from Euge is always a special occasion and here his imaginatively sensitive playing has never sounded better. A certainty for most played on smooth jazz radio in 2010.
‘Groovy Nights’ by Fabio Mignola from his CD Take Me Higher. It finds Swiss born Mignola conjuring up a Peter White like groove that has ‘radio ready’ written all overt it.
‘Yesterdays’ by Tracy Hamlin from her exciting new release Better Days; A wonderful example of smooth R & B, this deliciously chilled out cut is co-written by Hamlin and Phil (Big Dog) Davis.
J E F F * D A N I E L S
Jowee Omicil, Roots & Grooves (BBjuiss Records) (2009)
Shakatak, Afterglow (101 DISTRIBUTION) (2009)
Four80East, Roll On (Native Language) (2009)
Fourplay, Snowbound (WEA/Reprise) (2009)
P E T E R * B O E H I
Alex Malheiros & Banda Utopia feat. Sabrina Malheiros - The Wave (2009)
Alex Malheiros is the bassist of the legendary Brazil jazz-funk band Azymuth, together wih his band Banda Utopia and his singing daughter Sabrina Malheiros he delivers a great slice of smooth, contemporary latin jazz with a dash of chill/lounge. Thumbs up!
Dr Sax - Take It To The Bridge (2009)
This band has been a great discovery for me with their own brand of cool and sexy songs and instrumentals. Top notch arrangements and playing. Goes down like good wine!
L.A. Ensemble - Samba Modern (2006)
Guitarist Akio Sasajima from Japan releases a great collection of cover tracks in an easy latin/samba groove not unlike something Lee Ritenour might have done in the past. A great find!
Trippin 'n' Rhythm Records - The Very Best Of Christmas (2009)
This is my favorite Xmas record of this year with a great selection of funky Xmas tracks by Paul Hardcastle, Gregg Karukas, Tim Bowman, Cindy Bradley, Jaared, Oli Silk, U-Nam and others. Groovy baby!
Shakatak - Live In Japan (1984)
My nod to the past goes to this Japan-only released 2LP-set from 1984 featuring the band during their prime time, especially mind blowing is a lengthy bass solo that still impresses me today. I also got the Laserdisc of that concert called "Twilight Visions". Memories...
R O N A L D * J A C K S O N
Mark Drummond & Grooveometric, Yuletronica (Mark Drummond Creative) -- A unique and funky twist and interpretation on some classic Christmas tunes.
Dee Brown, A Little Elbowroom (NuGroove Records) -- Here, during the Christmas season, the sophomore release from this guitarist comes neatly wrapped in grooves and moves that are sure to find a home with most smooth jazzers.
Michael Ross, A Special Thing (MIHI Records) -- A smoky, seductive slice of smooth jazz with a Will Downing flavor.
Al/Capone, Mr. Smooth (Cc Ent/Copycats) -- This group's debut release, featuring renowned producer Jason Miles (To Grover, With Love), is as well-rounded and stylish as you could hope to hear in smooth jazz today.
Drew Davidsen, Around (Again) (Creative Soul Jazz) -- Full of flavor, memorable hooks, solid rhythms, and an unimposing sweetness in its approach, this CD leaves such a pleasant imagery in your head long after the final chord of the final track.
One-man-band Stephan Earl does a nice job here of merging new age with some pretty decent smooth jazz touches on his debut release, Origins. With mellow and soothing tracks that are not at all boring, Earl tickles the ivories and offers us a healthy showing of his saxophone skills, as well.
I may not have been taken by the opening track, which is melodic but a tad lacking in terms of any kind of dazzle, but the artist settles in with more definition as the album progresses.
The title track has smooth jazz written all over it as its mid-tempo drive and decent sax take center stage here. The track, “In My Time,” starts off as a really chilled-out piece then suddenly erupts in searing rock riffs. Its lightness-turned-heaviness has a strange beckoning to it. Nice, and a bit unexpected. If you’re an Electronic Wind Instrument fan, you’ll perhaps really get into “Day Dreamin’,” which combines piano with thick traces of the EWI. It has an interesting way of nestling in on the rather appealing melody. Very new age.
A lazy and smoky “Till It Be Morrow” follows with a hint of straight-ahead jazz and blues sprinkled in with that new age flavor. I wasn’t particularly crazy about the melody, but the sax work and the fact that Earl included such a piece are noteworthy, considering the theme that was set early on this album. That bluesy, smoky feel continues with the next track, “Stars in Your Eyes,” but there’s a wee bit more smooth jazz sax woven in here. The mellow and melodic “Rhapsody” wraps up this project.
Earl doesn’t pump it up or attempt to get the dance muscles moving here with this album, but it’s an effective, mellow effort, designed for the reflective and introspective moments in your life.
By Jonathan Widran
Considering that Jeff Lorber is one of contemporary jazz’s elder statesmen, it would be easy for him to swing into his fourth decade of recording just coasting on his laurels, pacifying his fan base and sticking to tried and true formulas that have worked over the course of two generations.
Instead, last year he celebrated 30 years since the release of his debut album Jeff Lorber Fusion with He Had A Hat, a powerfully eclectic, distinctively jazzy “players session” that took a freewheeling, stylistically varied approach. Working with legendary producer Bobby Colomby - who has taken Chris Botti from smooth jazz popularity to worldwide superstardom - the keyboardist paid homage to a wide range of influences: gospel and brass driven old school jazz-fusion, smoky and sultry Miles Davis-flavored moods, hard driving bebop and swinging jazz in addition to his bread and butter, funky pop-jazz.
While his Peak Records debut Heard That brings him from eclectic utopia back to the radio friendly stuff he’s mastered in the smooth jazz era over the past 15 years, it’s exciting to see he’s still open to last minute surprises. The hands-down highlight and first single is the hard driving, Ramsey Lewis influenced bluesy-brass spin on Amy Winehouse’s Grammy winning “Rehab,” which, intriguingly enough, was added to the collection at the last minute. This snap decision brilliance has worked well for Lorber in the past. His playful take on Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” (from 2001’s Kickin’ It) was also something of an afterthought, yet has become his biggest crowd pleaser in recent years.
“I was just home one day, messing around at the piano and realized it would be a good instrumental song, very bluesy, based on a Wurlitzer piano figure, which I included on my version,” says Lorber. “It all happened spur of the moment. My pal Tony Moore came over to my home studio and played the drum part on Bobby Colomby’s 30 year old Slingerland drum set that I had here, the one Bobby used when he played with Blood, Sweat & Tears. We jumped into that ‘In Crowd’ groove right away. I called my manager Bud Harner and he came down to hang with us while we put the track together, so it was like a little party in the studio. (Co-producer) Rex Rideout suggested I do a Motown type back beat guitar part, which I played and recorded with that cool spring reverb sound they used in the 60’s. Gary Meek and Rick Braun came over to play the horn parts a few days later. At first I didn’t know if it would make the record, but everyone we played it for gave us positive feedback.”
Lorber has been a lone studio wolf throughout much of his career, but his albums early in this decade benefitted creatively from his collaboration with producer Steve Dubin. Forging ahead and getting back to his R&B foundations, he hooked up for Heard That with one of urban jazz’s major sonic architects, Rex Rideout - whose array of credits range from soul smoothies Gerald Albright, Najee and Kirk Whalum to vocalists Maysa, Will Downing and Ledisi. Lorber first worked with Rideout when Rideout produced his track “For You To Love” on the popular 2006 Luther Vandross Tribute Forever, For Always, For Luther, Vol. 2.
Lorber’s long been the master of the vintage keyboard collection, playing piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes and synth on most of his projects. The looser vibe he and Rideout create here leads to an all-time first: actually sharing keys with Rideout on a couple of tracks. These include the jamming soul-jazz invitation of an opener “Come On Up,” the crazy, brassy fusion blast with a double entendre name (“The Bomb”) and the more laid back and sensual “Take Control,” the kind of chill-soul ballad Rideout excels at featuring co-writer Lauren Evans on vocals.
Lorber says, “The whole time we were making Heard That, Rex and I were surrounded by all of my keyboards, so every time we came up with a fresh idea, whoever was closer to the one that might have the sound we were aiming for took the lead and riffed on it. Once that approach started working for us, I enjoyed kicking back and letting his playing serve as a complement to my own. I encouraged him to take the lead where it made sense. I make up for it by playing a lot of guitar!”
Besides “Rehab,” Lorber takes the reins on two other key tracks that express his mutual love for winking at the past and embracing the soulful world to come. The intensely grooving “Gamma Rays,” which features Meek on tenor and flute and Braun on trumpet,” is a definite callback to the Lorber Fusion style that made the keyboardist famous 30 years ago. Lorber wrote the sizzling and swaying funky jazz title track with rising urban jazz saxman Eric Darius, who toured with the keyboardist in Indonesia and Japan early in 2008.
“Heard That is a fun, lighthearted album that was really a blast to make,” he says. “The best part was getting to know Rex, becoming friends with him and incorporating his unique musical perspective. Working with guys like him is a way for me to refresh myself and keep current and excited after so many years. He Had a Hat was this serious jazz exploration, but here, I’m returning to more of my quintessential vibe. The idea was to create a flow that would reflect what’s happening today but with some dashes of the high energy fusion and jazzy chord changes that I was doing back in 1979 on Water Sign, which was always one of my favorite albums. A lot of artists just write when it’s time to do the next album, but I’m open to inspiration ideas 24/7 and I think that makes a big difference.”
No wonder Nashville based singer/songwriter Anna Wilson is so jazzed on her intimate ensemble meets big band holiday collection Yule Swing!, released by her indie label Transfer Records. After 15 years as a professional country music songwriter with album cuts by, among others, Reba McEntire, Lee Ann Womack, Billy Ray Cyrus and Chris Cagle, she co-wrote one of the hottest genre singles of the year, “All I Ever Wanted.” The track, recorded by Chuck Wicks and released as a follow-up to his breakthrough hit “Stealing Cinderella,” hit the Top 25 on both the Radio & Records Country chart and Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Wilson’s other popular recent single is Suzy Bogguss’ “The Bus Ride.” Beyond this success in country, jazz has been an ongoing passion in her and she earned raves for her official debut genre disc Time Changes Everything in 2007. Reflective of the two musical worlds that have defined Wilson’s professional career, Yule Swing - which was co-produced by her husband and longtime collaborator, famed country songwriter Monty Powell - features guest performances by Rick Braun and a duet by Wilson and Wicks (the sly and soulful, high energy “Light Me Up”).
There’s also a special holiday version of her Habitat For Humanity inspired single “A House, A Home.” Wilson’s original version, which appears on Time Changes Everything, is included in Habitat’s public service announcements that began appearing on TV and radio in the fall of 2007; since the start of the campaign, the spots have received $4.2 million in free PSA advertising. As part of her ongoing personal involvement with Habitat For Humanity, the non-profit organization dedicated to building affordable housing worldwide, the singer performed with the Mississippi Mass Choir an Yankie Stadium in Biloxi on May 11, 2008 during the opening ceremony of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
For more information on Yule Swing!: www.annawilson.com.
1) Spyro Gyra, A Night Before Christmas (Heads Up) – The legendary ensemble led by sax great Jay Beckenstein goes for a playful, decidedly trad-jazz vibe on this cool but spirited and brilliantly played and improvised slice of holiday frolic. Special guests include former Spryo vibes master Dave Samuels and vocal greats Christine Ebersole and Janis Siegel.
2) Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia (PIR/Legacy)
3) Dave Koz, Greatest Hits (Capitol)
4) Leigh Jones, Music In My Soul (Peak Records)
5) L.A. Chillharmonic (Artistry)
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. Brian Hughes No Reservations is the excellent new live DVD by one of contemporary jazz’s finest guitarists. Featuring an all-star band it was recorded at one of my favorite venues, Spaghettini Grill & Jazz Club in Seal Beach, CA and includes some real gems from Hughes notable discography. In fact he delves deep for thirteen cuts that reach back as far as his 1990 breakthrough album Between Dusk and Dark from which he conjures both ‘And Dreaming’ and the deliciously mellow hit ‘Promise You’. Later, and fast forwarding nine years, Hughes dips into the highly rated Shakin Not Stirred to include both ‘For You’ and the title track from this same release which, in its time, was notably featured on an episode of Sex in the City.
Of course Hughes has combined a career as smooth jazz ‘A-Lister’ with performing and recording with world renowned vocalist Loreena McKennitt. His skills as a musician and producer are clearly evident on a wide range of her work including the platinum selling An Ancient Muse and the concert DVD Nights From The Alhambra that was filmed in Granada, Spain. He was also nominated for a Juno award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy’s) in the category of ‘Producer of the Year’ for his contribution to McKennitt’s platinum CD The Visit.
Back to No Reservations and the zesty ‘Nasca Lines’ is the sole representative from his 1992 sophomore outing Under The Sky. It gives a glimpse of the penchant he has for Latin moods that he frequently spices with world vibes and when he stops off at his 1995 album, Straight To You, the result is the familiar strains of the radio hit ‘Soul Fruit’. 1998 saw the release of his One 2 One project which here is showcased with a live rendition of ‘While The World Turns Slowly’. This chilled out number is just one more reason why Hughes’ music has stood the test of time and although, understandably, a major proportion of the DVD is given over to music from his most recent studio CD, Along The Way, what really captures the attention is the sheer depth of the music on offer. In fact Hughes features five numbers from Along The Way. The uplifting title tune is a superb example of how great smooth jazz should sound and the very different ‘Omaha Unbound’ evokes a journey across the vast empty expanses of Nebraska. Elsewhere both ‘Son Y Lola’ and ‘Thinkin Of You’ are Latin tinged and crammed full of sunshine while Hughes uses the tranquil ‘Endless Road’ to bring a tender end to this classic set.
For those who have come late to the music of Brian Hughes No Reservations is a wonderful place to start. Others who have been with him for the long haul will feel the memories come flooding back.
For more visit Brian’s excellent website at www.brianhughes.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.
In a word, wow! Newcomer Douye brings such a freshness, so much silky smoothness to our world of smooth jazz that she produced a beaming smile to my lips the moment I heard her belt out the first notes of her opening track. Such sultriness, such a sense of belonging here. Her debut album, Journey, is loaded with splendid melodies and rhythms and colored perfectly with her fine, oh-so-fine vocals. Such a combination is usually a success, and Douye is here to add an exclamation point to that assertion.
Hailing from Nigeria, one can’t help making the obvious comparison to another nightingale from that marvelous land: Sade. Make no mistake, each of these ladies holds her own identity, but the affinity for the sultry, the sassy, the sexy is more than evident.
This album never misses a beat, pardon the pun, as it glides in confidently and captures every fiber of one’s aural senses and refuses to let go until the closing note of her finale “The Voice.” Choosing a favorite here is about as difficult as you can imagine. Each selection has its own magnetic pull, incredibly ripe with melody and shape. The phrasings on each song are well-placed, and each song sets a solid direction from the opening notes through the end. Still, if really pressed, I suppose I could select a couple of tunes that perfectly embrace and serenade “Fly Away,” “On For You,” “Cold Wind Blows,” “Walk Away” and…oh, did I say “a couple?” The point is this, imagine yourself anywhere tranquil, anyplace soulful, and you'll feel the need to have this album in hand.
We all know of that one-hit wonder or that debut album that became the only signature project for some artist who later vanished into obscurity. Here’s betting that Douye won’t be one of them.
Following is a press release from On The Edge Productions, Chicago, Illinois, December 10:
Soul-Jazz Superstar Nick Colionne To Ring In The New Year in Philadelphia
Jazz guitarist and vocalist Nick Colionne brings his special brand of excitement this New Year's Eve to Philadelphia. Michael Tozzi of ijazzglobal.com (former WJJZ Program Director) presents Nick Colionne (along with an after party with Philadelphia Band ZOE) at the Embassy Suites Hotel, Philadelphia International Airport.
Colionne joined the ranks of today's premier jazz artists with his Top Ten 2003 Album "JUST COME ON IN" that included the #1 hit "High Flyin" and top-ten hit "It's Been Too Long". His 2006 release "KEEPIN' IT COOL" propelled him to the top of the charts once again with the Top Ten hit singles "Always Thinking of You" (which stayed on the R&R charts for an incredible 45 weeks), "Keepin' It Cool" and "If You Ask Me". "KEEPIN' IT COOL" was also named Top Ten CD of the Year for 2006 on numerous lists.
His latest CD "NO LIMITS" has already produced two Top Five Hits, the title track "No Limits" and "The Big Windy Cat".
Says Colionne of the project: "NO LIMITS" is my latest adventure. I wanted to explore doing some different things with my music and not limit myself to one genre or style of playing". Colionne teamed up with two Grammy-award winning writers for the CD: Jim Peterik who wrote "The Eye Of The Tiger", the theme from the film "Rocky", and Paul Richmond who wrote "Shining Star" for the Manhattans. From this collaboration came three great vocal tracks - the soulful and romantic "Melting Into You", the bluesy "Hard Line" and the R&B tinged "Anyway".
Colionne's live performances defy categorization. His shows incorporate all the music he loves best and the influences he's had throughout his career. You are as likely to hear Nick sing the blues or some heartfelt R&B as you are to hear his blazing jazz licks, or even the hint of metal, recalling the beginning of his career as a heavy metal guitarist. From that diverse musicality comes an incredible live performance that showcases the talent, vocal ability and yes, comedic timing, of this charismatic entertainer.
More About Colionne
Coming of age on Chicago's West Side, Colionne began playing professionally at age 15, and has performed with legendary R&B icons Natalie Cole, Al Green, The Impressions, Curtis Mayfield and The Staples Singers. The recipient of the Malcolm X College Alumnus of the Year Award, (he earned his degree there in music), Colionne has devoted much of his spare time over the past 12 years to mentoring children at a suburban Chicago K-8 school.
Nick Colionne is an endorsee for Epiphone Guitars and Gibson Strings & Accessories as well as prestigious clothier Stacy Adams and is featured in both of their national advertising campaigns.
According to Nick, "The most exciting part of all of this for me is that I am actually living my dream, getting a chance to perform for people around the world, The greatest moments come when I look at their faces in the audience when I play, and I realize that I'm making them feel what I'm feeling. That's a fascinating level of communication".
Nick is the host of the popular radio program "Keepin' It Cool with Nick Colionne" heard daily on SmoothJazzNow.com, and recently spearheaded a national fund raising campaign to benefit breast cancer research and awareness in conjunction with Wine and Jazz Magazine that raised significant donations for The Pair Tree Foundation, a partner with The 3 Day Walk which benefits the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Colionne's busy tour schedule in 2009 year took him to multiple US cities, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe. Much to the delight of his many fans, he ends this year's multi-city holiday tour in Philadelphia with this special New Year's Eve performance.
New Year's Eve Event Information
Special "singles" and "couples" package pricing is available (dinner, the Nick Colionne concert, a special silent auction to benefit "The Little Rock Foundation" , an after party with Philadelphia's ZOE and optional hotel accommodations/New Year's Day Breakfast).
Reservations/Tickets: Call Embassy Suites Hotel, Philadelphia International Airport at 1-215 - 365-4500 & ask for the Nick Colionne New Year's Special.
Event is brought to you by: Michael Tozzi's ijazzglobal.com
Sponsored by: Allstate Insurance and Golden Nugget Jewelers. Sponsorship Opportunities: Contact: Michael Tozzi at 610 324-9314.
Visit Nick Colionne's Website, www.nickcolionne.com
Media & Press Inquiries for Nick Colionne
Christine Clark, 610-918-3252
Media Manager, On The Edge Productions
Photography credits: Cary Gillaspie, Scenic Jazz Photography; Bettie Grace Miner, Miner Works of Art
Special note to www.smoothvibes.com visitors:
Having seen Nick Colionne numerous times since he first came to Reading, PA, I can say without a doubt his is always a stellar show with lots of fan connection, unbelievable guitar playing along with an excellent band, and most of all the chance to meet Nick, himself, who is as fun, friendly and kind as he is debonair. If you can attend this event, you will surely join the ranks of us who already know this will be a magical holiday happening.
Hope you can be there!
The Killer Groove Band is riding high on sales from their latest CD, Get Out!, and will host a holiday party this December 19th at Shifty's nightclub where they will be offering two-for-one deals on their latest release.
Blu7, the only other bonafide contemporary band on the scene in Vegas, will host two nights in December, the 18th and New Year's Eve on the 31st.
Boney James was back at the Boulder Station Hotel in the Railhead Showroom on December 5th to the reception of another packed house.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra hits it hard at the Hard Rock Hotel on December 12th.
Terrible's Primm Valley will host one night with Michael McDonald on December 9th.
Mannheim Steamroller will perform a festive list of great holiday classics to the Orleans Hotel on December 13th.
Everyone have a great holiday season! Hope much jazz ends up in your stocking!
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. Although perhaps best known for her work as lead vocalist with Heads Up recording artists, Pieces of a Dream, Tracy Hamlin has performed with musical luminaries such as Carlos Santana, Marcus Miller, Jonathan Butler, Kirk Whalum, Wayman Tisdale, Rick Braun, Jeff Golub, Acoustic Alchemy and Richard Elliott. Her solo debut Seasons was released in 2005 and featured both Najee and her colleagues from Pieces of a Dream. It proved to be a stellar showcase for her rich vocal tones and built the perfect bridge between jazz and R&B. Now she is back with the sophisticatedly jazzy Better Days.
The style of Better Days is beautifully demonstrated with the soulfully mellow title cut and when Hamlin partners with Eric Essix for the silky ‘No Regrets’ the result is one of the highlights of the entire collection. The tune is further blessed by great guitar from Essix and excellent sax from Kelley O’Neal who also comes up big for Hamlin’s version of the classic ‘At Last’. Elsewhere smoky muted trumpet from Melvin Jones heralds in the evocative strains of ‘Good Morning Heartache’ and the tight beat of ‘You Are The One’ lays a platform for Hamlin to deliver a soul drenched mid tempo vocal that is reminiscent of Maysa Leak at her very best.
Eric Valentine lends his production skills to the effervescent and Incognito like groove of ‘Free’ while in complete contrast is the introspectively bluesy ‘Last Kiss Goodnight’ that serves to show off the full range of Hamlin’s vocal prowess. Later she manages to pack a load full of soul into her feisty rendition of the Stevie Wonder composition ‘Until You Come Back To Me’ which in its time was a massive hit for Aretha Franklin. It is one of nine numbers produced by Phil ‘Big Dog’ Davis and another is Hamlin’s faithful cover of the Bill Withers blockbuster ‘Use Me’. In fact the contribution that Davis also makes as co-writer and keyboard player leads to some of the album’s most memorable moments and one such delight is ‘You’ve Got To Let Go’. This is a tune that evidences Hamlin’s consummate ability to handle a neo-soul vibe yet in the final analysis it is the deliciously chilled out ‘Yesterdays’ that snatches the accolade of Secret Garden top track. Co-written by Hamlin and Davis, this is as good an example of smooth R & B as will be heard all year.
For more go to www.tracyhamlin.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.
Guitarist and composer Drew Davidsen, newcomer to the contemporary jazz scene, is fast becoming a familiar name among fans in this genre. Having been invited to the Catalina JazzTrax in October, here's what Art Good, festival producer, had to say about him:
"Drew Davidsen turned out to be one of the absolute best "finds" the JazzTrax Festival has landed in recent memory. I was especially on "the hunt" this year for young talent that few had seen and especially that the West Coast had never seen. Never having seen or met Drew, I took a real chance in this booking and had no idea until the show began, how it would turn out.
I knew he was good enough for the first third of the show, but the last two-thirds showed he was not only good enough, but a sure bet for other festivals to follow in putting this young guitarist on stages across America.
Davidsen not only put forth an amazing live show, displaying a rabid guitar and pure enthusiasm, but he turned into the perfect lead-on as new, never-before-seen talent by many who were there for the exciting evening follow-through by the legendary George Duke. Drew himself couldn't believe he was leading off for George Duke.
Audience response was that it was a 'perfect island match-up' with hopefully much more to follow from Drew Davidsen in future years."
Having an endorsement from someone like Art Good has only served to fuel Davidsen's enthusiasm and desire to compose and play great music that fans can enjoy.
During this break in November, before returning to California, I had a talk with Drew about his music and what it means to him.
BJP: You've been in the music industry for 20 years. What have you been doing in music until more recently when you began to explore contemporary jazz as a favorite genre for you?
DD: I was playing in any and every band possible, learning my craft. I was studying every inch of my guitar. I worked some odd jobs too. I was even a preschool music teacher for a season!
BJP: How did you get your start in music and who has influenced your playing?
DD: My start came in the third grade in public school when they gave me a cello to take home. That was the first time I was ever playing with other musicians and had to learn to work together as a unit. My Dad was an early influence. He filled our home with the music he loved and encouraged me to explore music. BB King, Ray Charles, Carole King, The Beatles. I can still remember when his old college band mates would come over to the house to jam. Those were really fun times for me.
BJP:What was your favorite music to listen to over the years?
DD: When I was a kid I really enjoyed listening to The Beatles. Another group I liked was called XTC, and the Dukes of Stratosphere, also Squeeze. These are British pop groups. Then it was a steady diet of all the jazz guitar giants, George Benson, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton, Earl Klugh, to name a few.
BJP: How did you become drawn to contemporary jazz?
DD: When I was in the navy a shipmate gave me the Breezin' album. When I listened to that I thought, "Wow! That's amazing!" I was really drawn to the clean sound of George Benson's guitar and the whole concept of scatting the vocals alongside the lead.
BJP: You've composed 2 CD's, This Journey, and Around (Again) within a relatively short time span. How do you come up with your tunes and do you have a sort of method you use to get a good composition?
DD: Many of my tunes are created in the middle of the night. I usually start with the "hook" that is the main melody that I want someone to remember from the tune. If they don't remember anything else I want them to get that. Some tunes are constructed from a rhythm - a groove that I hear. When I was recording "Little Wing" I was trying to do something different. I was imagining what would it sound like if Pat Metheny did "Little Wing?"
BJP: Your hit single from the second CD, 'Astro,' is climbing the charts in contemporary jazz and that's pretty unusual for someone who has come onto the scene recently. Tell us about that song and is it the one you would have predicted would do this well?
DD: "Astro' was first put together in my studio. Then I invited Jay Rowe to be a part of it. I asked him to give me a piano track. Jay's response about the song was very encouraging to me. My producer, Eric Copeland, liked the tune too and we rebuilt it around Jay's piano. Yes, I always liked "Astro" and knew it was a good tune. But I like all my songs! I had imagined that "Island Blues" might be the first thing to go to radio.
BJP: What was it like to work with people like Jay Rowe and Gerald Veasley on this second CD, Around (Again)?
DD: I feel very blessed that these two guys came on board my project. They are both first rate.
BJP: This year you've been able to play at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. and you were also invited to perform at the California Catalina Island JazzTrax festival. What were these experiences like for you?
DD: Blues Alley is always a treat. I had played there before, but this was the first time to have my name on the marquee. It made it extra special to be performing my music. Playing JazzTrax was incredible. i enjoyed every minute. It felt like the right fit. The ballroom is really beautiful. The whole experience was very cool. Be sure to visit my website to check out the new video of it. I am very grateful to my friend and videographer, Michael Packard, who came and did the honors. It was super cool to play with the wonderful band I had, Dave Krug-sax, Jesse Powers - bass, Moyes Lucas - drums, and Bill Steinway - keys.
BJP: The crowd loved your music at Catalina Island, and Art Good said you were the best 'find' he's made in many years, and wants you to return. What does this mean to you in terms of your goals and direction you want to go?
DD: I truly hope I get invited back. I was very humbled by his positive feedback of my show. When there are 1000's of great artists out there and only 30 can be invited I count it a huge honor. I hope to continue to be doing shows like this as long as the Lord allows.
BJP: You'll be returning to California soon -- what will you be doing there this time?
DD: I will be hanging out with Allen Kepler doing interviews, radio liners and all that good stuff. We plan to be jumping in with the guys at Spaghettini's and crashing Melanie Maxwell's 10th Anniversary Party for Smooth Jazz News.
BJP: You have a dynamite saxophone player in Dave Krug, as well, and you two complement each other very well. How would you describe him as a bandmate? How was it to work with Bill Steinway and Moyes Lucas at Catalina? And your bass player, Jesse Powers, how did you connect with him?
DD: Dave is a genius. His tone, and skill on sax are amazing. I am sure that he will one day be the next Michael Brecker. Dave is a very good listener and is teachable. He understands the idea of dynamics and all of that. He is also fun to travel with. Working with Bill and Moyes was eye opening. These guys are incredibly professional musicians all the way around. They brought their A game to the rehearsal and their AA game to the gig! Moyes had contacted me through MySpace offering to put together the musicians I would need for the Catalina show. I took a risk but I knew two minutes into the rehearsal that it would be a hot show. When I was a Ft. Dix hanging out at a Guitars and Saxes show I was talking with Jessy J. She had worked with both of these guys in the past and assured me that everything would be fine. And it WAS! As for Jesse Powers, he is my long time friend and mentor. We met at a jam 14 years ago. It was awesome to be able to take him on this trip. Jessie and I play together in Baltimore a lot and I am sure that we will continue.
BJP: Are you ready to begin composing new tunes for another CD? Any ideas of who might play on the next one?
DD: Yes, I am composing and thinking about new music for the next CD. I like working with Eric Copeland and we will continue our relationship into the next CD. Definitely Gary Lunn - bass and Dan Needam - drums will be on it. I also have something for Jay Rowe in mind. One big thing I am really thinking about is how to stay commercial but also grow deeper as an artist. The inspiration to meet that challenge came from a recent conversation with Jason Miles who I deeply respect.
BJP: You're a tireless player, obviously you love what you're doing ~~ what is it you're hoping to convey to the fans when you're up there playing?
DD: I am creating moments with the fans. I want them to remember the experience, buy a CD and take it home with them -- I can even sign it! Next time I hope they bring all their friends! It is really one big party when we play. We like to have a lot of fun. My job is to entertain the fans. I am there for them and I'm always aware of their needs. I want to "bring it" to them.
BJP: Is there anything you'd like to share with fans as far as what your music means to you?
DD: Yes, this is what I want the fans to know about me: I am truly grateful for the gifts I have. Yes, I have worked very hard to learn the craft of playing music, but I do believe that I was born to do this and it was a gift given to me by my Father to be shared with others.
BJP: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Drew. And I wish you safe traveling and a great, productive time in California on your trip out there!
DD: Thanks for the questions, and I'm sure I'll have a lot to tell you when we get back!
BJP: Great, I'm looking forward to it!
Learn more about Drew Davidsen at www.drewdavidsen.com.
READING, PA -- November 29 -- The 20th Annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and promises a memorable experience for lovers of contemporary and traditional jazz, blues, one-of-a-kind ensemble shows and more.
What began as a weekend festival of a few shows has grown to 10 days of great music and camaraderie, creating lasting friendships and memories.
The festival has always been unique in that it offers an array of venues and musical styles, with more than 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Reading and Berks County, Pa.
Several artists who played for the first fest in 1991 are returning this year, including Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band; Turtle Island Quartet with special guest Cyrus Chestnut; and Denis DiBlasio with special guest Randy Brecker.
Other featured artists in this year's festival include jazz trumpet star Chris Botti; pianist Keiko Matsui; the legendary Blood Sweat & Tears; bassist and hometown favorite Gerald Veasley with his Electric Mingus Project; contemporary jazz star Boney James; trumpet great and local favorite Rick Braun & Friends, featuring David Benoit, Richard Elliot and Selena Albright, joined by the Berks Jazz Fest Horns; the always-entertaining duo of Peter White & Mindi Abair; Earl Klugh with opening act Tuck & Patti; Kim Waters & Kenny Lattimore plus opening act Gregg Karukas; Jane Monheit with the Reading Pops Orchestra; and Pat Martino Quartet featuring Eric Alexander, Tony Monaco and Jason Brown.
Fans also will enjoy vocalist Jackie Ryan featuring Larry McKenna, Lee Smith, Dan Monaghan and Tom Lawton; the free community concert by the U.S. Air Force Satellite Jazz Ensemble; Frank Vignola's Hot Club; Dean Brown Band; saxman Euge Groove; Joe McBride Trio; Nick Colionne & Eric Darius; the Yellowjackets; and Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead Concert.
Unique ensemble shows to look forward to this year are the Music of Grover Washington Jr. featuring Jason Miles, Gerald Albright, Walter Beasley, Chante Moore, Randy Brecker, Jeff Golub, Ada Rovatti, Buddy Williams, Ralph MacDonald and Neal Jason.
Hometown favorite Rick Braun is celebrating this milestone year with a 20th anniversary concert, Rick Braun & Friends featuring David Benoit, Richard Elliot, Selina Albright, and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns and Berks Jazz Fest Strings.
The 20th Anniversary Berks All-Star Jazz Jam features Chuck Loeb, Rick Braun, Peter White, David Benoit, Gerald Veasley, Joe McBride, Nick Colionne, Chieli Minucci, Brian Bromberg, Eric Darius, Mindi Abair and Richard Elliot.
There's also Brian Bromberg & Friends, with the veteran bassist being joined by Jeff Lorber, Chuck Loeb, Michael Lington, Marion Meadows, Cindy Bradley and Will Kennedy, Gary Meek, Alec Milstein and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns; and Guitarzzz featuring Chuck Loeb, Chieli Minucci and Paul Jackson Jr. plus opening act Jessy J, Oli Silk and Jackiem Joyner.
Blues are back in a big way, with rousing shows promised by the Grammy Award-winning Robert Cray Band; vocal powerhouse Shemekia Copeland plus opening act Eric Steckel with the Craig Thatcher Band; and guitarist and vocalist Coco Montoya plus opening act Deanna Bogart Band.
The VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest is proud to bring fans 20 years of great music and lasting memories. Join in the celebration!
The 20th Annual VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest, presented by the Berks Arts Council, runs March 19-28, and features an expansive array of musical styles featuring contemporary and traditional jazz and blues artists. Over 130 events at major venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Greater Reading make this a truly unique music festival. For more information, including ticketing, artist bios and archived releases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit www.berksarts.org.
Tickets go on sale Saturday, Dec. 5, at 10 a.m.
To order tickets:
Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit ticketmaster.com.
Order online at berksjazzfest.com.
For a complete schedule of concerts, visit www.berksjazzfest.com