March 28, 2010

Tomazz – Lucid Dream

Here’s a decently flavorful collection of smooth grooves from Tomazz, an artist who’s been around for a while performing and serving as a keys tech for such artists as Boyz II Men and our beloved late great Grover Washington Jr. His sophomore smooth jazz release, Lucid Dreams, seems to be a gentle, breezy ride along the smooth jazz coastline. Not having heard his first, Orient Bay, released in 2007, I’m not sure if this is a retreat or more of the same from him, but this seems quite capable of standing on its own two legs.

Obviously produced with an abundance of synth work (no other accompaniment is mentioned in the credits), Tomazz starts off with his Hardcastle-like title track and saunters through the remainder of the CD with some pretty impressive melodies and soft vocals that almost seem shy.

All of the 12 tracks are composed exclusively by him and, while I thought I might be in for a lot of repetition, as these synth-only projects often tend to be, Tomazz offers some light and welcome surprises with his display of compositional skills. No, there are no extraordinarily complex runs and riffs here, no mind-blowing bridges or hooks, but the project holds together quite nicely with the tickling of the ivories and the effective way he pulls the bass and rest of the rhythm section around the quaint melodies…and there are genuinely catchy hooks, by the way.

There is an abundance of good ol’ chill-out-and-let-go music that’s meant to massage and soothe. However, while there’s a lot of, as one of his tracks puts it, “Smooth Dancin’” going on, he shows that he’s not afraid to cut loose a bit every now and again, as “Sanctify” demonstrates.

Not a unique CD, but certainly fitting for that lazy afternoon where a good melody will do the trick.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 12:22 AM

March 27, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Peter White & Mindi Abair

Late Friday evening, Peter White and Mindi Abair appeared at the Crown Plaza ballroom, funkin up the place. They started with "Mr. Magic" among others, then Mindi Abair played her hits "Smile" and "The Last Dance", bringing us in a good mood. The band consisted of Stan Sargeant on bass, Jamey Tate on drums and Jay Gore on guitar. Peter White slowed it down with his tribute to Wayman Tisdale, the beautiful "Bright" capturing the spirit of the late bass player. Mindi Abair played "Bloom", followed by Peter White and his take on "Who's That Lady" from the Isley Brothers, segueing into "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" having everyone sing along, completed with his extended soloing on his distorted guitar delivering a highlight of the show. They slowed it down again with the beautiful song "Everytime" just featuring Peter White on acoustic guitar and Mindi Abair on vocals. Peter White played a beautiful acoustic version of "How Deep Is Your Love", the groove picked up again with "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" with a hot solo by Mindi Abair. The party really started with "Flirt" letting Mindi stretch out, then Peter White did his classic "Bueno Funk", segueing into Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up", going back to the song they started out with. Then "Lucy's" lifted things further up, before the they wrapped up the show with a string of high energy songs. This was another great and very entertaining show by two of my favorite artists of the genre.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:39 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Four80East with Matt Marshak & Shilts, Nick Colionne & Eric Darius

Saturday afternoon, the third Smooth Jazz 92.7 Fan Appreciation Concert took place at the Crowne Plaza Reading ballroom with a double bill of Four80 East, followed by Nick Colionne.

Four80East hail from Toronto, Canada, they were enforced by guests Matt Marshak on guitar and Shilts on sax. Their infectious, ultra-groovy sound soon had everyone bop their heads right from the start, their leader Rob DeBoer sat behind the keyboards in front of the stage leading the band through the songs. The played "Roll On", then Shilts played his own "Looks What's Happening" burning on the sax, followed by Matt Marshak doing his "Funkology", before the band took over with their own "En Route", then Matt Marshak played his "On The Rocks" showing his chops on the guitar. The band went back in time playing their very first single called "East Side", before Shilts led through the Down To The Bone tracks "Staten Island Groove" and "Brooklyn Heights" that were played back to back, wrapping up the show.

After an intermission, smooth jazz super-star Nick Colionne with special guest Eric Darius on sax took over. His high-energy show captured the audience right from the first note and didn't let go until the end of the show, this man is an extraordinary player and entertainer. He had a top-notch band with him, they were Tim Gant and John Erickson on keyboards, Lamar Jones on bass and the incredible Chris Miskel on drums. Eric Darius played his own "Just For The Moment" and "Going All Out", his youthful energy is the perfect complement for Nick Colionne, and they had a great time on stage together feeding off each other. Things slowed down with the beautiful song "Everything Must Change" that was another suitable choice for the deep, velvety voice of Nick Colionne, the song had a great climax with a funky guitar solo, before it slowed down for the end. Then they did a blues, followed by a Alicia Keys cover featuring Eric Darius, he went out in the crowd serenading some women, which had the crowd cheering. They went old school with their rendition of "Hurry Up This Way Again", allowing to do Nick his lengthy stroll out into the audience with an extended guitar solo going all the way, another highlight of the show. Eric Darius funked it up with "Slick" playing his sax energetically. They finished their great show with a James Brown inspired instrumental. This was one of the very best concerts of the whole festival for me, it was "off the hook"!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:18 PM

March 26, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: 20th Anniversary Berks All-Star Jazz Jam

Thursday night, the 20th Anniversary Berks All-Star Jazz Jam took place in the Crown Plaza ballroom, I was pleased to see that this star-studded event took place in the early evening allowing us to enjoy the concert to the fullest. Hosts were guitarist Chuck Loeb and trumpet player Rick Braun, who led through the concert announcing the players and leading through the songs.

They started out with all players on stage with the well-known Charlie Parker standard "Now's The Time" allowing each one to present him or herself with a short solo. The lineup was incredible, on the crowded stage were drummer Rayford Griffin, bassist Gerald Veasley, keyboardists David Benoit and Joe McBride, saxophonists Eric Darius, Mindi Abair, Andrew Neu, Richard Elliot and Shilts, guitarists Chuck Loeb, Nick Colionne, Chieli Minucci and Peter White, trumpet players Rick Braun and Jim Culbertson, plus surprise guests Brian Culbertson on trombone and Selina Albright on vocals. Next was the Freddie Hubbard tune "Little Sunflower" featuring Andrew Neu on sax, Chuck Loeb on guitar and David Benoit on piano, having everyone soloing extensively. Then Brian Culbertson, Shilts, Joe McBride and Nick Colionne played a smoking version of the Crusaders' classic "Put It Where You Want It", it was especially cool to see Brian Culbertson stretching out on the trombone on this track. Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" got a funked up treatment by Rick Braun, Eric Darius and Rayford Griffin who arranged the song and happens to be Clifford Brown's nephew. Then Rick Braun led through "My Funny Valentine" along Chuck Loeb and Peter White on guitar and Mindi Abair on sax, Rick Braun's sensitive singing was moving and Mindi Abair's extensive solo was deeply felt and the highlight of the whole evening for me. Next David Benoit, Chieli Minucci and Richard Elliot delivered "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", additionally Gerald Veasley played a mean bass solo and Richard Elliot showed off his skills on the EWI.

After the intermission surprise guest Selina Albright, lovely daughter of saxophonist Gerald Albright, stepped on the stage to do the TOP classic "What Is Hip", a song she asked to do. She delivered it with ease and was supported by a heavy horn section, definitely doing it justice. Joe McBride slowed things down with his solo version of Seal's "Kiss From A Rose", just supported by Chuck Loeb on guitar, before the groove picked up again with Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" populating the stage with band again, Richard Elliot played a great tenor solo and later used his EWI as a vocoder to a cool effect. The heat was further turned up with a great funk medley, with Gerald Veasley slapping his bass, going from Sly & The Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" right into Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" with Brian Culbertson jumping around the stage blowing a mean trombone, supported by Mindi Abair on sax. A special part of the concert was the rendition of Chick Corea's "Spain" by four guitars and drums, Rayford Griffin moved one drum in the center of the stage and was surrounded by Chieli Minucci, Chuck Loeb, Nick Colionne and Peter White, everyone was able to show his impressive chops. They wrapped up the All-Star Jazz Jam with Grover Washington Jr.'s "Mr. Magic" giving everyone another chance to groove along and play some solos. The cheering crowd didn't let the artists go, so they played one more, it was Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" bringing everyone to their feet.

This was an excellent concert by a world-class band of players that I truly enjoyed.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:01 PM

March 25, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Dean Brown

Wednesday evening at the Jazz Base at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, it was time for some world-class fusion by guitarist Dean Brown. He had an outstanding band with him featuring Dennis Chambers on drums, Schuyler Deale on bass and Bobby Sparks on organ & keyboards. They were grooving hard and went through the catalog of the leader, playing songs from the current Groove Warrior album and more. It is always great to see how Dean Brown totally immerses himself into his playing and goes to a different state when soloing, his playing showing a lot of love for the music of Jimi Hendrix. Dennis Chambers laid a solid foundation to the music and proved why he is one of the most respected drummers in the industry, Bobby Sparks delighted the audience with his soulful organ playing and cool sounds from his various keyboards, while Schuyler Deale provided some solid bass playing. They played two sets, ending the show with their rendition of a Jimi Hendrix classic and even had people dancing in front of the stage!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:26 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Tuck & Patti, Earl Klugh

Sunday afternoon, another Smooth Jazz 92.7 Fan Appreciation Concert was held with the double bill of Tuck & Patti, followed by Earl Klugh. The shows took place in the Crowne Plaza Reading Ballroom.

Husband and wife duo Tuck & Patti feature Tuck Andress on guitar and Patti Cathcart on vocals. They hail from the San Francisco area and definitely brought a flower power vibe with them, their career spans 30 years by now allowing them to rely on each other blindly. Tuck's guitar technique is absolutely unique, he plucks and strums his strings with both hands playing several lines at the same time being a mini-orchestra, while Patti is a gifted singer with a great range of expression. They delved into their vast catalog, one of the standout tracks was their classic "Takes My Breath Away" and the interplay of those two created some truly mesmerizing moments. Additionally, both of the artists took the time for some lengthy comments, showing wit and insight. I really enjoyed this concert and am happy to see them going strong.

After the intermission, guitarist Earl Klugh and band appeared. I was happy to see that Earl delivered a show playing all his classic tracks from my favorite period of his career, backed by a first-rate band. He had David Lee on keyboards, Lenny Price on saxophone, Al Turner on bass and Ron Otis on drums, a band that worked like a well-oiled machine providing the perfect backdrop for the acoustic guitar of the leader. They played "Living Inside Your Love", "Last Song" and many more gems from his vast catalog, then bass player Al Turner stepped to the front of the stage to perform the title track of this current release Movin', then saxophonist Lenny Price did a beautiful rendition of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" while later in the show keyboardist David Lee could show off his funk roots (being an early member of Parliament/Funkadelic). It was a great and entertaining concert full of memorable melodies and excellent playing by all involved.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:03 PM

March 24, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Brian Bromberg & Friends

Late Saturday night, Brian Bromberg & Friends - who was promoting his current It Is What It Is CD - was appearing at the Crowne Plaza Reading Ballroom. The bass player was backed by the great Will Kennedy on drums, Gary Meek on sax, Alec Milstein on bass and Thomas Zink on keyboards, plus the Berks Jazz Fest Horns, with an array of top-notch friends lined up to bring us lots of good music. Additionally, the show was broadcasted on TV. On keyboards was Jeff Lorber who provided many cool solos during the evening, they opened the show with "Mr. Miller" which provided some heavy bass slapping and horns, bringing things up to speed. The first guests were Chuck Loeb on guitar and newcomer Cindy Bradley on trumpet playing the uptempo groover "It Is What It Is". Then saxophonist Michael Lington performed "You And I" from his last CD Heat mellowing things out a little bit, later followed by saxophonist Marion Meadows doing his own "Dressed To Chill". The funked up version of "Theme from Sanford & Son" featuring Gary Meek went down very well with the crowd, then Cindy Bradley played her current single "Bloom", before Chuck Loeb was leading one of his songs, followed by Michael Lington and Marion Meadows doing "Through The Time". Another highlight was Brian Bromberg's version of the B-52's hit "Love Shack". The concert - which lasted over 2 hours - was concluded with Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" having all artists on stage for a rousing finale.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:16 PM

March 23, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr.

Saturday evening one of the first true highlights took place with the "Remembering a Legend: Music of Grover Washington Jr." show put together by Jason Miles, a true labor of love dedicated to the great late saxophonist who hailed from Philadelphia, his wife Christine was in the audience also. Jason Miles summoned some of Grover's old cohorts like Buddy Williams on drums, Neil Jason on bass and - most notably - Ralph MacDonald on percussion, who was with Grover for a long time and composed several of his greatest hits. The show was aptly kicked off with "Winelight", featuring Gerald Albright on saxophone, followed by a great rendition of "East River Drive" giving Jeff Golub the opportunity to shine on the guitar. Then it was the turn of Walter Beasley to deliver "Reaching Out". Next was Ada Rovatti on sax, later joined by husband Randy Brecker on trumpet playing the cool "Loran's Dance". Then it was time for songstress Chante Moore to sing "Just The Two Of Us" along with Gerald Albright on the sax, followed by "The Look Of Love" supported by Jeff Golub on guitar with some spirited interaction between the two. Later in the show, they delved into "Black Frost" from the seminal Mr. Magic album, "Inner City Blues" featuring Chante Moore and at the end - inevitably - Grover's signature track "Mr. Magic" joining everybody on the stage, bringing another great Jason Miles project to a rousing end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:37 PM

March 21, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Gregg Karukas, Kim Waters & Maysa

Saturday afternoon, Smooth Jazz 92.7 who are a festival sponsor, hosted their traditional fan appreciation concert with the double bill of Gregg Karukas, followed by Kim Waters with special guest Maysa.

This was the third time Gregg Karukas appeared with his own band at the Berks Jazz Fest, featuring John Whitney on guitar, Jay Delaney on bass, Shannon Ford on drums, and most notably Brad Collins on saxophone, who is a music teacher for 27 years and plays with Gregg Karukas on his east coast gigs. They kicked off the show with "Severna Park" and "Nightshift" providing a smooth and easy grooving start to the show. His current CD "GK" was prominently featured and all members of the band got their opportunities to shine, especially Brad Collins on saxophone turned out to be an excellent and very expressive player, being a great part of the show. They slowed down things a little bit with a solo version of "Sound Of Emotion", before turning up the heat towards the end of the show where the band was grooving hard, with Gregg having his portable keyboard around his neck, bringing the house down. During several parts of the show, the band was supported by the ever reliable Berks Jazz Fest Horns.

After a short intermission, saxophonist Kim Waters took the stage, he captured the crowd immediately with his trademark urban smooth jazz sound and songs like his current "For Lovers Only". After the first three songs, songstress Maysa entered the stage singing a song from her current CD "A Woman In Love", she was supported by her background singer Angela Phillips, while Kim Waters provided some really tasteful background playing on the sax, complementing Maysa perfectly.

Another highlight was "Honey Bee" where Maysa's vocalizing was out of this world, in parts reminding me of Al Jarreau. Then it was Kim Waters' part again with "Reaching Out", his current single, which morphed into Bob Marley's "Jamming" in a very cool way. Maysa came back to sing her classic "Deep Waters", composed by Bluey from Incognito. The band consisted of his brother James Waters on bass, Allan Smith on keyboards and Gary Grainger on drums. On a side note, it was also Kim Waters' birthday that day which was reflected in a birthday cake with candles and a nice rendition of "Happy Birthday" delivered by surprise guest Chuck Loeb and Maysa at the end of the show.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:37 PM

March 20, 2010

Berks Jazz Fest 2010: Chris Botti

Friday night, the 20th annual Berks Jazz Festival was kicked off at the Sovereign Center in Reading, PA by trumpet player Chris Botti. He appeared with his incredible band featuring Billy Childs on piano, James Genus on bass, Billy Kilson on drums, Mark Whitfield on guitar and Andy Ezrin on keyboards. First song was "Ave Maria", the well controlled and subtle sound of Botti's trumpet was stunning, then they segued into their trademark track that features every member of the band, especially Billy Kilson was able to show what an extraordinary drummer he is. Unfortunately they were forced to open the show without Mark Whitfield who was held up due to some personal reasons, but joined the band soon after the beginning of the concert, jumping right into the proceedings with a great solo during Miles Davis' "Flamenco Sketches". Special guest of the show was singer Lisa Fischer (who is also known as longtime background vocalist of the Rolling Stones and the late Luther Vandross), she showed an incredible vocal range and had a good time with the band performing "The Look Of Love", "The Very Thought Of You" and others. Later Botti slowed down the pace with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and Ennio Morricone's "Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso", both songs having become staples of his show. After a couple of more energetic songs with some funk and rock quotes (letting both Kilson and Whitfield off the chain), they concluded the show with an unplugged song with Chris Botti in the audience, just accompanied by Billy Childs on the piano, ending another top-notch concert by a consummate artist and world-class band.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 2:28 PM

March 18, 2010

Steve Raybine -- In the Driver's Seat

Vibraphonist Steve Raybine sets out here on his latest release, In the Driver’s Seat, with the intention of showcasing how all-encompassing vibes can be, especially in the jazz, blues, and even Latin arenas. This album is an attractive collection of grooves, containing both original compositions and well-interpreted covers.

Raybine, for those who may not know, has been respected in many circles as an accomplished vibist who’s worked with artists ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Rick Braun. He’s released two other releases since 2000 (Balance Act and Bad Kat Karma), and, if this latest is any indication, the man is well-rounded in his tastes.

In the Driver’s Seat flirts with smooth jazz, blues, and Latin in an unpretentious way. The album starts with a blues-influenced mid-tempo track, “Step It Up,” that has the vibes front and center, along with a bright array of horns featuring saxman Michael Paulo leading the smooth seduction with his tenor and alto solo offerings. The groove is clearly laid out here for the rest of the album, but one mustn’t make the mistake that it’s the only direction the CD takes, as a Latin gem, “Hummingbird,” pleasantly cha-cha’s its way through just before a flavorful smooth jazz popper called “Coffee Break.” Raybine then heads further down the blues trail with the up-tempo “Strut Your Stuff” and the hot and smoky “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” with sultry vocals by Jennifer Hill. His cover of Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” is refreshing, as are his covers of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” the Gerhswin/Heyward classic “Summertime,” and Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love.”

There are a few times when a certain atypical instrument just doesn’t “fit” in a particular style. As has been evidenced by fusion/funk vibist Roy Ayers, the vibes have a home here. Raybine does a great job of punctuating that point with this release.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 8:54 PM

March 15, 2010

Grover Washington Jr. - Grover Live

Grover Live, a New CD Documenting the Late, Great Saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. in a 1997 Concert With His Touring Band To Be Released on G Man Productions in May 18, 2010

The godfather of today's urban contemporary jazz scene, Grover Washington Jr., was one of the most popular and influential saxophonists of the '70s and '80s. And while he may have paved the way for such easy-listening artists as Kenny G, Najee, George Howard and Gerald Albright, none of those popular saxophonists play with the chops and sheer intensity that Grover demonstrated on the bandstand from night to night throughout his career, which spanned three decades. And as the newly discovered Grover Live demonstrates, the man was clearly on top of his game well in to the '90s. Recorded on June 7, 1997 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill, New York, Grover Live, produced by Jason Miles (Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Sting), captures the consummate pro in concert and at the peak of his powers, blowing with unbridled conviction and a sense of risk-taking on a collection of his tunes spanning three decades.

From familiar hits like "Winelight" and "Mr. Magic" to a medley of early numbers like "Inner City Blues," "Black Frost" and "Just the Two of Us" to more recent offerings like "Mystical Force," the hip-hop flavored "Uptown" and a contemporary spin on the old school groover, "Soulful Strut," Grover and his crew - Adam Holzman and Donald Robinson on keyboards and synthesizers, Gerald Veasley on electric bass, Richard Lee on guitar, Pablo Batista on percussion and Steven Wolf on drums - stretch out in dynamic fashion on this exhilarating live CD.

Washington sets the tone for the evening on the engaging opener, "Winelight," which showcases his wonderfully relaxed style and big, beautiful tone on the tenor sax. This tune, and several others on Grover Live, instantly reveals Washington to be, as Gil Evans once said of Miles Davis, "a great singer of songs." And while his mellow approach to melodic material established a school of playing that ultimately led to the smooth jazz movement, Grover can be heard wailing in pure spontaneous and aggressive fashion on a stirring cadenza, full of upper register squealing and virtuosic scalar runs that elicit wild shouts from the Peekskill crowd.

"Take Another Five" from the 1992 release Next Exit is a funkified take on Paul Desmond's "Take Five" the jazz anthem debuted by the Dave Brubeck Quartet on 1959's Time Out and showcases the individual band members stretching out with abandon. Again, Grover's delivery is relaxed and imbued with soul before he unleashes his mighty chops at the 3:15 mark. "Soulful Strut," the title track of Washington's current Columbia CD at the time of this concert, is a contemporary remake of the instrumental hit by Young Holt Unlimited from 1969. The atmospheric "Mystical Force," co-penned by Grover and his musical director Donald Robinson, is a smooth jazz offering with a funky edge while the slamming "Uptown," which has Grover switching nimbly from soprano to tenor sax, features sampled rappers, churning conga from Batista and some warm, Wes Montgomery-inspired octaves work from Lee. "Sassy Stew" is a slow grooving lyrical number from 1984's Inside Moves that gradually builds to a passionate crescendo that Washington wails over with signature abandon.

The Peekskill audience is next taken on a nostalgic trip by Grover in a well-crafted medley that travels from old school numbers like "Black Frost" (from 1974's Mister Magic) and an instrumental version of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues" (title track of Washington's 1971 debut on Kudu) to the romantic "Strawberry Moon" (title track from his 1987 album on Columbia) and the Afro-Cuban flavored "Inside Moves" (title track of his 1984 album on Elektra). The funky "Jamaica" (from 1989's Time Out of Mind) is a showcase for Washington's robust baritone sax playing while the beautiful ballad "East River Drive" (A Grover original from 1980's Come Morning) has him playing soulfully on soprano sax. The extensive medley concludes with the chart-topper "Just the Two of Us" (sans Bill Withers on vocals), and the upbeat "Sausalito," which features a heated timbales solo by Batista over a percolating son montuno section. They close out the set with the funky "Let it Flow" (a paean to basketball superstar Julius "Dr. J" Erving which appeared his 1980 album Winelight) that showcases Veasley on a monstrous electric bass solo. And they encore with Grover's signature tune, "Mr. Magic," a '70s staple that has guitarist Lee wailing in Hendrix-like fashion and also features Washington erupting with visceral power on tenor sax.

Washington's only other concert recording was Live at the Bijou, which documented a 1977 performance at a Philadelphia showcase venue, the Bijou Cafe. Twenty years later, he brought the same kind of intensity, improvisational daring and big-hearted soulfulness to the stage on the exciting Grover Live.

Born on December 12, 1943 in Buffalo, New York, Grover Washington was the son of a tenor sax-playing father who introduced him to the instrument when he was 10. While attending high school, he took evening classes at the Wurlitzer School of Music and for two years played baritone sax with the All City High School band. By age 14, he was sitting in at a local Buffalo nightspot called the Pine Grill. Two years later, he joined the quartet called the Four Clefs and with the full approval of his parents, left Buffalo to go on the road with the band.

In 1965, Washington was drafted into the Army. He was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey in the 19th Army Band where he met drummer Billy Cobham. Together they spent their free time moonlighting in Philadelphia and New York jazz clubs. After being discharged from the service in 1967, Grover settled in Philadelphia with his new wife Christine and took a day job with a local record wholesaler while continuing to play in the clubs at night. One important gig he landed was with organist Charles Earland, who showcased the young tenor player on his 1970 Prestige album, Living Black. Washington appeared as a sideman that year on several more sessions, including Johnny Hammond Smith's Breakout on CTI. That album quickly became a bestseller, establishing the saxophonist's reputation within musician circles as a major new voice on the instrument. It also caught the attention of CTI producer Creed Taylor, who offered Grover a contract to record as a group leader on the CTI subsidiary label Kudu. His debut, Inner City Blues, garnered much critical acclaim in 1971, though at the time of its release, he was still working in the record wholesaler's warehouse. As he recalled, "I was in the unique position of unloading records with my own name on them, but I didn't mind. I was 28 and feeling on top of the world."

After the release of 1974's Mister Magic, a churning soul-jazz offering with swaggering funk overtones, Grover was well on his way to international stardom. The title track garnered huge radio play that summer of '75 and ultimately became Washington's theme song throughout the rest of his career.

Grover earned his first Grammy Award for Winelight (1980), an album that eventually attained double platinum status on the strength of the popular single "Just The Two of Us" featuring singer Bill Withers. Washington subsequently signed with CBS Records in 1987 and debuted with Strawberry Moon, his 19th album as a leader. His second Columbia album, Then and Now (1988), was a return to straight ahead jazz featuring an all-star cast including pianists Tommy Flanagan and Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummers Grady Tate and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. For his follow-up with the label, he did an about-face in 1992 by releasing the hip-hop/jazz project Next Exit, asserting his interest in keeping a finger on the pulse of the streets. He followed that release with the jazz outing, All My Tomorrows in 1994. After (1997), a soothing collection of Christmas-related songs, he released Breath of Heaven: A Holiday Collection and Prime Cuts, a greatest hits compilation of his Columbia years with two new cuts.

Grover died of a sudden heart attack at age 56 on December 17, 1999 while taping an appearance on CBS TV's "The Saturday Early Show." The posthumous Aria, an album of classic opera pieces recorded in May of 1999 with bassist Ron Carter, pianist Billy Childs and the Orchestra of St. Luke's, was issued the following year.

At the time of this recording, Grover was promoting his release, Soulful Strut (1996).

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:53 PM

March 14, 2010

Phillip 'Doc' Martin - Realization

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. Rising sax star Phillip ‘Doc’ Martin certainly has it all going on. Despite his relatively tender years Martin already has the critically acclaimed Saxappeal and Pride & Joy albums under his belt and has now come roaring back with the recently released Realization. An extravagant combination of original music and innovative covers it includes production input from the ubiquitous Darren Rahn and represents a significant milestone in Martin’s rapidly advancing musical career.

Born in Indiana of Jamaican parents Martin grew up in South Florida and by age fourteen was being noticed for the quality of his playing. Before graduation he had already released his debut CD and on moving to Washington DC (to attend the Howard University Of Dentistry) became a member of the Marcus Johnson Project. Pride & Joy followed in 2007. It heralded in his own label, Saxtime Entertainment, and it is on this imprint that Realization has now emerged.

The zesty title cut exemplifies mid tempo smooth jazz at its very best and, although the compelling ‘Fall In Love’ provides more of the sumptuous same, Martin slips deliciously into melodically mellow mode for the cool ‘Love Won’t Let You Down’. In complete contrast, ‘Funky Lovin’ is big, jazzy and enriched by a powerhouse horn section while the mildly turned down ‘Deep Pockets’ is the sort of song guaranteed to grow on you. It’s a further demonstration of the way Martin effortlessly handles fluctuating emotions and another is with ‘Waiting’ where the addition of Cindi Kornhaus on cello and Mike Gamble on guitar affords a real melancholy to this wistfully smooth track.

‘Daydream 2009’ is another turned down gem that this time is underpinned by a shuffling beat and the handsomely understated ‘So Fine’ is one more superb example of the original music on show. Here, Alvin White’s significant contribution on guitar is the link to Jobim’s marvellous ‘Wave’ for which Martin does an equally excellent job and as he stays with cover versions for a chilled out take of the Ledisi hit ‘Alright’ he delivers an urban delight of the highest order.

The track originally appeared on her 2007 CD Lost & Found and when for inspiration Martin turns to Stevie Wonder’s 1969 ‘My Cherie Amour’ he comes up with a stunning interpretation of this timeless tune. His handling of Sade’s ‘Nothing Can Come Between Us’ is sublime yet, in terms of re-imaginings, there is none better than Martin’s rendition of the Jennifer Hudson blockbuster ‘Spotlight’. With a vibe to die for this is right up there with the album’s best.

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 10:31 AM

March 12, 2010

VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest Celebrates rich heritage with Reel Jazz Classics

Reading, PA -- Jazz isn't just a music genre. It's an art form steeped in rich tradition with a widely celebrated, inspirational past.

While many of jazz's great musicians are gone, their music lives on through music lovers and musicians alike.

Now, jazz lovers have an exciting opportunity to experience a treasure trove of audio-visual footage from six timeless legends of jazz, thanks to the Jazz Icons DVD series.

The VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest has partnered with the producers of the Icons series -- four boxed sets, 30 individual DVDs -- to screen selections of these vintage, unseen concerts at this special "Countdown to the 20th" community event.

Reel Jazz Classics is slated for Sunday, March 7, at the Miller Center for the Arts on the campus of Reading Area Community College in Reading, beginning at 2 p.m. There is no cost.

The schedule is as follows:

2 p.m., Woody Herman
Live concert: England, 1964
Woody Herman features a blistering concert from 1964 showcasing one of the hottest lineups of the "Swinging Herd," including trumpeter Bill Chase, trombonist Phil Wilson and saxophonist Sal Nistico. Woody and band roar throughout the show which includes standards such as "After You've Gone," "Lonesome Old Town" and "Sister Sadie."

2:30 p.m. John Coltrane
Live concert: Germany, 1961
Saxophone legend John Coltrane was a true giant of 20th century music. This incredible video features Trane's classic quintet of Elvin Jones on drums, Reggie Workman on bass, Eric Dolphy on sax/flute and McCoy Tyner on piano performing three classic songs -- "My Favorite Things," "Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye" and "Impressions."

3 p.m. Wes Montgomery
Live in-studio: England, 1965
Wes Montgomery was one of the most unique and influential guitarists in music history. This beautifully filmed program features Wes, in an intimate studio setting, performing some of his best-known tunes, including "Four On Six," "Full House," "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Twisted Blues."

3:30 p.m. Duke Ellington
Live concert: Holland 1958
Filmed at Amsterdam's famed Concertgebouw, this film features the 16-piece Duke Ellington Orchestra that includes legendary musicians Clark Terry, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Quentin Jackson and Ray Nance. Duke and the band are in top form performing an outstanding set that features "Sophisticated Lady" and "My Funny Valentine."

4 p.m. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Live concert: Belgium, 1958
This historic film features what many consider to be one of drummer Art Blakey's finest ensembles in jazz history -- Bobby Timmons, piano; Jymie Merriitt, bass; Benny Golson, sax; Lee Morgan, trumpet. Lost for nearly 50 years, this concert is the only known visual document of this influential band who were together for only six months.

4:30 p.m. Ella Fitzgerald
Live concert: Belgium, 1957
In one of the first Ella Fitzgerald concerts captured on film, "The First Lady of Song" joins jazz greats Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Jo Jones and the legendary Oscar Peterson on classic songs such as "Lullaby of Birdland," "Angel Eyes," "Love for Sale," "Tenderly," "April in Paris" and "Just One Of Those Things."

These special screenings will be hosted by former WEEU 830AM Radio personality Lew Runkle.

The Jazz Icons DVDs feature full-length concerts and in-studio performances by the greatest legends of jazz, filmed all over the world from the 1950s through the 1970s.

"The release of Jazz Icons is like the unearthing of a musical time capsule ?" -- Quincy Jones

Come celebrate the past legends of jazz at this special Reel Jazz Classics event.

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 For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit

To order tickets for Berks Jazz Fest shows:
Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit
Order online at
For a complete schedule of concerts, visit

Dana L. Hoffman
Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

Beth Renfro
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council

Hope you get to take advantage of one of these travels back in time!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 4:08 AM

Chris Heslop to Receive 2010 Frank Scott Award at Berks

ChrisHeslop.jpgREADING, PA -- The Berks Arts Council's Frank Scott Award is given annually during the VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest to honor the late jazz legend Frank Scott's memory and his contribution to the jazz heritage in Berks County.

Honorees are selected for this award because of their significant contribution to jazz in Berks County, as well as their active involvement in giving back to the community.

This year's award will be presented to Wyomissing musician and music educator Chris Heslop prior to the USAF Satellite Jazz Ensemble, plus opening act Berks High School All-Star Jazz Band, Tuesday, March 23 at 7 p.m. in the Crowne Plaza Reading ballroom.

Heslop has been a tireless supporter of jazz education in Berks County. A graduate of Temple University with a degree in jazz studies with performance concentration, he has taught saxophone, clarinet, flute and more since 1991, and has participated in the Reading Musical Foundation's Jazz in the Schools program for seven years.

He's chaired the educational activities committee for the Berks Jazz Fest for the past five years, working closely with the Berks Arts Council and Berks Jazz Fest general manager John Ernesto to develop clinics, performances and workshops for young Berks County musicians.

He also was instrumental, along with fellow Frank Scott Award recipient Mike Eben, in bringing together the Reading Musical Foundation, Reading Eagle's Voices and Zeswitz Music to create the Berks Jazz Jam, a monthly free program for students which includes use of a free CD/DVD library.

"The most important part of jazz education to me is simply exposing the highest number of students to the most variety of music," Heslop said. "Although my expertise is in jazz, I want encourage the students to explore a variety of music and not just the narrow spectrum offered by pop culture."

While Heslop recognizes the accomplishments he has made, he also realizes his work is far from finished. "When I was first notified that I was the 2010 recipient, my initial reaction was that I don't deserve it," he said. "Then, when I was asked to list the educational activities I have either started or been a part of, I realized that we have a lot of progress in the last five years and felt both a sense of pride and a need to turn it up a notch for the future."

He's already well on his way, with a grant he obtained to start a Berks Summer Jazz Workshop, beginning in June. He and his wife, Jill M. Scheidt, created the Scheidt/Heslop Jazz Fund, a scholarship awarded annually to a student in kindergarten through 12th grade to attend a summer camp focusing primarily on jazz.

For him, receiving the Frank Scott Award brings things full circle. He recently recalled a concert from his high school days at the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown that left no doubt in his mind that he wanted to be a musician.

"A friend's neighbor invited us to hear his jazz band," Chris said. "I was a budding saxophonist and looked forward to the concert for weeks. Hearing the band, my expectations were exceeded and if I had any doubts that I was going to pursue a career in music, they were quickly laid to rest.

"The band was led by my friend's neighbor, Al Grey, the famous trombonist of Count Basie fame. I was thrilled when, on break, he introduced me to the tenor saxophonist who had me in absolute awe. That saxophonist was Frank Scott."

Frank Scott, for whom the award is dedicated, was born on June 24, 1923, in Reading. Throughout his musical career, Scott played with many notable musicians such as Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, and Bill Haley and the Comets. Scott opened two nightclubs in the Reading area which had a great influence on the community, opening people up to the sound of jazz, and played a vital role in much of Berks County's jazz programming. His album, "Never Too Old to Dream," captured the heart and soul of his generosity which translates through his music.

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 For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit

To order tickets for Berks Jazz Fest shows:

Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit
Order online at
For a complete schedule of concerts, visit

Dana L. Hoffman
Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

Beth Renfro
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council

Congratulations, Chris!!

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:48 AM

Brian Culbertson to host 'Live From The Inside' at Berks Jazz Fest

BrianCulbertson.jpgREADING, PA The VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a big way. Joining the celebration is longtime Berks Jazz Fest fan favorite Brian Culbertson, playing host for a special screening of his recently released CD/DVD "Brian Culbertson Live From the Inside."

This one-time-only screening is set for Friday, March 26, at 4 p.m. at the RC/Reading Movies 11 & IMAX theater at 30 N. Second St. in Reading. Following the screening, Brian and his father, Jim, will host a meet-and-greet with fans at the theater. Tickets are $10 and are on sale now at the theater and online at Seating is limited to 250 fans.

"Finally I'll get to see the film on the big screen!" Brian said. "I'm very excited about partnering with the Berks Arts Council and RC Theatres to make the special screening part of the 20th anniversary Berks Jazz Fest -- and most important, available to the fans. I'm looking forward to welcoming fans to the screening and spending time with them at the post-show event. It's going to be a fun time."

"Live From The Inside" is a deluxe 2-disc set consisting of a 98-minute DVD that features live performance, interviews and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, plus over 90 minutes of additional bonus content. The CD contains 12 songs (10 of which were No. 1 hits) that gives Culbertson fans newly-rendered versions of some of his most popular numbers, including one brand-new song titled "Go" - a sequel to Culbertson?s recent chart-topping hit "Always Remember," which is also on "Live From The Inside."

"I was flying home from the Berks Jazz Festival back in March (2009) when the whole concept for this project really hit me," Brian shares. "I guess you could call the concept a high-energy blast of 'best of' and biography."

The film also features special all-star guests Ray Parker Jr., Dave Koz, Eric Marienthal, Michael Lington, Eric Darius and Brian's father.

As an added treat, Brian will join the always popular Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, Thursday, March 25 at 8 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Reading. Brian will join stars Rick Braun, Chuck Loeb, Nick Colionne, Peter White, Chieli Minucci, Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg, Eric Darius, Mindi Abair, Richard Elliot, David Benoit, Joe McBride and more for a blowout jam.

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 For more information on the Berks Arts Council, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts in Greater Reading, visit

To order tickets for the Berks Jazz Jam or other Berks Jazz Fest shows:
Visit the Sovereign Center box office, Seventh and Penn streets, Reading.
Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 to charge by phone; or visit
Order online at
For a complete schedule of concerts, visit

Dana L. Hoffman
Publicity Director
VF Outlet Berks Jazz Fest

Beth Renfro
Marketing/Public Relations Director
Berks Arts Council
P: 610.898.1930

Hope to see you at Brian Culbertson's 'Live From The Inside'

Happy Jazzin'

Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council

Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 3:15 AM

March 8, 2010

Playboy Jazz Festival Annouces Awesome Line-up!

written by The Jazz Gypsy

The Playboy Jazz Festival
(presented in cooperation with the L.A. Philharmonic Assoc.)

PBJF LOGO COLOR 2010 copy.jpg

Saturday, June 12, 2010, 2:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Sunday, June 13, 2010, 2:00 pm - 10:30 pm

Hollywood Bowl
2301 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068-2742

Tickets Available Now at


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the world renowned Playboy Clubs where many jazz greats got their start. In keeping with that legacy, the 32nd annual Playboy Jazz Festival will present a world class lineup of talent featuring the highly anticipated debuts of emerging young artists, celebrated jazz icons and returning Festival favorites.

Among the headliners for the two day event are The Chick Corea Freedom Band, George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Stax for Sax (Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber & Kirk Whalum), Marcus Miller, Les Mc Cann, Esperanza Spaulding, and one of my favorite world musicians', Salif Keta.

Chick Corea 01.jpgAfter mounting three hugely successful world tours, including the celebrated reprise of Return to Forever and his electro-acoustic quintet, the Five Peace Band, Grammy winner Chick Corea and his all-star Freedom Band featuring bassist Christian McBride, drummer Roy Haynes, and saxophonist Kenny Garrett is making a return appearance.

George Benson 02.jpgA ten-time Grammy winner and consummate entertainer, George Benson returns for his sixth appearance. Heralded as a world class guitarist and vocalist, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master continues to play to sold out crowds all over the world.

Celebrating their 40th anniversary, The Manhattan Transfer is the first group to ever win Grammy Awards in both the pop and jazz categories in the same year. Considered one of the most important, innovative groups in music history (their ground breaking album Vocalese scored a monumental 12 Grammy nominations), the highly acclaimed harmony quartet is returning for a long overdue third appearance.

The undisputed King of Cuban Dance Orchestras, Los Van Van is back after a ten year absence. Now that visa restrictions have been relaxed, fans will be thrilled to see Cuba’s most popular band, led by acclaimed bassist Juan Formell, returning to the Playboy stage for another pyrotechnic performance of their unique brand of ‘Songo’ music, which fuses the group’s infectious Cuban rhythms with synthesizers, jazz, rock, meringue, Brazilian music, and rap. The
Grammy-winning orchestra has added two new vocalists and three trombones to the flutes, violins, piano and percussion that round out their unique sound.

Sax for Stax, featuring contemporary jazz greats Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, and Jeff Lorber will take to the Playboy stage together for the first time to celebrate the legacy and timeless sound of the classic Memphis label, Stax Records. The concept for the trio’s show, which features dynamic interpretations of some of R&B’s best songs, is inspired by Sax for Stax, the soul-kissed, funk album released in 2008 by urban saxophonist Albright, who has sold over a million albums in the United States alone. The three also toured together previously as part of the ‘Groovin’ for Grover’ phenomenon, paying tribute to sax great and Festival favorite, Grover Washington, Jr. Reunited,
the hot group continues to play to sellout crowds wherever they go and will close the show on Saturday night.

An eight-time Grammy winner, vocalist Kurt Elling, called “the standout vocalist of our time” by the New York Times, is making his Festival debut. Considered by many to be the contemporary voice of vocalese, he sets his own deeply spiritual, compelling lyrics to solo works by Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny and others.

Marcus-Miller-01.jpgMultiple Grammy-winning bassist, Marcus Miller is also returning this year, with featured guest artist Grammy-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott. Having graced well over 400 albums in his two decade career, Miller has played with a myriad of legendary artists from Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, and Miles Davis, to Elton John, Eric Clapton and Mariah Carey, and is at the top of his game.

Widely considered one of jazz’s great orchestras, The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz
was the house band at the Hollywood Bowl from 1999 to 2001, while John Clayton also served as Artistic Director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Nominated eight times for a Grammy, bassist Clayton, his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, formed the group together in the late eighties. Making a return appearance, their repertoire will include a special salute to famed drummer Louie Bellson.

Also making his debut is saxophonist Javon Jackson, who came to international prominence as a member of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Jackson will be joined onstage by special guest Les McCann, the iconic soul-jazz pianist and vocalist. Together, he and McCann will perform the mega hit “Compared to What”, from McCann’s seminal 1969 release, Swiss Movement.

A one of a kind group, Naturally 7 has pioneered a distinct a capella style they call ‘vocal play’, where each member of the group uses their voice to replicate the sounds of a musical instrument. Founded by Roger Thomas, his brother Warren, and five other singers, Naturally 7 catapulted into the spotlight during 2007, when they opened for internationally acclaimed singing star Michael Bublé on his worldwide tour. Making a much anticipated debut, the group has been on a whirlwind for the last 14 months guesting on Ellen, and The Today Show, performing for Quincy Jones 75th birthday and playing to an enthusiastic crowd in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Their now famous Paris subway performance of their hit “Feel It” (In The Air Tonight), has garnered over five million hits on YouTube.

A unique musical artist, Jake Shimabukuro is recognized as one of the world’s most exciting and innovative ukulele players and composers. Playing jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, flamenco, and rock, the multitalented musician’s goal is to show everyone that the ukulele is capable of much more than traditional Hawaiian music. His appearance not only marks the Festival debut of a young visionary, but the first time Playboy has ever presented a solo ukulele player.

Making his Festival debut at just 23, “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is an artist with the virtuosity to draw the unqualified respect of some of the most iconic legends in jazz and the ability to deliver a show capable of mesmerizing international rock stars as well as an audience.

Named a 2010 National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master, vibraphone great Bobby Hutcherson and acclaimed pianist Cedar Walton, also named an NEA Jazz Master this year, will appear together for the first time as part of a quartet at this year’s show.

salifkeita.jpgPioneering singer and composer Salif Keita’s appearance on Sunday marks the long awaited Festival debut of one of the world’s most unique performers. A royal descendant of the Emperor Soundjata Keita, whose 13th century empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara desert, Keita has stayed on the cutting edge of musical evolution for forty years, expanding the boundaries of modern Malian and world music. His soaring voice exemplifies a singer at the summit of his art, and his music expresses the nuance of joie de vivre where hope leads to triumph.

A surefire party-starter, Robert Randolph and the Family Band is returning for their second Festival appearance. Known for his jaw-dropping pyrotechnics on the pedal steel guitar, the group has made the leap from playing in church to headlining music festivals and touring with rock stars.

Esperanza Spalding 01.jpgAfter a knockout performance in a captivating debut last year, 25 year old bassist Esperanza Spalding is back for an encore by popular demand. Blending innovative vocal stylings with uncanny instrumental chops, she has already taken the jazz world by storm, performing with such distinguished musicians as Stanley Clarke, Dave Samuels, Pat Metheny and others. Clearly an up and coming star, she performed at the White House in February, 2009 and was also invited to play at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in honor of President Obama.

Grammy Award-winning trumpeter, bandleader, and recording artist Irvin Mayfield is the founder and artistic director of the lauded 16 piece New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Their music re-imagines unique New Orleans styles, blending them into a 21st century jazz sound that has quickly established him as one of the young giants of jazz.

Also making their highly anticipated debut, three-time Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre brings the rich traditions of Cuban music to the modern sounds of today. Celebrated for their dance-inducing performances, the first authentic all-Cuban timba band in the United States blends high voltage Latin jazz with the seductive rhythms of ‘son’.

Returning as master of ceremonies for his 29th year is jazz aficionado Bill Cosby, who will again bring together his own group of noted musicians. Featured in this year’s Cos of Good Music are distinguished bassist and composer Dwayne Burno, three-time Grammy-nominated world class drummer and percussionist Ndugu Chancler, two-time Grammy-winning saxophonist Mark Gross, vibes great Jay Hoggard, Juno Award-winning Canadian pianist DD Jackson and trumpeter/flugelhornist Ingrid Jensen, also a Juno Award winner.

A creative force on the Bay Area music scene for more than a decade, the loose knit band of musicians known collectively as the Jazz Mafia, has made a major contribution to contemporary jazz through their hip-hop symphony Brass, Bows and Beats. Seamlessly combining Latin polyrhythms, boom-bap rhymes, melancholy ballads, swinging jazz and blistering solos, while adhering to symphonic structure, the multi-thematic, genre-defying work both embraces and expands jazz tradition. With top-tier brass players and a premium rhythm section, The Jazz Mafia form one of the most powerful assemblies of virtuosic performers on the West Coast that should make for another exciting Festival debut.

Opening Saturday’s show at 2:30 p.m. is The El Dorado High School Band (the first school from Orange County to ever perform at the Festival) under the direction of Richard Watson. The L.A. All District High School Jazz Band under the Direction of Tony White and J.B.Dyas will open the show on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Darlene Chan, president of FestivalWest Inc. is the producer for the Playboy Jazz Festivals for the 32nd consecutive year. Hugh Hefner is executive producer and Richard Rosenzweig is president of the Playboy Jazz Festival.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster now. Patrons can purchase tickets online at, over the phone by calling (213) 365-3500 or (714) 740-7878, at any Ticketmaster outlet or by downloading a ticket order form available at There is also a link to the Ticketmaster website on the Playboy Jazz Festival website.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 10:10 PM

March 6, 2010

Bernard Alcorn - A New 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. When, in 2000, Chicago guitar man Bernard Alcorn released the album Late Arrival the title could not have been more appropriate. Although he had been playing professionally for over 20 years his total commitment to music had been hampered by a parallel career as social worker and vocational rehabilitation counselor. Now, with his eye firmly on the musical ball, he is back with the extremely pleasing A New Day.

This cool blend of jazzy Benson-sque rhythms and smooth contemporary vibes signals its intent with an easy grooving take of the Outkast 2003 hit ‘The Way You Move’. When Alcorn pays his respects to the great Jose Feliciano with a tasty version of ‘Light My Fire’ and tips a hat to the Temptations with a velvety rendition of ‘Just My Imagination’ the results are just as good yet, truth to tell, there is enough original material on offer to demonstrate the credentials Alcorn has as a performer, producer and songwriter.

The Latin flecked ‘Bossamba’ is a tasty delight and contrasts nicely the happy vibe of ‘Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?’ Each demonstrates the capability that Alcorn has to produce music that is both interesting and innovative whilst this is further re-enforced by ‘SOS’ and ‘Future Steps’ which, each in its own way, deliver an edginess that is precious.

Although the infectiously jazzy ‘Keep On Steppin’ allows Alcorn to ratchet up the tempo he proves to be equally effective when easing it down. For instance ‘Down To The Wire’ turns out to be a deliciously chilled out slice of melodic smooth jazz and with a succession of songs that include ‘New Beginning’, ‘Where Is Love’ and the smoky title cut he maintains what is essentially a mellow mood. Similarly, ‘Nice N Easy’ could genuinely be cited as a metaphor for the entire collection and, whist it is right up there with the album’s best, a real Secret Garden favorite is the excellent ‘Chi Town Strut’. With sumptuous sampled horns and a great groove this one is a real attention grabber.

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 2:13 PM

March 5, 2010

What We're Listening To ** February

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

George Benson, Songs and Stories (Concord Records) (2009)

Najee, Mind Over Matter (Heads Up) (2009)

Peter White, Good Day (Peak Records) (2009)

Rick Braun, All It Takes (Artistry Music) (2009)

Andrew Neu, Try Something Neu (Nu Groove Records) (2009)

P E T E R * B O E H I

Miles Davis - The Complete Columbia Album Collection (2010)
This massive collection spanning 52 albums on 70 CDs in mini-LP replica jackets and one DVD represents the whole output of trumpet player Miles Davis on Columbia Records during the 30 years he was with this label, complete with booklet and extensive notes. This one keeps you busy!

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘The Buzz’ by Ken Navarro from the album Dreaming Of Trains. Although not totally indicative of what is an extremely innovative collection, this sumptuous slice of smooth jazz is nevertheless something to savour.

‘Tag You’re It’ by Lynn Riley from her CD Too Cool. Enticingly perky and massively commercial this is a tune that is already evolving into a firm favorite.

‘Funkability’, the brand new, (and never before heard), radio single from saxophonist Will Donato; Out on Innervision Records and produced by Darren Rahn it’s a number for which the title says it all. With a tight, infectious vibe it is in the best traditions of high octane sax driven smooth jazz and is sure to do well.

‘I Can’t Let You Go’ by Haywoode from the recently re-released album Arrival. Produced by Bruce Nazarian, and featuring horns from John Trudell and Ross Pooley, this funky cut has, since its release in 1985, become something of a cult classic. Now available from Cherry Red Records the 17-track digitally re-mastered special edition CD includes seven bonus tracks plus a comprehensive color booklet of pictures, analysis and exclusive brand new interviews with the artist and those involved with her career.

‘Parlophone’ by Terje Lie from his brand new release Urban Vacation; Produced by Jeff Lorber and Jimmy Haslip, Lorber’s tight keys provide a platform for this infectious, brass enriched cut by Norwegian born sax man Lie.

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

Bickley Rivera - Chillin' After Five

Justin Young - Nothin' But Love

Zoe - Let's Fly

BK Jackson - On the Move

Elan Trotman - This Time Around

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:05 PM

March 4, 2010

Osaru -- Home With the Keys

This is a good, melodic piece of work from Osaru, a multi-instrumentalist who plays everything on this, his sophomore release, Home With the Keys.

I have to admit that I have a few misgivings about the album, however. As nice as it is, it could have used a good, old fashioned human touch in the form of other live musicians accompanying Osaru on this project, in my opinion. I get it that this is supposed to be a keys/synth-based project, but there is a certain amount of monotony that distracts a bit from this otherwise fine album of really pleasant melodies and hooks.

Still, those melodies are strong enough to make it very difficult not to like this CD. Actually, the CD walks a fine line, in my opinion, between smooth jazz and new age.

Also, you may be able to say that the synth-induced sax has its good and its monotonous moments, but you cannot say that the tunes are, in and of themselves, unpleasant. Tender, with a certain sense of melancholy, the album puts you in the right place if that’s the mood where you find yourself at any given time.

Appealing tunes are not always funky, up-tempo, and in-your-face. Sometimes, a production like this is what’s needed to strike a good balance. As a balancer, Home With the Keys can certainly work.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 8:30 PM

Lynn Riley -- Too Cool

This debut CD from saxophonist/flutist Lynn Riley, Too Cool, is just that. A cool mix of delicious grooves, controlled funk, and smooth and traditional jazz influences, with a sultry swinging rhythm snaking its way throughout the album.

Lynn Riley is a Philadelphia, PA, native who has seen a large measure of success in the form of recognition via significant awards. Among them are an award from the Trane Stop Resource Institute for her contribution in preserving and promoting Afro-American Classical Music and an award from the National Association of Jazz Educators for Outstanding Service to Jazz Education.

On Too Cool, the traditional jazz influence meshes well with the subtle Caribbean touch, and the funk is as funk should be: bold and in your face. The tasteful and classy sax runs clearly denote one who knows how to milk the scale for all it’s worth and who is all too familiar with the nuances of good smooth jazz.

The opening and funky title track sets a congenial tone that draws you deeper inside to explore the many experiences that Riley paints vividly, both on flute and sax. Speaking of flute, the romantic flair of track 4, “Island Breeze,” is simply seductively exotic and engaging as that flute lulls you into a state of sheer bliss. You can imagine strolling along that island beach without a single care in the world.

After this journey through all of the lovely moods and textures, Riley wraps it all up with the lilting and serene “Pamela.” Most of these tracks were either solely or co-written by Riley’s bassmeister, Rubin Edwards, who clearly shows why he is such a complement and asset to the sax lady.

All of the tunes here are delightfully well-conceived and approached with equal measures of seriousness and fun. Tonally crisp, well structured, and weighty, this is a solid project from start to finish. Lynn Riley shows here that she is truly Too Cool.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 8:25 PM

Bickley Rivera -- Chillin' After Five

Oh, the innovativeness of many smooth jazz artists. You’ve gotta love it! Here’s an artist whose vocals and keys skills might well have been enough to get her on the smooth jazz radar screen, but Bickley Rivera has taken it a step further and combined an abundance of tenor steel pan in a way that is quite interesting. Here on her debut CD, Chillin’ After Five, there’s not just a Caribbean flavor with the steel pan, but, as she puts it, she knew that “the steel pan had more to say than just Caribbean island notes…the instrument’s acceptance as a solo instrument has begun, and it’s time for fans to experience its full beauty.” Well, while there are noted steel pan artists (Andy Narell comes to mind), Rivera plans to ensure that the instrument gets its just due in this genre. This project is a good start.

With a little guest sax help from Praful and Ed Calle, along with comely melodies and hooks and a groove that just says “chill,” this new, attractive young artist shows us that she knows her way around not only the pans and keys but how to comfortably intermingle her style with the type of magnetic magic that has propelled other artists with a vision to produce a solo signature touch (e.g., Hardcastle and Soul Ballet’s Rick Kelly – though, obviously, with different styles).

Rivera easily captured my attention with the opening and title track and kept me riveted throughout this melodic excursion through her creativity. Certain tracks just take on a life all their own. Cases in point, in addition to the charming title track, would be the Brazilian-influenced “Groovin’ in Rio,” the near-gritty “Pan Funk” (oh, you just have to feel this one), the island-flavored “Sending My Love” with a soothing chorus, and several others (“Caress” does just that to the mind and soul. Just what the doctor ordered after a hard day at the office).

Bickley Rivera should prove to be a really welcome addition to our SJ family, as she tightly and warmly embraces what we hold dear, and vice versa. Chillin’ After Five sounds like a good idea, and with this album in hand, I’d say it’s a great state of mind.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 8:23 PM

March 2, 2010

Seabreeze Jazz Festival 2010

Seabreeze Jazz Festival to Add “Sizzle” To the Gulf Coast With A Stellar Weekend of Smooth Jazz Set For April 15-18th!

Jazz-lovers and sun-seekers across the nation are getting ready to “shake off those winter blues” --- with a remedy of white sands, beautiful water, and a dose of the best in smooth contemporary jazz. The coastal beach setting of Panama City Beach will “come alive” for the 2010 ResortQuest Seabreeze Jazz Festival, April 15th-18th at the Pier Park Amphitheater. Celebrating its 12th year on Florida’s Northwest Gulf Coast, the event will provide an oasis for music lovers and a beach getaway for the entire family.

Known as the ULTIMATE weekend in smooth – The ResortQuest Seabreeze Jazz Festival has become synonymous with “fun in the sun” and top-notched national contemporary jazz entertainment, all inside the backdrop of beautiful white sand beaches, emerald green waters, with an abundance of activities for just about every taste in beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.

Named as one of the "Top 10 Jazz Festivals in the USA" by Jazziz Magazine, The Seabreeze Jazz Festival marks its second year moving east from Destin to the vibrant new location of Pier Park in Panama City Beach. The combination of beautiful beaches, great shopping and dining at adjacent Pier Park, easy-access to an abundant offering of hotels and condos, coupled with a “killer list” of the top names in contemporary jazz—make Panama City Beach the place to be! And this year… the “vibe” is hot! Almost as hot as the music is “cool”!

Artists scheduled to perform each year include the “Who’s Who” of contemporary jazz, and this year is no exception. The 2010 event will be hosted by contemporary jazz guitarist Nick Colionne. Set to perform throughout the weekend include smooth jazz “supergroup” Fourplay and exciting R&B funk/jazz band Tower of Power -- sure to get the audience up on their feet! Other artists performing include The Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, and Steve Cole…. Rick Braun and Richard Elliot also known as “R n R”, Nick Colionne, Euge Groove, Marc Antoine, Brian Simpson, Alex Bugnon, Shilts, Jackiem Joyner, Oli Silk, Jessy J, Steve Oliver, Drew Davidsen, Ken Ford, Gerald Veasley, Joey Sommervile, Matt Marshak, BK Jackson, RomanStreet, and Jones and Company. On Friday evening, an All-Star Jam Show will include a tribute to the late Wayman Tisdale, famed jazz bass player and basketball player who performed at the event last year.

The weekend of smooth jazz will kick off on Thursday, April 15th at 7pm with the annual Smooth Jazz Dinner Cruise sponsored by ResortQuest. Sailing from the beautiful Baytowne Wharf Marina at Sandestin Resort, the entertainment yacht “Solaris” will cruise the scenic Choctawhatchee Bay as attendees enjoy a full seated dinner, festive fun, and smooth jazz. This magical evening concludes of with an intimate live smooth jazz performance on the Sky Deck by keyboardist Brian Simpson and French flamenco guitarist Marc Antoine. All attendees on the cruise will then attend a personal Meet and Greet with both artists for a “unique” up-close experience. Tickets for the Smooth Jazz Dinner Cruise hosted are limited at $135 each.

On Friday, April 16th the action turns to the greens of the Colony Golf Club in Panama City Beach as the Seabreeze Jazz Festival Golf Tournament swings out as this year’s new event! Set among the semi-private, 18 hole par 72 Championship Course just minutes from Pier Park, the tournament action is open to all with a 8am Shotgun Start. The course has been described in national golf publications as among one of Florida’s most enjoyable yet challenging tracks. Attendees will enjoy a day of golf, a delicious lunch, presentation of prizes, and a live performance from saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa as an added treat. Get a “JAZZY” start to the jazz festival weekend with exhilarating morning of golf and an intimate jazz performance. Tickets are $110 per person and space is limited. For golf tournament registration or information, call Colony Club at 1-850-234-1800.

Meet the STARS OF SMOOTH JAZZ and get a FREE sneak peek of the festival show at Borders Books at Pier Park Friday at 3pm. Reminiscent of a Hollywood CD Release Party and Meet and Greet, this is an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with the artists performing throughout the weekend. Mingle with the jazz artists, purchase their latest cds, and of course get autographs galore! Each artist will perform a short preview of their material for the audience, and admission is free. Bring your camera. Space is limited so get there early.

The excitement shifts to the stage at Pier Park on Friday April 16th beginning at 6pm … with the official kickoff of the event. The crowd will first be treated to jazzy acoustic guitar fusion from Mobile, Alabama based RomanStreet, followed by the #1 Contemporary Jazz ranked Sax Pack, featuring sax trio Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, and Steve Cole. The evening will conclude with the Seabreeze Jazz Festival All-Star Jam Show hosted by smooth jazz guitarist Nick Colionne. Loved by fans as both a unique element of the jazz festival, the All-Star Jam will feature a montage of national talent as special smooth jazz guests will join on the stage for a "once-in-a-lifetime jazz jam like no other”. First introduced in 2008, the All Star Jam creates the fun and FUNK of impromptu jazz performances that many audiences rarely see is concert-style performances. Jazz artists get to “let their hair down” and “rip loose” with the uptempo riffs, funky bass lines, and the crowd-energizing beat of beats! As a special edition to 2010, the All Star Jam Show will include a special tribute to the late Wayman Tisdale. Renowned jazz bass player and pro-basketball player, Wayman performed to a standing ovation crowd at the 2009 Seabreeze Jazz Festival and was one of his last live performances before his timeless passing early summer of 2009 of cancer. His music and spirit will be celebrated on stage as we remember “the man with the big smile”.

Friday evening concludes at 11pm with a cool “Chill Out” After-Party at Reggae J’s at Pier Park. British smooth jazz keyboardist Oli Silk, London-based saxman Shilts, and guitarist Matt Marshak will keep the cool grooves and jazzy vibes going into the late night hours at this intimate “Jazz Club” setting, complete with appetizers and a cash bar.

The ResortQuest Seabreeze Jazz Festival will continue all day Saturday and Sunday April 17th-18th with performances from 10am to 10pm on Saturday and 10am-9pm on Sunday. The gates open each day at 9am.

How does one spell “funky”? The answer is clear to see in Saturday’s impressive lineup of top talent with a few surprises. Heads will turn with 18 year old sax sensation from Florida State University BK Jackson takes the stage and electrifies the audience. #1 selling guitarist Drew Davidsen, a huge hit at the Catalina Jazz Festival in California follows as he makes his Seabreeze Jazz Festival debut. And who says “jazz” is only limited to the sax, guitar, or keyboards? Atlanta electric jazz violinist Ken Ford will prove that notion wrong with his upbeat performance of funky smooth jazz and R&B grooves as another exciting newcomer for 2010. The afternoon continues with smooth jazz hitmakers Rick Braun and Richard Elliot together for some “R n R” – short for Rick and Richard but long for high energy, jaw-dropping Top 5 charting contemporary jazz hits that span the past three decades.

Festival host guitarist Nick Colionne performs as well – known in the music business as “The Windy Cat” for his home base of Chicago and his jazzy guitar grooves. Nick Colionne too has enjoyed big success on smooth jazz radio as one of the top-selling jazz guitarists of 2008 and 2009. On top of being a talented artist, he’s actually funny on stage as well.

As Saturday’s sun sets on the Pier Park Amphitheater, the mood will IGNITE as legendary funk, jazz, soul, and R&B band Tower of Power performs for the first time on the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast. Since 1968, Tower of Power has delivered their unique brand of music to their fans, appearing before sold out crowds as they tour the world each year. Tower of Power’s rhythm section lays “down a groove” like no other band. The band’s horn-driven sound is unique and when combined with the outstanding lead vocalist, the final result is one of the most dynamic shows to ever hit the stage. Tower of Power is known to many … as THE BAND. With high energy horns, funky rhythms, and soulful vocals – the Seabreeze Jazz Festival will feel “the power” of The Tower.

The action moves from the stage at Pier Park to the “club scene” just steps away at Pier Park at 10:30pm as Saturday evening concludes with a cool “Smooth Jazz” After-Party at Reggae J’s at Pier Park. The Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, and Steve Cole perform with special guests in a swanky yet smooth upbeat “Jazz Club” party scene. The smooth jazz will blend with the warm seabreeze off of the Gulf across Panama City Beach into the early morning hours.

On Sunday, April 18th the music continues with a unique blend of style, tempo, and talent. Destin based jazz and vocal group Jones and Company will begin the day with their own hits and the best of Motown, pop, and R & B. The “Seabreeze Groove Project” will again debut a “new sound” on stage – as each year the band’s configuration changes to reflect a fresh new take on groove riffs, moving bass lines, and jazz licks. This year’s “Groove Project” includes swiss-born keyboardist Alex Bugnon, bassist Gerald Veasley, former Down To the Bone saxman Shilts, and jazz guitarist Matt Marshak. Guitarist Steve Oliver brings his unique style of rhythmic and breezy jazz to the stage…and his vocal scats and unbelievable guitar talent will WOW the most demanding music fan. New and upcoming talent is always part of the jazz festival formula, and Jackiem Joyner, Jessy J, and Oli Silk will show the audience why they are the hottest new artists in the contemporary jazz format today. Saxophonist Euge Groove will take to the stage performing his montage of uptempo hits.

The grand finale of the weekend will be the first-time appearance of Fourplay …set to headline the festival Sunday night at 7pm. Known as a smooth jazz “supergroup”, Fourplay consists of Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason, and their newest member, multi-faceted virtuoso guitarist Chuck Loeb. The Seabreeze Jazz Festival will be the first live performance to include Chuck Loeb to the world. For nearly two decades, the contemporary jazz quartet has enjoyed commercial success by grafting elements of R & B, pop, and a variety of other sounds to their unwavering jazz foundations. In the course of ten recordings over the last 20 years, Fourplay was named “Top 20 Smooth Jazz Artists of the Decade” by Billboard Magazine.

The Seabreeze Jazz Festival itself has become a phenomenon. Beginning in 1999 at Seaside with just a handful of participants, the event now has grown to attract over 5000 jazz attendees per day from all over the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America. Many come just for the music, while others enjoy the beautiful beaches, upscale shopping, and fine dining the local area has to offer. The Seabreeze Jazz Festival has been recognized as one of the top jazz festivals in the country, as well as "Best Event" and "Best Place To Be Seen" by the readers of Emerald Coast Magazine.

Tickets are on sale online and by phone. A Weekend Pass is $130 per person and includes all performances at the Pier Park Amphitheater Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Individual single-day tickets are on sale at $80 each. Tickets for the Smooth Jazz Dinner Cruise are separate at $135 each including dinner and show. After-Party Tickets are $55 each.

For the ultimate jazz festival experience, VIP Corporate Tables for 10 are available for $5000 each for the weekend including all VIP catering and benefits. VIP Corporate Tables provide the best concert experience, located directly in front of the stage so attendees can take in the smooth jazz excitement. VIP Corporate Tables includes separate VIP Parking and entrance, early festival entry, full catering including breakfast, lunch, and snack for the weekend …and beverages (beer, wine, and soft drinks). VIP Ticket holders also get to Meet and Greet with the artists inside the VIP Tent after each performance.

Order tickets online at or by phone at 800-595-4849.

Purchase tickets in person at Borders Books and Music at Pier Park, Playground Music Center in Ft. Walton Beach, and Kitchenique in Destin at City Market next to Destiny.

Coolers are welcome inside the venue but no alcohol please. Cash bar and food vendors available at the event. General Admission ticketholders bring a lawn chair or blanket. Children 12 and under are admitted to the Friday-Sunday festival at no charge with paying adult. Chair rentals will be available at the entrance gate and can be pre-ordered online or by phone. Parking available onsite at Pier Park.

For more information, call 850-267-3279 or go online to Presented by WSBZ 106.3 -- the Seabreeze.

Sponsors include ResortQuest, The Panama City Beach Visitors and Convention Bureau, Pier Park/Simon, Smooth Jazz dot Com, Creative Gems of Panama City, Borders Books and Music, The Talking Phone Book, and Smooth Lounge dot com.

About WSBZ-FM 106.3 -- The Emerald Coast’s exclusive smooth jazz radio station, WSBZ celebrates its 15th year on the air broadcasting from Destin with the area’s most unique format. As presenting host and founder of the Seabreeze Jazz Festival, WSBZ Radio features celebrity hosts including Kenny G, Ramsey Lewis, and Dave Koz in their weekly program schedule. WSBZ was nominated twice as 2006 and 2007 Smooth Jazz Radio Station of the Year by Radio and Records/Billboard Magazine. WSBZ 106.3-the Seabreeze also is streaming live on the internet at and Owned and operated by Carter Broadcasting, Incorporated, WSBZ Radio is family-owned by Mark and Renee’ Carter of Santa Rosa Beach, Fl.

Panama City Beach boasts 27 miles of sugar-white sand beaches bordering the clear, emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. The Northwest Florida community is home to St. Andrew’s State Park, a Top Two beach on the 2008 TripAdvisor list of America's best beaches. Panama City Beach also enjoys recognition as a premier beach destination by Conde Nast Traveler, The Travel Channel, USA Today, Southern Living, Dr. Beach and the Clean Beaches Council. Family attractions, championship golf courses, sporting events, award-winning dining, predictably sunny weather and a vast number of recreational activities draw visitors to this seaside community. For more information, call 1-800-PCBEACH (850-233-6503) or check out the official Web site of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau,

Located in the heart of town across from the City Pier, the new Pier Park spans roughly 1 million square feet, making it Northwest Florida's largest shopping/dining/ entertainment venue. This open-air complex houses restaurants and stores comprising a colorful mix of popular national chains and favorite local boutiques and eateries. The Pier Park lineup includes: Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Dillard's, Borders, JCPenney, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Candymaker Candy Stores, Massage Envy, Panera Bread, The Back Porch restaurant, Hofbrau Beer Garden, Ann Taylor Loft, Chico's, ULTA Beauty and more. Plus, the Grand 16 Theatre -- a 16-screen, 3,000-seat movie theater complex – shows the latest blockbusters.

You can now follow the destination on, at PCBeach, to receive up-to-the-minute news and details on special offers and deals.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:23 PM