June 30, 2010

Bradley Leighton -- Soul Collective

It's been awhile since I've offered a decent gem for the library; so, here's one.

Flutist Bradley Leighton has covered a lot of turf in his career as far as citing musical influences is concerned. He’s covered Charlie Parker and even rolled through a little Tower of Power. Here on his 2008 release, Soul Collective, the flutist seems to travel back to his Back to the Funk release as he unleashes some coolly rhythmic and oft funky material on us.

The album runs the gamut for groovable tracks. The opening cut, “It’s On,” has a really nice hook and decidedly smooth yet funky feel while “Café Con Leche” has that appealingly rhythmic and exotic Latin touch. Funk takes center stage with “Wake Up Call” and its sassy swagger. Covers like “She’s Gone,” “Ode to Billy Joe,” and “Keep That Same Ol’ Feeling” are dealt with adeptly and with precision. Vocalist Paula Prophet, who is expected to release her debut sometime this year, offers her “That Man,” which has that early Motown/Martha Reeves kinda groove, and it works…well.

With guest help from Greg Adams, Tom Braxton, Jason Miles, Evan Marks, and Tom Scott, this project came gift-wrapped and set to please. It’s quite obvious that the stellar gathering prompted the album’s name and character.

It’s amazing what the flute has been able to offer in the world of jazz. From Laws to Najee to Zonjic to Leighton and many more, we have come to experience the texture and sweetness that the instrument adds to the genre. Soul Collective speaks to just how fortunate we are to have that experience.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 9:28 PM

June 29, 2010

Norman Brown - Sending My Love

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. As smooth jazz superstar Norman Brown limbers up for his now annual ‘Summer Storm’ concert tour (that gets underway July 16 at the Hyatt, Newport Beach, CA) there could be no better time for his latest CD, the excellent Sending My Love to hit the streets. Released June 22 on Peak Records it firmly returns him to the easy grooving guitar driven smooth jazz with which he made is name. For his fans both new and existing this is an album that is sure to find massive favour.

As early as the opening track, the infectious ‘Come Go With Me’, Brown lays down a marker as to the musical direction of this exquisite collection. It is a tune which displays the unmistakable style of this undoubted guitar maestro and he is again superb for the mid tempo ‘Thinking About You’ that is embellished with a delightful trace of velvety horns.

With the red thread of Latin rhythm running right through it, ‘Play Time’ is another opportunity for Brown to show off his jazzily intricate playing and when he switches to his under utilized singing voice the result is the heart warming ‘Celebrate Me Home’. Despite the surprise of finding a seasonal tune in mid summer this, nevertheless, is a welcome addition and Brown is also in fine vocal form for the distinctly romantic ‘One Last Goodbye’ that also betrays his penchant for an urban vibe. In fact Brown’s previous CD Stay With Me was replete with the kind of urban influences that currently permeate the landscape of contemporary jazz and he briefly goes back there for the extremely easy on the ear ‘I’m Pouring My Heart’.

Brown uses ‘Special Moments’ to fashion an introspective gem which is totally typical of his distinct approach and he stays in mellow mode for the atmospheric title cut that benefits from restrained yet powerful backing vocals.

‘Coming Back (Return Of The Man)’ not only puts Brown back in his familiar mid tempo groove but also close up and personal with a sizzling keyboard solo that sets the track apart as one of the album’s finest. However, that said, right up there with it is the seductively understated ‘Here’s My Number’. With a wow factor that is indecent and backing vocals which, late in the piece, come in like a gift from god, this might just be a metaphor for the very best of the genre.

For more on Brown and the entire listing of Summer Storm dates go to www.normanbrown.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.

Posted by Denis Poole at 6:02 PM

June 22, 2010

BRIAN BROMBERG TEARS UP THE HILLS IN VEGAS

Brian Bromberg color hi-res.jpg
With the help of the Fat City Horns, a local favorite horn section in Vegas, Brian Bromberg was more than capable of delivering an astounding display of his bass playing abilities. The concert was held in the afternoon at Centennial Hills Amphitheater on Saturday, June 12th.

A great concert performance by RNR, featuring trumpeter Rick Braun, and saxophonist Richard Elliot, held court at Aliante Station in Las Vegas on Friday, June 18th, to an enthusiastic packed house.

Oleta Adams brings her grammy award winning vocal style to Boulder Station on Saturday, June 26th.

The Killer Groove Band will be performing in the intimate atmosphere of The Grape bar and restaurant this Saturday, June 26th, starting at 7pm

Posted by Danny Desart at 5:56 AM

June 12, 2010

Chris Geith - Island Of A Thousand Dreams

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. There is something about Chris Geith’s music that is precious. Full of glorious melodies and hugely accessible rhythms it is as if every song tells a story. His 2008 release Timeless World was nothing short of a revelation and now he is back with the similarly stunning Island Of A Thousand Dreams. It finds him reunited with sax man Fed Scerbo, Donny D on drums and percussion, Mark Mullers on bass and, significantly, guitarist Matt Marshak who as a solo artist is rapidly making quite a name for himself. Written, produced and arranged by Geith, the resultant fifteen choice cuts prove to be a high quality example of melodic contemporary jazz.

Opening up with entirely accessible ‘Watch Your Step’, Geith delivers what could easily be taken as a metaphor for the entire smooth jazz genre and when he notches down the tempo for ‘When Morning Comes’ it’s Scerbo on sax who makes a significant contribution. Equally introspective are the twin delights of ‘Only The Heart Knows’ and ‘Yesterday’s Goodbye’ yet, whatever the pace, Geith’s consummate playing is always of the highest order. A case in point is the perky vibe of ‘Eternal Spring’ which is a tune that you will return to often and elsewhere the street wise swagger of ‘Once In A Lifetime’ is truly something to savour.

Geith has written for numerous television shows where his credits include Behind The Music and Inside Fame for VH1; Hometime (PBS), Berman & Berman For Women Only (Discovery Health), Autoline Detroit, My Classic Car (Speed Channel), That's My Baby (Animal Planet) and Famous Homes & Hideaways for TBS Super Station. Consequently it should be no surprise that the evocative ‘Coastal Daydreaming’ is a hit TV theme just waiting to happen. Another number with cinematic potential is the tenderly reflective ‘The Mirror Of Happiness’ whilst the uplifting ‘Easy Does It’ benefits from some nice guitar work from Matt Marshak and more great keys from Geith

Geith’s penchant for musical story telling even extends to the sequencing of the tracks. The inspirational ‘Flying West’ merges effortlessly (yet logically) into ‘Above The Clouds’ before the zesty title tune touches down at the albums natural destination. Here the jazzy sax of Fred Scerbo serves as a delicious accompaniment to Geith’s dazzling keys and although ‘Blue Horizons’ is a song that conveys a mood of hope and fulfilment, the inbuilt urgency of ‘Tomorrow’s Promise’ makes it a real Secret Garden favourite.

However, right up there with it and possibly emerging as the CD’s best track is the easy grooving ‘Diamonds In The Sky’. With a hypnotic quality that is special and fabulous guitars from Marshak, this one will play and play.

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.

Posted by Denis Poole at 5:52 PM

June 9, 2010

Capital Jazz Festival 2010

As every year, I attended the 18th annual Capital Jazz Festival in Columbia, MD which took place at the Merriweather Post Pavillion surrounded by a big park. There was the main stage at the pavilion where I had my seat, while a more R&B oriented lineup was offered on the second "soul stage", next to it was the festival marketplace where several crafts were displayed and food was sold. This year, they moved this part of the festival to a different area of the park and expanded it a bit.

The weather was nice, relatively hot and mostly dry, only on Sunday afternoon there was a short thunderstorm, which was followed by sunshine again. Everything went smoothly with only one exception: This year, bigger cameras with detachable lenses were disallowed. On the website, people are encouraged to bring their photo cameras, only camcorders are prohibited. When I approached the gate, security told me that my big DSLR with telephoto lens was not allowed on the premises and forced me to return it to the car, which was quite frustrating. As it seems, the pro photographers were fighting off some competition. I hope, that this policy either will be clearly stated on the website next year to avoid any hassles or - even better - corrected again. Bummer!

I bought my tickets blindly, which was not a wise thing regarding Friday night. Instead of a top-notch lineup, it was an "evening of music & comedy", featuring Sinbad, followed by Gladys Knight. Being a white boy from Europe, I simply lacked the cultural background to dig the humor of Sinbad, so this was a bit of a waste on me. The show of Gladys Knight was nice, the lady still looks georgous and sings great, only the choice of material was a bit too modern for me, I would have enjoyed some of her vintage songs a lot more. At least she sang "Midnight Train To Georgia". After those two shows, the mix & mingle party at the Marriot featured DC's own Spur Of The Moment, which I had to skip because the jet lag forced me to hit the sack. Despite the fact that people seemed to enjoy Sinbad, I hope that next year Friday will offer some world-class bands again and this comedy & music evening had been a one-time experiment this year.

On the pavillion stage, the music on Saturday and Sunday provided a great mix of smooth jazz, funk, straight ahead, by newcomers and established artists as well. On both days at noon, the concerts were kicked off by a "catch a rising star" showcase featuring some upcoming artists - although I considered several of those artists being rather established. On Saturday it was B.K. Jackson, Althea Rene, Lin Rountree & Phaze II, while on Sunday it was Brian Simpson, Tom Braxton, U-Nam & The Urban Jazz Coalition. The schedule on Saturday was Marcus Johnson, "G & Lee" featuring Lee Ritenour & Gerald Albright, Basia, Esperanza Spalding, Brian Culbertson, and Ledisi, while on Sunday we got The Jeff Lorber Fusion featuring Eric Marienthal & Jimmy Haslip, David Benoit, Rachelle Ferrell, Nick Colionne & Eric Darius, with Kenny G bringing the festival to its close. At least, they stuck to the concept of bringing new talent to our attention, although I consider the "jazz challenge" concept a more rewarding thing, I still remember Marcus Anderson and BK Jackson bringing the house down in earlier years.

I don't want to run down each concert, instead I would like to point out those highlights that stuck in my memory long after the festival has closed. Flautist Althea Renee really brought her own cool vibe to the concert with her flute playing during the first "catch a rising star" concert on Saturday, she is a great player that has something to say. 18 years old BK Jackson playing after her is one of the most outstanding and talented players on the scene today, he has stage personality, enthusiasm and can play. This young man is definitely one to watch in the future. Esperanza Spalding on bass & vocals is a true jazz artist defying categorization and was a breeze of fresh air, as was Rachelle Ferrell on Sunday with her great set of expanded songs and her absolutely unique singing style. The Jeff Lorber Fusion was living up to its name with some hard hitting no-nonsense tracks delivered by four awesome artists. Nick Colionne & Eric Darius delighted the crowd with an energetic show and lots of humor, those two artists form a great team. There was not a weak show among the many concerts heard.

On a side note, the Q&A sessions hosted by Angela Stribling were revealing too. I skipped the Basia concert and checked out Down To The Bone (after Shilts left the band) to see that they carry the torch very well and groove like ever. I stumbled upon the Q&A session with Brian Culbertson, which was very insightful. Brian talked about his collaboration with Maurice White who collaborated on his last album and, most interestingly, named David Sanborn being the artist on the top of his list of artists he wants to work with. Unfortunately, David Sanborn hasn't answered his calls yet, but let's hope that the two get a chance to do some music together. Too bad that I didn't have enough time to check out more Q&A sessions. I also was sorry that I had to miss a concert on the "soul stage" by Patrice Rushen & Friends featuring Doc Powell, Ndugu Chancler, Eric Marienthal, & Freddie Washington. But sometimes, you have to set priorities.

So, with the exception of the annoying "no-DSLR" policy and the for me uninteresting comedy evening on Friday, this year's Capital Jazz Festival turned out the be another great event full of enjoyable music and - most of all - meeting friends, old and new, immersing myself in a sea of like-minded music aficionados having a good time. I will be back next year!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:20 PM

June 7, 2010

PLAYBOY JAZZ FESTIVAL PRESENTS ‘JAZZ ON FILM’ WITH ARCHIVIST MARK CANTOR

Posted by The Jazz Gypsy

Thursday, June 10, 2010, 7:30 pm
The Nate Holden Peforming Arts Center
4718 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016

Free Admission

Celebrating L.A.’s Rich Jazz History…The Playboy Jazz Festival’s (PBJF) annual ‘Jazz on
Film’night, hosted by noted jazz archivist Mark Cantor, will celebrate the legacy of jazz with a move to a new location in Mid-City Los Angeles this year. This FREE event is presented by PBJF, in cooperation with the Ebony Repertory Theatre at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Cantor will share a series of rarely seen performances celebrating some of the most important as well as the sometimes forgotten, names in Jazz. ‘Jazz on Film’ will feature archival footage from jazz luminaries such as Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon, and Miles Davis, who all performed at many of L.A.’s top jazz clubs, including The Parisian Room, The It Club, and the Hillcrest Club. There will also be film clips of performances by such notables as Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Louis Armstrong, Mel Tormè, Dinah Washington and more.

Playboy will also present the award-winning jazz documentary CHOPS, immediately following Cantor’s show. The documentary follows the quest of a high school band from the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Florida to prove they’re as hard swinging as any band in the country--a quest that puts them onstage in front of a packed house at NYC’s Jazz at Lincoln Center and its artistic director, Wynton Marsalis.

Tip: Lot parking is conveniently located one block east of the theatre on Washington and Vineyard Avenue

Posted by JazzGypsy at 7:50 PM