September 26, 2010

Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg 2010, Germany

This year's Smooth Jazz Festival 2010 in Germany took place in Augsburg in the Parktheater im Kurhaus Göggingen, a historic bulding from the 19th century that has been rebuilt after a fire and now serves as theater and concert hall. It turned out to be an ideal setting for this event, holding around 450 people, half of them in the seating area. There were bars and catering areas, so we were taken care of very well. The event was attended well, I was pleased to see a capacity crowd and many familiar faces from previous years.

Friday night the festival was kicked off by David Benoit who did some songs from his current Earthglow release, next to several of his classic songs ranging from "Freedom At Midnight" to "Blue Rondo A La Turk", supported by The Heavy Mellow Quartet from Berlin, who backed all the major acts on Friday and Saturday. Later during Benoit's show, special guest Rick Braun played one song, kicking up things a notch. David Benoit was in a great playing mood and provided an excellent performance.

Rick Braun did the late show and turned up the heat considerably, he was joined by Shilts, and the two worked the crowd. David Benoit joined in for one song, returning Rick's earlier favor. Rick Braun did many of his hits, ranging from "Use Me" to "Grazing In The Grass", as another highlight, Chuck Loeb, who just had arrived, joined the party, bringing this first evening to a rousing end.

Saturday, the sax and guitar duo Akusticos opened the evening with some unplugged smooth jazz, before Shilts performed his own show. He did several of his familiar songs (like "Good Evans" and "Look What's Happened" and Stevie's "Tuesday Heartbreak") before featuring a track from his brand new, soon to be released new CD Going Underground. At the end of his show, Rick Braun joined him turning up the heat. This was another great show by a consummate sax player.

Next was guitarist extraordinaire Chuck Loeb doing a great show, just backed by the Heavy Mellow Quartet, he gave us some great renditions of tracks like "The Music Inside" and other gems from his vast catalog. The crowd just loved it. At the end of his show, Rick Braun and Shilts played a couple of tracks with him (like "Brother Ray" and a blues) jamming along, in the spirit of jazz expressing spontaneity and cameraderie. This brought the evening to a satisfying close.

Sunday morning, while some rays of sunshine were entering the building, Joyce Cooling with Jay Wagner and their own drummer, performing in Germany for the first time, capitivated the crowd with her blend of jazz and latin grooves, most notable were the percussion interludes that provided a nice change to the instrumental parts of the concert. She performed her own "Revolving Door" sitting at the edge of the stage, providing a moving part of the concert. Her show was warmly received and she was visibly moved by the response of the crowd, she did two encores.

This festival turned out to be a success, and even more than last year, I am sure that it is destined to be continued successfully in the future. Next year's festival will be held in Augsburg at the same location, so the uncertainty has come to an end and I look forward to be back again.

[More images @ Flickr]

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:46 PM

September 25, 2010

Dave Koz - Hello Tomorrow

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. A new CD from smooth jazz superstar Dave Koz is the highlight of any musical year and the fact Hello Tomorrow is his first collection of original music since 2003 has only served to heighten the excitement which surrounds it. In reality this is a body of work that for Dave represents a fresh start in almost every way. Recently signed to Concord Records and with Grammy award winning producers Marcus Miller and John Burk on board, he has delivered an album that not only raises the bar but also embraces a whole new musical concept.

There are many things to commend the memorable Hello Tomorrow and among them is how Koz has gathered together a stellar group of guest artists on a scale that, with the possible exception of Brian Culbertson’s recent work, is unparalleled in the genre. Koz recently debuted the breezy lead single, ‘Put The Top Down’ on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno when he sat in with Rickey Minor and The Tonight Show Band. Underpinned by the message that “it’s OK to have fun too” the track includes great performances from guitarists Lee Ritenour and Ray Parker Jr. In fact it is one of five tunes written by Koz in partnership with the prolific Brian Culbertson and another is the spine chillingly beautiful ‘It’s Always Been You’ which is blessed by the smooth guitar of Paul Jackson Jr and percussion from Sheila E.

Culbertson returns to provide writing and performing inputs to the delightfully mid tempo ‘Anything’s Possible’ and although ‘The Journey’ affords Koz the opportunity to ease things down he is quickly back on fire with ‘Getaway’. Complete with a wonderful vocal chorus from Jonathan Butler and Sheila E this is a tune that is as infectious as they come. Feel good music really doesn’t get better than this.

Talking about a happy vibe there can be none more so than that generated by the zesty ‘Think Big’ where Culbertson again plays a part. However, in terms of these sumptuous Koz – Culbertson collaborations there is nothing finer than ‘There’s A Better Way’ which owes much to earthy sax from Koz, a cool vocal from Keb Mo and Hammond B3 from Bobby Sparks that, as they say, really takes you back.

‘Start All Over Again’ has all the attributes of a song that might be played over the title credits of a Hollywood film and given it is written (and features vocals) by Dana Glover this is hardly surprising. Indeed, having previously written music for the movies ‘The Wedding Planner’, ‘Shrek’, ‘Two Weeks Notice’ and ‘Laws Of Attraction’, she provides something here that is both pleasing and different. Elsewhere the silky rendition of the Bacharach - David classic ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ proves to be something of a first in that it enables Koz (for the first time ever) to exercise what is revealed as an excellent singing voice. Lynne Fiddmont is predictably magical on backing vocals whilst there is a real treat when none other than Herb Alpert steps up to play the memorable melody that made this great tune famous.

Truth to tell, legends abound. Jeff Lorber is well known for delivering contemporary jazz with an edge and this is exactly what he does when sharing production and playing keyboards on the splendidly uplifting ‘Remember Where You Came From’. Co-written by Lorber and enriched by a wonderfully brassy veneer it is right up there with the collection’s best while in terms of personal favorites there is much from which to choose. However, a real attention grabber is ‘When Will I Know For Sure’ which finds Koz sharing the spotlight with Boney James. With creative contributions from Darren Rahn and Nate Harisam, bass from Marcus Miller and keys from the always excellent Dave Delhomme, this one seems destined for great things yet just as good is ‘Whisper In Your Ear’. Without doubt the album’s most sensual cut, and with Koz perfectly teamed with Paul Jackson Jr on guitar, Marcus Miller on bass and co-writer Harvey Mason Jr on keys, it may well be a vehicle for what could easily be the world’s greatest smooth jazz super-group of all time.

With a nod to Wayman Tisdale and former Concord executive Hal Gaba (who both sadly passed away in the last year) ‘What You Leave Behind’ is a reflective but totally appropriate end to what in every respect is a magnificent CD. It will be released on October 12 and comes highly recommended.

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 4:25 PM

September 19, 2010

Cal Harris Jr - Inside Out

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. Inside Out by Phoenix based keyboard player Cal Harris Jr has been ten years in the making yet the vibe that this hugely accessible eleven track gem generates makes the wait entirely worthwhile. Not only that, with contributions from the likes of bass player Freddie Washington, guitarist Matt Marshak and drummer Michael White, this fine collection of all original music has the red thread of quality running right through it.

The son of Grammy-nominated sound engineer Calvin Harris, young Cal grew up wandering the halls of the renowned Motown Studios in Los Angeles. The influences he gained there must have been significant as Cal was quickly following in his fathers footsteps to a career as a sought after recording engineer, programmer, and keyboard player. Not only did it lead to work with artists such as Earth Wind & Fire, Lenny Kravitz, Prince, Whitney Houston, and Beyonce but also contributed to what became a lifetime of priceless industry know-how. It is these experiences combined with Cal’s talent for composition that differentiates ‘Inside Out’ from the crowd.

By and large the music of Cal Harris Jr. can be best described as deliciously understated and certainly the beautifully constructed ‘Millennium Blues’ suggests something akin to instrumental ‘quiet storm’. In similar vein is the warmly inviting ‘Hidden’ which further confirms the penchant Cal has for thoughtful turned-down grooves and this same sublime tranquility is also evident with the haunting ‘Secrets’.

Two musical interludes, each around one minute in duration, serve to add variation to what is an already rich landscape and although ‘Soon As I Get Home’ is another reflective gem, it is great sax from Harold Todd that sets the scene for the brief ‘High Tide’ which takes Harris Jr. firmly into chill territory.

Elsewhere the easy grooving ‘She Loves The Water’ proves to be a delightfully innovative slice of mid tempo contemporary jazz and in this respect is in the good company of the zesty title tune that is right up there with the album’s best. In complete contrast whilst equally good is the brass driven swagger of ‘Jukin’ that owes much to more terrific sax from Todd but the real show stealer is arguably the soul drenched ‘Questions’. With sensational vocals from Tiarra this seductive cut is quite simply a top notch example of smooth R & B.

For more on this great new release, and to buy it via iTunes, go to www.calharrisjr.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 11:26 AM

2nd Annual Leimert Park Village African Art and Music Festival

By Ricky Richardson

Los Angeles-Leimert Park Village was all abuzz throughout Labor Day Weekend. The occasion was the 2nd Annual Leimert Park Village African Art & Music Festival. The 2010 theme was “Community Counts.” Throngs of people from the community and beyond enjoyed some soulful music, dance and had a nice poetic experience. I was one of many who were in attendance all three days of the festival, September 4, 5, and 6, 2010.

The Leimert Park Group encouraged all to chill, while being thrilled with the talents of internationally known musicians as well as local favorites. The entire backlot of the Vision Theatre was turned into a vibrant, colorful African bazaar, with an international food court, kid’s area, authentic African Arts and crafts and a lively and exciting auction. Torre Brannon-Reese served as Master of Ceremonies.

The entertainment on the stage featured musicians performing jazz, reggae, blues, R&B, spoken word, smooth jazz and some rock and roll. The lively and rhythmic performances of the musicians offered up a real treat for the public.

Saturday - Each day of the festival opened with Libation. JJ Kamabasi performed this important blessing to kick of the festivities. The highlights on Saturday featured a performance and dance by Tionne paying tribute to Michael Jackson. The Visitors is a talented gospel group who entertained the crowd with some acapella songs “No Turning Back,” “Coming Back to Jesus,” and “There’s a God in Your Heart.” We stayed in an acapella mode with Renaissance performing Do Wop like singers used to do back in the good old days. The crowd were mesmerized by the groups set list of “Magic Moment,” “A Lovers Question,” “Under The Boardwalk,” and “It’s Alright.”

Kelly Love Jones is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who is deserving of wider recognition. I’m sure that the accolades will come in due time. She performed about four songs from her self titled CD. She also sold out all of the CD’s that she brought to this gig. This is a true testament to her talents.

Saxophonist Derrick Edmonson and his lovely wife Debora Simmons Edmonson were celebrating their fifth year anniversary on this day. They performed as a duo and delivered a solid set on “What You Won’t Do For Love,” “I Just Want To Be Close To You,” “Tell Me If You Want Me Too,” and “Master Blaster” before leaving to celebrate their anniversary in style.

Kamasi Washington closed out day one with a set of straight ahead jazz for the jazz purist in the audience.

Sunday - Shine Muwasi had the honor of performing the Libation on day two. The audience and I were taken on a musical journey down memory lane. Vocalist Faleisha Reese sang “Honey, I Love You,” “Hypnotized,” “Rock Steady.” Vocalist Dee Bradley was also great as he performed two selections from the Frankie Beverly and Maze songbook. Nostalgia billed itself as a Temptations Revue. They were dressed to the nines, were excellent in their synchronized dance moves and wonderful singing “Get Ready,” “Ain’t to Proud to Beg,” “Stay,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”

I’m continually amazed at how versatile vocalist Maia is. We were able to witness another aspect of her delightful spiritual life as she sang and played the harp for an attentive crowd.

Wadada worked the crowd up in a frenzy with their infectious African and reggae rhythms. Audiences throughout the Globe have this same experience when ever and where ever Wadada performs.

Earl R. Johnson, Jr. performed material from his current CD Juicy. His band backed festival headliner Randy Crawford. Her radiant smile lit up the stage and the festival grounds as she spread joy through her lyrics. You could have heard a pin drop as Ms. Crawford’s angelic voice could be heard singing “Respect Yourself,” “At Last,” “Since I Fell For You,” “Street Life,” “God Bless The Child,” and capped off a marvelous evening with “Every Day I Have The Blues.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the group who performed Libation on Monday the final day of the festival. Anthony Aquarius rocked the festival grounds as he took on the persona of Jimi Hendrix in wardrobe, speech, singing, guitar playing-with his teeth, behind his back, between his legs. He was spot-on on Hendrix’s tunes “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze,” “Red House,” “Voodoo Child,” and “Machine Gun.”

Foxy For You were stellar in their tribute to the Supremes with the tunes “Dreamgirls,” “Stop In The Name of Love,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Mr. Postman,” and had the crowd jump to their feet with “Dancing In the Streets.”

I concluded my enjoyment of the 2nd Annual Leimert Park Village African Art & Music Festival listening to Jay Boykins. This is a rising star in the smooth jazz/adult contemporary music community. You will continue to hear more from this dynamic saxophonist in the future.

Kelly Love Jones made a return engagement to the festival. She was welcomed back by popular demand. The festival also featured the blues performed by Wali Ali, some modern jazz by Michael Session and Azar Lawrence and concluded with the rhythmic African drumming of Nijite.

The Leimert Park Group should be commended for their first class cultural festival. They have filled a huge void in the cultural landscape for the community during Labor Day Weekend. This is quite significant when one notice the absence of both the African Marketplace and the Long Beach Blues Festival that typically were held on Labor Day Weekend. The Leimert Park Group consists of Yevette Renee Nelson, Sika Wilkinson, Jackie Ryan and Amaechina Doreen.

The festival was made possible by the generous contributions of resources and time. The 2010 supporters were Councilmember Bernard C. Parks, 8th District, Union Bank, The Getty, Sparkletts Water, and Time Warner Cable. Official radio sponsors are KJLH Radio Free 102.3FM, and KPFK Radio 90.7FM. Additional sponsors were The Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles and Community Build.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:47 AM

September 15, 2010

The Eric Evans Project -- Waves of Grace

Flutist Eric Evans describes his latest release, Waves of Grace, as being as much spiritual as it is a smooth jazz offering, and he’ll get no argument from me. While he offers a good deal of smooth and rhythmic jazzy vibes, there’s as healthy a dose of a rather country, southern-style spiritual feel to a quite a few of these tracks, as well. He says, in part, “…waves hug and draw me graciously and consistently to the Spirit of Life and Light that wash over me…bringing light, peace and fullness to a once stranded soul…I am the story of…Waves of Grace.” His light flute melodies and other attractive properties often make this album whatever you feel it to be. It is full of a lot of positive energy and flow.

A lot of these tracks (“Seaside,” “Only You Can Believe,” and “Shoreline Highway” come to mind right now) are nicely enhanced by the “dance” orchestrated between Evans and various guitarists like Lance Taber, Steve Laury, Michael Roe, and Curtis Harvey, performing individually on select tracks. It makes for a decently rich blend, indeed.

Keyboardist Cecil Ramirez is also featured on this project and contributes handsomely, especially evident on a beautiful track called “Finding The Reasons Why,” which simply soars with melody, starting off softly and slowly and building in a measured intensity.

Eric Evans apparently set out to create a CD that spoke more than just conventional smooth jazz. He seems to have wanted to reach out with a message of spirituality and have it be delivered in a palatable manner. Depending upon your state of mind and perspective whenever you settle down with this one, you may find that he achieved his goal. Aside from the solid funkiness found in “Seaside” and the spry upbeat rhythm in “Shoreline Highway,” there’s no real “party down” vibe here, but I think this might strike home for those who would like a change of pace in the form of a cool, rather humble groove for once.

Posted by Ronald Jackson at 3:48 AM

September 4, 2010

What We're Listening To ** August

P E T E R * B O E H I

Nils - What The Funk? (2010)
This is another outstanding album by guitarist Nils boasting cool laid-back grooves and funky guitar playing, supported by a stellar cast. Thumbs up!

Brian Simpson - South Beach (2010)
More sparkling piano playing by Brian Simpson, one of the best smooth jazz players on the scene today. Picture perfect smooth jazz of the highest order. Don't miss it!

Marcus Johnson - This Is How I Rock (2010)
This keyboardist belongs to my favorite players, on this album he plays it a bit safe and sticks to some familiar pop/r&b covers, but hell, it works. Most notable is a cool cover of "Fly Like An Eagle" and Herb Alpert's "Rise" featuring Greg Adams.

Brian Culbertson - XII (2010)
Heavy hitting, hard funking album by keyboardist Brian Culbertson featuring guests like Chuck Brown, Kenny Lattimore, Brian McKnight, Faith Evans and Ray Parker Jr. among others, with just the right dose of jazzy piano thrown into the mix. The emphasis is on the funk!

Billy Cobham - Palindrome (2010)
Veteran drummer Billy Cobham comes up with a great fusion album featuring his trademark drumming and energetic playing by all involved. Still on top of his game!


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

Kirk Whalum, Everything Is Everything: The Music of Donny Hathaway (Rendezvous): THe classy saxman pays a bright yet, in many ways, poignant tribute to a legend whose career was far too short.

Ric Alexander/Levi Seacer Jr. (aka 2wo 4our 1ne), Self-titled, (Jazzy Jamz): A quality melodic and funky debut collaboration bound to catch many a smooth jazzer's ear.

Patrick Yandall, The Window, (Innervision): The prolific guitarist delivers another recording with diverse and intense melodies and hooks as original as his style.

Dave Koz, Hello Tomorrow, (Concord): Well worth the long wait, the iconic saxman steps forward with a star-studded cast of supporters and a lot of "firsts" for him in smooth jazz (from producers to collaborations to his role as vocalist). Not a disappointing track in the batch!

Kristine W, Straight Up With a Twist, (Fly Again): Perhaps my pick as THE vocal find of the year (so far). The project comes as a two-CD set (the second is merely a dance remix, not nearly as good as the "straight up" version, in my opinion). Skip the remix, go with the first, and fall in love! She exhibits a style, charm, and soul-stirring reach like few others (save a few choice names -- and I do mean choice), this one is a must-hear, a must-have...and, as her first stab at jazz, she knocks it out of the park.

D E N I S * P O O L E

The sensational ‘6 O’clock Revisited’ from George Duke’s recent release Déjà Vu. This terrific re-imagining of the classic ‘6 O’clock’ (which first appeared on his 1992 project Snapshot) is brought entirely up to date by a distinctly urban groove and fresh vocals provided by Duke’s son Rashid. Quite simply it is among the best cuts of the year so far.

‘Lay Ur Hands On Me’ by George Anderson from the album Positivity. Anderson is a long time member of the UK based Shakatak and this soulful mid tempo groove benefits in no small measure from the splendid lead vocals of Fil Straughton and backing from Debby Bracknell.

‘Crescent Shores’, the title cut from the great new CD from guitarist Les Sabler. Arguably the album’s best track, this sumptuous easy grooving tune is a real winner.

‘Feelin’ Alright’ by Will Downing from his wonderful new release Lust, Love & Lies. With its streetwise sexy swagger, this track exemplifies Downing at his very best.

Lynne Fiddmont’s ‘All The Way’ from her homage to Billie Holiday, Lady. The contemporary jazz intro to this stunning classic combined with cool sax from Gerald Albright and a splash of Herman Jackson’s electric piano really is something special. Not only that, it could well be the surprise smooth jazz hit of the year.


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

Michael Powers, Urban Ukulele (Michael Powers Music)

Tom Grant, Delicioso (Nu Wrinkle)

Lee Ritenour, 6 String Theory (Concord)

Jeff Beck, Emotion & Commotion (Atco)

Kirk Whalum, Everything Is Everything: The Music of Donny Hathaway (Rendezvous)


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

Jack Prybylski, Out Of The Box (Innervision Records and Entertainment) (2010)

Rudiger Baldauf, Own Style (Mons Records) (2010)

Bryan Forsloff, The Final Touch (Bryan Forsloff) (2010)

Brian Simpson, South Beach (Shanachie) (2010)

Jonathan Fritzen, Diamonds (Nordic Night Records) (2010)

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:47 PM

September 3, 2010

Usher In the Holidays with "A Peter White Christmas"


PeterWhiteChristmas.jpgFollowing is a press release from the Berks Arts Council announcing a "Peter White Christmas' show. Hope you can make this show in Reading, PA, home of the Berks Jazz Festival!

Three of today's most popular musicians are bringing their jazz-flavored carols to Greater Reading for the holiday season. A Peter White Christmas, a concert featuring jazz sensations Peter White, Mindi Abair and Rick Braun and presented by the Berks Arts Council (BAC) is set for Sunday, Dec. 5, at the Miller Center for the Arts on the campus of Reading Area Community College in downtown Reading.

"This is a unique year for our holiday concert in that we are offering two performances instead of one," noted BAC Executive Director Chris Cannon. "We are very excited about this addition, as it will give more people the opportunity to experience these amazing and talented performers."

There will be two shows, one at 3 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 10 a.m. and are $39. All seats are reserved, and only 500 tickets are available for each show.

Peter White is an extraordinary and fluent acoustic guitarist whose skills are world-renown. Mindi Abair is a double-edged talent from her fluid saxophone to emotive vocals. Rick Braun is a masterful trumpet/flugelhorn player whose warm tones transform the simplest melody into a work of art. They have separately sold literally millions of records, and together they put their creative talents to work, giving a marvelous, fresh feel to your favorite Christmas classics!

This show, a rousing opening event for the 21st annual Berks Jazz Fest, is a great way to start the Christmas season, and is guaranteed to put you in the holiday mood!

For tickets:

CD Exchange
360 E. Wyomissing Ave.
Mohnton, PA 19540

By phone: 610-777-2310

On the web: www.berksjazzfest.com

For more information, contact:
Beth Renfro@berksarts.org, Marketing and Public Relations Director, Berks Arts Council

Get your tickets early and we hope you enjoy the show!

Happy Jazzin'!

Beverly Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Reading, Pennsylvania
MyGirlSunday22@aol.com


Posted by Beverly J. Packard at 12:43 PM