January 29, 2011

The Rippingtons - ‘Cote D’Azur’

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. After many excursions to France, and train trips from Paris to the Cote D’Azur, Rippingtons leader Russ Freeman felt music stirring inside him. Now this artistic outpouring has manifested itself in the band’s latest (and eighteenth) offering, Cote D’Azur, which takes its name from that sublime region of the French Riviera and is due for release on February 1. In fact Freeman’s extensive travels to this unique coastline have, in the main, been made in the company of his wife Yaredt Leon and although the influence of Freeman on Cote D’Azur is front back and centre it is Leon who co-writes the high energy title track and the closing number ‘Mesmerized’ with him. More exotic and deeper than any project that Freeman has previously written or produced, every one of the ten all original compositions are far more than a simple travelogue, they are from the heart.

Heralded in on an almost European style dance beat, Cote D’Azur is dramatically up and running with the lively title cut that quickly hits a typically intense Rippingtons stride. Rhythmic and inviting it is in delicious contrast to ‘Provence’ which is afforded a whole new dimension by superb keys from Bill Heller and smoothly evolves into what can only be described as a reflective charmer. The familiar Rippingtons line-up is completed by Rico Belled on bass, drummer Dave Karasony and notably Jeff Kashiwa whose vibrant sax is a feature of the upbeat ‘Riviera Jam’. It’s the sort of inspiring tune for which this classy collective has become famous and whilst ‘Le Calypso’ proves to be another slice of vintage Rippingtons, ‘Rue Paradis’ takes the band into unfamiliar chill territory where paradoxically they appear totally at home.

Elsewhere, the Moorish influences that have endured on this coast of France for centuries are captured to perfection with the North African overtones of ‘Bandol’ and again with the complex ‘Passage To Marseilles’. In fact the love Freeman has for this unique part of the Mediterranean shines through in every note and this is particularly so with the warmly evocative ‘Sainte Maxime’. In fact sumptuous understated melodies are a feature of the entire collection and as the tempo slows for the magically restrained ‘Postcard From Cannes’ all that remains is for the album to glide to a tranquil finale with the beautiful ‘Mesmerized’ which conjures up vivid images of a golden sun sinking beneath a shimmering horizon.

With Cote D’Azur Freeman has painted a stunning musical picture that reveals a very different Rippingtons and one that is sure to enthrall fans both new and old.

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

In celebration of The Rippingtons' latest album Cote D'Azur, Peak and Concord Music Group are giving away a Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest Superfan Package!

Posted by Denis Poole at 4:27 PM

January 17, 2011

Paul Hardcastle - Desire

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. With Valentines Day right around the corner there could be no better time for Paul Hardcastle to release what has already been described as his most seductive recording yet. In fact Desire, which will hit the streets on February 14, is partly a response to the numerous requests he has received to release a compilation of his favourite slow tracks. However one of Paul’s gifts is his ability to surprise and even those of his fans who are entirety familiar with what is now a considerable discography will surely be captivated by the riches on offer.

In fact the title cut from Desire actually comes from his 2002 recording Hardcastle III. It sets the zone for what is to follow and as Hardcastle continues to raid his back catalogue, he bookends his ‘Jazzmasters series’ with the timeless ‘Lost Summer’ from the 1991 album Jazzmasters 1 and the sumptuous ‘Cloud Watching’ from his 2010 project Jazzmasters 6.

Jazzmasters II and Jazzmasters III are revisited for ‘Wonderland’ and ‘Lost In Space’ respectively while the parallel ‘Hardcastle series’ is also remembered both with ‘Forever Dreamin’ from his 1994 offering Hardcastle 1 and ‘Closer’ that can be found on the 2008 CD Hardcastle 5.

Given Paul Hardcastle’s consummate skill as a producer and mixer it is hardly surprising that each and every one of these tracks gel together seamlessly. However, that said, this is far from being simply a collection of ‘oldies’. The aptly titled ‘Valentine’ was written by Hardcastle specifically for the Desires album and features vocals from daughter Maxine. For all the world it looks to be a sure fire radio hit and with her appearance on Nate Harasim’s current single ‘Different Kind Of Love’ Maxine Hardcastle is really going places. She is also to the fore with the addictive ‘Smooth Jazz Is Bumpin’ from the splendid 2005 release Hardcastle 4 and with ‘Same Place Same Time’ Paul comes up with a real piece of buried treasure. Taken from his lesser known vehicle ‘Kiss The Sky’ it features the superb Jaki Graham on vocals and in every respect is a real keeper.

Much the same can be said of the immensely soulful ‘Ready Or Not’ that Hardcastle wrote back in the early nineties but which was never released. Here, with co-writer Steven Dante on vocals, the result is something very special and as Hardcastle utilises his ‘Ibiza Chill’ mix of ‘Don’t You Know’ to draw the collection to a chilled out conclusion, there can be no doubt, this could well be the most seductive CD ever made.

Desire is out on the excellent Trippin’ N Rhythm label. For more news go to www.trippinrecords.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 4:25 AM

January 8, 2011

What We're Listening To ** December 2011

P E T E R * B O E H I

Brad Rambur - Can't Put It Down (2010)
Saxophonist Brad Rambur comes up with a great smooth jazz album with memorable melodies, excellent musicianship and several a-list players (like Eric Marienthal and Jeff Lorber). Thumbs up!

Barbara Jones & Henrik Bridger - This Side Up (2010)
The duo Jones on piano and Bridger on bass are supported by a bunch of great players (among them Eric Marienthal on sax) delivering a polished and catchy smooth jazz album. Very recommended.

Keiko Matsui - The Road… (2011)
This is the latest release (out Jan 25) by Japanese keyboardist Keiko Matsui where she delivers more of her typical brand of new age, world and smooth jazz, supported by an able band (among the players are Richard Bona, Kirk Whalum and Vinnie Colaiuta). Just magical!

Omar Hakim - Reflections (2010)
This is a retrospective collection of drummer Omar Hakim's catalog plus some new unreleased tracks, boasting a wide variety of music, outstanding players and most of all impeccable drumming. Top-notch stuff!

Harris Simon Group - New York Connection (1980)
My nod to the past goes to this classic album by keyboardist Harris Simon who has Joe Farrell on flute, Michael Brecker on sax and Claudio Roditi on trumpet in his band, which yield some exciting results. My favorite track is the uptempo "North Station". Check it out!

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Been Here Before’ by Wayman Tisdale from his posthumously released The Fonk Record. With a splash of Memphis-like horns and vocals from the late Ali Woodson (who sang with the Temptations from 1984 – 1986 and again from 1988 -1996) this sultry funk drenched tour de force should play and play.

‘Put Your Money On Me’ by Ronald Isley from his solo recording Mr. I. Totally current yet paradoxically dripping with Isley nostalgia, this wonderful song features a cool rap from T.I and is a perfect example of how timeless the best of soul music can be.

‘It Wouldn’t Feel Like Christmas’, a new digital Christmas single from Chicago based vocalist Lisa McClowry. This great seasonal offering tops off a wonderful year for Lisa who came up big with her solo debut Time Signatures that included some delightful collaborations with the Grammy-award winning Jim Peterik.

‘Love Ballad’ by Terence Young from his latest release Love Stories. Guitarist Terence Young takes a walk on the romantic side with a superb interpretation of a song that has found fame with both George Benson and L.T.D.

‘Lovely Day’ by Walter Beasley from his outstanding new CD Backatcha. Beasley rarely disappoints and here, both on sax and vocals, he really comes up trumps.

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

Keiko Matsui - The Road... (Shanachie Records) -- Release date: Jan. 2011

Craig Sharmat - Outside In (InnerVision Records) -- Release date: Feb. 2011

Marcus Miller - A Night In Monte Carlo (Concord) -- Release date: Feb. 2011

Mr. Marcus Young - Moments In Time (Infinite Records)

The Rippingtons - Cote d' Azur (Concord) -- Release date: Feb. 2011

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

The Alvin Mills Project - Keep Your Head To The Sky

Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration (Word Entertaiment) (1992)

Michael Fair, Funk in the Trunk (Michael Fair Music) (2010)

Monophonics - Into The Infrasounds (Ageless Records) (2010)

Joey Defrancesco - Never Can Say Goodbye: The Music of Michael Jackson (HighNote Records) (2010)
(Chasim Music) (2010)

Posted by Peter Böhi at 12:43 PM