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. Over a succession of outstanding albums, Boney James has differentiated himself not only by his penchant for sumptuous sensual melody but also for his collaborations with some of the hottest R & B performers around. His latest CD, Contact (which was released on March 28) delivers on both counts and, in so doing, confirms Boney is the undisputed master of urban contemporary jazz.
Much of the early buzz surrounding Contact has been all about the title cut which also happens to be the first single serviced to radio. Velvety and horn driven it’s a number that shimmers with Boney’s hallmark playing but in terms of the instrumental tracks that this fine collection contains both the contemplative ‘Cry’ and the equally thoughtful ‘Deep Time’ capture to perfection the essence of what Boney James is all about. Elsewhere, ‘There And Back’ is a weighty, heartfelt tune, supercharged with emotion, and although Boney slips back into reflective mode for the tender ‘Everything Matters’, the infectious rhythm of ‘Spin’ provides the ideal backdrop for more of his deliciously understated playing.
Moving much closer to the R & B that Boney so obviously loves, the haunting lilt of ‘Close To You’ includes excellent vocals from Donell Jones while when James calls upon former Destiny’s Child mainstay LeToya Luckett she adds hugely to the wistful yet soul drenched ‘When I Had The Chance’. The performance of Heather Headley on ‘I’m Waiting’ is right on the urban money but as for personal favorites there is nothing to surpass the dance orientated ‘That Look On Your Face’. With dazzling vocals from Mario, a thumping beat and fabulous sax from Boney, this one is sure to 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.
April 10th, 2011 was the first Jazz & Dine, with USA guitar player Richard Smith. After a short clubtour in The Netherlands, Richard held his grand finale in the Kulturhus Holten. Backed up by Dutch/Italian sidemen Sietse Huisman (drums), Daniele Labbate (bass) and Tico Pierhagen (keyboards), this concert was a great success. Richard played some of his greatest songs from his albums as a lead-artist by which he succeeded in entertaining and moving the audience. Served with tasteful drinks and food, they loved it! Thanks go out to Inge Wenzel (www.smoothjazz.eu) for bringing smooth jazz to Europe.
Photo: Walter Goyen - www.h4p.com
P E T E R * B O E H I
Matt Marshak - Urban Folktales (2011)
Guitarist Matt Marshak delivers some great funky smooth jazz with his trademark guitar playing and some really catchy compositions on his latest release. Indie smooth jazz doesn't get much better than this. A force to be reckoned with!
Alex Bugnon - Going Home (2010)
Glad to see keyboardist Alex Bugnon resurface with a new release featuring some great cats (like Poogie Bell, Victor Bailey, Vincent Henry, Keith Robinson and others) on this album that features some more of his classic work on the keys. Doing what he does best!
Udi Levy - Ahava (2011)
Guitarist Udi Levy is currently located in NYC, his debut release is a mighty fine piece of smooth jazz with some Wes-inclined guitar playing. Laid back and still groovy, this one will have your head bop. Thumbs up!
Player A - On The Side (2011)
This group consists of some of Nashville's best session players, they set out to deliver a top-notch smooth jazz album full of catchy compositions and nice grooves. Delivered ready for radio (at least for those still operating)!
Sonny Fortune - Serengeti Minstrel (1977), Infinity Is (1978) and With Sound Reason (1979)
My nod to the past goes to saxophonist Sonny Fortune. Thanks to the Wounded Bird Label, the back catalog of this saxophonist from the 70ies has been released for the first time on CD and provides some great listening enjoyment, if you dare to immerse yourself into some more demanding stuff. But don't worry, the groove is right!
R O N A L D * J A C K S O N
Dave Grusin, An Evening With Dave Grusin (Concord)
While this is a release that may appeal more to the appetites of traditionalists, contemporary jazz fans will find something to enjoy about it, as well. The accomplished pianist/composer/producer is in concert with the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra and features such quality guests as Patti Austin, Jon Secada, Arturo Sandoval, Nestor Torres, and others.
Leila, Soul Ascension (Power of One Music)
A young Spaniard born in Argentina, Leila continues to demonstrate her grasp and command of American contemporary music. Her latest release is bound to enjoy success with her impressive vocals and mix of R&B, smooth jazz, Latin, world, and other genres. Saxman Eric Darius joins her on one track, “Sexy Saxophone.” A true double-CD treat.
Drew Davidsen, Spin Cycle (Creative Soul Jazz)
Guitarist Davidsen continues his tradition of providing smooth, melody-rich compositions.
Groove Skool Band, Limited Edition (independent)
Cool and smooth, with a distinctive funky edge where it’s called for, this Washington, DC-based band lives up to its self-description of providing the “smooth sound of hybrid jazz,” that mix of R&B, Latin, and contemporary jazz that has become so universally accepted now.
Tony Adamo, What is Hip (independent)
Joined on a few tracks with members of Tower of Power, Adamo continues his bluesy/jazzy style with tight originals and great interpretations on covers. The rhythm is snappy, bright, and full of character that Adamo always brings to every studio visit.
J E F F * D A N I E L S
Onaje Allan Gumbs, Just Like Yesterday (Pony Canyon) (2010)
Mike Ledonne, The Groover (Savant) (2010)
Jeffery Smith, Pleasure of Love (CDBY Records) (2008)
Ted Shumate, Mediterranean Midnight (Tribal Records) (2011)
Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Harbor Cruise w/Gail Jhonson
April 30, 2011
11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Newport Harbor, CA
For several years, I was able to enjoy the week-long smooth jazz cruises that were absolutely phenomenal. However, due to the economy and other factors, I am not able to travel for extended periods like I used to. But, as the saying goes, "When one door closes, another one opens!" And, that is the case with a new venture between Omega Entertainment and Jazzie Girl Productions. The two have joined their collective forces to offer a 4-hour smooth jazz cruise in Newport Harbor, located in Newport Beach, CA.
What a great idea! You can enjoy exceptional smooth jazz aboard a luxurious yacht on the beautiful Newport Harbor while you dine on a lavish buffet.
Gail Jhonson is a Philadelphia-bred keyboardist, vocalist & music director for Smooth Jazz superstar guitarist Norman Brown for many years. She has performed with artists like Bobby Womack, Pink, Vanessa Williams, Bobby Lyle/featuring Mindi Abair, Dave Koz, Jermaine Jackson and Sheila E.
Tickets are only $110/per person which includes the cruise, concert & full buffet.
Space is limited, and tickets must be purchased by April 20, 2011.
To purchase tickets or for more info call:(562) 309-0230.
Sunday night, the festival was brought to an end with Brian Culbertson who pulled all the stops to bring the house down. He jumped onto the stage with his youthful energy, kicking off the show with some funky uptempo material featuring him on keys, before turning to his current release XII with the radio hit "That's Life". The band consisted of Gerey Johnson on guitar, Eddie Miller on keys & B3, Chris Miskel on drums, Nathaniel Kearney Jr. on bass, Marqueal Jordan on sax & vocals, plus a four-piece horn section (including his father Jim Culbertson). Special guest was singer Kenny Lattimore who did first one his own songs, then an uptempo vocal track from XII, which was very well received. After another instrumental, Marqueal Jordan sang "Skies Wide Open". Kenny Lattimore performed "You Are My Starship" in his own soulful way plus his nod to the UK with a soulful Beatles cover. Brian slowed things down with a solo keyboard track called "Forever", before the party really started with his version of the EWF classic "Serpentine Fire", then again slowing it down with his famous slow keyboard track where he plays from the opposed side and almost crawls into his instrument, which had the crowd cheering. Then the funk was brought back for a high-energy final, complete with a horn frenzy having Brian play the trombone, ending a satisfying a very balanced concert, that had it all from funk to jazz to soul.
Sunday we got the Smooth Jazz 92.7 Sunday Brunch show featuring guitarist Nick Colionne and keyboardist Brian Simpson, along with Jeff Kashiwa on sax. I went to the later show at 1pm, there were tables set up in the Crowne Plaza ballroom and we got a nice buffet, followed by the show. They started with a Jeff Kashiwa track, followed by "Southbeach" featuring Brian Simpson with the keyboards strapped around his neck, then it was Nick Colionne's turn with two tracks, one of them his great rendition of "Rainy Night In Georgia" featuring his velvety voice. Then Jeff Kashiwa took over playing "Blue Jeans" with a swaying Reggae rhythm, followed by Brian Simpson getting into a laid-back latin vibe with "Brazilian", then getting romantic with "Let's Get Close" with his trademark keyboard playing. Nick Colionne kicked it up a notch with his version of "Hurry Up This Way Again", Jeff Kashiwa keep things up with "Hyde Park" with some audience participation.The other players were Tim Gant on keys, Frank Richardson III on drums and John Dillard on bass. The band was called for an encore and did a blues shuffle, bringing a very entertaining concert featuring some of our favorite smooth jazz artists to a rousing end.
Late Saturday night, the legendary Jazz Crusaders in their original lineup featuring Joe Sample on piano, Wayne Henderson on trombone and Wilton Felder on saxophone appeared, additional members were Joe's son Nicklas Sample on bass and Doug Belote on drums. The original players must be well above 70, and their age showed in some physical limitations, forcing them to perform mostly sitting, but they did a great job nevertheless. We went back in time to the 50ies and 60ies when they started out, being childhood buddies from the same neighborhood. They kicked off the show with "Young Rabbits", followed by "On Broadway" with nice solos by all involved, other tracks were the Stix Hooper composition "Night Theme", their famous "Freedom Song" and cover of "Eleanor Rigby", then they moved to later material like "Snowflake" and the great "Scratch". In between songs, they made lengthy and humorous remarks and reminisced about how things were back in the day. They finished the show with the inevitable "Street Life", followed by the ultimate Crusaders track "Way Back Home" that brought back fond memories of my youth, when I listened to them the very first time, helping to ignite my lifelong love for jazz. This was a memorable evening witnessing some living legends still doing their thing.
Saturday night, supergroup Fourplay appeared at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, founding members Bob James on keyboards, Nathan East on bass & vocals and Harvey Mason on drums welcomed newest member Chuck Loeb on guitar, who replaced Larry Carlton who left the band to pursue his solo career. Chuck Loeb blended well in and proved to be the perfect choice artistically to maintain the legacy of the band, delivering several great solos. Despite our heroes have visibly aged, they still performed at the peak of their powers, especially Bob James on keyboards provided several inspired solos on the piano, while Nathan East and Harvey Mason held it all together. Among the tracks performed were "Blues Force", the title track from the current CD Touch The Sky, and the Chuck Loeb contribution "Third Degree", "I Still Be Loving You" (featuring Nathan East on vocals) and the Harvy Mason composition "Pineapple Getaway". They finished the concert with the Bob James' classic "Westchester Lady". After such a long time together, it is no wonder that this band plays like a well oiled machine at the highest level, this was a truly awesome performance that was very well received and left a satisfied crowd.
The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman were the headliner of the afternoon tagged Smooth Jazz 92.7 Day, the lineup of the Ripps was Russ Freeman on guitar, Dave Karasony on drums, Rico Belled on bass, Jeff Kashiwa on saxophone and Bill Heller on keyboards. They kicked off the show with their classic "Welcome To The St. James' Club" from 1991, followed by "Modern Art" and a surf tuned called "Le Calypso" bringing an island feeling. Then things were slowed down with Russ on acoustic guitar playing a ballad medley of old favorites, bringing back fond memories. Then it was "Bingo Jingo" from the 20th Anniversary CD, later followed by "When It Feels Good" featuring Jeff Kashiwa burning on saxophone and a slamming bass solo by Rico Belled. As an encore, they played "Tourist In Paradise", segueing into a heavy rock jam with some Jimi Hendrix guitar. This was a solid concert by a class act.
Saturday afternoon was tagged Smooth Jazz 92.7 Day boasting two acts, keyboardist Philippe Saisse did part one in a trio setting, featuring David Finck on acoustic bass and Scooter Warner on drums. This was the original lineup that was reunited after 3 years since Philippe Saisse relocated from New York to Los Angeles. They opened the show with Steely Dan's "Let's Do It Again", followed by the Beatles "Lady Madonna" and EWF's "September". After having done their radio hits, they moved on to complexer material with Bill Evans' "The Dolphin" probing the trio's capabilities, with everyone performing truly top-notch. Bassist David Finck played some nice solos and could be seriously funky when required, while Scooter Warner was a joy to watch with his complex and groovy playing, a great talent. Later one of my favorites, Phlippe Saisse's rendition of the Sergio Mendes classic "Constant Rain (Chove Chuva)" was played and brought a nice latin vibe. At the end of the show, special guest Rick Braun joined to band to do one track - his upcoming CD Rick Braun Sings (with full orchestra) was produced by Philippe Saisse - bringing the concert to a rousing end.
Saxophonist Euge Groove appeared 10pm at the Crowne Plaza ballroom with his top-notch band. He was clad in a nice suit and did a powerful, funky show with flawless playing by all involved, one of my favorite bass players, Darryl Williams was in the band holding down the bottom. Euge led through his familiar catalog, playing favorites like "Living Large", "Chillaxin" and others, that just made us feel good. He did his usual booty shaking contest giving away a t-shirt and CD, having lots of people dance in front of the stage. It was nothing new, but still very entertaining and funky.
Friday evening, Gerald Albright & Friends featuring Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun, Larry Braggs, Selina Albright and the Berks Jazz Fest Horns was scheduled to appear at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. The show started in a relaxed manner featuring the flawless horn playing of the leader, he played "From The Soul" from his current release Pushing The Envelope and "Bermuda Nights" from his debut release back in 1989, that was well received. Next they played one more from the current CD called "I Found The Klugh" featuring guitarist Wayne Bruce on acoustic guitar, before tribute to the late Grover Washington, Jr. was done with a special version of "Winelight".
Then it was time for the first guest, Rick Braun, who appeared from the back of the audience playing his trumpet and walking down the aisle, doing one his own songs, with Gerald Albright joining him, bringing the house down. The he did "Grazing In The Grass", before Brian Culbertson with his trombone entered the stage to do the funky "What Would James Do" - in reference to James Brown - providing some great interaction between the two players and turning up the heat. Next guest was vocalist Larry Braggs of Tower Of Power fame who did the JB classic "Gimme Some More", with the great horn section of the Berks Jazz Fest Horns (John Loos on trombone, Mike Anderson on sax, Rob Diener on trumpet), expanded with Rick Braun and Brian Culbertson, recreating some hot JB grooves. After that, daughter Selina Albright came to the stage and did a great rendition of "It's A Man's Man's Man's World", for me this was the highlight of the whole festival, it was deep and soulful. Glad to hear that Selina Albright is working on her first release due this year. Larry Braggs came back to do the James Brown classic "I Feel Good", and staying in the JB mode, TOP's own "Diggin' On James Brown" allowing Larry to show how funky he is. After this funk fest, things slowed down, after a bluesy intro by Wayne Bruce on guitar, Gerald Albright segued into his signature song "Georgia On My Mind". Then for the finale, the funk was brought back with "What Is Hip", joining everybody on stage. This was a great concert that provided a lot of fun.
Thursday night, our favorite, the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, took place at the Crowne Plaza Ballroom, this year the concert was featuring Chuck Loeb, Rick Braun, Gerald Veasley, Brian Bromberg, Gerald Albright, Euge Groove, Andrew Neu, Ada Rovatti, Randy Brecker, Chieli Minucci, Philippe Saisse, Selina Albright, Karen Briggs, Lionel Cordew, Frank Vignola and Larry Braggs. As you can imagine, the stage was crammed at times with all performers joined together. Chuck Loeb, aided by Rick Braun, led through the show. They started out with all the players covering "Night Train", originally done by Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery, although after a brief argument with Rick Braun, who preferred the funky James Brown version, they agreed to do the track both swinging and funky. This song gave several of the players some solo space, especially Karen Briggs' enthusiastic solo on the violin had the crowd cheer along. Next was the Crusaders' classic "Put It Where You Want It" that featured Chuck Loeb, Euge Groove and Gerald Veasley. Then they did their rendition of Miles' "So What" where Randy Brecker and Gerald Albright could shine. Then "Footprints" by Wayne Shorter that highlighted Ada Rovatti and Rick Braun was delivered with some great solos by all involved, Brian Bromberg did a funky solo on the electric bass. Frank Vignola on guitar and Karren Briggs on violin were the featured players on next song, they delivered a heartfelt version of "Summertime" which was a highlight of the show, notable was a great acoustic bass solo by Brian Bromberg. They finished the first set with a funky rendition of "The Chicken".
After the intermission, the band played the Stanley Turrentine classic "Sugar" featuring Rick Braun on trumpet and Andrew Neu on saxophone. Then "Canteloupe Island" was covered, it featured Euge Groove on sax and Brian Bromberg on bass - who did this track on his Downright Upright CD - and Chieli Minucci on the electric guitar. Breaking things down a little bit, all the guitar players were summoned onto the stage to perform an unplugged version of "Sweet Georgia Brown", along with Karen Briggs on the violin, which provided a nice change of pace. Keeping things slow, Selina Albright sang "Nature Boy", only accompanied by her father Gerald Albright on sax and Philippe Saisse on keyboards. This heartfelt rendition of this classic song was another highlight of the show. The evening was wrapped up with the funky TOP classic "What Is Hip" that reunited all the players and had TOP singer Larry Braggs join the band, this was an uplifting finale of a memorable evening.