May 30, 2011

1st European Smooth Music Cruise cancelled

The 1st European Smooth Music Cruise which was supposed to sail from Venice in October and would have featured Jessy J, Paul Brown, Michael Lington, Nils, Jonathan Fritzen and others unfortunately was cancelled due to lack of sales. The cruise didn't get the minimum number of participants in time, so Christian Bössner, the man behind "Smooth Jazz In The Cube" and "Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg", and his partner Johannes Stich, pulled the plug. Too bad to see that the concept of smooth jazz cruises - which is a big hit in the US market - couldn't catch on in Europe, at least not in the currently offered form which would have emphasized style and class in an intimate setting on a smaller ship. People interested in smooth jazz cruises are invited to register at their site for a possible future cruise.

All is not lost, in 2012 Dave Koz offers "Dave Koz & Friends at Sea" with a top-notch lineup, sailing from Barcelona, Spain in late September, so hopefully this one will draw more interest from European smooth jazz fans.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:53 AM

May 29, 2011

Patrick Cooper - The Way It Used To Be

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. Described as a “throwback collection that puts a contemporary spin on vintage jazz funk” the latest album from keyboard player Patrick Cooper is the appropriately titled The Way It Used To Be. Indeed although achieving his goal of capturing the sound and spirit of music produced decades ago, Cooper has also used the project to show off his considerable skills as a performer, composer and producer. With a little help along the way from sax player Phillip ‘Doc’ Martin, bass-man Martin Dyson and vocalist Nehemiah Booker he has delivered a quality body of work that effortlessly builds a bridge between the present and what has gone before.

After growing up in Portland OR, Cooper changed locations and coast lines to make a home in Washington DC where his flourishing musical career found him in collaborations with the likes of Martin, Dyson, Jackiem Joyner, Marcus Johnson and Jaared. He has shared the stage with Nick Colionne, Michael Lington and Maysa to name only a few but now, with his second solo CD, Cooper is making a pitch for solo stardom.

Evoking those times when it was still necessary for contemporary jazz to be routinely edgy, the vintage vibe that permeates much of the collection is exemplified by ‘Struttn’. It’s the first single to be released to radio and the way the track blends classic jazz funk with what can only be described as smooth jazz sensibilities should ensure plentiful air-play.

Less smooth and more overtly funky is ‘It’s OK To Move’ and although Cooper takes a jazzy detour for the ultra cool ‘Side Steppn’ its when he turns to the delicious ‘Next 2 U’ that he finds a welcoming mid tempo vibe. The easy grooving ‘Come Sunday’ is another brassy and inviting number but as Cooper slides further into mellow mode he conjures up the sultry ‘Denise’ for which the luscious sax tones of Bryan Mills are right on the money. Clearly one of the album’s outstanding tunes it is in the fine company of the warm and brassy title cut where sax from Martin, bass from Dyson and some tremendous work by Cooper serves to really take you back.

However, just shading them both as Secret Garden top track is the languid urban groove of ‘I’m The Man’. Owing much to the wonderfully soulful vocals of Nehemiah Booker this is a song that will resonate equally with the BET generation is it will with those whose musical tastes are grounded in the past.

The Way It Used To Be will be released on July 12 and is well worth a look.

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 6:42 PM

May 24, 2011

Smooth Jazz In The Cube 2011

May 20-22, 2011, the first issue of "Smooth Jazz In The Cube" took place, organized by Christian Bössner, the man behind the "Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg. This event took place in a design hotel called "The Cube", located in Biberwier-Lermoos, in Tyrol's Zugspitz area, near the German border. We had the breathtaking mountains around us, a cool spot to hang out and enjoy the concerts, and a first-rate lineup of some the very best US smooth jazz players. There were around 600 smooth jazz fans from all across Europe gathering to have some fun and get their healthy dose of smooth jazz. Festivities consisted of two double shows Friday and Saturday evening plus an All-Star Smooth Jazz Show with brunch Sunday morning, additionally noted DJ Ralph "Jazzcrusader" Schulz from Düsseldorf, Germany, entertained the crowd with his well-selected sets of smooth jazz and R&B.

Friday night was opened by guitarist Nils who hails from Germany, but lives in Los Angeles since the mid-80ies. He brought Clydene Jackson on keys & vocals and Oliver Brown on percussion with him, they were supported by the house band featuring Lutz Deterra on keyboards, Günter Asbeck on bass, Andy Pilger on drums and Martin Weiss on guitar. This band supported each of the headliners and did an outstanding job, all those players were top-level pros adapting to every situation very quickly. Nils kicked off the show with "Georgy Porgy" and continued with his radio hits, among them "Pacific Coast Highway" (the song that really ignited his career in 2005) and "Jump Start", his latest radio hit from his current CD What The Funk?. He also played a great latin track called "Brazilian Dance" from his debut album. His singer/keyboard player Clydene Jackson provided some great songs - especially "California Blue" - and took things to a different level with her soulful voice. Nils is an excellent guitarist and writes great songs, his catchy tunes went down very well with the audience and provided just the right start for the evening.

Next was Brian Culbertson who is one of the absolute smooth jazz super stars. I was very interested to see how he would fare outside the familiar setting of his touring band and was pleasantly surprised. This artist is not only a charming person, but also an incredibly talented player who took over the stage with authority and aplomb. He had Felix on trumped and Rocco Ventrella on sax in the horn section, they delivered some precise and funky horn charts, supplementing the keyboard work of Brian perfectly. He played all his familiar songs - like "Go" and "Let's Get Started" - and only slowed things down briefly with "Forever" playing solo on the keys. It was a high energy show that was simply stunning and flawless, his fluid keyboard playing was right on the mark, and his upbeat personality really helped the whole band to deliver a top-notch performance. Rocco Ventrella, who lives in Bari, Italy, got his solo spots as well and showed his prowess on the horn, he had a lot of fun with Brian who played the trombone along with him. He also did "On My Mind" complete with playing the keys from the opposite side and caressing his instrument, which is always a highlight of the show. We all were blown away by this incredible artist and he sure won some new fans that night.

Saturday was a nice sunny day and we spent the day hiking in the mountains, before the concerts continued in the evening with saxophonist Jackiem Joyner, who belongs to the younger generation of smooth jazz players. He was supported by Lutz Deterra on keyboards, Günter Asbeck on bass, Andy Pilger on drums and Martin Weiss on guitar, plus Rocco Ventrella on sax. He played with his sharp and precise style, often playing very quick staccato parts alternating with ultra soulful lines. I particularly liked the latin flavored "Dance With Me" and his great and deeply felt rendition of "Summertime" that gave me goosebumps. He also did his biggest hit "I'm Waiting For You" among more material from his catalog, putting us in the right mood for the rest of the night.

Guitarist extraordinaire Nick Colionne followed and he made no prisoners, taking part two of the evening to a whole new level with his high energy playing and stage personality. He looked great in his yellow suit and hat. Among the songs played was "Keepin' It Cool" and "Hurry Up This Way Again" which is always a highlight of the show, Nick went into the audience and took his time to seduce and delight the ladies, while the band provided the funky backdrop and adapted to every move of the leader. Great was also his rendition of "Rainy Night In Georgia" showing his velvety voice, another vocal was the bluesy "Hard Line". His guitar playing was incredible, moving between Wes inclined lines to heavy funky stuff, at the end of the show he summoned his fellow players onto the stage and with Nils, Jackiem Joyner and Brian Culbertson on trombone, ended the show with "Godfather J" in a wild funk frenzy having everybody on their feet.

Sunday morning, we had a nice brunch and an all-star show that reunited all the players of the weekend on the stage one more time. Rocco Ventrella started the proceedings with Grover Washington's "Mr. Magic", followed by Sinatra's "My Way" (which was completely spontaneous as Rocco later told me, Lutz Deterra started on the keys and Rocco just followed) and Stevie Wonder's "I Wish", before the other players joined him on stage. They didn't prepare this concert too much, they just gathered to jam and see what happens, which was fine with us. They did "This Masquerade" with Jackiem Joyner taking the lead on sax, with all the others soloing in between. One song was even coordinated right before our eyes with Nils giving some instructions, but soon things were nicely flowing along and everybody did his part. Later Brian Culbertson was asked to sit on the keyboard delivering more of his magic, before sitting behind the drums for a funk finale having us groove along. This was a loose, fun concert that didn't take itself too seriously, yet was on a good level. As an encore, the house band got a chance to perform one more track, it was Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" that featured guitarist Martin Weiss, bringing a great weekend of smooth jazz to an end.

This was an outstanding weekend of smooth jazz by some of the genre's finest players, backed by a truly great professional band in an unusual location that provided the right setting for meeting friends, enjoying music and having a good time. "Smooth Jazz In The Cube" will be continued, so watch out for next year's date.

More images @ Flickr

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:51 AM

May 22, 2011

Dee Lucas - Standing Room Only

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. Although released late in 2010 the current CD from saxophonist Dee Lucas is certainly worthy of comment. Titled Standing Room Only it follows on from his 2007 project Something To Ride 2 which at the time I described as being a superb example of cutting edge urban jazz and entirely in keeping with the smoky direction in which the genre is currently moving. Here, with production input from Phil Davis and Lee Hurst, he picks up right where Something To Ride 2 left off and in the process delivers a body of work as fresh as anything I have heard this year.

Atlanta born and based Lucas first came to prominence in 2004 with his debut offering Remembrance. His homage to the great George Howard, it was greeted with stunning reviews, garnered extensive airplay and paved the way for prominent engagements to open for artists such as Roy Ayers, Hugh Masakela, The Gap Band and Lalah Hathaway. His success was all the more remarkable for the fact that as a self taught musician he did not pick up the sax until the age of 28 but now, three albums in, he continues to go from strength to strength. In fact those discovering the music of Dee Lucas for the first time need look no further than the opening track of the new release, the easy grooving ‘Keep Knockin’. Not only is it delightful on the ear but also very much in keeping with what his playing is all about and much the same can be said of the mid tempo ‘Scorpio’ where fine flute from Nakayo and the zesty brass of Nelson Render really make a difference.

Dee slips into reflective mood for the tender ‘Tiffany’s World’ and although a shuffling jazzy intro heralds in the lively title cut, the languidly hypnotic ‘The Friday After’ quickly returns Lucas to a more tranquil groove. Composed by Phil Davis the tune also benefits from the cool trumpet of Cedric Young while elsewhere ‘Shadow In The Dark’ serves as a classic example of ‘in the pocket’ contemporary jazz. Clearly up there with the collection’s best it is in the good company of both the heavily urban ‘Stressing’ and the massively seductive ‘Don’t Go’. Already a firm Secret Garden favourite, this latter number proves to be the perfect vehicle for Dee’s mellow playing and is added to by sexy vocals from Tamar Lucas.

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 9:33 PM

May 20, 2011

22nd Annual KSBR Birthday Bash

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

22nd Annual KSBR Birthday Bash

Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 5:00 pm

Oso Viejo Park / Norman P. Murray Community Center
24932 Veterans Way
Mission Viejo, CA 92692

More info:


With more than 25 headliners playing in a giant jazz jam, each Bash is a once-in-a-lifetime concert for both the artists and the audience. The music will never happen in exactly the same way again. The listeners know that the event is something special – it has sold out ever year since 1997! Horn man Tony Guerrero will again emcee this musical fest, which will bring together a lineup of vocalists and instrumentalists, all to benefit KSBR radio.

Who’s Playing: More than 25 of your favorite Jazz! Musicians in a giant Jazz! Jam. We never know for sure who will be there (and we always have surprises).

The roster from our previous shows is a virtual “who’s who” of contemporary jazz. While we obviously can't list all of the dozens of past performers, just a few of those who have donated their time include Larry Carlton, Joe Sample, Tom Scott, Boney James, Patti Austin, Richard Elliott, Bob James, Peter White, Craig Chaquico, Gerald Albright, Warren Hill, Chris Botti, Diane Schur, Eric Marienthal, Brian Bromberg, Jeff Kashiwa, Ronnie Laws, Gabriela Anders, Grant Geissman, Tim Weisberg, Rob Mullins, Max Bennett, Joe McBride, Marilyn Scott, Thom Rotella, Pamela Williams, Chris Standring, Slim Man, Melvin Davis, and Freddie Ravel. KSBR's tradition is to announce one performing artist each day, starting on May 1st!

When: Sunday, May 29th. Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. Gates open at 3:00pm. The concert is scheduled to start at 5:00 pm. Food and beverages available for sale.

Where: The Village Green of Oso Viejo Community Park in Mission Viejo

Who’s Attending: The crowd is always the “cream of the crop” of our listening audience. Approaching 2,000 total, it is a combination of VIP Platinum and VIP Gold ticket holders, General Admission ticket holders, Sponsors and guests from the music and radio industry.

Ticket Prices:

Reserved Platinum VIP: $175 per person. Reserved seats directly in front of the stage. Pre-concert dinner and beverages (including beer and wine) in the new VIP dining area immediately adjacent to the main stage, giving you a backstage dining experience. Platinum VIP parking at the Norman P. Murray Community Center (directly adjacent to the Bash grounds). A 2011 Bash collectible and a complimentary Soft Drink/Dessert Bar will also be provided in the VIP section. Click Here to purchase VIP Passes.

Assigned Gold VIP Table Seating: $100 per person. Seating at assigned tables in the Gold Circle and parking in the Gold VIP lot. Gold VIPs will receive a 2011 Bash collectible. You may bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages, or purchase food, soft drinks, wine, and beer at the Bash. A complimentary Soft Drink/Dessert Bar will also be provided in the VIP section. Click Here to purchase VIP Passes.

Premium Gold VIP Table Seating (NEW LEVEL): $140 per person. By popular demand, we have added a new level for those Gold VIPs who would like to enhance their Bash experience. In addition to the Gold benefits listed above, Premium VIPs will also receive a pre-concert dinner in the new VIP dining area immediately adjacent to the main stage, giving you a backstage experience. Click Here to purchase VIP Passes.

General Admission: $50 at the gate. $45 in advance (Kids 12 and under are free). Lawn Seating. CLICK HERE to purchase General Admission tickets online. General Admission tickets are also available at the Saddleback College Box Office (949-582-4656, Tu-Sat noon-4pm) and the Norman P. Murray Community Center.

For more info:

Posted by JazzGypsy at 11:15 PM

May 19, 2011

3rd Annual Jazzy Jam Pasadena

By Ricky Richardson

Pasadena - The 3rd Annual Jazzy Jam-Pasadena: Education for Empowerment Benefit Concert was held on Saturday, May 14, 2011. This worthy benefit concert with the proceeds supporting enrichment programs for children and youth served by Charity Events LA and Flintridge Center was held in Central Park on a cool, overcast day.

An enthusiastic crowd was in attendance at Pasadena's Central Park, which is experiencing a cultural revival with the return of the 3rd Annual Jazzy Jam Pasadena.

The crowd and I were having a church going experience in the Park. The Pasadena City Wide Gospel Choir directed by Pastor Jonathan DeCuir and Carolyn Hopkins replenished our spiritual needs with the following uplifting songs "Souled Out," "Psalm 3," "I Won't Forget It," and "Put a Little Love in Your Heart."

Rapid Reponse were making a return engagement to the Jazzy Jam Pasadena. This professional group consists of Pasadena employees from the Police, Fire and various departments for the city. They took the crowd down memory lane with a set of Old School R&B/Rock & Roll. The crowd eagerly travelled with the band on "Boogie Oogie," "Black Coffee in Bed," "Funky Stuff," "Don't Ask My Neighbor," "Get Ready," and concluded their set with "Rock Steady."

The Supa Lowery Brothers featuring brothers Christopher on trumpet and Wesley on drums. The group were outstanding on their arrangements of "Little Sunflower," and "Funky Good Time."

Vessel(s) & The Band brought an uplifting message in the form of fusion of Worship/Inspirational/Contemporary Christian songs on "This is The Day The Lord Has Made," "I Just Want to Say Thank You," and "I'm Going to Keep Pressing On."

The Jazzy Jam Band, directed by bassist Cornelius Mimms presented a delightful variety show with an all-star group of special guests. Vocalist/guitarist Kori Withers, daughter of legendary singer Bill Withers performed two original tunes. Keep your eyes and ears on the look out for more from this talented young lady in the near future. Cornelius and the band took it up a notch on "Boogie Night," "Rock Steady" featuring Sherine Netters working this tune inside and out, followed by "Soulchestral," "You Got Me," and "Little Sunflower" with violinist Karen Briggs. If that wasn't enough Evelyn "Champagne" King and smooth jazz guitarist Freddie Fox were great on "Happy Feelings," "Love Come Down," and "Shame," with the audience singing along to these oldies but goodies.

Johnny Polanco and Su Conjunto Amistad provided infectious, rhythmic, multilayered Latin music that brought out the salseros to the dance floor. Mr. Polanco is adept at playing thirteen different instruments. He played the trombone, tres and vibraphone on this gig.

Mainstream/Contemporary jazz saxophonist Everette Harp closed out the festival with hits from his extended catalog.

Jazzy Jam-Pasadena was produced by Jacqueline Snell-Brown for Charity Events LA, in partnership with the City of Pasadena, and sponsored by US Band, Old Pasadena Management District, Pasadena Star-News, Rose Magazine, Pasadena Scene, Studio City Sound, Pasadena Water & Power, SEP Music, and AT&T.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:15 PM

May 17, 2011

Westbound - Gone For A Walk

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. Italian contemporary jazz outfit Westbound is actually the exquisite pairing of Cristian Rocco and Enrico Catena. Their latest project is the predominately mellow Gone For A Walk which finds Rocco providing eleven all new compositions to complement his fine work on guitars and keys. Catena is his usual tight self on drums and percussion yet the album also affords a platform for stellar performances by some great guest artists. One such collaborator is the superb Roberto Vally who has played extensively with Paul Brown and is the bass player of choice for Bobby Caldwell. He is featured on five of the twelve choice tracks and for one of them is joined by smooth jazz superstar Rick Braun. Recorded in Italy, the result is an excellent addition to this year’s crop of new music and an end to the myth that great smooth jazz is the exclusive province of the USA.

Gone For A Walk opens up with the ultra cool ‘Here I Am’ where a catchy hook proves to be a perfect device to get the show started. Elsewhere, the CD’s only cover is a relaxed instrumental version of Al Green’s seminal ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and although it checks all the right boxes the real magic comes courtesy of Rocco’s own music. A fine example of this is ‘Soul To Soul’ (where Rocco is reminiscent of Nils at his best) and another is ‘Hollywood Nocturne’ which glides along on a smooth guitar driven haze and enjoys the added benefit of a terrific piano solo from Lino Sabbadino.

‘Baker Street’ is not under any circumstances to be confused with the Jerry Rafferty classic of the same name and is in fact another slice of contemporary jazz at its compelling best. Indeed ‘compelling’ could well be a metaphor for the whole collection and is perfectly exemplified by the sultry groove of ‘The Big Chill’ and the delicious ‘Night Dance’. Both are in total contrast to the sunshine filled but equally pleasing ‘Baha’ while sunshine of a different kind comes courtesy of the feel good factor provided by ‘A Little Less’.

The title cut, with Braun’s moody trumpet and solid bass from Vally, is likely to grab the attention but truth to tell right up with there with it is the wonderfully happy vibe of ‘Globetrotter’. Already evolving into a real Secret Garden favourite this is a tune that is likely to play and play but just as good is ‘Babalu’ where an edgy streetwise intro paves a way to what is a totally ‘in the pocket’ delight.

Gone For A Walk is out now, comes recommended and is available at

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 9:18 PM

May 14, 2011

What We're Listening To ** April 2011

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

Craig Pilo, Unsupervised (Rue De La Harpe) (2011)

Cole Jacobs, Atomic Escalator (Cole Jacobs) (2010)

Player A, On the Side ( Creative Soul Jazz) (2011)

Boney James, Contact (Verve Forecast) (2011)

Lin Rountree, Soul-Tree, The Soul-Jazz Experience (Lin Rountree) (2011)

P E T E R * B O E H I

Andy Snitzer - Traveler (2011)
Cool, laid-back and lounge-y smooth jazz album by saxophonist Andy Snitzer, supported by a list of top-notch players. With its restrained mood and no particular track standing out, it works best when listened to in its entirety. Special!

Eumir Deodato - The Crossing (2010)
This is a fine contemporary jazz album boasting the classic keyboard work of Deodato along with many great players, most notably Al Jarreau, Billy Cobham, John Tropea, done in Italy with the team around Novecento. A breath of fresh air!

Euge Groove - S7ven Large (2011)
This is a very nice album by saxophonist Euge Groove with more picture perfect smooth jazz tracks and a nice variety of songs. Production and supporting cast are top drawer, so you know what to expect.

Konstantin Klashtorni - Kool & Klean, Vol. 2 (2011)
Saxophonist Konstantin Klashtorni is an incredible Paul Hardcastle clone, blindfolded, you would swear to hear the Jazzmasters. So if you cannot get enough of those perfectly programmed rhythms with the synth washes, saxophone touches and nice melodies, here is another serving!

Dave Valentin - Pied Piper (1981)
My nod to the past goes to this classic album by latin flautist Dave Valentin, which was recorded during his heydays at GRP. The album opener is a catchy radio friendly song, the rest no-nonsense latin jazz by a killer band. Outstanding!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:22 PM