April 29, 2012

Jeff Bradshaw - Bon Appetit

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.

It was in 2003 that trombone player; vocalist and producer Jeff Bradshaw made a tilt for solo stardom with the CD Bone Deep. Of course since then he has featured often with many of his Hidden Beach label-mates but now has come roaring back with a double album which might yet prove to be one of the best cross-over releases of 2012. It’s titled Bone Appetit and what Bradshaw is really all about can be summed up in the one minute and thirty seven seconds of the opening number ‘Searching’. Atmospheric, urban and hypnotizing, this is what he routinely does best and, in an expansive collection that explores the varying complexions of jazzy R & B, Bradshaw also proves himself to be the undisputed master of urban trombone.

Make no mistake this is a fabulous body of work. ‘Til Tomorrow’ has an urgency that is infectious and is added to in no small measure by vocals from Raheem DeVaughn and Ms Jade. It’s a track that is entirely current and when Bradshaw gets his hands on a fabulous cover of the Toni Toni Tone blockbuster ‘Lay Your Head On My Pillow’ (from the 1994 project Sons Of Soul) he conjures up a real highlight. Another cut right there with the album’s best is the sparse yet horn enriched ‘Looking For Love’ yet elsewhere a clever sample from Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, a cool vocal from Marsha Ambrosius and sweet horns from Brass Heaven all combine to make ‘Got Til It’s Gone’ really something special.

Of course Ambrosius is one half of the duo Floetry. The other is Natalie Stewart and she joins Bradshaw for ‘I See The Sunshine’ where she is instrumental in serving up a heady slice of deep neo soul. More soul of the neo variety comes in the form of the intense ‘Umi Says’ while later, and developing from Bradshaw’s earthy vocals, ‘I Don’t Know How’ evolves into an ultra catchy, trombone driven gem with a warm and comforting vibe. That said, one of the more interesting songs is ‘Wait Around Love’. Check out Peter White’s ‘Lullaby’ from his Caravan Of Dreams collection then segue to this tender number where Randy Bowland on guitar utilizes the same melody as a backdrop to Bradshaw’s sensitive vocal.

‘So Thankful’ is a tasty excursion into deep soul where vocal honors are sublimely shared between Bradshaw and singing sensation Coko. Indeed, Bone Appetit has much to commend it but all things considered the extremely easy grooving ‘All Day Lovin’ is my selection for Secret Garden top tune. Not only does it enjoy sumptuous backing vocals from Kindred The Family Soul but also allows Bradshaw, not for the only time, to demonstrate the trombone as a much-underrated contemporary jazz instrument.

Not only does Bone Appetit conclude with a bonus outro of the title cut but those who have purchased Bone Appetit Vol 2 (which comes as a digital exclusive or special limited edition two-CD set), can enjoy seven additional tracks including those featuring Maysa, Brass Heaven and Bradshaw’s version of the Maze classic ‘Happy Feelin’s’. Check it out. There is much to enjoy.

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 7:08 PM

April 22, 2012

What We're Listening To ** March 2012

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘One Night In Paris’ by Dave McMurray from his excellent CD I Know About Love. This mellifluous track, embellished by the vocals of TIYI Adjovi and superb flute from McMurray, is right up there with the albums best.

‘Just To Fall In Love’ by Najee from his latest release The Smooth Side Of Soul. Here Najee’s playing on flute is wonderful and is complemented in no small measure by the outstanding vocals of Phil Perry.

‘Saxdance’ by Reinhold Schwartzwald from his recently re-released collection Sunset. Produced by the legendary Patrice Rushen, this gorgeous tune opens with a rhythm reminiscent of what Quincy Jones used to routinely do for Michael Jackson, and develops into a wonderfully commercial smooth jazz tune, that is sure to do well.

‘Venice Street Fair’ by Brian Auger from his highly acclaimed new album Language Of The Heart. Motivated by the Annual Street fair in Venice Beach, CA, where Brian now resides, this deceptively easy grooving number is added to in no small measure by a guitar solo from Jeffrey ‘Skunk’ Baxter that is right on the money.

‘91 North’, by Rahni Song, from the CD Breakin’ The Rules. Rahni Song (aka Rahni P. Harris, Jr.) really has a lot going on. Active as a producer, composer, arranger, songwriter, recording engineer and educator, his resume includes extensive work with legendary funksters Bootsy Collins and George Clinton. His new CD, Breakin’ The Rules, is fine example of the urban direction in which contemporary jazz is currently flowing and contains a number of what can accurately be described as truly outstanding tracks. Amongst these is the first tune to be selected for radio, the sumptuously turned down ‘91 North’. It finds Rahni (who is immaculate on keys) in the substantial company of sax-man Marion Meadows.


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

Kevin Kooyumjian, Monterey Groove! (Kevin Kooyumjian) (2006)

Bob James & Keiko Matsui, Altair & Vega (Ent. One Music) (2011)

Roy Ayers & Wayne Henderson, Step Into Our Life / Prime Time (Cherry Red UK) (2011)

Billy Cobham, Live in Leverkusen (Bhm/ZYX) (2011)

Haakon Graf, License To Chill (Nordic Records) (2010)


P E T E R * B O E H I

Noel Elmowy - Feelin' Good (2003)
This is a standout album that is dear to my heart, featuring Australian piano player Noel Elmowy with an all star cast, among them Gerald Albright. Fresh, upbeat, catchy instrumentals of the highest order. Outstanding!

Michael Ghegan - Michael Ghegan (2003)
This is a beautiful sax led smooth jazz album by Michael Ghegan - who toured with Keiko Matsui - that stood the test of time. Slick production, cool grooves, soulful playing and great songs. Very recommended!

Will Downing - Yesterday (2012)
This is one of the smoothest, velvetiest and most soulful slices of music you will encounter these days by master singer Will Downing, this 4 track EP is part of a trilogy. Pure soul bliss!

Mario Biondi & Duke Orchestra - I Love You More (2007)
Mario Biondi - Yes You (2010)
Those are two great live 2CDs sets by Italian singer Mario Biondi, both are with full orchestra covering jazz and soul, his great taste is reflected in his choice of covers - among them Bill Withers' "I'm Her Daddy" and Gil Scott-Heron's "Winter In America". Both albums are an uplifting celebration of music.

Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson - Live & More (1980)
Call me a helpless nostalgic, but they don't make music like this anymore, please give me a time machine to transport me back to "Love In Every Season/I Believe In You" right in the middle of the screaming audience. A classic!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:31 PM

April 21, 2012

Darren Rahn - Speechless

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.

It was through his work with the late Wayman Tisdale that producer, composer and saxophonist Darren Rahn first made his mark. At first his role was very much behind the scenes and behind the mixing console but his studio activities with Tisdale and an assortment of other smooth jazz heavy hitters proved pivotal in launching his solo career. Three critically acclaimed solo albums ensued and now he is back with number four, the high octane Speechless.

The CD opens with ‘Wave of The Future’ which is a shuffling mid tempo track that builds into something altogether more potent. It includes Darren’s brother Jason on trumpet and was co-written by Rahn and Dave Koz. When Koz returns for the ultra powerful ‘Flashback’ his interplay with Rahn is fabulous and although ‘One Step Ahead’ provides a tasty slice of regulation smooth jazz, much of the early buzz surrounding ‘Speechless’ has been about the first song to go to radio. Titled ‘Magnetic’ this compellingly accessible cut is, not surprisingly, taking the contemporary jazz charts by storm.

The big thumping ‘Into The Light’ is in the best traditions of what we have come to expect from Darren Rahn and much the same can be said of the punchy, sax driven ‘Revelation’ which includes a fine bass solo from Mel Brown. When Rahn and Brown hook up with label mate Nate Harasim for ‘Euro Trippin’ they deliver a tune that can can accurately be described as being entirely off the chain and later Harasim provides more stellar input to the sizzling ‘Studio 54’ which features superb flute from none other than Najee.

The zesty, urban inclined ‘Magical’ is a song with massive crossover appeal and, featuring wonderfully streetwise vocals from Joshua, is a clear contender for the accolade of Secret Garden top track. Yet amongst the frequent bolts of high-energy lightning there are several tender moments and in this respect there is none better than the wonderful ‘Give ‘N’ Take’ where Paul Brown is at his unmistakable best on guitar. Mellow of a different kind comes in the form of the hugely atmospheric title cut which owes much of its seductive quality to the vocals of the rapidly emerging Maxine Hardcastle while elsewhere ‘The Healing’ provides a melodic ending to what is a splendid addition to this year’s crop of new music.

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 3:05 PM

April 18, 2012

Spaghettini Grill and Lounge in Seal Beach takes top honors for best performance venue!

Written by The Jazz Gypsy

Spaghettini Grill and Lounge
3005 Old Ranch Parkway
Seal Beach, CA 90740
Reservations/Information: 562.596.2199

Website: https://www.spaghettini.com


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If you're looking for a place where the music, food, drinks and ambiance are consistently exceptional, then look no further than Spaghettini Grill & Lounge in Seal Beach, California. Established in 1988, by California restauranteurs Laurie Sisnersos and Cary Harwick, Spaghettini's has always been known for their sumptuous Tuscan grilled cuisine, award-winning wine list, and their well-educated, attentive and professional wait staff. However, over the past several years, "Spags", (as it's affectionately known by the locals), has done all the right things to earn a stellar reputation as "THE" best entertainment venue in Southern California.

Since remodeling their Performance Lounge, and upgrading their sound system, Spags has significantly expanded their entertainment calendar to not only include some of the biggest names in the smooth/contemporary jazz industry but they also present A-list artists that are known in the Straight Ahead Jazz, Latin Jazz, Jazz Fusion, and World Music arenas. And, just like a good gumbo, it all seamlessly works together, bridging the sometimes artificial boundaries between various musical genres.

The Music
Here's a small sampling of who has or will be performing there soon:

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(Photos l to r: Dave Koz, Hiroshima, Jonathan Butler, Row 2: Karen Briggs, Jessy J (photo by Lori Stoll), and Chris Botti)


Smooth/Contemporary Jazz: Hiroshima, Dave Koz, Paul Brown, Lee Ritenour, Ronnie, Laws, Brenda Russell, Najee, Brian Culbertson, Chris Botti, David Benoit, Jonathan Butler, Marion Meadows, Euge Groove, Eric Marienthal, Michael Lington, Jessy J, Craig Chaquico, Jeff Lorber, Chuck Loeb, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, Jackiem Joyner, Paul Jackson Jr., Michael Paulo, Chris Standring, Jazz in Pink (Gail Jhonson, Karen Briggs, Althea Renee, Jeanette Harris), Gregg Karukas, Steve Oliver, Nils, Tom Braxton, Tim Bowman, Andre Delano, Shilts, Blake Aaron, Darren Rahn, Marcus Anderson, Jonathan Fritzen, Alexander Zonjic, Vincent Ingala, Slim Man, Native Vibe, and Earl R. Johnson, Jr.

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(Photos: l to r: Louie Cruz Beltran, Esperanza Spalding and Les McCann)


Straight Ahead Jazz: Esperanza Spalding, Les McCann, Alphonse Mouzon Quartet, James Torme, Gordon Goodwin's Little Phat Band, Al Williams Jazz Society, Anne Walsh, Brenna Whitaker & Her Little Big Band, Rob Mullins Band, Frank Stallone (yes, Sylvester Stallone's brother)

Latin Jazz: Fattburger, Louie Cruz Beltran, Incendio, Andy Vargas (Lead Singer of Santana)

Jazz Fusion/World Music: Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, Down to the Bone, Lao Tizer w/Karen Briggs, Quattro

Soul/R&B: Evelyn "Champagne" King, Ellis Hall, Ricky Jones,DW3, and Derek Bordeaux

Contemporary/Pop: Spencer Day, Kenny Loggins, David Pack (from Ambrosia),Christine W

Rock/Funk:: Randy Jacobs' Dynamite, Antonio Pontarelli

Blues: Ruby and the Red Hots

Tribute Bands: Terry Steele (Luther Vandross), Pretzel Logic (A Steely Dan Revue), Carlos, The Experience (Santana), Hollywood U2

The Location
Situated conveniently in the middle of Southern California where the 405, 605 an 22 merge together, Spags is easily accessible whether you are traveling from Los Angeles, Long Beach or from Orange County or San Diego. There is ample free parking or valet service for $3.00. Also, Spags frequently partners with the Ayres Hotel across the street, to offer reasonable hotel rates, making it uber convenient for those occasions when you'd like to stay over a Saturday night and return for Spags legendary Sunday Brunch hosted by 94.7 The Wave.

The Venue

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Spags is open 7 days a week and it's footprint includes several inviting, warm and beautifully decorated indoor and outdoor spaces that include The Restaurant, The Performance Lounge & Bar, The Bistro, The Library, The Wine Cellar, Enclosed Patio, and The Outdoor Patio. Because of the unique architecture, Spags can accommodate events of all sizes, making it a popular destination spot to meet clients, bring out of town guests, or host a special celebration or event.

Some of the recent and/or regularly occurring events/occasions include: Sunday Brunch live broadcast w/ 94.7 FM, The Wave, Sunday Night Family Dinners w/KOST/103.5 FM, charity events, A Tribute to Wayman Tisdale, Radio Personality Pat Prescott's Birthday Party, Terry Steele's 50th Birthday Celebration, graduation, retirement parties, & more.

The Food

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Open 7 days a week, Spags offers lunch (weekdays), happy hour, dinner, dinner an a show and Sunday Brunch. Their reasonably priced menu offers starters ($10-$24), soups & salads ($7-$24), sandwiches ($13-$16); brick oven pizzas ($12-$14), pastas (19-$29), entrees ($23-$39); sides ($8),and desserts ($5-$12). Some customer favorites include the prime pork chop, Parmesan crusted Chilean sea bass, the New Zealand lamb rack and Spags Executive Chef Victor Avila's signature dish, Pommerey Shrimp.

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(Photo: DW3)


Spags legendary Sunday Brunch ($49.95/adults and $14.95/children 12 and under) occurs every Sunday from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. The brunch offers unlimited trips to the antipasto buffet that features over 80 food items, including authentic Italian pastas, fresh California salads, an extensive seafood station, homemade buttermilk waffles, pancakes topped with blueberry compote and a side of brown sugar candied bacon, handmade sushi rolls, and lavish desserts. The brunch also includes your choice of one entree from the regular menu made fresh to order, free-flowing champagne and beverages. Your meal can be enjoyed in one of the many dining rooms or in the performance lounge where there is a live performance by DW3 and a live broadcast by 94.7 The Wave that regularly features special music guests and free giveaways.

The Owners/Staff

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Co-owners Cary Hardwick and Laurie Sisneros met while working at a chain restaurant over twenty-one years ago. After learning that they each shared a vision to open their own restaurant, they combined their dreams to birth Spahettini and built the restaurant from the ground up. With an immense passion for food and wine, and a deep respect for the people that they employ, Cary & Laurie have used servant leadership and intensive training to create a staff with the highest level of knowledge and service.


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Cary Hardwick has been a teacher for the Cottonwood Leadership College in Los Alamitos, California, since 2002. He has also been involved with a number of local charities, and is on the Board of Directors for The Brianna Fund, which raises awareness and money for children with Cerebral Palsy.

Cary presently owns a consulting and promotions company called C.J. Studios which allows him to speak, teach and work with individuals to develop their businesses. Cary was a scholarship athlete in track and field at both Long Beach City College and Indiana University. In 2009 he was inducted into the Long Beach City College Hall of Champions. He is also an avid surfer who has traveled the world in search of the perfect wave. Cary and his wife Joy live in Long Beach, California and have four children. Cary is available for speaking engagements, management seminars, promotional event planning and business consulting. He can be reached at caryhardwick@yahoo.com.

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Laurie Sisneros has been in the restaurant and entertainment business for many years and has a strong passion for all things food, wine and music related. Her love of the business started in Boston, Mass., where she managed entertainment venues for the largest club owner in Boston. She later moved into corporate restaurant management where she had responsibility for over a dozen restaurants throughout Southern California. Following her dream to one day open her own restaurant, Laurie partnered with Hardwick in 1988 to create the legendary Sunday Brunch.

In addition to Spaghettini, Laurie owns a business consulting firm called Wine & Dine Enterprises which allows her to share her knowledge and experience with others who are trying to develop a new or existing business. Along with a complete staff of highly qualified professionals, Wine & Dine Enterprises brings over thirty years of proven expertise to assist others in achieving their goals.

Laurie actively works to improve her community. She has helped to build a home for Habitat for Humanity, tutored elementary school children with learning challenges and was a literacy teacher for adults who were unable to read. She also co-founded a program within the Orange County Probation Department that mentored juvenile offenders and their families.

Laurie has a husband Fred and a mischievous sheepdog named Barney. She loves to travel the four corners of the world, where she is able to further explore her love of food, wine and music. She has taught a management seminar in Vietnam, attended cooking and wine classes in Italy, and sailed the Caribbean with the world’s top jazz artists, all in the name of following and developing her passions.

Laurie is available for speaking engagements, management seminars and all levels of business consulting. She can be reached at lauriesisneros@yahoo.com

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Vienna Yip, a.k.a. JazzieGirl
Vienna works closely with co-owner Cary Hardwick to bring a diverse array of entertainment to Spags. She is the Jazz Music Director @ FM88.5-KSBR, a Contemporary Jazz station at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. She is instrumental in bringing the music of talented musicians to listeners all over the world. She is particularly proud that she can help deserving indie artists to get airplay, whose music would not otherwise be heard on commercial stations.

An engineer by trade, Vienna had a great run for the money, but her life-long passion for music led her to her current career in the music industry. As a teenager, she used to save up all her allowance for concert tickets and has been regularly going to clubs to see and support live bands for over thirty years. As a result she has made many life-long friendships with musicians.

Vienna owns her own business, JazziGirl Productions, and is an Artist Representative where she has earned a stellar reputation through her impeccable work ethic, unquestionable integrity, detailed follow-through and always going above and beyond what is required and expected. Working with a roster of over 80 artists in all genres of music, she books artists/groups into various clubs, venues, festivals, and private events. For Vienna, no venue is too big or too small. She can work within your budget to book a solo artist all the way up to a 12-piece big band, and anywhere in between. She can book Steely Dan & Eagles tribute bands, Motown cover bands, old school R&B bands, and music from the 70's, 80's & the disco era. Vienna is currently looking for opportunities to expand her business into the international arena. For bookings: Email JazzieGirlProductions@gmail.com, or call 949.582.2956. You can find her online at: http://jazziegirlproductions.blogspot.com/


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"Q"
Q was the Entertainment Director at Spags for many years. He now enjoys his position as the Sound Engineer, working to insure that the artists deliver the best listening experience for the audience. The last Wednesday of every month at Spags, "Q" presents Q's favorite artists. Q is an avid surfer and also works with The Dave Koz & Friends Cruise franchise.


Upcoming Calendar
4/21 (Sat) - Jonathan Fritzen - CD Release Party - 7:30pm - $25
4/22 (Sun) - Sunday Brunch w/DW3 $10; Evening Show The Droppers - 6:30pm - $10
4/23 (Mon) - Oak Middle School Fundraiser - 6:30pm - $10
4/24 (Tues) - Chris Standring Dinner & Show - CD Release Party - 7:00pm - $55
4/25 (Wed) - Q's Favorite presents Michael Parlett - 7:00pm - $10
4/26 (Thurs) - DW3 - 7:30pm - $10
4/27 (Fri) - Earl R. Johnson Jr. - 7:30pm - $20
4/28 (Sat) - Nocy - 7:30pm - $20
4/29 (Sun) - Sunday Brunch w/DW3 - $10; Evening Show - Native Vibe - 6:30pm - $20


Please check their website for additional shows and more details: http://www.spaghettini.com.

Posted by JazzGypsy at 10:03 PM

April 4, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Brian Culbertson

The final concert of the festival traditionally took place at the Scottish Rite Cathdral, once again Brian Culbertson took care of drawing a capacity crowd to this venue to finish this festival in style. He had his killer band with him, each member stands out in his own way, we got Nathaniel Kearney, Jr. on bass, Chris Miskel on drums, Gerey Johnson on guitar, Eddie Miller on keys, hammond B3 & vocals plus Marqueal Jordan on vocals, percussion & sax, and they were smoking! There was no horn section this time. They opened the show with "Secret Garden", followed by "Always Remember" from the Bringing Back The Funk CD, next was "Get It On" from the Live On The Inside DVD, before the current album XII was featured with "That's Life" and the vocal "Wide Open", featuring Marqueal Jordan. They funked things up with the Sly & The Family Stone classic "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", which segued into one of Brian's own instrumentals. The next section was dedicated to Brian's upcoming CD called Dreams, an album full of slow jams aimed at the bedroom, the first song played was "You're My Music" that featured the soulful singing of Eddie Miller, followed by another classic from the BC catalog, then he did the title track "Dreams", a beautiful instrumental that went down very well with the crowd, plus the funkier opening track of the CD. After that, the energy level was raised with his rendition of the EWF classic "Serpentine Fire", followed by the well known slow keyboard track that always pleases the crowd, playing the keys from the opposite side, before they ended the show in a funk frenzy. This was a truly great and entertaining show by one of the genre's finest!

Please take note: Next year's Berks Jazz Festival will take place April 5-14, 2013.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 8:01 PM

April 2, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Richard Elliot & Rick Braun

Sunday afternoon at the last day of the festival, R'n'R aka trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Richard Elliot appeared at the Crowne Plaza ballroom, they were supported by Ron Reinhardt on keyboards, Frank "Third" Richardson on drums and Nate Phillips on bass plus a guitar player. They opened their show with a couple of great funky tracks that had both players feed off each other, providing fluid jazzy lines on their horns. Richard Elliot picked up his EWI for an intro, then picking up his sax to play his version of Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues", which had Third Richardson kick his drums so hard that the kick drum broke, needing a replacement. Next was "Notorious" that featured Rick Braun on the flugelhorn, segueing nicely into a swinging version of "Wade In The Water" with minimal accompaniment on the organ. Richard Elliot played "Boom Town", a track from his new CD In The Zone, followed by Rick Braun doing "The Good Life", a classic song by Tony Bennett, which was recorded with full orchestra on his latest CD Sings With Strings, he opened the song on his flugelhorn and then sang romantically, which was received very well. After that, the mood was set for Richard Elliot doing his crowd pleasing version of "When A Man Loves A Woman", despite the fact that he played this song numerous times, he put his whole heart into it and played the song as if it was the first time. Then they kicked up the energy with another funky instrumental, that had Third Richardson break his bass drum a second time, needing another replacement. While another drum kit was installed, the two horn players did an accapella straight ahead jazz tune displaying their incredible technical abilities. Now with the mood set, they played a smoking straight ahead jazz rendition of "Night In Tunisia", before they went back to the funk with Eddie Kendricks' "Keep On Truckin'", Richard Elliot used his EWI as a vocoder, which had the crowd cheer along. They wrapped up the show with "Grazing In The Grass", and gave us as an encore a Chicago blues. This was a very entertaining show with a few unexpected surprises, most notably some straight ahead jazz, which was very welcome.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:59 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Incognito with Maysa

Saturday at 10pm, the next highlight awaited us with the show by the British band Incognito with guest Maysa, the show was sold out. They kicked off the concert with a funky instrumental, featuring the horn section (sax, trumpet, trombone), before the three singers (two female, one male) entered the stage, to do the funky "Roots (Back To A Way Of Life)" that featured Vanessa Hayes on vocals. In between songs, leader Bluey Maunick told short stories and gave insights into his roots and his vision of the band. Mo Brandis was the featured singer on Stevie Wonder's "As". While a technical problem with the keyboards was solved, we were treated with an acapella version of "What's Going On" that had the audience sing along, followed by a great drums/percussion solo. The show continued with Natalie Williams singing the next song, before Maysa entered the stage to sing "Step Into My Life", followed by "Change", one of the early songs she did with the band. After a groovy instrumental complete with scatting by Maysa and some great horn work, they played four songs from the brand new CD Surreal, which were oozing style and class, before Maysa did her signature Incognito song "Still A Friend Of Mine". After that, they played their rendition of "Espresso Madureira" by Banda Black Rio, a great funky instrumental. Later they did "Everyday" that featured the great voice of Vanessa Hayes, plus one more song to finish the concert. But the audience didn't want to let the band go, so they returned with acapella versions of "Don't You Worry Bout A Thing", "Always There" and "Nights In Egypt", before they allowed Maysa to deliver "Deep Waters", bringing a very satisfying concert to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 5:41 AM

April 1, 2012

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Will Downing & Gerald Albright

Saturday night, singer Will Downing and saxophonist Gerald Albright shared the stage at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, the show was sold out. Those two artists have been collaborating for a long time, and they blended very well together. In the band, I recognized Mike Logan on keyboards and Bruce Wayne on guitar. The show was opened by Will Downing doing "I Can't Help It", followed by Gerald Albright going back playing "Bermuda Nights" from 1989, handing the stage over to Will Downing for the Barry White classic "Deeper And Deeper" that went down with the crowd very well, followed by a cherished Luther Vandross track. Gerald Albright kept things moving with Grover Washington, Jr.'s "Winelight", a track he covered an a tribute CD a few years back, before Will Downing sang some of his own classic songs. In between songs, Will Downing gave the fellows some advice on romantic issues, revealing a considerable talent as a comedian. After a couple of instrumentals featuring Gerald Albright, the both artists reunited on stage doing the highlight of the whole show, an incredible version of "Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart" with beautiful interplay and improvisation. This was a truly great show by two consummate and unique artists, pure bliss.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:34 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Spyro Gyra

The second part of Saturday afternoon's double bill featured Spyro Gyra, a classic band whose career started over 30 years ago and still is going strong, providing another superlative show. This group of consummate players is led by saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, plus Julio Fernandez on guitar, Tom Schuman on keyboards, Scott Ambush on bass, plus a new member on drums (who replaced Bonny B). They started the show with two tracks from their current CD A Foreign Affair, before they settled in a medley of their greatest and best known songs, "Shaker Song", "Morning Dance" and "Catching The Sun", before turning their attention to more recent material. A beautiful Julio Fernandez composition pulled all the stops and was a highlight of the whole show. Next was a tribute to the late Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, a band that was influential on all of the players, before they featured bassist Scott Ambush on "Dancing On Table Mountain". Without running down the rest of the playlist, Spyro Gyra provided a truly great show, each of the players brought his share to the music, and together they created some magical moments.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:44 PM

Berks Jazz Fest 2012: Nick Colionne

Saturday afternoon, the double bill was opened by guitarist Nick Colionne doing one of his energetic and entertaining shows. Being probably the sharpest dressed man in smooth jazz, he entered the stage clad in a white suit and white hat, looking awesome. He started off with a couple of funky instrumentals on the guitar, before he switched to a beautiful white guitar for a slow blues that was the perfect vehicle for his velvety voice, then stepped out into the audience during an extended solo to get closer to his fans. Then he did "The Connection", a song dedicated to his very active fan club. The funky blues tune "Po' House" had the audience sing along, before Nick channeled James Brown into him in order to do his tribute to the man with "Godfather J", prompting the artist for another lengthy stroll into the audicene, having several people get up and dance along with him, bringing another fun show to an end.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 4:12 PM