August 19, 2012

25th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival

By Ricky Richardson

Long Beach - The late great blues singer, Muddy Waters said it best "Young and old; get yourself together and let the good times roll." Hundreds of thousands of jazz fans have attended the Long Beach Jazz Festival over the the past 24 years. These fans travel from all across California, throughout the United States and some international music lovers as well," stated Al Williams, Festival Founder and Producer.

The 2012 installment of the festival is a major milestone event, presented by US Bank, celebrating the theme "Jazz and Beyond."

Friday - Pastor Wayne Chaney got the festival underway with an Opening Prayer. The festival producer honored the men and women serving in the military. The volunteers and security were also acknowledged for their hard work.

The music portion of the show featured saxophonist Eric Darius to start the show in grand style. I'm wondering if Eric is willing to take the blame for bringing along some humidity from Florida. Eric heated up the setting even more so with material from his latest CD On a Mission. Additional tunes performed throughout his set consisted of "Let's Stay Together," "Love TKO," "If I Ain't Got You" and a new twist on "The Wobble" song and dance to engage the crowd.

Actors Robert Townsend and Michael Jai White were spotted in the crowd during the set by the Isley Brothers. They dug deep into their classic, timeless catalog of hits including "Fight The Power," "Who's That Lady," and "Living for The Love of You."

The Blackbyrds closed out the opening night of the festival with some hip swaying jazz, funk and soul that was so popular back in the day, and the music is still relevant today.

Saturday - Dat Ezy Band is a tight band that excelled during their set of cover tunes with "Come On and Groove" this could also serve as a theme for the festival. They continued to groove on "You Bring Me Joy," "I'm Every Women" and continued with a medley of tunes by the late great Teena Marie.

Shilts showcased both his contemporary smooth jazz and straight-ahead chops during his dynamic set.

Leela James set was action packed. She worked the stage and roamed into the crowd to energized the audience during her powerful set on "Soul Music," "We Came To Party," and "Change is Gonna Come."

Dianne Reeves is a magnificent vocalist who gave a memorable performance during the 25th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival. The festival ground felt like an intimate jazz club, as we enjoyed Ms. Reeves trademark vocal stylings that was demonstrated on Bahail," "12th of Never," "Afro Blue," "Tango de Jour" with some incrredible scat singing, "32 Flavors," and the crowd favorite "Better Days."

Saxophonist Kirk Whalum set featured several tunes from his latest CD Romance Language. He performed "Grover Worked and Under Paid," "Valdez in the Country," "Do You Feel Me" with his brother Kevin on vocals, and continued with "I Will Always Love You" - a quiet hush fell over the crowd because of how much people could relate to this tune. The brothers closed their set with "You Are Too Beautiful," and "Love TKO."

Poncho Sanchez and Soul of Summer featuring Jonathan Butler, Warren Hill and Maysa closed out the show on Saturday evening.

Sunday - The Jazz Search Winners kicked off the final day of the festival. Al Williams and Friends treated jazz purist to an afternoon delight of straight-ahead jazz. People were swaying and bopping to a different groove on "Cantaloupe Island," and "Dis Here." Les McCann and Henry "The Skipper" Franklin joined the band onstage for the always popular and relevant tune "Compared to What." Vocalist Barbara Morrison liven up the festival as only Barbara can on the tunes "Sundown" and "Down Home Blues."

The festival continued with neo-soul vocalist Chrisette Michele, we got "Down and Dirty" during the set by Rick Braun and Richard Elliott of happy, contagious smooth jazz from their individual catalogs as well as their duel collaborative efforts Metro Blue and RNR. The crowd and I got on board the train with Larry Graham and Grand Central Station for a set of high-energy soulful funk. The festival concluded with Keith Sweat and The Dream Tour featuring David Sanborn and Brian Culbertson.

US Bank presented the 25th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival and sponsors include: Budweiser, Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Long Beach Press Telegram, Long Beach Hilton, 94.7 The Wave, KJAZZ 88.1, KJLH 102.3. The Long Beach Jazz Festival is produced by Rainbow Promotions, LLC. Visit for information about upcoming events and concerts.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 9:43 AM

August 6, 2012

4th Annual Ultimate Jazz Festival

By Ricky Richardson

Ontario - An enthusiastic crowd was in attendance for the 4th Annual Ultimate Jazz Festival, presented by Jazz to be Green. The festival took place at Guastic Regional Park, Saturday, August 4th and Sunday, August 5th, 2012. An unusually nice, cool summer breeze made the outing all the more enjoyable.

Residents of the Inland Empire don't have to travel all the way to Los Angeles to enjoy quality entertainment. Thanks to Jazz to be Green, the community were able to sit back, relax in their own backyard to listen to smooth sounds of jazz, funk and R&B.

The festival got under way with saxophonist Rodney Taylor. Mr. Taylor arrives on the scene with an impressive resume, having played with or tour with Anita Baker, The Emotions, Doc Powell and Deniece Williams just to name a few. He made a lasting impression on the crowd during his opening set on the following tunes from his current CD Can I Blow For You. HIs set list featured the tunes "Passion," "Midnite Wind," "Can I Blow for You" written for his wife, "My Prerogative," and "Wine Light" by the late great Grover Washington Jr. The band consisted of Rodney Taylor-sax, Keith Rouster-bass, Eddie Miller-keyboards, Andre Frappier-guitar, Noriko Ulling-keyboards and Demetric Collins on drums.

Trumpeter Joey Somerville kicked the festivities into high gear with an engaging set of smooth jazz, funk and R&B on the following tunes "Ride With This," "School Boy Crush," "You Belong to Me," "Caravan," "Swag," and roamed the festival grounds to serenade women on "Like You Mean It."

Keyboardist Nick Smith is another dynamic performer who comes to the festival with extraordinary credentials. He has toured with some heavy hitters in the contemporary smooth jazz genre as well as soul and R&B artists. He stepped out front and center to lead a stellar group of musicians during his crowd pleasing set on "Tender Thoughts," "Monkish," "Mack's Blues," a Latin tinge "Caribbean" and concluded his set with the title track from his latest CD "It's Like That." His bandmate consisted of Nick Smith-keyboards, Kamasi Washington-sax, Vashon Johnson-bass, and Marvin "Smitty"Smith on drums.

Guitarist Nils showcased some smooth jazz grooves with an entertaining set on "Let's Groove," "Sara Smile," "Jump To It," "Europa," and "Get Down & Party" which could have served as the theme song for the 4th Annual Ultimate Jazz Festival.

The crowd and I willingly went back to school to be re-indoctrinated with some Old School Funk, R&B,and soul courtesy of Slave. Throughout their set the crowd were up and dancing on the tunes "We Like to Party With You," "Sizzlin' Hot," "Party Lites," "Baby,Wait For Me," "Watching You," and concluded with an oldie but a goodie "Slide."

The Rick James Stone City Band lead by trumpeter/vocalist La Morris Payne aka (LA SKY) and The Mary Jane Girls performed a special tribue to Rick James to close out day one of the festival.

The festival continued on Sunday with Cal Bennet, Tim Bowman, Paul Taylor, Kevin Toney and Sugarfoot's Ohio Players.

Celebrity Chef Mouton catered the meal for the VIP section and media. On Saturday,he served a mouthwatering array of dishes consisting of Blackened Chicken Breast topped with Sweet Chili Sauce, Grill Tilipia with Lemon Buttersauce, Veg Rice, Vegetarian Pasta, Red Pepper Cabbage and the proverbial icing on the cake featured an assorted Cup Cake display. Celebrity Chef Mouton also worked with E&B Lousiana Connection who served up some delicious catfish.

DJ and Event MC RJ-Ray James provided wonderful tunes in between acts. Leonard Robinson aka Enviro Bro engaged the audience with some Old School humor and enlightened the crowd with information about conserving energy and saving the environment in keeping with the mission and philosophy of the festival organizers. Gene Harris served as Master of Ceremonies. The 4th Annual Jazz to be Green was sponsored by Ontario Volkswagen.

Jazz to be Green is a non-profit public benefit corporation that promotes awareness of Energy Efficiency, Green Environment, and Green Jobs all through the Art of Jazz. Our goal is to develop partnerships with local utility companies to create the forum for shaing information on how our community can save money by using less energy during their daily activities and in their homes.

Posted by Peter Böhi at 6:46 AM

August 4, 2012

Jonathan Fritzen - Magical

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.

When Jonathan Fritzén’s highly acclaimed Diamonds made #1 on both the Billboard airplay charts and the sales chart it prompted legendary broadcaster Art Good to name Fritzén as his ‘debut artist of the year’. Maybe he was unaware that Fritzén’s first recording actually came in 2008 with the sumptuous Love Birds. With every one of its eleven original compositions reaching to the very core of what great smooth jazz should be it announced him as a performer of tremendous promise. Less than a year later Fritzén returned with the equally impressive VIP. Now, with the imminent release of his latest CD, the appropriately titled Magical, Fritzén seems all set to embark on another chapter of what is proving to be an outstanding career.

With Magical Fritzén’s talents as a composer, producer and performer are again all brilliantly on display. A case in point is the easy grooving title cut that finds Fritzén at his outstanding best and sublimely in tandem with sax-man Boney James who predictably leaves his mark all over this wonderful tune.

When Jackiem Joyner takes over on sax for the feel good flavor of ‘Love Will Overcome’ he assists Fritzén in checking every smooth jazz box imaginable while elsewhere the deliciously languid groove of ‘Sweet Spot’ owes much to the fabulous interplay between Fritzén and Paul Brown. Staying in mellow mode, the hugely cinematic ‘Angels’ proves just how effective Fritzén can be when shifting to a romantic vibe and this is also evident with the stunning ‘Nostalgia’. It combines elements of chill with marvelous melody in a way that only he can and in similar vein is the extremely sensuous ‘Nordic Night’. Later, when Fritzén calls on Darren Rahn (who also mixes the album) for the intensely poignant ‘Lullaby’ his contribution on sax serves as the perfect accompaniment to this heartfelt song and with ‘Cant Get You Out Of My Mind’ it’s the vocals of Danish singing star Malene Mortenson that pave the way to more of Fritzén’s superb playing on keys.

In the final analysis if anyone really wants to know what Jonathan Fritzén is all about they need look no further than the fabulous ‘Turn Back Time’. This vibrant number has that same catchy quality that typifies much of his best work and when the rapidly emerging Vincent Ingala becomes the last of four saxophonists to guest on ‘Magical’ his performance for ‘To The Top’ helps to create more of the delicious up-tempo same. However, all things considered there is nothing to surpass the rhythmic splendor of the superb ‘Electric’. Without doubt a contemporary jazz classic in the making, this is a track that is certain to make it into my top twenty of 2012.

With a street date of August 21, Magical comes hugely 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

Posted by Denis Poole at 4:49 PM

August 3, 2012

What We're Listening To ** July 2012

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Smile’ by Canadian guitarist Rob Tardik from his current album Balance Energy Laughter Love (aka BELL). This is proving to be a collection that keeps on giving as with the singles ‘East Meets Wes’ and ‘Shakin The House’ already having made a considerable impact on smooth jazz radio Smile’ seems all set to do just as well. Featuring Jaared on sax, this happy tune with a feel good vibe is sure to put a smile on the face of all those who hear it.

‘Namaste’ by Kenny G and Rahul Sharma from the CD of the same name. Although the title track to this interesting collection is already dominating the smooth jazz airwaves the version of it to really check all the boxes is a ‘Soul Seekers Club Mix’ that completely steals the show. Although the words Kenny G and ‘dance floor filler’ don’t often appear in the same sentence this one, despite all the odds, is an absolute gem.

‘All I Do’, by soulful saxophonist Jeanette Harris from the album, Saxified. Although this is a collection that first saw the light of day in 2010 it is only now getting the publicity it so richly deserves. Central to this refocusing is the brand new radio single ‘All I Do’ which is a silky cover of the Stevie Wonder composition that back in 1966 helped make Tammi Terrell a star. It is but one highlight of an album packed full of them.

‘In The City’ by Brian Culbertson from the album Dreams. From moody beginnings and with a killer bass line throughout this one is a certainty to be in my twenty top tunes of 2012.

‘Cougars’ by the Rippingtons from the soon to be released new CD Built To Last. This Latin spiced easy grooving number finds Freeman on guitar at the very center of a song which, when compared to past classics such as ‘Tourist In Paradise’, is very much Rippingtons on the reflective side.

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

Pat Metheny, Unity Band (Nonesuch) (2010)

Al Jarreau & The Metropole Orkest: Live (Concord Jazz) (2012)

Gerald Albright & Norman Brown, 24/7 (Concord Jazz) (2012)

Rico Belled, XR7 (Black Scratch Music) (2012)

Brian Culbertson, Dreams (Verve) (2012)

P E T E R * B O E H I

Marcus Miller - Tutu Revisited (2011)
This 2CD plus DVD set is one of the greatest albums to come along in a long time, I am repeatedly drawn back to this excellent set of musicianship by a killer band featuring trumpet player Christian Scott and saxophonist Alex Han, propelled by the masterful and funky bass of Marcus Miller. The album was recorded live in France and revisits Miles Davis' Tutu catalog, where Marcus Miller was Miles' musical partner. The often lengthy performances are out of this world with great solos by all involved and - above all - the rock solid and inspired bass playing of the leader who is on top of his game. A musical milestone!

Billy Kilson's BK Groove - Rhythm Dancer (2011)
Drummer Billy Kilson is a very unique drummer with a complex technique that impresses and delights, he tours with Chris Botti for years and does his own projects as well. This set was recorded live with a great band, additionally you get a DVD to add the visuals. This set has a similar spirit like the Marcus Miller album with its great playing and lengthy solos, the band delivers an outstanding performance to sink your teeth into. Excellent stuff!

Return To Forever - The Mothership Returns (2012)
Originally formed in 1971 and being on the forefront of fusion during the 70ies, this great band reunited with original members Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, plus Frank Gambale on guitar and Jean-Luc Ponty on violin, who perfectly fit the bill and form a cohesive and tight group that delivers flawlessly. The music was recorded live, you get a 2 CD set plus a DVD with some concert footage and interviews, the music is complex and challenging yet still groovy and accessible, the band has mellowed out a bit and gives the music more room to breathe, which is a welcome development. The songs are long and give each player ample room to stretch out. Simply wonderful!

Shilts - All Grown Up (2012)
Saxophonist Shilts comes up with a great slice of funky and groovy smooth jazz, the playing is just excellent and I especially like the pairing of sax and trombone on "The Test Of Time", this is an album that is really top-notch and heartily recommended. Thumbs up!

Yonrico Scott - Be In My World (2012)
This release by drummer Yonrico Scott seems to have come out of nowhere, it blew me away right from the start with its cool funkiness and strong compositions and playing. The songs are catchy and the instrumentals jazzy and interesting. Quality stuff from beginning to end!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 10:06 AM