December 28, 2012

23rd annual Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest

The 23rd annual Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest will be held April 5-14, 2013 in Reading, PA. Like every year, the best smooth jazz and related genres have to offer will be featured at this event. Festival general manager John Ernesto put together another stellar lineup that will entertain crowds in various venues accross town, supported by a large number of volunteers helping to make this event run as smoothly as possible. For me, the Berks Jazz Fest has become an event that gets fixed in my calender each year, knowing that I will not only be musically delighted, but also meet friends and artists - many of whom I know for many years - making this look like a family reunion.

For this year's lineup, please check the Major Concert Schedule, highlights I would like to single out are Brian Hughes, Keiko Matsui, Najee with Alex Bugnon, Gerald Veasley's Sounds Of Philly project, Brian Bromberg, Incognito with Maysa, Kim Waters with Chante Moore, Lee Ritenour, Fourplay, Esperanza Spalding, Chuck Loeb (with an incredible all-star band), the awesome and unique Berks All-Star Jazz Jam, Peter White, Gerald Albright & Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum and Marcus Johnson, Brian Culbertson (offering a dynamic new show), Jonathan Butler, Marc Antoine - the list goes on and on!

More information can be found at http://www.berksjazzfest.com. See you there!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 7:25 PM

December 26, 2012

What We're Listening To ** December 2012

D E N I S * P O O L E

‘Just Kickin It’ by sax-man Rob White from the CD of the same name. This groove drenched cut is one of the best recordings of the year and certain to herald big things for this talented player.

‘Sunday Jam’ by Jackiem Joyner from his latest release Church Boy. The magic of Joyner is best summed up by this smoothly grooving cut that should not only be the perfect song for Sunday morning listening but also an ideal accompaniment for a Sunday afternoon drive.

Well it is Christmas time and I have to admit to having a certain seasonal weakness for the timeless ‘Baby, It's Cold Outside’ that despite being written in 1944 carries with it a festive charm which never gets old. Up until now my favorite version has always been that recorded by James Taylor in collaboration with Natalie Cole and hidden away on Taylor’s little known CD ‘A Christmas Album’ which was only ever available from Hallmark stores. However, right up there with it is a brand new and very different interpretation by soul icons Jeffrey Osborne and Chaka Khan. In fact it is the first single from Osborne’s upcoming project A Time For Love and is sure to be a sumptuous stocking filler for the holiday season.

‘The Way You Smile’ by Carl Stanley from the album A Beautiful Thing. This mid tempo smoker shimmers with a totally compelling vibe and is a joy from beginning to end.

‘Marvin’s Medley’ by Andre Ward from his new album Caution. Refreshingly different and built round snippets of Gaye’s 1976 smash ‘I Want You To Want Me’, this is far from your usual revamp of Marvin Gaye staples and with an arrangement that sizzles with an authentic Motown vibe it’s a track that is sure to unite fans of classic soul and smooth jazz in a coming together of mutual appreciation.


P E T E R * B O E H I

David Wildi Guitar Poetry - The Inner Star (2012)
Swiss guitarist David Wildi comes up with a relaxed jazzy guitar album, featuring the excellent playing of the leader and some great solos by the band. The music is funky and groovy, the melodies are catchy, very nice indeed! Check it out!

J.A.M. - Jazz Acoustic Machine (2012)
This japanese piano trio combines ultra funky grooves with fender rhodes and piano, the tracks are simple and up to the point, the playing is great and entertaining. Check out "Sing Without You", excellent stuff!

Lee Ritenour - Rhythm Sessions (2012)
Guitarist Lee Ritenour returns to his roots of funky fusion, this CD offers plenty of top-notch guitar playing supported by a stellar cast. Skip the few introspective tracks and you get plenty of the good stuff!

Nighthawks - Live In Hamburg (2012)
Chill-Out/Lounge band Nighthawks are a great act, this album was recorded live in Germany and features some mesmerizing tracks featuring the trademark jazzy trumpet playing by Rainer Winterschladen and lots of Pink Floyd-like guitar solos. Cannot get enough!

Alexander Zonjic - Romance With You (1989)
Flautist Alexander Zonjic - having played with Bob James for years - released this LP in 1989, he is supported by Bob James and several players from his band and label, like Gary King, Yogi Horton, Mark Colby and - last but not least - Earl Klugh. This LP sounds like some of the best stuff Bob James released during his Tappan Zee period. A classic!

Posted by Peter Böhi at 1:11 PM

December 23, 2012

Euge Groove - House Of Groove

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 2009 that smooth jazz superstar Euge Groove partnered with Shanachie Records for the release of the delightful Sunday Morning. Two years later he was back with the highly acclaimed S7even Large and if his latest project is anything to go by the creatively friendly surroundings that the label provides are suiting him just fine. Titled House Of Groove the album is everything one has come to expect from an artist who, with his 2000 self titled debut, really hit the ground running and truth to tell has been running ever since. It is his eighth solo recording and one which artistically finds him very much in control. He writes or co-writes all ten tracks, produces throughout and carries out mixing duties in the good company of long time mentor Paul Brown. Not only is this a collection that confirms his position as being in the very highest echelons of contemporary jazz but is also one of the best recordings of the year so far.

Indeed, from the first note of the first tune (the charmingly relaxed ‘Knock Knock Who’s There?’) there is no mistaking that here is Euge Groove at his familiar best. In fact much of this sumptuous CD can best be described as being ‘easy on the ear’ and this is particularly so with ‘Fellowship Hall’ where a piano solo from Tracy Carter really gets the job done.

Think funky, think very funky, and you will pretty much get what the high octane title cut is all about and although this is a style that serves Groove well he quickly slips back into a more melodic disposition for the aptly named ‘Old Edu (Old School)’. In similar vein is ‘Faithful Central’ which benefits from a nice guitar solo from Paul Brown and while ‘Lampin’ It’ opens with a wonderfully seductive vibe it quickly expands into a fine free flowing example of mid tempo smooth jazz.

House Of Groove features three vocally orientated numbers with the first being the tranquil ‘God Bless You’ where Kate Milner Moebel’s warm tones fit perfectly with Groove’s tender playing. Even better is the super soul charged ‘It’s Only Rain’ for which Chioma, (born in Africa, raised in Europe and now living in New York City), is a complete revelation.

The track is further blessed by trumpet from East Bay Soul’s Lee Thornberg yet in terms of personal favorites the rolling hypnotic quality of ‘Indian Summer’ marks it out as being right up there with the best that House Of Groove has to offer. However, just as good is the magnificent ‘Never Met A Woman (Like You)’. Soulful vocals from the always excellent Jeffrey Osborne totally hit the spot and in terms of crossover urban jazz it really doesn’t get better than this.

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 6:08 PM