Friday, July 30, 2004

New Jazz - August 03, 2004

Albert Ammons - Boogie Woogie Trio, Vol. 1-2
Birds of a Feather - Best of Birds of a Feather
Boney James - Pure
Bud Powell - Genius of the Bebop Piano: 1944-1951
Chad Lawson Trio - Unforeseen
Dizzy Gillespie - Early Years: 1937-1951
Duke Ellington - Jaywalker: 1966-1967
Duke Ellington - Treasury Shows, Vol. 10
Earl Hines - Early Years: 1923-1942
Ernie Hines - There Is a Way
Flip Phillips - Live! At the Beowulf
Jessica Williams - Real Deal
Jim Black & Alasnoaxis - Habyor
Jimmy Deuchar - Anglo/American/Scottish Connection
Joe Farnsworth - It's Prime Time
John Sheridan - Artistry 3
Pete Mills - Art and Architecture
Ranelin, Phil - Inspiration
Rob Wasserman - Trilogy
Stuff Smith - Hot Jazz Violin: 1917-1949
The Dixieland Ramblers - On Campus
The Necks - Boys
Treble Clef - Don't Stop Dreaming
Various Artists - Giants of Boogie Woogie: 1923-1941
Various Artists -  Legendary Jazz Trombonist: 1923-1946

Slow Songs Next For Brian Culbertson

Brian Culbertson says he'll slow it down on his next CD.

"This record will be, ah, for certain things," says smooth jazz pianist Brian Culbertson. "You know what I’m saying."

Culbertson is known for his energetic live performances. But when he goes back into the studio this fall after his extended tour, he plans to slow things down a bit. Brian says that, for his next album, he’s planning a concept album of “slow jams.” Brian’s current album called Come On Up is mixture of uptempo songs, with a ballad or two. The current single on the charts is the title song, “Come On Up,” which features Norman Brownon guitar and vocals.

“It'll get you in the mood and stay in the mood for the whole record," Culbertson says. "No uptempo crazy funkiness." 
Brian Soergel

Walter Beasley Pondering Retirement

Saxophonist Walter Beasley says he may retire from making music after his new contract with the Heads Up label expires. He says he wants to focus more on his teaching career at the Berklee College of Music.

Veteran saxophonist Walter Beasley, who recently signed a contract with the Heads Up record label and is now writing songs for his first album for them, says he’s thinking of retiring after recording a few more albums. Beasley is in his 40s and has recorded 10 albums.

As you may know, he is also a full-time associate professor of music at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he teaches courses in composition and contemporary jazz. He’ll be teaching an online hip-hop course in the fall, and is soon releasing instructional DVDs on his website, Walter admits that he has some disillusionment with the music industry, but says he also wants to focus even more of his life on teaching music.

“Whether I stay retired, you can just never tell," says Beasley. "I want to go out knowing that I made a difference and knowing that people knew that I was different type of saxophonist-slash-writer-vocalist or what have you than the rest of the bunch. And that’s the way I wanna end my musical career. I’ll teach – and that’s something that I would love to dedicate the rest of my life to. And that takes time. You can’t be in two places at one time.”
Brian Soergel

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Music services see upside to limited file-sharing

Free-for-all music sharing online has drawn the ire of the recording industry, but some commercial online music providers and even a few recording artists are opting to allow music fans to share the songs they've bought.

International jazz festival

The caliente rhythms of Latin jazz highlight the 14th annual Houston International Jazz Festival downtown this weekend.

The three-day event benefits jazz/music education and features legendary performers Poncho Sanchez and Eddie Palmieri. Also scheduled to play are smooth-jazz artists Brian Culbertson and Chris Botti.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Interview With Nathan East

From his long-term gig as Eric Clapton's bass man to his cornerstone role in the super-group Fourplay—featuring Bob James, Harvey Mason, and Larry Carlton (Lee Ritenour in its earlier incarnations)—Nathan East has proven himself one of his generation's most versatile, powerful, and subtle masters of the bass. He's played and written with the likes of Elton John, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Barry White, Al Jarreau, Lionel Richie, and Phil Collins, to name just a few. East has developed his own signature series bass with Yamaha, and has won Most Valuable Player (Bass Category) in the International Rock awards. He also won Bassist of the Year three times in the National Smooth Jazz Awards. Musician's Friend spoke with East just after the completion of his latest album with Fourplay and prior to his departure for a European tour with Eric Clapton.

August Releases

Gene Dunlap, Wassup? (Liquid 8, 8/3)
Jean Luc Ponty, In Concert (JLP, 8/3)
Dori Caymmi, Influencias (Trauma, 8/8)
George Howard, The Very Best Of George Howard (GRP, 8/10)
Larry Carlton, The Very Best Of Larry Carlton (GRP, 8/10)
Julia Fordham, That's Life (Vanguard, 8/10)
Soul Ballet, Dream Beat Dream (2CD) (215 Entertainment, 8/10)
Various, Groove Boutique:Volume One - A Seamless Blend of Smooth Jazzy Grooves (Tommy Boy, 8/10)
Incognito, Adventures In Black Sunshine (Narada Jazz, 8/10)
Marcus Johnson, Just Doing What I Do (Three Keys, 8/10)
Various, Undercover (2CD)(Hip Bop, 8/10)
Steve Smith & Vital Information, Come On In (Tone Center, 8/17)
Ed Calle, Ed Calle Plays Santana (Universal Music Latino, 8/17)
Jeff Kashiwa, Piece Of Mind (Native Language, 8/24)
Steve Oliver, 3-D (Koch, 8/24)
Geri Allen, Life Of A Song (Telarc, 8/24)
David Pack, TBA (Peak, 8/24)
Shades Of Soul featuring Jeff Lorber & Chris Botti (Narada, 8/24)
Chick Corea Elektric Band, To The Stars (Stretch,8/24)
Streetwize, The Slow Jamz Album (Shanachie, 8/24)
Michael Brecker/Joe Lovano/Dave Lieman, Saxophone Summit - Gathering Of Spirits (8/24)
Phillip Martin, 4 Point 0 (Carzino, 8/24)
Vlad, Vladosphere, (Orpheus, 8/31)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Harvey Mason "With All My Heart"

Drummer Harvey Mason plays host to a round table of pleasant trios here, but more particularly to a seminar of pianists cherry-picked from the upper tier of contemporary keyboard players. Mason is the linking factor, but never forces himself on anyone. His ear is sensitive and quick to accommodate the diversity of nuances his confreres offer, making this not exactly a drummer’s showcase but a pianist’s.
John McDonough,


Gato Barbieri

With an astounding 50 albums under his belt, 71-year-old Argentine jazz saxophonist Gato Barbieri is in no hurry to record another.
In fact, he may never set foot inside a recording studio again because of his disdain for record companies.
"I don't want to record anymore records," said the legendary performer in a recent conversation from his New York home.


Jazz saxophonist Illinois Jacquet dead at 81

Jacquet played "C-Jam Blues" with former President Bill Clinton, an amateur saxophonist, on the White House lawn during Clinton's inaugural ball in January 1993. He also performed for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.




Thursday, July 22, 2004

Crooner Sacha Distel dead at 71

The epitome of the suave, sophisticated Frenchman, Distel enjoyed a career stretching over almost half a century during which he sang, danced and played jazz guitar with some of the biggest names in showbusiness.
Among the stars he worked with were Liza Minelli, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones and Dionne Warwick.
In Britain, his television shows were such a hit he performed for Queen Elizabeth on three occasions.


Grooving with the 'Irreplaceable' George Benson

NPR's Tavis Smiley talks with the great George Benson about his long career and new album, Irreplaceable, which is dedicated to the younger crowd. Click on the title link to listen to the interview.




Wowed by Wilson

Now, as then, her elastic phrasing enables her to reshape lyrics at will. But she never loses the emotional essence of what she is singing, while the clarity of her delivery lets listeners savor the meaning and feeling behind every word. And she invests all of her songs with a musicality that is equal parts graceful sophistication and smoldering intensity.



Krall sleepwalks through gloomy set

The entertainer almost perversely denied the crowd what they wanted. "Peel Me a Grape!" one fan finally begged from the balcony toward the end of the evening. "No. ... I can't," Krall sighed, refusing to play the hit, then tried to joke her way out of it. "You pay these prices, and you think you can hear whatever you want."




Forever, For Always, For Luther

A host of the smooth jazz genre's biggest artists celebrate the music of Luther Vandross on "Forever, for Always, for Luther." Due July 27 via GRP, the 10-track album features Kirk Whalum, Boney James and George Benson and will raise funds and awareness for the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Vandross is recovering from a diabetes-related stroke suffered in April 2003.

Project producers Rex Rideout and Bud Harner, who have worked with Vandross over the years, enlisted artists to interpret song written or co-written by Vandross for the project. Ray Bardani mixed the set, a task he has performed for almost every release of Vandross' career.

Tenor saxophonist Whalum, who has contributed to six Vandross albums, opens the disc with his rendition of the 1988 hit "Any Love." Guitarist Benson tackles "Take You Out," while James interprets the vocal sounds of "Wait for Love" on saxophone.

Vocalist Lalah Hathaway, daughter of late soul singer Donny Hathaway, performs "Forever, for Always, for Love." The title track to Vandross' 1982 sophomore Epic album inspired the compilation's name.

"For Luther" also features contributions from Mindi Abair ("Stop To Love"), Paul Jackson Jr. ("Never Too Much"), Brian Culbertson and Dave Koz ("If Only for One Night") and up-and coming vocalist Ledisi ("My Sensitivity (Gets in the Way)." Rick Braun covers the title track of Vandross' most recent album, 2003's "Dance With My Father" (J), which earned the ailing artist four Grammy Awards.

Richard Elliot's version of "Your Secret Love" -- which also boasts Vandross' longtime backup singers Lisa Fischer, Cindy Mizelle, Brenda White-King and Fonzi Thornton -- will be the set's first radio single.

In conjunction with the release, the ADA will launch the "Write a Love Letter to Luther" campaign, inviting fans to pen a note to Vandross, as well as make a contribution to the organization's Forever, For Always, For Luther Fund.

A benefit concert tied to the compilation is being planned for October, with a similar Los Angeles event also possible. Details were unavailable at deadline.

Here is the full "Forever, for Always, for Luther" track list:

"Any Love," Kirk Whalum
"Never Too Much," Paul Jackson Jr.
"Wait for Love," Boney James
"Forever, for Always, for Love," Lalah Hathaway
"Stop To Love," Mindi Abair
"If Only for One Night," Dave Koz & Brian Culbertson
"My Sensitivity (Gets in the Way)," Ledisi
"Your Secret Love," Richard Elliot
"Take You Out," George Benson
"Dance With My Father," Rick Braun

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Jazz pianist James Williams dies

From 1977 to 1981, he was a member of Blakey's band, playing with such artists as Wynton Marsalis and Bobby Watson and appearing on 10 albums. He also recorded a number of albums as frontman, including "Alter Ego" (1984) and "Awesome!" (2000), with the Magical Trio.

Free iPods for Duke students

The school has set up a Web site modeled on Apple's iTunes music site that will allow students to download recorded lectures, audio books, language lessons and other course content.
At $30k+/year I guess they can afford to give them away

Novecento "Dreams Of Peace"

A generation ago Stanley Jordan burst on the scene with a revolutionary two-handed solo guitar technique that blew away anyone who witnessed it. Once the initial awe began to subside, the question of just what he could do in a full band context inevitably formed in the listener's mind. The answer suggested by this recent collaboration with the group Novecento is: whatever he damn well wants to. The songs here come in various flavors, and Jordan invariably finds a way to blend in with all of them.
The opening "Tell Me Something" could've come off sounding something like Kate Bush with its plaintive vocal from Dora Nicolosi and wispy string section; with Jordan on board it comes across more like a lost recording from Phil Keaggy's Glass Harp. "Flying to the Sky" and "Easy Love" are smooth jazz grooves worthy of George Benson. "Sky Flower" and "Dreams of Peace" recall Tom Coster-era Santana, the latter showing that Stanley can play the blues, too. But it should go without saying that while Jordan's playing seems to be informed by all these greats, he sounds more like himself than anything.
What's most impressive about Jordan's playing here is the way that the guitarist mixes up his trademark tapping approach with more traditional techniques. His solos and fills on "Too Close to the Sun," also featuring some fine playing from Guy Barker on Flugel horn, are proof of that and of musical growth on the part of Jordan. "Spring" is an exhibition of shredding as dexterous anything tried by Buckethead and the heavy metal legion of doom.
While Jordan plays on all nine tracks, there are cameos scattered throughout the recording by such players as Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker and Danny Gottlieb. And, of course, the show really belongs to Novecento even if Jordan does steal it as often as not. The core of the group are the four Nicolosi siblings on guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals. Their competently written and executed music should appeal to fans of contemporary jazz, while Stanley Jordan's return to recording makes this an event for guitar players and those who worship at that particular altar.
Ted Kane

A groovin' tribute to Grover Washington

When Grover Washington Jr. and Jeff Lorber were in their '70s and '80s salad days, folks called their music fusion. Those players, and others who came after, made their living with sounds steeped deeply in jazz but including elements of more commercial genres.

It wasn't easy being a pioneer. On Monday night, decades after the advent of Washington's music and five years after his untimely death, keyboardist Lorber and three of Washington's musical heirs came together at the Dell East to celebrate and shed light on the career of the unique Philadelphia saxophonist.

Starting a tour called Groovin' for Grover, Lorber and saxophonists Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Paul Taylor paid homage to Washington, whose widow, children and grandchild were in the house.

The first set was devoted to each musician's repertoire.

Cheltenham native Lorber contributed a quiet, stormy set. The saxophonists, all of whom play what's now called smooth jazz, displayed disparate, highly personal styles, and archival footage that ran during intermission showed that Washington could out-improvise them all.

The show didn't coalesce until the sax players attacked Washington's material.

As did Washington, Albright has proved his mainstream jazz chops, and was by far the class of the night. On alto and tenor, he was adventurous, soulful and gutsy, going so far as to chant and breathe into his horn while playing rhythms with his fingers.

Elliot was all emotion and angst, playing each note as if he would burst if he weren't allowed to blow his tiger-striped horn.

Poor Taylor, who was competent and hip throughout (dropping Prince quotes into "Let It Flow"), seemed little more than a deer in the headlights compared with Albright and Elliot.

Toward the end, after the band kicked into the Washington standard "Mr. Magic," the battles between Elliot and Albright intensified, then resolved in an amicable stalemate. The Washington canon was the better for it.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Everette Harp - All For You

Everette's A440 debut will be released today July 20, 2004 and includes guest performances from Norman Brown, Earl Klugh, Paul Jackson Jr., Dwight Sills, and George Duke.
“I’m really back to doing what I do best on this record, which is take some great tunes and play to the heart of the song in the way that the song dictates, not being influenced by anything else happening in the genre,” says the saxman. “Every song doesn’t have to have a whole story behind it, but it has to touch a chord and I’ve really got to like it, whether I wrote it or not. I like to add some blowing solo sections to create more of a player’s vibe, because I didn’t get into this genre just to play nice melodies. I did it because I love jazz, and the adventurous nature of improvisation. My whole career, I’ve had a good time combining contemporary R&B with improv elements, and that’s the kind of energy I wanted on All For You.”

Monday, July 19, 2004

Doc Powell - Cool Like That

On the opening track "Push" Powell's limber fretwork is nicely complimented by Kirk Whalum's torrid tenor sax stylings. Powell augments several selections with different saxophonists and trumpet players sitting in. What I appreciate most about Powell's playing is that while it's passionate, it's not overpowering. His vocal skat on the title track, "Cool Like That" glides along with the guitar and compliments it. It's nice to hear a artist that is so confident in his technique that he doesn't have to overpower you with a monsoon of notes and "Hey-look-at-me" solos. [Click on the title above for the full review from Jeff Winbush - ]

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Upcoming Jazz Releases

Browse for new Jazz releases. Information can be searched by month, new or reissues, name or record label. Provided by:

Friday, July 16, 2004

Private Brubeck Remembers

In early 2004, Dave Brubeck reminisced about his days as a soldier during World War II for this two-CD set, playing solo piano interpretations of songs from that era. Brubeck, then recently married and promptly drafted after graduating from the College of the Pacific, almost ended up in combat before getting an opportunity to play with an army band, which caused a music-loving colonel to install the young private as director of the band. The music chosen seems to convey a special message to his wife, Iola, with bittersweet ballads ("For All We Know"), a jaunty "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)," and the dreamy interpretation of "Where or When." A surprising choice is "Lilly Marlene," a European song frequently played by Nazi propagandist broadcaster Axis Sally, which Brubeck is able to play in a lush setting. After the Germans succeeded in destroying nearly every bridge which crossed the Rhine River into their homeland in advance of the Allies, the bridge at Remagen was finally captured, though Brubeck's unit had to make due with a pontoon bridge due to its damaged state. His "We Crossed the Rhine" is a tense piece that evokes the still-dangerous conditions as they made their way into Germany. "Weep No More" is Brubeck's poignant ballad to his wife to let her know that he is out of danger for good, with the war in Europe at an end. He concludes the first disc with a dramatic interpretation of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." Walter Cronkite and Brubeck are old friends, and it is fun to hear their conversation about the pianist's early years and life in the army. He shares both funny and scary anecdotes from his days as a soldier. This limited-edition release is one of the most unique items in Brubeck's considerable discography, and should be snapped up without hesitation. Review by Ken Dryden

John Scofield 'EnRoute'

John Scofield Trio: Live -- EnRoute (Verve).In the past several years, John Scofield has zigzagged between funky forays such as 2002's Überjam and last year's all-star post-bop summit Oh!, reaching out to new audiences with the former and continuing to create challenging jazz with the latter. With EnRoute, a live session recorded at New York City's Blue Note nightclub, the distinctive guitarist is heard at his very best: onstage with a rhythm section that does considerably more than keep time.Scofield is joined by longtime associates Steve Swallow on bass and Bill Stewart on drums, and the results are nothing less than magic. The opening track sets the tone, as the threesome digs into Denzil Best's Wee. The guitarist dances exuberantly atop slinky bass figures and cymbal splashes.With this team behind him, Scofield unleashes the biting tones and coloristic but never overused effects that make his style identifiable from note one. Lyrical and easy-flowing original compositions such as Toogs, Hammock Soliloquy and It Is Written showcase the guitarist's bright and engaging melodies at the core of these extended group improvisations.Although the trio obviously enjoys traveling fast -- especially on the breakneck, space-age bebop of Swallow's Name That Tune -- they cool out on an exquisite read of the Bacharach-David ballad Alfie.EnRoute concludes with the joyous Over the Big Top, perhaps the most jam-band-like tune here, but the lengthy groove never falls into overindulgence thanks to the brilliant interplay between Scofield and Stewart. That creative group dynamic marks EnRoute as one of the guitarist's most satisfying recordings. -- Bob Weinberg

'Lightning In A Bottle'

Two discs worth of highlights from the historic February 2003 "Salute to the Blues" concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall will hit stores this fall. "Lightning in a Bottle" is due Sept. 21 via Columbia/Legacy. A concert film of the same name, directed by Antoine Fuqua, will open Oct. 15 in U.S. theaters via Sony Classics.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Latin Grammy nominations

Household names took a back seat at the Latin Grammy nominations Wednesday, as Brazilian jazz singer Maria Rita and Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes collected four nods each while producer Tom Capone had five.

Jazz sales lift music business blues

The typical jazz album, of course, sells fewer than 5,000 copies, and 20,000 is considered a big success, far lower expectations than for a pop album. At the same time, production costs are also much lower, with a two-day jazz recording session and follow-up production costing roughly $30,000.

The relative marketing costs for a jazz album mirror those of a pop album -- about 15 percent of sales. These days, however, jazz can be used to sell non-jazz albums.

"Jazz is being used as a marketing term," said Adam Sieff, Sony Music's director of jazz for UK and Europe. "An awful lot of records that aren't really jazz records are being called that because it's an opportunity to have a loose association with something that's become slightly hip again."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Larry Coryell - Tricycles

Jazz über guitarist Larry Coryell has been hinting at a studio set like this for a long time now: a solid, top to bottom six-string jazz date with a crack rhythm section. Drummer Paul Wertico was on board for the dates that produced the Power Trio album, but the addition of bassist Mark Egan in the studio balances this equation perfectly. Interestingly, Wertico and Egan are both former sidemen from the Pat Metheny Group (albeit at different times). One thing both players have in common, and makes them so integral here, is their love of lyricism. Coryell, who has an astonishing variety of styles at his ready disposal, concentrates on it here in spades. Whether the tune is a smoking, bluesy swinger like the opener "Immer Geradeaus," the ultramodern "Good Citizen Swallow," that graces the edge of soft jazz-rock but never goes there, or the edgy arpeggiattic workout in "Spaces Revisited," the deeply haunting read of Monk's "Round Midnight," Coryell is virtually singing through his instrument. His focus on sonority and lush harmonic extrapolations is given weight by his rhythm section, who dance and weave around one another as a unit. The balance of Tricycles is its most startling aspect. These cats sound like they've been playing together for decades. Nuance, impression, and subtle suggestion are all incorporated in the mix for a wonderful melodic approach to modern creative jazz. The other Monk tune here, "Well You Needn't," is given an entirely new dimension by this approach because Coryell can concentrate on Monk's extrapolated harmonic ideas in his solo, yet roots the entire thing in a deft, gritty, bluesy frame. This is a straight-ahead date that is full of fresh ideas and compositions, as well exciting playing that points toward a new era for Coryell, and it numbers among his finest recordings.
Review by Thom Jurek - AMG

Boney James .... Pure

Pure, the ninth Warner Bros. album from saxophonist Boney James, is aptly named. It's pure in spirit, vision and in the grooves.
Often criticized by jazz purists for his smooth, R&B-influenced vibes, James keeps right on going, producing one hit album after another. The new album, due for release in August, his first as his own producer. In the process, he co-wrote every song, played a variety of instruments and chose some excellent voices to help realize his vision: Bilal, Dwele, Ledisi and newcomer Debi Nova.

Being in charge empowered James to follow his muse wherever it led - something he could never do completely, until now. As a result, this album has a few surprise, and it also reflects the more freewheeling approach he takes in his concerts.

Whether working with singers or world-class musicians, such as Joe Sample, whose solo on Stone Groove is an album highlight, James emerges as an impresario equipped to manage every element of the creative process - from concept to final mix.

Click the link above for the interview with

Wayman Tisdale - Hang Time

When Wayman Tisdale released his first CD almost 10 years ago, he was still scoring points and grabbing rebounds as a professional basketball player. Music seemed like something he wanted to try on the side. With the release of Hang Time, Tisdale’s fifth and strongest CD to date, it’s clear that music is where his heart is and that he’s long-since earned the right to be called a serious musician.

On his debut for Dave Koz’s Rendezvous Entertainment, Tisdale shows that the chosen instrument, the bass, is just fine for the lead instrument. He plays it like a guitar – like Brian Bromberg and Nelson Braxton of the Braxton Brothers and says he wants his bass to sound like a “melodic vocalist.” He succeeds wonderfully. Hang Time features a mix of 12 funk, old-school-cool and up-to-date R&B songs that boast collaborations with Koz, producer Jeff Lorber (“Creative Juices,” “Everything in You,” “Off Into It”), longtime friend and gospel music producer Tracy Carter (vocal arranger for Oprah Winfrey talent-contest winner LaShell Griffin) and Pieces of Dream co-founder James Lloyd, who wrote and produced the title track.

Tisdale loves the great R&B songs of the ‘70s. As he did with his No. 1 song “Can’t Hide Love” from his last CD, Face to Face, Tisdale reaches back into that for two cover songs: the McFadden and Whitehead dance classic “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” and Smokey Robinson’s seminal “Crusin’,” where you can really hear how Tisdale makes his bass sing. On the Koz collaboration “Better Days,” Tisdale picks the melodic lead on the bass in time with Koz’s sax. On “My World,” a ballad featuring a charming passage mimicking a children’s playground sing-song challenge, Tisdale plays all instruments as well as the bass: acoustic guitar, keyboards and drum programming. The CD closes with “Glory Glory,” a song Tisdale originally wrote and sang on for a gospel CD he released in 2003 called 21 Days. This is a slam dunk. Smooth grade: A -

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

'Forever, For Always, For Luther' Vandross

The CD Forever, For Always, For Luther is dedicated to vocal legend Luther Vandross. A number of smooth jazz artists take turns paying tribute to Vandross, who is recovering from a diabetes-related stroke he suffered in 2003. Singer Lalah Hathaway and Rex Rideout, one of the project's producers, join NPR's Tavis Smiley to talk about the CD project.

MP3 blogs serve rare songs

Bloggers have done the hunting for you: Even the most popular MP3 blogs have no more than a few thousand visitors per day. Perhaps because of their size, or because they don't tend to offer mainstream pop, they have mostly escaped the Recording Industry Association of America's crackdown on illicit downloading.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Missing photos

From time to time you may see blank areas where obviously photographs should appear, or photos may be very slow to load. Unfortunately many of these photographs are hosted by a service that of late has had some hardware issues. I'm going to stick it out for now in the hope that things improve. In the meantime sorry about the unattractive posts or slow service.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Orchestra goes underwater

Alfonso, right, directs divers pretending to play replicas of musical instruments.It must be the heat here: "We wanted to come up with a cultural event to combine music and the coral reefs of the Keys," Becker said. "We use a lot of New Age music. It just seems to sound good underwater."

Happy birthday Newport

Groundbreaking jazz festival celebrates 50 swinging years :"George Wein has enabled Newport to survive with just hard work and not giving up," said 83-year-old pianist-composer Dave Brubeck, who has appeared at Newport more times than any other artist, starting in 1955. "The Newport festival was the beginning of a new way to present jazz."

Nazi-Era Swing and Jazz CD

Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party took a dim view of jazz and swing music, yet the regime used it in their propaganda campaigns. Kyle James reports on a new CD, released in Germany, that recaptures the music from this conflicted era.
NPR Feature Audio

Friday, July 09, 2004

Anita Baker

Songstress Anita Baker has been away for much too long—10 years, in fact. Fortunately, "You're My Everything"—the first peek into the artist's new album ("My Everything," due Sept. 7)—finds her giving listeners the best that she's got. This is vintage Baker, with the artist recapturing the warmth and elegance of such now-classic songs as "Caught Up in the Rapture" and "Sweet Love." One of those rare one-listen songs, "You're My Everything" reels in listeners with rich orchestral flourishes, a catchy chorus and that voice. Just try ignoring the emotion in Baker's voice when she sings, "Just wanna hold you/How I adore you/You got that special touch." It's for very good reason that smooth jazz and adult R&B radio formats are already championing this one.—MP

Benson material "immature".

Young singers sometimes end up sounding unconvincing because they choose songs that are too mature for them. But on Irreplaceable, 61-year-old George Benson achieves the same result by picking material that is too immature for him.

Benson is made over here in an urban-contemporary, R and B mould, spiced with some hip-hop grooves, covering ground already harvested by R. Kelly, Usher and Brian McKnight.

The most irreplaceable person on this CD is not Benson but songwriter-producer Joshua P. Thompson, who has crafted hits for Luther Vandross and Alicia Keys, among others. He shares writing and producing credits on seven of the 10 tunes and plays guitar and other instruments on various tracks. Many of the lush, multilayered tracks rely too much on vocal harmonies and drum programming, overshadowing Benson's vocals and guitar playing.

Benson also is saddled with overly saccharine lyrics, for example, on the opening title track: "You've got my heart banging like an 808 / More than just sensational / You are irreplaceable."

The best of these tracks include the flamenco-spiced soul ballad Strings of Love, on which Benson plays acoustic guitar, and the pop song Stairway to Love, on which Benson's singing is at its jazziest and Gregoire Maret adds a stirring harmonica solo.

Benson appears to have had second thoughts about this CD, because its U.S. release was repeatedly delayed. Three tracks were dropped from the version released in Britain and replaced with three instrumental tracks in the smooth jazz vein that Benson helped create -- Take You Out, a tribute to Vandross, Arizona Sunrise and Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise. They rate among the CD's highlights, although they don't match up to Benson's best smooth jazz jams like Breezin'.

(Reviewed by Charles J. Gans, AP)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Aretha Leads Detroit Jazz Fest Lineup

Aretha Franklin, Ramsey Lewis, George Benson and Lou Rawls will anchor the lineup for the 25th anniversary edition of the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival. The event will be held Sept. 4-6 in the city's Hart Plaza.

"Surely everyone knows about Detroit being the birthplace of the automotive industry and the Motown sound, but for some unknown reason the rest of the city's illustrious musical history still remains a bit of a mystery and best kept secret to those on the outside looking in," says festival artistic director Frank Malfitano. "Fact is, this is also one helluva jazz town."

The event will feature a tribute to legendary drummer Elvin Jones, who died in May. Other confirmed acts include saxophonist James Carter, drummers Chico Hamilton and Louis Hayes, Barbara Ware, the Brubeck Brothers Band, Larry Coryell and local high school ensembles.

Franklin will sing selections from Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, according to the Detroit Free Press. For the full lineup, visit the festival's official website

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

Walter Beasley Signs To New Label

Saxophonist Walter Beasley is label-less no more, as he's signed a deal with the Heads Up label.

Veteran saxophonist Walter Beasley has signed a contract with the Heads Up label and this month is beginning to write new songs for his first album on his new label. The new album will be the follow-up to Go With the Flow from 2003, which was on the N-Coded label and included the hit “West Hamilton Groove.”

Before that, Walter – who is a music professor at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston – recorded four albums with the Shanachie label. Walter is joining a Heads Up roster that is also home to, among others, Pieces of a Dream, Nestor Torres, Joyce Cooling, Spyro Gyra and Doc Powell.

One of the reasons Walter Beasley signed with the Heads Up label was the chance to work with someone he really admires.

“I’m looking forward to working actually with James Lloyd, the keyboardist of Pieces of a Dream," Beasley says. "His writing and his arrangement is just so beautiful and so different that I’m looking forward to working with him specifically. I’m looking to get deeper into Walter Beasley by, you know, using other people to do it.”

Jeff Lorber's 'Shades of Soul'

Ten years ago, Jeff Lorber started recording a CD by a group he called Shades of Soul. It was never released. But the group's time has come, and now it has Chris Botti.

Almost 10 years after recording began, an album by a group called Shades of Soul with Jeff Lorber will finally see the light of day. It was back in 1995 that pianist and composer Lorber got together with guitarist Marion McClain and bassist Nathaniel Phillips, who both briefly played with the Dazz Band of "Whip It" fame, and began work on an album. Guests included saxophonist Art Porter, who drowned in November 1996, vocalist Terry Stanton from the popular Hidden Beach label compilations and saxophonist Patrick Lamb.

In 2000, Lorber recruited trumpet player Chris Botti to play on several tracks, as well. Lorber says he received several offers to release the 11-song CD, a mix of old-school funk and smooth jazz that includes a cover of Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Love Come Down", but didn't feel the time was right until now. For Porter fans, the album gives them a chance to hear the saxophonist play on songs that have never been released. Shades of Soul's debut, self-titled CD will be released August 24th on the Narada Jazz label. The first single is called "Gazpacho."

Shades of Soul

1. All Night Long
2. Then and Now
3. Enjoy Yourself
4. Gazpacho
5. Love Come Down
6. We Got To Live Together
7. Get Wid' It
8. San Vicente
9. Shades of Soul
10. Gangsta Jam
11. Hey Uh

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Mindi Abair, making her mark

Mindi Abair has defied the odds "It's the only thing I ever wanted to be," said Abair of her determination to be a professional musician. "There was never a doubt that music would play an integral part in my life. There was never one point when I thought, 'This is what I'm going to do.' It was what I did."

Down To The Bone

Down To The BoneSmooth Jazz News Cover Story: "They're the experts on instrumentation, and the pros onstage, not me", says Wade, who masterminds the inimitable DTTB sound but doesn't play an instrument himself. "I let them have control over the sound, but if I hear something I don't like, I can suggest changes. I like to be here for a morale thing as well, to keep the sessions moving."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

CDs stage a comeback, but can it last?

A new lease on life for music CDs but for how long?: "Today, sales are growing because the economy and the job market are strong, CD prices have dropped, and the industry has once again re-connected with consumers. Hot sellers include country, Latin and classical music. But analysts said there's another, seemingly paradoxical, explanation for the recent sales increase: digital downloads, the music industry's sworn enemy. "

Michael Lington - Stay With Me

Michael LingtonSaxophonist Michael Lington’s CD’s just seem to be getting better with each release. Stay With Me is chalked full of beautiful songs. It’s like one after the other. It is also a combination of strongly written material with top notch musicianship that makes this disc a winner. Extras include appearances by Brian Culbertson, Chuck Loeb, Wendy Moten, Michael Sembello. Paul Jackson, Jr. and Paul Brown. The first track is one of the most up beat tracks of the CD with a Dave Koz type bouncy feel. (Hey why not, Rendezvous Records is partially owned by Koz.) You can tell instantly why this was the first radio single. Strong and catchy. “Don’t Go” has this soul taste with background vocals by Wendy Moten doing a Mindi Abair type of approach. It works. “Pacifica” might be just one of my favorites on the disc. It has Brown on acoustic guitar and the song has Lington playing like a West Coast California bounce. The title track is very romantic, very passionate and very heartfelt. There are some loving vocals here, but they are not necessarily needed. The song is one of the prettier songs among many on the CD. The lone cover is a very big production of Paul McCartney’s “My Love.” You can tell that Lington wanted to do it justice. Ten songs in all on Stay With Me. If Lington keeps making records like this he should do well on both the radio and Billboard charts. --Jeff Charney

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Ninth Guitars & Saxes concert tour

Smooth jazz stars ready

For the past nine years, one of the most popular attractions for adult summer concert goers is the Guitars & Saxes tour, which features the collaborative efforts of four smooth jazz stars. This year's edition is certain to be a highly entertaining crowd pleaser as guitarists Marc Antoine and Jeff Golub will make the trek with saxophonists Euge Groove and Warren Hill.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Record biz stops singing the blues

Album sales increase 7% through the first half of 2004; growth seen for next several years.

U.S. album sales for the first half of 2004 are running 7 percent ahead of last year's midway point, putting the recording industry well on track to end a three-year slump, Nielsen SoundScan reported Thursday.

Album sales during the first six months of this year totaled 305.7 million units, up from 285.9 million sold from January through June of 2003, according to the retail tracking service.

With the heaviest retail period still to come in the holiday season, the music industry is expected to finish 2004 above 2003's tally, after three straight years of declining sales blamed on rampant piracy, a sluggish economy overall and competition from other media.

The best-selling albums have come from a diverse range of acts, led by Usher, whose blockbuster release "Confessions" has spent nine weeks at the top of the charts and sold 4.5 million copies, according to SoundScan. Rounding out the top five were jazz/pop vocalist Norah Jones, country star Kenny Chesney, rock band Evanescence and the hip-hop duo OutKast.

Meanwhile, growth in digital downloads has exploded, with nearly 54 million tracks purchased during the first 26 weeks of this year. At that rate, Internet song sales are on their way to crossing the 100 million threshold by year's end, Nielsen SoundScan said.

By comparison, SoundScan reported just 19.2 million paid downloads during the second half of last year -- the first six months it began tracking digital distribution. On a weekly basis, digital downloads have grown from 300,000 to an average of about 2.4 million.

OutKast led the pack for online song sales with more than 321,000 downloads of its hit single "Hey Ya!" since June 2003, followed by Maroon5's "This Love," Hoobastank's "The Reason," Britney Spears' "Toxic" and No Doubt's "It's My Life."

In terms of album sales, SoundScan said the genres showing the hottest year-to-year growth through June were classical, Latin, alternative and country.

According to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report cited in Daily Variety, growth in recorded music is projected to continue during the next several years.

Rapper Jadakiss was the latest artist to top the U.S. pop album charts, selling nearly 246,000 copies of his sophomore solo release "Kiss of Death" its first week in stores. Usher's "Confessions" held steady at No. 2

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Will the new Walkman run over iPod?

More songs, plays longer, costs less.

As with Sony's other players, the NW-HD1 plays songs in the company's proprietary ATRAC format only, meaning it is not compatible with other online stores and cannot play tunes in the popular MP3 format.

Montreal jazz fest in its 25th year

Montrealers love to brag about their jazz festival.

It's the best and the biggest, we'll boast, as we spill into the streets around Place des Arts today to celebrate the official arrival of summer in Montreal with 12 days of intense music and partying.