Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Dave Burrell 'Expansion'

Recorded at the tail end of 2003, Expansion features pianist/composer Dave Burrell's new Full-Blown Trio, which includes drummer Andrew Cyrille and the nearly ubiquitous William Parker on bass. These seven selections — all but one composed by the pianist — range in mood, tone, and focus. The title track opens the disc; it's a knot-like composition that swings on a round of post-blues concerns and vanguard explorations of harmony. Parker's bass playing is the force of transition from one motif to another throughout. The delightful version of Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful," is the literal centerpiece of the record. A solo piece, it holds to the original's melody while stretching its rhythmic dynamic to the breaking point without changing the actual time signature. Burrell's fills between the lyric lines are humorous, warm, and dazzling. Parker opens "In the Balance," by playing the kora, offering both mode and melody, while Cyrille shimmers on the cymbals behind him and Burrell extrapolates the harmonics in the upper register of the piano. It's the most beautiful — and non-"jazz" track — on the set. Expansion closes with the nearly straight-ahead swing of "Coup d'Etat," with Burrell pacing the rhythm section in angular (though not dissonant), Lennie Tristano-esque intervals. Expansion is a lovely record of short to mid-length pieces by a trio versed in understatement and nuance. (AMG)
Click on the title link to listen an audio review of the CD by Kevin Whitehead

Anita Baker Is Back

You could be excused late last month if for a moment - however brief - you thought a time machine had whisked you back to the soulful 1980s. After all, an Anita Baker song jumped to No. 12 on Radio & Records’ smooth jazz charts and a George Benson instrumental shot up to number one.
Of course it really is 2004, and those two musical icons are indeed sizzling, Benson with “Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise” and Baker with “You’re My Everything.” But although Benson never really left the music scene, Baker certainly had. The single is from her new CD called My Everything. It’s her first album in 10 years.
Click the article title bar to read the entire story from smoothjazznews.com

Monday, August 30, 2004

Laura Branigan

Laura Branigan 1957-2004

Gloria, you're always on the run now
Running after somebody, you gotta get him somehow
I think you've got to slow down before you start to blow it
I think you're headed for a breakdown, so be careful not to show it

Jane Monheit 'Taking A Chance On Love'

Once or twice in a generation a jazz singer such as Jane Monheit comes along with all the beauty, talent and sex appeal to make her mark quickly on discriminating audiences around the world.

For the past four years Monheit has had a busy touring schedule that has taken her to Europe, Asia, South America and all over the United States and Canada. Her debut album for the Sony Classical label, "Taking a Chance on Love," is to be released Sept. 7 and will include songs by "Fats" Waller, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter and Vernon Duke.

She catches the insinuating rhythm of Porter's "In the Still of the Night" perfectly and endows the mock reprimanding tone of his "Why Can't You Behave" with great charm. She makes Duke's "Taking a Chance on Love" sound like fun in an arrangement that includes a solo riff for piano and bass.

Monheit has that rare ability to draw her audience into her own sensuous world full of strange undercurrents and whispered confidences. She is a beguiling artist whose future would seem to be unlimited as the Ella Fitzgerald of a new age.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The new faces of jazz

For all you out there who think of jazz as a dying art form with cobwebbed musicians churning out standards of yesteryear, you really should check out The Bad Plus.

Over the past couple of years the American 30-something trio has more or less stood the jazz community on its head with its no-holds barred approach to improvisational music.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Simple downloads, complex change

Millions of songs are now available -- for free or for sale, legally and illegally -- over the Internet. The emergence of this audio landscape has delighted music fans but undermined the business model of the music industry. Major record labels are squeezing less profit out of fewer bands and attempting to ward off losses by a frenzy of mergers.

Detroit's free event is always on the edge

The festival remains one of Detroit's signature cultural events. It attracts more than a half-million people. It's featured in state and local tourism literature. It unites audiences of all ages and ethnicities, from the city and suburbs, in a metropolis where neighborliness isn't always a given.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Electric, ebullient Keb' Mo' is total pro of music stage

"I struggled from the age of 12 to 43," the 52-year-old blues musician told me in a recent interview. "I worked and didn't get nothing for many years ... Now, I'm doing well. Fortunately for me, it paid off. "That's not always the case for everyone. It (music) always pays off in the heart, but sometimes it doesn't pay off financially."

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

He's a record executive, radio star, and smooth-jazz man.

But something was missing, at least from the public Koz persona. And so, in April, Koz, who had just turned 41, told the world, in an interview with the Advocate magazine, that he is gay.

Three Keys to Success: Marcus Johnson

A native of Silver Springs, MD, Marcus earned a law degree and an MBA from Georgetown University. He counts McCoy Tyner, Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson as his early musical influences. He got his career in gear as a piano student at DC's Montgomery Blair High School, and also at his church. Marcus’ management and production company, Marimelj Entertainment Group (which includes the award-winning Three Keys music label) has R&B diva Alyson Williams on the roster along with jazz great Bobby Lyle--lessons from selling his first CD out of the trunk of a beat-up Toyota 4Runner, to forming Three Keys Music in 1998.

IHT: Jazz best, in many flavors

Some recent record releases reflect the continued weakening of American influence on the content, the playing and the packaging of the music.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Jarreau Goes 'Positive'

NPR's Tavis Smiley talks with five-time Grammy winner Al Jarreau. His new CD is titled Accentuate the Positive.

This week's releases

Ronnie Laws, Mr Nice Guy (Capital, 8/23)
Bobby Lyle, The Genie (Capital, 8/23)
Noel Pointer, Direct Hit (EMI, 8/23)
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)
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)
Charlie Watts, Watts At Scott's (2CD)(Gigante Media, 8/24)
Ann Hampton Callaway, Slow (Shanachie, 8/24)
Brother 2 Brother, Forever (E-Nate Music, 8/24)
Various (Slim Man, Lisa Lauren, Turning Point, more) Holiday At The Beach: A Coastal Christmas (E Nate Music Group, 8/24)

Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat opens

Red Sea Jazz FestivalThe 18th Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat began on Monday and is to continue until Thursday, hosting national and international groups.

Among the big guns from abroad are veteran saxophonist-flutist Charles Lloyd, guitarist John Scofield, bass player Charlie Haden and female drummer Cindy Blackman's quartet.

"Traditionally, the Eilat jazz festival has been a middle-of-the-road event," said perennial artistic director Danny Gottfried, "but [this year] I wanted to see how the Israeli public reacts to a slightly more progressive program. It's the most open, and least traditional, of any Red Sea festival so far."

The Bad Plus trio will be playing on the last two days of the festival, as well as giving a master class on the third day.

The non-mainstream end of the festival program also features French trumpeter Erik Truffaz, who mixes modern dance rhythms with drum 'n' bass, hip hop as well as rock 'n' roll, and American trumpeter Russell Gunn, who weaves Cuban, Brazilian and African sentiments with rap and progressive jazz, liberally laced with urban noise.

The festival also provides some of our homegrown artists a chance to play in front of big audiences, as well as rub shoulders with their better-known counterparts. Trombonist Avi Lebovich's wind instrument-based Orkestra ensemble should get Eilat audiences grooving, while guitarist Yottam Silberstein's trio and saxophonist Tevet Sela's mix of straight-ahead jazz fused with Jewish and other ethnic motifs will no doubt appeal to Gottfried's middle-of-the-road crowd.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Bill Frisell - 'Unspeakable'

With a core group including long-time musical partners, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen, Frisell continues to explore rhythmic grooves. But with the addition of a three-piece string section, three-piece horn section, percussion and Hal Willner's turntables and samples, the textures available are richer than ever before. Frisell builds rich layers of guitars, and continues to mine the “everyone solos and nobody solos” ground that has been the trademark of his work for many years. But collaborating with Willner has created a whole new level of sonics.

Lifting the lid on Ronnie Scott's

Last week, in a quiet courtroom - a world away from the glitzy jazz club scene they once enjoyed - Ronnie's founding fathers met for a last showdown.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

New Releases from Concord

On August 24, Chick Corea returns with the original members of the Elektric Band for the first time since 1991 for To The Stars.

Chick was inspired to write this CD after one of his favorite books, the L. Ron Hubbard novel of the same name.

The Chick Corea Elektric Band begins its nationwide tour in September, making stops in LA, DC, NY and other key markets.

Just one week later, on August 31, the final album from Ray Charles, Genius Loves Company, hits the stores. The CD was recorded live and completed in March 2004, just months before the legends’ passing. Featured artists include Norah Jones (“Here We Go Again”), Willie Nelson (“It Was A Very Good Year”), Elton John (“Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”), Van Morrison (“Crazy Love”) and Natalie Cole (“Fever”). In total, the artists featured on the CD have won a combined 79 GRAMMY Awards! It’s one of the most anticipated CDs of the year!

In September, Concord has the sophomore release from pop/jazz sensation Peter Cincotti. On The Moon is funkier than his chart-topping, record-breaking debut CD and includes his contemporary and undeniably infectious twists on such classics as “I Love Paris,” “St. Louis Blues,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful.” The CD also showcases Peter’s talents as composer, featuring 5 Cincotti-penned tracks! Peter will be on tour throughout the fall and into 2005. Later this year he makes his film debut in Kevin Spacey’s Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea.


NPR Celebrates Basie Centennial

Hosted by Avery Brooks and NPR's Nancy Wilson, the special covers Basie's musical life from the genesis of his first band at the Reno Club in Kansas City to collaborations with Frank Sinatra to piano dueling with pianist Oscar Peterson.

Anita Baker makes her triumphant comeback

In the 18 years since her album “Rapture” rocketed up the charts, hip-hop has become the dominant force in pop music. Until recently, sophisticated pop was seemingly a dying genre. But Blue Note is the jazz label that’s had huge success in the past few years with jazzy pop artists such as Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson, and most recently, Norah Jones.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Goodbye CD, we barely knew you.

Well, not really. But the CD -- short for compact disc -- faces competition as the main source of recorded music for consumers of music available online that has its own acronyms such as MP3, AAC, WMA and DRM.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Patrick Yandall, From the Ashes

Guitarist Patrick Yandall has just released From the Ashes under the Apria label. A prolific recording artist and producer, Yandall has also appeared nationally at festivals and other venues. From the Ashes represents an artistic muse that came to Yandall after his personal experience with the San Diego fires. Although his family and home were spared, Yandall found himself passionately consumed with a wealth of feelings, emotions and creative notions.
From the Ashes kicks off with an upbeat Heart Promise. Vibrant in sound and abundant in textures, Yandall sets a danceable groove on guitar. Drummer Joel Rosenblatt confidently drives the song without overpowering the horn section. The B3 organ is the perfect combo to Yandall’s fluid guitar work in Hope Springs Eternal. Yandall slows things down to a finger-snapping pace in All Day Music.

Italian saxist Ada Rovatti and trumpeter Randy Brecker join forces for a simmering Hot Pockets. Will Lee on bass sizzles, while Yandall lets the guitar heat things up on this one as well. By contrast, First Dance is a soundscape of rhythmic delights with a bluesy and romantic vibe.

While each track captured my attention, my overall favorite was The Land of Aros. Hot Latin percussion by Joel Rosenblatt and Yandall’s steaming guitar lines make this a remarkable tune. As the album comes to a close, renowned keyboardist Scott Wilkie will serve as one of the special guests on Yandall’s saucy Firestorm.

Review by Cheryl Hughey jazzreview.com

A jazz picture. A thousand memories.

Question: What do Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Gene Krupa, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, and Mary Lou Williams have in common? (No points for simply pointing out that they are all giants in Jazz music.) In fact, all these luminaries -and 49 of their peers- share one very specific time and place in jazz history - the front of a Harlem brownstone at 10 o'clock on an August morning in 1958.
That morning they gathered to appear in a group portrait for Esquire magazine, and the resulting image has come to be known as the greatest photograph in the history of jazz. Surfers can explore that picture in detail at Harlem.org

The Enabler

A tribute to the godfather of smooth jazz inspires mixed feelings of admiration and rage.

Yeah, smooth jazz is an easy target -- banal, bland, innocuous, seemingly inoffensive drivel a mere half-step above elevator music on the evolutionary chain. But that doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. Smooth jazz is a parasite, quietly boring a space in your brain, sapping your strength until you lack the energy to cross the room and turn the dial. And soon enough you have the musical taste of a Stepford Wife.

Click the title link above to read the entire article by Rob Trucks of eastbayexpress.com

Concert To Help Hurricane Victims

People who come to hear a "Smooth Breeze" can help the local victims of a much stronger breeze: Hurricane Charley.

Lakeland Electric will host jazz musician Eric "Smooth Breeze" Darius on the amphitheater overlooking the Lake Mirror Promenade on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. The performance is free.

The United Way of Central Florida will be accepting hurricane relief donations. The money will be used to aid the hardest-hit people in Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.

The event is free to the public, and families are encouraged to attend. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Koz plans Christmas tour

Dave KozSaxophonist Dave Koz is again laying plans for his annual Dave Koz & Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas tour.

So far, Koz has nailed down a handful of late-November and early December stops. More shows are expected; last year's tour ended just before Christmas.
In addition to the holiday run, Koz's plans also include a smattering of August, September and October performances.

Joining Koz on stage are trumpet player Rick Braun, bassist Wayman Tisdale--who took up his professional music career after his stint as an NBA player--and South African guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Butler.

Koz continues to support last October's "Saxophonic." The set features the cut "Honey-Dipped," for which Koz garnered a Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance category.

On top of his touring and recording endeavors, Koz hosts a morning radio show in Los Angeles and a weekly, syndicated, smooth-jazz show. He is also the co-founder of the record label Rendezvous Entertainment.

More information at The Dave Koz Website

Monday, August 16, 2004

50 Years Later, Newport Swings With 'Real Jazz'

During its early years, starting in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival was post-beat and pre-hippie. The music was probably at its greatest high, but its reach and status in American society and the marketplace hadn't been properly gauged. The words classic, smooth, brunch and cruise were yet to be hooked up to it.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

47th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

The world's longest-running jazz festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, will take place Sept. 17 to 19. Featuring more than 500 artists performing on seven stages, the 47th edition of the annual event will be held at the California city's arena and fairgrounds.

Among scheduled acts are headliners Bobby McFerrin and Chaka Khan as well as jazz luminaries Clark Terry, Frank Wess, Jack DeJohnette, Regina Carter, Marian McPartland, Don Byron, Bill Charlap, Jason Moran and Lynne Arriale.

Friday, August 13, 2004

New Jazz - August 17, 2004

Steve Smith & Vital Information, Come On In (Tone Center)
Ed Calle, Ed Calle Plays Santana (Universal Music Latino)
Jan Hammer, Best Of Miami Vice (AAO Music)

Feel free to leave a comment with any corrections or additions to new releases. Thanks!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Craig Chaquico In His Own Time Zone

“The title of the album is based on an old jazz expression called 'jazz noon,' " says Chaqucio. " 'Jazz noon' is midnight, 12 a.m. I heard that years ago, and whenever I thought about it it was just so intriguing to me that that was jazz noon was midnight. Most people’s noon is noon. But in the jazz world some clubs don’t even open until 11 o’clock at night and the second set starts at 2 a.m. There was just something interesting about the other side of the clock.” smoothvibes.com

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Smooth jazz man

Few are the kids who want to grow up to be jazz musicians. Fewer still are the kids who actually grow up to be jazz musicians and then can support a family in so doing. Steve Grove does just that.

Boney James [Billboard]

Smooth jazz saxophonist Boney James enters at No. 66 with his latest Warner Bros. studio set, "Pure." With sales of 17,000 copies, the album bests his last effort, 2001's "Ride," which came in at No. 82 with 16,000 copies.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Warnings sent to file-sharing software firms

Attorneys general from 45 states sent letters Thursday to seven companies that offer online file-sharing software, hinting at possible legal consequences if the networks don't better inform computer users about potential copyright violations from sharing files.

New Jazz - August 10, 2004

George Howard, The Very Best Of George Howard (GRP)
Larry Carlton, The Very Best Of Larry Carlton (GRP)
Julia Fordham, That's Life (Vanguard)
Soul Ballet, Dream Beat Dream (2CD) (215 Entertainment)
Various, Groove Boutique:Volume One - A Seamless Blend of Smooth Jazzy Grooves (Tommy Boy)
Incognito, Adventures In Black Sunshine (Narada Jazz)
Marcus Johnson, Just Doing What I Do (Three Keys)
Various, Undercover (2CD)(Hip Bop)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Gerald Albright: 'Kickin' It Up'

Saxophonist Gerald Albright's latest album, Kickin' It Up, combines new jazz, funk and R&B. Albright discusses the project with NPR's Tony Cox. [Audio interview]

Shanghai sizzles again with jazz

China's largest city has become home to a new generation of jazz players.

A small but growing audience is beginning to gather in pubs like JZ, which is co-owned by trumpeter Hwa Wu.

"What we're doing right now is we're trying to use local musicians, make local Chinese know that actually there are local Chinese doing jazz music, in China, in Shanghai. So we're trying to do like a jazz festival, you know, be more active on different levels," says Hwa.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Boney James 'Pure'

Some who have followed Boney James' incredible trajectory in smooth jazz land — which includes four gold albums and a Grammy nomination for his previous disc, 'Ride' might think it's a risk for the popular saxman to take all the production reins himself. He's always been an outstanding, soulful player, but producer Paul Brown's cool, R&B-driven vibe helped make stars out of him and numerous of his peers. James shows tremendous confidence in that chair here, keeping his trademark seductive vibe going with a sweet and sassy mix of easygoing ballads, catchy R&B vocals, and more creative stretching exercises. As producer, his crowning achievement here is the simmering, brassy blues texturing of the vocal/sax tune "Thinkin' 'Bout Me," which is what might have resulted years ago had Sly Stone included Junior Walker as part of his family. As composer, that piece and the midtempo easy funk jam "Stone Groove" are the catchiest, with both allowing for just enough sax solo time amidst the horn textures. As a bonus, "Stone Grooves" includes a touch of class via a frisky Joe Sample piano solo that, alas, doesn't last long enough. James knows his market and knows that man does not live by great sax alone. He has a great time encouraging some developing R&B vocal talents who are sure to make more noise on their own, from Bilal to his new labelmate Debbie Nova and Dwele. The Nova tune "Appreciate" is such a crisply produced pop confection that James should consider helming more strictly vocal projects. For those who don't think the busy production here lives up to the title of the disc, there's the title cut itself — simple, soulful, and dreamy as the genre gets.
by Jonathan Widran

'Accentuate the Positive'

After “moonlighting” for too long in the pop/R&B/smooth jazz field, Al Jarreau makes a welcome return to the rather thin ranks of top-flight male mainstream jazz singers. “Accentuate the Positive” is Jarreau’s first straight-ahead jazz recording since the late ’70s, and the acoustic small group setting creates lots of space to accentuate his masterful jazz vocal technique.

Saxman on a Musical Mission

David SanbornSanborn is truly flattered by the fact that his name is on the lips of many young saxophonists when asked about their influences, but he is quick to point out that while he certainly has many identifiable characteristics, “I’m really no innovator.” In talking to developing players, he tells them to listen to those who inspired him: Cannonball Adderly, Maceo Parker, Phil Woods and Stanley Turrentine. Growing up in St. Louis, Sanborn played with many Chicago blues legends (including Albert King) and his love of many eclectic styles grew out of his increasingly diverse work as a sideman.
By Jonathan Widran smoothjazznews.com

Andy Narell, Master of the Steel Drum

Andy NarellMusician Andy Narell has made his name by coaxing tunes out of sawed-off oil barrels. He's one of the best-known performers on the steel pan, also known as the steel drum.
As part of the NPR series "Musicians in Their Own Words," Narell describes how the pan has taken him from the traditional steel band sound to jazz and back again.