Monday, January 30, 2012

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - January 30, 2012 #jazz

LW - TW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Boney James - "Contact" - (Verve)
2 - 2 - Acoustic Alchemy - "Roseland" - (Onside/Heads Up)
8 - 3 - Paul Taylor - "Prime Time" - (Peak)
3 - 4 - Richard Elliot - "In The Zone" - (Artistry/Mack Ave.)
7 - 5 - Wayman Tisdale - "The Wayman Tisdale Story" - (Rendezvous Music)
9 - 6 - Tim Bowman - "The Tim Bowman Collection" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
4 - 7 - George Benson - "Guitar Man" - (Concord)
6 - 8 - Euge Groove - "S7ven Large" - (Shanachie)
12 - 9 - Andy Snitzer - "Traveler" - (Native Language)
11 - 10 - Kim Waters - "This Heart Of Mine" - (Shanachie)
5 - 11 - Paul Hardcastle - "Hardcastle VI" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
15 - 12 - Chuck Loeb - "Plain 'n' Simple" - (Tweety)
39 - 13 - Nick Colionne - "Feel The Heat" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
19 - 14 - Rob Tardik - "Balance.Energy.Laughter.Love" - (Guitardik)
17 - 15 - Michael Lington - "Pure" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
20 - 16 - Najee - "Smooth Side Of Soul - (Shanachie)
33 - 17 - Jeff Lorber - "Galaxy" - (Heads Up)
22 - 18 - Terry Wollman - "Buddha's Ear" - (Mango Eater)
13 - 19 - Larry Carlton - "Plays The Sound of Philadelphia" - (335)
14 - 20 - Maysa - "Motions Of Love" - (Shanachie)

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Najee - "The Smooth Side Of Soul" - Shanachie 1/31/12 #jazz

Najee is a master storyteller. Whether the debonair multi-instrumentalist is engaged in a verbal or musical conversation, his alluring charisma has a way of seducing you into his world. A quadruple threat who is equally adept on soprano, tenor and alto saxophones and flute, Najee’s technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion, fearless genre bending and superior musicianship have made him one of the most sought after musicians of his generation. In a business where trends and artists come and go, Najee’s name is synonymous with innovation, consistency and the best in contemporary jazz. With two Platinum and four Gold albums under his belt, he is an icon whose musical vision spawned an entire new genre by fusing the music close to his heart (R&B and jazz). Three decades later he is showing that he is not done yet! An alum of the New England Conservatory of Music, Najee was mentored by jazz giants Frank Foster and Jimmy Heath as well as classical maven and flutist Harold Jones of the New York Philharmonic. He has collaborated with everyone from Prince and Quincy Jones to Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock. He has also had the distinction to perform for Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela and made appearances on The Tonight Show and Good Morning America. “I have always tried to maintain consistency when it comes to music I’ve recorded throughout the years,” confides Najee. “As an artist I have been fortunate to attract an audience very early in my career that has followed and grown with me. My challenge has always been to record music that I enjoy playing while at the same time meeting the requirements that I believe my audience would like to hear. I am always looking for something to help me continue to grow as a musician.” On January 31, 2012, Shanachie Entertainment will release Najee’s highly anticipated label debut, The Smooth Side Of Soul, a sublime offering from the peerless instrumentalist and composer, that is a testament as to why he has long reigned as the King of contemporary jazz.

“Recording The Smooth Side Of Soul was truly a labor of love. Jeff Lorber, Chris "Big Dog" Davis, Darren Rahn, Phil Perry and James Lloyd are not only great artists but they are all friends,” exclaims Najee. “Any time I work with any of these gentlemen it is always easy and fun. I think this comes across in the music.” The camaraderie that Najee feels permeates every track on The Smooth Side Of Soul, which opens with the ultra funky “Dis ‘N Dat,” which Najee co-wrote with Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis (George Clinton, Will Downing, Kim Burrell, Maysa). The song sets the mood for The Smooth Side Of Soul, with its fat bass lines, buttery keys and Najee’s robust and soulfully expressive tenor. Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis contributes several songs to the CD including the catchy “You Tube,” and the captivating “Perfect Nites.” Najee explains of the latter, “This song is just something you can listen to while cruising down the highway in your favorite car on your way to your favorite destination.” Shifting moods, Najee invites Phil Perry into the mix on the dance inspiring and disco flavored “Just To Fall In Love,” penned by Will Downing, Phil Perry and Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis. The song highlights Najee’s impeccable chops as he cuts it up and doubles on tenor and flute. Phil Perry’s vocals are at top notch and his gorgeous falsetto is unrivaled. The duo craft an inviting mix of R&B, soul and disco that leaves you wanting more. “It reminds me of the very first record I ever played on for a label called TK Disco and featured me playing flute,” reminisces Najee. “Phil Perry has done a masterful job performing on the record and video.” The charming and fun-loving video features guest appearances by the lovely and talented Vanessa Bell Calloway and R&B songbird N’Dambi.

A master at creating mesmerizing melodies that stay in your head and tapestries of sound that envelop you in the richness of their texture and composition, Najee summons inspiration for his work from every facet of his life. “As a composer I draw from everything that interests me. I enjoy collaborating with other composers and producers. Like most artists there are life experiences that are in your spirit when you write music.” Some of the kindred spirits

Najee joins forces with on The Smooth Side Of Soul are keyboardist and producer Jeff Lorber (Dave Koz, Michael Franks, Chris Botti, Rick Braun) and saxophonist and producer Darren Rahn (Wayman Tisdale, Eric Darius, Bob James, Jonathan Butler).

On “In The Clouds” Najee and Jeff Lorber concoct a free flowing, ethereal and trippy number that features Najee on alto and flute. Najee is also highlighted on alto on the track “Perfect Nites.” Najee’s alto elicits a warmth, lyricism and muscularity that is enviable. “I can recall the first time I heard Charlie Parker on record. I couldn't believe that the saxophone could do what he did with it. I also recall the first time I heard Grover Washington Jr. perform “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life". I couldn't believe that this saxophonist with a traditional jazz sound could play a popular song of the time with such melodic precision and gravity,” states Najee. “These two artists made me look at the alto saxophone in a different light.”

When Najee burst onto the scene with his soulful R&B, soul and jazz drenched sound and songs like “Najee’s Theme,” “Sweet Love” and “Betcha Don’t Know,” it was not long before his trademark soprano found a home at the top of the charts and he carved out his own unique niche in the musical landscape. “My first love was the tenor saxophone and flute,” confides Najee. “It was my brother Fareed who got me to play soprano saxophone. We would argue over me not wanting to play soprano. Then one day someone gave me a soprano saxophone and I played on his songs. That began my soprano saxophone career and little did I know then, that would be the instrument to make me popular. On The Smooth Side Of Soul the one track that features Najee’s soprano is the beautiful “First Kiss” which Najee wrote with Jeff Lorber and Dawn Morales. Najee’s lyrical and tender playing is complimented by Lorber’s acoustic piano. “Of course we all remember our ‘First Kiss,’” reminisces Najee.

The Smooth Side Of Soul also showcases “One Night In Soho,” a gorgeous and spirited waltz Najee co-wrote with Darren Rahn, highlighting his supple tenor and that pays homage to two of his favorite destinations – Soho in NY and Soho in London. Najee and Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis cut loose and have some fun with their song “Fu Fu She She.” Najee says of the latter, “This song is about those people we have encountered at some time or another. We all know those Starbucks, Gucci, Rolex, and Calvin Klein type personalities. For me I find these people to be a lot of fun and a study in itself. Hell, I might just be one of those people!” Najee and Davis also co-wrote the swinger “Mari,” which features Najee’s impeccable flute work. Najee did not always plan on playing the flute. “One Christmas Eve my tenor and alto saxophones were stolen,” he explains. “For an entire year I did not play saxophones at all. My brother Fareed and I were in a band together and I was the lead sax player. One can only imagine how heartbreaking it was to lose my instruments. That experience ended up being a major blessing in disguise. I was forced to study the flute more seriously. For a year I dedicated my life to advancing on the flute. This was the only way I was going to be able to continue playing in our band.”

Few musicians can dip in and out of genres and styles as effortlessly as Najee. His decision to close The Smooth Side Of Soul with a Jimmy Heath classic is brilliant. His take on the Philly tenor titan’s “is His Sound For Sore Ears” is a solid straight ahead burner that smokes from beginning to end. It features another Philly musician, pianist James Lloyd from Pieces of a Dream. “In 2011, I performed a concert for the James Moody foundation at the Blue Note in New York City. David Sanborn, Roy Hargrove, Paquito D'Rivera and Jimmy Heath were on the gig. I had not seen Jimmy in many years and I was extremely excited to be on the same stage with him,” recalls Najee. “I told him that I always loved his song ‘Sound For Sore Ears’ and that I would like to record it. He said to me that he would be honored if I did. Words cannot describe what Jimmy Heath and others have meant to my brother and I as a musician, mentor, and educator. This is my way to say thank you to such a great man.

Born in the Greenwich Village in New York City and raised in Jamaica, Queens, Najee’s musical pursuits began in grade school. “As a kid I was into the R&B and Jazz music of my time,” he shares. “I familiarized myself with different kinds of music all the time.

As I began to develop on my instrument, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Yusef Lateef and Hubert Laws on flute were some of the artists that inspired me. As an industrious and hungry young musician, Najee had the good fortune of coming through Dr. Billy Taylor’s now legendary Jazzmobile program. While a student at the New England Conservatory (where both Najee and his brother attended) he studied jazz with George Russell and Jaki Byard. When he finished school Najee returned to New York in the early 80s and was lucky to land a gig with Chaka Khan along with his brother and guitarist Fareed (who is now his manager). In 1987 Najee's Theme, was released and the saxophonist earned a slot on tour with singer Freddie Jackson. The following year, Day By Day was released, and in 1991, Tokyo Blue, which is one of Najee’s most successful and enduring recordings. Tokyo Blue (which was produced by Najee’s brother Fareed) and Day By Day both went Gold and led to two Soul Train Awards for Najee (Best Jazz Artist in 1991 and 1993). Just An Illusion came in 1992 and around this time he collaborated with such iconic figures as Quincy Jones and a collaboration with jazz greats Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham and Larry Carlton resulted in the album Live At The Greek. Share My World came in 1994 and was followed in 1995 by a critically acclaimed tribute to Stevie Wonder's 1976 classic, Songs In The Key Of Life. The CD was produced by George Duke and features Herbie Hancock and Sheila E. among others. His CD Morning Tenderness was released in 1998 went to #1 on the contemporary jazz charts. For Najee, the late ‘90s were marked by extraordinary international experiences, from performing at Nelson Mandela’s birthday celebration in South Africa to playing as a special guest of President Clinton at the White House at an event honoring President Jerry Rawlings of the Republic of Ghana. Najee also spent two years of touring (2001-2003) with Prince and appears on Prince’s albums Rainbow Children and One Night Alone. In 2003 Najee released Embrace featuring special guests Roy Ayers and BeBe Winans. My Point Of View was his follow up in 2005 featuring his good friend and vocalist Will Downing. 2007’s Rising Sun joined Najee with Phil Perry and Mind Over Matter from 2009 paired Najee with singer Eric BenĂ©t.
“When my fans hear The Smooth Side Of Soul,” concludes Najee, “I am hoping it will be a fun and uplifting experience for them and they will want to join me at one of my upcoming live shows to support this music. I had a lot of fun recording this project and I hope the audience will have just as much fun listening.

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Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - January 23, 2012 #jazz

LW - TW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Boney James - "Contact" - (Verve)
2 - 2 - Acoustic Alchemy - "Roseland" - (Onside/Heads Up)
6 - 3 - Richard Elliot - "In The Zone" - (Artistry/Mack Ave.)
10 - 4 - George Benson - "Guitar Man" - (Concord)
3 - 5 - Paul Hardcastle - "Hardcastle VI" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
4 - 6 - Euge Groove - "S7ven Large" - (Shanachie)
5 - 7 - Wayman Tisdale - "The Wayman Tisdale Story" - (Rendezvous Music)
12 - 8 - Paul Taylor - "Prime Time" - (Peak)
9 - 9 - Tim Bowman - "The Tim Bowman Collection" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
7 - 10 - Jessy J - "Hot Sauce" - (Heads Up)
11 - 11 - Kim Waters - "This Heart Of Mine" - (Shanachie)
8 - 12 - Andy Snitzer - "Traveler" - (Native Language)
14 - 13 - Larry Carlton - "Plays The Sound of Philadelphia" - (335)
16 - 14 - Maysa - "Motions Of Love" - (Shanachie)
13 - 15 - Chuck Loeb - "Plain 'n' Simple" - (Tweety)
19 - 16 - Brian Lenair - "Eye Of The Storm" - (Grits & Gravy)
25 - 17 - Michael Lington - "Pure" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
15 - 18 - Bob Baldwin - " 2/Revibe (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
17 - 19 - Rob Tardik - "Balance.Energy.Laughter.Love" - (Guitardik)
43 - 20 - Najee - "Smooth Side Of Soul - (Shanachie)

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Legendary blues singer Etta James dies in Calif. #jazz

Etta James' performance of the enduring classic "At Last" was the embodiment of refined soul: Angelic-sounding strings harkened the arrival of her passionate yet measured vocals as she sang tenderly about a love finally realized after a long and patient wait.

In real life, little about James was as genteel as that song. The platinum blonde's first hit was a saucy R&B number about sex, and she was known as a hell-raiser who had tempestuous relationships with her family, her men and the music industry. Then she spent years battling a drug addiction that she admitted sapped away at her great talents.

In other words, she was one of music's original bad girls.

"The bad girls ... had the look that I liked," she wrote in her 1995 autobiography, "Rage to Survive." "I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be."

James' spirit could not be contained - perhaps that's what made her so magnetic in music; it is surely what made her so dynamic as one of R&B, blues and rock `n' roll's underrated legends. The 83-year-old died at Riverside Community Hospital, with her husband and sons at her side, De Leon said.

"It's a tremendous loss for her fans around the world," he said. "She'll be missed. A great American singer. Her music defied category."

Despite the reputation she cultivated, she would always be remembered best for "At Last." The jazz-inflected rendition wasn't the original, but it would become the most famous and the song that would define her as a legendary singer. Over the decades, brides used it as their song down the aisle and car companies to hawk their wares, and it filtered from one generation to the next through its inclusion in movies like "American Pie." Perhaps most famously, President Obama and the first lady danced to a version at his inauguration ball.

The tender, sweet song belied the turmoil in her personal life. James - born Jamesette Hawkins - was born in Los Angeles to a mother whom she described as a scam artist, a substance abuser and a fleeting presence during her youth. She never knew her father, although she was told and had believed, that he was the famous billiards player Minnesota Fats. He neither confirmed nor denied it: when they met, he simply told her: "I don't remember everything. I wish I did, but I don't."

She was raised by Lula and Jesse Rogers, who owned the rooming house where her mother once lived in. The pair brought up James in the Christian faith, and as a young girl, her voice stood out in the church choir. James landed the solos in the choir and became so well known, she said that Hollywood stars would come to see her perform.

But she wouldn't stay a gospel singer for long. Rhythm and blues lured her away from the church, and she found herself drawn to the grittiness of the music.

"My mother always wanted me to be a jazz singer, but I always wanted to be raunchy," she recalled in her book.

She was doing just that when bandleader Johnny Otis found her singing on San Francisco street corners with some girlfriends in the early 1950s.

"At the time, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters had a hit with `Work With Me, Annie,' and we decided to do an answer. We didn't think we would get in show business, we were just running around making up answers to songs," James told The Associated Press in 1987.

And so they replied with the song, "Roll With Me, Henry."

When Otis heard it, he told James to get her mother's permission to accompany him to Los Angeles to make a recording. Instead, the 15-year-old singer forged her mother's name on a note claiming she was 18.

"At that time, you weren't allowed to say `roll' because it was considered vulgar. So when Georgia Gibbs did her version, she renamed it `Dance With Me, Henry' and it went to No. 1 on the pop charts," the singer recalled. The Gibbs song was one of several in the early rock era when white singers got hits by covering songs by black artists, often with sanitized lyrics.

After her 1955 debut, James toured with Otis' revue, sometimes earning only $10 a night. In 1959, she signed with Chicago's legendary Chess label, began cranking out the hits and going on tours with performers such as Bobby Vinton, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers.

"We would travel on four buses to all the big auditoriums. And we had a lot of fun," she recalled in 1987.

James recorded a string of hits in the late 1950s and `60s including "Trust In Me," "Something's Got a Hold On Me," "Sunday Kind of Love," "All I Could Do Was Cry," and of course, "At Last."

"(Chess Records founder) Leonard Chess was the most aware of anyone. He went up and down the halls of Chess announcing, `Etta's crossed over! Etta's crossed over!' I still didn't know exactly what that meant, except that maybe more white people were listening to me. The Chess brothers kept saying how I was their first soul singer, that I was taking their label out of the old Delta blues, out of rock and into the modern era. Soul was the new direction," she wrote in her autobiography. "But in my mind, I was singing old style, not new."

In 1967, she cut one of the most highly regarded soul albums of all time, "Tell Mama," an earthy fusion of rock and gospel music featuring blistering horn arrangements, funky rhythms and a churchy chorus. A song from the album, "Security," was a top 40 single in 1968.

Her professional success, however, was balanced against personal demons, namely a drug addiction.

"I was trying to be cool," she told the AP in 1995, explaining what had led her to try heroin.

"I hung out in Harlem and saw Miles Davis and all the jazz cats," she continued. "At one time, my heavy role models were all druggies. Billie Holiday sang so groovy. Is that because she's on drugs? It was in my mind as a young person. I probably thought I was a young Billie Holiday, doing whatever came with that."

She was addicted to the drug for years, beginning in 1960, and it led to a harrowing existence that included time behind bars. It sapped her singing abilities and her money, eventually, almost destroying her career.

It would take her at least two decades to beat her drug problem. Her husband, Artis Mills, even went to prison for years, taking full responsibility for drugs during an arrest even though James was culpable.

"My management was suffering. My career was in the toilet. People tried to help, but I was hell-bent on getting high," she wrote of her drug habit in 1980.

She finally quit the habit and managed herself for a while, calling up small clubs and asking them, "Have you ever heard of Etta James?" in order to get gigs. Eventually, she got regular bookings - even drawing Elizabeth Taylor as an audience member. In 1984, she was tapped to sing the national anthem at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and her career got the resurgent boost it needed, though she fought addiction again when she got hooked on painkillers in the late 1980s.

Drug addiction wasn't her only problem. She struggled with her weight, and often performed from a wheelchair as she got older and heavier. In the early 2000s, she had weight-loss surgery and shed some 200 pounds.

James performed well into her senior years, and it was "At Last" that kept bringing her the biggest ovations. The song was a perennial that never aged, and on Jan. 20, 2009, as crowds celebrated that - at last - an African-American had become president of the United States, the song played as the first couple danced.

But it was superstar Beyonce who serenaded the Obamas, not the legendary singer. Beyonce had portrayed James in "Cadillac Records," a big-screen retelling of Chess Records' heyday, and had started to claim "At Last" as her own.

An audio clip surfaced of James at a concert shortly after the inauguration, saying she couldn't stand the younger singer and that Beyonce had "no business singing my song." But she told the New York Daily News later that she was joking, even though she had been hurt that she did not get the chance to participate in the inauguration.

James did get her accolades over the years. She was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1993, captured a Grammy in 2003 for best contemporary blues album for "Let's Roll," one in 2004 for best traditional blues album for "Blues to the Bone" and one for best jazz vocal performance for 1994's "Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday." She was also awarded a special Grammy in 2003 for lifetime achievement and got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Her health went into decline, however, and by 2011, she was being cared for at home by a personal doctor.

She suffered from dementia, kidney problems and leukemia. Her husband and her two sons fought over control of her $1 million estate, though a deal was later struck keeping Mills as the conservator and capping the singer's expenses at $350,000. In December 2011, her physician announced that her leukemia was terminal, and asked for prayers for the singer.

In October 2011, it was announced that James was retiring from recording, and a final studio recording, "The Dreamer," was released, featuring the singer taking on classic songs, from Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Dreamer" to Guns N' Roses "Welcome To the Jungle" - still rocking, and a fitting end to her storied career.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Here We Go" - Peter White teams up with David Sanborn & Kirk Whalum - Release 3/13/12 #jazz

After nearly four decades of writing, recording and touring – either as a sideman or a solo artist – Peter White still seeks out the road not yet traveled. Whether it’s new songs, new ideas, new styles or new collaborators, this virtuoso of contemporary jazz, classical, pop and Spanish guitar is at his best when standing on the edge of creative territory waiting to be explored. For White, it’s always about the journey and where it will take him, and he’s always ready to go.

This sense of adventure is at the heart of Here We Go, his new recording set for release on March 13, 2012, on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group. The 11-song set, co-produced by White and long time collaborator DC (George Benson, Al Jarreau, Bob James, Jeffrey Osborne) includes a range of original material written in the recent and distant past and features guest spots from saxophonists David Sanborn and Kirk Whalum.

Like his previous album, Good Day (2009), Here We Go is a collection of songs written and recorded to move people on a level that’s beyond any preconceived concepts. “When I start recording, I don’t have a vision,” White freely admits. “I just go with the moment – what feels good, what sounds good. The vision comes out of the music. The music doesn’t come out of the vision.”

Some of the energy fueling this record is the realization of White’s longtime dream to collaborate with Sanborn, whom he’d met while playing in a live jam session with several other musicians just a couple years ago. In truth, White has been a fan of the saxophonist for decades. “David is someone whom I’ve wanted to play with for the longest time,” he says. “This is someone who played at Woodstock and recorded with David Bowie. His sound has become the inspiration for many of my contemporaries. He’s a legend to me and to just about every musician I know.”

The infectious title track was written with Sanborn in mind, “It came to me one day while I was driving,” White explains. “I kept thinking, ‘this has to be something outstanding. I can’t go to David Sanborn with anything less!’ The excitement about having him play on my record inspired an uptempo rhythm, so I took it in that direction.”

The album fires on all cylinders from the very first notes of “Night After Night,” the effervescent opening track that was culled from some of White’s older, unfinished material. “DC helped me finish this song,” he says. “He added a lot to the rough idea that I had put together years ago. This song and some of the other older ones were ideas that I’d been living with for so long that I could only think about them one way. It was really helpful to have someone like DC hear it for the first time and bring about a fresh approach.”

The powerful ballad “Time Never Sleeps” was written with friend and keyboardist Philippe Saisse, and was originally intended for Saisse’s next CD. “Philippe called me one day and suggested that it should go on my CD, so we reversed the order of the verses so that instead of him playing the first verse on piano, it was now me and my guitar. After many other changes in the arrangement it felt right to go on my CD and subsequently became the second track.”

The wistful “If Ever…” includes White’s 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte White, on violin. “The first time she brought the violin home and played a simple major scale for me, I was almost in tears. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. So I wrote this part for her, I set up the microphone at home and she played it. It’s a song about looking into the future. It’s about possibilities, about what one could do with one’s life if things were slightly different.”

 “Our Dance” features the ever-soulful Kirk Whalum on saxophone. White has performed and recorded with Grammy Award winner Whalum many times since the mid-1990s and has often cited him as a major influence. “When Kirk plays, he can connect directly to your emotions”, White explains. The song plays out as a waltz, depicting a couple's relationship and its many intricacies before ending in beautiful harmony.
“Joyride” started with an electric guitar melody created by DC on top of a disco beat, and later embellished by White’s acoustic. “I added a classical guitar arpeggio on top of this slamming disco groove in an effort to create something that people would want to dance to ­– a sort of latter day ‘Classical Gas’” says White, laughing.

“Costa Rica” is built on an energetic Latin rhythm featuring the congas and timbales of longtime associate Ramon Yslas (Patti Labelle, Christina Aguilera) and pays tribute to a place that White has visited and enjoyed a number of times. “Whenever I go there, I’m struck by the happiness of the people and the beautiful countryside,” he says. “Those are the things that I tried to capture in this song.”

The carefree “My Lucky Day” is White’s nod to Bob Marley and reggae in general. “I’ve always been a fan of reggae,” he says. “Of course, you have to listen to Marley to get the authentic sound. On this song I just tried to convey the passion of reggae in my own way.”

“Requiem for a Princess” is a piece that was written shortly after the death of Lady Diana in 1997. “That was an event that hit everybody hard, especially if you were English. I remember watching the funeral car on live TV moving through the countryside. At every village, people threw flowers on the car until it was just completely covered. I poured all of my sadness into this song and haven’t been able to record it until now, as the memory was too fresh. It’s all minor chords and descending lines- maybe the saddest song I have ever written.”

Here We Go is, in many ways, a study in diversity – a collection of the joyous and the poignant, the newly crafted and the vintage. “I wanted variety,” says White. “I wanted songs that moved me, in the hopes that they’ll move the listener as well. I’m on a journey, and I want to bring with me anyone who’s willing to follow. That’s what the title of the album – and indeed, the spirit of the album – is all about.”

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Kirk Whalum - "Romance Language" - on Rendezvous 2/14/12 #jazz

It’s been almost 50 years since legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane collaborated with the then unheralded vocalist Johnny Hartman to create what many critics have called a classic, a masterpiece duets album comprised of six romantic standards composed by the likes of Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn, Billy Strayhorn, and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart.  An ardent admirer of the recording and equally purposed with putting the spotlight on an underappreciated vocalist who happens to be his younger brother, Grammy winning saxman Kirk Whalum ( has re-recorded the entire album offering his modern day take on the time-tested collection that will be released appropriately on Valentine’s Day as “Romance Language.”  We recently sent you the advance CD, which was produced and arranged by Whalum and John Stoddart
For years, Whalum has mused recreating the Coltrane/Hartman record in its entirety with Kevin Whalum, thus its completion is a dream realized.  Since the original recording was a modest thirty minutes in length, four contemporary R&B romancers were recorded to complete the collection, candlelight ballads that seamlessly fit the album’s motif.  Favoring a live sound with virtually no overdubs, the tracks were laid by Whalum’s touring band comprised of Stoddart (piano, keyboards, organ), Marcus Finnie (drums), Braylon Lacy (bass), Kevin Turner (electric guitar), Michael “Nomad” Ripoll (acoustic guitar), and Ralph Lofton (organ) along with robust accompaniment courtesy of George Tidwell (flugelhorn, trumpet) and percussionists Bashiri Johnson and Javier Solis.       
Opening “Romance Language” with an unabashedly romantic trip back in time, Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful” is a mood-setter on which Kirk’s soulful sax soloing embraces and accentuates the notes emoted by Kevin’s velvety voice.  Playing both tenor sax as well as flute on Cahn’s pledge of enduring love, “Dedicated To You,” Whalum’s commanding presence is heartfelt and intimate, embracing while avoiding overwrought emotion.  “My One And Only Love” is a sweet serenade exquisitely rendered with the added ambience of acoustic guitar flourishes sprinkled like a dusting of glitter.  Kevin takes center stage on “Lush Life” and delivers an arresting showstopper.  Throughout the entire album, his debonair tone and sophisticated phrasing adds elegance and class.  The musicians stretch out on “You Are Too Beautiful,” taking their time - 8:32 to be exact - to allow the gorgeous melody to gently permeate a seductive mid-tempo R&B groove.  Flamenco-like acoustic guitar riffing and Whalum’s sultry soprano sax color “Autumn Serenade” with amour, which concludes the Coltrane/Hartman portion of the album.  On “Almost Doesn’t Count,” it is Kirk and Kevin’s 83-year-old uncle, Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum, who steals the spotlight with his warm, sandpapery lead vocals.  The first of three instrumentals, “I Wish I Wasn’t” was penned by hit-makers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.  In the astute hands of Whalum, his lyrical sax gracefully romances eloquently, replacing lyrics about a pained heart.  With a flute intro that pays tribute to Minnie Riperton’s classic “Loving You,” “I Wanna Know” assumes a breezy, reggae-light cadence.  Closing with a version of Eric Benet’s “Spend My Life With You,” Whalum loosens his grip on the reins to unleash the fire and intensity of his unadulterated passion.                                            
“Romance Language” is Whalum’s 19th album as a front man throughout an accomplished career that has garnered success in both secular and non-secular music worlds.  He’s scored a pair of #1 Billboard contemporary jazz albums along with 11 Grammy nominations.  The Grammy win came last year for a duet with Lalah Hathaway that appeared on his “The Gospel According to Jazz: Chapter III” album.  Also last year, the ordained minister earned a Master’s degree in the Art of Religion.  Kirk will be busy touring this year with Kevin in support of “Romance Language,” in addition to co-headlining The Apostles of Gospel Tour with Jonathan Butler and CeCe Winans.
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Monday, January 09, 2012

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - January 9, 2012 #jazz

LW - TW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Richard Elliot - "In The Zone" - (Artistry/Mack Ave.)
2 - 2 - Acoustic Alchemy - "Roseland" - (Onside/Heads Up)
4 - 3 - Boney James - "Contact" - (Verve)
3 - 4 - Paul Hardcastle - "Hardcastle VI" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
7 - 5 - Wayman Tisdale - "The Wayman Tisdale Story" - (Rendezvous Music)
11 - 6 - Euge Groove - "S7ven Large" - (Shanachie)
6 - 7 - Andy Snitzer - "Traveler" - (Native Language)
5 - 8 - Jessy J - "Hot Sauce" - (Heads Up)
9 - 9 - Tim Bowman - "The Tim Bowman Collection" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
8 - 10 - George Benson - "Guitar Man" - (Concord)
14 - 11 - Kim Waters - "This Heart Of Mine" - (Shanachie)
10 - 12 - Chuck Loeb - "Plain 'n' Simple" - (Tweety)
12 - 13 - Paul Taylor - "Prime Time" - (Peak)
22 - 14 - Maysa - "Motions Of Love" - (Shanachie)
13 - 15 - Larry Carlton - "Plays The Sound of Philadelphia" - (335)
19 - 16 - Bob Baldwin - " 2/Revibe (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
18 - 17 - Brian Lenair - "Eye Of The Storm" - (Grits & Gravy)
46 - 18 - Rob Tardik - "Balance.Energy.Laughter.Love" - (Guitardik)
17 - 19 - Cindy Bradley - "Unscripted" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
34 - 20 - Terry Wollman - "Buddha's Ear" - (Mango Eater)

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Friday, January 06, 2012

Kat Edmonson - "Way Down Low" - April 10 #jazz

Kat Edmonson releases second album 'Way Down Low' on Spinnerette Records April 10th, 2012

“I think she’s great. She’s got such an authentic, almost old-time jazz quality about her.”—Lyle Lovett

“Kat is a tremendous talent…with a style and charm that reaches fans in the worlds of blues, rock pop and beyond.”—Al Schmitt, nineteen time Grammy winning producer and engineer

“memorable and contagious”—NPR Music

“a voice that at times exudes raspy confidence of a veteran soul singer, and at other times recalls the coquettish quality of a silver screen starlet.”—AOL Spinner

“Equal parts Billie Holiday and Bjork.” —All About Jazz

Kat Edmonson will self release her sophomore album Way Down Low on Spinnerette Records April 10. The native Texan makes not only her songwriting debut on the record but also co-produces the album. The album was recorded at the historic Avatar Studio and Capitol Studios with Grammy-winning producer/engineer Al Schmitt (Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke) and producer/bassist Danton Boller. The sessions also included input from producer Phil Ramone (Paul Simon “Still Crazy After All These Years,” Billy Joel “The Stranger”). She will play select dates in 2012 including Joe’s Pub on Feb. 17 in New York and The Paramount Theater in Austin on April 13.

Edmondson’s first album Take to the Sky (2009) was self-released by her previous label Convivium Records. The album debuted at #21 on Billboard’s Jazz Charts and reached the Top 10 at jazz radio. The New York Times called Edmonson “a promising young jazz singer with a kittenish voice and an amiably relaxed style” while The Boston Globe said, “Edmonson might be the most promising American jazz singer to come along since Cassandra Wilson”.

Growing up in Houston, Edmonson credits her mother for getting her acquainted with music from the Great American Songbook. She began singing at age four, writing songs at age nine and at 19 she decided to try out for the second season of “American Idol” where she made it to the final 48 in Hollywood. She’s gone on to perform with fellow Texan Willie Nelson, open for Smoky Robinson, tour with Boz Scaggs, perform at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival and headline the Taichung Jazz Festival in Taiwan. In 2010 she developed a friendship with Lyle Lovett, spending a large portion of that summer opening for him. She also recorded two duets with Lovett for his three-song holiday EP “Songs for the Season” and performed the winter classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with him on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Esperanza Spalding - "Radio Music Society [Deluxe Edition CD/DVD]" Release 3/20/12 #jazz

It has not taken Esperanza Spalding long to emerge as one of the brightest lights in the musical world.  Listeners familiar with her stunning 2008 Heads Up International debut, Esperanza, and her best-selling 2010 release Chamber Music Society, were well aware that the young bassist, vocalist and composer from Portland, Oregon was the real deal, with a unique and style-spanning presence, deeply rooted in jazz yet destined to make her mark far beyond the jazz realm.  That judgment was confirmed on February 13, 2011, when Spalding became the first jazz musician to receive the GRAMMY® Award for Best New Artist.  On March 20th, 2012, Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, gives us Spalding's latest release, Radio Music Society, her most diverse, ambitious and masterful recital yet. Each of the 12 songs are accompanied by conceptual music videos, which further express Esperanza’s inspiration and story behind each track. Shot in various locations including New York City; Barcelona, Spain; and Portland, Oregon; all videos will be available to purchasers of Radio Music Society as a digital download or a DVD on the deluxe version.
Radio Music Society is a companion, rather than a sequel, to Spalding’s previous disc, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart.  “Originally I thought it would be fun to release a double album,” she explains, “One disc with an intimate, subtle exploration of chamber works and a second one in which jazz musicians explore song forms and melodies that are formatted more along the lines of what we would categorize as “pop songs.”  Those are the two things that really interest me, and it intrigues me to think about different presentation approaches while writing each kind of song.  On the pop song side, I think about listeners who aren’t into jazz, but I also think about the people within my musical community who can interpret each idea best.”
“Radio Song,” the new disc’s opening track, both sets the tone and confirms the aptness of Spalding’s “radio music” metaphor.  “Everyone has the experience of turning on a car radio,” she explains,” mindlessly flipping through the dial and suddenly a fragment grabs you and you’re totally digging it.  I wanted to capture that moment when the music just sinks in.  It’s about the power of song, and how at the least it can save the day.”
Fleshing out the concept with original music was second nature to Spalding.  “I have this book of music that I’ve written, and so much of it fit either the Chamber Music or Radio Music concept.  Songs develop for me in fragments, so for these projects, I took my notes and organized them into coherent works of music.”
In the process, Spalding added her original, affirmative perspective to classic radio music themes.  Songs about love run a full gamut. “Hold On Me” is a narrative of unrequited love, inspired by people who cling to dreams of relationships that can never be realized.  “Let Her,” one of Spalding’s older compositions, was inspired by “different people I’ve known who are in miserable situations, then complain when they end.”  “Cinnamon Tree,” written to cheer up a friend, celebrates platonic love, and Spalding’s belief that “the love between friends is just as important as romantic love.”
“Crowned and Kissed,” with references to King Arthur and Midas, is about “the unsung royalty in your life, men and women who quietly, every day do the most honorable things, and who deserve to be honored even if they don’t end up with castles and thrones.”  The edgy “Smile Like That” marks the moment a person realizes that his or her partner has developed other interests.  “I’m saying, `Okay, I get it, let’s not beat around the bush,’” Spalding explains.
Her takes on the state of our country and our culture are equally fresh and insightful.  “Vague Suspicions” confronts society’s short attention span and our habit of absorbing horrific events and celebrity gossip as part of the same media overload.  The brief “Land Of The Free” speaks to the sinister system of false imprisonment by outlining the case of one innocent victim who spent 30 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.
“Black Gold” is specifically addressed to young boys of color.  “So much of our strength is drawn from resistance and endurance,” she explains, “but black pride didn’t just start with the slave trade.  I wanted to address our nobility, going back to our incredible ancestors in pre-colonial Africa.  I remember meetings when I was in elementary school about being strong as young black women, and I don’t think the boys had those meetings.  This song is meant to speak to those young men, and I imagined it might one day be something that a parent could sing to his or her son.”
Radio Music Society also features “City of Roses,” a celebration of her native Portland, Oregon that Spalding was commissioned to write by Banana Republic, and two cover tunes.  Taking the advice of one of her mentors, tenor saxophone giant Joe Lovano: “When you do a classic, you have to find your own reason for doing it.” Spalding charges Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It” with the energy of apprehensive new love and adds original lyrics to Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Species.”
The music is realized by many of the brilliant musicians who are part of Spalding’s ever-expanding universe.  In addition to longtime partners Lovano, keyboard player Leo Genovese and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, the ranks contain jazz legends Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart; guitar heroes Jef Lee Johnson and Lionel Loueke; an array of master vocalists including Algebra Blessett, Lalah Hathaway, Gretchen Parlato, Leni Stern and Becca Stevens; hip-hop giant Q-Tip (who performs on and co-produced two tracks); and two Portland-based musicians, Janice Scroggins and Dr. Thara Memory, who provided essential mentorship in Spalding’s youth.
Four tracks feature the horn section of the American Music Program, a youth big band of musicians age 12 to 18 directed by her longtime mentor and teacher Dr. Memory, who conducts and provides horn arrangements; while the soulful pianist on “Hold on Me” is Ms. Scroggins, who Spalding studied with as a child.  “Both of them are phenomenal artists who aren’t well known outside of the Northwest,” Spalding emphasizes.  “Janice Scroggins was, quite honestly, too deep for me when I was eight years old.  She unifies completely the sounds of gospel, blues and jazz, our American roots music.  And Dr. Thara Memory, the teacher I came up through, has dedicated his life to spreading the message of this music.  I had to have his youth band on the record, because they’re part of my Music Society, too.”
Among its many strengths, Radio Music Society is a celebration of the men and women who have helped cultivate Spalding’s talent, as well as those who have nurtured her vision and inspired her along the way.  “I’ve had the honor and blessing of working with so many phenomenal jazz musicians over the years,” she says.  “As I’ve gotten to know them and their music, I’ve grown to love them as family and colleagues. I wished for an opportunity for us all to interpret songs together, so that they can be heard and received by a larger audience. All my personal heroes who are revered in the jazz world – like Joe Lovano and Terri Lyne Carrington – should be heard by a mainstream audience, because what they manifest in their music is so beautiful, sincere and uplifting. I think they literally bring good into the lives of the people who hear them.  So I’ve tried to put together a program of music that speaks to the non-jazz listener, but can still provide a viable foundation for my jazz heroes to express themselves. Hopefully, people can enjoy all the elements of my music without being told which genres it is ‘supposedly’ a blend of. Everyone is invited to listen with no pre-conceived notions. It’s a journey. Think and feel for yourself. But, most importantly, ENJOY!”
“Art doesn’t thrive with too much analyzing and explaining,” Esperanza Spalding notes, “The idea of `radio music’ is very broad.”  Radio Music Society is destined to expand the concept even further, not to mention the horizons of the music world’s most exceptional young artist.

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Najee - "Smooth Side of Soul" on Shanachie 1/31/12 #jazz

Najee is set to release his latest album, Smooth Side of Soul,on Shanachie Records on January 31.  The New York based multi-instrumentalist has enjoyed a long and successful solo career in addition to his work with artists like Chaka Khan, George Duke, Herbie Hancock and Prince.  For this project, he enlisted the help of Phil Perry, Jeff Lorber, Darren Rahn, Chris "Big Dog" Davis and James Floyd of Pieces Of A Dream.  He says, "It is my hope that my audience will enjoy listening and experiencing this record as much as I enjoyed recording it.  I had a lot of fun recording this project and I hope the audience will have just as much fun listening." You can check out his video for "Just To Fall In Love" featuring Phil Perry on vocals

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Monday, January 02, 2012

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - January 2, 2012 #jazz

LW - TW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Richard Elliot - "In The Zone" - (Artistry/Mack Ave.)
2 - 2 - Acoustic Alchemy - "Roseland" - (Onside/Heads Up)
3 - 3 - Paul Hardcastle - "Hardcastle VI" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
4 - 4 - Boney James - "Contact" - (Verve)
5 - 5 - Jessy J - "Hot Sauce" - (Heads Up)
6 - 6 - Andy Snitzer - "Traveler" - (Native Language)
7 - 7 - Wayman Tisdale - "The Wayman Tisdale Story" - (Rendezvous Music)
8 - 8 - George Benson - "Guitar Man" - (Concord)
9 - 9 - Tim Bowman - "The Tim Bowman Collection" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
10 - 10 - Chuck Loeb - "Plain 'n' Simple" - (Tweety)
11 - 11 - Euge Groove - "S7ven Large" - (Shanachie)
12 - 12 - Paul Taylor - "Prime Time" - (Peak)
13 - 13 - Larry Carlton - "Plays The Sound of Philadelphia" - (335)
14 - 14 - Kim Waters - "This Heart Of Mine" - (Shanachie)
15 - 15 - Jonathan Fritzen - "Friday Night"[single] - (Woodward Avenue)
16 - 16 - David Wells - "Light" - (Independent)
17 - 17 - Cindy Bradley - "Unscripted" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
18 - 18 - Brian Lenair - "Eye Of The Storm" - (Grits & Gravy)
19 - 19 - Bob Baldwin - " 2/Revibe (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
20 - 20 - Nils - "What The Funk?" - (Baja/TSR)

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Visit to view the latest weekly chart recap.
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