Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fourplay - "Esprit De Four" - Release on Heads Up 9/18/12 #jazz

Featuring “Put Our Hearts Together,” Bob James’ tribute to the victims of the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011

When it comes to making music, four is often the magic number. From the Beatles to MJQ, many legendary quartets have made their mark in the classical, pop and jazz traditions. Maybe it’s the idea of four talented individuals, each approaching the other three from a unique perspective – like inspired travelers hailing from equidistant coordinates on a map – and bringing all of their talents to bear at a single point. Maybe it’s just the sheer mathematical symmetry and balance of the number itself.

Whatever the case, Fourplay has accessed that collective magic. Keyboardist Bob James, bassist/vocalist Nathan East, guitarist Chuck Loeb and drummer/percussionist Harvey Mason have tapped into the creative force that emerges when four brilliant players commit themselves to a singular goal. That symmetry and creativity are at the heart of Esprit De Four, their new CD set for release on September 18, 2012 (international release dates may vary) on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group.

“In the songwriting and recording process, we were building on the spirit we felt during the making of our previous record, Let’s Touch the Sky,” says James, recalling their first recording with Loeb in the guitar position. “We had made the adjustment to Chuck’s sound, and had really enjoyed performing the new music on the road. So we were eager to follow up on this new direction the band had taken.”

Loeb concurs, noting that Esprit De Four is a satisfying balance of the known with the unknown – not just for himself but for his bandmates as well. “We were all in the mood to make an adventurous CD with challenging music, but still maintain that unmistakable Fourplay sound,” he says. “We always try to have fun and keep our spirits united in the effort toward excellence in sound, production and musical content. I personally always want to bring the best songs and performances to my work with these three legendary artists whom I have the great fortune to be working with.”

Esprit De Four includes contributions from all four members of the band, beginning with the melodic “December Dream,” a song by Loeb that’s deceptively quiet and understated on one hand, yet fueled by its own unmistakable energy on the other. Loeb says the song may have started out in his own head, “but once we got into the studio, each guy just brought so much more to the table. Check out the counterpoint that Bob contributes to the middle section, Harvey’s 21st century orchestral snare drums, and the amazing vocals and walking bass line that Nathan does in the finale, and I think you’ll see what I mean.”

Loeb’s additional contributions to the set include the upbeat and percussive “Sonnymoon” (a composition dedicated to Fourplay manager Sonny Abelardo) and the gently atmospheric “Logic of Love.”

The highly elastic and intriguing “Firefly,” written by East and frequent collaborator Tom Keane, is inspired by a young jazz trio from Stockholm called Dirty Loops. “They’re great musicians and good friends of mine,” says East. “I was hoping to capture some of the same fun and energy and unique chord progressions that the trio band is known for, and Fourplay really delivered it.”

East and Keane also came up with the slow and smoldering “All I Wanna Do,” a nod to Fourplay’s more romantic side, written in the tradition of the Neal Hefti classic “Li’l Darlin,” which the band covered on their 1993 album, Between the Sheets. East’s sensual vocals deliver the song’s unmistakable invitation to a passionate interlude.

Mason’s “Venus,” built on an engaging piano/guitar interplay, is both cosmic and melodic at the same time. “It evokes the image of the thought-provoking planet of love,” says Mason. “The song is mentally seductive, with a warm, simple melody supported by transparent dissonant chords that together create a probing, ethereal mood. When I write ballads or love songs for this group, I can’t miss, because these guys are so extremely sensitive and romantic.”

The poignant but hopeful “Put Our Hearts Together,” was written by James – with lyrics by his daughter, Hilary James – as a tribute to the victims of the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. The melody line delivered by the superstar Japanese pop singer Seiko Matsuda makes the song all the more personal and genuine.

“The people of Japan have been very supportive of my music for more than 30 years, and I’ve made wonderful friendships there,” says James. “When the tragedy struck, I was immediately motivated to do something.” He first performed the song at the Iwate Jazz Festival in Japan in September 2011, just six months after the disaster. “I attempted to compose something that would have a universal spirit. I could never have known how this song would grow and take on a life of its own as a result of its premiere performance last September.”

James’ other contribution is “Sugoi,” which is also influenced by Japanese music and culture, which James has gravitated to over the past few years. “Despite many attempts to learn the language,” he says, “I admit to knowing only the most basic conversational phrases. The title means ‘Nice…I like it.’ I hope people will say that after they hear the song.”

The title track, Mason’s second contribution to the album, closes the set with its anthemic vibe and unmistakable gospel undercurrent. “The guys clearly loved the direction the song was taking in the studio, so I went with it,” says Mason. “As the album came together, this tune – which remained nameless for the duration of the project – took on a feeling of unity, and I was honored when the guys named it ‘Esprit De Four.’ It’s truly amazing how things develop and take shape in this band. We always seem to be able to follow the path that unfolds when one is able to trust his instincts.”

It’s all part of the inexplicable thing that happens with four, especially when the four are as uniquely gifted as the individual members of Fourplay. Catch the spirit and the magic of Esprit De Four.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - August 27, 2012 #jazz

TW - LW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Gerald Albright/Norman Brown" - "24/7" (Concord)
2 - 2 - Vincent Ingala - "Can't Stop Now" - (Vincentingala.com)
3 - 3 - Jeff Lorber Fusion - "Galaxy" - (Heads Up)
4 - 4 - David Benoit - "Conversation" - (Heads Up)
5 - 5 - Brian Bromberg - "Compared To That" - (Artistry/Mack Avenue)
6 - 6 - Ben Tankard - "Full Tank" - (Ben-Jamin)
7 - 10 - Brian Culbertson - "Dreams" - (Verve)
8 - 7 - Cindy Bradley - "Unscripted" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
9 - 12 - Julian Vaughn - "Breakthrough" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
10 - 9 - Michael Lington - "Pure" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
11 - 11 - Boney James - "Contact" - (Verve)
12 - 15 - The Rippingtons - "Built To Last" - (Peak/eOne)
13 - 8 - Steve Oliver - "World Citizen" - (SOM)
14 - 14 - Darren Rahn - "Speechless" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
15 - 13 - Najee - "The Smooth Side Of Soul" - (Shanachie)
16 - 21 - Jonathan Fritzen - "Magical" - (Nordic Night)
17 - 18 - Nicholas Cole - "Endless Possibilities" - (Cutmore)
18 - 19 - Kenny G & Rahul Sharma - "Namaste" - (Concord)
19 - 16 - Kim Waters - "This Heart Of Mine" - (Shanachie)
20 - 23 - Blake Aaron - "Soul Stories" - (Innervision)

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Lee Ritenour - "Rhythm Sessions" Concord release on 9/25/12 #jazz

Ritenour Embarks on Innovative Musical Journey with All-Star Rhythm Sections Including Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller and Winners of his Annual Six String Theory International Competition

“I always thought it’s a very cool model to combine very well-known, almost legendary players with completely new talent on the same record. I love that scenario. It’s not a format that many people have followed before, but I’ve always considered it a fascinating experiment, and a way to create some great sounds.”……..Lee Ritenour

In a career that spans five decades and more than 40 albums, guitarist Lee Ritenour has developed a keen understanding of the symbiotic balance between the frontman and the supporting players, between the wisdom of experience and the enthusiasm of youth. On Rhythm Sessions, Ritenour’s new album set for release on Concord Records, September 25, 2012 (international release dates may vary) he surrounds himself with a cadre of high-profile veterans and promising newcomers – all of whom reaffirm the vital role played by the rhythm section in any worthwhile musical endeavor.

Included on the Rhythm Sessions roster are luminaries like Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Marcus Miller and many others. Also appearing throughout the record are the winners of Ritenour’s 2012 Rhythm Section Competition, an international event he launched in 2009 as a guitar competition and later expanded to include aspiring keyboardists, bassists and percussionists. The competition winners appearing on the album include keyboardist Hans de Wild (Holland), pianist Demetrius Nabors (Michigan), bassist Michael Feinberg (New York) and drummer Selim Munir (Turkey). The album also features Ritenour’s 19-year-old son Wesley, an aspiring drummer in his own right on one of the tracks.

The most recent result of that ongoing experiment is an album that embraces a variety of sounds and grooves, all rooted in jazz, but also layered with shades of funk, R&B, Latin, world music and more. The album’s sense of variety stems from the eclectic source material. Some songs were penned by Ritenour, while others come from heavyweights like Herbie Hancock, Dave Grusin, Chick Corea, EST and Nick Drake. “I wanted the various rhythm sections assembled for this album – the guitar, keyboards, bass and drums – to be very organic,” says Ritenour. “The songs I wrote for this project were written with these different musicians in mind, and the songs I picked by other songwriters brought to mind certain players as well. So while my name may be on this record, it’s as much about these other players as it is about me.”

Ritenour’s previous recording, 6 String Theory, had focused primarily on guitar by featuring the international winners of his 2009 guitar competition. However, in keeping with his ongoing commitment to discovering and mentoring new talent, he quickly realized that there was so much ground yet to be covered. “There are just so many great piano players and bass players and drummers out there, so when it came time to make Rhythm Sessions, I thought, ‘Why not make a record featuring some of those great players, and then extend the contest to include the rhythm section, and let the young rhythm section winners make an appearance on the record?’”

This mix of seasoned players with newcomers results in a multi-layered, multi-textural and extremely engaging recording. “I’m at a point in my career where I’m marshalling all of my skills and experience over 40 years and really putting it all into an album like Rhythm Sessions,” he says. “I’ve always loved working with great talent, and at the same time finding new young talent and opening doors for them. I want to take as many opportunities as I can to give something back as a way of expressing my thanks for all that’s been given to me.”

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Hot House" - Chick Corea & Gary Burton - Release 9/4/12 on Concord #jazz

[See a video preview at:] JazzHQ on Facebook Pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton became a collaborative team almost by accident. Their first musical encounter took place at a jazz festival in Germany in 1972, when they performed together in a spur-of-the-moment encore. The results were so satisfying - not only to the audience but to the artists themselves - that the two musicians reconvened in a recording studio a couple months later to record the intricate yet highly melodic Crystal Silence, their first of several collaborative studio projects.

The impromptu encounter in Germany marked the beginning of a musical partnership that has lasted for four decades - not only on the performance stage but also over the course of seven recordings. Despite the years that have come and gone since that fateful European gig, the duo of Corea and Burton have not lost their ability to generate their unique brand of what could best be described as cool heat.

This highly creative and prolific team celebrates forty years of great jazz with the release of Hot House, on Concord Jazz, a division of Concord Music Group.

"Though we often go for months at a time between duet tours while we are playing music on our own,' Burton says, "within about ten minutes of getting together again, the old communication snaps back into place. I can guess what Chick is going to play next from two blocks away, and he is the same with me. Certainly, the principal reason we have continued to work together all this time is because we have this natural reaction."

That "natural reaction" is alive and well on Hot House, a collection of ten songs that draws from the work of some of their favorite composers from the 1940s through the 1960s. "After exploring several genres of jazz and standards, we eventually settled on eight composers, most from the jazz world," says Burton. "But we chose songs that are generally not that well known; the composers' names are probably more familiar than the songs to most listeners. The final result feels very fresh and different to us."

Although the source material is indeed eclectic, the set as a whole is seamless and undeniably rich. It starts with the lighthearted "Can't We Be Friends," what Burton calls "a rather obscure standard first recorded by Art Tatum," a piano hero to both Burton and Corea. The track intentionally maintains some of Tatum's flourishes and stride swing feel. The duo then makes the unlikely shift from Tatum to Paul McCartney's decidedly darker "Eleanor Rigby," a cover that adds a sense of uptempo urgency to the original song's poignancy.

The lush and melodic "Chega de Saudade" is the first of two Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes, and one that both artists learned during their respective stints with Stan Getz in the 1960s. They return to the Jobim catalog later in the set with the equally ornate "Once I Loved."

Other noteworthy offerings include a mercurial rendition of Bill Evans' "Time Remembered" and a playful reading of "Strange Meadow Lark," a lesser known selection from Dave Brubeck's iconic 1959 recording, Time Out.

The energetic title track is a tune by pianist Tadd Dameron, based on the harmony progression of Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?" Burton explains that he and Corea "got confused about who was going to solo first after the melody, and we both started soloing at the same time, but it seemed to work really well, so we kept it as part of the arrangement."

Hot House also includes Thelonious Monk's brief and little known "Light Blue," to which Corea adds a second chorus that stays very much in the spirit of Monk.

The set closes with Corea's own "Mozart Goes Dancing," an intricate and engaging piece recorded with the Harlem String Quartet. The track was originally slated for the duo's next project - a reprise of their touring and studio work in the ‘80s with string quartet and newly penned music from Corea - but "the result was so spectacular that we decided to add it to the CD," says Burton, "as a preview of what we'll be doing with our duo next year."

After four decades of collaboration, the Corea-Burton team continues to look forward to the next big idea. "Throughout our 40 years of making music together, there has never been a downside with our duet," says Corea. "Each concert and recording we have done has always been a great pleasure and a personal inspiration. This new set of duet music is no exception. Until this recording, we never focused on ‘standards' with our duet, but it was natural to do as these songs are from the era we grew up in."

Burton adds: "I used to think that someday we would run out of ideas and get bored with our duet. When we crossed the 20-year mark, I wondered if we might come to the end sometime soon. But at the 30-year mark, I began to think it might last, after all. And now after four decades, we are as excited as ever about the music we're playing and how much fun we have on stage every night."

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - August 20, 2012 #jazz

TW - LW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Gerald Albright/Norman Brown" - "24/7" (Concord)
2 - 3 - Vincent Ingala - "Can't Stop Now" - (Vincentingala.com)
3 - 2 - Jeff Lorber Fusion - "Galaxy" - (Heads Up)
4 - 4 - David Benoit - "Conversation" - (Heads Up)
5 - 7 - Brian Bromberg - "Compared To That" - (Artistry/Mack Avenue)
6 - 5 - Ben Tankard - "Full Tank" - (Ben-Jamin)
7 - 6 - Cindy Bradley - "Unscripted" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
8 - 8 - Steve Oliver - "World Citizen" - (SOM)
9 - 10 - Michael Lington - "Pure" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
10 - 11 - Brian Culbertson - "Dreams" - (Verve)
11 - 9 - Boney James - "Contact" - (Verve)
12 - 26 - Julian Vaughn - "Breakthrough" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
13 - 13 - Najee - "The Smooth Side Of Soul" - (Shanachie)
14 - 12 - Darren Rahn - "Speechless" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
15 - 23 - The Rippingtons - "Built To Last" - (Peak/eOne)
16 - 17 - Kim Waters - "This Heart Of Mine" - (Shanachie)
17 - 16 - Richard Elliot - "In The Zone" - (Artistry/Mack Ave.)
18 - 29 - Nicholas Cole - "Endless Possibilities" - (Cutmore)
19 - 19 - Kenny G & Rahul Sharma - "Namaste" - (Concord)
20 - 30 - Shilts - "All Grown Up" - (Blanket"

Our thanks to smoothjazz.comVisit smoothjazz.com to view the latest complete top 50 chart. Visit smoothjazz.com to view the latest weekly chart recap.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Rippingtons - "Built To Last" - Peak release on August 28th #jazz

In the early 80s, a few years before Russ Freeman gathered a bunch of his L.A. musician friends to create the groundbreaking Rippingtons debut Moonlighting, the multi-talented guitarist and composer studied film scoring at UCLA and spent time on TV soundstages and at recording studios listening to orchestras play. On the Ripps’ new Peak Records/EOne album Built To Last, Freeman comes full circle from those days, working with orchestral textures for the first time and opening up new dam bursts of creativity that transcend all expectations of what a Ripps project can be.

Celebrating one of contemporary jazz’s most enduring legacies—a quarter century plus journey that includes nearly 20 albums and an ever evolving flow of band members—Freeman keeps his trademark melodies front and center but breaks all the stylistic rules on a set that includes a swirl of all the musical forces that define his life: pop, symphonic rock, classical/chamber music, country, ambient/chill, jazz fusion and even heavy metal, courtesy of an incendiary solo by Ozzy Osbourne/Black Label Society electric guitarist Zakk Wylde. The track listing offers a hint at just how far and gloriously Freeman ventures off the beaten path. Complementing the 11 basic songs is a lush classical guitar/orchestra reprise of the title cut “Built To Last” and orchestral bonus renditions of four other key tracks.

Bill Mayer’s famed animated jazz cat has graced every Ripps album cover, appearing in an environment that thematically reflects the musical vibe of the collection. By replacing Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore on the cover art of Built To Last, he falls perfectly in line with Freeman’s bold musical vision and establishes the band as a part of American history. As the multi-talented performer explains in his liner notes that also explain the essence of each song, two significant life altering events were the impetus behind his desire to start the next quarter century with a whole new twist. One is The Ripps crossing their 25th Anniversary milestone in 2011. The second is even more personal. His beloved sister Pamela—who Freeman says he “tortured” most growing up with his incessant guitar practicing--was diagnosed with breast cancer a week after a family get together in San Francisco, about the time Freeman had started composing these songs. At a time he was feeling musically more courageous than ever, she was showing him the truer meaning of the word. Built To Last is dedicated to Pamela “with utmost love and affection.”

“When The Ripps crossed the 25 year mark,” Freeman says, “it felt like a dream because I never would have believed we’d still be around, making great music and having so many loyal fans that have been the key to our success. I always want to give them my best, and I had this epiphany that we really need to do something different—and that involved throwing a curveball, going out of the regular mission statement of the band and breaking a lot of rules. As it turned out, that curveball wound up smashing quite a few windows! Sonically it’s also radically different for a Ripps project. I did some orchestral arrangements on my collaboration albums with David Benoit, but this is a first for the band. Growing up, I always thought I was going to pursue film scoring as a career—but happily for me, all the wonderful musicians I’ve worked with and our fans, fate intervened and I was blessed with this amazing group. Now, as we start the next quarter century, it’s time to broaden the palette and increase the dynamic range.”

The shift was immediately clear to Bernie Grundman, the legendary mastering engineer who has been an integral part of the Ripps’ sonic magic since the beginning. “After the requisite espressos and cappuccinos (beans ordered from Rome),” Freeman says, “Bernie started twisting dials as the mastering session began. After a few moments, he said, ‘I wasn’t expecting that.’ It’s really all about texture. The material at its core is simple, but the development and arrangements of the songs are more vertical than horizontal. Some passages are super quiet and some are really loud, and the shift sometimes happens unexpectedly. Another major difference on ‘Built To Last’ is that it features my classical and electric guitar playing more prominently. I usually write songs where everyone is featured equally, so it was a challenge to step out this way.”

The opening title track invites the listener into Freeman’s powerful new sonic universe with what sounds like a whimsical, classically influenced film score (where we can supply the images!) complete with lush strings and horns. His initial idea was to state the theme with the orchestra, restate it again and then have the band play it—and the execution of this leads to a soaring rock fusion explosion featuring Freeman on the Ibanez 335, a guitar he hasn’t recorded with since 1991’s Curves Ahead. Building on the theme of the Ripps as an evolving American music institution, “American Panorama” makes its sweeping declaration via hypnotic and swirling synth “footprint” riffs, a building string section and a thoughtful meditation on the Carvin classical guitar. Taking a cue from author Elmore Leonard—who once said the dialogue between character flows once he has named them—the multi-dimensional “Fool’s Gold” came to life once Freeman came up with the crafty title. The electronica driven tune starts with a trippy ambience (complemented with a distant trumpet cry) and grows into a powerhouse rock/jazz fusion jam backed by synth strings.

Every Ripps fan knows the history of the band from the mid-80s on, but an aspect of Freeman’s life that some may not be as familiar with is the fact that his family lived in Nashville through much of his adolescence and teen years. The next two tracks, “Hotel De Ville” and “Cougars & Gigolos” bring back the cool twang and pop/rock beat that he heard every time he hung out at a studio there, courtesy of guitarist John Pell, who gave lessons to Freeman and his dad. “Hotel Deville” is balmy and acoustic guitar driven and features some spectacular piano soloing, but its heart and soul is the sparkling, crisp electric guitar licks towards the end. With its infectious backbeat and twangy steel guitar, bluesy key textures and acoustic guitar melody, “Cougars & Gigolos” is as close to bluegrass/country music as the Ripps have ever ventured. Freeman bought the resonator guitar he plays on this track from a Vietnamese luthier; it has “a lot of fancy inlay, but I think it’s made of balsa wood.” Speaking of going off the beaten path, it speaks to Freeman’s boldness that he uses the title of an American classic for his next original, the rousing big band swing flavored “Route 66.” The Ripps get their kicks with the kind of brash, swirling horns that are characteristic of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band; in the middle of the song, Freeman inserts an acoustic jazz breakdown led by a spirited piano solo.

A title like “In The Shadow of Giants” can only mean one thing: Freeman paying homage to the rock guitar gods who inspired his musical journey. He does this with an ample mix of grit and elegance, blending sweet classical guitar lines with crunched out distorted electric lines—all over a funk/rock groove and dancing electronica atmospheres. Using “the first four chords any kid learns on guitar,” Freeman gets back to basics on the whimsical, filmic “Black Oak”—complementing his essentially simple guitar reflections with ambience, an easy shuffling percussion groove and soulful chamber music string touches.
Freeman describes the chill/electronic flavored “We Made A New World” as a tune with “totally horizontal development, all texture and almost no harmony, except for the middle section.” The track is seductive for a spell before the onset of booming drums and a towering wall of synthesizers.

Freeman and the Ripps really go for broke on the heavy metal/world music mash “Monument/Monolith,” a freewheeling blast of intensity on which Freeman complements his acoustic guitar with a little of everything you’ve never heard on a Ripps project before: “angry cannibals with boiling pots” on percussion, orchestra, solo violin and a blistering electric solo by heavy metal great Zakk Wylde. “What else could you ask for?” Freeman muses. “The natural impulse would be to end big, so of course I intentionally did the opposite, ending with just a single piano chord.” The basic tracking on Built To Last closes with “Firefly,” a tune Freeman co-wrote with his wife Yaredt Leon. It opens with orchestral textures before easing into a spirited, whistling synth melody that dances with veteran Ripps saxman Jeff Kashiwa’s always emotional soprano. Freeman then invites the listener to the most creative corners of his musical mind on a beautiful classical guitar reprise of the title track and inventive orchestral variations on the tracks “Fool’s Gold,” “Black Oak,” “Hotel Deville” and “Built To Last.”

While Built To Last is all about Freeman and The Rippingtons moving forward into uncharted territory, their story thus far is one for the musical ages. Perhaps the most amazing part of their journey is that after the unexpected success of Moonlighting, Russ Freeman—who had released a successful solo album, Nocturnal Playground, in 1985--was still on the fence regarding whether to pursue a career as a solo artist or become the full-time leader of a band. “I knew I couldn’t have both,” he says, “and I weighed the ups and downs of both potential choices. But I think my heart was telling me all along to do the band. There were so many more facets I could explore in a band situation than I could on my own.”

With Moonlighting paving the way, The Rippingtons dominated the contemporary jazz landscape from the late 80s on with their hit recordings Kilimanjaro, Tourist in Paradise, Welcome to the St. James Club, Curves Ahead, Weekend In Monaco, Live in L.A., Sahara, Brave New World, Black Diamond Topaz, Live Across America, Life in the Tropics, Let It Ripp! Wild Card, 20th Anniversary, Modern Art and Cote d’Azur. Freeman also recorded two dual albums with David Benoit, the solo albums Holidayand Drive, and collaborated with Craig Chaquico on From the Redwoods to the Rockies in 1998.

In 1994, Freeman and longtime manager Andi Howard launched the independent label Peak Records. Now affiliated with eOne Music, the label’s roster over the years has Gato Barbieri, David Benoit, Lee Ritenour, Paul Taylor, Eric Marienthal, Regina Belle, Peabo Bryson, former Ambrosia frontman David Pack, Gerald Albright and Magnolia Memoir.

“Just as the most exciting part of The Rippingtons over the years has been working with so many talented musicians and getting to know our fans,” Freeman says, “my favorite aspect of working on Built To Last was rising to the challenge of creating orchestral arrangements that fit in with the new music I was writing. I also learned about the value of silence in a composition, and when to let the music simply breathe. We’re all very excited to bring this new music to our fans and hopefully will be able to perform shows with live orchestras in the near future. It’s an exhilarating time for everyone.”

It’s been that way from the beginning. That’s kind of par for the course when a band is Built To Last.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

“Tomorrow” arrives today for the Aleks Girshevich Trio #jazz

Gifted jazz combo fronted by a prodigious 11-year-old drummer garners airplay and positive reviews

Already nearly 50 radio stations are playing tracks from the promising debut disc, “Tomorrow,” by the Aleks Girshevich Trio, which was released today by Dapper Music and welcomed with critical praise along with airplay on 16 new radio stations including Santa Monica’s influential NPR broadcaster KCRW.

There are two unique elements that make the Aleks Girshevich Trio intriguing. A glimpse at the artsy black & white photo adorning the “Tomorrow” cover depicts two men and an 11-year-old boy. The kid is Aleks for whom the chamber jazz trio is named. He’s a prodigious drummer who astounds by innately dispensing complex drum beats and advanced Cuban and Brazilian-influenced percussion polyrhythms that confound and impress jazz masters.

Aleks’ father is Vlad Girshevich, a conservatory trained pianist and composer who emigrated from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Vlad crafts evocative melodies, classically tinged jazz that is intimate and inviting. He can lure you with a beautiful melody, provoke pondering with contemplative noodling, or captivate with a scholarly musical exploration spanning an expansive array of art and culture. Rooted in Russian classical, Vlad has found a home in jazz where he has performed with Wayne Shorter, Arturo Sandoval and legendary drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez. He penned seven compositions for “Tomorrow” and collaborated with his cohorts to write the closing cut (“Dithering”).

Bridging the two exceptional players is Juilliard trained bassist David Arend, who produced “Tomorrow” during the two-day recording process in San Francisco. Capable of making classical riffs swing with his upright bass, the award-winning Arend is remarkably diverse having played jazz, modern chamber music, electronica, opera, and extensive orchestra gigs with the San Francisco Symphony and world-renown film composers (John Williams, Tan Dun, George Crumb) in addition to collaborating with Ornette Coleman, Bela Fleck, Bobby McFerrin and Carlos Santana.

The Denver-based Girshevichs’ are being shadowed by a documentary film crew focused on the extraordinary relationship and apprenticeship between father and son. The trio hopes to record their sophomore collection this fall.

Below are excerpts from some of the early reviews of the Aleks Girshevich Trio’s “Tomorrow”:

“Tomorrow is an immensely pleasing combination of elegant swing, original craftsmanship, and engaging melodies provided by Vlad.” – All About Jazz

“This is a delightful and evocative hybrid of a musical happy place between jazz and a more modern classical approach…Young Aleks Girshevich is a prodigy in every sense of the word. Aleks Girshevich is fortunate to have his father holding down the position of pianist. Vlad Girshevich has the ability to compose to the skill sets his son possesses, the end result is a brilliant harmonic color palette with a subtle yet intense lyrical direction.” – Critical Jazz

“Pianist and composer Vlad Girshevich is a thrilling and adventurous talent, whilst bassist (and producer) David Arend is an engaging player with a great warm tone. His bass work on ‘Tomorrow’, with its slippery, sliding groove, and his Ron Carter flavored solo on the stand-out track ‘Broken Promises’ are both fabulous. He accredits himself well throughout the album and his playing is a pleasure to listen to.” – Bass Players United

“The ‘Piano Trio’ is usually led by the …drumroll…PIANIST! Aleks Girshevich, however, leads from behind, which might not work for Middle East politics, but definitely is successful here. Along with Vlad Girshevich/p and David Arend/b, he creates some flying sparks on originals such as ‘Strange Memories’ or ‘Broken Promises.’ The leader cajoles his band mates through an exciting and varied display of rolls, paradiddles, hi hats, ride cymbals and changing of meters throughout, keeping everyone alive and alert throughout. A real workshop of being adept at every part of the percussive traps.” – Jazz Weekly

For more information about the Aleks Girshevich Trio, please visit www.aleksgirshevichtrio.com.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - August 13, 2012 #jazz

TW - LW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Gerald Albright/Norman Brown" - "24/7" (Concord)
2 - 2 - Jeff Lorber Fusion - "Galaxy" - (Heads Up)
3 - 4 - Vincent Ingala - "Can't Stop Now" - (Vincentingala.com)
4 - 3 - David Benoit - "Conversation" - (Heads Up)
5 - 5 - Ben Tankard - "Full Tank" - (Ben-Jamin)
6 - 6 - Cindy Bradley - "Unscripted" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
7 - 7 - Brian Bromberg - "Compared To That" - (Artistry/Mack Avenue)
8 - 8 - Steve Oliver - "World Citizen" - (SOM)
9 - 10 - Boney James - "Contact" - (Verve)
10 - 11 - Michael Lington - "Pure" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
11 - 9 - Brian Culbertson - "Dreams" - (Verve)
12 - 23 - Darren Rahn - "Speechless" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
13 - 18 - Najee - "The Smooth Side Of Soul" - (Shanachie)
14 - 13 - Acoustic Alchemy - "Roseland" - (Onside/Heads Up)
15 - 21 - Joe Plass - "After Hours" - (JTP Music)
16 - 14 - Richard Elliot - "In The Zone" - (Artistry/Mack Ave.)
17 - 16 - Kim Waters - "This Heart Of Mine" - (Shanachie)
18 - 25 - Blake Aaron - "Soul Stories" - (Innervision)
19 - 12 - Kenny G & Rahul Sharma - "Namaste" - (Concord)
20 - 15 - Peter White - "Here We Go" - (Concord)

Our thanks to smoothjazz.comVisit smoothjazz.com to view the latest complete top 50 chart. Visit smoothjazz.com to view the latest weekly chart recap.
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Thursday, August 09, 2012

fo/mo/deep - "A Beautiful Bang" - #jazz

Do you love the music of the Headhunters and Tower of Power? If so, we invite you to check out the music of fo/mo/deep. Just in time for school, they have released their “Jawjacka’” single from the “A Beautiful Bang” CD.

Summer break may be over, but the heat rises with the funk-laden bass lines of the “Jawjacka’” single. Sexy and joyful, this single is designed to invite the audience to wiggle in their seats and dance in the aisles. Crank up the music and let the party begin.

“Jawjacka’” has already been well-received by journalists during reviews of the “A Beautiful Bang” CD. Comparing fo/mo/deep to groups like Incognito and Down to the Bone, Chris Mann from SmoothJazzDaily.com loved the bass and the title of the “Jawjacka’” single. S. Victor Aaron from SomethingElseReviews.com has something to say about the “menacing bass riff” of the single, as well.

More about the music of “A Beautiful Bang” CD:
The 13 tracks on “A Beautiful Bang” take you on a funky journey that travels past the contemporary grooves of “The Wanting” to a touch of old school with “Martini Blues” and “My Baby Gots’ the Blues, Blues.” The Latin jazz dance of “A Plethora of Pleasant Thoughts” sizzles, while the neo-soul/jazz flavor of “Da Ba Di Do (Sonrisa de Zoe)” uplifts. A hypnotic go-go undercurrent plants the groove alongside Brazilian infused Afro-beats in “A Beautiful Bang.” The funk is in the house with “Mama said, Mama said,” while the poetry flows in “The Road.” Then, you have the hand-selected covers like the spoken-word saxual super funk of “Gentleman” (Fela Kuti), the delightful duet of sax & piano on “Naima” (John Coltrane), the reggae treatment on “Red Clay” (Freddie Hubbard) and the sweet jazz/funk fusion of “Montara” (Bobby Hutcherson). This CD has it all.

Get your musical fix online at www.fomodeep.com.

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Neamen Lyles - "So Free" #jazz

Having shared concert billing with the likes of Dave Koz and Jay Soto, saxophonist Neamen (pronounced “Nee-Amen”) Lyles is a young recording artist on the rise. If featuring Jeff Lorber, Brian Simpson, Mel Brown, Ray Reindeau and Rayford Griffin on his debut album doesn’t impress, the seamless flow of the tracks in “So Free” will.

Produced by contemporary jazz favorite Jay Soto, “So Free” is a carefully crafted experience that reflects an amazingly mature musical palette and is designed to appeal to a wide audience. What makes his sound different from the other young lions on the music scene is Neamen’s unique ability to quickly connect with the heart of the song. "My songs are about hope, excitement, inspiration and fun. My music conveys fun and entertainment that anyone can enjoy, while displaying that I'm a highly skilled musician, creative and full of passion,” said Neamen with his infectious smile.

His earnest approach to the music hasn’t gone unnoticed by reviewers or radio. Tucson Lifestyle proclaimed, “It’s often remarked how close a saxophone sounds to the human voice … and Neamen Lyles can really make the instrument sing.” Adding to the energy, the debut single “Candy” reached the Top 50 on the SmoothJazz.com chart. Additionally, this hardworking musician has recorded music for the beloved “Dr. Who” television show.

The next single to be released for national airplay is the album namesake “So Free,” which is written by Jay Soto and Neamen Lyles. Guest stars include Mel Brown (bass), Anthony Morra (drums) and Jay Soto (guitar, keyboards and programming). The warm tones of Neamen’s saxophone on this uplifting song will inspire you to listen to even more of this phenomenal young talent and is destined to be a radio hit. For more information on Neamen Lyles and “So Free,” please visit www.neamen.com.

“SO FREE sounds like an album you’d expect from the most seasoned and respected sax players in the genre today.” - Scott O’Brian, SmoothJazz.com

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Jonathan Butler - "Grace and Mercy" from Rendezvous Music on 9/25/12 #jazz

A life well lived is often the best foundation for compelling art and there’s no denying Jonathan Butler has been blessed with a fascinating life. A South African native whose expansive musical gift has earned accolades in the R&B, contemporary jazz and gospel fields, Butler’s new release Grace and Mercy is filled with the soulful sounds and insightful lyrics fans have come to expect from the veteran performer.  

A key word in Butler’s life is balance and after years of touring the globe, he’s learned just how important time away from the spotlight can be. “These days I try to do a little bit of living in between. I balance my life,” he shares. “I’ve got to spend time living, and through living you come up with stories to talk about and songs to write. These songs are personal experiences. People always assume that because you’re a recording artist and you travel the world that you don’t have problems and you don’t have disappointments in your life, which is not true. We all do. This album truthfully and honestly lets people know that the songs that I’m writing are the things that I’m going through in this season. I’m hoping those songs will effect people in a positive and wonderful way.”  

On Grace and Mercy Butler delivers a collection of songs that serve as a soothing musical balm in today’s troubled times. “This album really speaks about optimism, faith, belief and hope, especially in the light of what everybody has been experiencing in the last two or three years,” he says. “There’s been a lot of people losing their homes, their jobs, enduring the challenges that life brings. I’m hoping this album will bring hope to people. Songs like ‘Give it Up To God,’ ‘I Stand On Your Word,’ and ‘Who is Like the Lord’ were written from experiences that I’ve had to go through myself.”The lead single, “I Stand On Your Word,” is a soaring ballad that reminds us of the power of God’s promises. “I love that song,” Butler says. “I hope that it hits home to a lot of people.”  

God’s word became real to Butler when he was just a teenager. At 19-years-old, Butler’s life forever changed when he became a Christian. “It was love that drew me to Christ,” he smiles, “the love of someone who cared enough to talk to me about Jesus and take me in when I was basically a broken young man in South Africa. It was my late brother-in-law, my wife’s brother, who led me to Christ. He was that person in my life that actually took the time to talk to me about Jesus, and it didn’t take me long to give my heart to Christ because of that.”  

In the past few years, his faith has sustained Butler during some difficult times. He lost his beloved mother and a very close friend in addition to helping his wife battle cancer. It’s been tumultuous time that saw the gifted musician leaning ever closer to God and pouring his experiences into his music. Grace and Mercy showcases Butler’s gift for taking potent lyrical messages and enveloping them in memorable melodies. “Give it up to God” is a soul-stirring slow jam that spotlights Butler’s warm, distinctive voice. “Simplicity always wins for me,” Butler says of the song. “There is such power in a simplistic lyric. You really reach people when you say simply, ‘Give it up to God.’  We all go through those every day trials. We read the Proverbs and Psalms and most of the time we forget that the Bible says, ‘Trust in the Lord with your heart and lean not on your own understanding.’ Every day we have to give it up to God, EVERY day.”  

Among Butler’s favorite tracks are “I Know He Cares.” “I love, love, love, love ‘He Cares!’  I wrote ‘He Cares’ and it spoke to me,” Butler says. “I started with the music and then started writing these lyrics down. We all need to know that God really cares for us. The Bible says, “We are the sheep of his pasture” and he absolutely does care for us. That song really speaks to me a lot.”   

“Moments of Worship” is another highlight on Butler’s new project. “I actually recorded ‘Moments Of Worship’ in Spain years ago,” he says. “I was at a friend’s house and he had a studio and an engineer. I sat in front of a piano and started singing my favorite worship songs and I just decided to do that on this album. At the end of all the music, it comes back to worship, which I think is beautiful.”  

Lyrically Grace and Mercy delivers the kind of Biblically grounded, emotionally uplifting songs Butler has become known for, yet musically he says fans might be caught slightly off guard. “It’s going to surprise people a little bit coming from me because I think it’s much more of an edgier gospel record,” he says of the project, which was recorded at his home studio. “It’s more urban. Overall I feel it’s much more of a raw type of record. I didn’t grow up in church, but I’m a born again Christian. For the last 30 years I’ve been saved so I write from that place. I draw a lot from different elements and experiences and also my culture from South Africa, so I think it’s a little bit different.”   

Born in Cape Town, Butler was the youngest of 12 children. He discovered a gift for music early in life and began singing and playing guitar at age seven. As a child, he traveled all over South Africa performing with a troupe of 100 children, getting a first hand look at the country’s disturbing dichotomy---devastating poverty and extreme affluence that existed under Apartheid.  

Butler signed his first record deal as a teen and became the first black artist played on white South African stations. “That was 1974 and it was a song titled ‘Please Stay,’” Butler recalls of the historic tune, which won a Sarie Award, the South African equivalent of a Grammy. “Back then I was with an independent label called CCP Productions.”  

Though Butler lived in England for 17 years and currently makes his home in Encino, CA, his youth in South Africa continually colors his artistry. “All those memories and all those experiences are what makes a woman or a man a stronger person,” he says. “It influences how they live their lives and their appreciation for life and freedom. That’s what shapes you and gives you that sensitivity of heart. Anyone who grew up in South Africa, or even in the 60’s in America, has a deeper appreciation for life and for freedom. It shapes their lives completely. I feel like all of the stuff that we grew up with in South Africa has made me a better person.”  

Butler has toured the world with such acclaimed artists as Kirk Whalum, Dave Koz and Ruby Turner. He’s earned Grammy nominations and rave reviews in the jazz and R&B fields, but his gospel albums hold a special place in his heart. “It was always a desire that I had,” he says of recording gospel music, “but I never really wanted to do it just for the sake of it. I needed to know that God would release me to do it because it’s a ministry. It changes people’s lives and I wanted to be sure that the Lord would release me to it. I prayed about it for a long time. I waited and then when I got the confirmation, God began giving me these songs. I wrote ‘Falling In Love With Jesus’ and that opened the door for me to walk seamlessly into my ministry.”  

Music, ministry, faith and family are all woven joyfully together for Jonathan Butler. His daughter, Jodie, tours with him, sings background vocals on Grace and Mercy, and is an integral part of his ministry. “She is actually working on her own project right now,” the proud father says. “I’m going to be making time to help develop her record. She’s a great writer and she’s working on new songs.”   Butler has a lot to smile about these days. His wife of 30 years survived her battle with cancer, and they enjoy spending time doting on their little granddaughter. “With this record I’m really addressing where the Butler family has been and what we have gone through in 2010 and 2011,” he says. “My inspiration is definitely my family. They support me. They love me and they encourage me. I’m very, very excited about this record. I can’t wait for people to and connect with it because I believe that God has a lot in store for me and I’m heeding the call and obeying God.”

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - August 6, 2012 #jazz

TW - LW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Gerald Albright/Norman Brown" - "24/7" (Concord)
2 - 2 - Jeff Lorber Fusion - "Galaxy" - (Heads Up)
3 - 3 - David Benoit - "Conversation" - (Heads Up)
4 - 6 - Vincent Ingala - "Can't Stop Now" - (Vincentingala.com)
5 - 7 - Ben Tankard - "Full Tank" - (Ben-Jamin)
6 - 5 - Cindy Bradley - "Unscripted" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
7 - 4 - Brian Bromberg - "Compared To That" - (Artistry/Mack Avenue)
8 - 8 - Steve Oliver - "World Citizen" - (SOM)
9 - 11 - Brian Culbertson - "Dreams" - (Verve)
10 - 12 - Boney James - "Contact" - (Verve)
11 - 15 - Michael Lington - "Pure" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
12 - 14 - Kenny G & Rahul Sharma - "Namaste" - (Concord)
13 - 10 - Acoustic Alchemy - "Roseland" - (Onside/Heads Up)
14 - 9 - Richard Elliot - "In The Zone" - (Artistry/Mack Ave.)
15 - 13 - Peter White - "Here We Go" - (Concord)
16 - 18 - Kim Waters - "This Heart Of Mine" - (Shanachie)
17 - 16 - Chris Standring - "Electric Wonderland" - (Ultimate Vibe)
18 - 21 - Najee - "The Smooth Side Of Soul" - (Shanachie)
19 - 17 - Paul Brown - "The Funky Joint" - (Woodward Ave.)
20 - 19 - Pete Belasco - "Lights On" - (Independent)

Our thanks to smoothjazz.comVisit smoothjazz.com to view the latest complete top 50 chart. Visit smoothjazz.com to view the latest weekly chart recap.
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