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Sunday, May 16, 2021

African-jazz saxophonist Isaiah Katumwa is ready to “Dance Again” #jazz


The joyous album featuring collaborations with contemporary jazz hitmakers Darren Rahn, Adam Hawley and Dave Koz drops July 9; the title track goes for playlist adds on Monday.

 

As COVID-19 raged last summer and tension soared in the wake of the civil unrest that erupted after the death of George Floyd that occurred miles from his home, saxophonist Isaiah Katumwa was at work on his first major US release that he envisioned lifting spirits by uniting the world in dance. The Ugandan-born artist felt that to confront global issues - a pandemic and systemic racism – it would take a global response. Katumwa assembled a collective of African, American and Latin musicians to help craft “Dance Again,” the global jazz album dropping July 9 from Beyond Music. The festive African beat title track led by Katumwa’s agile soprano sax goes for playlist adds as a single on Monday.

 

Katumwa wrote or co-wrote all ten songs on “Dance Again,” each of which is brimful of joyous light and sunny optimism. Fellow saxophonist Darren Rahn, a multiple GRAMMY nominee who has produced more than 25 No. 1 singles, produced six tracks for the set, and Billboard chart-topping guitarist Adam Hawley produced three. Rwandan producer Marc Kibamba helmed “The Sun Will Shine Again,” a jubilant African rhythmic groove illumined by a vocal chorus.   

          

 

“During the scary times of the pandemic and when people took to the streets in anger to protest, I often wondered whether we’ll ever dance again in unity. It had become a very strange thought. ‘Dance Again’ is an answer to share positivity and contribute to the healing process that we all need right now. It’s music with the purpose to help us as we recover, which I believe is one of the purposes of music,” said Katumwa.

 

The seeds for “Dance Again” were first planted a couple years ago when Katumwa wrote and recorded “Home Away” with Rahn, a sweetly melodic composition that referred to Katumwa’s quest to find an artistic balance between making commercial instrumental music in America while remaining true to his African roots. Last year, Katumwa and Rahn collaborated on the radiant “Smile On,” which was issued as a single last May. 

 

When we dropped ‘Smile On,’ it was to add positivity, to use music to bring light to the world in our dark times. It’s a reminder that no matter what challenges life brings, we can always use our ability to smile as a resource to uplift and encourage,” said Katumwa of the single that earned most added status at Billboard for three consecutive weeks.

 

Coronavirus restrictions forced Katumwa and his collaborators to write and record remotely. But that didn’t dampen his excitement about recording with sax superstar Dave Koz.

 

“The format and nature of the recording process was very interesting, working remotely throughout the entire process. The highlight for me through the many special moments of working with Darren and Adam in the process was my longtime idol, Dave Koz, agreeing to be featured on the album. His alto sax work on the Afropop fusion track ‘Nsiima’ was magical. Nsiima means grateful and for me, that sums up my musical journey thus far along with being grateful for the opportunity to record with my idol. Looking at the bigger picture, I’m grateful to be making it through the pandemic alive,” said Katumwa.

 

Katumwa released numerous gospel-flavored recordings in Africa in the early 2000s. His 2006 release, “Sinza,” was his first as a mixologist serving a blend of African and contemporary jazz. The saxman’s 2016 disc, “This Is Me,” received international airplay and included a mix by Rahn on the cut “Pamojja,” which was the first time they teamed up. “Dance Again” is Katumwa’s first collection recorded specifically with the US market in mind.      

 

“Dance Again” contains the following songs:

 

“Dance Again”

“Smile On”

“Nsiima” featuring Dave Koz

“Swahili Breeze”

“Home Away”

“My Joy”

“Nkwagala”

“What Is Love”

“The Sun Will Rise Again”

“My Prayer”

 

 

For more information, please visit https://isaiahkatumwa.com




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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - May 10, 2021 #jazz

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Friday, May 07, 2021

Contemporary jazz saxophonist Matt Willard discovers a tropical sound in an unlikely locale: Nashville #jazz

Contemporary jazz saxophonist Matt Willard discovers a tropical sound in an unlikely locale: Nashville

 

His debut single, “Por la Orrilla del Mar,” offers an enticing taste of what’s to come.

 

While Nashville is primarily known as a launch pad for country music careers, Music City also has a burgeoning jazz scene. Trekking south from his Virginia home, saxophonist Matt Willard entered a Nashville recording studio with some of the city’s finest contemporary jazz musicians to record his debut single, “Por la Orrilla del Mar.” Willard wrote the single that just dropped on the Creative Soul Jazz imprint and produced it with the label’s Eric Copeland and Sunset Blvd. Studio’s Steve Dady. The exotic track showcasing the tenor saxman’s impassioned play is the first in a series of singles and accompanying videos that will precede Willard’s first album that is expected to drop by the end of the year.

 

A staccato Latin rhythm constructed by drummer Steve Brewster and bassist Jacob Lowery is the pedestal for the lush melodies of “Por la Orrilla del Mar.” Guitarist Dave Cleveland adds to the harmony while keyboardist Jason Webb shines when trading solos with Willard, who’s deft saxplay runs the gamut of emotion: from intense, raw and emotional to restrained, poised and harnessed. A horn section underscores and illumines Willard’s saxophone excursions.

 


Willard struggled to come up with a title for the single that has Caribbean nuances and conjures up soothing beach scenes. He felt it needed a Spanish title, but since he doesn’t speak the language, he turned to family members for help.

 

“After spending many hours trying to come up with the perfect song title, the idea to ask my uncle popped into my head. He speaks fluent Spanish along with many other languages. I sent him the track, and he and my aunt picked up on the Latin feel to the song, and ultimately, they came up with ‘Por la Orrilla Del Mar.’ It means ‘by the sea shore.’”    

 

Willard’s soulful and inspired sound meshes perfectly with the ethos of Copeland’s label. Creative Soul Jazz is a purveyor of improvisational jazz that they describe as “different and has spiritual roots.”

 

“As a label and production company, our mission is to use our God-given talents to show the beauty, the intensity, the passion and the spiritual effect of jazz. Our souls are rooted firmly in the freedom and pure art form of jazz,” said Copeland.    

                            

Willard began playing baritone sax in sixth grade and switched to tenor after graduating high school. Having played in jazz ensembles as well as his school’s marching band, he landed professional gigs playing at restaurants, special events and weddings. Willard tested the waters by issuing several recording projects locally, but teaming up with Dady, Copeland and Creative Soul Jazz is about taking his craft to the national level. “Por la Orrilla del Mar” offers a promising glimpse of what’s to come from this artist.   

 

Willard said, “I had a blast recording in Nashville and cannot wait to see everyone’s reaction to the music as we release it. I hope that these songs touch as many lives as possible like they did mine when writing them. I am truly blessed to have a great team working with me to write and produce this record. Collaborating with Nashville session players is an amazing experience. The entire production team has knocked it out of the park. The album is going to be great!”

 

For more information, please visit www.mattwillardsax.com





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Friday, April 30, 2021

Rale Micic’s heartwarming fusion of heritage, taste, and jazz guitar sophistication shines on “Only Love Will Stay” available on May 7, 2021 on Whaling City Sound #jazz

A World of Talent

Rale Micic’s heartwarming fusion of heritage, taste, and jazz guitar sophistication shines on Only Love Will Stay


It goes without saying, though we’ll say it once, right from the top here, that Rale Micic is a unique voice in jazz guitar. He combines an absurdly melodic approach and an intricate insight into harmonies, with a sort of deep personal story from his native Serbia. His life experience and heritage exert a soft and loving influence on his artistic approach: the rhythm, tone, and feel of the music of his life. This approach, in the works for a while now, culminates on his new recording, Only Love Will Stay.

 

Micic has played with such artists as Tom Harrell, Don Friedman, Peter Bernstein, Eric Alexander, and Greg Hutchinson, but it’s the striking originality with which he plays his own music that really distinguishes him from other jazz guitar talents. The session, with Jared Gold on keys and Geoff Clapp and Johnathan Blake on drums, is both relaxed and substantial, joyful and chill, starring the filigreed sounds of Micic’s Sadowsky archtop and the tasty choices of empathic accompanists. “I first played with Johnathan Blake when we were in Tom Harrell’s group,” says Micic. “We have been playing together for over 10 years and he was also on my previous album, Night Music. Geoff is another great drummer and we have toured and played quite a bit in the last four, five years. It’s great how both of them brought something special to the music. This is the first time I worked with Jared Gold, but it felt so nice and easy. I think the musical chemistry is pretty apparent.”

 

Only Love Will Stay features Micic and the band creating layers of original sounds, featuring a backbone in acoustic jazz ala John Abercrombie, the intricate textures of his internal conversations, and continuing through the loving melodic rhythms of his native Serbia. “Early on,” he says, “I loved listening to the very different way that John Abercrombie was using organ with his groups and keeping it very open and cool sounding. So, I guess this record is a nod to John. He was a big influence on me. I was fortunate to play and record with him before he passed away. That’s one of the reasons I included his song ‘Even Steven’ on the album.”

 

Elsewhere, tunes like the dark and dramatic title track which opens the record, right through to the lush, atmospheric closer “Lipe Cvatu,” in 7/8, are enrapturing without going too far astray, too deep into the margins. They are intoxicating without over-exerting. Micic’s Only Love Will Stay is a joyful experience and a stunning excursion into the mind of a truly original artist.




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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - April 26, 2021 #jazz

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - April 19, 2021 #jazz

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - April 12, 2021 #jazz

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Monday, April 05, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - April 5, 2021 #jazz

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - March 29, 2021 #jazz

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Thursday, March 25, 2021

A triumphant return for contemporary jazz guitarist Richard Smith #jazz

His cancer treatment mantra, “Let’s Roll,” is the title of his first single in five years, which goes for playlist adds on March 29.

 

 

Last March, guitarist Richard Smith was in a battle for his life. Before the doctors and nurses administered the experimental infusions that he hoped would strangle the stage 3 cancer gripping his throat, his daily response to their inquiries asking if he was ready for the four-hour process that he went through for 45 consecutive days became an affirmation: “Let’s roll.” A year later and now cancer free, Smith is set to drop his first US single in five years, “Let’s Roll,” which he wrote with Billboard chart-topping guitarist Adam Hawley, who produced the uplifting track featuring saxophonist-flutist Jeff Kashiwa.

 

Shortly before Smith’s diagnosis, the former chair of the contemporary guitar department at the Thornton School of Music at USC’s former student, Hawley, sent a demo track of the single that goes for playlist adds on March 29 from Chillharmonic Media. “Let’s Roll” was to become Smith’s daily mantra before infusions.

 

“The clinical trial drug that I volunteered for was a daily four hours of intravenous infusion, as well as radiation and chemotherapy that drained my mojo to zombie levels every day. Fortunately, the drug is now in production and is a game changer,” said Smith, who lost 40 pounds during treatment and has an eight-inch scar on his neck from the surgery.

 

“Let’s Roll” previews Smith’s forthcoming 13th album, “Language of the Soul,” which he plans to drop in the Fall.

 

“The album title comes from a piece written by great South American poet Pablo Neruda, who I discovered while on tour in Argentina and have become a huge fan. The new album is a lively collection of pieces that I recorded over the last two years while living in Finland, Italy, Greece, London and while isolated here in LA. I wanted to get back in my ‘LA lane’ and working with Adam (Hawley) helped me get back in the musical headspace to produce music for an American audience,” said Smith who remains a full professor at USC.

 

Smith’s “SOuLIDIFIED” (2003) album spent 17 weeks in the top 10 in terms of airplay and his 2015 set, “Tangos,” spent more than five months in the top 10 of the indie and contemporary jazz charts. As a featured sideman and collaborator, Smith has recorded or shared the stage with contemporary jazz royalty, including Richard ElliotPeter WhiteKenny GDave KozGerald AlbrightMindi AbairEric MarienthalBrian BrombergWarren HillEverette Harp and Dan SiegelOpportunities over the last ten years to perform, compose and record with international artists and at universities aboard afforded Smith the opportunity to combine his two loves.

 

“I can’t separate my passion for making music from my passion for teaching it. So, I committed to a musical life away from the States. I get summers off from USC, so I hop on a plane the day after classes and spend May to September abroad. My music has changed a lot, doing arrangements that suit European concert goers. However, when I met American actress Nancy Lee Grahn (General Hospital), I decided to return to full-time life in the United States and get back to my West Coast modern jazz roots.”

   

Although Smith describes the exuberant R&B instrumental groove on “Let’s Roll” as “very West Coast, very LA,” songs from the upcoming album tackle weightier subjects than just “palm trees, ocean breezes and great vibes.”     

 

“A few songs from ‘Language of the Soul’ have political origins. A big part of songwriting history are songs of protest and struggle. We are in such turbulent times that as an artist, it is impossible to avoid the opportunity to share the inspiration and social commentary that such times provide,” said Smith.

 

It’s possible that Smith’s cancer experiences may inspire more music that will appear on “Language of the Soul.”   

 

“A typical thing that cancer survivors say is that no one understands except the people who have been through it. That is so true, but it helps those who haven’t been through it to share some of the details – whether it helps them personally or one of their loved ones as they go through it.”

                

For more information, please visit https://www.richardsmithguitar.com.



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Monday, March 22, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - March 22, 2021 #jazz

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Monday, March 15, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - March 15, 2021 #jazz

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Monday, March 08, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - March 8, 2021 #jazz

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Monday, March 01, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - March 1, 2021 #jazz

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - February 22, 2021 #jazz

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