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Thursday, June 01, 2023

R&B-Jazz saxophonist Shawn Raiford leaves the door open for music #jazz


R&B-Jazz saxophonist Shawn Raiford leaves the door open for music


Grammy winner Derek “DOA” Allen produced the newly released single from the forthcoming “The Next Step.”


At its essence, the four-time Grammy-winning hit “Leave the Door Open” is a song about opportunity and R&B-jazz saxophonist Shawn Raiford is keeping himself open to the opportunities that music presents to him “at this stage in my life.” Teaming with Grammy-winning producer Derek “DOA” Allen (Lionel Richie, Janet Jackson, Tyrese), Raiford pours his soulful intentions into an instrumental version of the throwback-styled classic, which was released as a single and began collecting playlist adds on Monday. It’s the second track issued from Raiford’s sophomore album, “The Next Step,” slated to drop early next year and is being produced by Allen.   

You’ve got to go big if you’re going to take on a song destined to become a standard and Raiford delivers on his sax-powered version of “Leave the Door Open.” The Sacramento-based musician is an all-in kind of man hence he brings everything he’s got to reimagining the Silk Sonic smash about being open to possibilities. Having dropped his 2020 debut album, “Man With A Horn,” in his fifties, Raiford interprets the song from his perspective, bringing heart and emotion to his horn play.


“At this stage in my life, I need to leave the door open for a lot of things. To me, it’s for my musical journey. I’m leaving the door open for music - the possibilities it may create, and the opportunities music may present for me to touch, uplift and inspire people. I’m so grateful to be doing what I’m doing with my music career at my age. It’s a young person’s game, but it’s never too late. That’s part of my message. You’re never too old;  it’s never too late to start. I bring my life’s experiences to my music and performances. That’s what makes it authentic,” said Raiford, who released the single that will soon be accompanied by a vintage video capturing the fun and spirit of Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak’s Silk Sonic collaboration.


An award-winning entertainer with The Shawn Raiford Experience, Raiford invited his core band members into the recording studio to track “Leave the Door Open.” Keyboardist Javance Butler, guitarist Vincent Cole Dutcher, bassist Michael “Tiny” Lindsey and drummer Jonathan Frazier set the foundation to which keyboardist Ivan Johnson and saxophonist Andre Delano provide additional melodic fills.


“I decided to do ‘Leave the Door Open’ because I really fell in love with the song. It’s just one of those catchy songs that’s going to be around for a long time. It really had the world, including myself, playing it over and over and over again. I figured that a lot of people would love to hear that song,” said Raiford, who calls himself a huge Bruno Mars fan and was impressed by Anderson.Paak’s performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.


Another tune close to Raiford’s heart is a love song to his Northern California hometown, “Vallejo.” He plans to drop a single in the fall named for the village.


“I love that village (Vallejo) and I still surround myself with that village as my team and my producer, Derek “DOA” Allen, are from that village,” said Raiford, who has been opening shows this year for R&B singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Chuckii Booker and has opened for or performed with Teddy RileyYolanda AdamsFreddie JacksonPete EscovedoEric Darius and Jeff Ryan


Earlier this year, Raiford released the first glimpse of “The Next Step,” a sensual single titled “Forever.”


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Monday, May 29, 2023

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - May 29, 2023 #jazz

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A Memorial Day Worth Remembering

Andy Rooney On How Memorial Day Should Be Celebrated

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney.

"There is more bravery at war than in peace, and it seems wrong that we have so often saved this virtue to use for our least noble activity - war. The goal of war is to cause death to other people."

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day we have set aside to honor by remembering all the Americans who have died fighting for the thing we like the most about our America: the freedom we have to live as we please.

No official day to remember is adequate for something like that. It's too formal. It gets to be just another day on the calendar. No one would know from Memorial Day that Richie M., who was shot through the forehead coming onto Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, wore different color socks on each foot because he thought it brought him good luck.

No one would remember on Memorial Day that Eddie G. had promised to marry Julie W. the day after he got home from the war, but didn’t marry Julie because he never came home from the war. Eddie was shot dead on an un-American desert island, Iwo Jima.

For too many Americans, Memorial Day has become just another day off. There's only so much time any of us can spend remembering those we loved who have died, but the men, boys really, who died in our wars deserve at least a few moments of reflection during which we consider what they did for us.

They died.

We use the phrase "gave their lives," but they didn’t give their lives. Their lives were taken from them.

There is more bravery at war than in peace, and it seems wrong that we have so often saved this virtue to use for our least noble activity - war. The goal of war is to cause death to other people.

Because I was in the Army during World War II, I have more to remember on Memorial Day than most of you. I had good friends who were killed.

Charley Wood wrote poetry in high school. He was killed when his Piper Cub was shot down while he was flying as a spotter for the artillery.

Bob O'Connor went down in flames in his B17.

Obie Slingerland and I were best friends and co-captains of our high school football team. Obie was killed on the deck of the Saratoga when a bomb that hadn’t dropped exploded as he landed.

I won’t think of them anymore tomorrow, Memorial Day, than I think of them any other day of my life.

Remembering doesn’t do the remembered any good, of course. It's for ourselves, the living. I wish we could dedicate Memorial Day, not to the memory of those who have died at war, but to the idea of saving the lives of the young people who are going to die in the future if we don’t find some new way - some new religion maybe - that takes war out of our lives.

That would be a Memorial Day worth celebrating.

Written By Andy Rooney © MMV, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This segment was originally broadcast on May 29, 2005.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Saxophonist, Composer and Conductor CHRISTINE JENSEN Releases "Like In Love" From Upcoming Releases Day Moon Album #jazz


Saxophonist, Composer and Conductor Christine Jensen,

Regarded as One of Canada’s Most Compelling Jazz Artists,

Releases Day Moon


The Ten Compositions are at Turns, Melancholic and Ebullient,

Sober and Playful


                                Available June 16 via Justin Time Records       



 “Jensen writes in three dimensions, with a quiet kind of authority that makes the many elements cohere. Wayne Shorter, Maria Schneider and Kenny Wheeler come to mind.”

— Downbeat


MP3s, WAVs, Photos, Bio and All Assets Here

“Like In Love” YouTube and Spotify



We’ve witnessed and heard testimonies from countless musicians who were forced to struggle—financially and artistically—through the lockdowns of the pandemic. For some who have survived, there’s been the silver lining of a shift in perspective. Many artists dug deep in isolation and discovered the solution to long-elusive mysteries. Some let go of the tried-and-true and instead explored new means of expression.


While we’re hopefully emerging from the final Covid surge, it’s a welcome that an artist like Christine Jensen is opening ears to the magic of reflection on her long, turbulent days and months locked down.


The exceptional alto and soprano saxophonist from Canada releases the compelling Day Moon with her impressive quartet on Justin Time Records. The music is at turns, melancholic and ebullient, sober and playful. It’s a date where she creates an improvisational community of close friends in quartet and duo settings. “I got hit hard by the pandemic because I felt alone and was not doing what I’m supposed to do,” Jensen says. “So, I focused on my saxophones, teaching myself to present my sound, my solo voice. It’s almost like becoming the vocalist.”


At home leading her own renowned jazz orchestra, Jensen was forced to pull back by necessity into a more intimate space. “I had to shed the extra instrumentation that was always in my head,” she says. “So, I started to once a week play music with my longtime piano friend Steve Amirault. We worked together—he collaborated with me and pushed the boundaries. It created a stable place for me.”


Jensen invited her regular rhythm team of bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Jim Doxas to mask workshop in small spaces to bring new colors into the ebb and flow of her compositions. The quartet members became, as she writes in her liner notes “my refuge and sanctuary.” She continues, “I feel like we met on thin ice through two cycles of seasons, meeting, greeting, and expanding on this repertoire, so that we could find a place that allowed us to trust and support each other at the highest level—not just in the music, but also in friendship, empathy and love, all words that the lockdown was attempting to repress.”


The album opens with the title tune that was written pre-pandemic for her chordless collective CODE Quartet that included trumpeter Lex French. The ‘60s Ornette Coleman-inspired band issued its Genealogy album for Justin Time in 2021. “It started out as a demo that ended up being the recording,” Jensen says. “At that point, the tune was just starting to jell, but I never glued to it. So, I thought let’s explore it wider harmonically with the piano instead of trumpet. The changes led to a surprising end.”


It’s the perfect lead tune inspired by a vision Jensen experienced. She was on her street in the middle of the day and saw a perfect moon in front of her with the sun glowing behind. “It was so strange,” she says. “It’s how the pandemic felt—living in another world. Other worldly and so sci-fi. It makes for a perfect prelude to the rest of the album where the world is shifting.”


The four-song suite Quiescence was written for a commission from New York’s Jazz Coalition that had raised funds for composers. Jensen sketched compositions including the Brazilian clave-feel “Tolos d’Abril,” her April Fool’s birthday song. “I wrote it because I was alone and I didn’t want to be in the Montreal snow and would just love to be anywhere from here,” Jensen says. “So, I thought of any opposite place, like a beach in Brazil.”


Highlights of the album feature the duo spots with Amirault, including the short-and-sweet torrent of the playful “Balcony Rules” based on “What Is This Called Love?” and the gem of the album, the gorgeous rendering of Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Here’s That Rainy Day.”


“That’s one of my favorite cuts,” Jensen says. “Steve and I hit on the emotion in ballad playing that’s not often captured in this day and age. We just looked at each other, slowed the tune down and played our feelings. I take the melody line and Steve is focused on time. It’s a deep conversation and an elaboration of who we are as musicians. We stole the slowness of this tune from the style of Shirley Horn and her delivery of a ballad."


Finally, Jensen is happy to play some gigs to support Day Moon. In the future she continues to be on the tenure track at Eastman School of Music and has more music ready to go, including another CODE Quartet album, more recording and performing with her sister Ingrid Jensen and a big band recording to be released by the end of 2023. “It’s all in motion,” she says. “And who knows, maybe even an album of duos in the setting I discovered on Day Moon.”



Christine Jensen · Day Moon

Justin Time Records · Release Date: June 16, 2023


For more information on Christine Jensen, please visit: | Facebook


For more information on other Justin Time Records releases, please visit: | Facebook Twitter | Instagram


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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Fire & Rain - Jazz Piano Trio Innovation Shines on Tim Ray's new Whaling City Sound release #jazz

Tim Ray’s new release Fire & Rain features his jazz piano trio with John Lockwood on bass and Mark Walker on drums. The ensemble showcases their harmonically rich and balanced sound, playing uncommon yet effective choices such as Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Mojave,” as well as newer material including three original pieces and the collective “Improv #1 (for Chick).” This collection pays tribute to Ray’s heroes, including Monk’s “Bye-Ya” and Jarrett’s “The Windup,” while also featuring works by overlooked composers such as Carla Bley and Dave McKenna. The album includes a track from the singer-songwriter genre, James Taylor’s iconic “Fire and Rain,” which builds to an inexorable group climax. Also in the collection, is a family portrait piece, “The Meeting,” alternatively titled “The Jbug and the Kman” and a groovy track called “NO Worries,” which has a hint of electric keyboard and New Orleans-style rhythm. Despite the varying moods and themes, the trio’s level of creativity never falters, making Fire & Rain “some of the most inspired trio music of what we might call the surround-Covid era.” according to Bob Blumenthal in the excellent liner notes.


Tim Ray/piano

John Lockwood/acoustic & electric bass

Mark Walk/drums, percussion

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Monday, May 22, 2023

Soul-jazz violinist Brooke Alford shines indomitably on “Heaven on Earth” #jazz



After a challenging five years, her uplifting second album was released last Friday.


Luminously striking a power pose on the cover of her “Heaven on Earth” album, urban-jazz violinist Brooke Alford’s five-year process in writing and recording her second full-length collection has been an honest, emotional and raw journey through traumatic loss and unexpected difficulties. When pushing through is the only option, the album is about overcoming no matter the circumstances thus the music on the nine-song set that dropped last Friday is an empowering and invigorating listen reflecting “The Artist of the Violin’s” enlightenment, growth and personal development through her lived experiences.


Although she released her debut album, “Expressions,” in 2007 followed by “The Viosocalist” EP in 2012, the Atlanta-based Alford had never gone after radio airplay until she teamed with seminal urban-jazz keyboardist Bob Baldwin to produce the single “Closer” in 2018. At the time, she didn’t know the sensual R&B groove with reggae percussion inflections on which she and Baldwin sing the chorus would be the inception of an album project. The single fulfilled her objective of getting radio spins, earning a spot in the top fifty. A remixed version appears on the album that opens with another Baldwin collaboration – the optimistic single, “Heaven on Earth,” illumined by Alford’s exquisite violin play – to bookend the album.


The next year, Alford’s father was diagnosed with cancer, shifting her focus from music to family. Then the pandemic hit, further stifling her artistic output. Her father did succumb to the disease in 2020, leaving the family devastated. Through prayer and reflection, Alford had a realization. Instead of mourning, she decided to shine, determined to honor her father by creating a legacy of hope, inspiration and upliftment.


“2020 by far was the toughest year of my life, yet the most rewarding. I saw a very dark side of life when my father perished from the illness. While transition is very sad and hurtful, I found this experience with my dad to be bittersweet. It takes ‘loss’ in order to ‘gain.’ It is a difficult life lesson. My dad inspired me to just ‘go for it’ and shine bright like a diamond in my music career and life. His legacy will continue to evolve and live through me and my future linage,” said Alford who will remember her father during an album release concert on Father’s Day (June 18) at City Winery in Atlanta.


Taking her father’s cue, Alford wrote “SHINE” with George Freeman. The funky mid-tempo single dropped in 2021.       


Moving on with her life as the world emerged from the pandemic last spring, Alford and Freeman wrote and released the festive “New Day” featuring the keyboardist’s elegant solo buttressed by impassioned violin play.


“Last year was a significant one. A newness had occurred. With the world recovering from the pandemic, it was time to celebrate coming into a fresh season, a ‘new day.’ Writing the melody felt so natural and the creation flowed like water through my fingers. I sent the melody to George (Freeman), and he perfectly matched the energy in the production. The organ that he added to the song gave such a soulful rock and classic feel, just like a fresh Sunday sunrise,” described Alford.


Last August, the rousing “On The Move” became the third Alford and Freeman creation to release as a single. It’s a slick and soulful contemporary jazz energizer. Alford said the song is about the certainty found in life’s constant forward motion. 


“Coming off of ‘New Day,’ I wanted to create an upbeat, celebratory tune with lots of strings on the track and several other high-energy musical elements. George sent me his take and he hit the nail on the head on the first go ‘round. As the song began to develop with the versus and bridge, viola parts and arrangements and more percussive instruments were added to fill out the track. It was definitely a fun tune to make,” said Alford who has opened for The WhispersMint ConditionPeabo BrysonNajeeWill DowningMarion MeadowsPaul TaylorMarcus JohnsonIndia.Arie and Tony! Toni! TonĂ©!, and shared the stage with Julian VaughnAlex BugnonChubb Rock and reggae superstar Beres Hammond.


At that point, Alford knew she had an album taking shape, one that derived inspiration from the discomfort she had endured and captured her positivity and enthusiastic spirit. As she planned the recording sessions and plotted the release with her team, more unanticipated setbacks forced her to shelve the project for a time.


After regaining her footing yet again, the resilient Alford resumed work on “Heaven on Earth,” which consists of eight of her originals and a completely reimagined version of Michael Jackson’s “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” The cover tune has roots dating back to a 2017 recording date with friends Justin C. Gilbert and Anthony Parrish. Alford experimented by placing her classical violin amidst hip hop beats, cuts and scratches, and a rap.      


“It was pure synergy. Although the energy was right in the studio, the recording process came to a halt because of life happenings and changes. Last fall, Justin and I said simultaneously that we should finish working on the track. The song transformed from simply Rhodes keyboards, percussion and violin to what is heard on the track today. I invited two of my favorite artists in hip-hop, James ‘DJ Jsmoove’ Hayes and emcee Mully Man, to take the production to even greater heights,” said Alford.


On “Feeling Love,” a sophisticated and seductive R&B-jazz dalliance, Alford teamed with crooner Kelley Andre to cowrite and produce the song. His rich baritone voice provides the male counterpart to Alford’s feminine energy presented in the form of lush strings and expressive violin.


Alford tapped Grammy nominee Reggie Hines to cowrite and produce a pair of tunes with her. On the ambient “Wanting More,” she records for the first time playing an electric violin, creating a yearning and desirous sound as the track’s tempo and intensity builds to a crescendo. Alford says her performance pays homage to one of her primary influences, the late violinist Noel Pointer. The second collaboration, “Cascade to the Congo,” is an eclectic amalgam of sounds, styles and textures driven by a throbbing Euro house beat and Hines’ saxophone wails.  


“After we laid down ‘the’ take for ‘Wanting More,’ I was ready for us to create a contrasting tune that was upbeat, had natural sounding percussive instruments, a dance groove, and a violin-saxophone duet. We had to navigate our way to the synergy of this track since there are so many approaches to take based on the elements I wanted in the track. Once we found our groove, we FOUND it,” Alford emphasized.


“Life is a beautiful dance, and ‘Cascade to the Congo’ transcends all age groups, ethnicities, backgrounds, and so much more. The song captures the ethos of the entire album. It is all about getting up, dancing, and celebrating self-love and those special moments with loved ones. This track reminds me that this is such an amazing time to be alive, that one can genuinely experience ‘Heaven on Earth.’”


“Heaven on Earth” contains the following songs:


“Heaven on Earth”

“New Day” featuring George Freeman

“On the Move”


“Feeling Love” featuring Kelley Andre

“Wanting More”

“Cascade to the Congo”

“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”

Bonus Track: “Closer (Quiet Storm Radio Edit featuring Bob Baldwin)



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Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - May 22, 2023 #jazz

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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Press Release: "First Fish" The debut release from drummer Rintaro Mikami #jazz



Rintaro Mikami (drums, compositions, lyrics, voice track 1)

 With David Truilo (tenor sax), Omri Bar Giora (guitar),

Henry Plotnick (piano), Bar Filipowicz (bass)


Special Guests: Lily Resnikoff (vocals), Ariel Bart (harmonica)

Release Date: September 15th, 2023

New York. The places we live leave a deep imprint. In the case of drummer and composer Rintaro Mikami, it was life on the small island of Kuchinoerabu in the south of Japan that inspired his debut release as a leader, First Fish. For two years during childhood, Mikami gained life lessons on Kuchinoerabu that he likely wouldn’t have in his native Tokyo.

First Fish refers to Mikami’s earliest experience living on the island, a memory that would guide him as he matured and developed his own artistic sensibility after returning to Tokyo. Later he pursued music studies for seven years in the great music capital of New York, and grew to become the fine drummer and creative, well-rounded musician that we hear now. All nine tracks on First Fish weave together the story of Mikami’s journey, from the island to this day.

The album begins at a slow and restrained tempo with “Arrival,” during which we hear not only Mikami’s playing but also his speaking voice. Reciting an original poem in Japanese, he mentions the sound of a ship’s whistle — a harbinger of momentous change on the morning when he bade Kuchinoerabu farewell. “Arrival” and the lively 5/4 piece “The Whistle” are contrasting scenes or perspectives, Mikami calls them, relating to that significant morning of departure.

At this point in the album, the depth and sophistication of Mikami’s drumming is abundantly clear, as is the sky-high talent level of his quintet with tenorist David Truilo, guitarist Omri Bar Giora, pianist Henry Plotnick and bassist Bar Filipowicz. Together these fine players propel the musical narrative forward, with Truilo and Giora frequently in unison as they soar through Mikami’s evocative melodies. Each band member is a powerhouse soloist, and Mikami eagerly makes use of trading devices such as the one on “Derailing,” where tenor, guitar and piano chase each other at a bright swinging tempo, followed by a culminating drum solo from the leader.

There is great poignancy in the title track, the jazz waltz “First Fish,” a musing on Mikami’s youthful formative experience and the way it has reverberated through his life. A passage from his album notes is worth quoting in full: “Now he’s become an adult and is struggling with being a part of society. But he tries to remember the moment when he fished for the first time on the island. And he is dealing with unknown anxiety, staring at the ceiling in bed, in a room of a foreign country.” Beautifully sung by guest vocalist Lily Resnikoff, Mikami’s original lyrics speak of “the great big blue” and “waiting for reflections in the bubbles,” a dreamscape against the backdrop of insomnia.

Both “Derailing” and “Secession” relate to breaking away from the conventions of society and trusting one’s inner voice: the former depicts leaving Tokyo for the island, while the latter concerns Mikami’s departure from Tokyo to New York to pursue drumming at the highest professional level. Calling it “a tune of victory,” Mikami creates a multipart structure for “Secession” that heightens its expressivity: a stark change in mood and tempo occurs halfway through, with Plotnick’s brief solo piano interlude ushering in a slower and moodier feel for Truilo to solo on before the original tempo returns.

“The Sky He Saw” and “Interlaken” both attest to how Mikami has been able to carry the peace and beauty of island life wherever he goes. The former begins and ends with Truilo and Giora in a spacious and melodic duet, while the body of the tune, a beautiful ballad, features Mikami’s deeply musical brushwork to great effect. After the brief solo drum interlude “A stone flows to,” the band enters with a dramatic rubato chord sequence, signaling the start of “Interlaken.” Its quick 3/4 tempo and fiery tenor and guitar solos set the stage for a surprise: an effortless transition to burning 4/4, allowing Plotnick to unleash fury at the keys. The rhythmic heat that he and Mikami create at this unforgiving tempo can lead one to think of Kenny Kirkland with Jeff “Tain” Watts.

Harmonica virtuoso Ariel Bart joins the group for the finale, the lyrical “Deer’s Dream,” inspired by an image as picturesque as one could imagine: deer actually swimming the channel from Kuchinoerabu to another island nearby, in a migratory pattern that Mikami saw as a parallel of sorts. “Like them, Rintaro made a huge sail,” he comments, “reached New York, made new friends, found a way to live and grow. And now he wonders, ‘Where am I going next?’” In a life full of departures, Mikami is contemplating more to come, and we as listeners will no doubt be grateful.

For more information on Rintaro Mikami

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