Lizzie Thomas – Easy to Love

Jazz vocals in the tradition of old-school divas is what you get with Easy to Love (2013) by Lizzie Thomas. It’s a set of 10 standards, including a few that are slightly off the beaten path.

A variable ensemble of musicians assists Thomas. For most tracks, she’s accompanied by pianist Xavier Davis, trumpeter Antoine Drye, guitarist Ron Affif and bassist Yoshi Waki. Appearing on selected tracks are Janelle Reichman, clarinet; Greg Ryan, bass; Frank Lacy, trombone; and Anne Drummond, flute. Drum duties are split between Frank Levatino and Alvester Garnett.

“Close Your Eyes” is a delightful ballad. Balance between voice and instruments is superb. Thomas charms with her singing while the musicians provide plenty of ambience. Waki, Davis and Garnett maintain the pace behind solos by Affif and Drye. Thomas comes back for the finale, delivering the lines with verve before closing with a fade stop.

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Craig T. Cooper – Purpose

Purpose“The Reds” is the only suitable phrase for the smooth, sensuous style of guitar playing that Craig T. Cooper has mastered. Not all blues, not all jazz, Craig T. is the “The Uncola of Jazz” and just plain “Funky-Sexy” Craig T. Cooper is a recording artist, producer, songwriter, arranger, M.D., sound engineer, programmer, mix and re-mix master, owner of CRAIGLAND Studios, LA and an all around damn good musician. His credits are endless and his experience is invaluable.

He started his solo career with the album Got That Thang (1990) followed by Craig T. Copper Project (1989), Darkm’n (1993), Touch Tone (1995), A Romantic Letter (1996), Caught Up In A Moment (1999), Hour Glass (2006) and his side project with Denise Stewart Decide On Me (2001). She took part in his musical success as the female singer on many of his albums. Next album was Nasty Man (2011) after a long hiatus.

Now available on his website his new album Purpose. Check it out!

Michael Kevin Ross – Never Give Up

Never Give UpThis album is gospel smooth jazz at its best. Michael Kevin Ross, a lead guitarist from a background of r&b, jazz and gospel has really shown what true dedication can produce. Michael is rapidly elevating beyond measure expressing himself in a urban smooth gospel jazz manner that is definitely outside the box. This anointed, spirit filled music is very relaxing and refreshing taking you on a journey of peace and love.

Never Give Up is now available at CDBaby.

Incognito – Amplified Soul

ASAmplified Soul, the 16th studio album from Incognito, consists of 16 new recordings soaked in soul, coated in jazz with more than a twist of funk and dance. Or as Bluey puts it: “This is a labour of love, a gift to those who have supported us over the years”.

Recorded and mixed at the legendary Livingston Studio in North London where The Buena Vista Social Club‘s eponymous multi-million selling first album was mixed and also Björk‘s 1993 debut album recorded and mixed, this album features singers Tony Momrelle, Vanessa Haynes and new addition Katie Leone who provide some of the best vocal performances ever recorded by the band. They are joined by legendary singer songwriter Carleen Anderson and Connecticut born funkstress Deborah Bond and the return one of the Incognito fans favourite Imaani, with the addition of a totally fresh voice on the scene in the form of the soulful 22 year old Australian debutant Chiara Hunter.

Guitarist, main producer and band leader Bluey once again leads his tight rhythm section of Francis Hylton on bass, Matt Cooper on keyboards, Francesco Mendolia on drums and the young percussion sensation Joao Caetano to create a bed of soulful funky irresistible grooves that are punctuated by the trademark Incognito horns. At times on this album the band navigates towards a darker sound than on their previous works offering the listener a new adventure with wonderfully crafted songs wrapped in warm tones. At other times they just get joyously funky!

There are guest performances by original Jamiroquai drummer Nick Van Gelder on two cuts, the awesome alto saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock, synthesizer wizard Ski Oakenfull, Elements Of Life percussionist Roberto Quintero, and Incognito regular contributor Richard Bull and many more. From the plaintive opening number “Amplify My Soul” you get echoes of a classic era that could be easily associated with Marvin Gaye or Stevie’s offerings from the 70’s, to the bubbly, bouncy, catchy number that is immediate and infectious “Hats (Make Me Wanna Holler)”, the album unites all of Incognito’s best character traits. If ever Incognito had a festival crowd anthem, then “Hands Up If You Wanna Be Loved” is it!

For pre-order available at Amazon.

Down To The Bone – Dig It

Down To The Bone is a project by producer and writer Stuart Wade. The project is named after the former London jazz club “To The Bone”. Although Stuart is the mastermind of the project, he never performed an instrument on the recordings or the live events. Nevertheless his ideas are so flashing, that the project has a tremendous success especially in the States.

All started with the first album From Manhattan To Staten in 1996 on the UK label Internal Bass Records. The Urban Grooves (1999) and Spread The Word (2000) followed on this label. Crazy Vibes and Things (2002) was released on GRP, Cellar Funk (2004), Spread Love Like Wildfire (2005), and Supercharged (2007) on Narada, Future Boogie (2009) on Shanachie, The Main Ingredients (2011) and Dig It (2014) on Trippin ‘N’ Rhythm Records, the UK-version on Dôme Records.

Three groups of musicians are involved in the project, the Live UK Band, the Live US Band and the recording musicians. The latter are Katie Leone (vocals), Julian Crampton (bass), Rufus Philpot (bass), Mark Jaimes (guitar), Davide Giovannini (drums), Joe “Bongo” Becket (percussion chores), Neil Angilley and Oli Silk (keys), Tim Smart (trombone), Pablo Mendelssohn (trumpet), and Simon Allen (sax). All following the ideas and guidance of Stuart Wade.

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Les Grant – Way Forward Way Back

“A wonderful voice and a phrasing that is impeccable,” says “Ben folds at his best meets Frank Sinatra,” says Storyline Record Reviews. These are some of the comments about vocalist Ben Grant’s Way Forward Way Back (2013).

It’s critical for young vocalists, hoping to be discovered, that they don’t do what’s been done many times before. So it’s refreshing that grant, in delivering his interpretations of some classic songs, avoids the typical standards from the American Songbook. With Grant are pianist John Chin, saxophonist John Ellis, bassist Matt Pavolka and drummer Dan Rieser.

The classic “Blue Skies” bookends the set, with the radio edit on the front end and full version as the closer. Grant’s voice is his own, but his phrasing on this track is similar to that of Michael Buble. After delivering the familiar theme, Grant takes off on a happy-go-lucky scat. Ellis and Chin contribute brief solos.

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Richard Smith – Tangos

TangosRichard’s well-known discs have garnished praise such as “Best Contemporary Jazz Guitar Album” (Tune Up Magazine), a nomination for “Record of the Year” (Ad Lib Magazine), and “Best New Artist” (Radio & Records Magazine). His album ‘SOuLIDIFIED’ spent 17 weeks in the top 10 for radio airplay of American contemporary jazz radio (Radio and Records Magazine) and 3 weeks at number 1 in the World for satellite and cable airplay (Music Choice).

This has been an exciting time for Professor Smith, a time of growth and change. In 2012 and 2013 Smith traveled to 11 countries around the globe performing music from his 13 releases and collaborating with a group of international all-stars on “Tangos” – the deepest and most engaging release of his career. The reason why Richard’s new global approach works so well is simple, he is a globally connected person, living abroad 3 months out of every year.

For half of 2012 the globetrotting guitarist was visiting professor at Agder University, Norway, one of Europe’s finest conservatories. It was a good fit, for Scandinavia has long been known for it’s unique, influential music. While in Northern Europe, Smith debuted his L.A. Chillharmonic arrangements for Big Band – bringing L.A. style funk, soul and jazz to Oslo, London, and Amsterdam, and to Denmark via a residency with the Royal Academy of Music. Continue reading


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