Pieces Of A Dream – Just Funkin’ Around

The legendary group Pieces Of A Dream is an original Philadelphian smooth jazz formation. Keyboardist James Lloyd, drummer Curtis Harmon and former bassist Cedric Napoleon, became popular under the patronage of Grover Washington Jr. Later Cedric left the group, what their success did not diminish. After Soul Intent, Pieces of a Dream’s latest effort on Heads Up, the group now sails under the flag of Shanachie Entertainment.

Just Funkin’ Around is a funky, joyful musical celebration, filled with melodic grooves that have made Pieces Of A Dream fan favorites. The ten brilliant originals that run the gamut from ‘in the pocket’ R&B to sensuous Smooth Jazz jams show Pieces Of A Dream are at the top of their game!! Lead producer and founding member James Lloyd, who has been a go-to hit maker and accompanist for such artists as Mary J. Blige, BB King, Najee, Wayman Tisdale and others, shines here with such highlights as the funky “Right Back Atcha’” and the romantic ballad “Sensuosity.” Additionally, co-founder Curtis Harmon’s composition, the hard grooving “Shaken, Not Stirred,” demonstrates why the ”Pieces” sound is a unique crowd pleaser!

Just Funkin’ Around is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

Nick Finzer – Hear & Now

The year 2017 so far is shaping up to be one of statements. Delfeayo Marsalis and Noah Preminger have already released protest albums, inspired at least in part to the U.S. presidential election in 2016. Now comes trombonist Nick Finzer with Hear & Now.

With Finzer are Lucas Pino, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Alex Wintz, guitar; Glenn Zaleski, piano; Dave Baron, bass; and Jimmy MacBride, drums.

“The Silent One” is moderately paced. The melody consists of overlapping phrases, with Finzer and Pino going one way, and Wintz another. After the opening sequence, Finzer steps out front while Wintz shifts into rock power chord mode in the background. About midway through the interlude, the guitar shifts back into jazz. Pino then takes the tenor on a jaunt, with some hardcore background play by Zaleski, Baron and MacBride. Finzer comes back in what for a moment seems like a competing solo, but he and Pino seamlessly weave back toward the main theme, setting up the placid finale.

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Norman Brown – Let It Go

Premium guitarist Norman Brown took his time since his previous solo album Sending My Love (2010). That was probably caused by his collaborations with Gerald Albright (24/7) and the group BWB (Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown) releasing Human Nature (2013) and BWB (2016).

Let It Go (2017) is Norman’s debut at Shanachie Entertainment. What makes an instrumental guitar album to something very special? The arrangement? The performance? The talent? Musical enthusiasm? Certainly a bit of everything. But also important is the overall concept of the album.

Norman developed a coherent approach, a spiritual plan for the ultimate acoustic moment. The intro Lessons of the Spirit shows this intellectual style in musical implementation. Like George Benson is Norman one of the blessed guitarists always on the quest after the ideal melody. It Keeps Coming Back is the prove that he is often very close to the target.

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Kevin Eubanks – East West Time Line

Since his 18-year tenure as guitarist and music director of TV’s The Tonight Show Band ended in 2010, Philadelphia-born guitarist, composer Kevin Eubanks has been on a creative roll. On East West Time Line, Eubanks explores the chemistry he maintains with musicians on both coasts. And once again, his distinctive fingerstyle approach to the instrument is in the service of tunes that run the stylist gamut from urgent swingers to introspective ballads to Latin-tinged numbers and some get-down Philly funk.

Joining Eubanks on this stellar outing are longtime collaborator and former Berklee College of Music schoolmate, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, who fuels the West Coast outfit alongside seasoned session bassist Rene Camacho, percussionist Mino Cinelu and saxophonist Bill Pierce. Smith’s East Coast counterpart on this bi-coastal session is the irrepressibly swinging Jeff “Tain” Watts, a force of nature on the kit who combines with bassist Dave Holland, Philadelphia-based pianist Orrin Evans and New York trumpeter Nicholas Payton for a potent lineup. Together these great musicians bring out the best in Eubanks’ six-string prowess and ignite his searching instincts throughout the sessions in Los Angeles and New York.

“Of course, we all came up through New York,” says the Philly guitarist who broke in with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers during the early ’80s. “But we also got the benefits of seeing the East Coast down and dirty and Hollywood down and dirty too. We combined both vibes on this recording-the kind of Latin vibe of Los Angeles and the straight-up swinging vibe of New York. Continue reading

Ty Causey – Tyangles

Singer Ty Causey is the vocal alternative to instrumental smooth jazz. Many smooth jazz fans know him by his cooperation with Najee on his album Morning Tenderness. Ty started his own career in 2004 with the album N-TYSING.

Love Notes (2005), Expressions (2007), Body Language (2008), True Love In Motion (2009), Down 2 Earth (2010), False Faces (2012), and Cool In My Skin (2013) were the follow-ups. Now he is back with his new album Tyangles (2017). The album was released April 15th. You can buy the album at Amazon.com.

The Baylor Project – The Journey

From a guest appearance on Kenny Garrett’s Happy People to fulltime member of the Yellowjackets and guest vocalist, the journey of husband-wife duo Marcus and Jean Baylor is one of unity, togetherness and partnership. Thus The Journey (Be a Light, 2017) by The Baylor Project is aptly titled.

Personnel are Jean Baylor, all vocals, handclaps; Marcus Baylor, all drums, handclaps; Shedrick Mitchell, piano and organ; Allyn Johnson, piano; David “DJ” Ginyard, electric bass; Chris Smith, upright bass; Dezron Douglas, upright bass; Corcoran Holt, upright bass; Marvin Sewell, guitar; Rayfield “Ray Ray” Holloman, pedal steel guitar and electric guitar; Bob Mintzer, tenor sax on “Summertime”; Keith Loftis, tenor sax; Freddie Hendrix, trumpet and flugelhorn; Keyon Harrold, trumpet on “Again”; Stafford Hunter, trombone on “Again”; Aaron Draper, percussion and handclaps on “Block Party”; Pablo Batista, percussion and handclaps; Nicole Neely, live strings and arrangement on “Again”; and Brandee Younger, harp on “Summertime.”

“Block Party” is a straight jam. It opens with sermony vibe, but quickly warms into a celebration, punctuated by handclaps, Jean’s wordless chants and Hendrix. Marcus holds back until a spot about two minutes from the end. Accompanied only by the organ, he gives the kit a workout. The interlude sets up the listener for the joyous, all-in climax.

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Roberto Vally – Pure Lines

Brooklyn born, L.A. based, and world influenced bass player Roberto Vally calls as his influences Paul Jackson, Stanley Clarke, and Jaco Pastorius. He has played with Michael Franks, Bobby Caldwell, Paul Brown, Boney James, Boz Scaggs, Arturo Sandoval, Michael Lington, and Randy Crawford. Meanwhile you can add the rest of the smooth jazz cats to this list.

His first solo album was Boom Boom Boom (2013), described by Vally as an eclectic mix of chill, lounge, world, and smooth jazz. His sophomore album Pure Lines (2017) just hits the stores. The album is a collaboration of Roberto Vally and Jeff Carruthers, who performs keyboards, guitars and programming.

As additional musicians are mentioned in the liner notes Dave Karasony (drums), Enrique Martinez (accordion), Andrew Neu (sax), Marc Antoine (guitar, vocals), Michiyo Kitagawa (sax), Tom Schuman (keyboards, piano), Gregg Manning (keyboards), Ramses Araya (percussion), Paul Brown, Carlyle Barriteau, Federico Ramos (guitars), Nick Cedillo (trumpet, sax, trombone), Fabiana Passoni (vocals), and Christine Carruthers (background vocals).

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