Rei Narita – The Color of Soundscape

Recently I had the opportunity to introduce Japanese pianist and composer Rei Narita to the smooth jazz community. The Color of Soundscape II is his current album. Already in 2011 he delighted the world with his debut feature The Color of Soundscape. As the successor Rei composed, arranged, programmed, mixed and produced the complete album.

A Day at the Park is a cheerfully serene tonal description of a life moment which remains a positive memory. These mood swings with in subsequent piece of You Lift Me Up. This sparkling lightness in the treatment of the piano is the coincident feature. Shining Sunrise receives a coloring by the light Latin touch.

Indigo is a color that is traditionally regarded as a color on the visible spectrum, while Indigo Rain is a phenomena outside our normal perception sonically however detectable. The Wind in L.A brings in the casual rhythm. The music reminds me of the German formation Dancing Fantasy.

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Manuel Valera Trio – Live at Firehouse 12

Five albums in less than two years, including four as a leader? Unheard of. But pianist Manuel Valera has done it.

In late 2013, with his band, New Cuban Express, Valera released Exectativas. In early 2014, he released Self Portrait, a solo piano effort. Later in the year, he joined his father, Manuel Valera Sr., for Recuerdos. And again in 2014, with New Cuban Express, he released In Motion.

Valera is clearly a musician who loves to play, and he loves to share what he’s playing. The Manuel Valera Trio now releases Live at Firehouse 12 (Mavo Records, 2015). With Valera are bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer EJ Strickland.

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Lin Rountree – Soulfunky

Chicago based trumpet player Lin Rountree started his solo career in 2006 with the album Groovetree, followed by Sumthin’ Good (2008), Soul-Tree (2011) and Serendipitous (2013). Soulfunky (2015) is his fifth album and the second for CutMore Records. His new project is supported by many label mates and fellow musicians.

Lin is the master of groove. How he handles his trumpet on Wish It Was is more than funky. He doubles his instrument with clever overdubs and creates the accurate harmony. With Julian Vaughn on bass and Nicholas Cole on keys he improves the song and pitch the ball in the centre of the strike zone.

Pushin’ On written by Nate Harasim presents guitarist Nils in a powerful solo, however Lin is really perfect in drawing the notes like a trombonist. On Just Know It bass and trumpet melt to an irresistible vibe. Detroit fellow citizen Demetrius “Krayon” Nabors aptly creates magic on ivory and ebony.

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Carey Frank – Keep Smiling

As a long-time Jazz fan it is always great to realize that there is a new young and fresh generation of musicians, who dedicate their great talent to that musical genre.

One of them is pianist Carey Frank from Los Angeles who recently released his debut CD. Frank mentioned that he named the CD ‘KEEP SMILING’, because his grandfather was always saying that. And you can feel that positive message on every single track

Frank, who holds a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California, presents his music in a classical trio with himself on the piano, Sezin Ahmet Turkmenoglu on bass and Jamey Tate on drums, only in two tracks a saxophone (played by Bob Mintzer) is added.

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Juan Carlos Mendoza – Thanks To Life

What could be more exciting than to discover a previous unknown musician and his music? In the case of Spanish guitarist Juan Carlos Mendoza and his album Thanks To Life the whole is an adventure.

Unbound by genre thinking Juan puts on his album the music that is close to his heart. Some of the best musicians of Spain are joining this project such as Norbert Fimpel and Inaki Arakistain (sax), Cristina del Valle and Ivana Manzotti (vocals), Gherardo Catanzaro, Javier Mora (keyboards), Javier Barral (guitars), and a lot more.

Limoncello Break is launching a massive deluge of Funk. Inspired by an Italian liqueur the musicians let it hang out with a zesty groove. On top the outstanding Norbert Fimpel on sax, who defines Funk in a new way.

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Benny Sharoni – Slant Signature

With a style compared to that of Sonny Rollins, Benny Sharoni delivers a beauty in Slant Signature (Papaya Records, 2015). It’s a set that simultaneously showcases his mastery of the tenor saxophone and the elegant side of jazz.

Accompanying Sharoni are Jim Rotondi, trumpet; Joe Barbato, piano; Mike Mele, guitar; Todd Baker, bass; and Steve Langone, drums.

“Minor City,” one of five original songs in the set, starts in dynamic fashion. Sharoni and Rotondi share the lead during the opening sequence. Then the two take turns out front, delivering high-energy, rapid-fire phrases. The rhythm section is locked in throughout. Barbato also gets to stretch out. Sharoni and Rotondi then alternate in call-and-response passes with Langone.

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Jessy J – My One And Only One

Jessy J’s solo albums Tequila Moon (2008), True Love (2009), Hot Sauce (2011) and Second Chances (2013) mark her constant way to fame and popularity in the smooth jazz community. Her fifth project is My One and Only One, scheduled for release May 26th, 2015.

Paul Brown, Gregg Karukas, Roberto Vally, Sergio Gonzalez, Richie Gajate, Michael Ripoll, Zoux, Oskar Cartaya, Ruslan Sirota, Alex Al, Taku, Michael Angel, Frank Abraham, Iajhi Hampden, Bryant Siono, Norman Jackson, Jay Gore, Lee Thornberg, Dave Hooper, Ronnie Gutierrez, Janis Leibhart & Dave Darlington are mentioned as supporting musicians on her website.

Jessy is toying gladly with her Mexican American ancestry. Many of her songs have a Latin American reference like the starting Una Mas. Capricious but warm on the skin like a soothing spring breeze soars the melody. The title track is more down to earth, so if she tried to retain My One and Only One.

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