Archive for July, 2009

Hiroshima – Legacy

Sometimes music is touching me so deep, that I must spread the word like a herald. Hiroshima‘s new album Legacy is motivating and pushing me into this direction. I use the old world herald in full conscience. It’s the melting of old traditional Japanese with modern jazz instruments which makes Hiroshima’s music somehow antique in the sense of an “old master”, a term for an European painter of skill who worked before about 1800, or a painting by such a painter. Equally their music is so modern and unique that one cannot compare their Asian-American jazz fusion with the music of any other group.

The new album is a collection of songs from Hiroshima’s first musical decade. The songs were not taken from the previous albums but re-recorded by the band’s current lineup, the founders Dan (sax) and June Kuramoto (koto), joined by taiko drummer/percussionist Shoji Kameda, drummer/percussionist Danny Yamamoto, keyboardist Kimo Cornwell and bassist Dean Cortez. Further guest musicians are Terry Steele, Jim Gilstrap and Yvette Nii (vocals), Richie Gajate Garcia (percussion) and the string arrangements of maestro George del Barrio.

“When you start looking back at fifteen records over thirty years, that’s a lot of material to choose from, ” comments Dan Kuramato. “So we narrowed the scope to the first ten years, which includes five records – two of which were gold. We tracked everything live in my home studio for this new recording, with almost no overdubs. In many cases, the songs on this record are fairly similar to the originals. In some cases, they\’re very different.”

The album starts with the GRAMMY nominated Winds Of Change from Hiroshima’s album Odori (1980). The new recorded version is more orchestral and focused on the ancient Japanese instruments. Mighty taiko drums are underlining the modern drum beat. Dan’s fabulous sax is shimmering over the ancient sound.

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Jessy J – True Love

What makes Jessy J so attractive? The fact that she graduated as the “Most Outstanding Jazz Student” of her class at the University of Southern California or that she already performed with Jessica Simpson, Michael Buble, Burt Bacharach, the Temptations, and that she is currently on tour with Michael Bolton? No, it’s the fantastic mix of female beauty and professional music presented by this high-talented sax player.

After the success of her debut album Tequila Moon charting at #1 for eight weeks and as featured artist in Jazziz Magazine, People Espanol, and Jazz Times Jessy generates great attention with her upcoming album True Love. Supported by Peak Records, a division of Concord Records, and with a prestigious tour schedule she’s born under a lucky star and promise to continue her previous success.

Like the predecessor True Love is produced by hit maker Paul Brown and furthermore accompanied by keyboardist Gregg Karukas, bassist Roberto Vally, drummer Sergio Gonzalez and percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia.

Jessy J likes it hot. So we start in the muddy atmosphere of the Tropical Rain. Jessy gives her sax a mellow blow while the band grooves in the Samba rhythm. The song captivates with soft sax tones and Garcia’s fantastic and authentic percussion. “El Pulpo” (which means the octopus in Spanish) is a sought after percussionist who has accompanied artists such as Phil Collins, Sting, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Diana Ross, Hiroshima, Patti Labelle, Amy Grant, Brooks and Dunn, Luis Miguel, John Denver, Art Garfunkel and many, many more.

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Live!

Ladysmith Black Mambazo became popular with Paul Simon’s album Graceland (1986). The song Homeless was often released on numerous albums of this group. Ladysmith Black Mambazo (The black axe from the town Ladysmith) was founded in 1964 by Joseph Shabala. He is creator, writer, composer and the genius of the group. He is still the spirit and leader of this vocal formation.

The DVD Ladysmith Black Mambazo LIVE! was recorded in Akron, Ohio, in 2008. The DVD listed 10 songs and two further songs as encore. All songs were composed by Joseph Shabala with the exception of Homeless, which is a collaboration with Paul Simon. Shosholoza and Amazing Grace are traditional compositions.

The concert starts with Nomathemba, which means in Zulu mother of hope. “I wrote Nomathemba in 1965 and it was the first song I ever composed after it came to me in a dream”, comments Joseph Shabala, founder, leader and musical director of the group. It was the first hit single on their album Amabutho (1973). Joseph’s lithe alto coos and growls above two tenors and more basses that make soothing, rhythmic textures punctuated by breathy bursts is the typical vocal art of LBM.

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Marion Meadows – Secrets

Womanizer Marion Meadows makes his Secrets public. Looking back on a formidable list of previous releases like For Lovers Only (1990), Keep It Right Here (1992), Forbidden Fruit (1994), Body Rhythm (1995), Pleasure (1997), Another Side of Midnight (1999), Next To You (2000), In Deep (2002), Player’s Club (2004) and Dressed To Chill (2006), Secrets (2009) is his fifth album on Heads Up International. Marion Meadows continues his joint venture with keyboardist/producer Michael Broening, with whom he already co-operated on his previous three albums.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of projects, both my own and group efforts,” says Meadows, “and my main objective is to keep growing as an artist and engage the fans who have invested so much emotion in my music and my career. Aside from that wonderful sense of live communication, the real magic for me happens in the studio when I put on those headphones and start playing. That’s where the ideas just start to flow. Everything else in my musical life comes out of that moment.”

Besides Michael Broening (keys) join Mel Brown (bass), Freddie Fox (guitar), and Michael White (drums) Marion’s new project. Furthermore Marion incorporate some musicians he plays with on his live performances. Marion explains: “Contemporary jazz artists can get a little caught up in the more stylish side of the recording process, with computers and drum machines and other cutting-edge technology. For as good as all that stuff can sound, there’s an organic element that gets lost. If you move too far in that direction, I think people start to take musicians in this genre – and the genre in general – less seriously as a result.”

This idea in mind Marion introduces his new project with Secrets. A mellow tune like the warm wind of Spring. “Secrets are things that are kept hidden beneath the surface of our own intellect, our own decision-making,” he comments. “They’re these treasures that are often right in front of our eyes and yet we don’t even see them or know they’re there.

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Joe McBride – Lookin’ For A Change

Fulton, Missouri born Joe McBride has a strong connection to Heads Up International. He attended the North Texas State University to study jazz and performance, where he met Dave Love, founder of Heads Up International. He is one of those seldom artists who never changed the label. Joe started his career with Grace (1992), followed by A Gift For Tomorrow (1994), Keys To Your Heart (1996), Double Take (1998), Texas Rhythm Club (2000), Keepin’ It Real (2002) and Texas Hold’em (2005).

He continues his strong connection with Lookin’ For A Change scheduled for release July 28, 2009. Joe is supported by his live trio – guitarist Dan Wilson, bassist Roger Hines and drummer Elijah Gilmore. The title of the new album is programmatic. Joe explains: “The majority of my releases in the past have been primarily electronic, with an acoustic piano playing over the top of arrangements that were primarily put together with drum machines and other technology. I’ve loved contemporary jazz. It’s been a lot of fun playing that kind of music. But I wanted to move forward a little bit, demonstrate a little growth, try something new.”

That said Joe’s interpretation of new is a collection of pop songs performed in a jazzy style. Beside these covers Joe also offers three new own compositions. Following the huge hype around Gnarls Barkley’s megahit Crazy (2006), provoking covers of Nelly Furtado, The Kooks, The Zutons, Prince and many more, Joe couldn’t resist to oppose his own rendition.

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Jason Miles – 2 Grover With Love

2 Grover With LoveJason Miles is one of these musicians who wrote music history. He was part of many famous productions like Luther Vandross’ Power of Love, Michael Jackson’s HIStory and the classic Miles Davis album Tutu. Jason comments bass player Lee: “He is a superior musician who constantly makes everyone around him sound better.” The same is to say about Jason Miles.

Beside further projects like Coast to Coast – Maximum Grooves (2004), Soul Summit (2008), and recently Global Noize (with DJ Logic) he is best known for his tribute albums: Celebrating the Music of Weather Report (2000), A Love Affair: The Music of Ivan Lins (2000), To Grover with Love (2001), Miles to Miles in The Spirit of Miles Davis (2005), What’s Going On? (2006), his tribute to Marvin Gaye and this year 2 Grover With Love, his second homage to the late Grover Washington.

Jason explains the reason for his sophomore approach: “I started listening to Come Morning, the follow up to Winelight, and started to love those songs. I then listened to Strawberry Moon, and realized that I was on one of the songs on the CD, Summer Nights,’ written by Marcus Miller. I knew at that point that there was definitely another Grover project to do, but it had to be done a certain way.”

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Najee – Mind Over Matter

An attentive observer of Najee‘s career will recognize the change of Najee’s outfit on his last three albums. In the past dressed elegant like a nouveau rich Najee is now down to the earth. Indeed Najee’s contact to audience and fan base is better than ever. Najee can look back on a long livelihood as one of the high acclaimed sax players. His contributions to the music world are constantly perfect.

The title of Najee’s new album Mind Over Matter is inspired by Miles Davis’ art of songwriting. “In his later years, he took a very loose and improvisational approach,” Najee comments. “He would start with nothing more than a groove that Marcus Miller or some other member of his band would lay down. And from there he would just develop these melodies that were very simple but at the same time very compelling and very memorable. It was a creative process that bypassed the nuts and bolts of the song and just got right to the essence of it.”

Najee’s song writing process was supported by artists like keyboardist Jeff Lorber and vocalists Eric Benêt and Gary Taylor. The album opens the grooves with the urban Love You A Lifetime. Luscious sax layers are the melodious background for Najee’s expressive sax solo enriched with some keyboard gimmicks. Jeff Lorber’s superb Rhodes solo is the bridge to Najee’s brilliant travel around on flute.

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Nils – Up Close And Personal

German born guitarist and composer Nils resides since the mid-80’s in southern California. After visiting the musician institute in Hollywood Nils started in the 80’s as an engineer in a recording studio. There he found the possibility to learn all technical tricks of recording, which was very helpful to record his first album Blue Planet, which was released in 1998 and received high acclaims. After composing for movie and TV Nils had the chance to work with Gabriele Anders, Rick Braun and others with the support of producer Paul Brown.

Nils avoids to listen to much too smooth jazz radio stations to keep his musical influences fresh. Nils plays Valley Arts guitars, like other Los Angeles studio musicians and jazz guitarists such as Lee Ritenour, Steve Lukather, Tommy Tedesco and Larry Carlton. On the quiet Nils is an avid lover of contemporary jazz although he realizes the needs of a secure income nowadays. But when he returned to his solo career it was as a smooth jazz guitarist with Pacific Coast Highway (2005) followed by Ready To Play (2007). After the tremendous success of both albums Nils is back with Up Close And Personal (2009).

Supporting musicians of this album are Clydene Jackson (keyboards, vocals), Oliver Brown (percussion), Ricky Lawson (drums), Reggie Mc Bride and Alex Al (basses). There are also some additional guest musicians like Shilts (sax), Larry Dunn (piano, mini moog), Eddie Brown (vocals), Dan Farrow (clavinet) and more. Nils composed all songs with the exception of Europa, which is an old Santana song from the time of Woodstock.

In this time of misery and recession there is still a remedy for relaxation and switching off, Nils’ music. Soul Mates has an immense uplifting potential. Let’s hum “We Are Soul Mates!” Up Close & Personal is Nils’ serious expression of his knowledge and impetus. Quick and precise riffs define a captivating melody. Nils reveals that professional craftsmanship and sultry melodies are no opposite.

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Kim Pensyl – When Katie Smiles

When Katie SmilesKim Pensyl is a multi-instrumentalist. He played piano with nine years, trumpet at twelve and later in a school band also bass. His favorite instrument is still the piano. No wonder, he is proud owner of a nine-foot Steinway piano, earlier resided in the home of the great Vladimir Horowitz. Kim started his solo career with the critical acclaimed Pensyl Sketches 1 (1988), 2 (1989), & 3 (1990) and A Kim Pensyl Christmas in 1989, all released by Optimism. On his next label GRP he delivered 3 Day Weekend (1991), Eyes Of Wonder (1993) and the re-release of his Christmas album (1992). When You Were Mine (1994) and Under The Influence (1996) followed on Shanachie, Quiet Cafe (1998) and Places I’ve Been (1999) on Fahrenheit and At The Moment (2001) on Lightyear.

While most of his earlier albums are in the smooth jazz genre, Kim decided to change his lead instrument from piano to trumpet and to concentrate on jazz, what was his original intention and musical education. Places I’ve Been is settled in contemporary jazz, while At The Moment was the final step to jazz. When Katie Smiles (2008) is Kim’s return to contemporary jazz and to the piano.

Pensyl’s piano and keyboards are supported by the bass (Andy Woodson), drums (Reggie Jackson), electric and acoustic guitars (Kevin Turner) and percussion (Jim Ed Cobbs). The title song When Katie Smiles showcases Kim Pensyl in full swing. The accentuated piano melody is answered by Kevin’s guitar.

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Jim Peterick – Lifeforce

LifeforceJim Peterik is best known for his work as songwriter, guitarist and singer of the groups the Ides of March and Survivor, Chi-Town Hustlers, and 38 Special, for which he wrote and performed hits like Vehicle, The Search Is Over, The Eye Of The Tiger or Burning Heart. The Soundtracks of the movies Rocky 3 and 4, went gold respectively platinum. Jim also wrote songs for the movie Karate Kid. Furthermore Jim worked with the Doobie Brothers, Brian Wilson, REO Speedwagon, Al Denson and a lot more.

What is the reason that such a rock legend now starts his first smooth jazz project. Jim Peterik explains: “My wife of 35 years, Karen, and I have been huge fans since day one of Pat Metheny, David Grusin, Spyro Gyra, Keiku Matsui, Acoustic Alchemy, Basia and so many more. Writing and performing this style myself is just a natural progression from fan to artist.”

His debut as smooth jazz artist is called Lifeforce and will be released by Jim’s label World Stage International Records on February 3, 2009. Guitarist and keyboardist Jim Peterik is supported by world’s finest musicians: Ed Breckenfeld on drums, Mike Aquino on guitar, Klem Hayes on bass, Christian Cullen, Scott May, Jeff Lantz on keyboards, Steve Eisen on sax and flute and Lisa McClowry on vocals.

It’s a scientific principle that music causes Joy. So let’s jump into this fantastic album with the uplifting melody which was created during Jim’s fitness training. Jim asked his trainer Kathleen for a title and without hesitation she suggested this title.

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