Archive for March, 2010

Jeff Sparks – Life.Love.Soul

Well known and highly regarded jazz saxophonist, Jeff Sparks, will now be able to share his talents on a larger scale with the release of his debut album, Life.Love.Soul, on Arrow Records/Universal. Available online and in stores on March 23, 2010, Life.Love.Soul is already generating buzz across all music platforms.

The first single from Life.Love.Soul, entitled “Paradise”, has received rave reviews and industry approval across the board. “Paradise” is currently tied for the #1 most added single at Jazz radio and holds the #4 “Spincrease” placement with well over thirty plays in the first week of rotation. These are significant accomplishments for any artist, new or veteran.

A Berklee College of Music graduate with deep jazz roots, Sparks captures music lovers of all generations. He is already widely known and respected throughout the jazz community and among his peers, having shared the stage with music legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Brandford Marsalis, along with many others.

Sparks is excited to share his first studio album with people everywhere. “I am truly grateful that the industry has embraced my music so passionately. I love the stage. I love connecting with people,” he says. “I’m an entertainer sent to create experiences that put my audience right in the palm of my hands.”

Please visit the artist’s website for tour dates, music, recent news and more.

Source: Fuse Mix

Hiromi – Place To Be

Let me say up front that I don’t care for solo piano. A song, yes. An album, no. Call it a limited attention span. More like it’s a desire to hear a band: drums, bass, sax or trumpet, and maybe a rhythm guitar in lieu of piano.

But take a master like Bob James or Chick Corea, and the format can be quite engaging. Like those two, Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara defies my general attitude about this. Place to Be is her first solo piano release. To no surprise, it has as much vigor as her other releases.

The Telarc release is a musical documentary of Hiromi’s travels. Its title is an acknowledgment to fans, whose presence at her performance venues give her a place to be.

Hiromi debuted with Another Mind (Telarc, 2003). Since then, she’s earned several major awards, and has performed with such heavyweights as Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. Her Sonicbloom group includes guitarist Dave “Fuze” Fiuczynski, bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora. With Sonicbloom, she plays electronic keyboard.

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Nnenna Freelon – Homefree

In our mobile culture, the notion of “home” conjures up comfort, relaxation, the congenial touchstone of the soul. “There’s no place like home,” intones the young Judy Garland as Dorothy in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, while troubadour Paul Simon pines for the familiar in the 1966 Simon & Garfunkel hit, “Homeward Bound.”

As the saying goes, home is where the heart is, which is the sensibility behind esteemed jazz vocalist and multi-Grammy® nominee Nnenna Freelon‘s latest recording, Homefree, her seventh Concord Jazz album as a leader and first studio outing since 2005. It’s a soulful, swinging homegrown CD, recorded at Sound Pure Studios in Durham, North Carolina, which, she says, “has been my home base for 28 years.” The album is an 11-track collection that Freelon calls her “home brew,” comprised largely of tunes that have been road-tested by her stellar touring band as well as a new original (the witty, playful and poignant “Cell Phone Blues” composed by the singer) and spirited arrangements of two anthems (the gospel treasure “Life Every Voice and Sing” and the national hymn “America the Beautiful”) that close the CD.

“When you travel, you have to expend a lot of energy to set up shop and get yourself comfortable,” says Freelon, who has been crisscrossing the globe over the last several years. “So, I decided that rather than record my new album away from home to do it here, surrounded by all the things that help to shape me as a person and as a singer.” She notes that 10 years ago, such a luxury was implausible. But given the technological advances in recording, “the playing field has been leveled,” she says. “People are even recording great music in their basements. But I feel fortunate that we now have a world-class recording studio in Durham, which is where we recorded this project.”

So, instead of exporting her operation for Homefree, she imported from New York recording engineer Josiah Gluck, who recorded most of her Concord Jazz albums, and from the San Francisco Bay Area producer and Concord VP Nick Phillips, who along with Freelon, co-produced her previous Concord Jazz recording, the Grammy® nominated Blueprint of a Lady: Sketches of Billie Holiday (Freelon jokes that this time Phillips had to travel, but he didn’t have to sing). In addition, home played an important role in the musicians whom Freelon recorded- Freelon enlisted North Carolina-based artists that she calls “heroes” who have deep roots in the community and music of the region. “There are wonderful artists here who always bring their best and honest intention,” Freelon says. As a result the three days of recording sessions in her hometown proved to be relaxing and fun.

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Yukiko Matsuyama – Crème Brulée

The koto, a 13-string zither or harp like instrument, originated in China and came to Japan in the 7th-8th century. Today, it is the national instrument of Japan. The koto isn’t unknown in the world of smooth jazz. The most popular band with the koto as lead instrument is certainly Hiroshima.

Osaka, Japan born Yukiko Matsuyama was classically trained in this instrument from age 9. Since 1993 Yukiko lives in Los Angeles and was influenced by Western styles like jazz, new age, pop and world music. Although her music runs under the label world music, she is melting these styles with the traditional Japanese koto music.

Yukiko presents on her album Crème Brulée ten original compositions. She is supported by Diana Dentino (piano & keyboards), Greg Vail (sax & flute), Vince Van Trigt (bass), Mike Bennett (drums & percussion), and furthermore Daniel Mulliken (cello), David Brock ( violin & viola), Chris Darrow (guitar), Dave Wood (guitar), and Michael Kotzen (cajon).

Stimulated by her own self-effacing humor Yukiko introduces into her music with the title What Is Zat? Don’t await scaring Asian hymns. Yukiko’s instrument is integrated into smooth jazz and performed in a truly American style.

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Mark Egan – Truth Be Told

Contemporary jazz, smooth jazz, funk, and R&B are all part of Mark Egan’s repertoire, and they all are featured on Truth Be Told on Wavetone Records.

Egan, a versatile, Grammy Award-winning electric bassist, has a diverse array of artists among his recording and performance associates. Among them are Pat Metheny Group, Sting, Roger Daltrey, David Sanborn and the Gil Evans Orchestra.

In addition to performing and recording, Egan has lent his musical skills to movies and television, including contributions to the series Aladdin, the films The Color of Money and A Chorus Line, NBC Sports, CNN/Headline News and the daytime drama All My Children. Among his influences are Miles Davis, Weather Report, Metheny and Sanborn.

On this 11-track, all-original outing, Egan is joined by saxophonist Bill Evans, keyboardist Mitch Forman, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and percussionist Roger Squitero.

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Motown Moe – Soft Touch

Motown Moe is a Smooth Jazz artist and producer from the Metro Detroit area. Moe is currently working on final material for an upcoming CD/EP titled Seven Mile due to be released late spring or early summer of 2010. For the latest information on this artist please visit the artist’s website.

Motown Moe’s music and fan base have reached world wide status receiving airplay from England to Australia, as well as airplay on and a host of other well known SJ net stations. Moe’s music has also received critical acclaim and plays on US Radio. This release contains tracks produced by Nate Harasim who also adds some backing keyboards, French guitarist Daniel Domenge, along with Moe’s must have guitarists James Davis and DF Michael whom he has worked with previously along with new addition guitarist Mike James.

Soft Touch is a fine recipe of smooth jazz, chill and R&B instrumentals and now available at CDBaby.

Main Gazane – Tit for Tat

Main Gazane is a jazz term, which is so seldom used that I even couldn’t Google it. Well, Main Gazane means main man or main thing and that’s the reason why Mark Minchello and Bob Magnuson chose the name for their band.

The group had appearances in the smooth jazz world with their albums Lightening Strikes (2004), Imagine (2007) and Hip Space (2007). Already in 1985 Main Gazane signed a record contract with John Hammond Records. This was the same John Hammond who had previously signed Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Bruce Springsteen. CBS had given Mr. Hammond his own label after four decades of success.

The first album never reached daylight, because the only Contemporary Jazz radio station in New York changed to Country music overnight with no warning and the record label folded. Today’s many smooth jazz radio stations have changed their format, but musicians are still releasing music in this genre.

Probably radio stations have lost their importance for the music market or is it the courage born of desperation? Anyway, Main Gazane have just released their new album Tit for Tat (2010). The album was created by Mark Minchello (piano & Keyboards) and Bob Magnuson (sax, woodwinds & wind synth) and the additional musicians Brent Carter (vocals on Rock Steady) and Kenny Davis (bass). With the exception of three covers Mark has written all compositions.

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Alfonzo Blackwell – Quintet: Portrait of Alfonzo Blackwell

Saxman/Songwriter/Producer, Alfonzo Blackwell is busy, busy, busy working hard in the studio on his 8th CD project on Utopia Records. His current release Dance To This brought listeners to the dance floor and his approach for his next project is to bring listeners the sophistication, style, class and fire that comes from the freedom that has embodied his music for 15 years now.

The multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire reclines in his black leather console chair in his state-of-the-art digital recording studio and takes a brief moment to reflect on his studio recording process. Alfonzo says, “I’m working day in and day out to capture all parts of me, all parts of my essence and all parts of my soul. It’s almost like a 24/7 music reality show…me in the studio. I’m living in my studio now.”

So far, Alfonzo has already recorded an astounding thirty-one tracks and has no intensions on slowing down or putting a cap on that total. The consummate musician goes on to say, “I’m looking to write, produce and record at least one hundred tracks for this album to select from. This is the first concept album for me and it’s a portrait of me as an artist, entertainer and musician. It’s important for me to put forth the best original work of my career and each track must be right.”

Most noteworthy is Alfonzo’s traditional standard rendition of the late great John Coltrane’s “Impressions”, which is very impressive! Another very noteworthy and highly anticipated track is Alfonzo’s tribute to the late great and inarguably, the best entertainer in the history of mankind, The King of Pop Michael Jackson.
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Steve Cole – Moonlight

Steve Cole has five CDs in his catalog and has previously recorded for Atlantic, Warner Brothers and Narada Jazz. Recently Steve signed a multiple album deal with Mack Avenue/Artistry Music. The first project for the label entitled Moonlight is a collection of classic pop songs and standards set amidst an orchestral backdrop.

The project includes such iconic songs as the Bacharach & David penned The Look of Love, folk songs Cry Me a River, Shenandoah, The Long and Winding Road (Beatles), Undun (Guess Who) and Close Your Eyes (James Taylor) to name a few. In addition to the strings, the arrangements include tastefully placed harp, woodwinds and tempered brass.

The supporting rhythm section is comprised of Mike Logan (Will Downing) on keyboards, Russell Ferrante (Yellowjackets) piano and Steve Rodby (Pat Metheny Group) on bass. With a gorgeous classically-trained tone and an ear for lyrical melody, Cole most closely resembles a vocalist, emphasizing interpretive phrasing and direct emotion.

For this new album Moonlight, Steve has found the perfect setting for this bel canto technique – a symphonic orchestra playing inspired arrangements by Michael Cunningham, making his splashy major-label debut as an orchestral arranger. At the heart of this project is the title track, which appeared in the 1995 film Sabrina. “I saw the movie a few years ago and heard that song,” Cole says, “and it was just delightful – after all, it was written by John Williams” [the legendary film composer and arranger], and I thought, ‘This has all the elements I’m looking for. So I just sort of indexed it away, and when I started thinking about this project, I was searching for music that would communicate a big warm blanket – a record that would be enveloping and that’s when I remembered this song.” (Few others did: this is its debut cover recording.)
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T.A.O. (The Anointed Ones) – Journey To The Top Begins

T.A.O. (The Anointed Ones) charms the musical world with the delightfully smooth jazz/Gospel album Journey To The Top Begins. Using the flute as the main instrument, Richard D. Hegens, Jr. skillfully complies a collection of easy listening pieces with polished maturity and grace. His talent shines on songs such as “Keeping It Real” or “Ballad” as he gives the audience a performance that captures the emotional spirit his music reveals.

His refined flute talents stir up keen interest as he leads off the album with a not-so-traditional rendition of “Amazing Grace” which conjures a slightly livelier tempo and strong and solid beat. Although most of this album is instrumental, “Safe in His Arms” and “When I Think About the Lord” present beautiful female vocals as sweet and harmonious as the lyrics they sing.

Jazz flavor at its best, “O-TULP” highlights striking piano, soft brushes, and the melodious sounds of the flute. Sounds of stunning flute blended with engaging smooth Jazz/Gospel will lift your spirits and soothe your soul when you hear the wonderful songs of T.A.O.’s Journey to the Top Begins.”

Begin this journey at CDBaby.