Archive for March, 2011

Boney James – Contact

Boney James dislikes labels and refuses any and all of them. “In fact, I have never thought of myself as a ‘jazz’ artist specifically,” he says.

Of course, this statement may serve as a source of confusion for the musician’s legion of fans that have scooped up over 3 million copies of his twelve albums (with eight of them going to No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart). It also may seem contradictory to the respected opinions of music critics who consider him one of the most influential jazz artists of his generation. Billboard Magazine even named him “The No. 3 Top Contemporary Jazz Artist of the Decade.”

Even so, Boney James, who has four Gold albums, three Grammy® nominations, a Soul Train Award and an NAACP Award nomination to his credit, says, “I am just a saxophone player whose music has several different influences. Jazz is only one of them.”

His newest CD Contact — completely produced, arranged and co-written by James — is driven by the signature soulful grooves the world has come to expect from him, but with an added intensity. “I felt really inspired putting together the arrangements and producing the record,” he says. “There are a lot of things happening right now in modern music. The title, in one sense, refers to me reaching across genres and creating music that I believe is relevant and fresh.”

This incredibly accomplished artist — who broke into music in the mid-80s touring with acts such as The Isley Brothers, Morris Day (The Time), Randy Crawford and Teena Marie, and emerged as a solo force in 1992 with his breakthrough debut, Trust — has long been influenced by contemporary R&B. Continue reading

Bryant Thompson – Puzzle Pieces

You can read the full biography of New Jersey born Bryant Thompson on his excellent website. I’m going to ask you to do just that because I want to get on and talk about what’s on the latest disc from this astonishing composer/musician/producer – “Puzzle Pieces”

I’m already hooked by the easy but relentless groove of ‘Movado’. The bass just does its thing while a muted trumpet doubles the piano. Touches of percussion and some nice synthesizer washes combine with the solid groove and melody to draw you in. Oh wow!

‘Reflections of Time’ is a slower piece, using the muted trumpet in a different way for dramatic effect. The Latin feel to this track comes from the deft rimshots and some subtle acoustic guitar. There are some keyboard touches in here that remind me of some of my favourite contemporary jazz from the late 90’s. The whole arrangement is fabulous, I have to say, with nothing that needs to be added or removed.

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Yellowjackets – Timeline

When a favorite band goes more than a year without a recording, fans get anxious. And when a new release is finally available, there’s joy.

Listeners in the world of the Yellowjackets are rejoicing with the release of Timeline (Mack Avenue, 2011), their first since Lifecycle (Heads Up, 2008). And to no one’s surprise, the group is in top form.

The ensemble began as the Robben Ford Group, led by guitarist Robben Ford, and featuring bassist Jimmy Haslip and pianist/keyboardist Russell Ferrante. However, the group’s preference of instrumental music over pop vocals ultimately led to the birth of the Yellowjackets. Over the ensuing years, there have been many personnel changes. Haslip and Ferrante remain, with Bob Mintzer being the group’s saxophonist since 1990.

Timeline not only celebrates the group’s 30 years but also welcomes the return of drummer Will Kennedy. Ford appears on one track.

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Plunky – On Fire

J. Plunky Branch‘s new release, Plunky On Fire, is a funk jazz concept album that burns across a wide swath of the urban contemporary music landscape. Plunky On Fire takes us on a musical journey through down-tempo funk jazz; house-tempo dance; R&B love songs; spoken word; smooth mellow jazz; novelty funk; world soul message music; live gig clips and thought leader lecturing, all on one chockfull compact disc.

Saxophonist J. Plunky Branch and his group Plunky & Oneness create musical theater that combines the quirkiness of George Clinton and the musicality of George Duke with the vocal poetics of Jill Scott and Gil Scott Heron. Plunky’s words and melodies are crafted over hip-hop influenced instrumental tracks produced by his son, Jamiah “Fire” Branch, hence the double entendre CD title.

The father-son duo has produced an album of 14 new songs that are both retro and ultramodern, a new organic-techno soul music that is jazzy, funky and highly danceable. Two songs are targeted for initial airplay: “On Fire,” a hot, sax driven dance instrumental with a vocal hook; and “Inside These Walls” a quiet storm love song featuring Chyp Green on lead vocals.

Released on his own N.A.M.E. Brand Records label, this, Plunky’s 25th album, will be available at and all the most popular online sites, including i-tunes, Rhapsody and Napster. CD’s will be distributed to record stores by Liaison Record Distributors of Maryland. The March 29th release date also kicks off the Plunky & Oneness promotional touring in support of the new CD.

Plunky & Oneness is one of the most versatile and enduring funk jazz groups, having toured in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean for over 25 years. They have appeared in concert and at festivals with some of the biggest names in Black music, including Earth Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly & Maze, B.B. King, Patti Labelle, Ray Charles, LL Cool J, Chuck Brown, Wyclef Jean and many others.

Plunky has also been active in music education and arts and culture presentations and some of his insights on aesthetics and African concepts of the groove are presented as interludes on the album. His positive empowerment and political messages are infused in the lyrics of several of the songs as well. He comments, “I just think it’s important to inspire people to reach for their highest aspirations and I believe it can be done while we’re having fun; what some call partying with a purpose.”

Plunky On Fire presents R&B as art music and this concept extends to the CD cover as well. The original portrait of Plunky on the front was painted by French artist, Dan Brussat; and the inside photograph taken at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was shot by the design and layout artist, Danja Mowf. On this album the music and the art are hot like fire…now at CDBaby.

Planet Zu (Featuring Dan Baraszu) – In The Light Of Day

Planet Zu is the brainchild of guitarist/composer Dan Baraszu in collaboration with some of the finest musicians in the southeast. The instrumentation is Nylon Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Hammond A-100 Organ, Electric Bass and Drums. Though labeled a “contemporary Jazz” group, Planet Zu’s music is the amalgamation of jazz, funk, rock, acoustic, pop, jam-band and fun. The Bands focus is on original material, though they are known for their unique arrangements of some popular cover tunes.

Their album In The Light Of Day combines organic instrumentation with a nujazz feel and is now available at CDBaby.

Larry Carlton – Plays the Sound of Philadelphia

Larry Carlton and his legendary guitar skills are backed by some amazing musicians including Paul Shaffer-organ, Tony DeSare-piano, Tommy Byrnes-rhythm guitar, Christopher Jackson-bass, Bill LaBounty-vocals, Andrea Valentini-drums, Vic Stevenspercussion, Mark Douthit-sax, Darcy Hepner-baritone sax, Steve Guttman-trumpet, Nick Marchione-trumpet, Dave Kirkland-trombone, and Chris Komer-french horn. This line-up brings these timeless classics back to life with a new twist that will make this unique record a must have.

Plays the Sound of Philadelphia is available at

Will Henry – Jazz And Love-New Music Album

If you love listening to good jazz music as well as love songs that are very well produced, this is a CD album you’ll want for sure. The new jazz song “My Time In Memphis” sets the stage for what’s to come with this CD. You will also love the ballads “Run To Me” and “I Never Knew” both written and produced by Will Henry. Jazz music is always alive and wonderful and this cd belongs right beside all the new jazz artists as well as some of the crooners of old.

Jazz And Love-New Music Album even has some amazing heart warming love songs performed by some of the finest talent in the world.You will really enjoy this jazz and love cd album. Now available at CDBaby.

Cole Jacobs – Atomic Escalator

L.A. based Cole Jacobs offers you cool grooves for a luxury life. A stylistic soundtrack for your Jet Set lifestyle. Cole is a gifted singer and guitarist as well. Don’t believe that his songs are acid jazz, this is finest smooth jazz. Don’t forget to visit his website, where we hopefully find his biography soon.

For now buy his fantastic album at CDBaby.

Victor Bailey – Slippin’ N’ Trippin’

Bassist Victor Bailey returns with his strongest and most consistent effort to date,titled Slippin’ N’ Trippin’. Bailey states: “On this record I wanted to feature more of my bass guitar than on my other cd’s. I’m also a versatile keyboardist,vocalize a little, and play a little drums too”.

As usual Bailey serves up a variety of great feels,grooves and of course incredible bass playing. Standouts include the opener “Ape School” with some innovative slapping and tapping over a surprising supple dance/funk feel. We follow that up with the title track “Slippin’ N’ Trippin’, with a shockingly strong vocal performance by Bailey and a great drum track by the legendary Billy Cobham. Next is an incredible rendition of John Coltrane’s Countdown, featuring Ron Carter on acoustic bass.

Then he slows things down with his lovely ballad “I Wonder”, and displays exceptional arranging skills on the classic song Alfie, featuring a rare performance on fretless bass. He puts in a fine vocal performance on “Like A Horn” featuring some of the best bebop bass playing ever heard anywhere. Included is an innovative rendition of the Prince classic “Kiss” recorded with all bass guitars. We get a little gospel feel with “If You Say So” and finish off with the classic funk/fusion jam “Lucky Punch” featuring an amazing drum solo by Bailey’s former Weather Report bandmate Omar Hakim. With names like Hakim, Cobham, Lenny White and Ron Carter you can be sure this is music of the highest order.

Slippin’ N’ Trippin’ is available at CDBaby.

The JWB – Groove Axis

Kansas City native James Ward founded The James Ward Band in 1997. As bass player he performed with Marcus Roberts, Wycliffe Gordon, Nat Adderly, Mark Whitfield and many more. Recently he toured with Oleta Adams in South Africa.

The JWB presents Latin, R&B, Fusion, Funk, Jazz, and Gospel. Their albums are oriented to contemporary jazz and smooth jazz. In 2007 they released their first album In Perspective, which reached a high rank in the Smooth Jazz Indie Charts. Their sophomore album Groove Axis was released in 2010.

Groove Axis features band members James Ward (bass), Angela Ward (keyboards), Ray Stewart (percussion), Matt Hopper (guitar), Gerald Dunn (soprano and tenor sax), and Ryan Lee (drums).

The album starts with the heavy and funky title track. James’ earth-bounded bass builds a solid ground for Gerald Dunn’s sax melody. AG (Angies’s Groove) features Angela Ward on keyboards. She has blessed hands and is also the congenial arranger of the group.

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