Archive for August, 2012

Jaithan Sparks – Hear, I Am

The Very Next Thing: “A mild classic fusion instrumental so easily one, and deservedly so, for the jazz airwaves.”
Bent Below The Knees: “Grab this one for life in the fast lane. A modern urbanite’s signature driving soundtrack. A blend of pseudo vocals, pads and rhodes, but that’s just the half without the killer keys and chords. Classic yet cutting edge, guaranteed to wow any weekend passenger side guest… But even you might be surprised…and find yourself all geared up with nowhere to go, plays just as well parked.”

Every Now And Then: “Catch the artist in a moment of reconnection. To himself, to a past, to a boyhood beginning. Naked, raw and beautifully simple. It never left the man but fell asleep in his soul. Now once re-awakened, gives birth to this thank song. Of piano simplicity and humble melodies. It knows to look back and be grateful again. The return that happens, Every Now And Then.”

Never Once Again: “Try this for vintage warmth. over a midrange groove so cool. How’s that polarity working out? Fusion tune that’s funky fun, melody that’s playfully pleasant. A dash of Eumir Deodato meets a hint of Carole King. or Steve Perry to boot. And all other wherewithal’s to create some jazz this smooth. Sweetly 70’s and delectably classic. like a temptation you keep coming back to. and find yourself with no longer the heart to say no or never, once again.”

This CD offers a smooth blend of easy listening and creamy mellow jazz melodies to the listener. This is truly Grownfolk Music and it will be quite evident the moment the first tune is played and heard. Here I Am at CDBaby.

Amit Friedman Sextet – Sunrise

The morning sun casts a bright glow over a field, a cover photo that captures the essence of Sunrise (Origin Records, 2012), by the Amit Friedman Sextet.

The session is part ambient, part fusion, all good. Friedman plays tenor and soprano saxophones, plus flute on one track. The rest of the band consists of Amos Hoffman on oud and guitar, Omri Mor on piano, Gilad Abro on bass, Amir Bresler on drums and Rony Iwryn on percussion. The string ensemble of Chen Shenar and Avner Kelmer on violins, Noam Haimovitz Weinschel on viola and Maya Belzitsman on cello contribute to some selections.

As if representative of dawn, “Sunrise” begins slowly, almost unnoticeable. One can almost see the faint glow of pre-dawn as the soprano welcomes a new day, backed softly by the accompaniment. Gradually, the sky lightens, and dark red transitions to orange and eventually bright yellow. The strings add an elegant touch.

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Fourplay – Esprit De Four

Smooth Jazz supergroup Fourplay is set to release their new album Espirit De Four, on September 18. For two decades, the quartet has enjoyed consistent artistic and commercial success by blending elements of R&B, pop and a variety of other sounds to their unwavering jazz foundations. Over the course of the band’s career, spanning a dozen recordings, six have climbed to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Album charts.

The group is comprised of leader/pianist Bob James, bassist Nathan East, drummer Harvey Mason, Jr. and guitarist Chuck Loeb, who joined the band in 2010 following the departure of Larry Carlton. Fourplay will be part of the Smooth Jazz Serenades the Seas Cruise setting sail from Barcelona, Spain on September 27 and will begin a U.S. tour on October 12 in Newport Beach, CA.

The follow up to 2010’s Let’s Touch the Sky, this is the second album to feature the group s newest member, guitarist Chuck Loeb. Here he joins the all-star lineup of keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason, each of whom contribute at least two compositions to the release.

One of the more notable tracks is the Bob James composition Put Our Hearts Together which he wrote for a concert in a region severely impacted by the devastating Japanese tsunami of 2011. It appears as both an instrumental and vocal version on the CD. Japanese pop star Seiko Matsuda lends her voice on this moving tribute.

Esprit De Four is available at

U-Nam – Weekend in L.A.

Rarely has one musician put down such a strong start as the guitarist originally from Paris, called U-Nam. Out of nowhere, he surprised the connoisseurs of smooth jazz scene with his albums The Past Builds The Future (2005), Back From the 80’s (2007) and Unanimity (2009). What unites all the albums is U-Nam’s ardent admiration for the master of Smooth Jazz George Benson.

It begins with the partial selection of songs like Breezin’ M.A. or Mister GB and ends with the choice of his instruments Ibanez Guitars. What could be more than nails to do the job and create the ultimate tribute album Weekend In L.A. The album was in the air with thunder inspired by his visit at Benson’s home being invited by his buddy Robbie (one of GB’s son’s) and his impressions he talked about in an interview lately.

U-Nam has cut the umbilical cord of the record companies and funded his new project via Pledge Music. The album includes a mega-all-star line up of artists and musicians including but not limited to George Duke, Marcus Miller, Paul Jackson Jr, Phil Perry, Patrice Rushen, Stokley Williams ( Mint Condition ),Tim “TiO” Owens, Wah Wah Watson, Andreas Oberg, Michael White, Dio Saucedo and many more.

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Lee Ritenour – Rhythm Sessions

Ritenour Embarks on Innovative Musical Journey with All-Star Rhythm Sections Including Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller and Winners of his Annual Six String Theory International Competition

“I always thought it’s a very cool model to combine very well-known, almost legendary players with completely new talent on the same record. I love that scenario. It’s not a format that many people have followed before, but I’ve always considered it a fascinating experiment, and a way to create some great sounds.”……..Lee Ritenour

In a career that spans five decades and more than 40 albums, guitarist Lee Ritenour has developed a keen understanding of the symbiotic balance between the frontman and the supporting players, between the wisdom of experience and the enthusiasm of youth. On Rhythm Sessions, Ritenour’s new album set for release on Concord Records, September 25, 2012 (international release dates may vary) he surrounds himself with a cadre of high-profile veterans and promising newcomers – all of whom reaffirm the vital role played by the rhythm section in any worthwhile musical endeavor.

Included on the Rhythm Sessions roster are luminaries like Chick Corea, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Dave Grusin, Marcus Miller and many others. Also appearing throughout the record are the winners of Ritenour’s 2012 Rhythm Section Competition, an international event he launched in 2009 as a guitar competition and later expanded to include aspiring keyboardists, bassists and percussionists. The competition winners appearing on the album include keyboardist Hans de Wild (Holland), pianist Demetrius Nabors (Michigan), bassist Michael Feinberg (New York) and drummer Selim Munir (Turkey). The album also features Ritenour’s 19-year-old son Wesley, an aspiring drummer in his own right on one of the tracks. Continue reading

Project Grand Slam – Spring Dance

You can read a brief history of New York-based Project Grand Slam on their website. I want to get on and tell you about their sophomore album ‘Spring Dance’.

The title track, which also opens the album, is an ensemble piece with some very lively brass – it’s almost a big band sound. And I mean that in the most complimentary way: there really is a lot of energy in this instrumental tune and I can imagine its reception at gigs must be great. As the song opens out, it takes on a gospel tinge and my comment about a good live song gets reinforced. The heavily-processed vocals on the intro to ‘Joe Z’ and some heavy African influences point to a homage to Joe Zawinul. This certainly is nowhere close to ‘smooth jazz’ and some muscular drumming and a great Rhodes solo underline that.

I’m a huge fan of records where the artist can take you through changes of mood and pace. ‘Ma Petite Fleur’ could scarcely be more different from the previous song. Some very soulful piano and soprano sax, plus that lazy waltz time make this a very classy production. Strands of gospel weave in and out of the piano solo – I just love it! The breathy tenor sax that opens the vocal ‘Remember’ is truly soulful. Guest vocalist Joye Hennessey delivers a pleading lead vocal and there’s something in her delivery that makes me think we’ll hear much more from her.

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Jon and Ben Burchfield – Laguna Lights

Dove Award nominees, Jon and Ben Burchfield make music that inspires the soul. Combining such styles as gospel, classical, and mountain music, along with a bit of Irish flavoring, this unique duo from Nashville, Tennessee mesmerizes audiences of all ages. Jon is a master of Classical Guitar and plays in a style reminiscent of the great Spanish composers. But being raised in east Tennessee, each song is flavored with a hint of Chet Atkins.

Ben performs with a Mallet Kat, which can be described as a midi-marimba. Played with either mallets or hands, the Mallet Kat has unlimited sounds ranging anywhere from percussion to orchestral. Because of this variety, people sometimes compare the brothers to Mannheim Steamroller.

An evening with the Burchfields can be described as “Reaching the Ages”. Prime-timers love it because they recognize the music, while young people are inspired by the arrangements and intrigued with the instrumentation. Along with their own special music, the brothers lead the audience in worship through singing. And for the really big sound, they involve the choir and orchestra on several songs.

Smooth Jazz fans will find several albums of the Burchfields brothers on CDBaby. We recommend Laguna Lights.