Archive for June, 2013

Althea Rene – In The Flow

InTheFlowOne of America’s best kept secrets is secret no more. Having single handedly built a huge following throughout the Contemporary Jazz community over the last 10 years, this young lady has been in high demand on the concert scene and has accomplished all with little support from radio and doing it without label machinery. Taking the next career step and signing her first major label deal, Althea Rene is poised to take her music to the masses and her Trippin N Rhythm debut ‘In The Flow‘ marks a seismic shift not only in her career but in taking the flute back to its accepted place as a dominant genre instrument not seen since the days of Tim Weisberg and Herbie Mann.

Mix the mastery of Herbie Mann and add the sexiness and moves of Beyonce and you get this dynamic performer who delivers on every level, chops mixed with sex appeal. On ‘In The Flow’ Rene enlists the help of Grammy award winning producer Michael B, who has worked with A-List artists George Benson, Cindy Bradley and Marion Meadows, to name a few, to assemble a portrait of this multi-dimensional artist, painted with a broad brush. Not afraid to paint outside the lines Rene shows her mastery of the flute, blowing when the moment is called for yet showing great restraint as she floats in and around the melodies, showing passion and fire reminiscent of Al DiMeloa on tracks like LA Solstice and then chilling things down with sides like Sunday Cruise . Standouts include fresh takes on the John Legend classic ‘Used To Love You’ and ‘Free’ from Denise Williams.

With support from label mates Cindy Bradley and Randy Scott , ‘In The Flow’ marks the re-emergence of the flute to its deserved place in what has become a sax heavy genre. The time has come, the moment is now and Althea Rene will soon place her star alongside the genre’s greatest.

Get this album at

Carol Duboc – Smile

Carol Duboc is performing in the smooth jazz scene since 2001. That year marked the release of her debut album With All That I Am. Already a year later she released her self-titled sophomore album Duboc followed by All Of You (2005), Songs for Lovers (2008) and The Burt Bacharach Songbook (2009).

This year Carol returns with her new album Smile. The remarkable thing about this album is the star cast of accompanying musicians. Jeff Lorber (keyboards, Moog & guitar), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Brian Bromberg (acoustic bass), Jimmy Haslip (electric bass), Hubert Laws (flute), Michael Thompson (guitars), Luis Conte (percussion) and Tim Carmon (piano).

The album is a collaboration between Carol and Jeff Lorber, who co-wrote and co-produced the complete album with her. The album starts with the quite attractive piece Elephant. With instrumental accompaniment at the highest level Duboc likes in a jazzy attitude.

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David Arnay – 8

Sometimes, it’s the selection of music. Other times, it’s how the music is presented. The latter is the case with pianist David Arnay’s 8 (2013).

The tracks are numbered – in more ways than one. Each song is assigned to an ensemble format, solo, duo, trio, etc., with each title in progression having one more musician than the previous number.

This is Arnay’s third release as a leader. The set begins with a solo piano rendition of the Duke Ellington classic, “Caravan.” Arnay plays the melody straight, but does allow himself to stretch out a bit during the middle break. The pianist is joined by bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Peter Erskine for the delightful “Billville,” one of six original songs on this date. Arnay carries the piece with light accompaniment. Doug Webb brings the tenor sax into the mix for the sassy, swinging “Step Four.” Webb enjoys a spirited lead while Arnay and the others lay the foundation.

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Keiko Matsui – Soul Quest

SoulQuest“Creating this album was like going on a soul quest, as I tried to figure out how to express the things I was thinking and experiencing during this past year,” confides pianist, composer and humanitarian Keiko Matsui (pronounced Kay-Koe, meaning ‘happy, celebratory child’ in Japanese).  “This music energizes me and I am overwhelmed with emotion when I listen to it.  I hope people will allow themselves to go inside the music and become a part of my journey,” says the stunning, profound pianist and world citizen who is celebrating a triumphant 25 years of recording in the US. In the words of Duke Ellington, Keiko Matsui is ‘beyond category.’

The courageous, spiritually-driven and consummate artist who enjoyed the distinction of being an invited guest and performer at the second International Jazz Day, sponsored by UNESCO and held in Istanbul in April 2013, transcends boundary.  Her unique melting pot of musical influences have garnered her a devout international following. The eloquent and soft-spoken but yet deliberate musician tours relentlessly and seeks to make a genuine connection with her audience. “Everybody has so many things going on in their lives but my concerts are special for me. The music creates a oneness.  The exchange I share with my audience is the root of my energy. It’s like my mission.” Matsui has worked alongside the best including Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Hugh Masekela and Bob James.

A true humanitarian, Keiko has lent her voice to raise awareness for such causes as The Daniel Pearl Foundation, The United Nations World Food Programme, Be The Match Marrow Registry and The National Donor Program and Marrow Foundation. She has also lent her efforts to the continued revitalization and healing of Japan in the wake of the recent Tsunami and Fukushima disasters. “I still have these images of kindergarten teachers holding their kids in order to protect them.  I also think about all of the older people who did not make it and the children who lost parents,” reflects Keiko, the first Japanese musician to top the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts. “But when I think about the people who did survive, I think that they may be the strongest souls there are. Out of this pain, I have found the greatest strength from these individuals.”  Keiko Matsui’s new recording Soul Quest, is a riveting new collection of songs that unfold like an epic journey. With an all-star cast that includes such heavyweights as producer and drummer Narada Michael Walden, guitarist Chuck Loeb, saxophonist Kirk Whalum and bassist Marcus Miller, among others, Keiko explores themes of love, loss, spirituality and environmental consciousness. Continue reading

Jim Samuel – Smooth Dance

Smooth DanceAn album comprised of smooth covers of songs you have heard before done in a style that is more Smooth Dance than smooth jazz. Smooth Dance has the musical qualities of smooth jazz but with an undercurrent of R&B and Dance rhythms that make you want to dance. Great music for listening, even better for dancing. Get up and get moving to a dynamic new feel in smooth jazz- smooth covers, Smooth Dance.

Smooth Dance is to find at CDBaby.

Elliot Levine – 347LIVE!

It’s longtime ago that Elliot Levine toured with Wilson Pickett and Heatwave. But you can still attend his concerts at numerous festivals and venues. For a complete survey about his events visit his website.

His first solo project was With Light Images (1993), a jazz fusion album. On Urban Grooves (1997) Elliot entered the smooth jazz genre. Later he released Smash (2000), The Funk, The Whole Funk And Nothin’ But The Funk (2004) and Live +7 (2008). I haven’t include his releases.

Now he is back with 347 Live! (2013), in parts his second live album. The tracks 4,6 and 7 were recorded at Club 347, March 21, 2013.

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Yoron Israel & High Standards – Visions – The Music of Stevie Wonder

When documenting the repertoire of an artist whose had such a long and distinguished career as Stevie Wonder, one sets about a challenging task. Even if the intent is only to register hit singles, the job would be quite demanding. However, if you want to create fresh interpretations of music that says something to what the musical genius is all about, and avoid covering the hits that have already been covered numerous times, like “Superstition,” “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing” and “I Wish,” you might want to follow Yoron Israel’s lead.

Visions – The Music of Stevie Wonder (2013) by Yoron Israel & High Standards picks out a sampling of Wonder’s album tracks. Israel handles drums and percussion. With him are Lance Bryant, tenor and soprano saxophones; Lazlo Gardony, piano and keyboards; Ron Mahdi, bass; Thaddeus Hogarth, guitar on “Bird of Beauty” and harmonica on “Passionate Raindrops”; and Larry Roland, spoken word on “Visions” and “Visions Reprise.”

The first track is “Another Star,” taken from the two-disc Songs in the Key of Life is delivered with an easygoing vibe, led by Bryant’s tenor. Israel is content to remain low-key with the rest of the group, allowing the power of the arrangement and Bryant’s play to carry the song.

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Tony Bragano and Roberto Restuccia – Escape

EscapeSaxophonist Tony Bragano and Guitarist Roberto Restuccia Collaborate on their 2013 release Escape. Together they bring a new and exciting sound to Smooth Jazz. The album is mostly instrumental, but features vocalists Steve Johnson and Sarai Usry on two tracks. Expect a diverse set of songs which offer smooth, soulful, romantic and soothing vibes. Escape for a bit and join them in a playful, and fresh new world.

Listen to this album at CDBaby.

Dave Erickson Project – Pinnacle

The nice thing about smooth jazz is that you can always get to know new musicians. The Dave Erickson Project consists of the Quartet Dave Erickson (guitars), Chuck Leichner (keyboards and acoustic piano), Deon Kuhl (drums), and Rick Brough (bass). Living in Denver and inspired by the magnificent Colorado mountains the group is ready for new deeds.

Their debut album Pinnacle (2013) offers twelve slightly catchy tracks, which can be sampled at CDBaby. All tracks were written by Dave himself.

The launching piece Pinnacle is well structured and switches between bridge and main theme. Here, the piece combines elements of smooth and contemporary jazz. There is even some space for a little improvisation.

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Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope – Mirage

Classical music meets jazz with Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope’s Mirage (Blueland Records, 2013). This chamber jazz masterpiece consists of 12 original songs. The session blends the Kaleidoscope quintet with a string quartet.

The ensemble consist of Landrus, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, bass flute, contra alto clarinet and bass saxophone; Nir Felder, guitar; Frank Carlberg, Rhodes and piano; Lonnie Plaxico, acoustic and electric bass; Rudy Royston, drums; Mark Feldman, violin; Joyce Hermann, violin; Judith Insell, viola; Jody Redhage, cello; and Ryan Truesdell, conductor.

“Don’t Close Your Eyes” has a pop ballad vibe with Landrus and Felder combining for the lead. Royston mostly just keeps time, but emphasizes key points with splashes and crashes of the cymbals. After Carlberg’s Rhodes solo, Landrus stretches out with the baritone sax.

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