Archive for February, 2015

James Lloyd – Here We Go

Here We GoHitmaker James Lloyd of Pieces of a Dream has written, produced and played on more than 30 top 10 smooth jazz radio hits. As a founding member of the legendary Pieces of a Dream, James has been the heart and soul of that smooth urban jazz super group for more than 20 years.

“Now feels like the right time for many reasons,” confesses pianist James Lloyd, a legend on the contemporary jazz scene, about the timing of his Shanachie Entertainment debut CD, Here We Go. Lloyd, who has shared the stage with everyone from James Brown to Count Basie, was recently on a plane that was struck by lightning and forced to make an emergency landing. The celebrated pianist shares, “I just turned 50 and realized that each day is a blessing. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, finishing the rest of this sentence isn’t even promised. Recording my first solo album is something I wanted to complete while I’m still here.”

For fans of contemporary jazz, James Lloyd is no stranger. He is a pioneering member of the groundbreaking band Pieces of a Dream (that will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year) who, like artists John Coltrane, Grover Washington, Jr., Gamble, Huff, Patti Labelle and Teddy Pendergrass all got their start in the “City of Brotherly Love.” The city’s rich musical tradition is the foundation for Lloyd’s expansive creative vision. “I didn’t realize it as much when I was a kid, but Philly had and has a certain vibe spiritually and musically,” confides Lloyd. “I’m a product of all that I have listened to and absorbed. There’s a lot of music floating around in my head, I’m just trying to get it out and hope that it touches some people.”

Shanachie Entertainment’s VP of Jazz A&R, Danny Weiss, comments, “James Lloyd has been the heart and soul of Pieces of a Dream since its inception. This, his first solo release, is a dream come true for James, and it’s an honor for us to help him realize that dream.” Continue reading

ShaShaty – Brighter Day

Just appeared on my radar screen is saxophonist ShaShaty. He started his solo career with his self-titled debut album in 1993, followed by Voices In My Head, From Me to You (2008), Come Together (2011), and It’s My Pleasure (2013). His 6th album Brighter Day will be released on March 3, 2015.

The album was produced by Steve Oliver, who also plays guitar on all tracks and composed several of the songs. Guest musicians on selected tracks are Will Donato (sax), Bonny B (drums), Gary Stanionis (percussion), and Usay Kawlu (vocals). ShaShaty shows his skills on tenor, alto and soprano sax, piano and synth programming.

Dream Ride is the positive overture of the album. Will Donato supports ShaShaty’s lead sax with a sophisticated horn arrangement. Let’s Go! takes off with a jazzy groove that is heated vigorously by Bonny B on drums. Song of Hope features the lovely Taiwanese vocalist Usay Kawlu. A remarkable airy voice.

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Ezra Weiss Sextet – Before You Know It – Live in Portland

Some of the best jazz sounds are generated by small to mid-sized combos with two or three horns, often playing as a unit. The Ezra Weiss Sextet’s Before You Know It – Live in Portland (Roark Records, 2014) delivers that style in grand fashion.

Weiss plays piano. His sidemen are Farnell Newton, trumpet; John Nastos, alto saxophone; Devin Phillips, tenor saxophone; Jon Shaw, bass; and Christopher Brown, drums.

“The Crusher” is an upbeat, toe-tapping song. The horns shift easily from a bright, overlapping melody, to a – well, words cannot adequately describe the softer phrase. Newton steps out first, rolling notes in a manner that brings to mind Freddie Hubbard or Terence Blanchard. Weiss pounds the keys emphatically behind him. Weiss powers down briefly during the saxophone solo so we can hear more of Shaw, but the piano gets going later on. The horns come back with the same verve as the beginning.

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Vince Redhouse – A Long Way Home

A Long Way HomeMost of the recognition that I have gained is from what I have done of the Traditional Native flute, although the tenor saxophone was always my first voice and sound. I really love Classical music and Jazz. What a contradiction of music it would seem. To me, they are both beautiful musical languages that demand a great study and commitment to be fluent and expressive. I believe beyond the technique and cliches is a place where music becomes the song that transcends all and is the Universal language.

Vince Redhouse presents A Long Way Home at CDBaby.

Adrien Re – Groove Research

Groove ResearchAdrien Re‘s Second album Groove Research as a leader leapfrogs ahead of his initial release, Gotta Love the Lovin with the same recipe of groove-oriented composition and arranging but with new twists like Adrien’s guitar playing! This album features even more keyboard work and searing “saxophonisms” his fans have come to expect!

Check out especially his original song and lyrics “I Gave You All I Got” featuring vocalist, Kara Stronsnider. Along with his keyboard chops and new guitar playing, Adrien breaks out his tenor and soprano on this album, too! As always, Adrien treats his fans to his own rendition of a cover classic- the Billy Preston ’70s hit “Will It Go Round In Circles”. Forget what you know about this song and other past covers of this classic! Adrien changes this song up in ways only his ‘groove intuition’ could fathom! “Dance, Dance, Dance” pays homage to the DC “go-go” tradition. “You can’t live this close to DC and not get the ‘go-go’ bug.”

Groove Research is at CDBaby.

Greg Manning – Dance With You

Swiss-American keyboardist Greg Manning is in the Smooth Jazz scene perfectly at home. He worked as musical director with Jonathan Butler and also performed with Brian McKnight, Kirk Whalum, Will Downing, Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright, Chante Moore, Mindi Abair and many more.

His debut album Soulciety was released in 1999, followed by his sophomore album The Calling in 2010. His newest album Dance With You was released on Kalimba Music in 2014.

Among the plethora of participating musicians one should especially mention sax players Gianni Vancini, Brad Rambur, Elan Trotman, Vincent Ingala, Jimmy Reid, and Mindi Abair, guitarists Darrell Crooks, Terry Wollman and Bruce Nazarian and bass player Chris Golden.

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Joanne Tatham – Out of My Dreams

When a jazz vocalist digs into the vault of classic songs, the session can be a challenge. How to revisit popular songs without being cast aside as just another spin. The key is vocal style and solid arrangements. Joanne Tatham has both with Out of My Dreams (Café Pacific Records, 2014).

One song in the set, “Detour Ahead,” could describe Tatham’s path leading to this project. In 1993, she left a career as a New York musical-comedy performer. She married a television writer, moved to Los Angeles and began a family. Tatham says the lifestyle change was also an artistic change. She grew up loving the likes of Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Sammy Davis Jr. and ultimately began to feel her way as a jazz singer in clubs and cabarets.

Sheppard’s alto flute of a voice scats in harmony with Sheppard’s sax to introduce “You Taught My Heart to Sing.” Tatham sings with verve that’s worthy of many jazz divas, including but not limited to Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Cheryl Bentyne and Tierney Sutton. The song, composed by McCoy Tyner and Sammy Cahn, is a bright, delightful piece. This Tamir Hendelman arrangement features the pianist with support from bassist John Clayton and drummer Peter Erskine. Sheppard puts his instrument through some sunny rolls in response to Tatham’s lyrical calls.

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