Archive for September, 2015

Vahagn Stepanyan – Moonlight

image description Vahagn Stepanyan (born July 10, 1985) is a gifted Armenian-born keyboardist, songwriter, composer, arranger and producer. His musical journey started at the early age of eight when he enrolled into a music school for classical piano lessons. Vahagn’s quest carried him from Yerevan Tchaikovsky High School, a special school for music, on to Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory where he earned a bachelor’s degree in classical music. Immediately following his graduation from conservatory, Vahagn began scoring music arrangements for film soundtracks. Vahagn’s musical passions and endeavors gave him the experience he needed to compose music and write songs for famous artists at an early age.

In 2010, Vahagn produced a Christmas project entitled “Peace On Earth” with American-born recording artist/singer, Eric Lige. In 2011, Vahagn collaborated with Grammy-Nominated artist Carolyn Malachi where he performed on the hit single “Beautiful Dreamer”. In 2014, Vahagn produced The Ethnos Project: Volume One. This project featured various artists & musicians from around the globe. The project was featured and reviewed in July/August by the prominent American publication, Worship Leader Magazine. In 2015, Vahagn debuted his project, Moonlight. It infuses the musical styles of Smooth Jazz, R&B and Funk with the talents of artists from USA, Brazil, Armenia, Thailand, Israel, Turkey, Slovenia and Germany. “Moonlight” was musically produced by Vahagn in his home country of Armenia and mixed in the neighboring country of Turkey by one of Istanbul’s top mixing engineers, Alen Konakoğlu. Grammy-Winning mastering engineer Evren Göknar at Capitol Studio’s Hollywood CA mastered Moonlight, making this recording a global top music project indeed. This album is available at Amazon.

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Jesse Cook – One World

Paris-born, Toronto-raised guitarist Jesse Cook is known for his special mixture of flamenco and jazz flavored with special world music. This musician takes the term world music literally.

For his previous album The Rumba Foundation (2009) he flew down to Colombia and worked with a group called Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto. His new album One World (2015) is focused on Constantinople, the ancient name of the modern Turkish city Istanbul.

With Jesse perform Chris Church (all sort of strings), Chendy Leon (percussion), Anwar Kurshid (sitar), Amy Laing (cello), Drew Jureka and Rebekah Wolkstein (violins, violas).

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Lizz Wright – Freedom & Surrender

It’s a tried and true formula. Superb vocal skills, songwriting and top-level musicians make for a listening treasure. Lizz Wright makes her Concord Records debut with Freedom & Surrender.

Musicians in this set include drummer Vinnie Colaiuta; bassist Dan Lutz; percussionist Pete Korpela; guitarists Dean Parks and Jesse Harris; and keyboardists Kenny Banks, Pete Kuzma and Billy Childs.

The first part of the album title, “Freedom,” is a soulful groove accented by a slick bass line and rhythm guitar, with stellar drum and keyboard play. Wright sings of freedom to have air to breathe and to walk the ground beneath one’s feet. It also is an anthem about answering the call, and standing up for others.

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Andy Snitzer – American Beauty

American BeautyAndy Snitzer has performed and recorded with a veritable who’s who of contemporary music artists. From Eric Clapton to Beck, Aretha Franklin to Naughty by Nature, Dr. John to Christina Aguilera, performances with these artists and many others have showcased Andy’s passionate sound and melodic style, and have earned him a place in the elite ranks of contemporary saxophonists. As a member of the Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge and Bridges to Babylon world tours, Andy has performed worldwide before millions in over 40 countries. As a member of Paul Simon’s touring band (a position he currently holds), Andy joins a world-class assemblage of musicians from Africa, Europe and the USA in a band of widespread critical acclaim. Andy’s three solo records, “Ties that Bind”, “In the Eye of the Storm” and “Some Quiet Place, set the bar for inventiveness and creativity in Contemporary Jazz, and showcase Andy’s outstanding ability as a player, writer, drum programmer and record producer.

The lush and melodic, sonically adventurous set artfully blends retro touches in groove and instrumentation with electronic-driven soundscapes and patternbased motions. While keeping the rich, emotional thrust of his horn front and center, the creatively restless composer and artist continues to expand the textural palette he inaugurated on Traveler (and continued exploring on 2013’s The Rhythm).

The songs on the provocatively titled American Beauty create a thoughtful ideological response to Traveler. Snitzer celebrates wonderful memories of the past while sharing the joy of his life “here in the moment.” This album is simultaneously an ode to a nascent American musical life, full of hope and dreams, and a reflection on that same life after three decades of work, travel, and return to home. “On Traveler,” Snitzer says, “I wrote many of the songs in cities across the globe, responding to inspiration from some beautiful, exotic, far away places; places that I am not from…

American Beauty is a response to the process that led to “Traveler”; a reflection on my home, conceived and composed here; on experiences, people, and places, through formative years in the late 70s and early 80s, and also on life as it is now.” American Beauty features special guest performances by Fourplay guitarist Chuck Loeb, who rocks and jangles on the old school R&B jam “Mondays at Gert’s”; and Rick Braun, whose flugelhorn adds a dreamy sensuality to the playful and easy thumping soul-jazz tune “She Loves Me.”

American Beauty officially releases on Oct 23rd, and from right now until that date the album is available at a special presale price. And, the first 50 copies come autographed, if you like that kind of thing. To access the presale, just go to AndySnitzer.com and click the “Store” link in the upper right hand corner. The album features a stellar cast of musical peers.

Gail Jhonson – New Beginnings

NewBeginningsNew Beginnings, Gail Jhonson‘s 5th solo project on Philly the Kid Records is scheduled for release October 2015! New Beginnings CD features an array of musicians; along with Marion Meadows, Hamilton Hardin and co-producer/saxophonist Mike Parlett (Solar Radio). This Cd has high energy tracks, and sure to be a chart buster, especially the 1st single release, “Uptown Philly”! It includes an awesome arrangement of the Beatles classic, “And I Love Her”, featuring Rob McDonald on vocals. Jimmy Haslip plays a beautiful duet, on “Vibe”, while Maia sets the mood and David P. Stevens on “New Beginnings”.

Gail Jhonson, the 1st Lady of Smooth Jazz- produced, played, engineered, sang; and is off on a new horizon with this one. Check out her her new “doo” too…it’s a new beginning for Gail Jhonson. Soon available at CDBaby.

Lee Ritenour – A Twist of Rit

With over 40 albums and 35 chart songs on his belt guitarist Lee Ritenour is one of the most important and popular musicians of the smooth jazz and contemporary jazz scene. As a founding member of the all-star smooth jazz group Fourplay he wrote music history.

Although Lee loves to compose new songs, he had a greater interest in re-arranging several of his previous albums he wanted to free from the dust of the past.

Some of his fellow musicians shared the joy of reinventing the old stuff including keyboardists John Beasley, Dave Grusin and Patrice Rushen; saxophonists Ernie Watts and Bob Sheppard; bassists Melvin Lee Davis, Tom Kennedy and Dave Weckl; percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, drummers Ronald Bruner Jr. and Chris Coleman, Rashawn Ross playing flugelhorn, further the newcomers guitarists Michael Thompson, Wah Wah Watson and David T. Walker, and pianist Makoto Ozone.

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Bruce Forman Trio – The Book of Forman

A little bit of standards and a lot of fresh material. That’s the composition of the Bruce Forman Trio’s The Book of Forman (Formanism Volume II) (B4Man Music, 2015).

The musicians are guitarist Forman, bassist Alan Frank and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith.

The set begins with “Hate Mail (Letters of Love),” a delightful piece. Forman effortlessly moves from single string to chords and back as he guides us through this journey that’s part romance, part bitterness. Frank and Smith are locked in a groove throughout. The finale is setup by a guitar-bass duet, while Smith softens his strokes, working in some cymbal rolls for a change of pace. Smith’s rim shots and deft work on the high-hat are highlights.

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