Gregg Karukas – Serenata

Great melodies; the essential quality that has defined Grammy winning keyboardist/composer/producer Gregg Karukas’ 12 solo CD’s over a three decade career, with many #1 radio hits, both sophisticated and accessible. Serenata, his first ever solo piano project, offers romantic impressions of classic songs from iconic Brazilian artists Milton Nascimento and Dori Caymmi as well as new and re-imagined Karukas originals.

Gregg looks back on his years touring with Brazilian artists Sergio Mendes, Dori Caymmi and Ricardo Silveira in the 1990’s as some of his favorite musical experiences. As producer, pianist, composer and arranger, Gregg won the New Age Grammy in 2013 (Echoes of Love), and has also worked with pianist David Lanz, arranging and producing two successful crossover CDs. A versatile, founding member of the Los Angeles smooth jazz community, Gregg contributed to many seminal projects (The Rippingtons, Dave Koz, Peter White, Boney James).

After a recent move, Gregg discovered a dusty box of cassettes of his live shows in the 1990’s with Dori Caymmi and Ricardo Silveira and was curious to check out one particular tape marked “Dori – Le Cafe” with a star! Gregg says, “Those Dori shows at that tiny Los Angeles music room were legendary, with everyone from Michel LeGrand, Dave Grusin, Quincy Jones to Wayne Shorter in the audience. I had to buy a used cassette deck to play it, and it was one of our magical nights. I sat down at the piano and recalled many of the Dori Caymmi songs as best as I could and got very emotional. That evening pulled me out of my comfort zone and set me on a surprising new adventure, a solo piano project that I hope will bring some peace and joy to all who are suffering during this challenging time.”

Gregg first discovered Milton Nascimento and his Beatles-influenced Clube da Esquina all star MPB family during his formative years in the Washington, DC area, thanks to classic collaborations in the late ’70’s with Wayne Shorter (Native Dancer), George Duke and Deodato. The chef at the local jazz club who had lived in Brazil allowed Gregg to borrow and tape his whole collection of import LP’s. Listening constantly on the way to his gigs, Gregg found the lush melodies and harmonies of Milton and friends to be a ‘sacred’ respite, the perfect antidote to the involved, dynamic jazz fusion he was writing and playing. “I deliberately did not try to analyze or learn the songs at the piano, up until very recently that is and so I was able to approach this music with a fresh, unfiltered perspective”.

Moving to Los Angeles with his multi-keyboard and synthesizer skills in 1982, Gregg’s focus was not on developing a solo career, but with a goal to play as many different styles as possible. Gregg had no idea he would eventually be recording and playing on the world’s biggest stages with many of his Brazilian musical heroes, including Montreux Jazz with Caymmi, and multiple shows at the Hollywood Bowl with Ivan Lins, Oscar Castro Neves, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Toots Thielemans, Mendes and Caymmi. Serenata brings this musical “love affair” full circle, a crossover treat from the heart, for the heart.

You can buy the upcoming solo piano album at Gregg’s website.

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