Skinny Hightower – Retrospect

While we fans of smooth jazz love the music our favorite artists create for our enjoyment, we sometimes don’t stop to think about the pressure they must feel to keep generating those good vibes in ways that don’t simply copycat what they or others have done. This is especially true of artists like composer, producer, keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Skinny Hightower, who scored a smash hit right out of the box with his #1 radio smash “Taboo” from his Trippin ‘N’ Rhythm debut Emotions. A musical risk taker by nature with an intense, military service enhanced work ethic, Hightower knew he had to create a follow-up that would not simply match, but surpass the magic of that album.

Hightower’s process of creating the amazingly diverse, dynamically melodic and richly textured 15 tracks of his new album Retrospect shows a fascinating progression from his initial instincts to the soulfully developed urban jazz masterpiece it became. He originally wanted to go way outside his comfort zone and produce a hip-hop/traditional jazz hybrid. Soon realizing that developing his solo career depended on his ability to resonate with listeners, he delved deeply into the work of his heroes (among them Joe Sample, Bill Evans and Quincy Jones). The keyboardist cites the diverse modal qualities Sample trademarked as the chief inspiration driving the vibe on Retrospect – most obviously on the opening track “Sample That,” which features deeply funky Crusadersesque chords and colorful riffs flowing freely throughout the soulful and buoyant tune.

The Sample influence is simply the foundation for an album that has all the pocket urban jazz sensibilities we love – lush, infectious melodies, sprinkles of cheerful improvisation, lighthearted grooves galore – but takes all those out into explorations that defy easy categorization. Driven by his mastery of his Yamaha MX and P115 keyboards, Hightower artfully and playfully builds on his piano and synth foundation with organ, Fender Rhodes and flute textures, explosive horn and string arrangements, bass and deep percussion textures.
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Elan Trotman – Incomparable

Boston resident saxophonist Elan Trotman brings the sunshine into smooth jazz with his albums Memories – The Debut (2001), Let’s Have A Good Old Time (2005), A Reggae Christmas (2007), This Time Around (2009), Love and Sax (2011) and Tropicality (2013). His newest album Incomparable is released June 22, 2018 on Island Muzik Productions, Elan’s own company.

I Am Africa is Elan’s confession to his origin. Originally hailing from the Caribbean island Barbados Elan’s heart still beats for his mother continent. The African reflection is more in the beat than in the saxophone interpretation. This irresistible Hip Hop beat Elan excellently upgrades to Incomparable.

Carnival Fever is the first single of the new album heavily rotating on smooth jazz radio stations and already promoted by Elan’s video on YouTube. Canon In C has the Caribbean flavor that runs like a thread through the entire album. Elan treats the sax with great verve and humor. The term Canon is not to understand in a classic way, this is simply fascinating.

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Steve Oliver – Illuminate

Illuminate is the much-anticipated 11th career album from multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Steve Oliver, who returns with a record deeply rooted in contemporary jazz guitar melodies and Steve’s trademark wordless vocalize.

His first collection of new original instrumentals since 2012, Illuminate shines a light upon Steve’s highly successful career – one that has produced multiple #1 hits on the Billboard charts and countless radio staples over nearly two decades. With Steve’s instantly recognizable guitar lines and a list of guest artists that includes bass virtuoso Jimmy Haslip, the incredible Joel Taylor on drums, and sax luminary Nelson Rangell, Illuminate puts the spotlight back on one of the genre’s most engaging performers and songwriters.

The album will be released August 3, 2018 in all stores.

Jacob Webb – I’m Coming Home

Jacob Webb is an award winning producer, bassist, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist. In addition to co-leading, writing, and producing for The JT Project, Jacob has collaborated and performed alongside wonderful artists including the iconic singer/songwriter Valerie Simpson of the legendary duo, Ashford and Simpson, Najee, Nick Colionne, Kim Waters, Cindy Bradley, Ladies of SKY, Freddy Jackson, Kenny Garrett, Mulgrew Miller, Jerry Hahn, Roy Hargrove, Will Donato, and several others! Jacob’s body of work with The JT Project speaks for itself incorporating the most talented jazz and soul musicians in New York City.

The year 2018 marks a new chapter as Jacob pursues his debut Solo Album titled I’m Coming Home set to be released in July of 2018. This full length masterpiece showcases Jacob’s talents as a premier bassist in the Contemporary Jazz world!! The album features a plethora of heavy hitter NYC based musicians!

You can purchase the album on Jacob’s website.

Michael Paulo – Beautiful Day

Saxophonist Michael Paulo has been involved with the beloved music for more than 35 years. During his period as sideman for singer legend Al Jarreau he released his debut album One Passion(1989).  Soon followed Fusebox (1990), Save The Children(1994), My Heart And Soul (1996), Midnight Passion (1999), Sax For Christmas (2000), Beautiful (2006) and Michael Paulo with the Magenta Orchestra (2010).

After a long hiatus Michael returns with the new album Beautiful Day (2018). Michael has surrounded himself on the album with an exclusive group of musicians: Gregg Karukas, Kimo Cornwell, Brian Simpson, Tracy Carter  (keyboards), Roberto Vally, Freddie Washington, Darryl Williams, David Inamine (bass), Gordon Campbell, Michael White, Land Richards, Sergio Gonzalez (drums), Paul Brown, Fred Schreuders, Paul Jackson Jr., Ray Parker Jr. (guitar), Lenny Castro, Ramon Yslas (percussion), David Benoit (piano) and Peter White (keyboards, guitar).

It is the bright moments that stay with us forever. Beautiful Day featuring Paul Brown on guitar provides us with the suitable background music for these lucky islands of life. Mister Magic (1975) was one of Grover Washington’s most popular albums and often covered. Michael adds a sparkling funky note to his interpretation. The guitar solo of Fred Schreuders is a brainwave freshening the tune.

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Eddie Reddick – Bass Matters

Eddie Reddick’s new 2018 album Bass Matters is a compilation of funky informative songs staying true to the old school format. The title cut, “Bass Matters” is a funky instrumental featuring the Bass. “This Time”, is a tune dealing with a male who tries to convince his ex lover that no one will do all the things he did for her when they were together, and how wrong she was for walking out on him. “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” is a song dealing with a guy who made a bad choice in a moment of weakness, his wife finds out, an now he’s paying for the mistake because she has left him. Now he’s trying to win her back. “Just Like I Told You”, is a song depicting how two people meet, fall in love, get married have kids, face many adversities and still manage to stay together, way into their golden years. “Total Ecstasy”, is a Bass driven song dealing with a shy guy who doesn’t have the courage to approach a woman he’s been attracted to for a while, so he keeps promising himself every night will be the night he will make his move.

“Never Give Up”, is another Bass Driven song explaining that we should never give up on anything we choose to pursue in life. “Distractions”, is a song describing how so many things in our lives are taking our attention away from things which are important to us, causing negative things to occur as a result of losing focus. “The Most Beautiful Girl”, is a song written by Prince. I’ve always loved the melody and the message of this song. That’s the reason I decided to cover it on this CD. “Wish I Could Do That”‘ is a song of love and hope. Encouraging the whole world to sing and dance along with each other. A great compilation of heartfelt songs written to entertain and inform on some level or other. Let it play, listen and enjoy the stories and the grooves.

Get the album here.

Sam Rucker – Redemption

One of the first songs that urban-jazz saxophonist Sam Rucker recorded for his third album, “Redemption,” was the soothing “Overcomer,” on which he emotes intimately on soprano sax during an uplifting exchange with a guitar duo comprised of his nephew, Justin Taylor, and John Calisto. Tragically, both guitarists passed away unexpectedly three days apart and the tune Rucker wrote to comfort and inspire others became his own healing grace. It is a focal point of the rousing eleven-track set penned and produced by Rucker that drops August 24 from Favor Productions.

Rucker’s life and his musical journey have evolved in recent years, growing from a gritty hip hop producer into a soul-baring R&B-contemporary jazz instrumentalist, yet his faith has never wavered. He is on a mission as an empowering evangelic emissary, using his tenor, alto and soprano sax on “Redemption” to deliver heartening orations that commiserate and console as much as persevere and conquer. His writing, production and sax play reflect a more refined, mature and sophisticated auteur who retained just enough of the raw urban grit from his edgy past to ensure that his recordings are genuine. Despite enduring pain, struggle and suffering, Rucker never loses sight of the Divine hand orchestrating it all – the victories and the losses – purposely placing his focus on the abundance of blessings and the love that cushions his every fall.

“‘Redemption’ is a feel-good album designed to touch the inner soul, to encourage and inspire the listener. It is about perseverance, keeping the faith, overcoming some of the worst that life has to offer and coming out better on the other side. Redemption of everything that was lost: the naysayers and doubters, the narrowly missed opportunities, the emotional scars and the sore spiritual muscles from years of exercised faith. Staying steadfast and seeing the gracious hand of God redeem all and make our former days greater than the latter. It’s also about making someone nod their head to the beat when they feel like hanging it during a tough time,” said Rucker. Continue reading