Bryan Forsloff – The Final Touch

The Final Touch fits perfectly into the play lists of Smooth Jazz radio today. Bryan Forsloff’s guitar style and tone is reminiscent of George Benson/Wes Montgomery and yet he maintains his own voice as well. The tracks are funky, R&B/Soul based grooves that are hip and tight. Forsloff really shines in three areas: His playing, his songwriting and his production skills.

His jazz lines give a nod to the players of yesterday and yet they remain fresh and relevant today. The seven originals have catchy melodies that stay with you and yet are sophisticated at the same time. The production of the songs are very contemporary with each song standing uniquely on it’s own.

Bryan covers two Stevie Wonder songs Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing and Isn’t She Lovely? If you didn’t know that Don’t You Worry… was a Wonder tune you’d think it was a Forsloff original. He handles the Latin groove nicely. When asked “why the two Wonder covers?” he simply replied, “Don’t You Worry… was already in the bag and “Isn’t She Lovely ?” has always been such a special favorite of my daughter and I that I just had to do it for her.” Tune 88 by Jeff Lorber is an energetic funk driven tune that Forsloff treats in a laid back solo guitar manner. It’s as if you caught him on his front porch laying this one down. You will undoubtedly hear more from this artist in the future. For now listen to this album at CDBaby.

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Paul Hardcastle – Jazzmasters VI

Paul Hardcastle started his breathtaking career with the dance hit Rainforest reaching #1 on the 12″ sales chart in the USA in 1984. His tremendous success was the song 19 in 1985, in many countries a further #1 hit. In 1991 Hardcastle began his Jazzmasters project fostering a smooth jazz community worldwide. The first album of this serial was released in Japan and The Japanese radio stations spread the word. Soon the sound arrived in USA and many listeners had to struggle for their album ’til it was finally released in USA in 1992.

This hybrid of dance music and smooth jazz quickly climbed the charts and received high acclaims by many fans finally crowned with Billboard Magazine’s 2008 Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year. Paul is just nominated again for Best International Artist and Best International Group for the up-coming American Smooth Jazz Awards in 2010.

Jazzmasters VI was released in July, 2010. Paul Hardcastle wrote, mixed and produced all tracks taking the lead on keyboards, guitar and percussion. Paul is joined on his newest project by Becki Biggins (vocals), Paul Hardcastle jr. (sax), Maxine Hardcastle (backing vocals), Chris ‘Snake’ Davis (sax, flute, Shakuhatchi) and Rock Hendrix (sax).

The relaxing character of the album, in Europe they call it chill-out, is announced with the spacey introduction Awakening Thoughts. The idea for Touch and Go was developed with a sax riff Paul Hardcastle jr. showed his dad. This tune is after The Circle Hardcastle jr.’s sophomore collaboration with his father sharing the merits with Chris Snake Davis, who performs a majestic flute.

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Dee Lucas – Standing Room Only

As a self-taught musician, Dee Lucas has opened up for several notable artists such as vibraphonist Roy Ayers, jazz vocalist Nneena Freelon, and South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masakela to name a few. He has performed on major festivals with lineups that have included Pieces of a Dream, Warren Hill, Oleta Adams, Roy Hargrove, Boney James, Chris Botti, Tower of Power, & Joshua Redman.

In addition to Dee’s accomplishment as a musician, his commitment to community involvement should not go unnoticed. This Atlanta-based soprano saxophonist is driving smooth jazz off the beaten path with strong grooves accompanied by a unique melodic style generating a worldwide appeal to everyday music lovers. Standing Room Only just arrived at CDBaby.

Urban Jazz Coalition – Gravitate

The latest from Urban Jazz Coalition, Gravitate, is guaranteed to pull you in deep for some stellar new jazz with compelling grooves from the tireless Ohio-based ensemble. UJC has become a household name in contemporary and smooth jazz, not just at radio with chart topping airplay, but also on the festival circuit due to their alluring stage presence and rich musicianship.

Gravitate serves up ten new tracks, nine originals and one cover (Patrice Rushen’s “Number One”). So many great songs for on this new release… offering up the perfect combination of thick grooves and melodic/profound compositions. Our favorite new songs include “Groove U.K.,” an easy glide with sensual saxophone, the sophisticated and smooth, “Saguaro Sunset,” “Around 3 A.M.” is a tasty jazz ballad, and the opening track, “Gabriella’s Smile” is classic UJC.

Buy the album at UJC’s website.

Jackiem Joyner – Jackiem Joyner

Jackiem Joyner is ready for his Hollywood close-up. It’s already been a big year for the multidimensional sax player both professionally and personally. Dramatic events offstage have inspired his work in the spotlight while his passion for movies has influenced the songs, sounds and textures used in the creation of his third album, a self-titled disc that arrives as Joyner is poised to become a top-of-the-marquee smooth jazz star.

Like a silent film, Jackiem Joyner tells a story without words, with an instrumental voice that for the first time in the artist’s recording career includes a tenor sax in addition to his trademark alto and soprano horns. He also plays most of the other instruments on the album. As on his previous releases—Lil’ Man Soul and babysoul—Joyner wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the record aside from a few select cover tunes.

Sonically and compositionally, the collection reflects artistic progress and evolution while remaining true to Joyner’s core sound. Thematically, the moods and tones are varied, yet at their essence they are deeply rooted in the rich soil of soulful expression and raw emotion. Rhythmically, Joyner audaciously explores complex, astute and frenetic beats. Joyner explains, “Ever since I was 12 in my mom’s house, I’ve been drumming on walls, tapping out rhythms with spoons and beating on anything that I can. I still have that habit today. I always hear beats in my head; it’s intriguing to see where they take me.

“The whole record is about writing and making the type of record that I wanted to make. It’s me putting whatever I want on the album. I’m happy working with Mack Avenue because they gave me complete freedom to create. You can really hear me right upfront and my music. My first two albums were titled after my nicknames, but now it’s just me front and center for the entire world to see, which is why I decided to go with a self-titled album.”

Greg Manning – The Calling

Former keyboardist and music director for GRAMMY® Award-nominated artist Jonathan Butler, announced the worldwide iTunes release of his highly anticipated solo project titled, The Calling. This fresh and innovative album of masterfully crafted tunes features the talents of Keb’Mo’, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and smooth jazz artist Mindi Abair.

The convergence of jazz, funk, and soul intertwined with musical inspiration from such artists as Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, are blended with Manning’s precise timbre and smooth vocal technique to create a signature sound that is simplistically complex and unique in texture.

The Calling is not just an album, but also a journey of life’s influences compiled into a rich CD that is as soulful as it is spiritual and relevant. “I wanted the project to be a great, coherent, accessible CD and not some hybrid thing that doesn’t please anybody fully,” Greg Manning says.

Manning has toured with several artists including Brian McKnight, Kirk Whalum, Will Downing, Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright, Chante Moore, and Mindi Abair. Manning is a Berklee College of Music alum and an amalgam of cultures. He was born in Nigeria, raised in Switzerland, and currently resides in Los Angeles with his family. He is a three-time certified platinum producer for Universal Music Switzerland, and has had several Swiss Chart toppers since 1996.

There is much to be said about this talented artist, Greg Manning, but it would only take away from what his music has to say. Shows are planned this month. The CD is available at iTunes.

Mike Phillips – MP3

Mount Vernon native Mike Phillips is since several years an integral part of the label Hidden Beach Recordings. Phillips’ debut album, You Have Reached Mike Phillips, was released by Hidden Beach in May 2002. In 2005 followed his sophomore album Uncommon Denominator. You can also listen to his signature sax on Hidden Beach’s serial Unwrapped Vol. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7.

But Mike is far more creative. He performed on Experience: Jill Scott 826+ (2001), Stevie Wonder’s A Time To Love (2005), or Tom Braxton’s Bounce (2005), to name a few. His newest project is MP3, which is scheduled for release July 27th, 2010. All pre-ordered CDs will be signed by the saxophonist himself as way of saying thank you. So visit Hidden Beach’s online store.

Mike Phillips plays the lead on sax joined by Freddy Colon and Munyungo Jackson (percussion), Joel Whitney and Stanley Cooper (guitar), and Nate Jones (bass). The album is produced by J.R. Hutson, Jamie Hawkins, JaMal, Keith Crouch, Q Coleman and Eric Wesley, who also performed on major parts of the project. Outstanding guest-musicians are Stevie Wonder, Marcus Miller, Natalie Stewart, Lauren Evans, and Norman Brown.

Mike had the idea for the title of his new album in 2002, when the format MP3 and MP3.com came into full flower. While on stage with Prince and Stevie Wonder, Mike built on his imagination of his third project, a collection of contemporary jazz and R&B.

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