Eric Copeland – The Jazz In Me

Eric Copeland crossed my way for the first time with his debut album Cooler (1999), a jazzy, gospel-tinged product with cool jazz grooves, gospel scat-like vocals, and synth texture. Eric was infected by Jeff Lorber’s music and his future destination has been marked out as producer, keyboardist, and songwriter. His sophomore album Stolen Moments (2000) was followed by The Jazz in Me in 2008.

Recently Eric produced for his label Creative Soul Jazz Drew Davidsen’s new album Around (Again). He also performed on this album keyboards, vocals and programming.

Eric comments his own album: “I’ve found that my love for jazz is deeper than just a genre or niche my music happens to fall under. The elements that make up jazz: improvisation, composition, rhythm, melody, structure, harmony, repetition…these are things that are part of everything I do, not just music…”

The album starts with Eric’s confession, The Jazz in Me. More Miles than Coltrane Eric sings and swings along the melody like his idols he mentions in this fantastic song. Phenomenal good are also Brian Fullen on drums, Craig Nelson on acoustic bass and Tom Hemby accompanying the maestro in an elegant and subtle way.

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Dan Siegel – Sphere

Dan Siegel defines himself as musician with no limits. Although some of his albums like Inside Out (2004) and Departure (2006) can be classified as smooth jazz, Dan is not the typical smooth jazz artist. This is easily to explain with his rich musical history which he recently portrayed in his album Fables (2008).

But Dan Siegel doesn’t stay in the past and so he does what he loves to do, creating and performing new musical ideas. Since 1983 he lives and works in L.A. and so it’s only natural that he collected for his new album Sphere top-notch musicians of the L.A. scene like Allen Hinds (guitar), Brian Bromberg (acoustic bass), Joel Taylor (drums) and Lenny Castro (percussion). Guest musicians on his albums are Larry Carlton (guitar), Bob Sheppard (sax), Alex Al (bass), Darrell Crooks (guitar), Gary Meek (sax) and Tom Scott (sax).

Dan and Brian Bromberg produced the album in the B2 studios in North Hollywood. Like on his previous album Departure Dan Siegel intends to create music based on the fundamental ensemble of the jazz piano trio and with an organic acoustical structure. That’s the reason for his renewed collaboration with Brian Bromberg. But Dan also intensifies groove and energy on his new album. All compositions are written by Dan Siegel except the first tune which he co-wrote with Brian Bromberg.

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Peter White – Good Day

Peter White’s first steps into music business were as a member of Al Stewart’s band. Although engaged as a keyboardist he played a prominent role as guitarist on Stewart’s mega hit Year Of The Cat. Peter also played guitar on some of Matt Bianco’s releases. Danny White and Basia are the members of this group.

He started his solo career with the 1990 release of Reveillez-Vous (Wake up). Excusez-Moi (1991), Promenade (1993) and Reflections (1994) followed on Sindrome, Caravan of Dreams on Columbia (1996), Songs of the Season (1997), Perfect Moment (1998), Glow (2001), Confidential (2004), Playin’ Favorites (2006) and A Peter White Christmas (2007) on Sony Music. Good Day (2009) is his first album on Peak Records, a division of Concord Music Group.

Peter comments his new album: “I just started going through my backlog of material. Songs that I’ve never finished, some going as far back as ten or fifteen years  and I discovered that I had a lot of gems that I really wanted to show to the world. I wanted to record them in my own time and in my own way, without any outside influence or interference.”

The album was produced by Peter White and DC and co-produced by Philippe Saisse. The starting tune Good Day features Philippe Saisse on keyboards and vibraphone. A romantic song capturing the spirit of Peter’s acoustic guitar. A novelty on a Peter White album is the stake of a vibraphone. “It’s something I’ve never put on a record before, but I try to do something on every album that’s a little different,” explains Peter.

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Darren Rahn – Talk of the Town

Canadian born saxophonist Darren Rahn is in the music business since the mid-90’s. His breakthrough was his work with Wayman Tisdale in 2004 on the 1 single, Ain’t No Stopping Us Now. Since that time he heavily performed on stage with Brian Culbertson, Tim Bowman, Wayman Tisdale and a lot more of the smooth jazz scene.

His debut album was released in 2007 on nuGroove Records entitled Once In A Lifetime. “Music is not just for me. If a song was just for me, then I really don’t see the point of recording it on an album. The reason for my playing is to reach out and share with people. I want to take what is in my heart and really connect with the audience,” comments Darren.

Darren’s new album Talk of the Town (2009) features the industry’s top session players as Frank Selman (guitars), Mel Brown (bass), Michael White (drums), Jason Rahn (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nate Harasim (keyboards), Jason Atkins (vocals), Deborah Connors (vocals) and includes thoughtful collaborations with Bob James, Jeff Lorber, Wayman Tisdale, Tim Bowman and others.

The album starts with Tale Of Two Cities. Mel Brown and Michael White are participating in this tune, two very in demand sidemen, as I showcased in my previous reviews. Darren presents an energetic song with great overdub technique.

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Gregg Karukas – GK

The best way to recognize the popularity of a musician is to read his tour schedule. Gregg Karukas is undeniable one of the busiest artists of the smooth jazz genre. His tight current schedule sees him this year with Rick Braun, Earl Klugh, Peter White, Richard Smith, Greg Adams, Michael Paulo. Brian Bromberg and many other stars of the contemporary jazz scene.

“I think we all need music to be the soundtrack to our soul,” Gregg comments. “It can inspire us, balance out our lives and relieve stress. I appreciate that and I treat each CD or concert as another opportunity to connect to those sounds and emotions on a deeper level. I love sharing that with others and try to make each project a special event all its own.”

That motto in mind we approach Gregg’s new album GK with a positive mentality. On his album romp artists like Michael O’Neill (guitar), Luis Conte (percussion), Oscar Seaton (drums) and a huge bunch of other well-known cats of the scene.

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Richard Smith – Natural Soul

How could I miss this album? Richard Smith is a high-acclaimed professor of jazz guitar music at the USC. The University of Southern California is one of the world’s leading private research universities, located in the heart of Los Angeles. The USC Thornton studio/jazz guitar department is considered one of the finest guitar programs in the world, boasting a faculty of world class touring and recording guitarists.

Richard Smith has already performed with Kirk Whalum, Marc Antoine, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Dan Siegel, Warren Hill, Bob Hope and Brian Bromberg, to name a few. His solo projects are Rockin The Boat (1989), Puma Creek (1989), Bella Firenza (1991), From My Window (1994), First Kiss (1997), Flow (1999), Natural Soul (2002), Soulidified (2003) and LA Chillharmonic (2008).

Richard is just touring in Netherlands, U.K. and Sicily. His new album is in the composition and tracking stage and on his gigs he is currently testing some of his new compositions. During his tour Richard is also doing a lot of teaching for the benefits of European jazz guitar students. I met Richard in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, where I attended his gig in a Jazz Café and had a nice conversation with him. Richard gave me a copy of his album Natural Soul, an independent release, which is still available at CDBaby.

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A Conversation with Richard Smith

During his European tour I met Richard Smith in Apeldoorn, Netherlands in a jazz café. The environment was vivid and noisy as usual. Nevertheless we had a good conversation in relaxed atmosphere.

hbh: First of all I thank you for the opportunity to interview you and that you give me some of your precious time.

RS: It’s my pleasure, it’s my pleasure.

hbh: You are touring now in Netherlands.

RS: Yes.

hbh: Can you tell me something about your gigs here in Netherlands?

RS: We do a combination of larger venues, last night we played in a big square in a town with several hundred people and then we do little venues like this in between where we work out new material. It’s not so much pressure like in a big hall to work through musical ideas. And so we experiment a lot. But also playing in such small jazz clubs is part of the jazz tradition. So I enjoy playing in places as this as well as in big halls. I’m also doing some teaching at the Pop academy. I’m coming from a conservatory in the past. So I combine teaching and playing and working new material. I also write a lot, compose a lot rather here on the road. It’s a big combination of things.

Mainly we are playing theatres or festivals. In England we are playing in the performing art center in Kent, the performing art center is very very beautiful as well as the institute of contemporary music performance I have a relationship with. So a busy tour. When I am done with this tour I’ll go back to Sicily and I’ll finish recording an album with a very fine guitarist Francesco Buzzurro and that’s more about it.

We do Flamenco, Tango, Tarantella. We do a Samba, Bossa Novas, anything what’s ethnic we do. Polca. It’s hard to play Polca as well.

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