Jonathan Butler – So Strong

According to Smooth Jazz Network Jonathan Butler has just recorded his album So Strong. The new album will be released on Rendezvous Records (Mack Avenue) on May 11, 2010. So Strong features 10 original songs written or co-written by Butler, and a cover of Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now.

Jonathan Butler comments his new project: “You can’t keep your head down all the time. You have to celebrate. With all that’s presently going on in the world, I felt the need to give something to the fans, to offer hope. I had to get to that fun place again. The album is a departure; it’s optimistic and positive. It’s get up-and-dance, and feel good. … It’s all about just letting go. It’s about fun with flavor and a lot of feeling. I call it the three Fs: fun, flavor and feeling.”

Guest musicians on the album, which was mainly recorded, arranged and composed by Butler are Dave Koz, Rick Braun,  Gordon Campbell, Angie Stone and Butler’s daughters Randy and Jode, which delivered background vocals.

Source: Smooth Jazz Network


Mbandi – Shades Of Pearl

Influenced by his African childhood and western upbringing, Mbandi’s music embraces gently flowing melodies as well as exotic rhythms that refresh like a tropical breeze.

Mbandi was born on May 11, 1979 in a town called Limbe (formerly Victoria), which is on the West Coast of Cameroon in West Africa. He was first introduced to the piano in his early teens when his father purchased a keyboard for his older brothers. “I still didn’t fall in love with the piano then because I thought it was for girls. It wasn’t until my dad forced me to take piano lessons at the age of 14 that I discovered the wonders of the piano”. Piano lessons might have increased his interest in the piano but the lessons lasted for two weeks only. “I was more interested in popular music but my piano teacher insisted on teaching only classical music”. As a result, Mbandi decided to teach himself how to play and compose music. He composed his first song at the age of fifteen and has composed close to a hundred songs since then.

Mbandi left his native country of Cameroon in August of 1994 at the age 15 to attend University in Pennsylvania. While in college, he formed a band and played for campus and local events. After graduating in 1998, he decided to concentrate on career in music, his first love. Mbandi now 30yrs old, lives in the Washington DC metro area. His new album Shades Of Pearl offers gentle rhythms with a foundation for harmonic textures created by the blending of acoustic instruments (piano, wooden flutes, guitars and saxophone) with rich synthesized sounds.

A subtle backdrop ambiance of lush string and non-lyrical vocal harmonies adds richness and color to this instrumental masterpiece. Sit back, relax and let Mbandi’s music take you on an a beautiful journey.

Shades Of Pearl is available now at CDBaby.

Whitney James – The Nature of Love

What can be said about an album when you love the lead but find the rest uninteresting? That’s the rare dilemma faced when hearing Whitney James’ The Nature of Love, her debut on Stir Stick Music.

It’s not that the band disappoints. The vocalist is accompanied by a talented supporting cast of Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and flugelhorn, Joshua Wolff on piano, Matt Clohesy on bass and Jon Wikan on drums and percussion. For their part, the musicians do their jobs admirably and, at times, superbly.

So what’s the problem? Maybe it’s the set selection. Nine standards from the “American Songbook,” most of which have been covered and covered again, so that anything short of an off-the-beaten path presentation will leave one searching for something positive to say. Maybe it’s the arrangements. They’re all pretty straightforward, leaving James and her accompaniment to win listeners with the delicate balance of individual voice and coloring within the lines.

Continue reading Whitney James’ – The Nature of Love

Lynn Riley – Too Cool

What makes Smooth Jazz so saxy? Female Sax players like Pamela Williams, Candy Dulfer, Mindi Abair, Ada Rovatti, Jessy J are quickly coming in my mind. Now we can add a new name. Lynn Riley just released her debut album Too Cool (2008).

Lynn is joined by Rubin Edwards, who plays all sort of bass on the album and also contributes most of the compositions and arrangements. Further musicians are Kim Smith (vocals), Donna Bostock (percussion), Alex Bouno (electric Guitar), Staci Dickerson (vocals), Blaine Bostock and Russ Ferrara (acoustic guitar), who perform on parts of the album.

Following the path of Maceo Parker and Candy Dulfer Lynn presents Too Cool, a funky and energetic tune with great verve. One shouldn’t underestimate that lady!

Continue reading Lynn Riley – Too Cool

Jack Prybylski – Out of the Box

What do you get when you combine elements of trance, steeped in a generous underlayment of rhythm with a heat-infused saxophone that is masterfully caressed by one very bad cat? You get a pass on a very trippy vibe that some might say is Out of the Box.

Produced by Four 80 East (one of the hottest bands that has existed to defy all the rules), Out of the Box (Innervision Records) is the third solo release by saxophonist Jack Prybylski. Prybylski initially caught the ear of radio with his sophomore release, Window Shopping, by garnering national praise from critics for his smooth melodic style. “Jacks instantly appealing music and strong sound make Window Shopping one of the best independent releases this year,” declared Smooth Jazz News.

However, unbeknown to smooth jazz fans, Prybylski cut his teeth on the bandstand playing with respected working bands like Them Jazzbeards, which included components of the West Coast cool sound. With a resume that includes a master’s degree in music, esteemed education credentials and having won “Saxophonist of the Year” ten times in Buffalo, Prybylski has a serious background steeped in a rich mixture of jazz, rock and blues history.

Working with Four 80 East on Out of the Box gave Prybylski the chance to materialize the artistic breadth of the bandstand to studio track without losing his established radio friendly appeal. The result was a sound that brings his contemporary jazz journey full circle.

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Michael J Thomas – City Beat

Those, who lead us to believe that smooth jazz is something for the older generation, fail to notice the large crowd of young musicians, which are keen to entertain the audience. Out of this overwhelming legion of new musicians I pick today Michael J Thomas. Once a member of the Jive Rockets, he joined the smooth jazz genre after moving to Destin, Florida in 1999.

City Beat, Michael’s debut album, is scheduled for release March 2nd on Harbor Breeze Records. Produced by Shannon Wallace and Michael J Thomas the new album deserves a comprehensive reflection. Michael is supported by Jonathan Davis (drums & percussion), Eric Lampley (bass), Diki Ross (keyboards), Shannon Wallace (guitar), and Paul Scurto (trumpet).

The journey starts in Midtown Manhattan not in a bombastic way but with a superb elegance, which is a good sign for Michael’s sincerity as a professional musician. Michael don’t just play the melody but tries to interprets the interrelation of the complete theme.

Sure, as a young musician Michael follows his idols like Dave Koz, Richard Elliot or Boney James, but City Beat shows it up, Michael does it with accurateness. Have we anything to offer our guests? The romantic Wedding Song (Forever Always) for countless matrimonies. I have to admit, Shannon Wallace can play his guitar!

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Point Blank – A Point Of View

Point Blank is Henry Countee, drums, background vocals, Steve Pratt, guitars, Jerry Blake, reeds, background vocals, Dorden Bivings, keyboards and lead vocals, Winston Ferguson, bass, Gerald Chavis, trumpet/flugelhorn, background vocals, Raleigh Lewis, percussion; Paul Lee, keyboards.

Their album A Point Of View runs the gamut of smooth jazz from the silky smooth chords, colors and textures to the grittier R&B-influenced vocals and instrumentals. Your perfect choice at CDBaby.