Ron Otis – Up Front

Drummer Ron Otis is one of those sidemen, who unpretentiously stay in the background. He performed and recorded with Bob James (Urban Flamingo), Lin Roundtree (Sumthin’ Good), Earl Klugh ( Spice of Life, Journey), Al Turner (Movin’), Brian O’Neal (Daisy), Justin Young (On The Way), Dave McMurray (My Brother and Me, Soul Searching, Nu Life Stories), Alexander Zonjic (Reach For The Sky) and a lot more.

Although his beat might be familiar to us, one has to work hard to find any biographical details about this gifted and modest musician. So let his music speak for him. Every album is a piece of personality and Ron Otis’ debut album Up Front (2009) is no exception.

Many of those musicians, who shared his musical path, gave back to him their thankfulness with their tributes. Among those artists are Tim Bowman, Darryl Wakefield, Perry Hughes, Charles Scales, Bob James, Randy Scott, Earl Klugh, Dave McMurray, Rayse Biggs, Brian O’Neal and many more.

One should Take Time, listening to this album. The beauty of this album reveals after the first notes. Although the tune is melodious, Darryl Wakefield gives it a jazzy twist on soprano sax. Honestly, who can resist Tim Bowman’s sizzling guitar performance?

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VW Brothers – Muziek

There’s nothing like a good VW to get the day going. In this case, “VW” is for the VW Brothers, drummer Paul and bassist Marc van Wageningen.

After years of sharing their talents with a wide array of talents, from Tower of Power to Sheila E., and from George Duke to Paquito D’Rivera, the brothers now emerge with their first project as leaders Muziek on Patois Records.

Accompanying them is a variable lineup of horn players, pianists, vocalists and string musicians. Among them are guitarist Ray Obiedo, trombonist Wayne Wallace and Sheila E.

“Simone” has a Latin vibe, thanks to percussionist Michael Spiro. The song also is flavored with a “Weather Report meets Yellowjackets” type of fusion, largely due to the playing of the brothers, aided by the bass clarinet of Harvey Wainapel and the keyboards of David K. Mathews.

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Jeff Sparks – Life.Love.Soul

Well known and highly regarded jazz saxophonist, Jeff Sparks, will now be able to share his talents on a larger scale with the release of his debut album, Life.Love.Soul, on Arrow Records/Universal. Available online and in stores on March 23, 2010, Life.Love.Soul is already generating buzz across all music platforms.

The first single from Life.Love.Soul, entitled “Paradise”, has received rave reviews and industry approval across the board. “Paradise” is currently tied for the #1 most added single at Jazz radio and holds the #4 “Spincrease” placement with well over thirty plays in the first week of rotation. These are significant accomplishments for any artist, new or veteran.

A Berklee College of Music graduate with deep jazz roots, Sparks captures music lovers of all generations. He is already widely known and respected throughout the jazz community and among his peers, having shared the stage with music legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Brandford Marsalis, along with many others.

Sparks is excited to share his first studio album with people everywhere. “I am truly grateful that the industry has embraced my music so passionately. I love the stage. I love connecting with people,” he says. “I’m an entertainer sent to create experiences that put my audience right in the palm of my hands.”

Please visit the artist’s website for tour dates, music, recent news and more.

Source: Fuse Mix

Hiromi – Place To Be

Let me say up front that I don’t care for solo piano. A song, yes. An album, no. Call it a limited attention span. More like it’s a desire to hear a band: drums, bass, sax or trumpet, and maybe a rhythm guitar in lieu of piano.

But take a master like Bob James or Chick Corea, and the format can be quite engaging. Like those two, Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara defies my general attitude about this. Place to Be is her first solo piano release. To no surprise, it has as much vigor as her other releases.

The Telarc release is a musical documentary of Hiromi’s travels. Its title is an acknowledgment to fans, whose presence at her performance venues give her a place to be.

Hiromi debuted with Another Mind (Telarc, 2003). Since then, she’s earned several major awards, and has performed with such heavyweights as Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. Her Sonicbloom group includes guitarist Dave “Fuze” Fiuczynski, bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora. With Sonicbloom, she plays electronic keyboard.

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Nnenna Freelon – Homefree

In our mobile culture, the notion of “home” conjures up comfort, relaxation, the congenial touchstone of the soul. “There’s no place like home,” intones the young Judy Garland as Dorothy in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, while troubadour Paul Simon pines for the familiar in the 1966 Simon & Garfunkel hit, “Homeward Bound.”

As the saying goes, home is where the heart is, which is the sensibility behind esteemed jazz vocalist and multi-Grammy® nominee Nnenna Freelon‘s latest recording, Homefree, her seventh Concord Jazz album as a leader and first studio outing since 2005. It’s a soulful, swinging homegrown CD, recorded at Sound Pure Studios in Durham, North Carolina, which, she says, “has been my home base for 28 years.” The album is an 11-track collection that Freelon calls her “home brew,” comprised largely of tunes that have been road-tested by her stellar touring band as well as a new original (the witty, playful and poignant “Cell Phone Blues” composed by the singer) and spirited arrangements of two anthems (the gospel treasure “Life Every Voice and Sing” and the national hymn “America the Beautiful”) that close the CD.

“When you travel, you have to expend a lot of energy to set up shop and get yourself comfortable,” says Freelon, who has been crisscrossing the globe over the last several years. “So, I decided that rather than record my new album away from home to do it here, surrounded by all the things that help to shape me as a person and as a singer.” She notes that 10 years ago, such a luxury was implausible. But given the technological advances in recording, “the playing field has been leveled,” she says. “People are even recording great music in their basements. But I feel fortunate that we now have a world-class recording studio in Durham, which is where we recorded this project.”

So, instead of exporting her operation for Homefree, she imported from New York recording engineer Josiah Gluck, who recorded most of her Concord Jazz albums, and from the San Francisco Bay Area producer and Concord VP Nick Phillips, who along with Freelon, co-produced her previous Concord Jazz recording, the Grammy® nominated Blueprint of a Lady: Sketches of Billie Holiday (Freelon jokes that this time Phillips had to travel, but he didn’t have to sing). In addition, home played an important role in the musicians whom Freelon recorded- Freelon enlisted North Carolina-based artists that she calls “heroes” who have deep roots in the community and music of the region. “There are wonderful artists here who always bring their best and honest intention,” Freelon says. As a result the three days of recording sessions in her hometown proved to be relaxing and fun.

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Yukiko Matsuyama – Crème Brulée

The koto, a 13-string zither or harp like instrument, originated in China and came to Japan in the 7th-8th century. Today, it is the national instrument of Japan. The koto isn’t unknown in the world of smooth jazz. The most popular band with the koto as lead instrument is certainly Hiroshima.

Osaka, Japan born Yukiko Matsuyama was classically trained in this instrument from age 9. Since 1993 Yukiko lives in Los Angeles and was influenced by Western styles like jazz, new age, pop and world music. Although her music runs under the label world music, she is melting these styles with the traditional Japanese koto music.

Yukiko presents on her album Crème Brulée ten original compositions. She is supported by Diana Dentino (piano & keyboards), Greg Vail (sax & flute), Vince Van Trigt (bass), Mike Bennett (drums & percussion), and furthermore Daniel Mulliken (cello), David Brock ( violin & viola), Chris Darrow (guitar), Dave Wood (guitar), and Michael Kotzen (cajon).

Stimulated by her own self-effacing humor Yukiko introduces into her music with the title What Is Zat? Don’t await scaring Asian hymns. Yukiko’s instrument is integrated into smooth jazz and performed in a truly American style.

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Mark Egan – Truth Be Told

Contemporary jazz, smooth jazz, funk, and R&B are all part of Mark Egan’s repertoire, and they all are featured on Truth Be Told on Wavetone Records.

Egan, a versatile, Grammy Award-winning electric bassist, has a diverse array of artists among his recording and performance associates. Among them are Pat Metheny Group, Sting, Roger Daltrey, David Sanborn and the Gil Evans Orchestra.

In addition to performing and recording, Egan has lent his musical skills to movies and television, including contributions to the series Aladdin, the films The Color of Money and A Chorus Line, NBC Sports, CNN/Headline News and the daytime drama All My Children. Among his influences are Miles Davis, Weather Report, Metheny and Sanborn.

On this 11-track, all-original outing, Egan is joined by saxophonist Bill Evans, keyboardist Mitch Forman, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and percussionist Roger Squitero.

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