Jonathan Butler – So Strong

He is a guitarist, he is a vocalist, but foremost he is the lively personification of joie de vivre. I had the opportunity to attend his performance at Warren Hill’s Smooth Jazz cruise in 2005. When Jonathan Butler goes onstage, he mesmerizes the audience with his incredible voice. his fantastic presence and his charismatic attitude.

He became popular with his huge hits Lies, Sarah, Sarah or More Than Friends. Fostering his popularity with numerous concerts in Europe, South Africa and the US he still maintains the status of a superstar.

His new album So Strong is his 15th solo collection, offering a bouquet of fourteen compelling songs. “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,” chuckles Jonathan.

Jonathan Butler produced and arranged the album, played most of the instruments, including guitars, bass and keyboards and brought in his friends Rick Braun, Dave Koz, Michael Lington, and Gordon Campbell. Butler’s daughters Randy and Jodie sing background vocals.

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Walter Beasley – Live – In the Groove

Walter Beasley found his roots in Grover Washington’s music. After more than 20 years at the forefront of smooth jazz he is established as one of the most prolific sax players of this genre. He put the base for his position by his work as teacher at Berklee College of Music.

“I was only planning on staying for a year or two, getting a record deal and then moving back to California,” comments Walter. “But once I saw musicians move an audience through the use of techniques that I showed them, I was a sucker for teaching. It was a joy. It moved me. At that point, I made a decision to learn as much about teaching as I could. It’s very important that I give something back and experience as many students as I can”.

“To know that I can play, sing, record, tour and teach – all on my own terms – is the greatest blessing one could ever ask for,” he says. “That’s where I am at this stage. It’s a great thing. There’s really nothing that I can say I want to do differently than what I’m doing right now.”

Graduated from Berklee College of Music in the early ‘80s, Walter took a teaching position on this college a year later. In 1987 he released his self-titled debut album on Polydor, followed by Just Kickin’ It (1989), Intimacy (1992) and Private Time (1995) on Mercury. After Walter Beasley Live and More (1996) on Affable Records and Life and More (1996) on Ignition he signed at Shanachie, where he released Tonight We Love (1997), For Your Pleasure (1998), Won’t You Let Me Love You (2000) and Rendezvous (2002). Go With The Flow (2003) was his interplay on N-Coded Music before he joined Heads Up International releasing For Her (2005), Ready For Love (2007) and in 2009 Free Your Mind. On his website he also offers Sax Meditations (2008) as downloadable music.

His newest album is entitled Live – In the Groove. This is Walter’s second live album since Live and More. It was recorded at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston. Walter comments: “It’s a great record, and I think you would agree it’s a reflection of who I am, and I’m loving it!” For more information about this album read this interview.

Live – In the Groove is now available at CDBaby.

Maria Neckam – Deeper

Originality is a key to gaining notice. Vocalist Maria Neckam attempts that with Deeper, a set of all-original songs on Sunnyside Records.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Neckam studied at the Manhattan School of Music and has worked with David Binney, The Mahavinshu Project and others. On this date, she’s accompanied by pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Colin Stanahan. Saxophonists Lars Dietrich (alto) and Samir Zarif (tenor) appear on selected tracks, and vocalist Peter Eldridge contributes to “I Remember.”

The title song starts the set. It’s a tranquil piece with subtle play on bass, piano and drums, complementing the alto flute-like vocal. The beauty comes through during a wordless vocal interlude. Stranahan punctuates key points during this sequence with rolls on the snare and toms, enhanced by splash and crash cymbals.

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Grover Washington Jr. – Grover Live

Godfather of today’s urban contemporary jazz scene, founder of the smooth jazz scene, creator of a new sound. There are many attributes, which are ascribed to Grover Washington Jr. Undeniable is his invaluable influence on a whole music generation.

Died of a sudden heart attack at age 56 on December 17, 1999, he left a rich legacy of music, which is still in our hearts. On the summit of his musical career he recorded on June 7, 1997 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill, New York, Grover Live.

Produced by Jason Miles (Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Sting) this memorable concert of Grover Washington and his band mates Adam Holzman and Donald Robinson (keyboards and synthesizers), Gerald Veasley (electric bass), Richard Lee (guitar), Pablo Batista (percussion) and Steven Wolf (drums) is now available on an album of eighteen tracks.

The opener of the album Winelight transcends Grover’s phenomenal talent for improvisation and melody. Winelight (1980) was the album, which catapulted Grover into a status of a megastar shining over the whole contemporary jazz scene.

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Norman Brown – Sending My Love

For almost two decades, it has been a veritable love fest between GRAMMY® Award winning guitarist, composer and singer Norman Brown and his legions of fans. And, with his long-awaited new recording, Sending My Love, set for a June 22 release on Concord Records, Brown keeps the good vibes going.

Brown intensifies an already much-beloved recipe of sound, with ten tracks, nine of which he wrote) that flow easily from steamy R&B to guitar lashed flights of instrumental fantasy, all the while keeping things right in the pocket. From the first track – the easy breezy, horn laden, “Come Go With Me” – to the sexy groove of the R&B track “I’m Pouring My Heart Out” to the gentle acoustic guitar melody of “One Last Goodbye,” Brown shows off the stylistic diversity that has gained him a loyal following. He does so by utilizing some of the tried and true musicians, songwriters, and producers he’s worked with in the past: longtime collaborator Herman Jackson, bassist Alex Al, drummer Teddy Campbell, rhythm guitarist Jubu, and percussionist Kevin Ricard. He also reached out to R&B production camp Tha Bizness and R&B songwriters Melvin Moore III (who happens to be his godson) and Floyd E. Bentley III from his Kansas City hometown for the hop vocal tunes “I’m Pouring My Heart Out” and “One Last Goodbye.”

Even his daughter Rochella Brown, a student at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, and her songwriting partners arranged a new version of the Kenny Loggins classic “Celebrate Me Home.” Rochella sings with Brown on the beloved gem, which also features a choral contributing from GRAMMY® winning ensemble Sounds Of Blackness. Brown adds that, with a daughter serving in Iraq, he dedicated the song to our troops. “I’m dedicating that to my second oldest daughter, Kesha, a West Point graduate who is a first lieutenant, fighting in Iraq,” he said. “I think about all the families of these troops and the troops themselves, and ‘Celebrate Me Home’ hits it on the head — we all want to see them come home safely.”

Brown flirts with Latin rhythms on “Play Time,” and shares a haunting melody on the instrumental “Special Moments,” which Brown says is one of his favorites from the set. Longtime fans will enjoy the showcase of his guitar prowess on the slow groove “Here’s My Number,” while others will recognize the signature Brown touch on “Coming Back (Return of the Man.)”

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Saltaire – Just Press Play

Saltmarsh and Truman were college friends at Brigham Young University, and both played in various groups, including the award-winning jazz ensemble “Synthesis,” and the school’s heralded ensemble the Young Ambassadors. That world-touring group’s multi-genre repertoire gave the two a background in pop, jazz, Sousa marches, contemporary orchestral music and country. It was there that Truman, producer and composer, discovered the similarities in jazz and country, which eventually led him to his current place in Nashville’s supergroup Diamond Rio. That heralded band has earned nine Grammy nominations and sold more than five million records.

Both Saltmarsh and Truman gained degrees in Recording and Music Composition from BYU, and Saltmarsh soon partnered with Emmy-winning composer/pianist Sam Cardon to create The Jazz Ranch, a state of the art studio that was housed in part of the Osmond Family complex in Utah. Saltmarsh went on to build other studios, while still finding time to earn an MBA from Brigham Young–and become one of the west’s most sought after session guitarists and producers.

Their newest collaboration is called Saltaire. Dan Truman and Ron Saltmarsh continue their musical journey with their second CD release Just Press Play. A project over 8 years in the making driven by deep grooves, vivid musical colors, masterful playing and haunting melodies that will have you smiling and just feeling good. So take a few minutes, ‘Just Press Play’, and let Saltaire put you in your favorite car, heading down the coastal highway, or slowly cruising your favorite boulevard.

This new collection of songs is innovative, groove driven, and masterfully performed. So Just Press Play at CDBaby.

Bruce McKenzie – After Dark Part II

Bruce McKenzie began playing the guitar in 1976 and quickly blossomed into a rhythm and lead guitarist for a southern gospel quartet. During his travels with the quartet, Bruce honed his talent and began songwriting and composing. His skill on the guitar, to include the bass guitar, took on a new level as he developed the core music foundation for the group. After graduating from high school, Bruce went on to college and continued developing his artistic skill. Bruce subsequently joined the military and put the guitar on hold, but eventually came back to his love for playing and started gigging with a group of talented guys in Dayton, Ohio. This was the beginning of Bruce’s calling to jazz!

Bruce finally shifted his musical interest to smooth jazz in 2002 while living in England. He subsequently moved to Germany and released his first major jazz project entitled, Special Moments. This CD sold out at a local CD store in Germany in an amazing 6 days! His release received major reviews from jazz portals around the world and was also reviewed by! Bruce then released a second project entitled Aesthetic Melodology and caught the ear of hundreds of listeners around the globe! Bruce then moved to S. Korea during the beginnings of his third and eventually released Destinations upon his return to Germany! Destinations reached many smooth jazz lovers and became Bruce’s signature release! His next release entitled, After Dark is a rich blend of smooth jazz and promises to deliver smooth guitar riffs accompanied by a sensuous and emotionally-charged background of calming tracks!

Bruce has performed in many venues to include a solo concert for a Hurricane Katrina fundraiser in Brunnsum, Netherlands and has opened for major acts to include comedian, Rich Little! Bruce is a solo artist who performs all of his music! His inspiration comes from God and feels blessed to be able to perform! His favorite guitar icons are Norman Brown, Paul Jackson Jr , the late Wayman Tisdale, Marcus Miller and Fourplay!

Now he released his new album After Dark Part II. This release is his 5th release and contains a variety of smooth melodies to relax your mind, body and soul. Whether you are on the expressway coming home or relaxing in your favorite jazz bar, After Dark Part II is a must-have for your collection. After Dark Part II is an expressive reflection of different emotions that he has released through his music specifically for the taste of any jazz connoisseur! This work is a continuum of more releases to come and Bruce hopes that you take a ride and feel the “After Dark” in this project!

After Dark Part II especially for you at CDBaby.