Posts Tagged ‘ Piano ’

Brian Simpson – South Beach

Keyboard players are often the musical center of a group. Many keyboardists are musical directors of touring stars. Brian Simpson is best known as musical director of Janet Jackson and Dave Koz. He also performed with other musicians like Michael White, Everette Harp, Michael Paulo, Freddie Fox, Teena Marie, Warren Hill, Sheena Easton, Jonathan Butler, Rick Braun, Norman Brown, and Allan Sams.

His solo albums are Closer Still (1995), It’s All Good (2005) and Above The Clouds (2007). His newest album is entitled South Beach and is scheduled for release August 31, 2010. Brian allured some of the finest contemporary jazz artists for his new project. George Duke, Peter White and Euge Groove are the featured guest-musicians. A lot more musicians participate in Brian’s recording such as Tony Moore, Michael White, Oscar Seaton (drums), Alex Al, Smitty Smith, Larry Kimpel, Ian Martin (bass), Agape Jerry, Darrell Crooks, Yarone Levy (guitars), Brian Kilgore, Lenny Castro (percussion), Ron King (flugelhorn), Steve Alaniz (sax) and Brenda Kay Pierce (vocals).

Expensive in the makings, valuable in the final result the album is a labor of love. Brian comments: “While working on South Beach in my studio I often stepped back to a corner of the room and closed my eyes, as if listening for the first time, to see if the music compelled an emotion. I truly hope the listener can feel the love and care that all of the musicians contributed to the recording.”

The first song of an album is often the most important, because many listeners decide after the first track, if they listen further or not. Keeping that in mind the starting South Beach is the strongest and most catchy track on this album. Brian takes his fans with this uplifting, easygoing tune by storm.

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Bob Baldwin – Never Can Say Goodbye

Bob Baldwin is one of the top five keyboardists of smooth jazz. In my review of Newurbanjazz.com I sketched up his long way to success. Summarized: A strong light casts a deep shadow. But Bob always looks straight forward to the summit.

Logically he focused now on the music of Michael Jackson. The story of Michael Jackson is told and the best way to remember his work is to create a cover album of his greatest hits.

Pianist Bob Baldwin is joined on some of the tracks by Ron Jenkins (bass), and Buddy Williams (drums). The list of guest-musicians encompasses Ragan Whiteside (flute), Steve Oliver (guitar), Armando Marcal (percussion, vocals), Joey Summerville (trumpet), Chieli Minucci (guitars), Tony Clarke (percussion), Chuck Loeb (guitar) and Dennis Johnson (drums, percussion).

Michael released Bad in 1987 selling over 30 millions copies worldwide. Bob Baldwin’s rendition is a exquisite grafting of the melody with a jazzy approach. Icing of the cake is Ragan Whiteside’s flute solo.

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Leon Ayers Jr – Here We Go

Leon Ayers Jr. a native of Detroit, Michigan began his relationship with music at an early age while attending class in the public school system. His professional studies and training at Gross Point Conservatory, Wayne State University, and the Center for Creative Studies laid a foundation for his many exciting opportunities and successes. He quickly became recognized and respected in and around the Detroit area as an outstanding keyboardist. Having this talent allowed him to travel the U.S. with notable RnB artist. That stellar list includes: The Floaters, Jones & Matthews of the Platters, Mark Channing and Alicia Meyers.

As an accomplished Jazz musician, Leon continued to study music composition and jazz theory while accompanying the vocals of Detroit RnB/Jazz singer Veronica Crockette. In 1993 he was hired to work on the artist “Dream Boy” CD project. He produced and released his first jazz CD “Compilations” to raving reviews. In the summer of 2000 he collaborated with the author/professor of Human Ecology at Michigan State University, giving audio life to one of his writings by setting the mood of each chapter with original music backdrops.

Leon’s musical arrangements can now be heard on both Soap Opera Industry projects as well as Muzak listenings. Some of his music influences are great artist such as George Duke, Jeff Lorber, Oscar Peterson, Joe Sample and Stevie Wonder. He continues to stay current by keeping his musical ear to the streets. The Air-Tyte Productions clients are satisfied when presented with cutting edge projects created through the state of the art digital, unlimited track studio he offers. Presently he is producing remixes for some of the top RnB/Pop Hits. He expresses several immediate and future goals. One of these goals involve assisting fellow musicians from all genres in developing their musical ideas for demo and/or mastering projects. His ultimate goal is to compose music for film and television, and everyday he is closer to fulfilling that dream.

His new album is entitled Here We Go showcasing great melodies of smooth jazz piano.  This album is available at CDBaby.

Jonathan Fritzén – Diamonds

Lucky Sweden! They have ABBA, Roxette and Jonathan Fritzén. Hailing from Stockholm he started his solo career with the debut album Love Birds (2008), followed by his sophomore album VIP (2009). Now it’s time for the third punch, Diamonds (2010).

Like on his previous album Jonathan is joined by an International mixture of American and Swedish artists: Laila Adéle (vocals), Alex Al, Mel Brown and Erik Metall (bass), Koh (aka Mr. Saxman), Darren Rahn and Jessy J (sax), Sara Övinge (violin), Andreas Ekstedt (percussion), Alex Crown (guitar). Jonathan Fritzén performs piano, keyboards and programming.

The starting track Feelin’ The Groove features the lovely Laila Adéle. To give you a compass, Jonathan’s music is comparable with artists like Alex Bugnon, Nate Harasim or the early Rick Kelly (Soul Ballet). His piano touch is of a graceful ease and elegance.

This Way, That Way brings a welcome-back with upcoming smooth jazz star, producer and saxophonist Darren Rahn. Darren appeared in the recent time with artists like Jay Soto, Anthony James Baker, Nate Harasim, Tim Bowman, Michael Manson, dee Brown and a lot more.

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Chris Geith – Island Of A Thousand Dreams

Chris Geith knows a secret. The secret of success. His sophomore album Prime Time was one of the best selling albums on mp3.com holding the Nr.1 position in the charts smooth jazz, jazz fusion and contemporary urban/R&B over months. The album was downloaded more than 1,400,000 times.

His new album Island Of A Thousand Dreams is released at CDBaby and currently the best selling album in Smooth Jazz. Members of his group are Chris Geith – Piano/Keyboards, Fred Scerbo – Saxophones, Matt Marshak – Guitars, Mark Mullers – Bass, Dean Kosh – Drums. The same musicians have recorded this album with the exception of the drummer, who was Donny J D on the album. All songs were composed, arranged and by Chris Geith.

The album is packed with fifteen songs, enough for over one hour music. We tumble into the album with Watch Your Step, a sizzling tune with a great piano line, propelling shuffle beat and a broad horn support. Easy Does It appeals with an attractive melody, the first approach to the imaginary island of dreams.

Once In A Lifetime is a good place for Chris Geith expansive piano journey. Avoid to listen to Coastal Daydreaming, when you are driving your car. Caught by this song you could easily crash. Chris Geith shines on the romantic ballade The Mirror Of Happiness. If you love the music of Richard Clayderman, Jim Brickman and David Foster, this is something for you.

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Tony Vattimo – Can’t Let Go

Hailing from Philly Tony Vattimo is very active as jazz musician in and around his hometown. He is playing with his band New Earth Trio (featuring bassist Rob Williams and drummer Abe Speller) or at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base in Reading. He also performs with Andre Neu and his band.

Last year he has released his debut album Can’t Let Go, on which Tony plays piano  and keyboards. He is joined by Erik Johnson (drums), Steve Varner (bass), Kevin Hanson and Steve Zinno (guitars), Bob Howell (sax), Iram Diaz (percussion), Chuck Dressler (trombone), Bill Hicks (trumpet), Dave Di Palma (sax). Tony has composed all songs. He already received high acclaims by notable critics.

A reason to present this worthy album to the readers of this column. The city is often inspiring musicians of all genres. Street Lights is Tony’s personal contribution to the night life of his hometown. Vattimo portrays the scenery with soft piano notes backed by a veritable horn arrangement.

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Sam Stryke – Brunch

“Composing music is like solving a puzzle,” says Sam Stryke. “It’s an intellectual challenge – obeying the rules and then breaking them in a creative and strategic way.” Relying on a combination of heart and intellect, the accomplished pianist taps into a reservoir of formal musical training and resurfaces with modern instrumentals infused with engaging melodies and rich orchestrations.

A versatile artist, Stryke is also a talented commercial, film and television composer. “Composing for commercials is easier than creating my own music,” he says. “In ads, the picture dictates much of the writing and the direction is clear. When I’m composing for myself, there are many more options, which requires more soul searching.” Stryke finds that the two worlds provide a creative balance – the fast and furious pace of advertising complements the introspective and thoughtful process of making albums.

His newest album Brunch offers smart, fresh and sunny jazz with a jolt of caffeinated jazz improvisation. Featuring energetic grooves and lyrical melodies influenced by pop music. Instrumental cross between Bruce Hornsby, Jamie Cullum and Vince Guaraldi.

Take your Brunch at CDBaby.

David Benoit – Earthglow

David Benoit is like Dave Grusin one of the big names of contemporary jazz. Always looking after new sides of music, he creates with Earthglow (2010) anew gripping melodies with addictive potential. Inspired by the breathtaking NASA photo of our planet, which decorates the CD, the content keeps the promise of the impressing cover.

Guest musicians on this album are Rick Braun (trumpet, flugelhorn), Brad Dutz (percussion), Jeff Kashiwa (sax), Pat Kelly (guitars), and Tim Weisberg (flutes). These names indicate, in which direction the ship is sailing: To the endless sea of contemporary jazz.

Starter of the album is Botswana Bossa Nova. Benoit comments: “I loved the world mix of exotic ethnic percussion, African voices along with Brazilian beats…” Connoisseurs of Benoit’s music will certainly recognize the seamless continuation of the style of his earlier period. A great initiator for this impression is David’s genius working on Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova, a song of timeless attraction.

Will’s Chill sets the counterpart to the previous tune. Modern, contemporary, chilly, the song experiments with the chill-out style of European musicians without neglecting the importance of classic instruments presented by Pat Kelly (acoustic guitar), Jeff Kashiwa (sax) and of course David Benoit on piano.

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David Benoit – Earthglow

In October 2008, David Benoit took a much needed breather from the frenetic pace of life in Los Angeles and headed up to the mountains near Saratoga to become an artist in residence at Villa Montalvo. Finding peaceful solitude and discovering fresh inspiration in a small cabin near the non-profit Montalvo Arts Center, the five time GRAMMY® nominated veteran composer and pianist—one of contemporary jazz’s most acclaimed artists for over two decades—wrote “Botswana Bossa Nova” and “Will’s Chill,” two unique pieces unlike any he had done before. These became the foundation for the overall global music concept behind Benoit’s stirring and provocative new CD Earthglow, his first set of original material in four years. The title track was inspired by the stunning NASA photo of our planet which graces the cover.

In an age where many listeners prefer the instant gratification of purchasing individual tracks on iTunes, Benoit takes the bold step of writing good old fashioned liner notes to explain the way the eclectic 11-track collection developed. After mentioning that the great Will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas was an influence on “Will’s Chill,” the multi-talented performer says, “I was interested in experimenting with some of the new ‘jazz-lounge-Euro-chill’ music I was hearing at upscale boutique hotels and chic Japanese sake bars.”

Focusing on the high energy hybrid of old school soul-jazz and infectious world beat textures and rhythms of “Botswana Bossa Nova,” he adds, “I loved the world mix of exotic ethnic percussion, African voices along with Brazilian beats. With the aid of the computer sequencing program Logic Pro I came up with some of these new ideas. To give the instruments a more realistic sound, I played everything in real time as opposed to step timing. Months later, with the same format, I came up with ‘Straightaway,’ ‘Unbelievable,’ ‘New Creation’ and ‘Sneaky As A Cat’ at my home studio in Palos Verdes, California.”

Benoit credits Clark Germain, his longtime engineer and co-producer on Earthglow, with reining in his off the beaten path impulses and blending them with the identifiable sound that mark his repertoire of over 30 recordings since the late ‘70s. “I really loved the vibe of ‘Will’s Chill,’” he says, “and when I started recording, I wanted the whole album to have that edgy, chill sound, with long loops and lots of samples, with a little piano in the mix. For obvious and very good reasons, Clark brought me back to myself and took these new, exciting ideas I had and put them in perspective as part of a recognizable David Benoit record. It’s got a lot of energy, but he smoothed it out and kept me in check. I think the intimacy of writing and recording in house, so to speak, without outside writers and producers as I had done in recent years, ensured that every note I intended actually appears on the album. Everyone involved had a blast recording Earthglow and exploring this new territory.”

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