Listening Loft : HOTPICKS
Boldly continuing to venture where no genre artist has dared before, classically trained, jazz/R&B influenced harpist Marie Antoinette has turned an instrument most of us associate with delicacy and angelic realms into a platform for snappy, full-fledged funky urban jazz. The cleverly titled ALL MY STRINGS – long awaited follow up to her debut STRAIGHT FROM THE HARP – rolls and jams like a rock, pop, soul and jazz symphony, starting with a sweeping overture that’s already been a Top 5 radio hit. Along with her stunningly intricate melodies, Mariea powers the album with grand orchestral flair, hard-edged grooves, old school cool harmonies and moments of romance and sweet new age-like serenity.
Years after discovering her, jazz legend Lionel Hampton exclaimed of Sylvia Bennett, “Man, that lady can sing! Her magic gets to the ears and the hearts of the audience.” The extraordinary, multi-talented Grammy nominated vocalist does just that once again on her exceptional new album THIS LOVE IS REAL. To the delight of Smooth Jazz fans, Bennett has been part of the genre for much of the new millennium, recording hits with Paul Brown and Rick Braun. Recent smashes featuring Nathan East and Arturo Sandoval lay the buoyant foundation of the new collection produced by Hal S. Batt, which finds Bennett artfully swinging from playful and whimsical to passionate and sensual as she brings smooth grooves and Latin-tinged twists to her all-time favorite subject… love!
One of Smooth Jazz’s most prolific hitmakers for nearly 30 years, Grammy-winning guitarist Norman Brown meets our unique moment in history with his socially conscious, spiritually enlightening new album HEART TO HEART. Confronting our uncertainty with constant comfort and cool balance through shimmering, forward-thinking energy, Brown surrounds his sensual and hard-grooving, crisp melodic electric guitar licks with stirring contributions by Peter White, Gregg Karukas, Paul Brown, Jeff Lorber and Chris “Big Dog” Davis. Manifesting his belief that we are all interconnected and that we must have a real heart to heart, to achieve loving peace on earth, Brown pays homage to Wes Montgomery, takes us to church, gets bluesy, hits the beach and closes with a blistering fusion rocker showcasing another dimension of his vast artistry.
Producing dozens of #1 hits for himself and countless Smooth Jazz greats, Paul Brown has helped define the genre’s sensual and grooving aesthetic over the past three decades. Putting a fresh spin on the traditional “greatest hits” concept, the two-time Grammy winning guitarist/composer’s cleverly titled latest album ONES UPON A TIME offers exhilarating re-imaginings of classic tracks he originally produced for everyone from Boney James and Larry Carlton to Kirk Whalum and George Benson. In addition to focusing the lead melodies on his inimitable, blues-inflected electric guitarisma, he offers some hip new arrangements and colorful sonic details which take the tunes to another level. On hand to help Brown re-create the magic are Euge Groove, Rick Braun, Gregg Karukas, Richard Elliot, DW3, Darren Rahn and Jeff Ryan.
A powerhouse force in Smooth Jazz since his 2007 debut, Vann Burchfield’s bio will always boast his distinction of setting a Guinness world record for circular breathing and surpassing former champ Kenny G, since Guinness has given him the title for life with the removal of that skillset from the list. Never one to shrink from a challenge and overcome the odds, the versatile Birmingham, AL based saxophonist makes a powerful statement with “Keep Pressing On,” the lead single from his upcoming album of the same name. Using an irrepressible funk groove, instantly catchy lead melody, rich improvisations and spirited low to high note dynamics, Burchfield emphatically urges us to stay focused on the current moment while envisioning a bright future – no matter what’s going on around us right now. It’s a timely message from a truly timeless artist.
A spiritually grounded husband and wife duo that recognizes music as a universal healer, Maryland based Butch & Rhonda Coleman create a fascinating dual sound around the plucky thump of his bass and her versatility as a sultry pop/R&B singer and jazz keyboardist. The title of their third album MOMENT OF YOUR TIME doubles as an invitation to get to know them and their deft blend of old school soul-jazz, breezy and heartfelt balladry and buoyant urban-flavored Smooth Jazz. Adept at creating a variety of moods, the Colemans like to say that their music tells a story. Here, that’s paying homage to past influences like Bill Withers while making sure we’re hip to their eclectic, very contemporary sexy, funky flow.
Given his stage name CTK by his mentor, legendary former Earth, Wind & Fire guitarist Al McKay, trumpeter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Clarence T. Kyle perpetuates that group’s style of old school groovin’ soul/funk and builds on the era’s classic horn-fired vibe on his latest album THE 2ND COMING. A musical gumbo for the soul, with Smooth Jazz, R&B, and hip hop, CTK pulls off the remarkable feat of creating instrumental music that tells his personal story. He invites listeners into his multi-faceted life with memorable tunes dedicated to his father-in-law, his recently departed mother, trips to Japan and fond memories of his early childhood in Rhode Island and attending the Newport Jazz Festival.
Twenty-five years after making his initial mark on Smooth Jazz stations across the globe, guitarist Dave Baker brings back his fluid melodic magic and love for contemporary and traditional jazz, pop, classical and Latin on his perfectly titled album FOREVER NEW. Teaming with Rich Kurtz (bass, cello, vocals) and Walter Runge (keys), he draws on decades as a private party and corporate gig musician to create lush, inventively arranged yet breezily accessible twists on classics by the likes of Carole King, Al Stewart, Sting, The Beach Boys and The Beatles. His lone original, the lilting title track, is equally divine.
TIME SENSITIVE, Al DeGregoris’ first album in four years, is the amped up, groove-intensive culmination of his longtime collaborative relationship with fellow keyboardist Jeff Lorber. Though DeGregoris is the independent artist and Lorber the legendary producer, the two work as creative equals in perfect intertwining tandem. Drawing on the funky, improvisation rich dynamics of their innate chemistry and an array of retro keyboards (but always leaving room for acoustic piano), they share a set of irrepressible tracks with buoyant melodies, free flowing harmonies and explosive energy throughout. With special guests including critically acclaimed guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. on board along with David Mann fashioning mood enhancing horn arrangements, Lorber and DeGregoris create the musical equivalent of a thoughtful, illuminating conversation between two masters chatting deep into the night.
Though her popular residency at Buddy Guy’s Legends club is currently on hold, there’s no stopping adventurous Chicago-based R&B/jazz singer Tracye Eileen from taking her budding career to the next level with her prophetically titled new EP, IT’S TIME. On first listen, the collection comes across as a set of intimate, easy grooving, soul-jazz. Dig deeper and you’ll discover an uplifting testament to a woman rising from heartbreak to pursue her own dreams. While seducing us with both intimacy and raw emotion, Tracye balances her R&B/jazz foundations with two renditions of her previously released, autobiographical song “Why Did I Say Yes?” – the original Brazilian light funk version and an expansive rollicking house mix that fuses dance, jazz and her dynamic passion for scat.
Saxophonist Lance Ellis’ multi-faceted career has run a spectacular gamut, from learning improvisational jazz techniques from the late patriarch Ellis Marsalis and his days in the Postal Service Jazz Ensemble to touring the world with WAR and playing with some of his native New Orleans’ legendary musicians. He adds another illuminating feather in his cap working with double Grammy winning producer, Paul Brown on “Can’t Get Enough,” his seductive, slick groovin’ and uber-romantic new single. Brown’s subtle guitarisma adds a tinge of Cali cool to this lights down low gem - whose female sung chorus just may be the genre’s most indelible hook of the year!
Epic 92, the cool name that producer/multi-instrumentalist/singer K-Tabbs and singer-songwriter Xanthe give their fresh, edgy and soulful male-female duo, refers to two things: the year they met and a journey filled with unbelievable setbacks and triumphs, including a Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop hit. That divinely appointed road leads now to ATLANTA LIGHTS, an album infused with deep, UK influenced vibes, a classic R&B flow, confident but subtle rock edges, laid back grooves and sensual Smooth Jazz touches. The multi-dimensional sonic magic, a tight live band aesthetic and the duo’s lush vocal harmonies lay a perfect foundation for the sensual narrative. It rolls by like a sexy and sophisticated urban romance in a city that shimmers with joy and simmers with daring possibilities.
While gearing up for the 2021 release of their third album WATCH YOUR STEP, GTF, the dynamic R&B/jazz ensemble led by Bay Area marrieds George and Tracy Franklin, keep our hearts open with their latest single “Some Things Happen.” Fashioned as a deeply soulful, silky number with guest vocalist Rebecca Jade, the compelling new single offers a vibrant twist on the Boz Scaggs and Marcus Miller tune by tapping into the ever-fresh and necessary universal sense of hope in Boz’s lyrics about being open to love’s great possibilities. The new song is gifted with extra emotional energy by San Diego based saxophonist John Rekevics, part of GTF’s unique lineup that includes musicians from Northern and Southern California.
Saxophonist Wayne Gutshall’s perfectly titled debut album SPICY! is a joyous reflection of the many years he’s spent immersed in Miami’s Latin pop and jazz scenes – which includes work with greats like Nestor Torres, Dave Valentin, Arturo Sandoval and an appearance on Ed Calle’s Latin Grammy winning album MAMBLUE. While he showcases these influences via an artful balance of high energy exotica and balmy sensuality, the Latin vibe is simply the launching point for a stylistically eclectic collection that includes jazz fusion, gritty blues, stylish tributes to Gato Barbieri and Miles Davis and engaging twists on pop classics by Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie. Playfully jumping genres from track to track, Wayne Gutshall delivers a fashionable collection with a lot of Miami spice!
Singer, songwriter, guitarist and Motema label founder Jana Herzen and renowned bassist Charnett Moffett are true jazz legends in their own right. Yet their latest collaboration ROUND THE WORLD so artfully blends soul sensitivity and quirky originality in its acoustic arrangements, it could just as easily be considered alt-pop or modern folk. The collection is a spirited, twist and turn filled extension of the duo’s 12-year creative partnership that includes an initial duo project in 2012 and touring together. Intuitive in their breezy yet sometimes off the beaten path arrangements, they blend graceful and jaunty re-imaginings of classics by The Beatles, Men at Work, Kermit the Frog, Roberta Flack and Maria Muldaur with heartfelt, easy grooving originals that fit snugly and seamlessly amidst the more familiar fare.
In a few short years, saxophonist Jarez has gone from being known as “Mr. Sexy Saxy’ to the mayor of J FUNK CITY! While known to millions as touring saxophonist and right-hand man for Coolio – and his appearances on the rap star’ web series “Cookin’ With Coolio” – the saxophonist has scored an impressive string of smooth urban hits and albums playing it silky, sensual and romantic. This new collection has its steamy moments, but for the most part it’s a punchier, ultra-funky blast featuring a more muscular, emotionally impactful approach. Jarez’s wild success these past years has opened doors for him to invite all-star guests Julian Vaughn, Vandell Andrew, Willie Bradley, Ragan Whiteside and Gerald Albright (on bass!) to help him execute his supercharged vision.
Since being named one of 10 Dallas based artists to watch in 2018, hipster jazz, pop and neo-soul singer-songwriter M’lynn has been on a creative roll, releasing her debut EP GROUNDING and three popular singles at Smooth Jazz radio. Currently studying music business at the University of Miami, she’s built a fan base with her seductive songwriting and vocals that flow like Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and Adele, but have an emotional resonance and sonic uniqueness all of their own. Her latest single, the hypnotic, soulfully intoxicating ballad “Forget the Day,” is already brewing up global interest on popular streaming platforms. The tune takes us into the midst of an emotional conflict that never sounded so good. Once M’lynn draws you in, via her transcendent blend of sensual, ethereal vocals and dreamy floating atmospheres, you’ll never “Forget the Day” you discovered her!
A versatile bass player for an astonishing 45 years, Keith Mason’s life has been dedicated to and defined by his passion for two things that make his latest album I SURRENDER ALL an emotionally impactful and spiritually edifying delight – music and the Lord. With a Christian Smooth Jazz sound incorporating his love for jazz, R&B, funk and gospel, he showcases his poppin’ basslines in the service of a cool yet rhythmically punchy flow that reflects a rich anointing and some truly amazing grace. The collection was inspired by Mark 8:36 (“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”) and his titles are all expressions of his faith… the thoughtful, inviting and exuberant vibes have been Crafted to lift you up spiritually and engage you intellectually.
Celebrating a multi-faceted, on and off five-decade career that’s found him playing blues, pop/rock and traditional jazz, classically trained guitarist Jim Richter made his SmoothJazz.com debut in 2019 with the impressive, Smooth Jazz charting album BREEZY DAY. This is the killer follow-up collection to his successful entry into the genre. MR. KOOL is infused with a multitude of vibes and grooves – from light funk and punchy pop/rock to dreamy ballads, driving rock jams and blues-fired romps – this collection may remind you of the high spirited, freewheeling way contemporary jazz soared in the 80s and 90s.
Since graduating from Ithaca College of Music in 2018 with a degree in voice (Opera believe it or not), ultra-hip pop, R&B and jazz influenced, Pittsburgh based singer/songwriter Stephen Rothhaar has been unstoppable. He follows his indie-acoustic EP HUMANS with the engaging, pure pop, ultra-danceable debut full length album MOMENTS. Helping take Rothhaar’s spirited soul sensibilities and instincts for creating infectious light pop gems to the next level is producer Nate Harasim, who fashions a slick, multi-faceted sonic landscape full of lightly funk contemporary beats, bright jazzy guitar jangle and a sensual seductive flow. In addition to showcasing Rothhaar’s multi-faceted artistry, the album includes impressive guest spots by globally acclaimed bassist Nathan East, chart-topping contemporary jazz guitarist Nils, vocalist Monica Notaro and the popular Detroit-based rapper K-Squeez.
Canadian bassist Brendan Rothwell traces his love of the instrument and its intense soul possibilities to hearing the legendary Marcus Miller play on Miles Davis’ 80’s classic TUTU. On the heels of a debut that charted both in the U.S and Canada, his latest album SENTIMENT, is an eclectic, deeply rhythmic sonic experience. He includes several picture perfect, frothy funk, Smooth Jazz tracks, but the collection’s deeper pleasures expand the emotional palette into neo-soul, jazz fusion and even ambient territory. Reminiscent of the most genre-transcendent works of Miller, Brian Bromberg and Stanley Clarke, these songs are meditative masterpieces, taking him to contemplative realms of expression rich with mood and immersive atmospheres.
Four years after his previous release, UPTOWN JAZZ, legendary Bay Area bassist, composer and producer Tony Saunders delivers on his stated promise to “make the best, most pleasurable and sensually satisfying album yet” with his perfectly titled, 4th studio release, SEXY SOMETHIN. Alternately bouncy and buoyant, his new original tracks are all infectiously melodic and fall into a groove-intensive pocket, from the kick off hit, the chart-topping cover of The Whispers’ “Rock Steady” to the final interlude. Yet true to the diversity of Saunders’ expansive resume, he infuses stylistic and thematic surprises. While grounding everything on his trademark deep bass tones and delivering sparkling solos, he invites a vibrant all-star cast to help execute his multi-faceted vision – including Nils, Jeff Ryan, Paul Jackson, Jr., Paul Brown, Marion Meadows and Jeff Lorber; co-produced by Tony, Nils and contemporary jazz star Gail Jhonson!
It’s telling that singer Zoe Scott includes a sensual version of a Chrissie Hynde / Pretenders hit among other pop and Brazilian classics on SHADES OF LOVE, her exquisite, breezy and lushly produced album of bossa nova. The London-born recording artist found great success as an edgy rock n’ roller for years before the Brazilian jazz bug bit her and challenged her to be more emotionally vulnerable and in tune with what she calls “life in the quiet spaces.” Adding to the magic and charm of Scott’s soul-stirring transformation into an interpreter of subtlety and seduction, are Brazilian-born multi-Grammy and Latin Grammy winning producer Moogie Canazio and bossa legends, including guitarist and arranger Torcuato Mariano and pianist/singer Daniel Jobim, grandson of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Brava!
Encapsulating the carefree days of summer, guitarist Will Sumner, delivers a brand new original collection ranging from coast-driving Smooth Jazz and slow grooves to exciting Latin rhythms on RIDE THE WAVE. The prolific, Southern California composer follows the lead of similarly, beachy themed collections, such as COAST DRIVE, PIER GROOVE and the craftily titled ENDLESS SUMNER. Drawing on an eclectic background that includes performing with Prince and Yanni and composing symphonies, Sumner infuses his signature sound of sensual rhythms and hypnotic melodies with a variety of genres and textures including blues licks and steel pans. RIDE THE WAVE concludes with a rock and soul tinged vocal take on a patriotic classic that will light up the 4th of July!
A pilot for Delta Airlines since 1986, classically trained pianist and emerging Smooth Jazz artist, Paul Tuvman flies high with his lifelong love of The Beatles on IN MY LIFE. A deeply diverse, jazzy homage to the Fab Four. Testament to his rising star status, the multi-talented Tuvman got the genre all-stars out en masse, with dynamic guest spots by Peter White, Mindi Abair, Dave Koz, Rick Braun and Vincent Ingala. Produced by one of the most sought after musicians in contemporary music, Jamey Tate, the true star of the collection is Tuvman’s hypnotic ivory playing and adventurous arrangements, hitting on trad and Smooth Jazz as well as soulful, urban funk. Another highlight of this engaging set is the stunning oboe playing of Taiwanese-American oboe master Rong-Huey Liu.
Propelling powerfully into their second quarter century of hard-jamming live performances and recording, West Coast based phenoms Under The Lake – truly the freewheeling, adventurous West Coast equivalent to Spyro Gyra – infuse their high-octane latest album YOUR HORIZON TOO with a multitude of stylistic excursions built on its grooving Smooth Jazz foundation. Led by founder and keyboardist Jayson Tipp, the core trio adds crackling elements of funk, old school R&B, neo-soul, a true spirit of freewheeling jazz fusion and dashes of mystical cool to their relentlessly inventive mix. Although guitarist Patrick Yandall and saxophonist Quintin Gerard W are billed as featured guests, the two interact powerfully with the band while making the deepest emotional impact with their intense, heartfelt solos.
Detroit-based, Billboard Chart-topping saxophonist Deon Yates returns with another single from his forthcoming, 5th solo full album release, QUINTASTIC, and this time it's very personal. Having lost his older brother and other family members and friends to COVID-19, his latest tune, "When We Meet Again," is a soulfully, optimistic, dare we say, cathartic tribute to this year of personal tragedy, and to offer a moment of hope to others who are experiencing loss. The saxman wanted to add a song to QUINTASTIC that was both inspirational and inspiring while expressing his appreciation for the sacrifices of the unsung frontline heroes. The album features guest producers Chris "Big Dog" Davis, Darren Rahn and Jackiem Joyner. His previous single, "In The Moment," has received over a quarter of a million Spotify streams and counting!
Listening Loft : MUST HAVES
After learning the essence of funk with the popular Washington DC Go-Go band Ayre Rayde, and holding down MD duties for Regina Belle for two years, bassist Adrian “Egg” Norton has been keeping the groove flowing with the contemporary jazz ensemble Phaze II for the past two decades. In normal times, “Keep Risin’,” his gospel-soul-jazz fired debut single under the hip moniker Bassmanegg, might be interpreted as a personal message of uplift and encouragement. Yet in 2020, this simmering funk vocal track rolls like an anthem, exhorting “brothers and sisters” in the struggle to keep on believing, and stay in the fight as America confronts much deeper issues.
Colorful, uplifting, steady grooving and wildly inspiring, singer/songwriter James Bowman III's latest album THINGS ON MY MIND offers a seamless merging of gospel energy, sacred reverence and urban oriented Smooth Jazz. Having played with Brian McKnight and Mervyn Warren and opened for everyone from Edwin Hawkins, Kirk Franklin and BeBe & CeCe Winans, the multi-talented artist and seductive vocalist has plenty to communicate about - the Lord, marriage, family and relationship. Led by a spiritual lyrical reworking of an Earth, Wind & Fire classic, the collection offers a positive overall message to combat the harsh discourse occurring in the world today.
Patrick Bradley wrote his latest single “Reinvention,” in a mental space of deep introspection, with an eye towards loving better and being true to his purpose. If that purpose is to lift spirits and inspire, this veteran chart-topping keyboardist - working again with his longtime producer and collaborator Jeff Lorber – succeeds brilliantly on this vibrant, melodic, smooth-rockin,’ jazzy piece. The punchy groove is anchored by drummer Gary Novak, allowing Patrick to complement the track with his lively, free-flowing piano musings with organ and synth harmonies, kicking everything up a notch for epic guitar hero Michael Thompson’s memorable musings.
A longtime expert on the evolving integration of music and technology, Grammy-winning pianist, composer and arranger Dominic Camardella brings a fascinating background to the sensual, easy-grooving melodic flow of his debut Smooth Jazz collection, SOOTHE. The owner and primary audio engineer of Santa Barbara Sound Design, Dominic has been a TV/Film sound designer and mixer who has worked with, among others, Ottmar Liebert, Carlos Santana, Anita Baker and Michael McDonald. Elements of soul, and electro-chill complement his soothing musical atmospheric, laid-back vibe as well as lush interactions with acoustic guitar and dreamy trumpet.
Those who listen intently to the sensual yet funky, soulfully provocative, and spiritually-uplifting journey Marshall Charloff leads us through on his new album UNPERFECT may find his humble title ironic – since, vocally and instrumentally, it’s truly Smooth Jazz perfection in every way. Drawing on a fascinating background that includes fronting symphony orchestras and touring globally paying tribute to Prince, and work with Atlanta Rhythm Section and The Commodores, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist seamlessly showcases many of the elements that have defined his multifaceted career. Balancing the romantic acoustic dreaminess and sweet, easy flowing neo-soul, he grooves deeply with affirmative emotional/spiritual messages and two versions of a jam that pays homage to Prince and the sound of Minneapolis that Charloff has been sharing for years.
Smooth Jazz Kiwi alert! Eleven years and countless international performances after winning “Most Outstanding Young Musician” at the New Zealand Youth Jazz Competition, Auckland born saxophonist Alex Churchill breaks ground in the genre with a hypnotic, silky and simmering funky twist on Anthony Hamilton’s 2013 hit “Best of Me.” Vibing dynamically with and improvising off the cool, crisp guitar of New Zealand sensation and longtime collaborator Andrea Lisa, Churchill underscores his vibrant up-tempo take with a reminder to always give our best to each other (especially to strangers) and truly embrace each moment.
If you close your eyes and block out all the craziness of 2020 for the four blissful, energizing minutes of Eric Darius’ latest single “Summer Feelin’,” you can almost believe we’re having a fantastically, free-wheelin’ and normal summer. Driven by the dual non-stop energy of the saxophonist and the buoyant guitarisma of Paul Jackson, Jr., the hard groovin’, horn-drenched tune is his way of capturing the feeling of togetherness, family and summer fun, a harbinger of good times to come. Producer Butta N’ Bizkit (John Legend, Ne-Yo, Miguel, Ledisi) helps illuminate Darius’ much appreciated sense of hope and positivity.
Turning a onetime clever album title into the name of his high energy ensemble, Dr. Dave & The Housecall Band work major musical healing miracles on their latest album MIDNIGHT DAYDREAM. With a sizzling swirl of pop, R&B, traditional and contemporary jazz, topped off with tasty touches of Latin, blues and swing, Dr. Dave embraces the freedom to improvise more than ever before and tackle jazz classics and a popular TV theme in addition to a slate of ultra-infectious originals. Two new singles out this year from Dr. Dave's coolest collection yet, on the heels of his chart-topping “Sexy Cindy,” (named for Cindy Sanchez Medina, Miss Santander, Colombia 2018), expect the tropical jazz of "Cabo Time" and the sensual title track, "Midnight Daydream" to saunter up the Smooth Jazz charts as well.
Closing in on 30 years as a recording artist, Richmond, VA based saxophonist James Saxsmo Gates offers timely words of wisdom to accompany his sonically bold, sweetly sensual and intensely funked-out new album STEPPING OUT. The Founder of the Dr. Billy Taylor Jazz Studies Program at Virginia State University writes, “Together we can make it if… we Keep Jazz Alive!” Six years in the making, the faith-driven project pairs Gates’ steamy, igniting horn fire with a batch of multi-talented collaborators (including guitarists Alan Parker and Freddie Fox) to create the perfect party mix of anthem-like originals and soulful pop covers.
After a way too long nine-year recording hiatus, Swedish born, NYC based singer/songwriter Anders Holst brings his sensually romantic vibes and poetic juice back to Smooth Jazz with his inspiring new album ENDLESSLY. While elegantly produced by Grammy Award winner Gordon Chambers, with beguiling string arrangements and soaring backing vocals, the pop/soul/jazz oriented collection is grounded by a live ensemble featuring keyboardist Shedrick Mitchell, guitarist Sherrod Barnes, and saxophonists Peck Almond and Andreas “Pastorn” Andersson. Holst muses on various aspects of love via inviting originals and spirited re-imaginings of Kem’s “Heaven,” a delicious duet with Sy Smith on George Michael's "Cowboys and Angels," as well as paying homage to Stevie Wonder in an intimate, string-laden rendition of "All I Do."
The title of Lowell Hopper’s new album says it all. When the Panama City, Florida guitarist and Smooth Jazz favorite plays, there’s always MAGIC IN THE AIR! Musical trends may come and go, but Hopper – a 20-year Air Force veteran - has been keepin’ it real and consistent for over 25 years with tight, infectious melodies, spirited light funk grooves and crisp, fluid lines that hit the heart with soulful sensuality every time out. On the new album, he adds touches of simmering blues, exotic percussion and tasty island vibes to his ever-adventurous repertoire.
Famed music biographer David Ritz says of “Deodato,” the chilled, jazzy and hypnotically grooving latest single by Jazz Holdouts: “They ain’t holding out their love for their mentor, Deodato.” Continuously infused with colorful sonic details, the spirited, hard-driving track finds the powerhouse band of musical veterans, including keyboardist Alan Palanker, saxophonist Louis Cortelizzi, and guitarist Michael Thompson, paying fun-loving homage to legendary Brazilian composer, pianist and producer Eumir Deodato, who is famed for his similar fusion of styles. Palanker, a longtime part of the Deodato universe, includes a fiery electric piano solo worthy of his mentor! This hot number promises to turn up summer listening to sultry!
If you dig Rick Braun, you’ll welcome veteran trumpeter Ron King’s picture-perfect Smooth Jazz debut album DOWNTOWN MAMA with open arms ready to sway and groove. Drawing on a decades-long resume filled with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Marvin Gaye to David Benoit and Jeff Lorber, King and producer Paul Brown fire up the old school, soul-jazz cool and the stylish horn textures while keeping the silk and funk (and a touch of fiery big band energy) flowing. King complements his bright infectious originals with colorful twists on classics by David Sanborn and The Rolling Stones!
The bio page of Dee Lucas’ website boldly declares “The Rebirth of Smooth Jazz” – and anyone who’s been following the sonically inventive, continuously grooving saxophonist since his emergence in 2004 knows his vibe is always on the cutting edge. That trailblazing streak continues on his latest EP, THE TIME IS NOW, which balances balmy, easy flowing vibes and fiery, high impact pairings with bassist Darryl Williams, pianist George Freeman and guitarists Blake Aaron and David P. Stevens. Helping bring Lucas’ fresh licks and infectious melodies are two of Smooth Jazz’s top producers, Adam Hawley and Lew Laing, Jr. We predict that the time is NOW for Dee Lucas… and once the festivals return, he’ll be in demand!
Ten years in the making, ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD is not simply the debut album by Mexican born saxophonist Luis Gerardo Villarreal Aranda (aka LuiSaxo). It could also be the multi-faceted soundtrack to his dramatic, inspiring life of overcoming the odds. The collection’s lighthearted and funky, frequently intense and furious, deeply cinematic and often romantic and steamy vibes perfectly reflect the ups and downs of his life as a printer/designer, jazz club owner, hotelier and survivor of a serious lung infection. His mastery of all four saxes, impactful compositional style and use of symphonic strings creates a wondrous sonic cocktail that is Siempre Adelante!
A onetime member of the orchestras of Glenn Miller and Harry James, saxophonist Gary Meggs calls the release of his latest album LIFE’S LITTLE CHANGES a “lifelong dream, a chance to help place my own footprint in the Smooth Jazz scene,” inspired by the West Coast Jazz of the 80’s and 90’s. Collaborating with rock/fusion guitarist Bryan Jeffries, who produced the collection, Meggs’ brings a bold and brash horn energy to an exciting, stylistically eclectic collection that includes spirited Latin influences, innovative arrangements of pop standards and re-imagined versions (complete with new titles) of a gospel and seasonal classics.
Hot off THE BIGGER PICTURE, his multi-faceted 2019 dual album with bassist Mark R. Harris, multi-talented veteran flutist and saxophonist Paul Messina stirs up a similarly stylistically eclectic mix on his latest solo album NIGHTWALK. The engaging collection finds the Miami-based artist tapping into his freewheeling passions for funky jazz fusion, balmy Caribbean, Latin and Brazilian, exotic Eastern tinged sounds and magic and lyrical and mystical atmospheric chill-jazz. While alternating between his muscular sax and virtuosic flute – sometimes playfully blending them on a single track – Messina and Platinum and Gold record winning producer/engineer Gary Vandy create their unique sonic world using synths and MIDI programming to artfully manipulate sound.
True to the title of his latest can’t miss, in the pocket collection of radio-friendly gems and otherworldly sonic delights, guitarist, composer and producer Nils has been happily CAUGHT IN THE GROOVE as one of Smooth Jazz’s premiere hitmakers and producers for over 15 years. Yet for the artist and his usual crew – including horn player and arranger Johnny Britt and vocalist Clydene Jackson - the easy funk flow is merely the launching pad for a multi-faceted experience. Nils complements his trademark crisp pop/soul/funk vibes with more ambient, atmospheric experimentation and deeper jazz musings with master pianist and Rhodes player Mitchel Forman. One listen and you too will be CAUGHT IN THE GROOVE!
NYC bred, South Florida based saxophonist, Gary Palmer has reinforced his arsenal with world-class, musical genius. The retired Lauderhill, FL police chief is currently brandishing a saxophone and continuing to deliver charting Smooth Jazz hits from his critically acclaimed sophomore release, COAST 2 COAST. Palmer reached out to a handful of contemporary urban jazz star artists and producers to fine tune the latest collection. His new single is produced by Grammy-winning producer and guitarist Paul Brown, and offers up a smooth and refreshing cover of Stanley Clarke’s classic, “Lisa.” We anticipate another contemporary jazz smash with this one… perfect for your summer soundtrack regardless of which coast you’re on!
Five years after promising us a sultry and funky Digital Future, multi-instrumentalist (piano, keys, bass, drums) and all-around music industry veteran Herb Partlow takes his game to the NEXT LEVEL with the release of this innovative collection of deep grooves and smooth flows. Partlow generates jazz for a new generation with a proprietary blend of funk, hip hop and contemporary jazz. This creative artist knows how to harness today's hottest vibes to compose and produce attention-grabbing music that he releases on his own Superb Muzic label. Take your evening chill session and weekend soundtrack to the NEXT LEVEL with this atmospheric, Smooth Jazz gem. Music for our modern times!
With a sparkling saxophone vibe that’s been lighting up the Pacific Northwest for years, Kenney Polson – who’s appeared on TV with greats like David Sanborn and Wynton Marsalis - has blended Smooth Jazz with a wide variety of influences, including Latin, classical, R&B/funk and gospel. True to its title FOR LOVERS ONLY, Polson’s latest recording finds him creating a tight, soulful ensemble with members of Tower of Power, Kool & the Gang and Parliament, among others. Soothing, romantic and lyrical, the album builds an easy groove with new compositions and satisfying classics.
On the heels of Danny Rae’s hooky, soul flavored single, “Gimme A Call,” she releases another emotionally provocative track from her forthcoming, debut album ENOUGH FOR ME, "Without You." A few years ago, the spirited singer left a steady job, as well as her family and friends, to move to L.A. to pursue her musical dreams. While working with other local indie artists, she hooked up with two-time Emmy winning bassist Tony Saunders, who brings his deep sense of groove and atmospheric finesse to her warmly inviting vocals. This alluring new song is sure to attract the attention of smooth music fans around the world!
Shifting into Smooth Jazz from his classical roots and career establishing standards and big band recordings, trumpeter Ilya Serov’s new single “Chillin’” offers a sensual, laid back escape from the harsh COVID-19 era realities via a breezy, breathy muted horn melody, easy flowing groove and chillaxed keyboards courtesy of Greg Manning. While showcasing his melodic jazz, R&B and neo-soul flow and modeling the way great tracks and videos can be created under social distancing protocols, Serov’s deeper vision is to create music that offers hope, joy and a fresh mindset embracing a whole new way of living.
As Bay Area groovemeisters keyboardist Marco Montoya and founding guitarist Stan Evans imagined their infectious, soul-piercing vibe back in 2016, you never know what you’re going to find grooving down The Smooth Jazz Alley! With drummer/producer Kevin Lewis taking over for Evans as co-leader, the ensemble’s second album LET’S RIDE is chock full of tasty R&B cool, sultry light funk and dynamic, soaring key and sax duality created by Montoya and guest Smooth Jazz sax stars Greg Vail, Eric Marienthal and Andy Snitzer. Complementing Evans’ still formidable electric guitar are feisty licks by Carlyle Barriteau, Matt Godina and Joel Del Rosario.
Launching his musical career with his family’s gospel ministry and serving as a Minister of Music for over 25 years, Solex has been blending gospel, classic R&B, neo-soul, jazz fusion, urban jazz and funk influences as a solo artist since 2010. The versatile keyboardist/composer celebrates all those glorious elements once again on SMOOTH RIDE, a 16-track, hour long journey designed to lift the soul and speak to the dreams of his listeners. Creating a fresh sonic universe, Solex fills the ride with moments of meditation and deep grooving, bright and trippy sonic invention. It’s a world where a George Duke inspired mix of lush solo piano and trippy synth invention rolls freely with slick and infectious contemporary urban jazz textures.
While fans of Spontaneous Groovin’ Combustion chomp at the bit for the perfectly named urban jazz fusion ensemble’s debut album – due in February 2021 – group leader and saxophonist Warren Keller (a one-time NYC rocker) whips up a hypnotic, freewheeling blast of cool melodic funk on “Double Deuces,” their gem of a fourth single. The track builds slowly from a soulful atmospheric simmer, alternating Keller’s punchy sax lines and improvisations with Luigi Pistillo’s crisp, crackling electric guitar and incorporating colorful flute and vibes harmonies as the tune shines brightly and inspires excitement!
The three words that form the acronym in big, in COMING BIG, (Blessed. Inspired. Genuine.), the 6th independently released solo album by sensual, easy-grooving saxophonist R.L. Walker, says it all about his intentions and the dynamic vibes he shares. Drawing from his personal spiritual path and background in gospel music, he’s truly feeling blessed, inspired and genuinely showcasing his skillset! Like other gospel/jazz saxophonists such as Kirk Whalum, Walker has a few direct references to his faith, but mostly, his passion plays out via sensual, infectious ballads of varying tempos and old school, soul-jazz leanings. Guests include bassist Brendan Rothwell, vocalist Demetriace “Chee Chee” Jordan and keyboardist/producer/arranger Lew Laing Jr.
If you enjoy your Smooth Jazz with exciting touches of African exotica, Earnest Walker, Jr’s IFATOBA (meaning “the king has arrived” in an ancient West African language) is your gateway to multi-cultural adventure. The versatile saxophonist blends fast paced funk, deep, soulful slo-jams and intoxicating ethnic vibes with cool musical and spoken word interludes to paint a narrative celebrating glorious family bonds and the foundational culture and rhythms of his African heritage. The lighthearted joy he brings to the mix is the perfect way to convey his belief that the best of this universe is expressed through dance and music.
Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS
Discover infectious, horn-spiced, old school and neo soul gems on urban jazz songwriter and vocalist Julius Adams’ new EP, LIFE AND LOVE. Impossible not to get wrapped up in his retro-cool vibes and deeply penetrating joy, optimism and forward-thinking energy. With loads of spirit, silk and sensuality to spare, Adams takes us on a mini-journey through different types of love – romantic with a partner, choosing to love ourselves and the ultimate love of God. Fans of Smokey and KEM will love Julius!
One of the key aspects of Marcus Adams’ upbringing was hearing David Sanborn in grade school. While establishing himself as a prime-time Smooth Jazz saxophonist, the former gospel musician actually has one up on his key inspiration – silky and sensual, falsetto-tinged lead vocals that compliment his smooth funk flow. As the title of his alto and soprano driven album LOVE LETTERS promises, he’s all about the hope and challenges of romance – brought to glorious life with the beautiful help of guests Ragan Whiteside and Selina Albright.
To borrow the ultra-cool title of Brad Alexander’s new EP, STRAIGHT UP, the veteran musician delivers the grooving and melodic goods, mixing up the joyful funk and sensual romance - starting with the high energy title track which was produced by Adam Hawley and features Donald Hayes on sax. Alexander works his nimble magic by including re-imagined romantic R&B classics from The GAP Band and Freddie Jackson, alongside his fresh, colorful originals. One of his titles slyly acknowledges how long his fans have been waiting for a follow-up.
Three years after H Allan exploded into Smooth Jazz consciousness with his high-octane twist on Richard Elliot’s classic “Stiletto Heels,” the versatile guitarist returns with BAM!, a debut EP whose emphatic title perfectly reflects the intensely grooving, soulfully rocking impact of its tracks. Showcasing a wide variety of jazz, rock and even country influences, Allan offers up a fascinating stylistic diversity as he re-imagines classics by Jimi Hendrix, Herb Alpert and Neil Young.
Award-winning anthropologist and musician, Marius Bilgobenson returns with his 2nd single for 2020, from his forthcoming album, THE SPIRIT OF LOVE. “Tears On the Ground,” is an elegantly earthy song featuring acoustic guitar and raspy, honey soaked vocals. Double Grammy winning producer, Paul Brown remixed the Smooth Jazz version of this compelling song that reminds people to take a moment to appreciate the benefactors that have made us who we are today. Originally from the Congo River Basin, Billgobenson is focused on promoting cross-cultural dialog through jazz, R&B, blues and indigenous African traditions which serve to further drive home the multi-instrumentalist’s message of inclusivity and awareness for disenfranchised communities.
In just a few short years, veteran Human Resources exec Cathy Thompson has made a mind-blowing transformation into emerging Smooth Jazz, gospel and R&B vocal sensation Castella. Under the guidance of producer Darryl Swann, who has worked similar magic for Angie Stone and Macy Gray, Castella follows her debut album THINKING ABOUT YOU and its silky hit “No Ordinary Love,” with her latest single “Let Me Love You” – a vibrant, easy grooving and summery expression of freewheeling passion, desire and intention. Full album in the works for 2021 delivery.
With 19 albums since 2004, Argentine born, Israeli based multi-instrumentalist Pablo Embon is a deeply prolific musical citizen of the world. Featuring his dual prowess on acoustic piano and guitar, HARMONY TALES unleashes a wild multitude of moods and vibes with a fearless swirl of everything from funky urban jazz, gentle new age piano, lilting and feisty Latin to explosive, jazz fusion - including tracks played on Fender Rhodes. Embon’s tales are told with equal parts boldness and delightful melodic and harmonic accessibility.
In the spirit of Jonathan Butler and Kirk Whalum and other masters who infuse their Smooth with gospel music, composer, pianist and drummer Louie Fitzgerald brings his deep faith and joy of the Lord into every playful and infectious melody, laid back and explosive groove and heartfelt romantic expression on his latest album MY HEART BEATS FOR YOU. Driven by his blend of elegant and funky piano and delightfully soulful organ harmonies, Fitzgerald takes us and our weary souls to musical church at a time we need it most.
Gil Johnson’s sensual and warmly captivating debut single “Keep on Walking” from his forthcoming album SOMETIMES A MAN, is proof that it’s never too late to fulfill a lifelong dream. After 30 years in the car business, the Detroit-based singer is launching his music career, drawing on his rich, seductive vocals to bring added emotional resonance to a Gino Vanelli tune of romantic longing and hope. Gil (his single artist name) is backed by lush strings and an ensemble featuring Smooth Jazz star Tom Braxton on saxophone as well as popular Smooth Jazz drummer Ron Otis.
Seven years after Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway influenced soul-jazz singer Joe Leavy first dazzled R&B and Smooth Jazz audiences with “I Heart You,” the internationally acclaimed performer graces us with two equally inviting versions of his ultra- sensual, trumpet-laced new single “Inside You” (B’s Side and Smooth Vibe) . The seductive tune is the ultimate love song, penned as a “thank you” to a special friend who helped the artist through the hard times following divorce. Be sure to play this new smash for your ‘Ride or Die.’
Believing that “Music is a blessing that should be shared,” Seattle-based drummer, keyboardist, producer, composer, arranger and musical visionary Misz The Groove Producer, meets our anxious moment with a rousing yet prayerful Holy Ghost Party on her uplifting titled new album PRAISE AND DEVOTION: INSPIRATIONAL JAZZ. With lively gospel vocals and passionate, soulful and super funky Smooth Jazz styled instrumental passages, she and her five-piece ensemble – complemented by a dynamic appearance from sax great Ernie Watts – offer a powerful message of hope and encouragement in these challenging times.
If you dig cats like Marcus Miller, Gerald Veasley and Julian Vaughn, you’re gonna groove instantly with Detroit bassist, composer and producer Darron “Cookie” Moore. His latest recording LIFETIME is a slo-jam delight - a sensual, infectious, sonically innovative and feel-good funky reflection on a multi-faceted musical journey that he’s found himself immersed in for years in Motor City’s urban jazz and gospel scenes. It’s a dynamic homegrown set that includes powerful collaborators including saxophonist LaDarrel Johnson and vocalists Ladon Ford and Mekial White Jr. All music composed, and all bass parts played by Darron “Cookie” Moore, with the exception of “Tried,” co-written by Mekial White Jr., co-produced by and featuring Dana Davis.
German born saxophonist Katja Rieckermann is a true multi-media sensation, appearing on TV shows and in films, having toured with Sir Rod Stewart for 14 years and support many other stars including Lady Gaga as well as recently publishing a book on classic sax riffs. The first part of her spicy, flamenco-flavored single, “Together,” is sultry, easy grooving funk, fully embodying her playful, seductive nickname (and label) Horn Star. Late in the track, the tempo explodes and Rieckermann blazes, truly capturing the restless spirit of the lockdown she composed the song under!
Berklee School of music grad Joe Rozum released five stellar albums between 2004 and 2012, and this single is his lively re-emergence. The festive and perfectly titled tune, “Grease Funk,” brings some ultra-hip, infectiously groovin’ piano to Smooth Jazz. Though his hypnotic riffs drive the track, its deeper magic comes from the ensemble interaction and swirling of his ivories with the featured fiery electric guitar and saxophone. Truly greasy funk… you’ll need extra napkins!
After playing on over 25 Spanish music projects, Costa Rican born, SoCal raised and Texas based electric guitarist Chris Soto launches his Smooth Jazz career with a bang, drawing from his wealth of experiences to create the vibrant cosmopolitan flow of GUITAR EXPRESSIONS, VOLUME 1. This Remastered and Enhanced collection varies the grooves and employs colorful percussive textures with hypnotic effects, allowing Soto to fashion a blend of infectious and sonically expansive jazz, rock and fusion with Latin tinges via crisp, buoyant licks and dreamy atmospheres. Express yourself!
The Sahara Club is spearheaded by a trio of monster music biz heavyweights, starting with top L.A. session guitarist Michael Thompson who has recorded on more #1 records than you can shake a pick at, including tunes from Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston as well as Smooth Jazz chart toppers from the likes of Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson and Kenny G. Joining MT, is singer Romeo Johnson, vocal coach to the stars, who has worked on 5 seasons of The Voice and tours with music titans; and veteran drummer and top radio promoter and record producer, Bud Harner rounds out the trio. You say, it can’t get better than this? Well, it just did, the project’s debut single, “Feel” is a tribute to George Duke and features special guests, bassist Stanley Clarke and keyboardist Jeff Lorber. The song is both ethereal and spiritual, while grounded with a sweet soulfulness, providing a perfect vibe to Smooth Jazz.
The dynamic, stylistically diverse ensemble URBAN AMERICA The Band dropped their stylish, sensual and easy grooving self-titled EP last year and the goodness keeps on going with their latest hit single, "She's Bad News." Creating an infectious, crazy-cool, fusion of jazz, R&B and pop, grounded in deep soul and spirituality, songwriter Josephcat Sanchez, two time Grammy-nominated producer/keyboardist Kevin Toney, lead singer Vince Hall, backing vocalist Domique Toney and masterful trumpet/ flugelhorn player Johnny Britt take a slightly offbeat approach to showcase the bright future of urban adult contemporary music which fits seamlessly onto a current Smooth Jazz soundtrack!
Building on a multi-faceted jazz and gospel-centric career that’s included being named Saxophonist of the Year by both the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame and National Gospel Academy, versatile saxophonist Stabe Wilson fashions his first full length Smooth Jazz album THE COMFORTER as a fanciful and funked out, dreamy and passionate tribute to The Hawkins Family, many of whom are part of his vast resume. Bringing fresh life to tunes by Walter, Edwin and others, he makes a powerful and essential spiritual statement for the present day.
A true beacon of jazz multi-culturalism, well-traveled Austrian saxophonist and shiatsu practitioner Markus Zahrl makes a bold entry into the Smooth Jazz realm by opening his debut EP CELTIC DANCE with a high energy Irish jig jam. Once the Conservatory of Vienna and Berklee educated musician, arranger, composer and music educator has our attention, he shifts amiably into a more sensual urban flow showcasing his skills on several different saxes and adding touches of intoxicating exotica along the way. This is a must-have, musical journey bridging world-influenced ambient music with jazz.