Listening Loft : HOTPICKS
As a master computer scientist, Jim Allchin helped create and grow the server business which is one of Microsoft’s largest enterprises. When not impacting the world with his networking, languages and operating systems innovations, he was writing incredible music. He charted #1 often on the Roots and Blues charts - and now, on his latest album COSTA AZUL, co-produced with Grammy nominee Yaron Fuchs, he’s created another winner. It’s fresh, sensual with an intoxicating blend of Latin-tinged Smooth Jazz influenced by the classic rhythms of the son montuno, mambo, guajira, bolero and flamenco. Also passionate about his work with education in African countries, Allchin conceived the album during personal reflection time during COVID, when he began listening anew to songs he penned while on his travels.
Hot off her hit sensual funk rendition of “For What It’s Worth,” the Vietnam era classic she slyly re-appropriated for contemporary times, New York based singer, songwriter and vocal interpreter extraordinaire Rebecca Angel makes her long-awaited full length album debut with the vibrant, multi-faceted LOVE LIFE CHOICES. Vibing with longtime collaborator, veteran keyboardist/producer Jason Miles, and some top-flight session cats, the sultry, easy flowing vocalist makes every track an intimate invitation to join her as she celebrates her recent marriage and artfully chronicles the pandemic and other important societal issues. The set includes dynamic jazz, R&B and/or Brazilian tinged originals, exotic, atmosphere and groove-centered re-imaginings (of gems by Bill Withers, Bob Marley, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Sade) and a few memorable, previously released singles.
Since her recording debut on the Grammy-nominated SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY album with music icon Lionel Hampton, multi-talented jazz vocalist and songwriter Sylvia Bennett has become something of a legend herself, with a dozen solo albums to date, and a successful emergence into Smooth Jazz that includes collaborations with Arturo Sandoval, Paul Brown, Rick Braun and Nathan East. With production by longtime collaborator and producer Hal S. Batt, the vibrant singer’s latest album REFLECTIONS finds her looking firmly ahead, pairing her lush, lilting and sultry vocals with seductive light grooves and sweet caressing musical atmospheres. Complementing her emotionally impactful originals with a tasty “world mix” of a Songbook standard ("Witchcraft"), she thoughtfully explores the many facets of relationships, from hopeful beginnings and making dreams reality to the fine art of working things through.
The title of Congolese born, Stockholm, Sweden based singer/songwriter Marius Billgobenson’s album THE SPIRIT LOVE embodies his life’s work and mission as a concerned and compassionate musical citizen of the world with a commitment to bridging cultural divides. Over the course of 11 heartfelt and provocative, urban jazz meets world music tracks, the multi-talented artist – also an award-winning anthropologist with a deep passion for ethnomusicology - creates a deeply visceral and empowering autobiographical fusion of pop, soul, blues and jazz, infused with the spirited rhythms and vocal sounds indigenous to the Congo. Helping him immerse into the Smooth Jazz world are Paul Brown, who wrote and produced two tracks, and Chris “Big Dog” Davis, who helmed six others.
Closing in on a decade and a half of solo artistry, multi-talented pianist, keyboardist and composer Patrick Bradley gives us all permission to EXHALE after a challenging year, on this infectious, fancifully played and deeply funkified new album. Forging an exciting, spiritually driven musical partnership with saxophonist and producer Darren Rahn, Bradley takes his high energy blend of lively urban jazz, hipster blues, cool and rock influenced jazz fusion to transcendent levels, keeping the positive, hopeful energy flowing with fiery guest performances from Rahn, Jeff Lorber, who produced two tracks, guitarist Allen Hinds and trumpeter Rick Braun. Thematically, Bradley uses these stylistically diverse tracks express everything from gratitude and the blessings of his faith, to affection for family.
Ten tracks of life affirming joy, multi-platinum selling and chart-topping guitarist Norman Brown celebrates his 13th solo recording (4th for the Shanachie Entertainment label), LET’S GET AWAY. Living in alignment with his calling to channel inspiration and motivation through his music, the Tai Chi and meditation practitioner along with his “Spirit Catcher” (the strings on his guitar) truly shines like a light at the end of the tunnel on this new collection. The message in the melodies conjures the serenity, joy and beauty that the artist wishes for all of us. The good vibes include buttery smooth elements of jazz, R&B, blues and contemporary urban pop with an all-star support team that includes fellow guitarist and label-mate Paul Brown, keyboardist/composer Lew Laing, saxophonist Greg Vail, trumpeter Ron King and percussionist Lenny Castro. The perfect musical getaway!
With a background of performing on and off Broadway at an early age, producer, pianist and drummer Jeff Golkin brings a unique sense of drama and emotional storytelling to the Smooth Jazz genre on WE HAVE LOVE…FOR ALL TIME, the expansive debut album by Golkin and his large ensemble Forever Love. Weaving a dynamic mix of vocals (by Joanne Williams and Kevin Batchelor) and instrumentals, including his four beautiful originals layered between sparkling twists on standards from the likes of The Blackbyrds, Carpenters, Henry Mancini, Peggy Lee, Jerome Kern and others, the visionary creates an inspiring, love-drenched narrative with exciting stops in Latin, soul/funk, and traditional jazz territories on the romantic road to forever. The 13-track, adventure filled collection marks an auspicious launch for this multi-faceted group.
Their 3rd full length album WATCH YOUR STEP has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the dynamic California jazz ensemble GTF continue to release new singles from the forthcoming album. “Spanish Steps," is the 4th single from the highly anticipated new release, featuring the exceptional saxophone of John Rekevics. With his raspy, Gato Barbieri-like performance, this exotic new tune promises to set your spirt to wanderlust. The six-piece ensemble is led by its namesakes, George and Tracy Franklin. George is a noteworthy vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who plays bass, keyboards and guitar, while his songwriting partner and associate producer Tracy also contributes backing vocals. The group includes two San Diego musical icons, producer Richard “Blitz” Livoni and the aforementioned John Rekevics as well as acclaimed New Orleans-based keyboardist John Cain, Detroit's own star drummer Ron Otis, plus Juan Escovedo of the famed Escovedo Family turns the beat on percussion. Watch this space for the full album drop of WATCH YOUR STEP, coming soon!
If you’re somehow not familiar with Wayne Gutshall, the guy Sandy Shore calls a “modern master of saxophone” who’s scored five #1 singles on SmoothJazz.com Global’s Listener Chart, you get another inspiring chance with his latest track “Going Up” – a passionate, meditative ballad duet with bassist Brendan Rothwell penned during the pandemic for the sole purpose of soothing our anxieties and lifting our spirits. Gutshall, a favorite on Miami’s vibrant Latin jazz scene, who’s played with Steve Oliver, Paul Brown, Arturo Sandoval and many others, offers up Rothwell’s seductive bassline to build anticipation as he rolls out the song's sultry sax melody. The two fashion a hypnotic dual-energy that balances intuitive musical conversations with vibrant soloing. And all at once you’ll find your blood pressure is going down while your hopes start “Going Up.”
Injecting a fiery hurricane of genre-transcendent energy into Smooth Jazz, the wildly talented and wise beyond their years, trio J3 is a force to be reckoned with on all levels, from the array of instruments they’ve mastered, to composing, arranging and producing all the music on their explosive and constantly engaging debut OPUS 1. Individually, South African born, Southern California based siblings Justin Lee Schultz (15) and Jamie-Leigh Schultz (18), as well as the gospel-steeped Jaden Baker (all multi-instrumentalists) have been praised by fellow boundary busting greats Quincy Jones, Robert Glasper and Harry Connick, Jr! Bookended by spirited homages to Michael Jackson and featuring sizzling arrangements of Jeff Lorber and Chick Corea gems, J3 dazzles with a freewheeling flow of improvisational jazz, jazz fusion, fiery rock, Pat Methenyesque exotica, funk, blues, and even a little hipster hip-hop for good measure.
A socially conscious force in global jazz fusion for over 10 years, Bangladesh born, NYC based composer/guitarist Reza Khan taps into the exotic-meet-melodic aesthetic of one of his major influences, Pat Metheny in his adventurous approach to blending pop, jazz, soul and world music influences. On his multi-faceted and wildly groove intensive album IMAGINARY ROAD, Khan uses a wide array of musical textures to express his emotions about the pandemic and our political culture. Vibing with top genre musicians like Philippe Saisse and Miles Gilderdale (Acoustic Alchemy) as well as fusion great Mark Egan (bass) and trad jazz pianist Matt King, he leads us along an ultimately hopeful path filled with sunshine, sizzling soul, seductive light funk and exquisite free flowing balladry.
As the dynamic, multi-faceted career of Christian soul singer and veteran musical minister Shelia Moore-Piper demonstrates, sometimes we can express our love of God with funky stomps and vocal swells – and other times, in more subtle but similarly impactful ways, as on her new single “Love Is A Beautiful Thing.” Featuring intimate, soulful vocalese throughout, the song’s subtle production of acoustic guitar, finger snap percussion and elevated musical atmospheres allows us to fully experience the cozier charms of her formidable voice. While the lyrics will resonate most powerfully with people of faith, the song’s overriding universal message of the power of love to heal and make the heart sing will surely resonate with everyone who loves music, especially R&B and contemporary jazz vocals.
The title of Grammy nominated composer, guitarist, bassist and multi-instrumentalist Dennis Murphy’s 1999 debut HIT ME HARD, perfectly captures the intensity he’s brought over the years to his multitude of endeavors as an early genre radio personality (whose show “Bass Trax” was produced by Smoothjazz.com founder, Sandy Shore), clinician and founder of a popular Monterey, California music school, and studio and touring sideman for Acoustic Alchemy, Maria Muldaur, Billy Preston among others. On this latest foray, the eclectic, ultra-melodic and tightly grooving OUR HIGHER SELVES, Murphy darts artfully between colorful guitar playing and bass-driven Smooth Jazz, fusion, playful samba and spiritual soul while freewheeling with an all-star cast including elite saxophonists Kirk Whalum, Eric Marienthal, Gary Meek and Tower Of Power’s Tom Politzer, as well as late guitar great Jeff Golub and legendary drummer Will Kennedy!
True to the sophisticated and elegant style implied by the title SAVOIR FAIRE, veteran multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated, Soul Train and NAACP Image Award winning saxophonist/flutist Najee caps his decade on Shanachie Records with a vibrant, eclectic Pan American set featuring top musicians from North and South American. The adventurous set features a blend of Brazilian and tropical tinged delights, fiery, playfully strutting funk (including one jam featuring guitar dynamo Adam Hawley), classic-styled Memphis soul/blues and a sultry re-imagining of a Norman Connors/Michael Henderson 70’s R&B hit featuring vocals by Alyson Williams. Continuing to deliver the multi-faceted R&B/jazz well into his fourth decade, Najee calls on big guns like Barry Eastmond, Chris “Big Dog” Davis, Paul Brown, Frank McComb, and David Dyson to help bring his rich cosmopolitan vision to life.
Though his latest single “Indigo Rain” is not officially part of his decade plus slate of releases under The Color of Soundscape name, composer, pianist and multiple label owner Rei Narita – the foremost pioneer of Smooth Jazz in Asia – creates a sensually soulful, gently relaxing vibe that fits right into the graceful side of his established aesthetic. A complete 180 degree turn from his rambunctious previous single “Run Through the Urban City,” this beautiful, expansive piece begins as an elegant, sparkling piano solo. It then eases into a seductive, slow-simmering groove (driven by Omar Hakim’s tasteful drumming) and a charming lead melodic back and forth conversation between Narita and the instantly identifiable guest guitar artistry of Peter White.
Decades after penning his most enduring Grammy winning hit with Survivor, Jim Peterik’s still got the musical “Eye of the Tiger,” being part of the contemporary rock group PRIDE OF LIONS and continuing to check into the Smooth Jazz realm from time to time with power packed instrumental romps like his latest single “Mission: Possible.” True to its title, the track rolls like a funky, jazzy and dancy take on the “Mission: Impossible” theme, with Peterik handling the guitars and keyboards in duet with the percussive, highly improvisational flute of 15-time Detroit Music Awards winner Alexander Zonjic. This dynamic track is an explosive expression by two masters at the top of their craft... Breezy with a punchy hook that will conjure up images of Tom Cruise jumping out of planes and scaling mega buildings. You can do it!
With one listen, you’ll step deeply into the alluring saxophone world of Shawn Raiford… he is the MAN WITH A HORN, playing it smoothly, brightly and with great conviction! This slickly produced and intensely melodic debut album fires up rich bass lines and hip-hop grooves, creating a proprietary blend of Smooth Jazz, pop, funk, soul and gospel for the Sacramento alto saxman. Raiford’s roots took form in a house of worship, where he played sax for the first time at his late grandmother’s 75-year church anniversary. While showcasing his highly spirited style and emotional range, this collection reflects many styles of musical inspirations, from the exhilarating Raiford-penned originals that the world will surely take notice of, to a select and fun handful of covers from Bruno Mars, DeBarge and Rihanna. MAN WITH A HORN from a man who has arrived.
Over her prolific past decade, one of Kim Scott’s greatest contributions to Smooth Jazz is, along with compatriots Althea Rene and Ragan Whiteside, helping bring the majestic, magical sounds of the flute back to the forefront. On the heels of the trio’s vibrant reimagining of “I’m Every Woman,” Scott follows her #1 Billboard album FREE TO BE with SHINE!, a beautifully diverse set showcasing her sensual, otherworldly melodic vibe throughout, with mood swings ranging from deliriously funky and whimsically tropical to meditative and romantic. True to the title, she simmers and blazes in the spotlight, sharing the SHINE! with a batch of genre all-stars including Greg Manning, Jonathan Butler, Adam Hawley, Blake Aaron, and Eric Essix to further illuminate many of these infectious tracks – including classics from Herbie Hancock and Kirk Franklin.
While the staggering number of 6 billion downloads and streams may be hard to fathom, Michael Silverman – the most streamed pianist on the planet - has made each a joyful experience over the past 15 years with his diverse array of stylistic excursions. Sure to add quickly to his total, his latest destination is “Clearwater,” a buoyant, melodically infectious, easy grooving romp blending Silverman’s lively elegance with Eric Marienthal’s always spirited sax. Joining forces with legendary bassist John Pattitucci, Silverman’s brother Rob on drums and percussionist Casey Adams, they have a sunswept blast that celebrates their initial meeting playing the Clearwater Jazz Holiday festival. This perfect Smooth Jazz cure for the winter blues is the second lead single from Silverman’s remotely created upcoming album IN THESE TIMES.
Named by her parents after the legendary Nina, Neika Simone’s name has been a self-fulfilling prophecy throughout her life as a singer and music educator who teaches chorus, voice and piano. Her perfectly titled EP BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS is a true revelation showcasing her powerful vocal range, dynamic expanse of emotions, an intoxicating rhythmic diversity as well as a hypnotic gift for intimate and inviting songwriting. In only four tracks, she brings us into numerous relatable stages of a relationship, offering insight and hard-won wisdom on the topics of learning and moving on from a bad situation, the complexities of infidelity, opening up and allowing oneself to be vulnerable to better love and visualizing the perfect romantic scenario – which for Simone came true when she married her husband!
Imagine the excitement you’d feel waking up on a “Chicago Morning” to a blast of joyfully optimistic, infectiously melodic funk and sunshine from Spontaneous Groovin’ Combustion. From start to finish, this energizing track by hitmaking ensemble SGC is another dynamic collaboration with fellow Smooth Jazz charting artist Blake Aaron, who co-wrote and produced it, sprinkling his exciting guitarisma throughout. Beyond the playful interactive dance between Aaron and the dual punch of leader, Warren A. Keller’s sax and flutes, there’s the extra sizzle of Tateng Katindig’s sparkling piano riffs, as well as cool mystical atmospheres and the ever-propulsive groove by Darryl Williams and Tony Moore. “Chicago Morning” is from the forthcoming album ALL’S WELL.
Originally formed in San Diego by keyboardist Jayson Tipp in the early 90s, versatile contemporary jazz fusion vets Under the Lake continue their extraordinary Renaissance of the past few years with the ensemble’s aptly titled OLD FRIENDS, NEW GROOVES. The wildly adventurous, perfect for a high-spirited road trip collection’s rapidly shifting vibes – from R&B to funk to blues to rock to Smooth Jazz – and colorful song titles combine to tell the group’s fascinating experience of living through and making a socially and geographically distanced recording during the pandemic. The old pals – including bassist Nathan Brown, drummer Richard Sellers, guitarist Patrick Yandall and saxophonist/flutist Quintin Gerard W – infuse the set with high octane solo action throughout. This one celebrates three decades of contemporary jazz at its finest!
Throughout his multi-faceted career, saxophonist D.S. Wilson has played and recorded rock, pop and blues, sometimes with Grammy-nominated artists and producers. On a dynamic roll since turning his creative juices towards funky Smooth Jazz in 2018, the vibrant recording artist has released two acclaimed albums and singles that have earned the praise of prominent radio programmers and Spotify playlist curators alike. On his latest, “Life With You,” the second single from his upcoming SKYLINE project, you’ll hear why… Showcasing funky grooves and soulful sax melody, along with deep, joyful emotion and crisp horn licks. Interestingly, the track originated from a song idea Wilson recorded on a hand-held Roland MIDI sequencer he recently rediscovered and developed into this compelling performance track with world-class supporting musicians. Keep an eye on this fast-rising sax star, we anticipate lots more to come!
Listening Loft : MUST HAVES
The website of veteran German keyboardist/composer Michael Quast – now recording as Amandus – says, “Believe in your dreams and they just might come true.” Twenty-five years after penning his first Smooth Jazz song, he manifests this perfectly, following his 2020 debut album SING A SONG with the Global Music Silver Medal winning EP GROOVE INFECTION. Vibing on several tunes with the fluid, crackling guitar of Uli Brodersen, Amandus brings his inventive synth and piano wizardry to a tight, ultra-soulful set that runs the emotional and rhythmic gamut from moody atmospheres and chill vibes to wildly funky and groove-filled in the pocket adventures.
Perfectly in line with its title and explosive cover art, the California contemporary jazz fusion group Axiom presents a dazzling, alternately sensual/slow burning and white hot/hard rocking array of stylistic excursions on STARBURST, their first album in over a decade. Led by the dynamic and expansive vision of brothers Pete (guitar) and Phil (drums/percussion) Templer. The band – which released its debut album in the 1980s – tackles pop/gospel, funk, R&B, Latin Jazz, Afro-jazz and progressive rock, complementing its infectious melodies with the trippy sonic textures Pete generates from synth modules on his guitar. The collection’s emotional centerpiece is The California Suite, a stunning, rhythmically varied four song movement that celebrates nature and its unique ebb and flow between wild fury and graceful peace.
Though veteran guitarist/composer Dr. Dave released two popular radio singles from his excellent 2014 album CAREFREE, the full project was never formally released. A few years later, he developed his dynamic ensemble of backing musicians into a bold, powerhouse unit known as The HouseCall Band. Fresh off multiple successful radio singles from their 2018 debut MIDNIGHT DAYDREAM, Dr. Dave & The HouseCall Band have created an explosive re-imagined version of the original collection titled CAREFREE REVISITED. It features a full-bodied horn section energy and flute elements that artfully enhance Dr. Dave’s colorful guitar solos. Complementing a freewheeling journey that includes everything from jazz and blues to calypso and the Beatles is a scat filled vocal twist on a Bobby McFerrin classic originally presented as an instrumental.
After decades of galvanizing the groove on tour and in the studio for Earth, Wind & Fire, The Crusaders, Bruce Hornsby, Al Jarreau, Steely Dan and Bette Midler, drummer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Sonny Emory is on one of the greatest creative rolls of his career. Following two ensemble projects (Cachet and Full Tilt) with an intensely grooving, rhythmically and stylistically eclectic and yes, spiritually-minded collection on SOUL ASCENSION – his first official solo album in over 15 years. Vibing gracefully, and most assuredly with funk and groove, this project features a killer crew including Ronnie Garrett (bass), Vance Taylor (keys) and Lenny Castro (percussion), as well as special guests the likes of Bob James, Patrice Rushen and Bobby Lyle! Emory does it all from infectious urban jazz to breezy Latin, spirited rhumba, trippy EWF-styled R&B/fusion and even a hypnotic tribute to Herbie Hancock.
You may never have heard of these three veteran musicians who make up the Funktastic Players, but once you check out the resumes of keyboardist and producer David Williams (who started his career producing rappers), bassist Kevin Croom and saxophonist Marcus H. Mitchell (Kim Waters, Peter White, Destiny’s Child), you’ll understand how they came together once again to create their irresistibly buoyant, 5th recording FULL CIRCLE. This collection features some of the tightest, tastiest, seductive, deep bottom funk grooves with a touch of hip-hop and Latin sizzle. The cover promises “jazz on the funky side” and these guys totally deliver with smooth, retro flavors!
A few years back, when veteran Grammy-nominated trumpeter Ron King first started working with guitarist and producer Paul Brown, the Smooth Jazz hitmaker put it bluntly to his new friend, “You need to write a hit song.” King, whose decades long resume includes Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra, Jeff Lorber and David Benoit, took the advice to heart and has been in solo artist overdrive ever since, releasing 6 singles from his 2020 album DOWNTOWN MAMA. King's latest single “Cascade” (the title track, from his upcoming album) is a silky, heartwarming ballad. A sultry and soulful romantic mood-setter with a slight touch of the blues featuring Paul Brown on guitar. King’s interaction with Brown’s trademark playing rolls like a dreamy, free-flowing harmonic conversation, complementing their world-class musicianship with dynamic riffing
Eight years after his album REBIRTH OF THE SMOOTH, saxophonist Dee Lucas’s bio page reminds us that like a fresh baptism of whimsical funk, he’s all about creating a “Rebirth of Smooth Jazz” every time out. On his latest single, he’s feeling some intense yet cool “Hot Ice” in the wake of his across the board #1 hit “Full Tilt” featuring Blake Aaron and a 2022 Soul Café Radio Indie Soul Awards nomination. The title may be a hipster oxymoron, but Lucas makes perfect infectious sense of it, creating ultra-melodic and rhythmic flow with co-writer and guitarist Adam Hawley, the wildly adventurous pianist Gino Rosaria and the tight, deep pocket low end of bassist Mel Brown and drummer Eric Valentine. It’s cool to the ear, but hot to the groove!
An incredible 45 years after releasing his epic debut album THE GENIE, and 33 years since his landmark Atlantic album IVORY DREAMS, Bobby Lyle reminds us on his latest collection that he’s still engaged and excited about being in the IVORY FLOW. The multi-talented pianist/keyboardist calls this gloriously crafted set “a reunion album,” with support from his equally legendary contemporary jazz pals Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, Najee, Marcus Miller, Marion Meadows, Nathan East, Everette Harp, Stanley Clarke, Kirk Whalum and Paul Jackson, Jr! This dream team takes fanciful spins through a riveting, expansive landscape infused with classic soul/funk, Latin-fired fusion, straight ahead jazz, solo piano blues and an elegant tune dedicated to Lyle’s son Tommy, who passed away in 2017 from diabetic complications. Step into the IVORY FLOW and feel the love.
While earning most of his acclaim (including praise from luminaries like Prince and Jill Scott) for numerous major label and independently released vocal albums over the past 25 years, Frank McComb – whose vast resume includes Prince, Frankie Beverly, Patrice Rushen and Lalah Hathaway – is also an incredible instrumental artist who made the Top 30 of Music Radar’s list of greatest keyboardists of all time. A perfect showcase for his melodic and improvisational wizardry on synth and piano, McComb’s well-titled single “Movin’ In Traffic” – from his forthcoming album A TRIBUTE TO THE MASTERS (REMASTERED EDITION) – is a rapturous, infectiously hypnotic tribute to Russell Ferrante (Yellowjackets) and the late great George Duke, with McComb effortlessly switching lead instruments to simulate a fanciful imagined duet between the two.
Truly one of the most prolific and stylistically wide-ranging artists to grace Smooth Jazz in recent years, saxophonist/flutist Paul Messina’s latest album BLUE FIRE – his remarkable seventh album (solo, dual or with his band Flashpoint) in seven years – balances fiery, robust fusion/funk energy with sleek and lyrical balladry as he showcases the heartfelt and high-octane possibilities of both lead instruments. Each track prominently features the sizzling electric and soulful acoustic guitar of Tommy Paez - and some have the spacey/trippy synth excursions of Grammy nominee Mike Bogle. The passionately performed set is also yet another beautiful chapter in the 35 years collaboration between Messina and bassist Mark R. Harris, which includes their acclaimed recent projects THE BIGGER PICTURE (2019) and RETURN TO SANITY, released earlier in 2021.
Always great to receive new music from recently viral, Canadian singer/songwriter Len Mizzoni. “Sad Songs,” from the 2019 BETTER DAYS album, has made the former member of the Juno Award winning band Frozen Ghost, an eternally hip social media sensation, with over 6 million streams in 121 countries thanks to its exposure on TikTok! Mizzoni’s latest album, the confident and self-affirming I KNOW WHO I AM, offers further evidence of his timelessness over the course of a generous 13 engaging songs. Driven by lovely melodies, passionate vocals and keen insights into the journeys and longings of the human heart. This collection takes us on an inspiring ride, blending thoughtful, intimate ballads with endlessly energetic pop rockin’ gems.
When he began his extraordinary string of single releases in early 2021, including "I've Got You Under My Skin," and punctuated by a Holiday EP, emerging hipster and jazz vocalist Art Morris said, “That’s what life is at my age: you wanna always dream.” A mere 77 when he said that - he’s now 78 and still overflowing with passion, power and, most of all, love. Not just love, but “L O V E,” his uber-romantic, high energy, brass-fired contemporary twist on the classic originally popularized by Nat King Cole. Morris' latest radio single has well over 100K Listens on Spotify! Continuing to help bring the youthful singer’s dreams to fruition is producer Brad Cox, who draws on his rep for cutting edge work with T-Pain, One Direction and Mindi Abair to create a boisterous sonic universe for Morris to jam in.
A prominent “next generation” member of The Petersons aka “Minnesota’s First Family of Music,” saxophonist and keyboardist, as well as singer/songwriter, Jason Peterson DeLaire built his rep touring and/or recording with the likes of Prince, Richard Marx, Oleta Adams and Michael Bolton before his recent emergence as an explosive force in Smooth Jazz. DeLaire’s multi-faceted five track EP AFTER HOURS showcases two distinct sides of his artistry. First, there’s his blistering funk sax vibe on the high-octane radio airplay chart hits he scored with veteran guitarist Chris Camozzi, with titles that collectively tell a story of a fun night on the town. He balances those with his sparkling magic as a singer/songwriter, including a universal love anthem featuring Adams, Jarrod Lawson and Rockie Robbins) and a gorgeous, romantic ballad. The good times happen AFTER HOURS!
A former “Tonight Show” bandmember who served as Stanley Clarke’s musical director for ten years, keyboardist composer Knick Smith™ brings a multi-faceted Joe Samplesque piano and keyboard vibe to ROMANCE, his dazzling and soulful, stylistically freewheeling Smooth Jazz debut album that follows several traditional jazz projects. Showcasing his fanciful, grooving originals and jazzing up Prince, and Barry White classics, Smith offers up the perfect fusion of lush sensuality, wildly grooving jams, innovative keyboard musings and sparkling improvisations. Along the way, he vibes passionately with several prominent guest artists, including vocalists Jeff Robinson and Lynne Fiddmont and famed percussionist Munyungo Jackson.
Having created studio magic throughout his multi-genre career with everyone from David Bowie, Barry White and DMC to 50 Cent, keyboardist/composer Tim Rouse perfectly embodies both his artist name (Sonix) and his nickname (“The Mad Scientist”). Having gotten his solo Smooth Jazz career off to an explosive start with “Easy Street” featuring Eric Marienthal – which was voted #1 on the Smoothjazz.com Listener Countdown Chart four weeks in a row – Sonix is back with the chill atmosphere and groove-driven single “Cloud9,” an infectious, sensual funk track that showcases his sparkling melodic piano and its exciting interaction with his otherworldly prowess, a George Duke-like fusion synth fire. True to its title, it’s a transcendent sonic experience that paves a bright path towards the upcoming release of his jazz funk debut LOVE CRUSADE.
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. The latest single, “Just A Feeling” rolls out just in time for summer!
If you love the flute, you can count on Alexander Zonjic’s PLAYING IT FORWARD as a musical silver lining to the COVID-19 lockdown. The multi-talented musician and popular Detroit media personality’s first album in over a decade takes us on an engaging, whimsical yet heartfelt journey that’s all at once lyrical and dreamy, tight and funky. The collection features mostly Jeff Lorber co-penned and produced originals with sparkling re-imaginings of classics by Bob James, Adele (via Aretha Franklin), Nat “King Cole” and others. Beyond, Zonjic’s tasteful blend of breezy melodies with virtuosic runs, the project gives Zonjic an opportunity to finally cover an influential Jethro Tull classic, and includes one of the last compositions and performances from guitar great Chuck Loeb.
Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS
Not long after releasing his 2019 debut album MELODENSITY, Atlanta based gospel, jazz and hip-hop influenced keyboardist composer Matthew A. Thomas and his wife went through a crazy, lifechanging time, becoming parents for the first time and purchasing their first home amidst the backdrop of the pandemic, social unrest, and political divisiveness. Thomas’s bright, hopeful, and deeply spiritual musical response to the frenetic whirlwind is CLOTHES & RIGHT MINDS, a groove intensive, often hypnotic batch of uplifting fashionable jams grounded in deep bass and trap/hip-hop rhythms, with soulful and spirited piano and synth melodies dancing joyfully above them.
In addition to an exciting and prolific recording career which has helped bring the violin back as a soulful expressive lead instrument in Smooth Jazz, Brooke Alford – who has recorded with genre greats Marcus Anderson and Bob Baldwin – is also a prominent educator who launched her newly renovated Violin and Viola Studies program during the pandemic. Her latest high spirited, free-flowing single “New Day” captures the energy and optimism of this spring and upcoming post-COVID summer perfectly. It flows from easy swaying and melodic, slightly bluesy verses into fresh, fiery choruses showcasing her amazing composing and string virtuosity. Encouraging, inspirational, fresh!
Producer, composer, keyboardist Phil Casagrande releases an irresistible version of the Barry White penned, Love Unlimited Orchestra hit “Love’s Theme.” Dedicated to his late brother and band mate, Phil says of his drumming sibling, “People really dug the song when we played it, and he was always smiling.” Casagrande received a Jazz degree from Westchester Conservatory of Music at the age of 25 and has had a vibrant career creating music for Starlite Records and Atlantic Records. From his own Casagrande Studios in New York, he continues to fashion his own smooth compositions and release powerfully lush versions of popular favorites.
One half of the hip-hop duo Grand Opus, composer/producer Centric has been on an intense multi-genre roll since 2017, with three full length albums and ten singles, now including the dreamy, atmospheric seduction “Always on My Mind.” Driven by super chill, laid back hipster grooves, Centric imparts a distinctive floating feeling from start to finish, finding the Smooth Jazz friendly sweet spot as a hybrid of classic neo soul, romantic free-flowing urban jazz vocals via special guest artist Kenya, and a dynamic, hypnotic rap interlude by T3, a founding member of legendary rap group Slum Village.
Considering composer/pianist Sergey Chipenko’s multi-faceted background as an Honored Artist and Professor Emeritus, 20-year leader of international Smooth Jazz ensemble Trans-Atlantic and prolific film and TV composer, the wild stylistic and rhythmic eclecticism and global consciousness of his new album KINDNESS makes perfect and natural sense. Working with musicians from the U.S., Denmark, Sweden, Israel, Germany, Peru and Australia, Chipenko complements infectious, in the pocket urban jazz jams with Dave Koz and Michael Lington with exotic world music, adventurous fusion, inspiring excursions with international vocalists and graceful touches of classical music.
Second generation Puerto Rican, percussion master, bandleader and composer Edgardo Cintron deliveries a savory new recording BON APPÉTIT, a full-length album featuring original Smooth Jazz and some of the artist’s favorite songs. Featured on the project, saxophonists Carl Cox and Andrew Neu, plus an A-List of world-class players. Mr. Cintron has performed and recorded with some of the world’s finest, including Jeff Lorber, Terence Blanchard, The Funk Brothers, Nick Colionne, Average White Band and many more. The fearsome musician will be releasing a tasty cookbook to go hand in hand with BON APPÉTIT, creating the perfect opportunity to play, prepare and partake!
Following in the grand gospel/jazz tradition of Smooth Jazz greats Kirk Whalum and Jonathan Butler, emerging artist, keyboardist and composer D.A. Scott finds a beautiful way to extend his longtime music ministry with his dreamy and passionate debut single “We As One.” Though the track is billed as “featuring saxophonist Donald Hayes,” it’s truly more of a lush duet, with the horn player’s soulful, increasingly emotional melody gliding over Scott’s meditative keys and elegant piano harmonies to create a powerful and inspiring, prayer-like effect. Reflecting the importance of love and unity, the track is the lead single from Scott’s upcoming debut album.
Despite the cool, mysterious title of Walter Duda’s moody and lyrical, easy-grooving and richly seductive new single “Invisible,” the pianist/composer has been anything but obscure over the years. Playing jazz in New York City and serving as a piano instructor at the New England Music Academy, Duda’s solo recordings offer lush, hypnotic melody and deep grooves. During a recent self-imposed creative exile, the pianist stayed at a friend’s estate, a remote castle in Connecticut, where he found solace and inspiration during Covid-19 downtime. Featuring artistry recorded in NYC, France and Hawaii, Duda brought “Invisible” to vibrant life with bassist Will Lee, guitarist Al Ferrante and the dynamic, highly improvisational sax of featured guest Marion Meadows.
Let’s look at Michigan based guitarist/composer and all-around musical dynamo John E. Lawrence by the numbers. A respected music educator and more recently, concert producer and promoter, he has published 16 guitar instruction books, released 4 DVDs, and recorded and produced 12 solo albums - including his latest, the explosive, ambitiously titled MASTERPIECE, VOL 1. He brings his powerful charisma and intense rhythmic energy to a slate of instantly infectious, funky yet silk-smooth gems that offer a variety of moods but never stray from his crisp, pinpoint perfect and emotionally resonant string tone. A journey ripe with hits and potential hits, it’s the perfect, all-purpose lifestyle soundtrack.
The name Everett B Walters may sound like a solo artist, but in truth it’s the clever moniker that Chicago bred brothers Michael Everett Brown (guitar) and Harold Walter Brown III (bass) came up with for their popular, infectiously grooving ensemble that’s been recording since the mid-2000s and headlining in Las Vegas for years. The Akademia Music Award winners score another victory with their latest, the perfectly titled, hard grooving EP, IT'S FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC. It’s a rambunctious free-flowing, horn-drenched Smooth Jazz jam fest driven by Harold’s snappy, buoyant rhythms and Michael’s elegant melodies and sparkling otherworldly improvisations.
Continuing a prolific roll with his fourth full length album since 2020, Louie Fitzgerald sets his intention for the deeply felt roller coaster of highs and lows on EMOTIONS with his personally hand-painted cover art imagery of a two-toned eye with the yellow and blue of the Ukranian flag with a prominent tear rolling down. Yet the haunting ballads and darker, hypnotic, underpinnings of some tunes tell only part of his story. Recently distressed by the loss of not one, but two of his brothers, Fitzgerald also offers bright musical rays of joy created to inspire a sense of hope and optimism amidst the storms of life.
Let’s hear it for one-word titles that perfectly the capture the mood of the music… Boom! Guitarist Slim Gambill makes his way from longtime sideman with the Grammy-winning Lady A to electrifying Smooth Jazz artist with intense melodicism and crackling 6-string energy. There’s only one way to follow the supreme optimism of his previous single, “Up” – with “Boom,” a festive and fiery, eminently buoyant, horn-fired jazz/blues romp that explodes with the kind of meaty jazz riffs only a guy also steeped in muscular rock and roll could tackle. Just when we think we’ve got him pegged, he throws in a little extra fire to his rhythm guitar that’s equally off the charts.
Two-time ‘Best Jazz Album of the Year’ nominees at the San Diego Music Awards, west coast contemporary jazz ensemble Ghost Jazz Trio, led by veteran guitarist, composer and producer James Morgan returns with their third collection, DREAMS ABOVE. Highlighted throughout with laidback grooves and world-class musicianship with saxophone provided by Andrew Nichols and melodic musings from piano prodigy Chase Pado in addition to the band’s rhythm section featuring bassist Nathan Brown and drummer Jack Nathan. The live studio recording (all musicians in the same room) fulfills Morgan’s longtime goal of combining tasteful jazz and classical symphonic strings in a Smooth Jazz format lending sophistication and excitement to the project’s overall relaxed vibes.
A true musical citizen of the world, French born, Barcelona based guitarist/composer Christopher Goze has lived in eight countries, played an integral role in the British TV industry and shared his ever-evolving, vibey, seductive and exotic/hypnotic melodic “jazzy lounge”/”Arabiant” style over the course of 12 albums, in addition to his collaborations with Café del Mar, Buddha Bar and Cirque du Soleil. The fact that he pairs with Marc Antoine on one track of his latest urban jazz/world fusion album SOUL TO SOUL makes perfect sense because Goze’s inviting, intricate acoustic energy weaves a similar cosmopolitan magic. Goze’s blend of this lush guitarisma with his trademark jazzy chilled sounds and atmospheres makes this an irresistible adventure.
Thus far, everything written about the mad sax virtuosity Justin Klunk is bringing to his developing career in Smooth Jazz makes mention of his best-known touring associations like Ariana Grande, Lindsey Stirling and Saint Motel. On the heels of "Dive," his impressive 2022 single, the wildly funky, ultra-melodic, horn drenched magic he brings to his perfectly titled latest release “Make It Real” ensures that the multi-talented saxman will soon be just as well known for a parade of infectious and impactful genre hits. The track is bright and bold, with easy flowing sensual verses that lead to a soaring, soulful chorus powered by the dynamic duality of sax and electric guitar.
A quarter century after Seal took his mystical funk version of “Fly Like An Eagle” to the Top Ten on Billboard’s Hot 100, veteran trumpeter Michael C. Lewis – whose vast performance resumé includes Hank Crawford, Gregory Porter, Patti Labelle and Kirk Whalum – creates the definitive instrumental version of Steve Miller’s 1976 classic. Discovering its bluesy roots, uncovering its gritty funk possibilities, and taking it to rarefied atmospheric levels, Lewis shines his bright, soaring tone over the groove intensive foundation of Gerald Trottman (piano), Freddie Fox (guitar), Poogie Bell (drums) and Cornelius Perry (bass) – then shifts cleverly to muted horn for the track’s improvisational solo.
Named for a sly, soulful and uplifting track penned with hope during the pandemic lockdown, Keith McKelley’s new EP DON’T GIVE UP finds the multi-talented, sweetly sensual yet intense and robust toned composer/saxophonist in trademark dynamic form as he serves up an diverse slate with everything from edgy, rockin’ funk jams to silky soul-jazz, atmospheric cool and a dreamy Sade re-imagining featuring vocalist Gussie Miller. As always, the versatile musician – whose resume includes David Foster and R&B greats Usher, Babyface and Mary J. Blige – keeps inspiring company, this time with Gregg Karukas and guitarist Tony Pulizzi!
From his early days with the 10-piece funk band Shock to touring and recording with Kenny G during Mr. G’s 1980s heyday, as well as numerous indie ensemble situations since, bassist Joe Plass brings lots of diverse experience, funky attitudes, and melodic intensity to his emergence in recent years as a Smooth Jazz solo artist. His latest single, the lively, playfully struttin’ and delightfully sunny jam “Coastline Drive” is driven by plucky bass licks and riffs, and is a true dazzling ensemble jam featuring equal melodic and improvisational time for Andy Warr (sax) and Barry Aiken (piano). This is top down, Smooth Jazz cruisin’ music!
At its divinely soulful, melodic, and easy grooving core, #1 Billboard Smooth Jazz charting group ThreeStyle is the Euro bred trio of Bavarian guitarist Robert Fertl and Czech-born twin Chovancova sisters, Magdalena (saxes, flutes) and Gabriela (drums). Yet as their latest sweetly sensual album BETTER DAYS showcases, each fresh batch of colorful R&B/urban jazz expressions reminds us that their incredible array of guest soul-centric vocalists is every bit apart of their uplifting, smooth and romantic vibe. This time out, the guest roster includes Damon Dae, DW3, Latonya Black, Tim Owens, and Ashley Sankey, while guitarist Elvis Stanic shines and crackles on the project’s funk-filled instrumental single. Don't miss the ThreeStyle Jazz Radio Show featuring Smooth Jazz favorites as well as tracks from their albums!
More than just a clever nickname, composer, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist Craig Samuels got his nickname “Thumper” while in utero because of his thumping responses to music his mom played or listened to. Many years, 14 albums and a nonstop array of awards later, the multi-talented visionary – under the moniker Thumper & Generation One - is still grooving mightily on his latest epic collection INSPIRATIONS 4 A BRIGHTER TOMORROW. Sharing a universal message of gratitude, hope and encouragement with our post pandemic world, Thumper entwines his smooth and funky rhythms with dazzling guitar melodies, dashes of brass sizzle and lush soundscapes and atmospheres.