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Listening Loft : HOTPICKS

Rebecca Angel - Life Love Choices
Rebecca Angel
Love Life ChoicesTimeless Grooves Records

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. 

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Marc Antoine - Something About Her
Marc Antoine
Something About HerShanachie Entertainment

Guitar Maestro Marc Antoine finds inspiration on his 25th wedding anniversary, delivering a musical love letter to his wife, Rebecca on his brand new album, the 2nd for Shanachie Entertainment, SOMETHING ABOUT HER. This life affirming celebration sizzles with dazzling melodies, dancing rhythms and exotic harmonies. The masterful jazz and classical guitarist is joined by many of his all-star friends including keyboardists David Benoit, Brian Simpson, Philippe Saisse and saxophonists Marion Meadows and Greg Vail, among others. The ten track musical journey is an invigorating collection of songs that showcase impeccable musicianship and a vast range of influences. The first single “Groovy Sunday,” has all the right ingredients for a perfect day. Antoine’s original features Philippe Saisse, saxophonist Marion Meadows and drummer Gorden Campbell. 

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Günter Asbeck
Günter Asbeck
EvolveHousemaster Records

After years of serving as a sideman for the Smooth Jazz elite (Kirk Whalum, Brian Culbertson, Gerald Albright, et al), versatile German bassist and vocalist Gunter Asbeck emerges as a compelling and eclectic singer/songwriter with his debut album EVOLVE. Though he cites his bass heroes as Marcus Miller and Nathan East, Asbeck eschews the concept of a bass heavy collection, choosing to keep his axe as a supporting rhythmic instrument on mostly vocal tunes that run the gamut from smooth romantic pop, and edgy, classic styled rockers to easy flowing urban jazz (on two songs with saxman Will Donato) and even country. One of the standout songs, a stunning inspirational ballad featuring Selina Albright, seems perfectly suited as a beacon of light in these challenging times.  

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Sylvia Bennett - This Love Is Real
Sylvia Bennett
This Love Is RealOut of Sight Music

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!

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Marius Billgobenson - The Spirit Love
Marius Billgobenson
The Spirit LoveMarius Billy

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. 

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Patrick Bradley - Exhale
Patrick Bradley
ExhalePatricks Song Factory

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.   

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New Day
Brettina
New Daysolo.to/brettina

After a year in quarantine, nothing says sunshine like the music of the islands – and no Smooth Jazz artist these days better captures that spirit of a NEW DAY than Brettina. The Nassau, Bahamas born singer releases her new EP and showcases her equal facility for dreamy, sensual romantic soul/jazz along with breezy vocalese and harmonies, danceable grooves and dynamic percussion patterns of her homeland – the latter vibe infused with folk acoustic guitar and vibrant steel pans! Brettina collaborated on this sexy, feel good project with multi-platinum Grammy nominated producer G’harah Degeddingseze. 

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Richard Brown - Stars In My Eyes
Richard Brown
Stars In My Eyesrichardbrown.us

Fans digging on Richard Brown’s sweetly whimsical, pop/rock influenced debut Smooth Jazz single “Stars in My Eyes” should count themselves grateful that the multi-talented musician switched early on from violin and guitar to mastering the flute these past 48 years! Inspired by an infatuation with another artist/dancer, it’s his breakout as a solo artist after years of leading Distilled Butter, one of Atlanta’s premier party and event bands specializing in R&B and contemporary jazz. The ultra-melodic song gets its easy flowing pocket groove from veteran Emmy Award winning bassist Tony Saunders, whose atmosphere rich production takes the track to the next level. Just as the song is breezing along, Distilled Butter’s guitarist Tremaine Young bursts in and rocks it with a sizzling solo leaving listeners with stars in their ears as well!

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Vann Burchfield - Keep Pressing On
Vann Burchfield
Keep Pressing OnVann Burchfield

Though Vann Burchfield will forever be known as the ambitious saxophonist who broke Kenny G’s record for circular breathing (over 47 minutes!), that shouldn’t overshadow the amazing reality that, he’s closing in on 15 years as a renowned Smooth Jazz artist. The title of his latest album KEEP PRESSING ON – which is thematically consistent with the names of most of the tracks - says it all about his intention to offer us sparkling and soulful, rhythmically eclectic musical encouragement and optimism as we press forward through this difficult, anxious time. His blend of sultry and lyrical ballads, tight mid-tempo groovers and supercharged jamming funk takes us on a whirlwind journey that inspires reflection on where we’ve been and reminds us to keep the faith. 

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Butch and Rhonda Coleman - Moment Of Your Time
Butch and Rhonda Coleman
Moment Of Your TimeJeremee Records

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.   

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San Gabriel 7 - Time To Stay
San Gabriel Seven
Time To StayJRL-SGS

Still blazing trails, grooving hard and firing up their trademark sizzling horns more than 15 years after their launch by trombonist and JPL Spacecraft engineer Jim Lewis, the San Gabriel Seven’s latest album TIME TO STAY offers a prime showcase for the brilliant singing and songwriting of Andrea Miller – one of SoCal’s busiest and well-traveled vocalists and a Top 5 finalist in the International Sarah Vaughan Jazz Competition. The ten romantic minded songs she brings to the collection come to alternately silky/sensual and punchy/explosive life via the six-piece rhythm section and four-piece horn section’s vibrant rendering of Dave Cushman’s bright, emotionally impactful arrangements. Miller and her versatile cohorts infuse the genre-hopping journey with adventurous funk, dance, strutting R&B, sensual soul-pop, tender balladry and gritty soul/rock. Produced by Chris Gordon.

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Alvin Garrett - The Lightness Of Love
Alvin Garrett
The Lightness Of Love HILL Entertainment

A true pioneer of inspirational soul, Alvin Garrett has written and arranged for Joe, Kelly Rowland, Fantasia, Johnny Gill and many others. Nearly a decade into his solo career, the Grammy nominated, Soul Train, Dove and Stellar Award-winning R&B singer-songwriter keeps the musical flow smooth and soulful on his new album THE LIGHTNESS OF LOVE. The captivating collection of original tunes showcases Garrett’s signature blend of Sam Cooke, Luther Vandross and Al Green inspired vocal magic with fresh contemporary beats and engaging lyrics. In recent years, Garrett has lent his array of talents to The Write Life, an innovative songwriting therapy program he teaches with The Dannon Project, using music to teach life management skills, effective communication and other tools to help sculpt a new future. 

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Gil - Sometimes A Man
Gil
Sometimes A Mangilsings.com

In an inspirational video clip Gil Johnson (known professionally as Gil) posted while he was making his down deep soulful, heartfelt and uber-romantic debut album SOMETIMES A MAN, the Detroit based vocalist - reflecting on his recent retirement from the car business after 30 years to pursue his musical dreams – offered a sage piece of advice: “Don’t let age be the reason you didn’t give that one thing you’re passionate about at least an effort.” Gil blazes these personal trails with a set of sweet soaring ballads and easy grooving mid-tempo gems – plus a super funky piano driven, guitar soaring instrumental – produced by David Lee Spradley, renowned for his work with everyone from George Clinton and Stevie Wonder to Roy Ayers and Earl Klugh.    

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Chazzy Green - Let's Go Home
Chazzy Green
Let's Go Homechazzygreen.net

On his first album in five years, “The Funky Sax Man” Charles “Chazzy” Green reconnects with his longtime pal and collaborator Ray Parker Jr., among other top line urban jazz sidemen, to create the richly emotional, alternately punchy/funky and blissfully sensual collection LET’S GO HOME – whose title is a wink towards the reality of remote recording this past year while in lockdown. While renowned for wide-ranging skills on alto and tenor, the Detroit bred, Howard University educated musician – who has played and toured throughout his career with the likes of Howard Hewett, Montell Jordan, Macy Gray and Bobby Womack - showcases on a few infectious tracks his equally sparkling flute skills – a callback to Green’s early classical training which also included clarinet. 

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GTF - 3AM
GTF
Watch Your StepGTF Music

Still producing their 3rd full length album WATCH YOUR STEP for a 2021 drop, the dynamic Bay Area jazz ensemble GTF release “Prayer For Linda,” their 3rd single from the highly anticipated recording. Delivered in a dream, composer John Cain crafted a musical message just as he heard it for his friend and concert producer Linda, the jazzy Samba soundscape features John Rekevics’ sax playing along with the signature GTF, stress-free vibe that includes vocalese and the compelling guitar work of Richard Livoni, along with a feel-good low end powered by drummer Ron Otis, percussionist Juan Escovedo and band co-founder/bassist George Franklin.  “Prayer For Linda” unfolds like a beautiful, musical poem delivering another radio ready, Smooth Jazz smash for George & Tracy Franklin (GTF).

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Wayne Gutshall - Spicy!
Wayne Gutshall
Spicy!Spicy Music LLC

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!

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Anders Holst - Endlessly
Anders Holst
EndlesslyUnheard of Music, LLC

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."

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Reza Khan - Imaginary Road
Reza Khan
Imaginary RoadPainted Media LLC

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.  

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Jeff Lorber Fusion - Space-Time
Jeff Lorber Fusion
Space-TimeShanachie Entertainment

Since the 2010 resurrection of the wildly funky, freewheeling and frequently improvisational ensemble concept of the Jeff Lorber Fusion, the keyboardist and crew – anchored by bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Gary Novak – have been on a roll that includes seven Billboard Top 5 Contemporary Jazz Albums and their first Grammy win in 2018 (PROTOTYPE). The title of Lorber’s latest melodic, Rhodes and piano driven blast and vibrant groove explosion SPACE-TIME harkens back to albums from both eras of the Fusion (GALAXIAN and GALAXY) - and all starry eyed , otherworldly adventure metaphors apply. Along for the mostly rollicking, yet at times odd metered or sensually tinged journey are all-stars from the expansive Lorberverse – including Hubert Laws, Paul Jackson, Jr., Michael Landau, Robben Ford, Bob Mintzer, Dave Mann, Gary Meek and Gerald Albright.  

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M'Lynn - You Should Know
M'Lynn
You Should KnowM'Lynn Music LLC

For jazz, soul, and pop influenced, sensual yet intensely emotional vocal powerhouse M’lynn, her 2019 single “T.F.I.L” is the gift that keeps on giving! Named both Best Pop Song and Best Singer-Songwriter Song by the Dallas Songwriter’s Association’s International Songwriting Contest, both its original version and the Nate Harisim vibey chill remix hit the SmoothJazz.com chart, the latter for more than half a year in 2020-21. On her latest release, the hypnotic, intimate and deeply heartfelt post breakup plea “You Should Know,” M’Lynn bares her soul ever-so-gently. The graduate of Bruce Hornsby’s Creative American Music program at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, soars passionately on this hypnotic track, mixed by Peet Project’s Peter Ferencz, the chill sonic atmospheres serve as a healing caress.

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Motown Moe - Living My Best Life
Motown Moe
Living My Best LifeWindee Records

It may sound funny for a guy nicknamed “Motown Moe” to work out of a studio in Chicago, but the keyboardist/composer and Air Force veteran is a Detroit cat through and through - a former member of United Steel Workers and United Auto Workers Unions who grew up on classic R&B and funky jazz fusion and cut his musical teeth in the Motor City. His prolific nearly 15-year career soars to new heights with his vibey new album LIVING MY BEST LIFE, which showcases his mastery of blending sensual moods with lively deep pocket and sometimes unconventional and exotic rhythm patterns, along with his bandleading prowess leading vibrant ensembles featuring the likes of Nils, Rick Stone, Tony Craddock Jr, Tony Guerrero, Ryan Svendson, Chris Campbell and Darron Cookie Moore.  

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Shawn Raiford - Man With A Horn
Shawn Raiford
Man With A HornShawn Raiford Sax Productions

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. 

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Tony Saunders - Sexy Somethin'
Tony Saunders
Sexy SomethinSan Francisco Records

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!

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Michael Silverman & Eric Marienthal - In These Times
Michael Silverman & Eric Marienthal
In These TimesAutumn Hill Records

A bright and hopeful dual burst of fluid, free-spirited piano and muscular sax energy that speaks to and captures the vibrancy of better days ahead, the single “In These Times” marks the dynamic first time pairing of veteran artists Michael Silverman (the most streamed pianist in the world) and stylistically diverse jazz great Eric Marienthal. Featuring James Lloyd (Pieces Of A Dream), Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets) and Michael’s brother, acclaimed drummer Rob Silverman, it’s the first single for the duo from their upcoming album of the same name. While Marienthal has thrived for decades in deep funk and explosive improvisation, Silverman gets into the urban groove after years of playing everything from new age/chill, solo piano and classical music to traditional jazz. He’s a master of them all!  

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Solex - Full Moon
Solex
Full Moonsolexmusic.com

A Minister of Music for over 25 years, versatile composer/keyboardist (and preacher’s son) Solomon Edmond (aka Solex) has also channeled all of his great gospel and funk spirit into a nearly 15-year career as a Smooth Jazz recording artist that includes two #1 UK hits! On his easy-flowing 8th album FULL MOON, Solex showcases his range of jazz skills as an artist and producer, offering an artful blend of gentle acoustic piano melodies with classic keyboards and fashionable production textures. While his infectious melodic and harmonic elements are front and center, he equally shines as a collaborator, featuring special guests on the project, including his cousin, gospel guitarist Jonathan Dubose, Jr., saxophonist Jason Gay and soul singer Tony (T-Mac) McLendon. We find it very easy to bask in this FULL MOON!

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Martin Trotman - Let's Begin
Martin Trotman
Let's BeginTrots Music

Martin Trotman has wowed ‘em at top venues in his native UK, worked with legendary Elton John guitarist Caleb Quaye and opened for Snarky Puppy and Nile Rodgers. Yet the multi-faceted composer, keyboardist and producer was so determined to become a solo artist on his own terms that he began playing in restaurants and hotels to fund the sessions that result now in LET’S BEGIN, his dazzling and adventurous, perfectly in the pocket debut. While drawing on the stirring energy of his gospel roots, Trotman stirs in vibrant, tightly grooving splashes of funk and jazz, dreamy atmospheric soul, sweet piano elegance and a lush showcase for his inviting lead vocals. Fans of Brian Culbertson and Oli Silk will find Trotman’s eclectic vibes and keyboard sparkle right up their alley.

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Under The Lake - Old Friends, New Grooves
Under The Lake
Old Friends, New GroovesMind in Overdrive, Inc.

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!

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Listening Loft : MUST HAVES

James Bowman III - Brighter Day Chapter 1
James Bowman III
A Brighter Day Chapter 1jB3 Music, LLC

A true “overcomer” who as a jazz and gospel musician has drummed for the likes of Brian McKnight, Mervyn Warren and Eric Essix, James Bowman III uses his other great gift – his silky, soothing crooner voice – to point us to better times ahead on BRIGHTER DAY, CHAPTER 1, an impactful, deeply spiritual EP which by its very title promises more to come. Drawing on his passions for both genres, he wrote these three tracks as thoughtful reflections in response to the sociopolitical divisions and illness in the world. Bowman’s choice to think and sing positivity offers hope and musical healing. 

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Dr. Dave and The Housecall Band - Midnight Daydream
Dr. Dave & The Housecall Band
Midnight DaydreamHatherill Records

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.

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JS Floyd - Check The Forecast
JS Floyd
Check The ForecastForecast Music

After highly distinguished separate careers that collectively included collaborations with Holland-Dozier-Holland, The Supremes, Force MD’s, Jon B., Al B. Sure and New York’s Black Rock Coalition, brothers Jonathan (guitar) and Stafford (keyboards) pool their melodic and rhythmic genius as JS Floyd. Their dazzling, stylistically expansive debut CHECK THE FORECAST blends tasty Smooth Jazz and funk with touches of everything from rap and hip-hop to jazz fusion, and includes a rousing twist on a Ramsey Lewis classic. Their success at spreading musical joy in so many ways truly makes the case for their desire to be known as “The New Distinguished Gentlemen of Smooth Jazz.”  Visit JSFTV for JS Floyd Music TV!

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James Saxsmo Gates - Stepping Out
James Saxsmo Gates
Stepping Out804 Jazz

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.

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Michael Haggins - Gift To The World
Michael Haggins
Gift To The WorldCuate Publishing

Veteran Southern California Bassist Michael Haggins returns with his latest single, “Gift to the World,” featuring a buoyant melody and playful strut! Haggins debuted some 17 years ago with DAYBREAK which continues to enjoy a successful life with the album’s title track tipping nearly 2,000,000 listens on Spotify, picking up popularity from prominent exposure on the NBC sitcom “Community” (featured on 12 episodes). With a knack for hooks, “Gift to the World” rolls out with confidence and style as Michael Haggins continues to thrive with his feel-good vibe and funk-driven Smooth Jazz grooves.

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Lowell Hopper - No Turning Back
Lowell Hopper
No Turning Backlowellhopper.com

One of Smooth Jazz’s most prolific artists and consistent chart-topping hitmakers, 20-year Air Force veteran Lowell Hopper has released an incredible 19 albums over the past quarter century. With a forward-leaning title that blissfully promises many more, his latest collection NO TURNING BACK is much more than feel good, deeply-grooving and joyfully melodic jazz. Offering some of his deepest, most compelling expressions ever, this is also a master class in fluid and intricate electric guitar lines and ambient/atmospheric musical mood setting that runs the emotional gamut between late night vibes and dance floor jams.

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Jazz Holdouts - April and May
Jazz Holdouts
April and MayPalm Beach Jazz

Following their 2018 album SUMMER NIGHTS, and an array of popular individual tracks these past few years, the all-star ensemble The Jazz Holdouts literally holds nothing back on their latest single "April And May." A sultry yet bold new tune, a hypnotic and exotica-tinged jazz vibe offering a seductive invitation to celebrate the burgeoning joys of spring. The free-flowing atmospheric coolness of the tune is driven by the creative sonic invention of veteran saxophonist Louis Cortelezzi and adventurous keyboardist Alan Palanker with dynamic rhythmic support by guitar great Michael Thompson and bassist John Siegler. 

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Ron King - Downtown Mama
Ron King
Downtown MamaKing Sounds Records

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! 

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Jawanza Kobie - Imagine That
Jawanza Kobie
Jazz ComposerJKM

Uniquely released as a standalone single concurrently with his long-awaited sophomore album JAZZ COMPOSER, Jawanza Kobie’s whimsical, high octane, super-funked, piano pleaser “Imagine That” marks the versatile Philly bred keyboardist, composer and arranger’s first collaboration with guitarist, producer and mega Smooth Jazz hitmaker Nils. As wildly melodic and infectious as the tune is, it’s just the tip of the iceberg artistically for Kobie, a prolific veteran sideman and film and TV composer who writes and records it all (often on the same collection!) – swing/traditional jazz, electric fusion, fiery blues, Latin and flamenco. Imagine that! Be sure to check out the entire album collection, as this jazz composer is essential for jazz aficionados! 

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Darron Cookie Moore - Let It Brew
Darron Cookie Moore
Let It Brewdarroncookiemoore.com

Wrapping up two dynamic decades of successful contemporary urban jazz indie releases, Detroit-raised bass wizard Darron “Cookie” Moore uses his vibrantly melodic and deeply rhythmic axe on his perfectly titled new album LET IT BREW to find that magical sweet spot between laid back atmospheric cool, sonically intoxicating light funk and high octane, densely percussive Latin and club-ready vibes. The multi-faceted artist - also a force in gospel, has played extensively in church and recorded praise and worship albums. Listen as he stirs up his feel-good, energetic grooves with longtime cohorts and friends, including LaDarrel Johnson (Saxappeal) and guitarist Joe Flav.     

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Nils - Caught In The Groove
Nils
Caught In The GrooveBaja/TSR Records

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. His latest single, "Above The Clouds," will continue to lift the hitmaker higher in the Smooth Jazz community. One listen and you too will be CAUGHT IN THE GROOVE!

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Peet Project - Ups and Downs
Peet Project
Ups & DownsBeagle Beat Records

The Bad Boys of Budapest are back! On their first album in three years, the five Hungarian musical dynamos who pool their wild musical magic as Peet Project under the direction of band leader (violinist/vocalist) Peter “Peet” Ferencz, make an intensely infectious impact with their trademark swirl of throbbing funk and easy grooving sensuality. Their multi-faceted vibe is driven by inventive synth magic, feisty horns, irresistible dance beats and old school R&B flavored vocal. Fully immersed now in the American Smooth Jazz scene, they vibe energetically with Paul Brown, Michael Lington and Marcus Anderson while also creating sizzling spotlights for trumpeter Ilya Serov and Hungarian violin legend Csaba Deseo

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Kenny Polson - Colors Of Brazil
Kenney Polson
Colors Of BrazilRosetta Records

Veteran jazz saxophonist Kenney Polson was born in Kansas City and lives in the Pacific Northwest, but the wild, bustling Carnival joy emanating from his horn and a sizzling array  of exotic grooves and international instruments on COLORS OF BRAZIL pay homage to the five formative years he spent living and performing in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio. Alternating between the rhythms of excitement and romantic, balmy bossa nova, Polson’s deeper global vision as a well-traveled musical citizen of the world includes stellar guest performances by guitarist Leni Stern, harpist Mariea Antoinette and koto greats Osamu Kitajima and Mitsuki Dazai. 

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Danny Rae - Enough For Me
Danny Rae
Enough For MeMaddy J Music

California songsmith and vocalist, Danny Rae celebrates the release of her full album ENOUGH FOR ME on February 19, a compelling collection of musical snapshots of life and love. Despite the age of the young troubadour, her personally penned songs drip of emotion and meaning that speaks to anyone who has braved relationships, self-awareness and healing. Produced by two-time Emmy winning bassist Tony Saunders, this soul-stirring, profound pop can’t help but dip its toe into contemporary jazz with exquisite musicianship and production values. With three previous charting singles, and the latest, “Too Many Sorries,” the highly anticipated album, ENOUGH FOR ME, surely will be enough for a short while before the world demands more Danny Rae!

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Jeffery Smith - Smooth Grooves, Vol. 2
Jeffery Smith
Smooth Grooves, Vol. 2Jeffery Smith Music

Now in his fourth decade of recording popular romantic, spirited, funky and fluid George Benson and Wes Montgomery-influenced guitar magic, Dallas based artist, composer, producer Jeffery Smith graces us with the cool, mostly laid back perfectly titled SMOOTH GROOVES, VOL. 2, the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2013 jam SMOOTH GROOVES, VOL. 1. While the strings and the groove dominate, Smith – who launched his career in the 80’ opening for R&B icons the likes of Lakeside, Midnight Star, Zapp & Roger, and Millie Jackson – is also an impressive balladeer whose silky vocal tracks beautifully complement his adventurous up-tempo, danceable tracks.   

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Knick Smith - Romance
Knick Smith
RomanceKnick Smith

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.

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Kevin Stevenson - Talk To Me
Kevin Stevenson
Talk To Mekevinstevensonmusic.com

Veteran NYC based drummer Kevin Stevenson keeps the vibe of his adopted hometown hoppin’ via the elegant and sparkling melody and spirited, strutting funk of “Talk to Me” – the follow up to his high energy debut Smooth Jazz single “Movin’.” Stevenson, who has worked on Broadway productions, in TV and film and shared stages with everyone from Take 6 to Marion Meadows, keeps the conversation flowing vibrantly with some of the city’s top veteran musicians - including pianist Matt Carvin, saxman Jordan Pettay (who carries the deeply infectious melody), bassist Kevin Ellis and guitarists Bill White and Phil Hamilton. 

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Noteworthy Band - Sweet Breeze
The Noteworthy Band
Sweet Breeze thenoteworthyband.com

With the release of “Sweet Breeze,” the infectiously soul-jazzy, slyly funky and steadily rockin’ debut single from Northern California’s The Noteworthy Band, we can confidently add another gem to the list of pandemic musical silver linings. Sidelined from their longtime gig as the house ensemble at the Napa Blue Note, legendary Smooth Jazz bassist Tony Saunders, keyboardist Greg Rahn, guitarist John Wheeler and drummer Steve Trovao got together for some socially distanced jamming and songwriting sessions  - which now leads them to bring their inimitable “surf to smooth” vibe to a wider Smooth Jazz audience. Full album in the works!

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The Sax Therapist - Sax Therapy for your Mind, Body & Soul
The Sax Therapist
Sax Therapy For Your Mind, Body & SoulZatjazz Records

Just in time to celebrate Mother’s Day – and perhaps a long-awaited complement to Horace Silver’s iconic jazz classic “Song for My Father” - veteran Chicago saxophonist Traysee J Leonard (aka The Sax Therapist) lifts all our spirits and celebrates moms everywhere, every day with “Song For My Mother,” a soaring, high octane, light funk single driven by Leonard’s singular  horn voice and sizzling horn textures. Collaborating with producer Chieli Minucci of Special EFX – who adds a powerhouse electric guitar solo – the jazz and gospel influenced artist also pays personal homage to his mother, who sadly passed away at an early age. 

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Markus Zahrl - A World Of Bliss
Markus Zahrl
A World Of Blissmarkuszahrl.com

On a roll since his multi-faceted 2020 EP CELTIC DANCE scored three Top Ten singles on SmoothJazz.com’s Listener Countdown Chart, Austrian saxophonist Markus Zahrl counters a troubled and anxiety filled world with a more hopeful, life celebrating vision – A WORLD OF BLISS – on his full-length debut. The well-traveled arranger, composer and music educator, who studied at the Conservatory of Vienna as well as Berklee, tones down the exotica and global vibes to focus on hard-hitting pocket funk grooves and all sorts of melodic sax madness and whimsy. Zahrl wraps with a stunning ballad that showcases his dreamy, romantic side.   

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Alexander Zonjic - Playing It Forward
Alexander Zonjic
Playing It ForwardHi-Falutin' Music

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.  

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Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS

Carol Albert - Stronger Now
Carol Albert
Stronger NowCAHARA

On her latest, perfectly titled album STRONGER NOW, pianist/composer Carol Albert takes us on a soaring, optimistic journey reflective of the own spiritual/emotional breakthroughs she has made in the wake of great personal loss. Written and recorded in the period after the sudden death of her husband, the deeply soulful, wondrously soaring collection – featuring elements of grand orchestration and five tracks produced by Paul Brown – reflects a buoyant spirit set free from pain after a time of intense personal struggle.  

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Be'Ne Music - Midnight Masala
Be'Ne Music
Midnight MasalaCozion Records

After putting his musical passions on hold to serve in the military as an Army medic and practical nurse, Washington DC native Benny Kyler – who goes by the hipster moniker Be’Ne  – promisingly launches his career with MIDNIGHT MASALA. It’s a supremely soulful, endlessly grooving, vocal-infused debut album that, true to its title reference to an Indian spice, offers a flavorful, cross-cultural experience that includes everything from urban and Smooth Jazz to R&B, deep funk, rap, African music and island vibes. Special guests include Eddic Baccus Jr. and Bernardo Bosisio.

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Zach Bridges - First Fruits
Zach Bridges
First FruitsZafacom Records

From the album name to the song titles, we intuit the spiritual Source of the deeply soulful, alternately meditative and playfully funky piano melodies on Zach Bridges’ engagingly infectious and seductive EP FIRST FRUITS. Drawing from his extensive background as a church organist, choir director and choir singer, the Brooklyn born, South Carolina raised composer/musician playfully infuses his breezy urban coolness with adventurous organ and synth runs and even some explosive jazz fusion guitar.   

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Brother Reggie - Undercover Brother
Brother Reggie
Undercover Brother Vol. 2: Just UsNo-Sweat Records

A beloved fixture on the DC Metro area scene for years, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Brother Reggie – who has performed with everyone from Angela Winbush to Jeffrey Osborne – follows his 2019 first volume of his unfolding UNDERCOVER BROTHER series with the equally inviting UNDERCOVER BROTHER VOL. 2: JUST US. Touching us with a silky caress of multi-generational soul, Brother Reggie graces us with warm, sensual re-imaginings of old school ballad jams by the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Floetry, Atlantic Starr, LTD, Ohio Players and Isley Brothers. One listen and you’ll discover why he is the UnderCover Boss of beautiful soul songs lost.

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Carmen Bruner - Carmen Bruner
Carmen Bruner
Carmen BrunerMosaic Music

Bred on gospel and drawing on those church and R&B influences to create a spirited and inviting soul/jazz style, emerging songwriter and vocal stylist Carmen Bruner offers a beautiful and inspiring philosophy that defines all she brings to her stylistically eclectic self-titled debut EP: “Music may be written in black and white but it reaches the soul in a different light.” The sensual, dusky voiced singer shares this vibrant light on a set that includes three romantic/inspirational originals and vibrant twists on familiar classics by Sting, Duke Ellington and Gershwin.    

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Evan Carydakis - Groove House
Evan Carydakis
Groove Houseevancarydakis.com.au

A quarter century after taking the stage for the first time as a saxophonist, Melbourne, Australia born, University of New England educated Evan Carydakis makes his first foray into Smooth Jazz with the perfectly titled debut EP GROOVE HOUSE, a fiery, funky, hard-edged yet ultra-melodic and at times balmy and exotic romp that celebrates his family in a variety of ways. Co-written and produced by Evan’s twin brother Stephan, the collection is an homage to the work ethic and selfless love of their parents, who made their successful careers possible. 

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Carol Duboc - Restless
Carol Duboc
RestlessGold Note Music, Inc.

Music veteran, Carol Duboc returns with her collaborative partner, Grammy-winning producer and keyboardist Jeff Lorber on her 9th release, RESTLESS. Lorber has been supporting the prolific songwriter’s ventures since her debut solo album DUBOC in 2002. The dynamic relationship reaches new creative heights, as RESTLESS is an extraordinary blend of killer old school vibes, sparkling solos and soulful vocals with compelling lyrical narratives. Featuring legendary flutist Herbert Laws, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr, and drummer Gary Novak. The best Duboc yet!

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Walter Duda - Up To You
Walter Duda
Up To YouWorld Alert Records

Developing a a dual career as a busy NYC jazz performer and piano instructor at the New England Music Academy, pianist Walter Duda has vibed over the last 20 years with many contemporary jazz legends as he’s swung from pop vocals and edgy fusion to Smooth Jazz. His latest single “Up to You” is a  soulfully delightful tune featuring the lush and inspiring duality of Duda’s piano and Don Harris’ flugelhorn riding high over the gentle grooves of bassist Will Lee.

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Billy Evans - Colorful Groove
Billy Evans
Colorful GrooveJanish Music

Growing up in the Pentacostal Church, veteran Richmond, VA based pianist, vocalist and composer Billy Evans was exposed to a wide array of rhythms, percussive sounds, vocal improvisations and piano styles – all of which he draws upon to fashion the perfectly titled Smooth Jazz collection, COLORFUL GROOVE, his first full-length recording in ten years. Featuring Evans’ dynamic musicianship and vocal coolness, the uplifting collection is all at once silky, funky, inspirational and romantic. 

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Sonny Fairley - Like Sonny
Sonny Fairley
Like Sonny7even Sounds Music Entertainment Group

A legendary force as a Bay Area music educator, mentor and program director for decades, well- traveled veteran saxophonist Sonny Fairley is so confident in his trademark groove and intensive vibe that he titled his album LIKE SONNY. Having opened for a wide range of Smooth Jazz and R&B greats, Fairley brings years of those inspirations to a spirited, melodically infectious new album, infused with free-spirited funk, heartfelt balladry, jazzy hip-hop cool, atmospheric soul-jazz as well as bits of flute and vibraphone whimsy… just like Sonny.

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Bernie Haithcock - Coming Out
Bernie Haithcock
Coming OutQ-Factor Entertainment

After finding success with several bands while stationed in Tampa, Air Force vet and composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Bernie Haithcock hightailed it to Fort Morgan Colorado, where he cultivated his vision to create a solo artist branding as Smooth Jazz/sophisticated funkster Q-Factor. His appropriately titled debut EP COMING OUT gathers five recently released singles (released under that name) that take us on a whirlwind, multi-faceted journey from  exotic and atmospheric chill vibes to explosive, horn drenched bass and sax driven fire inspired by the artist he considers his mentor, Brian Culbertson. 

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Chan Hall - Somethin' 2 Prove
Chan Hall
Somethin' 2 Provechanhalljazz.com

The title of Chan Hall’s new album SOMETHIN’ 2 PROVE is playfully ironic considering that the Richmond, VA keyboardist/composer’s previous albums have earned international acclaim as well as several Grammy nominations, and he’s shared his melodic and adventurous elegant funk vibes on stages with the likes of Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, Gerald Albright and Norman Brown. On the new collection, the multi-talented artist blends dreamy chill atmospheres, immersive R&B and edgy urban jazz with the sparkling assistance of guest artists, trumpeter Bill McGee and saxophonists Chris Sclafani, Tony Craddock, Jr. and Marcus Anderson.

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Tony Lindsay - Life Partner
Tony Lindsay
Life PartnerRecords DK

It’s doubtful that anyone will ever start a rave of a new Tony Lindsay single or album without mentioning his extraordinary 25 years, 11 Grammys and world tours as frontman for Santana. Yet that may ultimately become a glory-filled footnote if the multi-talented singer/songwriter keeps coming up with transcendent tracks like his latest single “Life Partner” – an exuberant, ultra-infectious romantic declaration he creates with the help of some high-octane, horn textures, a chorus of backing vocals and the funky sax punch of Tom Politzer, lead saxophonist for Tower Of Power. 

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Keith McKelley - Legend
Keith McKelley
Liquid Smoke2020 Keith McKelley

Nearly ten years after his last release, saxophonist Keith McKelley returns with a triumphant bang on the melodically tight, rhythmically and harmonically diverse and sonically inventive LIQUID SMOKE. A veteran sideman who’s played with Philip Bailey, Usher and Mary J. Blige among others, he surrounds his rollicking grooves and soulful horn leads with trippy old school synth textures and moody, mystical vibes and atmospheres. Helping bring his expansive vision to life are Adam Hawley and legends like Bob James, Larry Dunn, and Harvey Mason.

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Marcia Miget - iVision
Marcia Miget
I VisionMiraflores Music

Carlos Santana once said of veteran music educator and multi-instrumentalist Marcia Miget, “Her music reflects a strong, deep and honest commitment to life.” Truly embodying this praise, the multi-talented saxophonist, flutist and pianist – a onetime participant in NEA’s “Jazz Artists in Schools” program – engages Grammy nominated urban jazz producer Chris “Big Dog” Davis to helm I VISION a perfectly titled, high energy, genre-hopping set that throbs with groove and soars with grace as Miget hits on everything from Latin funk, gospel and trad jazz swing to R&B, blues and big band.  

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Nex Lev'l Band - Got My Top Down
Nex Lev'l Band
Got My Top DownNex Lev'l Band

If you’re a longtime fan of Pieces of a Dream, you’ll love GOT MY TOP DOWN, the fresh new album by Baltimore urban jazz outfit Nex Lev’l Band. Driven by the deep funk grooves of founder/drummer Morris "Pinky" Harris, also known as Mr. Pocket Himself and bassist Ernest Rahim. The vibrant, high octane opening title track ignites the stack with a dazzling melodic and improvisational piano flow by world-class pianist Dawoud Said. The project also features Pieces' saxophonist Eddie Baccus, Jr. The album has spun off several radio-friendly hits that have been played on stations around the world. Don't miss this smooth blend of upbeat contemporary jazz served with style and excitement!

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Paul Messina & Mark R. Harris - Return To Sanity
Paul Messina & Mark R. Harris
Return To SanityPaul Messina

No Smooth Jazz album title captures our hopeful collective mood these days better than RETURN TO SANITY, the dynamic follow-up to Bigger Picture, the first full on collaboration between musical compadres Paul Messina (sax, flutes) and Mark Harris (bass), who have been creating and producing music together for 35 years. The generous 13 track, nearly hourlong set rolls along seamlessly yet truly delights in its eclectic sensibilities, mood swinging heavily between robust, hard grooving, sax driven funk, balmy, lyrical tropical tinged excursions, and thoughtful, dreamy reflections.  

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Evelyn Rubio - Crossing Borders
Evelyn Rubio
Crossing BordersSoSouth

A powerhouse multi-talent and true musical citizen of the world, vocalist, songwriter, multi-saxophonist and onetime dancer and actor, Evelyn Rubio was born in Mexico City and has performed in the U.S., Canada and throughout Europe. Truly living up to the title of her latest album CROSSING BORDERS, her generous 15 track collection is a stylistically eclectic whirlwind that equally showcases her blistering bilingual brilliance as a blues rocker and her sultry and emotional magic as an emerging Smooth Jazz performer.   

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