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Listening Loft : HOTPICKS

Michael Alan - Distant Worlds
Michael Alan
Distant WorldsTerra Prime Records

Drawing from his diverse resume as a sound designer, mixing and mastering engineer, producer and gigging saxophonist in R&B, Rock, Jazz and Latin ensembles, Michael Alan’s debut DISTANT WORLDS is one of the most melodically compelling, stylistically eclectic Smooth Jazz albums of the year. While his tech skills translate to the dynamic use of synth, loops, keyboards and drum samples, Alan makes this a showcase for his alternately fiery and heartfelt sax playing, as well as his soulful, perfectly placed flute and EWI performances. Among the vibrant originals are a couple of irresistible covers and a sultry piece featuring Marie Veillard singing in French. You don’t have to travel to DISTANT WORLDS to enjoy the future of Smooth Jazz!  

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Carol Albert - Fly Away Butterfly
Carol Albert
Fly Away ButterflyCAHARA

After paving the way with a handful of popular radio singles over the past year, Billboard Artist, Carol Albert brings out a full array of rich jazz and global fusion artistry on her unique concept album FLY AWAY BUTTERFLY. The versatile Atlanta-based composer, keyboardist and vocalist takes the listener on deeply soulful, exotic journey that artfully blends spirited, jazzy piano melodies, dreamy vocals, punchy percussion textures and hypnotic ambiences featuring the soaring, inspirational twist on Al Jarreau’s classic song “One Way," a contemporary homage to one of her jazz heroes offering up the powerhouse saxophone of Sam Skelton. Her latest single, "Chasing Waterfalls" is a Carol Albert original, and sure to establish this formidable musician as a household name in Smooth Jazz. Get FLY AWAY BUTTERFLY and let your imagination journey to many beautiful destinations!

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Sylvia Bennett - I Wish You Love
Sylvia Bennett
I Wish You LoveOut of Sight Music

Because it’s all we need... because it’s the answer and because it never fails. These are only but a few of the reasons why our favorite songbird, Grammy nominated vocalist Sylvia Bennett, wishes us Love on her latest outing of recorded musical bliss! I WISH YOU LOVE is simmering to the brim with delicious contemporary musical treats. Dipping into her collection of favorites from the classic songs that she’s romanced over the years in several languages; this intentional album of love songs blazes a new trail for our tireless, crooning crusader... the lusciously arranged set by longtime producing partner, Hal S. Batt, is all in English and features some amazing special guests including the one and only bass master, Nathan East on an impeccable cover of “Its Impossible” and Chart-topping Smooth Jazz trumpeter Rick Braun on a highly enjoyable run of “C’est Si Bon,” or as we like to call it, “C’est Si Braun.” Really it’s all you need to get by. Love that is… and this wonderful assortment of love songs falls into that category as well. Find out for yourself!

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Patrick Bradley - Intangible
Patrick Bradley
IntangiblePatricks Song Factory

With the release of his bold and funky, in your face fourth album INTANGIBLE, composer and multi-keyboardist Patrick Bradley continues to thrive under the production guidance of musical kindred spirit and genre legend Jeff Lorber – who also helmed his previous two projects. Whether he’s jamming on piano and organ or going wild with spacey, way out synth improvisations, Bradley keeps the buoyant melodies and relentlessly energetic grooves flowing. The album’s deep sense of adventure and invention reflects the multi-talented artist’s desire to pay homage to recently departed musical greats like progressive rockers Keith Emerson, Chris Squire and Richard Wright and jazz legends George Duke and Joe Sample. Once you start listening, you won’t be able to let go of INTANGIBLE!

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Eric Darius - Dare 2 Dream
Eric Darius
Breakin' ThruSagiDarius Music

One of the most exciting recording artists and live performers that has ever crossed the threshold of Smooth Jazz, saxophonist Eric Darius breaks new ground by starting his own label (SagiDarius Music) for the release of his upcoming album BREAKIN’ THRU. The recently released first single, the Top 10, title track, “Breakin’ Thru,” featured his trademark high energy funk from start to finish, whereas his new single, “Dare 2 Dream” is more of an anthem that builds steadily using contemporary production influences that will motivate you to be your best self. Simmering and soaring sax are held down with hypnotic beats, and a killer melody and groove. The song promises to capture your imagination like dreams often do – taking hold and not letting go. Turn it up, and “Dare 2 Dream”!

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Gebert-Ulbert Project - Healing Hands
Gébert-Ulbert Project
Healing HandsArt Major Records

Growing up in Hungary, classically trained pianist Attila Gebert and guitarist Ferenc Ulbert were inspired by everyone from Eric Clapton to Joe Pass. In leading their four-piece ensemble the Gebert-Ulbert Project, they draw upon those influences and other adventurous retro-vibes like prog-rock and classic jazz fusion. HEALING HANDS, a live performance follow-up to their studio debut Happy Pills, is a high energy, freewheeling romp all over the stylistic map – sometimes within the same song! They bring elements of pop, rock, blues, and trippy synthesized music. Ulbert’s guitar dynamic ranges from dreamy jazz to Americana-oriented rock/blues, while vocalists Andras Ferency and Agnes Szasz add beautiful, subtle touches of soul. HEALING HANDS… an uplifting remedy to enriching your playlist.

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Euge Groove - Groove On
Euge Groove
Groove OnShanachie Entertainment

The perfect title for the unstoppable Euge Groove, GROOVE ON features the energetic sax star at his grooviest on 10 new tracks showcasing his trademark vibe on a set loaded with jazz/funk jams and soulful songs. While the title track is currently impacting radio with high velocity, there are plenty of tunes earmarked for further radio airplay success, including the special guest performances from Smooth Jazz star guitarist Peter White and chart-topping newcomer, vocalist Lindsey Webster. The exciting saxophonist and composer is a consistent best-seller in Smooth/Contemporary Jazz and Instrumental Music with a credit of more than a half a dozen #1 hits and oodles of Top 10s! Catch the Groove at a concert or festival near you, Euge is one of the most performing artists in the genre, nationally and internationally… Groove on!

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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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Vincent Ingala - Personal Touch
Vincent Ingala
Personal TouchShanachie Entertainment

Eight years after his hit debut album NORTH END SOUL, with three Billboard #1’s and eight Top Ten hits under his belt, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Vincent Ingala has evolved from teen sensation to bona fide genre star. True to its title, his Shanachie debut PERSONAL TOUCH takes us deeper into his wildly exciting musical world where the musical wunderkind plays every single instrument! It’s a joyful realm where deep grooving Latin tinged, Smooth Jazz and shimmering, buoyant pop & soul mingle playfully with classic 80’s R&B (on re-imaginings of hits by Billy Ocean and Alexander O’Neal), passionate romance, blazing funk/rock (showcasing his powerful electric guitar) and tight, old school horn-fired jams. At the ripe age of 25, Ingala continues to excite, inspire and conquer the world! 

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Jessy J - Live at Yoshi's
Jessy J - Live at Yoshi's
Live At Yoshi'sChangi Records LLC

Nothing brings out the deeper artistry of a favorite performer like a live concert, and saxophonist/vocalist Jessy J keeps the soul, spice, grooves, improvisations and colorful vibes flowing throughout  LIVE AT YOSHI’S - an exciting way to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of her #1 debut album TEQUILA MOON. Drawing from her array of Latin, Brazilian, Smooth Jazz and R&B/pop influenced array of radio hits, Jessy brings imaginative new dynamics, fresh sizzle and expanded jamming to these songs we love. It’s a blast hearing her spirited interactions with longtime band members Iajhi Hampton (drums), Frank Abraham (bass) and Michael Angel (guitar), but guest keyboardist Jay Rowe steals the show with his old school harmonies and solos. Jessy also includes live and studio versions of her band new single, “All I Want.”   

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Jarez - Blow Your Mind
Jarez
Blow Your MindJ Star Entertainment

The title of saxophonist Jarez’s debut TO THE TOP, proved prophetic a few years later when he became a Smooth Jazz chart sensation with his mix of sensuality and soulful funk-fire. The innovative artist, who cut his musical teeth for years recording, touring and handling business affairs for rap great Coolio, takes his super blend of urban jazz and hip-hop to the next level with BLOW YOUR MIND. The mix of high-energy dance floor jams and late night romances (one featuring the lush vocals of Selina Albright) showcases his sonic mastery as he fuses contemporary jazz and adventurous electronica textures. The title BLOW YOUR MIND tells you everything that’s gonna to happen when you hit play on his best album to date!

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Kathy Kosins - Uncovered Soul
Kathy Kosins
Uncovered SoulMaristar Records

Former first call session singer Kathy Kosins enters her third decade as a recording artist with UNCOVERED SOUL, a fascinating concept album driven by the sounds of the musical landscape of her hometown of Detroit in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Working with producer Kamau Kenyatta, who won a Grammy for his work with Gregory Porter, the sultry-voiced Kosins mines deep emotional territory as she shares rarely heard tunes by songwriting legends Curtis Mayfield, Gene McDaniels, Bill Withers, The Neville Brothers, Burt Bacharach and contemporary great Amos Lee. There are also three original songs that carry on the great R&B legacy of that time. The perfect balance of jazz and soul, from one of the most creative souls on the planet. 

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Jaee Logan - Sun Rider
Jaee Logan
Sun RiderLounge Renown Records

A renowned artist, producer, songwriter, vocal coach, session musician and performer, the multi-talented Jaee Logan brings a lifetime of musical joy to his emergence as a Smooth Jazz artist. In addition to selling over 30 million records worldwide, he has worked with everyone from Sheila E, Pebbles and Club Nouveau to Rosie Gaines, Digital Underground and Bobby Brown. The project's first single, "Morning," features special album guest, legendary Earth, Wind & Fire founder, Verdine White. While the album's latest single, "Treasure," is an uplifting, Smooth Jazz treasure with sweet vocals and a positive vibe promising to enchant music fans around the world. Jaee Logan's SUN RIDER turns up the brightness in today's Smooth music mix!

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Sylver Logan Sharp - The Groovement
Sylver Logan Sharp
The GroovementRedhead Productions, Inc.

An extraordinarily soulful and expressive vocalist best known as the voice of Chic for her 20 years of touring and recording with Nile Rodgers’ funk/disco band, Sylver Logan Sharp brings a deep musical history and a supremely eclectic vibe to her contemporary jazz debut THE GROOVEMENT. Recorded live in Stockholm, the collection features a playful mix of dance/funk, dreamy R&B, rock, pop and jazz. While her emotional original ballads and edgy pop tunes are compelling, listeners will also discover fresh depth in the lyrics and melodies of a generous handful of classic hits that Sharp magnificently re-imagines, such as her first Smooth Jazz single, Christopher Cross' "Sailing." When she’s not singing, Sharp designs her own line of custom jewelry called Sylverwear, which has many celebrity clients. Likewise, THE GROOVEMENT is loaded with musical jewels every  listener will be dazzled by.

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Marion Meadows - Soul City
Marion Meadows
Soul CityShanachie Entertainment

A true Smooth Jazz icon with 13 hit albums since the early 90s, saxophonist Marion Meadows continues to find fresh avenues to express his core soprano sound. SOUL CITY, co-produced by Chris "Big Dog" Davis, is more than another great collection of potential hits – it’s a place where legends gather with up and comers to create an ultra-vibey, gently intimate yet powerfully rhythmic flow with delectable touches of Latin and Brazilian exotica. In addition to inviting fellow genre greats Peter White and Norman Brown to the mix, Meadows enjoys working off the vocal genius of veteran R&B legends (Peabo Bryson, Will Downing, Maysa) and incredible emerging singers Latrese Bush, Will Gaines, Kim Fleming, Dana Lauren. Hawaiian guitarist Kaimi Hananoeau also makes a memorable appearance. Make SOUL CITY your next urban jazz destination!      

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Nils - Play
Nils
PlayBaja/TSR Records

Longtime fans of guitarist extraordinaire Nils know that his soulful and infectious new album PLAY is not his first with the word in the title. Back in 2007, a few years after his breakthrough hit “Pacific Coast Highway,” he was READY TO PLAY. This ongoing theme is centered around the dynamic sound of the custom guitar Nils has played on all his works. Hook after hook, groove after groove, that guitar delivers fresh, imaginative excitement on both the party jams and lush ballads. In addition to his core band, Nils continues his exciting collaborations with vocalist, keyboardist and trumpeter Johnny Britt, who brings cool elements like Rhodes, trumpet solos and horn sections to the mix. Don’t say we didn’t warn you – Nils comes to PLAY!

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Lawson Rollins - Airwaves
Lawson Rollins
Airwaves: The Greatest HitsInfinita Records

On his 18-track compilation AIRWAVES: THE GREATEST HITS, classically trained, globally ever-curious composer/guitarist Lawson Rollins takes a look back at his extraordinary decade of hit making since leaving Young & Rollins, the popular genre-busting Latin fusion duo that launched his career. Artfully blending rich acoustic virtuosity with lively, infectious melodic romps, Rollins’ musical journey incorporates textures and rhythms from all over the world – making this album a transcendent, multi-cultural excursion. Fans who own previous Rollins albums are treated to special radio edits featuring exclusive, previously unavailable performances (including a track with flutist Praful) and two bonus tracks - including an electric funk duet with urban fusion group 3rd Force. Tune your ears to AIRWAVES for a whole new perspective on the brilliance of Lawson Rollins!

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Alice Soyer - Sky On Earth
Alice Soyer
Sky On EarthPhlip Side Record

The remarkable French singer, composer and pianist Alice Soyer may be new to Smooth Jazz audiences, but two legends of the genre – Bob James and David Sanborn – help her make a seamless, sensual and soulful arrival on her English language debut SKY ON EARTH. A few years ago, James loved her French song “Geste Humain” and chose to record an instrumental version with Sanborn on their dual album Quartette Humaine. The famed musicians put their familiar stamps on a few songs, but the focus is on Soyer’s exquisitely expressive vocals on a mix of vibrant up-tempo originals and lush ballads influenced by her background as a classical pianist and love for jazz and pop. Listening to SKY ON EARTH will make your heart soar!

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Tinkr's Classy, Greasy, Jazzy, Funky, Ole Azz Booga Band - Blended
Tinkr's Classy, Greasy, Jazzy, Funky, Ole Azz Booga Band
BlendedKeep On Smilin' Production, LLC

When Jan Gaye, Marvin’s widow, heard Tinkr Barfield’s gritty, rockin’ gospel-jazz rendition of one of the Motown legend’s classics, she said, “Job well done, Tinkr Barfield.” Pop, funk and urban jazz fans everywhere will heap that kind of praise for the whole set list that Luther Vandross’ former bassist puts together on BLENDED, the eminently funky, richly eclectic debut from Tinkr’s Classy, Greasy, Jazzy, Funky, Ole Azz Booga Band. Working Quincy Jones-style with a massive all-star cast of studio and touring musicians and singers, Tinkr embodies all those adjectives and more (symphonic, brassy, electronica-based, etc.) on a mix of vibrant, rhythmically diverse originals and sly re-imaginings of classics by Dave Brubeck, The Beatles and Rogers & Hammerstein. True to its title, BLENDED’s got something for everyone’s classy, greasy, jazzy, funky, ole azz booga musical fantasies.

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Paul Tuvman - Riding The Jetstream
Paul Tuvman
Riding The JetstreamPaulTuvman.com

A longtime pilot for Delta Airlines, pianist and composer Paul Tuvman received an overwhelming response to his 2015 debut album, MUSICALLY SPEAKING, which was put on the In Flight entertainment system and pretty much launched Paul’s Smooth Jazz career. The title of his latest, RIDING THE JETSTREAM, is not only a nod to his day job, but an emotional guide to the freewheeling journey ahead. Working with producer Rick Braun (who plays trumpet on two songs) and guests Michael Lington and Pat Kelley, Tuvman alternately caresses and pounds the ivories as he eases effortlessly between lighthearted traditional jazz swing, energetic R&B/funk, lush ballads and ventures into Irish music and Brazilian samba. Time to get on board, buckle up and start RIDING THE JETSTREAM!

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Under The Lake - Jazz, Groove & Attitude
Under The Lake
Jazz, Groove & AttitudeMind in Overdrive

When keyboardist Jayson Tipp formed Under The Lake in the early 90s, the explosive dual horn (trombone and sax) R&B/contemporary jazz ensemble earned favorable comparisons to The Crusaders Spyro Gyra and Steely Dan. Outside commitments broke the band’s momentum several times, but in 2014, Tipp gathered the troops again and began putting together the perfectly titled JAZZ, GROOVE AND ATTITUDE, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of their first album. UTL, led by Tipp’s alternately intense and subtle Fender Rhodes and organ, has that Crusaders-esque retro soul-jazz undercurrent in full effect. Trombonist John Moak and tenor saxman David Evans blend seamlessly as they ease from laid back to burning funk grooves. The concoction that Under The Lake mixes up here is an inspired blend of JAZZ, GROOVE & ATTITUDE that goes down with a smooth sophistication!

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Waldino - Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Waldino
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something BlueWaldinoMusic.com

If some of this collection sounds hauntingly familiar to you, that’s because the medical doctor turned song craftsman, Walter Liskiewicz, known and loved around the world as Waldino, has reworked, remixed, and reimagined some of his previous tunes on SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE. In addition, the project offers up some new, compelling grooves for a fresh serving of electro-instrumentals stylized with alluring vocals and inspiring arrangements. This super cool, musical appetizer will get you in the mood for an all new, inspired Waldino offering later in 2018. In the meantime, enjoy the clever and color coordinated new collection from one of our most creative composers!

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Lindsey Webster - Love Inside
Lindsey Webster
Love InsideShanachie Entertainment

The first vocalist to score a #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart since Sade, Lindsey Webster extends an intimate invitation to understand the many facets of human love on her expansive, masterful new album LOVE INSIDE. With twelve sultry, easy flowing originals that run the stylistic gamut from R&B and jazz to pop and gentle Latin rhythms, the sensual, ethereal-voiced singer expresses her overarching theme about realizing the power that each of us possess as individuals. With an overall sense of uplift and encouragement, she ponders the many emotional trails of romantic love while also exploring socially conscious themes related to a deeper, abiding universal love. Special guests on this project include Rick Braun and Norman Brown. One listen to Webster's breakout album, and you too will be inspired to hit play again and keep the connection flowing!

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Listening Loft : MUST HAVES

Herb Alpert - What a Wonderful World
Herb Alpert
What A Wonderful WorldHerb Alpert Presents

In this challenging era for our planet, legendary 9-time Grammy winning trumpet legend Herb Alpert offers a timely and uplifting reminder: “What a Wonderful World” it would be if we would only give it a chance. His fresh and progressive, international re-imagining of the Louis Armstrong classic breezes along amiably with exotic guitar, flute and steel pans as a full orchestra sweeps it into another direction filled with a hooky vocal chorus. Adding to the message that the world can be improved through positivity, kindness and love are the voices of children and a reminder from Armstrong himself that it’s all about “love, baby, love.”

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Mariea Antoinette - Overture
Mariea Antoinette
OvertureMaasai

On “Overture,” the euphoric lead single from the upcoming full-length follow-up to her 2015 hit album STRAIGHT FROM THE HARP, classically trained, jazz/R&B influenced harp master Mariea Antoinette, continues her mission to stretch and abolish musical boundaries. The veteran performer, a staple of the all-female Jazz in Pink touring collective since 2007, created the soaring and dramatic track with a 9-piece string section, 3-piece horn section and a hard driving rhythm track created by two time Grammy nominated producer Alan Phillips, co-writer of the track with Antoinette. This powerful “Overture” will surely motivate you to stick around for what’s to come from this powerhouse!

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Dr. Keith Banton - Healing Touch
Dr. Keith Banton
Healing TouchIndependent

Returning to his first love, music, after years as a successful physician, Panama City, Florida-based keyboardist/composer, Dr. Keith Banton, joins forces with well-known producer, multi-instrumentalist and recording artist Lowell Hopper for his debut album HEALING TOUCH. Banton serves up his deeply melodic gifts with pop, R&B and jazz sensibilities, a beautiful light touch on the keys and a penchant for easy, laid-back grooves. Helping add emotional dimension to Banton’s rich compositions are Hopper’s crisp electric guitar and the silky soprano saxes of Luke Pinegar and Chris Godber. This M.D. definitely has the HEALING TOUCH!

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Dan Beck Band - All the Fish are Hoppin'
Dan Beck Band
All the Fish are Hoppin'Independent

The Salinas, California based Dan Beck Band is so fresh, swinging and soulful that they came up with a song, “Jahbluzion Confusion," on their debut album ALL THE FISH ARE HOPPIN’ to shed light on this unique blue jazz sound. The group’s colorful, organic sound is grounded in the breezy, Wes Montgomery influenced guitar stylings and the clever storytelling magic of Beck, who quit his corporate job to pursue his passion for music. Beck shares his thoughts on everything from childhood joy to relationships and world events. Straight from the land of Nobel Prize winning author, John Steinbeck, Beck's ALL THE FISH ARE HOPPIN’, where every song is a story and every story is a song!

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Eban Brown - Summertime in Tokyo
Eban Brown
Summertime in TokyoStardom Records, LLC

In his stints with classic R&B groups, The Manhattans, The Sylistics, The Delfonics, as well as others, Eban Brown’s sparkling electric guitar work often took a backseat to his great vocal talent. As on his previous solo recordings, Brown’s silky, light funk driven new album SUMMERTIME IN TOKYO showcases his crisp, buoyant electric melodies while featuring fresh and engaging vocal textures. He compliments the collection’s well-rendered cover tunes with a batch of dynamic originals, including a thoughtful George Duke tribute on which Brown approximates Duke’s high register vocals. SUMMERTIME IN TOKYO will warm up the entire year!

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Josi Davis - Love/Rain
Josi Davis
Love/RainIndependent

On her new EP, LOVE/RAIN, New England-based vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Josi Davis creates an extraordinary, stylistically diverse set infused with life’s deepest pains and joys amidst tracks colored with old school R&B, soulful jazz and tropical/Brazilian flavors. Arranged and produced by Louis Anthony deLise, the project was recorded during a challenging time in Davis’ life as she came to terms with a loved one’s addictions. Tapping into those emotions, she shares her deepest truths with a vibrant mix of theatricality and gentle vulnerability. Pure beauty from start to finish, Davis offers insight into life’s many ups and downs on the perfectly titled LOVE/RAIN. 

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Dr. Dave and The Housecall Band - Midnight Daydream
Dr. Dave and 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. The collection’s first single, the sensual, old school R&B-vibin’ “Sexy Cindy,” was named for Cindy Sanchez Medina, Miss Santander, Colombia 2018.

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Fay Gauthier - Shame
Fay Gauthier
ShameFayGauthier.com

Last year, multi-talented singer/songwriter Fay Gauthier stunned everyone with the eclectic excitement of her album FIREHEAD, which incorporated soul, blues, rock, funk, pop, jazz and rap as a means to convey a powerful journey to self-acceptance. On her infectious follow-up single “Shame,” she shifts her focus outward to create an edgy, socially conscious power-pop anthem for our time. Over a lively, grooving foundation and hypnotic production textures, she reflects on how our “us vs. them, my needs over yours” mentality has taken us down the wrong road – and looks forward to a time when we will once again embrace our common humanity. 

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GTF - Cross Paths
GTF
Cross PathsGTF Music

A decade after first dazzling the Smooth Jazz world with their combined talents on the hit debut ALWAYS… Bay Area married couple George and Tracy Franklin – collectively known as GTF - are back with CROSS PATHS, leading their powerhouse ensemble on an intoxicating mix of soul-sensual ballads and tight urban jazz with an edgy funk twist. Though keyboardist Bob James and percussionist Juan Escovedo (of the legendary Escovedo family) lend their exuberance, the deeper joys emerge from George’s lush lead and wordless vocals, Tracy’s background vocals and the explosive energy of band members John Rekevics, Richard “Blitz” Livoni and John Cain. 

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Lowell Hopper - Forward Motion
Lowell Hopper
Forward MotionLowell Hopper

A master at subtle shifts in mood, easygoing R&B/Smooth Jazz grooves and creating silky melodic magic via the crisp, subtle tones of his electric guitar, Lowell Hopper caps 25 years as a recording artist with a generous, rhythmically varied 13-track set that truly embodies its title, FORWARD MOTION. The Florida based recording artist began producing his own music during his 20-year career in the Air Force, where he perfected the art of playing infectious melodies by performing and collaborating with jazz artists in Germany, Panama Canal and Florida. Hopper’s exuberant optimism shines through on FORWARD MOTION!

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Jonify - Soul Vacation
Jonify
Soul VacationIndependent

The eclectic Swedish composer and keyboardist behind SOUL VACATION chose his “Jonify” moniker as a way to unite his many musical emotions, including his classical roots and passions for easy flowing pop-jazz, funk and R&B. Blending lush, melodic piano with a variety of explosive keyboard sounds, the album celebrates a multitude of exciting vibes, taking us from the dreamy realms of his Scandinavian home to the tropics and into blissful blues and jazz fusion territory. His multitude of American influences include Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Jeff Lorber come shining through. Isn’t it time you took a SOUL VACATION?

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The Manhattan Transfer - The Junction
The Manhattan Transfer
The JunctionBMG

If you’ve been along for the full ride, you know that The Manhattan Transfer is the first group to win Grammys in both pop and jazz categories in 1981. Four years later, their album VOCALESE received 12 Grammy nominations, making it second only to Michael Jackson's THRILLER as the most nominated individual album. This sonically brilliant and innovative new collection, THE JUNCTION, produced by 5-time, Grammy winner Mervyn Warren, meets The Transfer 4 ½ decades in, celebrating musical legacy with fresh ideas and modern modalities! Inspired by their 1975 version of Glen Miller’s “Tuxedo Junction,” THE JUNCTION peels off the starting line with a mega amount of fashionable production. Ranging from creative covers with inventive customization, as heard on “Cantaloop (Flip Out)” and “Tequila / The Way Of The Booze,” to relevant originals that touch down on fictional characters (“Blues For Harry Bosch”) and characters that we wish were fictional (“Ugly Man”). The foursome, comprised of Janis Siegel (alto), Alan Paul (tenor), Cheryl Bentyne (soprano), and Trist Curless (bass) who replaces founder, the late Tim Hauser, arrives in a time when the world needs them more than ever! ALL aboard!

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Leon Neal - We Dance At Midnight
Leon Neal
We Dance At MidnightNealsight Records LLC

Still swinging soulfully thirty years after launching his label Nealsight Records, pop, jazz and R&B influenced guitarist Leon Neal is still going strong with this new rhythmically romantic and funk-infused release, WE DANCE AT MIDNIGHT. Building on his already impressive international acclaim from radio stations, DJs and reviewers around the world, from Japan and the UK to Argentina, the multi-faceted musician enhances his seductive, mood setting, Wes Montgomery/Grant Green influenced vibe with rich, self-created production vibe including bass, drums, strings and special effects. Neal complements his groove intensive originals with fresh re-imaginings of classics by The Isley Brothers, Michael Jackson and Chick Corea. 

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Kenney Polson - Love On A Two Way Street
Kenney Polson
Love On A Two Way StreetProdigee

On the follow-up single to his debut album PARADISE VOL. 1, saxophonist Kenney Polson takes us down old school memory lane with a fresh, improvisation-rich, contemporary urban jazz re-imagining of The Moments’ 1970 #1 R&B classic “Love on a Two Way Street.” Driven by spirited mid-tempo grooves and buoyed by a simmering horn section throughout, the versatile musician and educator – who has performed, lectured and given educational clinics in over 50 countries - creates an irresistible blend of warm-hearted nostalgia and in-the-moment emotional poignancy. 

Brenda Reynolds - Hold On To Love
Brenda Reynolds
Hold On To LoveChameleon Entertainment

A versatile singer equally comfortable in pop, dance and jazz, power house vocalist Brenda Reynolds once held court as one of the two female singers in the disco/funk/soul band Positive Force, which was signed to Sugarhill Records and scored big on the UK dance scene. After taking time away from music to raise her two daughters, she re-energizes her career with this masterful, multi-genre collection HOLD ON TO LOVE. Vibing with veteran Smooth Jazz pianist, composer and producer, Bob Baldwin at the helm. Reynolds radiates love, joy and romantic passion whether she’s surrounded by powerful synths and deep dance floor grooves, mid-tempo pop funk (as on the inclusion of five re-workings of Postive Force’s well-known hit “We Got The Funk”) or a gentler flow geared towards late night seduction. Among the notable contributors are saxophonist Marion Meadows and original Atlantic Starr writer/producer Porter Carroll, Jr.

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Rob Tardik - Synergy
Rob Tardik
SynergyGuitardik 2E

Canadian Contemporary Jazz guitarist and renowned educator Rob Tardik’s five previous projects leading to his fascinating SYNERGY album have earned him numerous awards and great chart statistics. Yet those accolades only tell one side of his multi-faceted musical story. SYNERGY is a wild, high octane journey that darts from rhythmically exotic acoustic world music to toe-tapping flamenco, soothing and ambient soul, graceful folk, feisty in the pocket funk and blistering electric fusion. Just when you think you have Tardik’s sound pegged, he spins your ears in a new direction. You’ll feel the powerful musical SYNERGY with every note and groove! 

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Sam Trump - Purple Skies
Sam Trump
Purple SkiesSuperlative Muzak

The Chicago-based, musical mastermind, Sam Trump, who named himself after his core instrument, the trumpet, delivers dynamic solo moments and horn section explosions throughout his epic album PURPLE SKIES. Yet the focus is on Trump as a singer/songwriter sharing the socially conscious vision of his lyrics with a mix of classic R&B and contemporary urban and hip-hop foundations. Trump keeps things relevant with his “woke” takes on love and romance, family, inspiration, societal interdependence and the battles that today’s Black Americans are engaged in. Listening up to the PURPLE SKIES, will help you see the world with amazing clarity.    

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R.L. Walker
R.L. Walker
R. L. WalkerRLWalkerMusic.com

Washington, DC based saxophonist R.L. Walker fashioned his fifth solo album as a self-titled affair because it’s his most personal – a mix of eminently seductive ballads and snazzy mid-tempo funk tracks, inspired by past life experiences, places he’s been and people he’s met. In loving response to his fans’ mantra that he continue to “Get Your Smooth On,” Walker creates emotionally charged vibes based on his innermost heartfelt thoughts and feelings. The result is a unique flow that includes equal doses of contemporary whimsy, old school cool and hypnotic, atmospheric romance.   

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Rob Zinn - Walk The Walk
Rob Zinn
Walk The WalkRob Zinn

After years playing in swing and dance party bands, trumpeter/flugelhornist Rob Zinn emerged as a top Smooth Jazz artist with his debut album YESTERDAY AGAIN. Upping his game, he hooks up with mega-producer Paul Brown on his new collection WALK THE WALK. With Brown contributing his trademark guitar licks, Zinn vibes with saxophonist Andrew Neu and other special guests (including Michael Paulo) in exploring a whirlwind of spirited grooves and vibes, from ambient and bluesy to mid-tempo sensual, and deep, in the pocket funk. If you like horn solos and tight horn sections, you’re going to WALK THE WALK and dance the dance!

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Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS

Diana Barash - Cyber Love
Diana Barash
Cyber LoveAnaviv Music

Just as her debut shared A MIRACLE OF LOVE, visionary, world traveling Eastern European vocalist and songwriter Diana Barash explores the many ways love manifests, through romance, universal/spiritual compassion and even on social media, as on her multi-faceted new album CYBER LOVE reveals. On a set full of sophisticated ballads and high energy dance anthems, she caresses her sensual, emotionally powerful voice with lush and dreamy ambiances, funky grooves and trippy, exotic sonic and percussive textures. Listening to Diana (pronounced “Dee-anna”), you’ll immediately fall in CYBER LOVE!

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Grace Brancale - Atmosphere
Grace Brancale
AtmosphereIndependent

Throughout this wonderful, three-decade musical career, classically trained pianist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Grace Brancale has performed as a soloist and in duos, bands and with orchestras. With her perfectly titled debut album ATMOSPHERE, the internationally acclaimed artist emerges with a soulful, dreamy sound, surrounding her lyrical, rhythmic ivory melodies with seductive grooves and sensual, soaring ambiences. Brancale creates the perfect Smooth Jazz ATMOSPHERE for chilling and rejuvenating!

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Sheldon Ferguson - Soul Searching
Sheldon Ferguson
Soul SearchingIndependent

In the six years since he released his debut album while still in high school, Atlanta-based composer and electric guitarist Sheldon Ferguson has done a lot of musical SOUL SEARCHING – the perfect name for a set list infused with crackling string intensity, bright pop-jazz melodies, nonstop grooving and cool, sensual R&B. Inspired by gospel, blues and guitar greats George Benson, Ernie Isley and Norman Brown, Ferguson’s journey of self-discovery is a revelation that will get you SOUL SEARCHING with the volume turned up!

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Peter Herold - Love of God
Peter Herold
Love Of GodIndependent

The former saxophonist of internationally acclaimed Hungarian Smooth Jazz group The Peet Project, Peter Herold, brings the same funky grooves, emotional intensity and wild abandon to “Love of God,” his infectious new pop, gospel and Smooth Jazz infused single as a solo artist. Weaving his sax between the passionate lead vocals of onetime Hungarian X Factor finalist Nico Ross and a small chorus echoing the song title, Herold truly makes jazz a heartfelt and rousing spiritual experience.

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Bryard Huggins - Calhoun Street
Bryard Huggins
Calhoun StreetBryard Huggins Music

When Kirk Whalum tells us that 23-year old keyboardist/composer Bryard Huggins is “up to something really big” with his latest album CALHOUN STREET, we best listen! With four previous albums already under his belt, the recent graduate of the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati is a multi-faceted phenomenon. Artfully fusing dreamy elegance with infectious, in the pocket urban funk and Smooth Jazz, Huggins taps into a multitude of influences – pop, jazz, chill and acoustic vibes – to create his fresh tapestry of inventive sounds and grooves. Take a joyride on CALHOUN STREET!

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Jody Watley - Waiting In Vain
Jody Watley
Waiting In VainAvitone Recordings

Over three decades after she won a Best New Artist Grammy, multi-faceted R&B icon Jody Watley continues to amaze, surprise, and inspire! Her sly, sensual new track “Waiting In Vain” is a fresh, contemporary urban jazz/Bossa Nova re-imagining of the Bob Marley classic. In a completely different mode and mindset than her well known dance hits, she infuses the track with lush atmospheres and gentle, easy flowing Brazilian rhythms. No need to wait, this must-have new single is available now wherever you access music, including in a sexy new song video featuring the lovely songstress!

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Kea - I Love You
Kea
I Love YouIndependent

With a sensual soul-jazz vocal style that brings to mind greats like Maysa, Patti Austin and Anita Baker, singer songwriter, Kea, offers a dreamy invitation into her  smooth, atmospheric world on “I Love You.” While it’s a passionate “never take love for granted” themed song, the object of her affection is not a romantic partner – it’s her now teenage daughter Alyssa, whose struggles with a life-threatening kidney condition that has inspired her mom to take a raw, emotional look at what love truly means and how it endures.

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Len Mizzoni - Waves of Indigo
Len Mizzoni
Waves of IndigoLenMizzoni.com

A onetime saxophonist with Juno Award winning Canadian band, Frozen Ghost, and multi-talented session musician, Len Mizzoni emerges as a remarkably soulful and insightful singer-songwriter on his eclectic debut album WAVES OF INDIGO. Creating an artful fusion of  jazz and soul, he blends elements of shimmering pop, ambient electronica, lush old school R&B, trippy grooves and tender acoustic grace. Those lay a beautiful foundation for an inviting, increasingly sensual vocal experience. 

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Carl Neal - Step Into Paradise
Carl Neal
Step Into ParadiseGrace Star Music

Saxophonist/composer Carl Neal calls his label “Grace Star Music,” a name that perfectly captures his mix of fresh and funky contemporary rhythms and old school melodic sax that is infused into his multi-faceted new album STEP INTO PARADISE. With his silky, passionate horn holding the eclectic stylistic ventures together, Neal explores everything dance, hip-hop, Gospel, jazz and R&B on originals and re-imaginings of British Invasion classics. STEP INTO PARADISE and turn up the volume!

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ThaSaint - All About Love
ThaSaint
All About LoveStyle Setters Entertainment

Celebrating all that is beautiful about romance, the veteran indie songwriter, producer and keyboardist, ThaSaint, makes his ninth album ALL ABOUT LOVE. Over the course of 14 tracks and a spoken word interlude by a seductive radio personality, the multi-talented artist creates a masterful collection of keyboard-driven slow jams, moody ballads and dreamily elegant slices of musical passion and sensuality that flow together perfectly for a night of candlelight, tenderness and falling in love. Make ALL ABOUT LOVE your go-to soundtrack for life, love and romance!

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Uncle Los Music - Black Bottom Cupcake
Uncle Los Music
Black Bottom CupcakeIndependent

Led by Bay Area composer, arranger, pianist and multi-instrumentalist Carlos Sanders, Uncle Los Music is a multi-dimensional collective driven by the combined passions of some of the region’s top urban jazz talents – most prominently, saxophonist Tony Peebles. Have your cake and eat too… the latest, colorfully titled album BLACK BOTTOM CUPCAKE has it all – attention-grabbing R&B vocals, fiery funk, laid back old school soul/jazz and touches of rock, blues and gospel. With a title like BLACK BOTTOM CUPCAKE, this spirited jam can be described in only one word, tasty!

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Ron Wright - Happy Land
Ron Wright
Happy LandChile Colorado Llc.

Pebble Beach, California based guitarist, Ron Wright’s musical “day job” is holding down the electric guitar chair in his indie rock band Chile Colorado. Those who love their Smooth Jazz with a crackling edge will be grateful he’s expanded his repertoire with his sizzling debut instrumental single, “Happy Land.” Wright surrounds his fiery lead melody with other blazing guitar textures for an empowering and smoothly, electrifying experience. This is one “Happy Land” every rock jazz fusion guitar lover will want to check into!

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