- Walter Duda
- Second Impression
- World Alert Records
- John E. Lawrence
- Leather Jacket
- Super Trax
- Vernon Louis Hicks
- Stowe Village Entertainment Group
- Lowell Hopper
- Another Hot Summer Night
- Get Jazzed Records
- Jazz Funk Soul
- Shanachie Entertainment
- Art Morris
- L O V E
- Art Morris Music
- Andrew Neu
- Take It Home
- CGN Records
- The Clarisse Sisters
- Fire & Ice
- Jaaz Records
Listening Loft : HOTPICKS
While you only get one chance to make a first impression, the recently formed duo, Bach & A. Killian return with their vibrant, sax/vocal and guitar driven new EP NO NEXT TIME… and fortunately if this is your first time hearing the collaboration we are confident that you’ll enjoy the free-flowing and eclectic musical chemistry between the two musicians. Upon meeting at a session at Track House Studios in Houston, Lonnie “Bach” Sabbath and Mr. Andre Killian had racked up some major individual credits! Artist, producer, composer, Bach working with Megan The Stallion and Brandy and touring with Charlie Wilson’s Gap Band, New Edition and Run-DMC and Saxman A. Killian touring with Wynton Marsalis, Tyrese Gibson and Erykah Badu. Together they create a transcendent flow of soaring romance, contagious funk, gospel/blues and Caribbean exotica.
In a recent interview connected with the release of Jim Adkins’ latest album SOUL EXPRESSION, the versatile veteran guitarist said it all about his multi-faceted artistry when he talked about the inspiration for the title, “It all comes from within as an expression of my soul.” Nearly 25 years into his award-winning, regularly charting recording career, the Grammy nominated musician is still mixing up a non-stop, cool swirl of varying vibes and energies centered on his alternately crisp/crackling and sensually fluid lines. Complementing a batch of high-spirited originals with a bluesy, slow burning twist on an Ed Sheeran classic, Adkins brings his jazzy hipster magic to tracks that rock, jazz, immerse us in mystical romance and take us to balmy tropical climes.
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.
With the drop of his tightly grooving and sparklingly tuneful, as well as appropriately titled single “Melody Man,” multi-talented composer, keyboardist and producer Vassal Benford III adds a fresh, dynamic chapter to his mile-long resume in the music and film industries. In just the last few years, he’s executive produced hit films (“After” and “After We Collided”) and hit the Billboard and international dance charts with “Be Right There,” a track he co-wrote with DJ Diplo and Sleepy Tom. Benford has also produced film and TV soundtracks and helped create hits for everyone from Toni Braxton and Sheryl Crow to Deborah Cox, Queen Latifah and Richie Sambora. Starting with the autographical “Melody Man,” his infectious, hitmaking skills are sure to take him to new heights in Smooth Jazz!
Since her recording debut on the Grammy-nominated SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY album with music icon Lionel Hampton, multi-talented jazz vocalist and songwriter Sylvia Bennett has become something of a legend herself, with a dozen solo albums to date, and a successful emergence into Smooth Jazz that includes collaborations with Arturo Sandoval, Paul Brown, Rick Braun and Nathan East. With production by longtime collaborator and producer Hal S. Batt, the vibrant singer’s latest album REFLECTIONS finds her looking firmly ahead, pairing her lush, lilting and sultry vocals with seductive light grooves and sweet caressing musical atmospheres. Complementing her emotionally impactful originals with a tasty “world mix” of a Songbook standard ("Witchcraft"), she thoughtfully explores the many facets of relationships, from hopeful beginnings and making dreams reality to the fine art of working things through.
To riff on the title of Paul Brown’s stellar, bluesy, jazzy and funky second Shanachie album PROMISED LAND, the veteran double Grammy winning guitarist has been the first-choice producer for any genre artist trying to get to #1 spot on the radio charts for 30+ years. As an artist and producer, he’s scored over 60 chart toppers! A few years ago, Brown took stock of his great success with ONES UPON A TIME, cleverly re-imagining those smashes with other artists. Brown brings his dynamic cool urban jazz aesthetic, fluid, crackling string style and soulful rhythmic diversity to a new batch of sure-fire smashes. He rolls from romantic cool, down home blues and tropical Latin cool to tight, infectious in the pocket jams with special sax guests Marion Meadows and Euge Groove.
Second generation Puerto Rican, percussion master, bandleader and composer Edgardo Cintron deliveries a savory new recording BON APPÉTIT, a full-length album featuring original Smooth Jazz and some of the artist’s favorite songs. Featured on the project, saxophonists Carl Cox and Andrew Neu, plus an A-List of world-class players. Mr. Cintron has performed and recorded with some of the world’s finest, including Jeff Lorber, Terence Blanchard, The Funk Brothers, Nick Colionne, Average White Band and many more. The fearsome musician will be releasing a tasty cookbook to go hand in hand with BON APPÉTIT, creating the perfect opportunity to play, prepare and partake!
When keyboardist/composer Mike Di Lorenzo set out to create his first album in over ten years, he had every intention of making it an instrumental project with a few vocals. But when he started reaching out to the world-class singers that now populate the breezy, neo-soulful, easy grooving new project, WHAT WE NEED, he quickly realized that he was creating an all-vocal showcase, with his own dazzling synth, piano and arrangements. The incredible array of vocalists include Joel Kibble from Take 6, Anna Moore, Sonna Rele, Caino, and Denise Stewart. In addition to several silky, ultra-engaging originals, Di Lorenzo creates fascinating takes on tunes ranging from the Great American Songbook to contemporary hits by Charlie Puth and Justin Bieber – a set Di Lorenzo fondly calls the “East Coast Playlist.”
Those fascinating feelings of cathartic release, reflection and exuberance driving the melodic invention, fascinating grooves and colorful improvisations on Mark Etheredge’s latest album LOVE PLANET are hard won, real deal expressions of the multi-talented pianist/composer’s experience of working past the darkest days of his life and celebrating recovery- and the musical freedom he’s found in their wake. With an eclectic, infectious swirl of songs that tap thematically into urban life, reflections on Ukraine, the triumph of the human spirit and his love for his late mother, the collection – which includes contributions from Paul Brown, Steve Oliver, Greg Vail and Ron King – is Etheredge’s emphatic response to a question he wakes up asking daily: “What can I do to be more loving today?”
With a background of performing on and off Broadway at an early age, producer, pianist and drummer Jeff Golkin brings a unique sense of drama and emotional storytelling to the Smooth Jazz genre on WE HAVE LOVE…FOR ALL TIME, the expansive debut album by Golkin and his large ensemble Forever Love. Weaving a dynamic mix of vocals (by Joanne Williams and Kevin Batchelor) and instrumentals, including his four beautiful originals layered between sparkling twists on standards from the likes of The Blackbyrds, Carpenters, Henry Mancini, Peggy Lee, Jerome Kern and others, the visionary creates an inspiring, love-drenched narrative with exciting stops in Latin, soul/funk, and traditional jazz territories on the romantic road to forever. The 13-track, adventure filled collection marks an auspicious launch for this multi-faceted group.
Their 3rd full length album WATCH YOUR STEP has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the dynamic California jazz ensemble GTF continue to release new singles from the forthcoming album. “Spanish Steps," is the 4th single from the highly anticipated new release, featuring the exceptional saxophone of John Rekevics. With his raspy, Gato Barbieri-like performance, this exotic new tune promises to set your spirt to wanderlust. The six-piece ensemble is led by its namesakes, George and Tracy Franklin. George is a noteworthy vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who plays bass, keyboards and guitar, while his songwriting partner and associate producer Tracy also contributes backing vocals. The group includes two San Diego musical icons, producer Richard “Blitz” Livoni and the aforementioned John Rekevics as well as acclaimed New Orleans-based keyboardist John Cain, Detroit's own star drummer Ron Otis, plus Juan Escovedo of the famed Escovedo Family turns the beat on percussion. Watch this space for the full album drop of WATCH YOUR STEP, coming soon!
If you’re somehow not familiar with Wayne Gutshall, the guy Sandy Shore calls a “modern master of saxophone” who’s scored five #1 singles on SmoothJazz.com Global’s Listener Chart, you get another inspiring chance with his latest track “Going Up” – a passionate, meditative ballad duet with bassist Brendan Rothwell penned during the pandemic for the sole purpose of soothing our anxieties and lifting our spirits. Gutshall, a favorite on Miami’s vibrant Latin jazz scene, who’s played with Steve Oliver, Paul Brown, Arturo Sandoval and many others, offers up Rothwell’s seductive bassline to build anticipation as he rolls out the song's sultry sax melody. The two fashion a hypnotic dual-energy that balances intuitive musical conversations with vibrant soloing. And all at once you’ll find your blood pressure is going down while your hopes start “Going Up.”
The hipster shades donned by Everette Harp, Paul Jackson, Jr. and Jeff Lorber on the cover of FORECAST, the fourth album by the Smooth Jazz super trio Jazz Funk Soul, says it all about the high-struttin’, cool and dignified yet often wild and funkified attitude they bring to the project. Like the first two JFS projects with the late Chuck Loeb and LIFE AND TIMES (the first one featuring Jackson), the collection offers a master class in the best that contemporary urban jazz can offer –the dynamic emotional highs and lows, tight, edgy grooves, silky seduction, and explosive solos by each member. Beyond the in the pocket radio friendly fare, the trio fashion a down home front porch blues/gospel burner and a lush, lilting ballad paying homage to Loeb’s character and artistry.
The title of Grammy nominated composer, guitarist, bassist and multi-instrumentalist Dennis Murphy’s 1999 debut HIT ME HARD, perfectly captures the intensity he’s brought over the years to his multitude of endeavors as an early genre radio personality (whose show “Bass Trax” was produced by Smoothjazz.com founder, Sandy Shore), clinician and founder of a popular Monterey, California music school, and studio and touring sideman for Acoustic Alchemy, Maria Muldaur, Billy Preston among others. On this latest foray, the eclectic, ultra-melodic and tightly grooving OUR HIGHER SELVES, Murphy darts artfully between colorful guitar playing and bass-driven Smooth Jazz, fusion, playful samba and spiritual soul while freewheeling with an all-star cast including elite saxophonists Kirk Whalum, Eric Marienthal, Gary Meek and Tower Of Power’s Tom Politzer, as well as late guitar great Jeff Golub and legendary drummer Will Kennedy!
True to the sophisticated and elegant style implied by the title SAVOIR FAIRE, veteran multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated, Soul Train and NAACP Image Award winning saxophonist/flutist Najee caps his decade on Shanachie Records with a vibrant, eclectic Pan American set featuring top musicians from North and South American. The adventurous set features a blend of Brazilian and tropical tinged delights, fiery, playfully strutting funk (including one jam featuring guitar dynamo Adam Hawley), classic-styled Memphis soul/blues and a sultry re-imagining of a Norman Connors/Michael Henderson 70’s R&B hit featuring vocals by Alyson Williams. Continuing to deliver the multi-faceted R&B/jazz well into his fourth decade, Najee calls on big guns like Barry Eastmond, Chris “Big Dog” Davis, Paul Brown, Frank McComb, and David Dyson to help bring his rich cosmopolitan vision to life.
Though his latest single “Indigo Rain” is not officially part of his decade plus slate of releases under The Color of Soundscape name, composer, pianist and multiple label owner Rei Narita – the foremost pioneer of Smooth Jazz in Asia – creates a sensually soulful, gently relaxing vibe that fits right into the graceful side of his established aesthetic. A complete 180 degree turn from his rambunctious previous single “Run Through the Urban City,” this beautiful, expansive piece begins as an elegant, sparkling piano solo. It then eases into a seductive, slow-simmering groove (driven by Omar Hakim’s tasteful drumming) and a charming lead melodic back and forth conversation between Narita and the instantly identifiable guest guitar artistry of Peter White.
All Smooth Jazz artists hope their music offers listeners hope and inspiration, but pop, jazz, R&B and gospel driven saxophonist Kenny Nightingale takes that a step further by including a Following Your Dream section on his website that includes impactful phrases he takes to heart: “Embrace Your Passion,” “Always Live Like Your Life is Golden” and “Be Inspired By Everything.” The multi-talented Nigerian-born artist follows his hit 2020 debut album BREATHE with the uniquely titled single “My Saxophone,” a bold and uplifting, funky, horn drenched track that offers a dazzling, fun-spirited showcase of the magic Nightingale brings to his cherished instrument. Adding fire to the celebration are Erica Newell’s gospel flavored vocals, and intoxicating solos by Sankey Bullet on keys and Michael Osadolo on wah guitar. Full album coming soon!
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.
In the late 90s, the late Steve Raybine received encouragement from Rick Braun, his friend and former band mate in the famed 70’s progressive jazz ensemble Auracle. A longtime fan of the veteran vibraphone master, percussionist and influential, award-winning educator, Braun suggested, “Why don’t you try to do for vibes what I’ve done for trumpet?” Taking up the challenge, Raybine embarked on an extraordinary 20-year career as a solo artist, releasing four multi-faceted Smooth Jazz albums and scoring a multitude of radio hits. While the composer and master musician recently battled for his life with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, he immersed himself in the production of this world-class collection, remixing, editing and remastering. Steve wrote to SmoothJazz.com founder Sandy Shore before his passing, “The album is definitely Smooth Jazz centric, with an extra component of what I can do with Swing music and my solo Vibe artistry. It is a compilation of 15 of my favorite songs I’ve recorded previously.” This brilliantly performed, non-stop melodically and rhythmically infectious 15-track compilation THE BEST OF STEVE RAYBINE celebrates a grand legacy charged with the spark and sizzle of jazz, R&B, fiery Latin music, pop/rock and edgy blues. The artist may be gone, but the BEST of his art lives on!
Long before he was amassing an impressive catalog of urban jazz gems, opening for Chaka Khan and Patti Labelle, recording with Najee and performing with the likes of Ramsey Lewis and Jonathan Butler, guitarist/composer Michael Ross was staff guitarist for a touring company of “The Wiz.” The yellow brick road journey is the perfect metaphor for his blessed and eclectic musical road that leads now to the release of FOUR SEASONS TO CROSS, his first album in eight years that alternates between lighthearted, spirited breeziness, whimsical exotica, seductive funk balladry and contemplative cool that reflects a multi-faceted, polyrhythmic journey through the seasons. From a snappy trip to Rio to a silky seductive tune about winter approaching, Ross invites listeners on a magnificent and inspiring adventure.
Released just before the pandemic, Anglo-Canadian bassist/composer Brendan Rothwell’s 2019 smash single, “Keep on Keepin’ On” – which made him the first indie artist to hit #1 on all three SmoothJazz.com Airplay Charts – offered the musical hope and encouragement we needed to navigate the global challenge. Always evolving and full of surprises, this multi-faceted artist – who was inspired to play bass when he heard Marcus Miller’s groundbreaking work on Miles Davis’ TUTU – infuses his easy-grooving, buoyantly funky and often soulfully meditative third album DESTINY with lush atmospheric soundscapes and exhilarating piano harmonies and textures. Indicative of the intimate and emotionally direct, heart to heart nature of Brendan’s compositions, DESTINY presents twelve master-crafted tracks with titles designed to spark our musical imaginations.
Ten years ago, when Tony Saunders titled his 2011 debut album ROMANCING THE BASS, the two-time Emmy winning Bay Area hyphenate (musician/composer/arranger/producer) set in motion an intoxicating, free-flowing torrent of snappy, grooving and sensual low-end vibes. The ever-percolating adventure culminates now on his Baja/TSR debut with the dynamic, emotionally resonant ALL ABOUT LOVE. It’s a generous 14-track slate of picture-perfect, pocket funk and steamy/sultry originals and re-imaginings (of classics by The Whispers and Burt Bachararch) that are bass driven but created in collaboration with an all-star array of genre greats – including Gail Jhonson, Blake Aaron, Paul Jackson, Jr., Greg Manning, Jazmin Ghent and Adam Hawley. Saunders has a blast taking us on what he dubs a “joyful ride on the Smooth Jazz rollercoaster." "Highway 5" is the affable musician's latest radio single, sure lead straight to the top of the Smooth Jazz charts.
While the staggering number of 6 billion downloads and streams may be hard to fathom, Michael Silverman – the most streamed pianist on the planet - has made each a joyful experience over the past 15 years with his diverse array of stylistic excursions. Sure to add quickly to his total, his latest destination is “Clearwater,” a buoyant, melodically infectious, easy grooving romp blending Silverman’s lively elegance with Eric Marienthal’s always spirited sax. Joining forces with legendary bassist John Pattitucci, Silverman’s brother Rob on drums and percussionist Casey Adams, they have a sunswept blast that celebrates their initial meeting playing the Clearwater Jazz Holiday festival. This perfect Smooth Jazz cure for the winter blues is the second lead single from Silverman’s remotely created upcoming album IN THESE TIMES.
Named by her parents after the legendary Nina, Neika Simone’s name has been a self-fulfilling prophecy throughout her life as a singer and music educator who teaches chorus, voice and piano. Her perfectly titled EP BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS is a true revelation showcasing her powerful vocal range, dynamic expanse of emotions, an intoxicating rhythmic diversity as well as a hypnotic gift for intimate and inviting songwriting. In only four tracks, she brings us into numerous relatable stages of a relationship, offering insight and hard-won wisdom on the topics of learning and moving on from a bad situation, the complexities of infidelity, opening up and allowing oneself to be vulnerable to better love and visualizing the perfect romantic scenario – which for Simone came true when she married her husband!
Sharing his long in the making musical success story so that other talented dreamers may follow his bold lead, Chicago-based saxophonist/keyboardist D.S. Wilson explains that in his 20s, he had a chance to go to the Berklee College of Music but ended up working for IBM. Several decades later, he’s making a vibrant splash in Smooth Jazz, with his well-received single, buoyant single “Life With You,” and now “Leave it To the Gods,” his whimsically titled, sparkling and inviting new focus track showcasing his dynamic one two punch as an instrumentalist. Wilson fuses his restless and robust melodic horn excitement with the sly sensuality and jazzy improvisational cool of his piano. Paving the way for his forthcoming album SKYLINE, “Leave it To the Gods,” is a stellar collaboration with Adam Hawley, who brings his songwriting, guitar and production brilliance to the song!
Hungarian saxophonist, composer and producer Zolbert’s richly infectious, sonically adventurous, sensual silk and pocket funk driven collection FOCUS caps an impactful decade that began with two breakthrough events: winning first prize in a Budapest club song contest and snagging the grand prize in the annual song contest on the city’s leading jazz station 90.9 Jazzy Radio. While collaborating on each track with Peet Project leader Péter Ferencz – who is also featured on the album - Zolbert takes his game to the next level, creating a variety of moods and grooves while vibing with genre elites Adam Hawley, Kayla Waters, Oli Silk and Kim Scott. Perhaps they can join the recording artist at his namesake, Zolbert Jazz & Wine Fest, the popular event was launched in his native country in 2016.
Listening Loft : MUST HAVES
Acclaimed TV arranger/orchestrator and Tony Award nominee for the score of the Broadway Musical "Anna Karenina", multi-talented pianist/composer Dan Alan Levine says that “one of the nice things about Smooth Jazz is that it allows the spirit and soul to relax.” It’s joyfully ironic then, that the wondrously inviting, infectious tunes on his stylistically eclectic (and perfectly titled) debut album OVER THE MOON are peppy and optimistic. Mixed and mastered by chart-topping songsmith Peter Ferencz (Peet Project), the full album project will be released in 2023. Driven by light funk grooves that breeze along the pop, soul, jazz, tropical and Latin landscapes – with a dash of classical, Dan’s emotionally compelling melodies come to life with the support of two genre leading ladies, flutist Kim Scott and saxophonist Jeanette Harris. Both are featured on the first single, “Our Kind of Love,” taking to the airwaves now.
Perfectly in line with its title and explosive cover art, the California contemporary jazz fusion group Axiom presents a dazzling, alternately sensual/slow burning and white hot/hard rocking array of stylistic excursions on STARBURST, their first album in over a decade. Led by the dynamic and expansive vision of brothers Pete (guitar) and Phil (drums/percussion) Templer. The band – which released its debut album in the 1980s – tackles pop/gospel, funk, R&B, Latin Jazz, Afro-jazz and progressive rock, complementing its infectious melodies with the trippy sonic textures Pete generates from synth modules on his guitar. The collection’s emotional centerpiece is The California Suite, a stunning, rhythmically varied four song movement that celebrates nature and its unique ebb and flow between wild fury and graceful peace.
Boldly embodying the tagline/mission statement “Smooth Jazz and Beyond” on his website, Virginia based emerging saxophonist Bob Coate’s perfectly titled debut single “Super Smooth” takes us on a sensual, exotic journey that’s uniquely suited for a lighthearted, sexy summer soundtrack. Driven by an easy flowing crunch groove, the tune is a dynamic showcase for his understated, steamy low tones on the soul-enveloping melody. Finally pursuing his musical dreams after many years in Information Technology, Coate’s growing catalog of singles are all based around the theme and vibe of relaxation, chillout and tropical island imagery.
After decades of galvanizing the groove on tour and in the studio for Earth, Wind & Fire, The Crusaders, Bruce Hornsby, Al Jarreau, Steely Dan and Bette Midler, drummer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Sonny Emory is on one of the greatest creative rolls of his career. Following two ensemble projects (Cachet and Full Tilt) with an intensely grooving, rhythmically and stylistically eclectic and yes, spiritually-minded collection on SOUL ASCENSION – his first official solo album in over 15 years. Vibing gracefully, and most assuredly with funk and groove, this project features a killer crew including Ronnie Garrett (bass), Vance Taylor (keys) and Lenny Castro (percussion), as well as special guests the likes of Bob James, Patrice Rushen and Bobby Lyle! Emory does it all from infectious urban jazz to breezy Latin, spirited rhumba, trippy EWF-styled R&B/fusion and even a hypnotic tribute to Herbie Hancock.
The title of Eric Essix’s latest album says it all: 36 years and 28 releases into his extraordinary career, the prolific veteran guitarist is just hitting his STRIDE! Whether recording for outside record companies or his own label Essential Recordings, one of the Birmingham, Alabama native’s greatest ongoing gifts has been sharing his Southern blues, jazz and gospel roots via songs that are either edgy, bright and funky or laid back and simmering. Offering a sweet balance of punchy grooves and soulful atmospheres, STRIDE is a dynamic showcase for his fascinating guitar tone that’s crackling one minute, silky, languid, and smooth the next. Highlights include a haunting meditation on freedom and a vibrant organ and harmonica laced spin on hit current smash single, the Bill Withers classic, “Ain’t No Sunshine” featuring American Idol alum Ruben Studdard on vocals.
You may never have heard of these three veteran musicians who make up the Funktastic Players, but once you check out the resumes of keyboardist and producer David Williams (who started his career producing rappers), bassist Kevin Croom and saxophonist Marcus H. Mitchell (Kim Waters, Peter White, Destiny’s Child), you’ll understand how they came together once again to create their irresistibly buoyant, 5th recording FULL CIRCLE. This collection features some of the tightest, tastiest, seductive, deep bottom funk grooves with a touch of hip-hop and Latin sizzle. The cover promises “jazz on the funky side” and these guys totally deliver with smooth, retro flavors!
Decades after making his mark on disco-era classics by Donna Summer, George McRae and KC and the Sunshine Band, multi-award winner Vernon Louis Hicks – renowned as one of the world’s top orchestra percussionists – is creating beautiful, inspiring music as a solo artist that expresses his motto “One People One Planet One Love.” Following up his critically acclaimed 2021 full length debut ONE LOVE, Hicks takes a fascinating approach to the release of his latest single “Je’anne,” a gorgeous, dreamy ballad about being forever changed by one’s true love. Hicks is dropping both a vocal version featuring soulful lead singer Austin Jay (and the sweet backing vocals of Carmel Echols) and a stunning instrumental take spotlighting the sultry saxophone magic of Louis Van Taylor.
Twenty consistently inspiring albums and nearly 30 years into his solo career, Air Force veteran turned prolific Smooth Jazz hit maker Lowell Hopper has been working his soulful, infectious, funky groovin’ music so beautifully and for so long, he’s seamlessly become part of the fabric of contemporary jazz. His latest gem of a collection, ANOTHER HOT SUMMER NIGHT, totally captures our hearts, spirits and intensely tappin’ feet over and over. True to its title concept, this brisk seven track, 30-minute set, is the perfect soundtrack for an evening of sweet summer escape, blending mostly moody, laid-back romantic chill tunes with the snappier flow of a few jammin’ tracks that dare us to let loose and dance!
When you connect Patrice Isley’s surname to her invitingly sensual, silky-smooth voice, it’s the first thing you’re gonna ask: “Any relation?“ Sort of! The veteran backing vocalist whose 5-octave range has graced countless of R&B and gospel performances (Barry White, Philip Bailey, Gladys Knight, Andraé Crouch) is married to Myron Isley, whose family roots intertwine with those of The Isley Brothers through shared relatives from North Carolina. Embracing that legacy, Patrice launched her solo career with the 2016 album BELIEVE IN LOVE. With the release of her intimate and seductive, easy flowing single “Patrice’s Groove” – featuring the sparkling, improvisational piano magic of Spyro Gyra keyboardist Tom Schuman – Isley extends her sacred mission to spread hope and love while doing her part to fill the void after the departure of so many soul music legends.
An incredible 45 years after releasing his epic debut album THE GENIE, and 33 years since his landmark Atlantic album IVORY DREAMS, Bobby Lyle reminds us on his latest collection that he’s still engaged and excited about being in the IVORY FLOW. The multi-talented pianist/keyboardist calls this gloriously crafted set “a reunion album,” with support from his equally legendary contemporary jazz pals Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, Najee, Marcus Miller, Marion Meadows, Nathan East, Everette Harp, Stanley Clarke, Kirk Whalum and Paul Jackson, Jr! This dream team takes fanciful spins through a riveting, expansive landscape infused with classic soul/funk, Latin-fired fusion, straight ahead jazz, solo piano blues and an elegant tune dedicated to Lyle’s son Tommy, who passed away in 2017 from diabetic complications. Step into the IVORY FLOW and feel the love.
Truly one of the most prolific and stylistically wide-ranging artists to grace Smooth Jazz in recent years, saxophonist/flutist Paul Messina’s latest album BLUE FIRE – his remarkable seventh album (solo, dual or with his band Flashpoint) in seven years – balances fiery, robust fusion/funk energy with sleek and lyrical balladry as he showcases the heartfelt and high-octane possibilities of both lead instruments. Each track prominently features the sizzling electric and soulful acoustic guitar of Tommy Paez - and some have the spacey/trippy synth excursions of Grammy nominee Mike Bogle. The passionately performed set is also yet another beautiful chapter in the 35 years collaboration between Messina and bassist Mark R. Harris, which includes their acclaimed recent projects THE BIGGER PICTURE (2019) and RETURN TO SANITY, released earlier in 2021.
Always great to receive new music from recently viral, Canadian singer/songwriter Len Mizzoni. “Sad Songs,” from the 2019 BETTER DAYS album, has made the former member of the Juno Award winning band Frozen Ghost, an eternally hip social media sensation, with over 6 million streams in 121 countries thanks to its exposure on TikTok! Mizzoni’s latest album, the confident and self-affirming I KNOW WHO I AM, offers further evidence of his timelessness over the course of a generous 13 engaging songs. Driven by lovely melodies, passionate vocals and keen insights into the journeys and longings of the human heart. This collection takes us on an inspiring ride, blending thoughtful, intimate ballads with endlessly energetic pop rockin’ gems.
The eighteen months have proven a major Renaissance in the life of Art Morris, who transcended a wave of health scares and personal and financial loss to finally achieve his dream of being a recording artist in his 70s. As he releases his vibrant, high-spirited (and super fun!) take on Frankie Valli’s iconic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” produced by Atlanta’s Brad Cox Productions, the big story isn’t just that he’s singing so impactfully, but that he’s probably the only artist pushing 80 whose recent single (“L O V E”) has close to 200K steams on Spotify – big numbers for any jazz artist, let alone a guy who waited decades to fulfill his musical destiny. The new single, from the LOVE collection, is all about the cool crooning, the groove and those snazzy horns on the always delightful instrumental hook!
True to its title “Take It Home,” well- traveled veteran saxophonist Andrew Neu’s bubbling, brassy and soaring new single marks an explosive return to Smooth Jazz after a way too long nine-year layoff – which in all fairness included CAT WALK, an amazing, critically acclaimed foray into big band music. Having toured the world for years with the likes of Bobby Caldwell, Diane Schuur, Norman Brown and Smokey Robinson, Neu knows the power of great collaborations. He moves his fresh and unique sound forward in a bold, brassy, intensely grooving and richly improvisational way via spirited large ensemble worthy horn arrangements and the innate, crackling chemistry he’s shared many times onstage but creates for the first time in the studio with keyboardist Greg Manning, the song’s co-writer and producer.
A prominent “next generation” member of The Petersons aka “Minnesota’s First Family of Music,” saxophonist and keyboardist, as well as singer/songwriter, Jason Peterson DeLaire built his rep touring and/or recording with the likes of Prince, Richard Marx, Oleta Adams and Michael Bolton before his recent emergence as an explosive force in Smooth Jazz. DeLaire’s multi-faceted five track EP AFTER HOURS showcases two distinct sides of his artistry. First, there’s his blistering funk sax vibe on the high-octane radio airplay chart hits he scored with veteran guitarist Chris Camozzi, with titles that collectively tell a story of a fun night on the town. He balances those with his sparkling magic as a singer/songwriter, including a universal love anthem featuring Adams, Jarrod Lawson and Rockie Robbins) and a gorgeous, romantic ballad. The good times happen AFTER HOURS!
Reflecting on a fascinating, wildly exciting career that has included opening for then labelmate Jill Scott and being Prince’s touring saxophonist from 2004-12, Mike Phillips says, “I am a product of hip-hop, the funk and everything that comes by way of the negro spiritual. I can roll the dice and no matter what... I’m gonna make them proud.” The versatile artist and entrepreneur launches his third decade of recording with the new collection, MIKE PHILLIPS – a sexy and sensual, power-packed, funk fired, globally vibing and spiritually uplifting self-titled jam that marks his sophomore release with the SRG-ILS Group. With Phillips, we never know where the journey will head next – but each stop along the way is certain to be an elevating experience!
Coinciding with the release of his high spirited, melodically sparkling and deeply grooving 5th album STEPPIN’, veteran keyboardist, composer and producer Ken Powe recently published a book exploring the possibilities of our visions and dreams being divine experiences. Smooth Jazz fans checking out the array of moods and grooves by this vibrationally in tune spiritual and musical explorer may truly feel they’ve entered an urban dreamscape full of colorful and trippy atmospheric textures, eclectic rhythms and dazzling, dramatic ivory runs – all of which draw from Powe’s mult-faceted background in jazz, gospel, R&B, pop and classical music.
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.
Still rolling big time with the 1.1 million plus aggregate spins for tracks from their 2020 album LET'S RIDE – three of which hit the Top 30 on the Smoothjazz.com Top 100 chart – the two longtime members of The Smooth Jazz Alley (keyboardist/producer Marco Montoya and drummer/producer Kevin Lewis) introduce their new permanent member, female sax powerhouse Otoe Mori, with an incredibly explosive bang on their latest single “Deep Into You.” Creating a vibrant lead melody, sizzling horn textures and some wild soloing, Mori, whom the other members affectionately dub their “Sissy,” also vibes playfully and creates sultry, soulful conversations with the always fiery guitar of Blake Aaron, who continues the Bay Area band’s longstanding tradition of inviting Smooth Jazz greats to their party.
Having created studio magic throughout his multi-genre career with everyone from David Bowie, Barry White and DMC to 50 Cent, keyboardist/composer Tim Rouse perfectly embodies both his artist name (Sonix) and his nickname (“The Mad Scientist”). Having gotten his solo Smooth Jazz career off to an explosive start with “Easy Street” featuring Eric Marienthal – which was voted #1 on the Smoothjazz.com Listener Countdown Chart four weeks in a row – Sonix is back with the chill atmosphere and groove-driven single “Cloud9,” an infectious, sensual funk track that showcases his sparkling melodic piano and its exciting interaction with his otherworldly prowess, a George Duke-like fusion synth fire. True to its title, it’s a transcendent sonic experience that paves a bright path towards the upcoming release of his jazz funk debut LOVE CRUSADE.
A trio of incredibly gifted, vocally versatile siblings from the East African island of Mauritius, The Clarisse Sisters – Dominique, Annick and Veronique - bring to their solo career an incredible 35 year resume as headline performers and touring singers, including 21 years collectively with Basia, a world tour with Erasure (Annick and Veronique) and a tour with Incognito (Veronique). Fine tuning their craft as artists, their hip, soulful, romantic, exotic and ultra-cosmopolitan 2nd album FIRE & ICE offers sweet tastes of the sisters’ passions for bossa nova, neo-soul, jazz, cool funk and dance music. While all share their stunning vocals individually, their deepest emotional colors come through in harmony. Not surprisingly considering their deep international connections, two legendary figures – Basia and fellow Mauritian Bluey Maunick from Incognito – make impactful guest contributions.
Developing his formidable horn chops and seductive funk vibe in South Korean clubs and talent shows while serving in the Air Force, saxophonist R.L. Walker has been an unstoppable force in Smooth Jazz since the release of his debut MANY FACETS in 2013. “Side By Side,” the second lead single from his upcoming album COLORIZED, is the quintessential top down, freewheeling summer jam, an intoxicating blend of sweet sexy romance, along with percussive tenor cool, buoyant grooving energy and fun improvisation. Like Walker’s previous single “Memories Kept,” a beautiful dedication to his late parents, this sparkling new track is produced and arranged by his longtime collaborator Lew Laing, who creates a luxe vibey atmosphere and bluesy energy on the keys.
If you love the flute, you can count on Alexander Zonjic’s PLAYING IT FORWARD as a musical silver lining to the COVID-19 lockdown. The multi-talented musician and popular Detroit media personality’s first album in over a decade takes us on an engaging, whimsical yet heartfelt journey that’s all at once lyrical and dreamy, tight and funky. The collection features mostly Jeff Lorber co-penned and produced originals with sparkling re-imaginings of classics by Bob James, Adele (via Aretha Franklin), Nat “King Cole” and others. Beyond, Zonjic’s tasteful blend of breezy melodies with virtuosic runs, the project gives Zonjic an opportunity to finally cover an influential Jethro Tull classic, and includes one of the last compositions and performances from guitar great Chuck Loeb.
Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS
Not long after releasing his 2019 debut album MELODENSITY, Atlanta based gospel, jazz and hip-hop influenced keyboardist composer Matthew A. Thomas and his wife went through a crazy, lifechanging time, becoming parents for the first time and purchasing their first home amidst the backdrop of the pandemic, social unrest, and political divisiveness. Thomas’s bright, hopeful, and deeply spiritual musical response to the frenetic whirlwind is CLOTHES & RIGHT MINDS, a groove intensive, often hypnotic batch of uplifting fashionable jams grounded in deep bass and trap/hip-hop rhythms, with soulful and spirited piano and synth melodies dancing joyfully above them.
Michael Quast, the veteran German keyboardist/composer who records under his middle name Amandus, has always considered music his lost paradise, providing necessary emotional healing in his childhood. While helping some in his home country as lecturer in Music Therapy at SRH Heidelberg, the multi-talented artist received a master in physics before pursuing his career as a professional musician. He uses his playful and spirited, funk-fired Smooth Jazz vibe to uplift us here with his latest single “Baby It’s Up To You,” a buoyant and danceable summer tune that’s sure be a party favorite! Just like the colorful musical conversation on his previous radio hit, “Groove Infection,” Amandus continues his collaboration with effervescent guitarist Uli Brodersen
Five years into his stellar, Billboard Smooth Jazz charting solo career, multi-talented saxophonist and all-around Renaissance man (preacher, teacher, motivational speakers, counselor and education official) Daryl Beebe uses the title of his 2nd full length album to offer an uplifting message, that we’re BETTER TOGETHER, a nod to the times we’re living in and this collaborative effort keyboardist/producer Mark “Polo” Dixon. Before emerging as an artist, the Detroit native enjoyed a fascinating career performing and recording with gospel and jazz greats including Donnie McClurkin, Norman Brown and Doc Powell. Drawing on his extensive spiritual and musical backgrounds, Beebe along with Dixon fashion an inviting blend of smooth and sensual, cool and slammin’ horn textured dance/funk on BETTER TOGETHER.
One half of the hip-hop duo Grand Opus, composer/producer Centric has been on an intense multi-genre roll since 2017, with three full length albums and ten singles, now including the dreamy, atmospheric seduction “Always on My Mind.” Driven by super chill, laid back hipster grooves, Centric imparts a distinctive floating feeling from start to finish, finding the Smooth Jazz friendly sweet spot as a hybrid of classic neo soul, romantic free-flowing urban jazz vocals via special guest artist Kenya, and a dynamic, hypnotic rap interlude by T3, a founding member of legendary rap group Slum Village.
Following in the grand gospel/jazz tradition of Smooth Jazz greats Kirk Whalum and Jonathan Butler, emerging artist, keyboardist and composer D.A. Scott finds a beautiful way to extend his longtime music ministry with his dreamy and passionate debut single “We As One.” Though the track is billed as “featuring saxophonist Donald Hayes,” it’s truly more of a lush duet, with the horn player’s soulful, increasingly emotional melody gliding over Scott’s meditative keys and elegant piano harmonies to create a powerful and inspiring, prayer-like effect. Reflecting the importance of love and unity, the track is the lead single from Scott’s upcoming debut album.
Having filled her miles-long resume with legendary R&B and jazz artists from Prince and Marvin Gaye to Gil Evans, Roy Ayers and Abbey Lincoln, world renowned saxophonist and vocalist Fostina Dixon knows a smash when she hears one. The moment she caught wind of Silk Sonic’s four-time Grammy winning throwback R&B/pop hit “Leave The Door Open,” she immediately jumped on its dreamy, seductive and intensely funky possibilities as a picture perfect sax driven Smooth Jazz jam with wild improvisational fire amidst the cool flow. Dixon’s version is truly an intoxicating and revelatory emotional experience.
Besides a sensual and soulful flow, infectious melodies and impeccable playing, the two things we can always count on from popular NYC pianist/composer (and New England Conservatory of Music instructor) Walter Duda, are ensembles of world-renowned musicians and dynamic stories illuminating the inspiration behind the music. His latest, which is a revised arrangement of his very first composition, the romantic, impressionistic, and whimsical mid-tempo gem “Second Impression,” is no exception. With saxophonist Marion Meadows adding his lush, lyrical sax, Will Lee (bass) and Chris Parker (drums) grooving the rhythm section, and Al Ferrante’s gentle guitar harmony combining to create a loving, lighthearted reflection of the scenery at Seaside Park in Duda’s hometown of Bridgeport, CT, “Second Impression” of Duda’s first composition is already a favorite of streamers!
“Leather Jacket” is the slammin’, pocket-funky first ever collaboration between veteran guitaris John E. Lawrence and contemporary jazz, Grammy-winning keyboardist/mega-producer Jeff Lorber. The vibrant, hard grooving track has Lorber’s synth stamps all over it, but is one of the most explosive showcases yet for Lawrence’s snappy, fluid, ultra-melodic playing and otherworldly sense of improvisation. Lawrence is a longtime music educator who also now serves as a successful local concert producer and promoter in his hometown of Ypsilanti, MI. The lineup of the John E. Lawrence Summer Jazz Series includes Jeff Lorber Fusion, and the inaugural live performance of “Leather Jacket.”
The name Everett B Walters may sound like a solo artist, but in truth it’s the clever moniker that Chicago bred brothers Michael Everett Brown (guitar) and Harold Walter Brown III (bass) came up with for their popular, infectiously grooving ensemble that’s been recording since the mid-2000s and headlining in Las Vegas for years. The Akademia Music Award winners score another victory with their latest, the perfectly titled, hard grooving EP, IT'S FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC. It’s a rambunctious free-flowing, horn-drenched Smooth Jazz jam fest driven by Harold’s snappy, buoyant rhythms and Michael’s elegant melodies and sparkling otherworldly improvisations.
Continuing a prolific roll with his fourth full length album since 2020, Louie Fitzgerald sets his intention for the deeply felt roller coaster of highs and lows on EMOTIONS with his personally hand-painted cover art imagery of a two-toned eye with the yellow and blue of the Ukranian flag with a prominent tear rolling down. Yet the haunting ballads and darker, hypnotic, underpinnings of some tunes tell only part of his story. Recently distressed by the loss of not one, but two of his brothers, Fitzgerald also offers bright musical rays of joy created to inspire a sense of hope and optimism amidst the storms of life.
Listening to JS Floyd’s warmly familiar yet hipster, infectiously grooving take on America’s mid-70’s soft rock classic leads to a perfect response to the title of brothers Jonathan (guitar) and Stafford’s (keys) 2020 debut album CHECK THE FORECAST – Sunny with a strong chance of funk! The musically adventurous siblings, who collectively have worked with the likes of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Supremes, Force MD’s, Jon B., Al B. Sure and NY’s Black Rock Coalition, dazzle and groove mightily on their respective instruments throughout, complementing Jonathan’s elegant string melody with Stafford’s lush harmonies and spirited solo jam.
Two-time ‘Best Jazz Album of the Year’ nominees at the San Diego Music Awards, west coast contemporary jazz ensemble Ghost Jazz Trio, led by veteran guitarist, composer and producer James Morgan returns with their third collection, DREAMS ABOVE. Highlighted throughout with laidback grooves and world-class musicianship with saxophone provided by Andrew Nichols and melodic musings from piano prodigy Chase Pado in addition to the band’s rhythm section featuring bassist Nathan Brown and drummer Jack Nathan. The live studio recording (all musicians in the same room) fulfills Morgan’s longtime goal of combining tasteful jazz and classical symphonic strings in a Smooth Jazz format lending sophistication and excitement to the project’s overall relaxed vibes.
Thus far, everything written about the mad sax virtuosity Justin Klunk is bringing to his developing career in Smooth Jazz makes mention of his best-known touring associations like Ariana Grande, Lindsey Stirling and Saint Motel. On the heels of "Dive," his impressive 2022 single, the wildly funky, ultra-melodic, horn drenched magic he brings to his perfectly titled latest release “Make It Real” ensures that the multi-talented saxman will soon be just as well known for a parade of infectious and impactful genre hits. The track is bright and bold, with easy flowing sensual verses that lead to a soaring, soulful chorus powered by the dynamic duality of sax and electric guitar.
Embodying the title of his cool-breezy and sensually funky new album, veteran keyboardist Jody Mayfield knows a little something about DOING THE DO – an expression meaning, “if you’re going to do something, do it well.” In addition to working with top hip-hop producers, he’s performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Grover Washington, Jr. and James Lloyd. Stirring up snappy grooves, hypnotic keyboard melodies and dreamy atmospheres, he invites several special guests – including saxman Walter Beasley – to a mix that blends the best of his stylistic worlds, with the intention of promoting positive vibes in response to these difficult times.
Legendary music biographer David Ritz once said of veteran guitarist Kenny Pore, “(His) open-hearted approach to making music is deceptively simple. His methodology is instinctual.” Pore’s latest ultra-cool album ALWAYS FROM THE HEART is a masterwork fusing lonesome, relaxed guitar lines and seductive atmospheres with silky smooth, artfully melodic and expansively arranged urban jazz and Latin tinged energy. Pore ensembles vibrantly throughout with what seems like all the cats from his L.A. studio heyday in the 80s and 90s – including Vinnie Colaiuta, Michael Landau, Alan Pasqua, Mark Douthit, James Genus, John Patitucci and Gary Meek. It’s the perfect mix of laid back chill and thoughtful soul/jazz adventure.
At its divinely soulful, melodic, and easy grooving core, #1 Billboard Smooth Jazz charting group ThreeStyle is the Euro bred trio of Bavarian guitarist Robert Fertl and Czech-born twin Chovancova sisters, Magdalena (saxes, flutes) and Gabriela (drums). Yet as their latest sweetly sensual album BETTER DAYS showcases, each fresh batch of colorful R&B/urban jazz expressions reminds us that their incredible array of guest soul-centric vocalists is every bit apart of their uplifting, smooth and romantic vibe. This time out, the guest roster includes Damon Dae, DW3, Latonya Black, Tim Owens, and Ashley Sankey, while guitarist Elvis Stanic shines and crackles on the project’s funk-filled instrumental single. Don't miss the ThreeStyle Jazz Radio Show featuring Smooth Jazz favorites as well as tracks from their albums!