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Listening Loft : HOTPICKS

510Jazz - January 16
510JAZZ
January 164Play Records, Inc.

Branding themselves as "Jazz From the East Bay," 510Jazz, named for their home base area code, is a fascinating collective of regional session musicians and world-class vocalists performing Sergio Mendes and Quincy Jones-influenced arrangements of spirited original bossa nova flavored tunes. Under the stylistically expansive direction of songwriters, bandleaders and producers, John Vargas (vocals) and David Vargas (rap), their latest album JANUARY 16 fuses the old school bossa with funky urban jazz, tight hip hop beats and infectious soul music – all elevated with empowering spiritual messages. Songs from JANUARY 16 are gaining global momentum... with national and international airplay. The project's latest single, "Right Next To Me," has been enjoying favorable positioning on SmoothJazz.com's Listener Chart, a music chart controlled 100% by radio listeners around the world. The global jazz community loves this Bay Area band!

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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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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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Paul Brown - Uptown Blues
Paul Brown
Uptown BluesWoodward Avenue

While Paul Brown has scored over 60 #1 Smooth Jazz hits for himself and as a producer of other artists, the guitarist’s musical heart has always been in the blues. His past decade of pushing the boundaries towards the ultimate powerhouse fusion of urban flavored jazz and hardcore, heartfelt blues culminates in his latest Woodward Avenue Records album UPTOWN BLUES. Brown’s got a few deep in the pocket, mid and uptempo funk burners, but the emotional core of this mostly intimate collection lies in the simmering blues-drenched vocal tunes and a thoughtful, brassy tribute to Jeff Golub. Another can’t miss highlight is the poignant piano and vocal ballad about addiction, “Somebody’s Child,” penned and sung beautifully by Brown’s wife Jacqui Brown.   

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Michael Franks - The Music In My Head
Michael Franks
The Music In My HeadShanachie Entertainment

Contemporary Jazz’s one of a kind poet laureate Michael Franks celebrates 45 years as a recording artist with THE MUSIC IN MY HEAD, his 18th album and first in seven years. Breathtaking in scope and depth yet beautifully inviting, it’s yet another masterpiece to add to his artful collection. The singer’s trademark soulful breeze of a voice weaves witty, whimsical narratives about love and romance, the intricate creative output of Mother Nature, whimsical science fiction, human misunderstanding, even a classic, long gone L.A. jazz club. Helping Franks bring his easy flowing pop, jazz and bossa flavored ventures to life are Bob Mintzer, Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip, Rachel Z and the late Chuck Loeb. Franks is that singular Smooth Jazz-oriented artist who can be appreciated for both his rich musicality and literary genius.

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Eric Darius - Breakin' Thru
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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Epic 92 - Atlanta Lights
Epic 92
Atlanta LightsRush America

Epic 92, the cool name that producer/multi-instrumentalist/singer K-Tabbs and singer-songwriter Xanthe give their fresh, edgy and soulful male-female duo, refers to two things: the year they met and a journey filled with unbelievable setbacks and triumphs, including a Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop hit. That divinely appointed road leads now to ATLANTA LIGHTS, an album infused with deep, UK influenced vibes, a classic R&B flow, confident but subtle rock edges, laid back grooves and sensual Smooth Jazz touches. The multi-dimensional sonic magic, a tight live band aesthetic and the duo’s lush vocal harmonies lay a perfect foundation for the sensual narrative. It rolls by like a sexy and sophisticated urban romance in a city that shimmers with joy and simmers with daring possibilities.  

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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Joe Hurworth - Creativity
Joe Hurworth
CreativityIndependent

A fresh addition to the acoustic pop and soul side of Smooth Jazz, 22-year old Joe Hurworth is a UK based artist whose rich blend of clear emotive vocals, lush vocal harmonies and insightful songwriting will appeal to fans who appreciate multi-genre greats like Michael McDonald. Having recently topped the SmoothJazz.com Listener Chart with “Single Day,” Joe’s unassuming, yet exquisitely produced debut EP CREATIVITY is full of infectious ballads and mid-tempo numbers that find him reflecting thoughtfully about different phases of romance and the conflicting nature of the creative process. Vocally, he cites legendary influences like Marvin Gaye, Al Green and the aforementioned McDonald, but he’s no doubt equally in influenced by his contemporaries the likes of Jason Mraz, James Morrison and Ed Sheeran. Joe’s one to watch… from Smooth to Soul, he’s got his finger on the pulse. "Single Day" made it to #1 on the SmoothJazz.com Listener Chart in the Spring of 2018!

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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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Dave Koz - Summer Horns II From A to Z
Dave Koz & Friends
Summer Horns II From A to ZConcord Records

Besides his magnetic personality and great showmanship, saxophonist Dave Koz is a Smooth Jazz icon because of his ongoing ability to surprise us. His Grammy-nominated, Summer Horns concept – joining forces with horn-playing peers on imaginative re-arrangements of pop/soul classics – was engaging in 2013 and reaches even more transcendent creative heights on its sequel, SUMMER HORNS II: FROM A TO Z. Part of the magic this time comes from adding different horns, with Rick Braun and trombonist/vocalist Aubrey Logan joining holdovers Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot. The 60’s and 70’s jams lay the foundation for diverse explorations of classics outside those decades by Maze, Paul Simon, Miami Sound Machine, Michael Jackson and Bobby Troup. Koz’s greatest stroke of genius is the title track, which finds a way to effortlessly bridge eras and genres by blending classics by Duke Ellington and Jay-Z.   

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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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Jeff Lorber Fusion - Impact
Jeff Lorber Fusion
ImpactShanachie Entertainment

Legendary contemporary jazz trailblazers Jeff Lorber and Jimmy Haslip knew exactly how to celebrate the keyboardist’s first ever Grammy win this year for their 2017 Jeff Lorber Fusion album PROTOTYPE, get back in the studio and make the next one even funkier, tighter and more musically and harmonically compelling! The fruits of their labor result in the perfectly titled IMPACT, a jammin’ powder keg of a collection which crackles, sears the soul, and commands detailed attention with a swirl of primal energy and silky cool from the jammin’ get-go. With genre-transcendent nods to everyone from Horace Silver to J.R.R. Tolkien, JLF takes on added fuel via a high-powered guest list including Paul Jackson, Jr., Andy Snitzer, Dave Mann and Gary Novak.  

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Kenee Mareé - World Over
Kenee Mareé
World OverBreken Records

Having engaged audiences from Montreal to Tokyo, Atlanta-based Smooth Jazz guitarist, songwriter, arranger and producer Kenee Maree offers a unique perspective on the need for global harmony on his spiritually infused EP, WORLD OVER. With only three songs, he gets us grooving and swaying immediately – but also inspires us to think of issues vital to the emotional and physical survival of humanity. While the atmospheric, flute-inflected instrumental “Mallorca” is a breezy showcase for Maree’s cool, soulful strumming, “World Over” uses percussive textures, Latin piano, rap and uplifting gospel choruses to convey the essence that we’re all in this together. The guitarist emphasizes that point on the passionate soul and blues tinged vocal ballad “We Are One.” 

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Dave Muse - Forgotten Journey
Dave Muse
Forgotten JourneyDeva Records

In 2016, two years after his induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame as a member of soft rock greats Firefall, flutist Dave Muse got his solo career back in gear by revamping the band’s classic hits on FIREFALL REVISITED. Clearly Muse is in an entirely new era and creative mindset, the multi-faceted artist and composer launches his new album FORGOTTEN JOURNEY with a mystical prelude featuring the distant voices of mission control. That new age vibe gives way to some playfully grooving, ultra-melodic Smooth Jazz dynamite, with a mix of feisty and funky R&B/pop, Latin vibes and breezy tropical flavors, peppered on occasion with sizzling horns. Muse is a pop legend, but his greatest journeys clearly lie ahead!    

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Steve Oliver - Illuminate
Steve Oliver
IlluminateSOM Entertainment

Following in the tradition of his earlier albums POSITIVE ENERGY and RADIANT, Steve Oliver dubs his latest album ILLUMINATE, shining a spotlight on his trademark of vibrant, guitar melodies and sunny wordless vocalese couched in uplifting musical atmospheres. Though the uptempo, road trip ready gems drive the journey, his first set of original contemporary jazz instrumentals in six years includes several intimate ballads that bring a soulful depth to the party. Both live and in the studio, Steve showcases his one-man band mastery by  generating his own guitar, bass and keyboard vibes through his unique “sound design.” ILLUMINATE is highlighted with a few top-flight friends including Jimmy Haslip, Joel Taylor and Nelson Rangell.     

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Sam Rucker - Redemption
Sam Rucker
RedemptionFavor Productions

Reflective of its title and the individual themes driving its soulful, engaging tracks, Sam Rucker’s emotionally compelling third album REDEMPTION is powered by a deep spiritual vision of true soul survival. The versatile Virginia-based saxophonist uses bright melodies, tight grooves and the occasional uplifting, gospel flavored female vocals to enhance the musical praise, and to count the blessings that saw the artist through the dark times. While Rucker’s previous works were infused with inspirational messages, his shift from featuring top guest stars on his previous album TELL YOU SOMETHING (Norman Connors, Bobby Lyle, Euge Groove) to carrying the emotional passion himself is indicative of the many emotional and creative breakthroughs he’s made over the past five years. REDEMPTION is as divinely inspired as Smooth Jazz gets! 

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Paolo Rustichelli - Magic Life
Paolo Rustichelli
Magic LifeNext Age Music

It was a revelation, even for a superstar legend the likes of Carlos Santana, when on a hot day in May 1996, in Los Angeles, California, Santana heard the rough mix of the song “Paisa” and fell in love with the unique composition. The song would become Paolo Rustichelli’s first #1 Billboard Smooth Jazz single and Santana agreed to be the executive producer on Paolo’s MYSTIC MAN album. Two decades later, Paolo is a critically-acclaimed, Smooth Jazz composer with a string of invigorating, innovative radio hits. His trademark sound is a blending of synths and samples admired and emulated by artists around the world. The pioneer of electro Smooth Jazz brings us a brand-new, uplifting single for summer, "Magic Life," offering a super fresh, sexy vibe, continuing Paolo’s Mediterranean, musical mindfulness!

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Brian Simpson - Something About You
Brian Simpson
Something About YouShanachie Entertainment

If Smooth Jazz had an MVP award for versatility, keyboardist, composer and musical director extraordinaire, Brian Simpson, would be a perennial winner. As a sideman, he’s brought his spin of grace and funk to stars the likes of Janet Jackson, Dave Koz and George Duke. As a solo artist, with the release of his picture-perfect, eighth album, SOMETHING ABOUT YOU, he’s quickly adding to his extraordinary run of radio hits. Simpson drives his catchy, sun-filled jazz melodies, and breezy soul ballads with a mix of in-the-pocket grooves, shuffling rhythms and exciting, percussive textures. Helping push Simpson’s trademark sonic energies to fresh, transcendent heights, are co-producer Steve Oliver, bassists Alex Al and Andre Berry and the dashing, dreamy trumpet of guest artist Ron King.  

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Will Sumner - Ride The Wave
Will Sumner
Ride The WaveOcean Street

Will Sumner’s got a pretty tasty theme developing, and it’s all about bringing the joie de vivre and sunshine filled adventures to Smooth Jazz! Extending the summery magic of his recordings COAST DRIVE, PIER GROOVE and ENDLESS SUMNER, the veteran composer/guitarist’s latest single “Ride The Wave,” the title track from his upcoming album, is pure buoyant, rolling energy. To create the ideal carefree top down, wind in your face, drive along PCH vibe, Sumner takes a Rippingtons-esque production approach, doubling his guitars with saxes and featuring lush piano and tropical percussion textures. 

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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Jorge Vercillo - Closest Friend
Jorge Vercillo
Closest Friend2018 Leve Produções Musicais

Generally when we think of Brazilian music, we usually think of greats like Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendes and Joao Gilberto. Listening to the impassioned romantic vocals of Jorge Vercillo on his first English language song “Closest Friend,” we may wonder why it took this brilliant, 5-time Latin Grammy nominated star so long to get on our radars! The coolly exotic, mid-tempo ballad is the English version of “Final Feliz,” a huge hit for Vercillo back in 1999 which has been covered by Djavan, Caetano Veloso, Alexandre Pires and many singers on Brazilian TV talent shows. The singer’s charming Brazilian accent brings a fresh authenticity to a track that is bound to establish him as a star throughout the U.S. and Europe.

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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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Zzapiens - Legacy of Love/Songs For Her
Zzapiens
Legacy of Love/Songs For HerBreken Records

Under the guidance of renowned Smooth Jazz guitarist/producer Kenee Maree, the rhythm section known as ZZAPIENS joins forces with some of Atlanta’s best-known pop, R&B and jazz vocalists to create LEGACY OF LOVE/SONGS FOR HER. A collection of lively and emotional re-imagined classics from the worlds of Brazilian, Latin, traditional jazz and classic R&B (Luther Vandross and Roberta Flack), it’s a beautiful celebration of the life of Maree’s business and life partner Brenda, who passed away from breast cancer in 2017. “Bren & Ken” created Breken Records, whose deeply soulful roster includes all the brilliant artists showcased here: Kandis Maureen, Sirlister Smiley, Sybil Eberhart, Jason Smith and Kam Showers. Even without the poignant inspirational backstory, this is a remarkable work introducing us to an important independent record label. 

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Listening Loft : MUST HAVES

Herb Alpert - Wade In The Water
Herb Alpert
Music Volume 3 : Herb Alpert Reimagines the Tijuana BrassHerb Alpert Presents

Five and a half decades into one of music’s most illustrious careers… ageless 83-year-old, 9 time Grammy winning legend Herb Alpert is having a retro blast revisiting and amping up his 1960’s classics for the modern music era. The first single from his upcoming album MUSIC VOLUME 3 : HERB ALPERT REIMAGINES THE TIJUANA BRASS is a fresh, hip twist on the spiritual “Wade in the Water,” a Top 5 Adult Contemporary hit back in 1967. The trumpet great’s new version is a playful, lushly produced, bossa nova with stylish synth textures, breezy female vocalese and contemporary beats. Herb is here to stay!

Rebecca Angel - What We Had
Rebecca Angel
What We HadTimeless Grooves Records

On her sensually soulful, debut EP, WHAT WE HAD, New York City based jazz vocalist Rebecca Angel turns on the charm, brings on the breezy and keeps the sweet seduction flowing. With graceful vocals that bring just as much emotion to scat as they do to lyrics, she brings fresh, youthful sensibilities and cool acoustic instrumentation (via producer Jason Miles) to a vibe grounded in the classic bossa nova style of Bebel and Astrud Gilberto. Angel’s vibrant song choices include two nostalgic originals, an obscure Hoagy Carmichael tune, a few Brazilian delights and two hipster arrangements of the classic, "Stand By Me."  

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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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dee Brown - Remembering You
dee Brown
Remembering YouDeeBrownMusic.com

R&B/funk driven, Detroit based guitarist dee Brown’s REMEMBERING YOU is that rare Smooth Jazz album that lifts the spirits and gets the fingers snapping as it weaves a compelling narrative through its thoughtful song titles. A colorful blend of hard grooving jams and passionate ballads, the collection tells the beautiful and emotional story of Brown’s relationship with singer/songwriter Shaunia Edwards, his collaborator and fiancée who made her transition to heaven in February 2016. His inspirational chronicle of their time together is a celebration of her extraordinary life and their incredible love - and a reminder that we are all here to share our lives together.

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The Allen Carman Project - Morning After
The Allen Carman Project
CarmanologyIndependent

After two decades away from the music biz, bassist Allen Carman has become a whimsical master of suspense in Smooth Jazz. He’s paving the way for the eventual release of The Allen Carman Project’s full length debut CARMANOLOGY with radio singles driven by his tight, bubbling groove and the R&B/funk foundation of keyboardist Philippe Saisse, percussionist Gumbi Ortiz and drummer Luis Alicea. While the band’s first three hits featured saxophonist Andy Snitzer, its latest, the densely percussive, sensually atmospheric and tropically tinged “Morning After,” draws its colorful energy and resonant emotions from Rick Braun. The trumpeter’s hypnotic melody and imaginative improvisations make the track soar!

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Darryl Anders~AgapéSoul - Conversations
Darryl Anders~AgapéSoul
ConversationsDarryl Anders~AgapéSoul

Veteran bassist Darryl Anders’ dynamic and rich Smooth Jazz, R&B, Gospel, Blues influenced Bay Area collective takes its name AgapéSoul from the Bible’s definition of the deep love God has for mankind - which in turn translates to each vocalist and musician’s passion for soul-based music. Six years after hitting #1 on the UK Soul Chart with their debut Believe in Love, the Incogito/Brand New Heavies styled group returns with CONVERSATIONS, a sizzling, eclectic mix of funk anthems, seductive old school ballads and jamming fusion with a rockin’ edge. Anders’ core band (including vocalist-songwriter Zoe Ellis) is joined by renowned artists and songwriters, including Grammy winner Tommy Sims, Paul Jackson, Jr., Eric Gales and members of Snarky Puppy.

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Drew Davidsen - InnerSpace
Drew Davidsen
InnerSpaceNembleu Entertainment

George Benson once said of Baltimore based guitar visionary Drew Davidsen that he “represents a fresh and new approach to the idiom” of jazz… his personality gives the music freshness.” All of the above apply to Davidsen’s seventh album, INNERSPACE, a wildly adventurous sonic journey that, from track to track, chills out, funks out, rocks out and grooves up the dance floor. Davidsen brings to the multi-faceted collection everything from fashionable pop and gentle acoustic beauty to snappy, soul-jazz and juicy jams with fuzzy distortion – yet the album vibes in harmony on the wings of Davidsen’s impeccable melodies and rambunctious energy.  

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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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Jazmin Ghent - Heat
Jazmin Ghent
The Story Of JazJazminGhentMusic.com

Paving the way for her upcoming third solo album STORY OF JAZ, electrifying saxophonist, full time music educator and emerging Smooth Jazz sensation Jazmin Ghent brings the snazzy sizzle and her unique brand of sultry funk on her ultra-infectious new single “Heat.” She’s recorded two singles with Paul Brown, and here collaborates with two more genre heavyweights, producer Euge Groove and keyboardist Philippe Saisse. As if the song’s bright, textured horn hook and danceable percussion weren’t seductive enough, the track also takes a jubilant trip to the tropics with Saisse’s playful vibraphone and stunning flute runs by the amazing Kim Scott

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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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Charley Langer - Happy Hour
Charley Langer
Happy HourIndependent

Perfectly embodying its cheerful, uplifting title, Charley Langer’s new album HAPPY HOUR is a true celebration of the veteran saxophonist’s locking in on a fully, funky, in the pocket Smooth Jazz vibe. The collection is the long awaited follow-up to his popular debut NEVER THE SAME, whose title track received significant airplay on the radio and The Weather Channel. Creating a soulful, crackling chemistry with guitarist, composer and genre super-producer Nils, Langer brings his muscular alto vibe to exciting, infectious melodies and jumping, horn-textured hooks. Adding some bold and exciting Tower of Power-like edges to the pop-soul flow, Langer embodies the album’s title with a set that exudes energy, optimism and sweet touches of romance. You don’t need a drink to enjoy this very HAPPY HOUR!

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MH3 - My Job
MH3
My JobIndie Artist / B4 Entertainment

The first cheerful thought that will hit you when you hear MH3’s (Milton Harris III) new single, the deeply passionate R&B ballad “My Job,” is that the great Teddy Pendergrass may be alive and well. The spirit of the legendary singer’s soul intensity inhabits MH3’s beautifully produced, super-sexy atmospheric track about a man’s great devotion to his wife, which includes a cool spoken word interlude and beautiful female harmony vocals. Before emerging with his jazzy neo-soul vibe, MH3 served in the U.S. Navy and recorded and performed as a gospel/hip-hop artist – but there’s no doubt that “My Job” is his best work yet

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Byron Miller - The Gift
Byron Miller
The Gift : Psychobass 2Byron Lee Miller Studio, LLC

For legendary bassist Byron Miller, “Psychobass” is more than a clever branding idea reflective of his lifelong passion for his instrument. It’s his full-on “a.k.a.” identity. His rhythmically eclectic, jump off your chair grooving new album THE GIFT: PSYCHOBASS 2 picks up where his 2015 long awaited return to action PSYCHOBASS left off. He keeps the deeply personal autobiography hopping with a sensual George Duke cover, some island fun and a mix of high octane and chill, Duke-inspired originals with appropriate funk and groove related titles. On hand to celebrate the bassist’s many gifts are Kirk Whalum, Paul Jackson, Jr., Walter Beasley, Munyungo Jackson and others.         

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Robert Miller's Project Grand Slam - Trippin'
Project Grand Slam
Trippin'Cakewalk Records

Bassist, songwriter, arranger and producer Robert Miller launched his career on the Boston music scene during the 70’s heyday of jazz fusion – and brings the soulful, jamming and fiery aesthetic of greats like Return to Forever and Weather Report to his funky, footloose collective Project Grand Slam. Their latest album TRIPPIN’ offers a freewheeling mix of infectious, and sometimes wordless, vocal tunes (sung by Ziarra Washington), jangling instrumental jams and crackling soul-jazz rockers that are decidedly retro in nature. While holding down the groove, Miller also plays the Quincy Jones bandleader role, bringing masterful performances out of his cohorts, including saxophonist Mario Castro and guitarist Tristan Clark. This is a must-see band live, as they command an audience unlike any other collective in the genre!

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Nils - Play
Nils
Play Baja/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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Kai Otten - Camper Mode
Kai Otten
Camper ModeLounge Aroma

Smooth Jazz fans with venturesome musical tastes beyond the core of the genre, will go absolutely wild for young, German composer/producer Kai Otten’s fascinating, genre-bending explorations on his latest album CAMPER MODE. Self-described as creating “decorative music,” Kai utilizes a flamenco guitar vibe – both meditative and fiery - as a foundation, then adds a variety of sound textures including exotic percussion, electronic ambiences and self-styled, instruments to create compelling soundscapes. The journey includes moments of chill and relaxation, as well as dance, and clap-alongs, trippy trances, moody meditations and other unconventional – but always melodic – colors. CAMPER MODE is a musical journey like no other!  

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Art Ruprecht - Cast Your Care
Art Ruprecht
Cast Your CareFlame Productions

With influences including Joe Pass, Larry Carlton and Pat Metheny, multi-faceted guitarist Art Ruprecht brings a dazzling array of styles to his emergence as a grooving Smooth Jazz artist. The title of his generous 14 track collection CAST YOUR CARE taps into his deep gospel roots and the fresh twists he spins through well-known hymns. Yet those tunes are only the beginning of a genre-busting journey that includes in-the-pocket urban jazz/funk, imaginative straight ahead excursions that pay homage to Wes Montgomery and Miles Davis and acoustic-driven, tropical tinged Latin jazz. 

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D'Laurent Smith - Time + Space
D'Laurent Smith
Time + SpaceKawinkadink Records

With the release of his eclectic, continuously fresh and compelling debut TIME + SPACE keyboardist Darrell “D’Laurent” Smith caps a fascinating career that’s found him recording and/or touring with everyone from Stevie Nicks, Elton John and Janet Jackson, to Cher, Anita Baker and Lady Antebellum. He draws from these experiences to craft a unique listening experience that defies easy genre categorization. While the album’s lead single featuring Boney James is a silky, in the pocket Smooth Jazz delight, the multi-talented composer/musician also taps into his passions for an expansive array of other styles, including Hammond B-3 based jazz/blues, zydeco, pop, R&B/funk, classical and world music. 

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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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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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Emmanuel Withers - Mr. Neo-Classic
Emmanuel Withers
Mr. Neo-Classic Starring Emmanuel WithersEdgarRoy Entertainment

A self-admitted late bloomer, R&B singer extraordinaire Emmanuel Withers only embraced his musical destiny after a successful career in information systems. MR. NEO-CLASSIC STARRING EMMANUEL WITHERS, the title he fashioned for his warmly inviting, seductively grooving debut album, perfectly captures the dreamy and sensual retro-soul flavored magic he shares throughout. While his occasional falsetto and liquefied vocal grace may bring to mind legends like The Stylistics’ Russell Thompkins, Jr. and Curtis Mayfield, Withers beautifully bridges the flow of that era with contemporary beats and production textures. He’s an engaging new presence on the urban smooth jazz scene!  

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Leron Young - Compilations
Leron Young
CompilationsIndependent

It’s testament to veteran electric guitarist, Leron Young’s artful, perfectly in the pocket composing skills, that the ultra-melodic, deep grooving original urban-flavored tunes on his album COMPILATIONS actually surpass the joys of his clever twists on familiar R&B and jazz classics. While his crackling licks are always front and center, Young enhances them with colorful synth harmonics and engaging vocal textures. In addition to being an accomplished guitarist, Leron is an electrical engineer, music teacher, member of the Bowie State Community Jazz Orchestra and author of a new book that makes the connection between engineering, music and human growth and development.  

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Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS

Paula Atherton - Shake It
Paula Atherton
Shake ItMighty Quinn Productions

Getting us to do exactly what its enticing title promises, Paula Atherton’s sizzling, funky, deep pocket groovin’ fifth album SHAKE IT, reminds us why the multi-talented artist has shared stages with Smooth Jazz greats and performed with straight ahead legends like Hank Jones and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Complementing her crisp, edgy David Sanbornesque alto vibe, she’s also aces on the flute and has an irresistibly bluesy vocal style. Joining Atherton on this powerhouse session are genre stalwarts, guitarist Nick Colionne and Rippingtons keyboardist Bill Heller. For Booking Inquiries : jazzygirlentertainment@gmail.com

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Andrey Chmut - Smoothability
Andrey Chmut
SmoothabilitySkytown Records

Classically trained, Ukranian-born saxophonist Andrey Chmut uses the clever title SMOOTHABILITY for his fresh, edgy, wildly in the pocket debut album, but he could just as appropriately dubbed it “Funkability” or “Slammability” based on his intensely passionate, deeply percussive approach to these picture perfect melodies – even on the lighthearted mid-tempo tunes and dreamy ballads. The Dave Koz, Eric Marienthal and Charlie Parker influenced Chmut also enjoys sharing the spotlight with some incredible guests – including the legendary Bob James, U-Nam and his Skytown Records labelmate, keyboardist Valeriy Stepanov.  

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Christopher CJ - Sunset Songs
Christopher CJ
Sunset SongsChristopher CJ

One of the coolest biographical details about emerging saxophonist Christopher CJ is that he was once a professional ballet dancer. He infuses some of that graceful, flowing movement into his dynamics-rich debut, a 4 song EP, SUNSET SONGS, with vibes that range from laid back pop/soul, sultry tropical sway to hard-hitting power balladry. The instantly infectious covers of Ed Sheeran, Drake and The Weeknd smashes will draw you in, and CJ's heartfelt original, "Inspiration Island" will leaving you wanting more!

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Citrus Sun - Ride Like The Wind
Citrus Sun
Ride Like The WindDome Records

RIDE LIKE THE WIND, the third vibrant outing from Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick’s colorful and fun-spirited Incognito offshoot band Citrus Sun, is a joyous, rhythmically eclectic romp through all the groove-driven, acid jazzy terrain of his primary musical collective. While the collection features five members of Incognito’s current line-up, there’s more emphasis on the brilliant, Donald Byrd-styled solo trumpet power of Dominic Glover and the added rock-jazz sizzle of UK guitar legend Jim Mullen. 

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Jammin'- Outside The Box
David Garfield
Jammin’ - Outside the BoxCreatchy Records

While perhaps best known as George Benson’s longtime musical director, David Garfield is also a top composer, arranger, producer and artist who - as the title of the second of his five-part, multi-genre series of releases informs us – loves JAMMIN’ – OUTSIDE THE BOX. Celebrating his lifelong passion for R&B and pop, Garfield invites a party of illustrious musical friends - including Ray Parker, Jr., Michael McDonald, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Marcus Miller - to bring a freewheeling jazzy transcendence to classics by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Rufus, Sting, The Isley Brothers and Adele. 

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Chelsey Green & The Green Project - Summertime
Chelsey Green & The Green Project
SummertimeChelseyGreen.com

Dynamic and innovative violinist and vocalist Chelsey Green seduces us into the sunny flow of summer with her supremely trippy, hypnotic and sensual neo-soul re-imagining of the Gershwin classic “Summertime.” Green leads with a lovely viola intro before the swirl of percussion, synth atmospheres and her dreamy voice capture our emotions. The track also features a transcendent vibraphone solo by Warren Wolf.

 

 

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Groove55 - New Beginning
Groove55
New BeginningProduction JAM

One of the freshest electronic urban jazz ensembles of the past decade, Montreal based hipster quartet Groove55 takes a cool, intoxicating turn towards chill music and more exotic textures on their appropriately titled fourth album NEW BEGINNING. Their intimate yet sonically provocative multi-textured fusion, captured perfectly by the song title “Chill Funk,” combines the hypnotic melodies, ambiences and otherworldly sounds of keyboardist Jacques Mignault with Yves Nadeau’s deeply grooving bass, Nicolas Chourot’s fluid guitar lines and Yves Adam's emotional saxophone touches. 

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Jody Watley - The Passion
Jody Watley
The PassionAvitone Recordings

Ten years after winning a Lifetime Achievement Award from Billboard magazine, Grammy winning singer, songwriter, producer and musical and fashion trendsetter Jody Watley is still looking forward and feeling “The Passion.”  Her sexy, dreamy new hypno-jazz/soul single is under the new group entity Jody Watley & SRL, which stands for “Soul. Revolution. Love.” These emotionally impactful elements infuse the musical vibe created by Watley, as well as legendary Italian producer/mixer Alex Di Cio and Levi Seacer, an original member of Prince & NPG, whose crisp, fluid guitar lines caress the singer’s vocals throughout this seductive track.   

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Jeff Kashiwa - Fly Away
Jeff Kashiwa
Fly AwayJeffKashiwa.com

Former Rippington and creator of The Sax Pack, Jeff Kashiwa enters his third decade of solo recording with FLY AWAY, an emotionally impactful album whose songs alternately capture the bittersweet awareness of the passage of time and joyful optimism about the future. Balancing lilting, wistful reflections with flurries of exuberant soul-funk influenced jazz, Kashiwa – playing alto and tenor sax, flute, alto flute, clarinet and EWI – jams with his longtime band Coastal Access and brings extra punch to the project with guests Marc Antoine, Tom Schuman, Miles Gilderdale, Steve Reid, Ronnie Gutierrez, Ramon Yslas and one of the final recordings of the late Ricky Lawson. Kashiwa reminds us that while time seems to FLY AWAY, musical inspiration only grows sweeter with time.

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Karen Linette - Couldn't Luv U
Karen Linette
Couldn't Luv UIndependent

Sometimes it only takes two tracks to feel an artist’s true soul coming through – and that’s exactly what emerging R&B/jazz vocalist Karen Linette allows us to do with her new maxi-single, COULDN’T LUV U. A longtime presence on the Washington, D.C. jazz scene, she’s also opened for the likes of Cece Peniston, Club Nouveau and Regina Belle. Now she’s at home on center stage, finding the deeper beauty of Stevie Wonder’s anthem “Another Star” via a sensual, easy romantic flow, and further hypnotizing us with the pointed, crisp edges of “Couldn’t Luv U.”  

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d. Mills - Next Step
d. Mills
Next StepIndependent

A multi-instrumentalist (piano, bass, guitar) who launched his career as a teenager funkin’ with gospel great Shirley Caesar, d. Mills has been bringing spiritual-minded urban soul to his Smooth Jazz Projects since 2007. “D’s Groove,” his latest slice of irresistible crunch-grooving cool, offers a perfect showcase of his deep melodic artistry on all his instruments, balanced by exciting improvisational solos on trumpet and sax. With an instrumental version and one featuring anthem-like wordless vocals, “D’s Groove” is the lead single from Mills’ upcoming EP NEXT STEP.   

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Motown Moe - Warm Breeze
Motown Moe
Warm BreezeWindee Records

With a nifty hipster moniker like “Motown Moe,” you know two things about this incredibly diverse and prolific keyboardist producer – that he’s from Detroit and he’s all about old school soul. WARM BREEZE, MM’s 14th album in ten years, is intimate, inviting and totally chill. The former sports nut and Air Force veteran surrounds his sweet key melodies and lush saxophone leads with dreamy ambience, seductive percussion textures and trippy effects to create a sultry laid-back soundscape. 

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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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Elan Trotman - Incomparable
Elan Trotman
IncomparableIsland Muzik Productions

The title of Elan Trotman’s latest album INCOMPARABLE is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Barbados born and bred saxophonist – who has already had over 10 Billboard chart topping singles – brings fresh and edgy snazz, pizzazz and sizzling jazz to tracks that take us on a whirlwind exotic, tropically tinged journey. Trotman straps us in for the exciting ride and traverses musical landscapes from Africa and Jakarta to his home island and even Cape Cod. He also tosses in a wild, funky synth-sax romp through a famous classical piece! 

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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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Urbanity - Once Upon A Love
Urbanity
Once Upon A LoveAlfi Records

One of the definitions of "Urbanity" is "suavity, courteousness and refinement of manner" – a perfect description of the sophisticated and soulful Smooth Jazz vibe created by the Australian band Urbanity, led by inventive jazz guitarist, Albare and ultra-melodic keyboardist Phil Turcio. Their new single "Once Upon a Love," the first follow-up to their 2017 album Urban Soul, is as unabashedly romantic as its title. It’s a coolly atmospheric, lightly grooving gem driven by Albare’s bright, inviting electric guitar melody and Turcio’s sparkling piano solo.  

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Urs Wiesendanger - Breakfast in Paris
Urs Wiesendanger
Breakfast In ParisNiRo Sounds

The eclectic array of musical styles on Urs Wiesendanger’s sixth album, the cleverly titled BREAKFAST IN PARIS, is no surprise considering the Swiss drummer, keyboardist and vocalist’s history as one of the most versatile arranger/producers in Europe. With Wiesendanger’s dynamic synth and spirited piano melodies leading the way, his tasty mix of pop, R&B, old school brassy funk and jazz vocals and instrumentals is uniquely fashioned as an homage to the Westcoast Pop of the 80s and 90s.  

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Reedie Williams - Jazz Experiment
Reedie Williams
Jazz ExperimentConnection Records

Throughout her career, singing everything from cabaret music in Paris to performing Brazilian music, jazz and gospel, versatile R&B/jazz influenced vocalist Reedie Williams has earned comparisons to Ledisi, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan and Sarah Vaughn. True to the title of her ear-popping, dynamics rich debut album JAZZ EXPERIMENT, the singer fashions a powerful niche all her own. She artfully balances powerful torchy ballads and sexy excursions with edgier adventures that allow her free reign to showcase her brilliant scatting and cross over a bit into the EDM world.  

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Dyra Wolf - Here I Am
Dyra Wolf
Here I AmDyraWolf.com

On her richly diverse R&B, jazz, funk, blues and gospel influenced debut album, veteran Baltimore jazz singer Dyra Wolf makes an emphatic declaration, HERE I AM. As her deeply heartfelt and sometimes sassy voice (with smooth vocal textures) draw us into the sweet flow of an emotional journey, she balances intimate personal moments with all-out danceable joy and empowerment. The album’s producer, veteran jazz guitarist and longtime collaborator Rob Reason, is featured throughout.   

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