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Listening Loft : HOTPICKS

Acoustic Alchemy - 33 1/3
Acoustic Alchemy
33 1/3OnSide Records

Greg Carmichael, founding member of seminal guitar driven contemporary jazz ensemble Acoustic Alchemy, is a true survivor. He regrouped after the passing of band co-founder Nick Webb 20 years ago, and now, with longtime partner Miles Gilderdale, creates some of the group’s most compelling and diverse music ever on 33 1/3, the title reflecting on the band’s age. Recorded in the wake of Carmichael’s wife experiencing a life-threatening bout with meningitis and the loss of their long-time friend and manager, Steward Coxhead. The first studio album in seven years is a collection that darts by design, across a stylistic map from the assertive world-fusion fun on the opening track, “East of Babylon” to an exhilarating nod to fallen guitar hero, Chuck Loeb with “Carmen’s Man.” In addition, it includes a Steely Dan-esque pop/blues tribute to Walter Becker, “Blues For Mr. Mu,” while the album also brushes on Latin, classical and contemporary sonic realms, it also includes a full band collaboration “The Girl With A Plan,” a title inspired by global radio pioneer and decades long companion, Sandy Shore. With a fresh, new energy, their trademark melodic chemistry created by an alchemy of nylon and steel guitars shines brightly through.  

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Candace Bellamy - This Feeling
Candace Bellamy
This FeelingCandaceBellamy.com

A fresh, powerfully soulful presence on the Smooth Jazz scene, physician by day, soul singer by night Candace Bellamy’s new EP, the gorgeously produced THIS FEELING, indeed feels like a heartfelt revelation. In only three tracks, she artfully portrays the bleakness of heartbreak, the wonderful promise of a lifelong love and, via a breezy reworking of a Roberta Flack classic, the sensual intensity of love in full bloom. In 2018, she had the opportunity to portray the legendary soul singer in a production of “The Voices of Donny Hathaway” in her adopted hometown of Austin, TX. Broadwayworld.com called her performance “a stellar turn as Roberta Flack.” Allow yourself to feel THIS FEELING, and you’ll feel exactly as we do about Candace!

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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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Al Gomez - Groovesville
Al Gomez
GroovesvilleShade Records

Known as one of the most versatile guitarists in Texas, Al Gomez has brought a little of everything – Tejano, country, rock and R&B – into his emergence as a formidable Smooth Jazz artist. Losing his vision in 2016, Al entered a new era in his life and career now more reliant on sound playing than sight playing, he turns adversity into triumph on his perfectly titled new EP GROOVESVILLE. With crisp, fluid lines that may remind listeners of Norman Brown or George Benson, he crafts a tight, melodic, light funk mix of cool ballads and moody mid-tempo delights. Complementing the originals are imaginative covers of a Little River Band classic and a beautiful late 70’s Kenny Loggins tune.

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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,  a powerhouse ensemble, deliver an intoxicating mix of soul-sensual ballads and tight urban jazz with an edgy funk twist on their chart-dominating, sophomore release, CROSS PATHS. Iconic jazz great Bob James joins in on the fun and exuberance... While the deeper joys emerge from George’s lush bass lead and vocal stylings, Tracy’s background vocals and the explosive energy of band members, drummer Ron Otis (Earl Klugh, Kem, Aretha Franklin), percussionist Juan Escovedo (of the legendary Escovedo family) as well as GTFers John Rekevics, Richard “Blitz” Livoni and John Cain. 

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

Saxophonist Wayne Gutshall’s perfectly titled debut album SPICY! is a joyous reflection of the many years he’s spent immersed in Miami’s Latin pop and jazz scenes – which includes work with greats like Nestor Torres, Dave Valentin, Arturo Sandoval and an appearance on Ed Calle’s Latin Grammy winning album MAMBLUE. While he showcases these influences via an artful balance of high energy exotica and balmy sensuality, the Latin vibe is simply the launching point for a stylistically eclectic collection that includes jazz fusion, gritty blues, stylish tributes to Gato Barbieri and Miles Davis and engaging twists on pop classics by Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie. Playfully jumping genres from track to track, Wayne Gutshall delivers a fashionable collection with a lot of Miami spice!

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Joe Hurworth - Higher
Joe Hurworth
HigherIndependent

In the spring of 2018, “Single Day” from Joe Hurworth’s debut EP Creativity hit #1 on the Smoothjazz.com Listener Chart – an extraordinary achievement for a new artist. Fusing old school pop/soul influences like Michael McDonald and Marvin Gaye with contemporary greats like Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran, the 23-year old UK singer-songwriter finds the perfect way to keep that momentum going with his marvelously uplifting new single “Higher.” Highlighted by a plucky bass groove and feisty saxophone accents, it’s an instantly infectious, eminently danceable, horn-drenched tune fusing pop, soul and contemporary jazz. While on one level, it’s a lighthearted party song, a few listens reveal an artist continuing to discover his unique voice and develop a meaningful musical vision.

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M'lynn - Paralyzed
M'Lynn
ParalyzedIndependent

Anyone who's ever obsessed over doubts about a prospective romantic partner's true feelings or intentions will immediately connect with emerging indie singer/songwriter and pianist M'Lynn's new single "Paralyzed." An instantly infectious follow-up to her sultry debut track "T.F.I.L.," the hypnotic song's lyrics may be about a feeling of being helpless, but its seductive grooves, cool atmospheres, subtle horn textures and brief bass and guitar solos flow free and easy. Currently enrolled in the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music songwriter program at the Frost School of Music in Miami, the Dallas born performer is a fresh new talent in the subtle jazz-soul vein of Sade and Norah Jones, yet with a mystical and ethereal vibe all her own.

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Gail Moore - Swag
Gail Moore
SwagGail Moore Music

Upon first listen to “Swag,” multi-talented vocalist Gail Moore’s sultry, sensual and gospel inflected debut Smooth Jazz single, you might think she’s giving props to just some regular fellow she admires. But a deeper understanding of the lyrics shows that it’s actually the coolest-ever musical tribute to former U.S. President Barack Obama, with a companion video that already has well over a million views on social media! The swanky “Swag,” is the latest phase of a musical journey that includes recording as a reggae gospel artist and singing backup for legends like Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, and Whitney Houston. Using music as a platform for ministry, Moore is also founder of Just Girls, an organization that empowers young girls to discover their God given purpose and destiny and helps them succeed in today’s culture. 

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Pieces Of A Dream - On Another Note
Pieces Of A Dream
On Another NoteShanachie Entertainment

Dubbed the “Steely Dan of Smooth Jazz” by All About Jazz and praised by JazzTimes Magazine for their “consistently winning contemporary jazz,” Pieces Of A Dream has been churning out chart-topping hits for four consecutive decades. Even the iconic Count Basie declared Pieces Of A Dream “A tough act to follow!” Throughout their illustrious career, childhood friends, pianist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon, have managed to stay true to their mission, as evident on ON ANOTHER NOTE, Pieces Of A Dream’s 24th recording. “I hope the new music shows the passion we put into the performances on this project and our constant drive to improve on everything we deliver to our fans.” said Lloyd of the new project. Two of the other essential “Pieces,” guitarist Chris Harris and saxophonist Tony Watson, Jr. also make a profound, emotional impact throughout. Two decades after the band’s mentor Grover Washington, Jr.’s passing, P.O.A.D. continue to be the groove-driven pride of their hometown, Philadelphia. 
 

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Nelson Rangell - By Light
Nelson Rangell
By LightNelson Rangell

Bringing deep R&B inspired passion to the sax and masterful/improvisational energy to the flute, Nelson Rangell has been one of Smooth Jazz’s most dynamic and versatile reed players over the past 30 years. Launching eloquently and emphatically into his fourth decade, the multi-talented composer/musician’s latest album BY LIGHT finds him exploring some fresh and exciting creative concepts. True to its title, the collection balances bright, instantly engaging melodies and optimism with intensely muscular, deeply emotional playing. Beyond the edgy, sax driven, mostly up-tempo pop, funk and soul melodies and horn textures, Rangell shares his deeper artistry on several flute centered pieces that showcase his stunning virtuosity and otherworldly improvisational abilities on that instrument.     

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Althea Rene - Flawsome
Althea René
FlawsomeAlthea Rene Productions

In 2018, the former Detroit Deputy Sheriff who’s been putting stylish funk in the flute for more than 20 years authored an autobiography called “Becoming Chocolate Barbie – A Guide for Professional Women in the Music Business.” Translating her passionate mentorship and advocacy for women’s empowerment to the studio, Rene’s cleverly titled eighth album FLAWSOME perfectly reflects its vulnerable yet empowering concept of “flawed” + “awesome.” Vibing with an iconic lineup of Smooth Jazz greats – including Maysa, Jeanette Harris, Euge Groove and Gerald Albright – Althea tackles jazz, rock, funk and even an exotic island flow. She balances pure, flowing flute with steamy, sizzling sax and flute jams, some wild trumpet fun and horn section sizzle. Smooth Jazz doesn’t get any more FLAWSOME than this!

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Stephen Rothhaar - Moments
Stephen Rothhaar
Moments StephenRothhaar.com

Since graduating from Ithaca College of Music in 2018 with a degree in voice (Opera believe it or not), ultra-hip pop, R&B and jazz influenced, Pittsburgh based singer/songwriter Stephen Rothhaar has been unstoppable. He follows his indie-acoustic EP HUMANS with the engaging, pure pop, ultra-danceable debut full length album MOMENTS. Helping take Rothhaar’s spirited soul sensibilities and instincts for creating infectious light pop gems to the next level is producer Nate Harasim, who fashions a slick, multi-faceted sonic landscape full of lightly funk contemporary beats, bright jazzy guitar jangle and a sensual seductive flow. In addition to showcasing Rothhaar’s multi-faceted artistry, the album includes impressive guest spots by globally acclaimed bassist Nathan East, chart-topping contemporary jazz guitarist Nils, vocalist Monica Notaro and the popular Detroit-based rapper K-Squeez.       

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Brendan Rothwell - Sentiment
Brendan Rothwell
SentimentBrendanRothwell.com

UK born, Calgary-based bassist Brendan Rothwell traces his love of the instrument and its intense soul possibilities to hearing the legendary Marcus Miller play on Miles Davis’ 80’s classic TUTU. On the heels of a debut that charted both in the U.S and Canada, his latest album SENTIMENT, is an eclectic, deeply rhythmic sonic experience. He includes several picture perfect, frothy funk, Smooth Jazz tracks, but the collection’s deeper pleasures expand the emotional palette into neo-soul, jazz fusion and even ambient territory. Reminiscent of the most genre-transcendent works of Miller, Brian Bromberg and Stanley Clarke, these songs are meditative masterpieces, taking him to contemplative realms of expression rich with mood and immersive atmospheres.   

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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. 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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Listening Loft : MUST HAVES

Lisa Addeo - Listen To This
Lisa Addeo
Listen To ThisLittle Black Dress Records

With over 20 songs currently in rotation on Sirius XM’s Siriusly Sinatra and Holiday Traditions channels, versatile pianist Lisa Addeo brings an incredible history with the Great American Songbook – not to mention, a keen ear for melody and spirited improvisation - to her emergence as a Smooth Jazz artist with her new single “Never Enough.” Inspired by a feeling of deep appreciation for “good music, good friends and good energy,” this elegant, horn-tinged, friendly funk track features cool guitar textures by Nils, who is also co-producer of Lisa’s upcoming album LISTEN TO THIS.    

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Rebecca Angel - Summer Song
Rebecca Angel
Summer SongTimeless Grooves Records

Following her acclaimed single and video for “Thoughts and Prayers,” a socially conscious song about gun violence, Rebecca Angel celebrates the optimistic start of the current season with her latest track, the lighthearted and breezy “Summer Song.” Produced by Jason Miles (who adds his inimitable old school keys) and featuring guitarist Jonah Pendergast and saxophonist Gottfried Stoger, the bossa nova inspired tune – which includes a charming vocalese hook – doubles as an introspective look back at Angel’s own life and a subtle anthem for girls of her generation to stay confident in who they are.  

Edda Borg - New Suit
Edda Borg
New SuitIndependent

On her second album NEW SUIT, classically trained Icelandic pianist Edda Borg brings passionate heat to her chilly environs with a collection of sophisticated, infectious magic. Transcending her upbringing, she keeps things loose via a mix of clever, smooth grooving ivory melodies, deeper funk and blues textures (played on Fender Rhodes) and even a few touches of fiery Latin jazz. Borg’s enjoyed a multi-faceted career that includes performing extensively and running her popular Edda Borg Music School in Reykjavik. Now, she’s channeling all of that energy and experience into some of Smooth Jazz’s tastiest new sounds.

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Jacqui Brown - Why Oh Why
Jacqui Brown
Love, Love, Love Woodward Avenue

With the release of her deeply intimate and bluesy Americana debut album LOVE LOVE LOVE, Jacqui Brown can add “remarkable singer-songwriter” to a resume that has heretofore been defined by three “A”s – Artist, Author, Advocate. With a voice that blends sincere soul conviction with a dreamy vulnerability and a commitment to social consciousness, Brown finds that sweet spot between pop, blues and jazz with more than a few tinges of country. The project is a stirring collaboration with Brown’s husband, Smooth Jazz hitmaker and guitarist Paul Brown, who brings edge, grit and tenderness (and killer vocals) to the transcendent mix.   

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

Turning a onetime clever album title into the name of his high energy ensemble, Dr. Dave & The Housecall Band work major musical healing miracles on their latest album MIDNIGHT DAYDREAM. With a sizzling swirl of pop, R&B, traditional and contemporary jazz, topped off with tasty touches of Latin, blues and swing, Dr. Dave embraces the freedom to improvise more than ever before and tackle jazz classics and a popular TV theme in addition to a slate of ultra-infectious originals. Two new singles out this year from Dr. Dave's coolest collection yet, on the heels of his chart-topping “Sexy Cindy,” (named for Cindy Sanchez Medina, Miss Santander, Colombia 2018), expect the tropical jazz of "Cabo Time" and the sensual title track, "Midnight Daydream" to saunter up the Smooth Jazz charts as well.

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Gero & Forteba - Neon Flamingo
Gero & Forteba
Neon FlamingoBeagle Beat Records

From Hungary, home to the hitmaking Jazz Funk Pop band The Peet Project, comes another fantastically innovative sound via the dynamic, atmosphere and beat-intensive lounge/electronic duo Gero & Forteba. Also on the Beagle Beat Records label, NEON FLAMINGO is G&F’s first dual release, however, the versatile keyboardists are long established solo artists in Europe’s ambient and deep house music scene. With a mix of synth and live instruments, they create an intoxicating array of intricate sounds and hypnotic pop, soul, funk and downtempo grooves around their playful, infectious melodies. The lone vocal track offers a marvelous intro to the soulful stylings of Virág Muggli-Keszthelyi. Flirt with the Flamingo, you’ll love it!

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

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

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Jazz Holdouts - Summer Nights
Jazz Holdouts
Summer NightsPalm Beach Jazz

Truly the Smooth Jazz equivalent of pop super group Toto, Jazz Holdouts is a dynamic collective of studio greats with all-star pop, R&B and jazz resumes, featuring the simmering light funk energy of Alan Palanker (keys), Lou Cortelezzi (sax), Michael Thompson (guitar) and John Sieglar (bass). Their cool, yet high spirited full length album, SUMMER NIGHTS is driven by tight, funky, old school soul-jazz meets chill music. The album follows the group’s three groundbreaking Billboard hit singles, including the #1 song that is now the title track. Palanker and Cortelezzi sparkle trading off lead melody lines throughout. 

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Reza Khan - Next Train Home
Reza Khan
Next Train HomePainted Media

A fascinating, diverse musical citizen of the world, guitarist/composer Reza Khan brings a wealth of progressive jazz and global fusion influences and sensibilities to NEXT TRAIN HOME. Featuring everything from dreamy funk and percussive, multi-cultural exchanges to fiery electric jazz fusion, the festive, extraordinarily intricate album was composed primarily in hotel rooms throughout Africa, where Khan traveled as part of his amazing “day job” as program manager for the United Nations. Khan’s essential tracks featuring Pat Metheny’s longtime bassist Mark Egan are enhanced by the colorful sound design of Philippe Saisse, along with dynamic contributions by Andy Snitzer, Jeff Kashiwa and Nils. 

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Michael C. Lewis - Intimate Journey
Michael C. Lewis
Intimate JourneyCybervision Entertainment

A renowned luminary in his adopted hometown of NYC who has also toured throughout Europe, Russia and Australia, veteran trumpeter Michael C. Lewis’ INTIMATE JOURNEY is the kind of clever, artful, stylistically expansive album that Miles Davis would be making if he were still alive and rising up the Smooth Jazz charts. Lewis enhances his inviting melodies with a blend of old school textures, soothing atmospheres, tight hip-hop elements and edgy electronica flavors. Complementing the vibrant instrumentals, he also impresses with a deep vocal timbre perfect for creating a romantic urban jazz vibe. 

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Terje Lie - Slow Pacific
Terje Lie
Slow PacificTCat Records

The quintessential cool and laid-back California song, “Slow Pacific” finds Norwegian-born, Southern Cali saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Terje Lie reflecting passionately on his love for the West Coast lifestyle and a calm day gazing out at the ocean. After several hit recordings collaborating with Grammy winners Jeff Lorber and Jimmy Haslip, Lie marks his dynamic emergence here as the producer of his own music. On this seductive track, he leads the tight ensemble of Alex Al (bass), Tony Moore (drums) and Joey De Leon (percussion), while showcasing his own exciting talents on the keyboards and piano. 

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Gary Meggs - Life's Little Changes
Gary Meggs
Life's Little ChangesIndependent

A onetime member of the orchestras of Glenn Miller and Harry James, saxophonist Gary Meggs calls the release of his latest album LIFE’S LITTLE CHANGES a “lifelong dream, a chance to help place my own footprint in the Smooth Jazz scene,” inspired by the West Coast Jazz of the 80’s and 90’s. Collaborating with rock/fusion guitarist Bryan Jeffries, who produced the collection, Meggs’ brings a bold and brash horn energy to an exciting, stylistically eclectic collection that includes spirited Latin influences, innovative arrangements of pop standards and re-imagined versions (complete with new titles) of a gospel and seasonal classics. 

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Gary Metz - Open Skies
Gary Metz
Open SkiesGaryMetz.com

Considering his embrace of fresh opportunities as a solo artist, classically trained, jazz/R&B influenced saxophonist Gary Metz chose the perfect title for his knockout debut OPEN SKIES. His hundreds of gigs as a session player have earned him a range of A-listers excited to  contribute to his uniquely diverse sonic landscape. Helping bring his cool and sensual ballads and tight, edgy funk delights to life are, among others, Jimmy Haslip, Greg Manning, Adam Hawley, Darryl Williams, Tony Moore, Lee Thornburg and producer Mike Parlett, who has worked with Norman Brown, Peter White, Jeffrey Osborne and many others.    

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Mikael - Infinite Nu Jazz
Mikael
Infinite Nu JazzMikaelmusic Group

A crisp, explosive electric guitarist creating in an expanding universe of genres, the Smooth Jazz career of Michael Manley (aka Mikael) has been chugging non-stop since leaving his ten-year stint with the legendary Commodores in 2005. The title of his latest album INFINITE NU JAZZ reflects the multi-talented artist’s seemingly limitless range of grooves, vibes and melodic guitar tones as he explores everything from intimate R&B, fiery Latin jazz and silky in the pocket soul/funk to blues/rock, calypso and a dreamy soul-jazz classic by Joe Sample. Mikael’s fresh vibe takes his previous GROOVEOLOGY concept to the next sonically adventurous level.

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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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Phaze II - No Cover Charge
Phaze II
No Cover ChargeIndependent

Phaze II’s fifth and latest album boasts the clever title NO COVER CHARGE, but their kind of finely honed, supremely cool eclectic magic is worth any price! Now well into their third decade lighting the jazz, funk, Latin and R&B fires in their hometown of Washington, DC, the six-piece super-ensemble Phaze II – onetime winners of the Capital Jazz Challenge Competition - alternates their flow between silky, seductive cool, fiery, wild energy storms and infectious, easy grooving mid-tempo tunes. They balance their more muscular, rocking offerings with dreamier pieces clearly and designed to melt the heart.  

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Kenney Polson - For Lovers Only
Kenney Polson
For Lovers OnlyNo Slop Media

With a sparkling saxophone vibe that’s been lighting up the Pacific Northwest for years, Kenney Polson – who’s appeared on TV with greats like David Sanborn and Wynton Marsalis - has blended Smooth Jazz with a wide variety of influences, including Latin, classical, R&B/funk and gospel. True to its title FOR LOVERS ONLY, Polson’s latest recording finds him creating a tight, soulful ensemble with members of Tower of Power, Kool & the Gang and Parliament, among others. Soothing, romantic and lyrical, the album builds an easy groove with new compositions and satisfying classics. 

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Rainforest Band - Peace To the Planet
Rainforest Band
Peace To The PlanetSan Francisco Records

Pooling the talents and expansive pop/R&B/gospel resumes of guitarist Vernon “Ice” Black, bassist Tony Saunders and keyboardist Sylvester Burks, the Rainforest Band is a hard grooving and sensually soulful ensemble whose debut album PEACE TO THE PLANET reflects a deeper environmentally conscious mission. The inspiration behind the blues, rock, jazz and funk vibes by these three and guest stars like Jeff Ryan and Gail Jhonson takes us back to 1990’s original Rainforest Band formed by Tony’s dad Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia. The message is even more urgent now, and it’s exciting to hear the legacy kept alive so vibrantly.

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Rohan Reid - Watch Me Now
Rohan Reid
Watch Me NowGoin' Native Records

Starting his career on tour at age 10 with one of Jamaica’s biggest gospel groups, Rohan Reid is a certifiable Caribbean bass legend who has also grooved with Smooth Jazz cats like Eric Darius and Najee. His eclectic new album WATCH ME NOW is a great primer on the multitude of melodic, rhythmic and spiritual influences that drive his music. Bringing Brian Bromberg’s depth and Wayman Tisdale’s sense of joyful exuberance to mind, Reid funks it up one minute, simmers sensually the next, while also showcasing exotic, percussive slices of island magic, African tribal power and a sense of social consciousness.  

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Jim Richter - Breezy Day
Jim Richter
Breezy DayJamesland Music Management, LLC

Getting back to making music full time after years where other priorities took precedence, guitarist, keyboardist and composer Jim Richter taps back into his rock/blues roots with a mix of deep soulfulness, playful buoyancy and fiery intensity on his new album BREEZY DAY. Hitting all the infectious yet artsy-cool sweet spots of Steely Dan and Larry Carlton, he offers dreamy ballads, funk jams, island delights and bluesy grit – in addition to playful titles that pay homage to Bill Evans and Weather Report.

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Kris Russell - Batucada Surgiu
Kris Russell
Batucada SurgiuIndependent

Jazz vocalist Kris Russell was born in Sacramento, but her musical heart has long been in Brazil amidst the muses and magic of Bossa Nova. Following up her two previous Rio-flavored Smooth Jazz singles, Kris celebrates the recent 60th anniversary of the genre’s birth with “Batucada Surgiu” (pronounced "bot-ooh-ka-da sir-joo") - A high octane, ultra-danceable English/Portuguese world dance party of a tune credited to Kris Russell and the Mystery Jazz Ensemble. Her percussive, keyboard and trumpet driven six-piece band lays an empowering foundation for her to explore the mystical and fiery energies created by Brazilian composers Marcos K. Valle and his brother Paulo Valle.

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The Smooth Jazz Alley - Let's Ride
The Smooth Jazz Alley
Let's RideIndependent

With their latest single “Let’s Ride,” the Bay Area's Marco Montoya (keyboardist/producer/engineer), and drummer/producer Kevin Lewis (collectively known as The Smooth Jazz Alley) found the perfect way to follow up the 2016 breakthrough album BEEN A LONG TIME COMIN’. Trading off melodic lines between sparkling keys and crackling electric guitar, the track romps and rolls like a stunning invitation to join them on their funk-filled journey. “Let’s Ride” is the title track from The Smooth Jazz Alley’s forthcoming sophomore album, a true all-star affair that will feature guest performances by Chieli Minucci, Andy Snitzer, Greg Vail, Tony Guerrero, Eric Marienthal, Lebron, Roberto Vally, Stan Evans and Matt Godina.

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SGC - Kickin' It
Spontaneous Groovin' Combustion
Kickin' ItTune 9 Records

Years after finding early success playing rock in NYC and country in Nashville, saxophonist/flutist and composer Warren Keller is sparking new fires in Smooth Jazz with his tight, funky old schoolin’ ensemble Spontaneous Groovin’ Combustion. The explosive debut single “Kickin’ It” is feisty, high octane fun, loaded with jangling guitars, retro keyboards and dynamic horn arrangements centered around Keller’s funky sax melody. The band is currently working on their debut EP with special guests Jeff Lorber, Dwight Sills and Frank Richardson III.

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Cynthia Thijs Coenraad - There Where You Are
Cynthia Thijs Coenraad
There Where You AreCynthiArt

In 2009, sultry voiced Indonesian born singer-songwriter Cynthia Thijs Coenraad (pronounced Cynthia “Tize” “Coon-rowd”) was given words of musical encouragement from her sister Belinda, who passed away suddenly later that year. Honoring her sister’s gentle persuasion, Cynthia – who began writing songs at age 10 - is now a bona fide contemporary jazz singer, dynamically blending pop, jazz, Brazilian/Latin music, along with soul and sassy big band swing on her latest album THERE WHERE YOU ARE. Testament to her prowess as a vocalist and multi-dimensional artist, she has the dynamic support of top genre musicians, including Paul Jackson, Jr., Tom Braxton and the Snarky Puppy horn section!

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Daneen Wilburn - Daneen Wilburn
Daneen Wilburn
Daneen WilburnIndependent

Two-time Grammy winning producer Kamau Kenyatta, best known for discovering and helming projects for Gregory Porter, says it all about emerging vocalist Daneen Wilburn: “When Daneen sings, you will believe every word.” Produced by Kenyatta, Wilburn’s multi-faceted self-titled album is a soul-deep immersion reflecting the artist’s wide range of passions - from pop, soul and jazz to Brazilian music and, most “earpoppingly,” the rousing gospel music she was raised on. The San Diego based performer’s ability to modulate her voice to create sensual seductions as well as shout-outs to the Lord is attention grabbing and inspiring.   

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Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS

Thierry Condor - City Nights
Thierry Condor
City NightsNiRo Sounds

On CITY NIGHTS, his sparkling, emotionally compelling first collection of all original material after four albums of cover songs, Swiss based singer/songwriter Thierry Condor artfully and soulfully blends vibes from his distinctly European roots with a lighthearted, Bobby Caldwell-esque West Coast retro pop/jazz vibe. Working with luminaries like two-time Grammy winning guitarist Jay Graydon and keyboardist Russell Ferrante, Condor brings romance and playfulness to tunes that take us from sunny California to the South of France. Go explore these sultry CITY NIGHTS!

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Mark Allen Felton - Soul Real
Mark Allen Felton
Soul RealIndependent

Drawing inspiration from jazz, R&B and gospel, versatile saxophonist Mark Allen Felton enjoys calling his remarkably deep, soulful and emotionally expressive tunes “hipstrumentals.” That seems like a great way to describe the fresh, crisp and sensuous flow on his latest album SOUL REAL which truly feels like the future of urban oriented Smooth Jazz. The Chicago native earned the nickname “Panther” from having prowled the stage with Patti Labelle, Al Jarreau and genre greats Gerald Albright, Boney James and Kirk Whalum. Though he clearly picked up a lot of intensely cool energy from them, Felton’s carves out a multi-faceted niche of his own via a dynamic blend of edgy, organic funk, old school dance grooves, jaunty pop-blues, funk-rock fusion and tender neo-soul. 

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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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LaShawn D. Gary - Love, Peace & Praise
LaShawn D Gary
Love, Peace & PraiseLNC Music, Inc.

With the release of his supremely uplifting and inspirational, eclectically grooving debut album, LOVE, PEACE & PRAISE, LaShawn Gary establishes himself as a man of many talents - musician, composer, producer and arranger. A longtime behind the scenes force on the Detroit scene, LaShawn is a man with a mission - to bring tranquility and inspiration through his funky and dreamy instrumental tracks that are both thoughtful and rhythmically diverse featuring a collective of powerhouse singers and rappers… ideal for Smooth Jazz fans!

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Carl Harris - It's Time To Let Go
Carl Harris
It's Time To Let GoCarlEHarris.com

On his multi-faceted, emotionally hard-hitting debut IT’S TIME TO LET GO, saxophonist Carl Harris hits that grooved up, sensually soulful sweet spot where infectious contemporary jazz fuses with bright, colorful textures and nuances from all the genres he has engaged in before. A former career Army officer and minister of music for his church, Carl – also a multi-talented pianist – taps into his passions for R&B, gospel and even the classical music he played in his youth.    

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Jarez - Sexy Saxy Vol. 3
Jarez
Sexy Saxy Vol. 3J Star Entertainment LLC

Known to millions as touring saxophonist and right-hand man for Coolio, and for his appearances on the Grammy winning rapper’s “Cookin’ with Coolio,” Jarez continues to master the art of Smooth Jazz seduction on SEXY, SAXY, VOL. 3 – the 3rd in his series of passionate instrumental soul excursions. Creating rich atmospheres with vibrant sonic textures and intoxicating melodies, the versatile horn man’s full-on, slow simmering candlelight mode will lend a magical ambience to your late-night romantic adventures and weekend goings-on.

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Keiser Twins - Guestlist
Keiser Twins
GuestlistNiRo Sounds

An explosive sibling funk machine, drummer Walter Keiser and bassist Peter Keiser – aka Keiser Twins – have been the backbone for a multitude of top artists in their native Switzerland for decades. The duo continues to emerge from the rhythmic shadows on GUESTLIST, a deeply grooving, infectiously melodic thrill-a-minute set showcasing the duo’s passion for pop, rock, jazz fusion, blues, funk and horn-drenched Memphis R&B. Keiser Twins add a batch of exciting Swiss vocalists to their Guestlist. 

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Lukas Leuthold - Dancing On Golden Streets
Lukas Leuthold
Dancing On Golden Streetsr7studio.ch

After years of playing keyboards in gospel, rock and funk bands, Swiss born musician, composer producer and electronic engineer Lucas Leuthold gave himself the ultimate 40th birthday gift – DANCING ON GOLDEN STREETS, his fun and fiery yet often deeply heartfelt multi-faceted debut album. Joining forces with top session musicians from Switzerland and Germany, Leuthold buoyantly mixes tight grooves, and deeply emotional melodies and fiery jazz-rock with touches of passionate romance and thoughtful spirituality.    

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Aubrey Logan - Where The Sunshine Is Expensive
Aubrey Logan
Where The Sunshine Is ExpensiveResonance Records

Dubbed by raving critics as “the Queen of Sass,” vocalist, songwriter and trombonist Aubrey Logan cements her status as a quirky, soulful and heartfelt triple threat artist on WHERE THE SUNSHINE IS EXPENSIVE, a whimsical musical ode to her adopted hometown of Los Angeles. With vocals that are alternately hushed/intimate and torchy/powerful, Logan weaves a colorful mix of originals with her unique re-imaginings of classics by Michael McDonald and Burt Bacharach. Dave Koz, who says she’s “in a class by herself,” guests memorably on two tracks along with American Idol Casey Abrams.

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Dee Lucas - Going Left
Dee Lucas
Going LeftODL Music

With the release of his latest album GOING LEFT, saxophonist and independent label entrepreneur Dee Lucas celebrates 15 years bringing a deep, lyrical sensibility to Smooth Jazz, that both hits and transcends a soulful sweet spot. With a vibe driven by infectious melodies, vibrant horn textures and dreamy atmospheres, Lucas delivers a collection that includes a batch of fashionable originals, a trippy, exotic African music adventure and a sensual revisit of a Frankie Beverly & Maze classic. 

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d. Mills - The Completion of Next Step
d. Mills
The Completion of Next StepIndependent

The mysteriously named d. Mills may be the only multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, bass) on the planet who launched his career with gospel legend Shirley Caesar and works as an NYC detective when he’s not creating street smart Smooth Jazz. True to its title, his new EP, THE COMPLETION OF NEXT STEP is full of lively keyboard driven, sax, trumpet and vocal enhanced silk and funk tracks that reflect changes he’s been experiencing in his own life and observing in the world around him. Jump into the d. MILLS Experience!

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Misz The Producer - Time To Groove
Misz The Groove Producer
Time To GrooveSolid Groove Recordings

Like her longtime friend Patrice Rushen, Misz the Groove Producer does it all when it comes to fusing jazz and funk, old school keyboard vibes with fresh grooves, atmospheres and otherworldly sonic possibilities. Driven by her propulsive work on drums and percussion, Misz’s latest album TIME TO GROOVE includes a tasty mix of Fender Rhodes, organ and synth textures (including a spotlight for special guest Jeff Lorber), a tasty reworking of a Rushen classic and an adventurous slow jam dedicated to Bob James. 

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Len Mizzoni - Better Days
Len Mizzoni
Better DaysIndependent

A versatile singer/songwriter who plays piano, guitar and sax, Ontario-based recording artist Len Mizzoni – a former member of the Juno Award winning band Frozen Ghost - brings dramatic passion, deep soul and lively romantic energy to his second solo album BETTER DAYS. These heartfelt, modern themed, atmosphere-rich songs reflect the craftsman powerful and heartfelt jazzy, urban pop sensibilities. We love Len! Once you hear the infectious melodies and hooky tunes on this new project, you’ll be into better days in yourself!   

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Mekiel Reben - M.R.
Mekiel Reuben
M.R.MekMuse Records

Celebrating 25 years as a recording artist, versatile saxophonist Mekiel Reuben infuses his highly autobiographical new album M.R. with his trademark robust soul-jazz-funk energy and dazzling rhythmic elements reflective of his fascinating life and career. While he brings moments of sweet intimacy to the mix, Reuben more often shares the magic of his years living and playing in the Caribbean and touring the world with reggae greats and blues-soul icon Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm. 

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BillyRay Sheppard - Silk
BillyRay Sheppard
SilkBig Bib Entertainment

One of the top Smooth Jazz performers in the San Antonio area for several decades, BillyRay Sheppard’s infectious debut album SILK finds him bringing his stylistically and rhythmically sophisticated saxophone magic to life with the alternately supercharged and sensitive input from co-writer and producer Steve Oliver. Beyond the in the pocket, danceable funk and wistful balladry, Sheppard taps into the Latin/Tejano side of his artistry for a rousing closing jam. BillyRay is smooth as SILK!

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Sounds of A&R - The Road To Love's Destiny
Sounds Of A&R
The Road To Love's DestinyIndependent

A sensation on the NYC jazz scene for the past few years, Sounds of A&R aka S.O.A.R blends the dreamy, sensual vocals of April May Webb with the silky, smooth trumpet of Randall Haywood, longtime musical director for T.S. Monk’s band. They bring this mega-soulful winning combination to their latest single, “The Road to Love’s Destiny,” a vibrant, easy grooving tune, a Smooth Jazz ode to the joys of long, rewarding love featuring a breezy mood and sweet old school R&B vibe. 

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The Moore Twins - Versatility
The Moore Twins
VersatilityLounge Renown Records

True to its title, “Versatility,” the vibrant, high octane lead single and from The Moore Twins’ upcoming debut album, showcases the multitude of talents Chicago bred, Alabama based multi-instrumentalists John S. Moore III and Jeremiah S. Moore bring to our Smooth Jazz realm. Carlos Santana’s former trumpeter Bill Oritz adds a powerful, soaring solo to the track. The duo’s explosive synthesis of sound draws from their passions for everything from gospel and neo-soul to funk/R&B. Truly versatile. 

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Threestyle - Reasons 2 Love
Threestyle feat Magdalena Chovancova
Reasons 2 LoveIndependent

On their instantly infectious, funky and flowing seventh album REASONS 2 LOVE, Threestyle featuring Magdalena Chovancova (on sax, flute and keys) offers a jamming, ultra-melodic showcase for the eclectic vibe that’s made the European group an international sensation and earned them a Hollywood Music Award and Global Music Award. Driven by the dynamic trio chemistry of Czech born Chovancova, her twin sister Gabriela (drums, percussion) and German guitarist/producer Robert Fertl, their new collection - a fusion of Smooth Jazz, funk, old school R&B, Nu jazz and chill -  includes two recent Billboard chart hits, including the #1 smash “Ready To Go.”

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Attila Zavodi - Beetle By The Road
Attila Zavodi
Beetle By The RoadBeagle Beat Records

Everyone’s covered The Beatles, but saxophonist Attila Zavodi’s got the hipster Volkswagen car in mind on “Beetle By the Road,” his wildly explosive, horn drenched debut single as a solo artist. Well known internationally and by American Smooth Jazz fans for the emotional heft and sparkling brass sizzle he brings to the Hungarian ensemble Peet Project, Zavodi – a top pop and jazz touring musician in his home country - expands his sonic possibilities into a whole new realm with co-writer, co-producer and ace keyboardist Marcell Toth.  

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