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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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Mariea Antoinette - That Thing
Mariea Antoinette
All My StringsInfinity Productions

In addition to playing for the Obamas, performing with Ne-Yo, working with orchestras and touring Africa, Marie Antoinette is quickly making the mystical sound of the harp a dynamic lead instrument in Smooth Jazz. Two decades after “That Thing” won two Grammys for Lauryn Hill, the jazz/funk performer – currently a touring member of the all-female ensemble Jazz in Pink - takes the enigmatic artist’s socially conscious doo wop/hip hop anthem to a fresh and transcendent, urban jazz meets classical level. From her forthcoming album, ALL MY STRINGS, Mariea swirls her dreamy, stringed melodies around the tune’s trademark synth riff, and artfully builds towards a soaring interaction with a hypnotic string ensemble. It’s a timeless tune about equality, self-awareness and self-value, with a message as essential now as it was 20 years ago!

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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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David Benoit and Friends
David Benoit
David Benoit and FriendsShanachie Entertainment

Closing in on 40 solo recordings, Smooth Jazz elder statesman and three-time Grammy nominated pianist/composer David Benoit has been setting standards in the genre since the late 80’s. He’s recorded phenomenal collaborative albums before – most notably, with Russ Freeman, Jane Monheit and Marc Antoine – but takes the concept to an empowering new level on DAVID BENOIT AND FRIENDS, a righteous return to his GRP days vibe. Dazzling from track to track, featuring everything from Bossa to blues, Latin to trad jazz and pop (including covers of smashes by Portugal The Man and Coldplay). Often with symphonic flair, Benoit draws on an cool array of inspirations (including Dave Grusin, Kenny Burrell, and crime novelist Dean Koontz) and has a blast jamming with Antoine, Dave Koz, Peter White, Tim Weisberg, Rick Braun, Vincent Ingala and vocalist Lindsey Webster. 

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Rick Braun - Crossroads
Rick Braun
CrossroadsShanachie Entertainment

One of Smooth Jazz’s most innovative and popular hitmakers as both artist and producer, trumpet and flugelhorn great Rick Braun springs into his second quarter century with CROSSROADS, an eclectic collection showcasing the multitude of styles he loves. Ensembling with a crew of longtime collaborators (Philippe Saisse, Richard Elliot, Peter White) and for the first time with funky studio legends Greg Phillinganes, Michael Thompson and Gregg Bissonette), Braun dives deep into contemporary pop, old school dance/funk, bossa nova, Americana, Latin jazz and other tasty styles. Braun reflects his joy as a family man with a thoughtful tribute to his maternal grandparents, a vibrant jam dedicated to his daughter Emma and tapping his son Kyle create a lush keyboard intro to a cool re-imagining of a recent Bruno Mars hit. 

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

A spiritually grounded husband and wife duo that recognizes music as a universal healer, Maryland based Butch & Rhonda Coleman create a fascinating dual sound around the plucky thump of his bass and her versatility as a sultry pop/R&B singer and jazz keyboardist. The title of their third album MOMENT OF YOUR TIME doubles as an invitation to get to know them and their deft blend of old school soul-jazz, breezy and heartfelt balladry and buoyant urban-flavored Smooth Jazz. Adept at creating a variety of moods, the Colemans like to say that their music tells a story. Here, that’s paying homage to past influences like Bill Withers while making sure we’re hip to their eclectic, very contemporary sexy, funky flow.   

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Eric Darius - Breakin' Thru
Eric Darius
Breakin' ThruSagiDarius Music

One of the edgiest, innovative and explosive performers in the sweet spot where Smooth Jazz meets contemporary R&B, saxophonist Eric Darius breaks new ground by launching his own label (SagiDarius Music) for his perfectly titled new album BREAKIN’ THRU. With two Top Ten Billboard singles in the mix, the collection hits on all cylinders, from slammin’ funk sizzle to power ballads and a blistering Latin fire. Ensuring a continuously crackling urban crossover flow, the multi-faceted collection was co-produced by Darius and two of today’s hottest R&B sound masters, Rodney Jones Jr. (Chris Brown, Mary Mary, Mary J. Blige) and Butta N’ Bizkit (John Legend, Ne-Yo, Miguel, Ledisi). In addition to a gorgeous track with Brian Culbertson, Darius includes poppin’ vocal features by two next-gen R&B hipsters MAJOR and Ollie Gabriel. 

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John Fluker - All About That Time
John Fluker
All About That TimeRetribution Records

A top vocal coach for J Lo and musical director for Gladys Knight who's also backed everyone from Beyonce and Mavis Staples to John Legend and Michael Lington, pianist, vocalist, arranger and composer John Fluker's hypnotic, ambient electronica piano driven new single "All About That Time" has fascinating origins. The track is a rhythm intensive remix (by Grammy winning engineer Elliott Peters) of the new age-oriented title track that Fluker recorded on his album 11:11. The intoxicating, slightly jazzier, funkier result features unique beats created by Fluker, backed by the subtle tight basslines of Isaias Elpes, Lee Ritenour's regular touring bassist. With the release of "All About That Time" Fluker makes an inspiring transition from successful new age artist to breakthrough Smooth Jazz artist.

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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 - Following Your Heart
Joe Hurworth
Following Your HeartIndependent

Truly embodying the concept of “old musical soul” at the ripe age of 23, multi-talented UK based singer songwriter Joe Hurworth beautifully blends old school, big production R&B with graceful low-key acoustic sensibilities on his second EP FOLLOWING YOUR HEART. Everything starts with his thoughtful, sensitive songwriting and a supple, emotive voice that draws as much inspiration from legends like Al Green and Michael McDonald as it does from contemporary greats Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran. A passionate storyteller who weaves his tales in a multitude of styles, Hurworth is aces as producer as well, bringing lively funk grooves, sizzling brass accents and even hypnotic dance grooves to his guitar and keyboard grounded tracks. 

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Phil Klein - God Bless the Child Reimagined
Phil Klein
God Bless The Child ReimaginedPhilmo Betta Music

While building an incredible multi-faceted career that has included being a top BMI composer, with over 10,000 performances in U.S. and European television and solo albums dating back to the mid-90s, keyboardist/composer Phil Klein has dreamed of finding the right time to record his own version of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child.” An all-time favorite. “God Bless the Child Reimagined,” a colorful, lightly funky R&B/jazz driven vocal version featuring dreamy atmospheres, a hip horn arrangement, cool synth effects, a punchy sax solo and lush female backing vocals. Poignantly bringing eras of American History together, Klein has also created a timely video. One that shines a spotlight on the current state of emotionally charged race relations. The heartwarming video is a reminder that prejudice is taught and that children left to their own devices...are colorblind.

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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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Pop'n Bossa
Pop'n Bossa
Pop'n BossaIndependent

After recording sensual bossa nova versions of Beatles and Michael Jackson for producers in Brazil and Japan, Brazilian singer Lulu Joppert had a brilliant idea. Joining forces with pianist Marcos Ariel and arranger/multi-instrumentalist Marco Antonio Santos, she formed the cleverly titled trio Pop’n Bossa to create sophisticated bossa re-imaginings of hits by contemporary pop singers. First on the trio’s list is Bruno Mars, and they work their dazzling 24K magic on five of his most notable tunes on their infectious, percussively exotic, self-titled debut. In addition to presenting colorful twists and uncovering new emotions stirring in tunes we thought we knew, the EP is also an exciting showcase for Joppert’s alternately sultry and soaring vocals and Ariel’s adventurous ivory playing. 

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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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Stephen Rothhaar - Moments
Stephen Rothhaar
MomentsStephenRothhaar.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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Kim Scott - Free To Be
Kim Scott
Free To Be Innervision Records

An integral member of the all-female ensemble Jazz in Pink, Kim Scott has been one of a handful of visionary artists making Smooth Jazz delightfully flute-friendly since her debut album CROSSING OVER in 2011. After a three-year recording hiatus, the Alabama-based performer is back in action on FREE TO BE, a multi-faceted album balancing her tight, infectiously grooving pop/urban jazz flow with other tracks that showcase her formidably soulful vocals and textured, more nuanced jazz flute expressions. As you listen, you’ll get the sense that her album title is truly her musical philosophy. In addition to an emotionally intense classic ballad duet on "The Prayer" with gospel-jazz saxophonist Cameron Ross, Scott vibes magnificently with all-star guests Jazmin Ghent, James Lloyd and on a Billboard #1 hit with Jonathan Fritzen.  

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Listening Loft : MUST HAVES

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

Talk about multi-talented! Odds are that Miami-based pianist, vocalist and composer Lisa Addeo is the only artist to score on two Billboard charts with her debut Smooth Jazz single while also receiving ongoing airplay on SiriusXM’s Siriusly Sinatra with tracks from an earlier tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes. Produced by and featuring #1 Billboard charting artist/guitarist Nils, her genre debut LISTEN TO THIS, features killer special guest performances by saxophonists Steve Cole and Jeff Ryan. The expansive 15-track collection is driven by vibrant, heart-grabbing instrumental melodies, wild improvisations (including brief ventures into trad jazz), sensual vocals, and an aesthetic based on relentless and intoxicating grooves.   

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Herb Alpert - Over The Rainbow
Herb Alpert
Over The RainbowHerb Alpert Presents

Truly timeless at 84, 9-time Grammy Award winning trumpeter Herb Alpert has been snazzing up infectious melodies since 1962 – and continues full steam into his 7th decade as a recording artist with the fun-spirited, rhythmically eclectic OVER THE RAINBOW. Following the lone original, a lively tropical delight, the legend creates fresh re-imaginings of familiar tunes from the pop and Great American Songbook eras (i.e. Louis Armstrong, Barry Manilow, Earth, Wind & Fire, Bill Withers) in alternately sensual/ambient and exotic, groove intensive styles. The collection features a gorgeous tribute to Django Reinhardt, originated by the legendary guitarist’s son Babik. 

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Dan Beck Band - Pride And Arrogance
Dan Beck Band
Pride And ArroganceIndependent

Freeing himself from a corporate job in organic produce, Salinas based guitarist, singer/songwriter Dan Beck followed his passion for musical journaling to create the truly organic sounding, stylistically eclectic Dan Beck Band. On their latest album PRIDE & ARROGANCE, Beck and his guitar, sax and violin driven ensemble engage in a playfully strutting swirl of jazz, rock, blues and Latin vibes that he collectively calls “Blue Jazz.” Creating soulful, enticing conversations, the group weaves its colorful tales via a mix of swinging instrumentals and coolly seductive, thought provoking vocals. 

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James Bowman III - Things on My Mind
James Bowman III
Things On My MindjB3 Music, LLC

Colorful, uplifting, steady grooving and wildly inspiring, singer/songwriter James Bowman III’s latest album THINGS ON MY MIND offers a seamless merging of gospel energy, sacred reverence and urban oriented Smooth Jazz. Having played with Brian McKnight and Mervyn Warren and opened for everyone from Edwin Hawkins, Kirk Franklin and Bebe and CeCe Winans, the multi-talented artist and seductive vocalist has plenty to communicate about - the Lord, marriage, family and relationship. Led by a spiritual lyrical reworking of an Earth, Wind & Fire classic, the collection offers a positive overall message to combat the harsh discourse occurring in the world today.

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Fletch Deezie - 2020
Fletch Deezie
2020Independent

Fletch Deezie’s got his musical mind set on the future, optimistically titling his multi-faceted, urban jazz oriented new EP 2020. The inventive and melodic guitar virtuoso and vocalist, who toured the world as a member of the influential afro-centric hip-hop ensemble Speech/Arrested Development, taps into everything from sultry ambient mid-tempo soul to heavier funk with a social consciousness and a whimsical twist on an OutKast classic. The collection also features performances by longtime friends and former band mates Kenny Wells (piano) and Nakayo Dupre (flute).

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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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Lowell Hopper - Magic In The Air
Lowell Hopper
Magic In The AirLowell Hopper

The title of Lowell Hopper’s new album says it all. When the Panama City, Florida guitarist and Smooth Jazz favorite plays, there’s always MAGIC IN THE AIR! Musical trends may come and go, but Hopper – a 20-year Air Force veteran - has been keepin’ it real and consistent for over 25 years with tight, infectious melodies, spirited light funk grooves and crisp, fluid lines that hit the heart with soulful sensuality every time out. On the new album, he adds touches of simmering blues, exotic percussion and tasty island vibes to his ever-adventurous repertoire.  

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Incognito - Tomorrow's New Dream
Incognito
Tomorrow's New DreamBluey Music

Fresh off another triumphant release by his spirited offshoot band Citrus Sun, guitarist/producer Bluey Maunick celebrates the 40th anniversary of his relentlessly jazzy, tightly grooving and horn-drenched collective, Incognito, with TOMORROW’S NEW DREAM - a tasty, high energy, stylistically multi-faceted set that embraces the future with funk adventurousness and sonic innovation. The vocals-dominated project features whimsical and heartfelt showcases for a wide variety of R&B singers – from familiar artists Joy Rose, Maysa, Phil Perry and Take 6 to a multitude of up and comers as well as newer discoveries, including Mario Biondi, Cherry V, Roberta Gentile and Vanessa Haynes.  

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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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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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Torcuato Mariano - Escola Brasileira
Torcuato Mariano
Escola BrasileiraIndependent

Veteran guitarist, producer and composer Torcuato Mariano was born in Argentina but has been living in Brazil, working with many of its top jazz musicians since the late 70s. He celebrates 25 years as a recording artist with ESCOLA BRASILEIRA – literally “Brazilian School” - a dynamically textured, rhythmically eclectic romp through a multitude of that culture’s sophisticated and exotic jazz-related styles. Backed by lush strings and horns, Mariano surrounds his snappy playing with guest performances by Brazilian greats, singer-songwriter Djavan, pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano, bandolinist Hamilton de Holanda and harmonica player Gabriel Grossi. Also featured is renowned American vocalist Toni Scruggs.   

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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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Mike & Tanya Smith - Spread Love
Mike and Tanya
Spread LoveIndependent

The title of Mike & Tanya Smith’s new album SPREAD LOVE is a clear double entendre referring not only to the multi-talented couple’s desire to use music as a vehicle to foster a more loving world, but also to their own personal and professional relationship. With the names of the songs weaving a colorful emotional narrative, the ballads and mid-tempo R&B slo jams are seductive showcases for Mike’s crisp and fluid electric guitar and his and Tanya’s dreamy soul voices, both as leads and in beautiful harmony.

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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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Jeanne Newhall - Cranes Among Clouds
Jeanne Newhall
Cranes Among CloudsMarzipan Records

Classically trained singer, songwriter and pianist Jeanne Newhall celebrates her 30th anniversary as a recording artist with CRANES AMONG CLOUDS, an emotionally moving, profoundly spiritual and deeply intimate and personal set that includes five heartfelt originals (four vocals, one instrumental) and an exquisite, soft-spoken cover of a Paul Simon classic. Inspired by her profound creative connection with Japanese guitarist, Kazunori Koga, who complements her lush piano with his graceful, lilting guitar. "Kazunori and I have the rare gift of a highly intuitive musical sense,” Newhall explains. Acclaimed violinist Charlie Bisharat contributes additional inspiring strings to the project. Jeanne soulfully blends her classical, jazz and pop influences with a theme rooted in the Asian symbolism of the crane as the six songs fit together like pieces of a puzzle.
 

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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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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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Paolo Rustichelli - Hypnofunk
Paolo Rustichelli
HypnofunkNext Age Music

Time waits for no man… however Paolo Rustichelli’s innovative sound ensures that his music will live on forever! The Roman artist’s unique signature sound has inspired a generation of Chillout enthusiasts who use the modern, electronic grooves to decompress and unwind. Known for his pioneering of the electro chill jazz genre, Paolo returns with the 2nd single from his forthcoming 2020 album TEMPUS FUGIT. “Hypnofunk” oozes with retro cool grooves with a nod to the 1970’s psychedelic era, when this composer was in his teens and already scoring movies with only a piano and the first prototype of a monophonic Moog. With many noteworthy fans, including musical colleagues Carlos Santana and Miles Davis, Paolo recalls a dinner with Federico Fellini where he and the famous director were discussing UFOs as Fellini drew extraterrestrial images on a napkin, inspiring “Hypnofunk” decades later! 

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

When you grow up, as Tony Saunders did, with godparents like Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Smith, relentless jazz funk becomes part of your DNA. The two-time Emmy winning veteran bassist, composer, arranger and producer – son of legendary Bay Area keyboardist Merl Saunders - brings the goods on his sizzling, amped up re-imagining of The Whispers’ late 1980s #1 R&B jam “Rock Steady.” Vibin’ powerfully with guitarist Nils and weaving in and around dynamic horn section energy, Saunders whets our whistle for the old school and contemporary fusion he’s bringing to his upcoming album SEXY SOMETHIN’.   

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Spontaneous Groovin' Combustion - Spy vs Spy
Spontaneous Groovin' Combustion
Spy vs SpyTune 9 Records

Spontaneous Groovin’ Combustion isn’t just a clever name – it’s the high octane, groove intensive mission statement of veteran saxophonist/flutist, composer, and producer Warren Keller and his powerhouse all-star guest ensemble of Jeff Lorber, Alex Al, Dwight Sills and Michael White. The group’s latest single “Spy vs Spy” is a frolicsome, horn-spiced old school ode to the great TV spy themes of yesteryear, featuring killer solos by Keller (on sax), Sills, and Lorber and dynamic interaction with all the cats throughout. A true throwback to great 70s soul-fusion bands with a contemporary twist, Spontaneous Groovin’ Combustion is currently working on their upcoming debut EP.
 

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Rocco Ventrella - Colors
Rocco Ventrella
ColorsIndependent

Italian born saxophonist Rocco Ventrella launched his career in 2005 with a well-received tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. and has ingratiated himself into the Smooth Jazz community since with a silky vibe and funky flow that honors the master. True to its title, his stellar new EP COLORS offers a fresh mix featuring breezy groovin’, soul/funk, sensual mid-tempo balladry, raw and bluesy old school fusion and a majestic blues-rock flavored cover of a Bob Dylan classic. In addition to grooves provided by guest bassists Roberto Vally and Darryl Williams, the collection also potlights an exciting vocal talent in Emanuel “Ghani”.

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Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS

Walter Chancellor Jr.
Walter Chancellor Jr
Beautiful DayEarfone Records

On his silky, sensual and super-infectious, latest single “Beautiful Day,” saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Walter Chancellor, Jr. reminds us why he’s been a mainstay in the Twin Cities contemporary jazz and R&B scene for 25 years – an era that’s found him performing and recording with Prince, Maceo Parker and Candy Dulfer, among others. Produced by urban jazz veteran Chris “Big Dog” Davis, “Beautiful Day” is a tight, brassy mid-tempo ballad with sweet old school guitar and keyboard touches. 

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Reggie Codrington - Sunny Skies
Reggie Codrington
Back To The GrooveM.A.N.D.A.T.E. Records

Summer in our part of the world may be ending soon, but we can still enjoy more cloudless days thanks to Reggie Codrington’s latest single, the buoyantly infectious, coolly funky “Sunny Skies” – the lead single from his upcoming album BACK TO THE GROOVE. The optimism the soprano saxophonist expresses in spirited tracks like this is rooted in his overcoming a difficult childhood afflicted with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy (ACP). “Sunny Skies” was produced by and features bassist Darryl Williams and includes the coolly soulful trumpet of the saxophonist’s dad Ray Codrington.   

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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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Pablo Embon - Reminiscent Mood
Pablo Embon
Reminiscent MoodsIndependent

Blending Smooth Jazz with high energy fusion, folk, pop, orchestrated instrumentals, solo piano tunes and rich classical influences, Pablo Embon’s wondrously eclectic REMINISCENT MOODS will impact you like one of the greatest ensemble albums you’ve ever heard. That is, till you realize that the Argentine born, Israeli based virtuoso is playing all the instruments himself! Adding to his prolific output since 2004, Embon’s 18th album is a wild, mood swinging synthesis of vibrant sounds via guitar, piano, electric keyboards, bass and percussion. 

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Mark Etheredge - Resonance
Mark Etheredge
ResonanceVipaka Records

The titles that keyboardist Mark Etheredge uses for his sparkling and melodic, lightly funky brand of Smooth Jazz often capture the unique relationship he has with his fans. He follows his successful full-length album CONNECTED (which included two Billboard charting tracks) with the bright, high-spirited, ultra-infectious new single “Resonance.” The track finds him teaming once again with two-time Grammy winning producer and guitarist Paul Brown - whose crackling guitar licks play perfectly off Etheredge’s dreamily soulful keys – and groovemeisters Roberto Vally (bass), Gorden Campbell (drums) and  Richie Gajate Garcia (percussion).      

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Keith Fiala - Summer Oasis
Keith Fiala
Summer OasisIndependent

With his high spirited, perfectly titled, dreamy-breezy, Latin-tinged tune “Summer Oasis,” versatile trumpeter Keith Fiala, continues to follow in the footsteps of and capture the musical energies of his mentors Maynard Ferguson and Arturo Sandoval. A founding member of the Austin based R&B group, Memphis Train Revue for 22 years, Fiala has toured the world with Ferguson and since 2017 has served as Sandoval’s road manager, personal assistant and practice partner. This lighthearted tune makes the perfect soundtrack to the end of summer!

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Chadwick Johnson - Stormy Love
Chadwick Johnson
Stormy LoveIndependent

A Hollywood Music in Media Award winner for Song of the Year who has shared stages with Olivia Newton-John, Katharine McPhee, Terry Wollman and Susan Anton,  Chadwick Johnson’s new album STORMY LOVE introduces his versatility as a songwriter/interpreter with a dynamic vocal range to Smooth Jazz audiences. His cool, strutting soul-blues inflected song, “Addicted," with guest saxophonist Grace Kelly opens the door to a stylistically expansive experience blending pop, traditional jazz and Americana on a unique set featuring compelling originals and unexpected new twists on jazz and pop classics by Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchell and many others. 

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J White - Fearless
JWhite
FearlessIndependent

Hot off his first-ever Billboard charting single, urban oriented Detroit-born, Phoenix-based saxophonist JWhite drops an EP whose empowering title FEARLESS reflects his defiant way of overcoming odds, struggles and doubts to emerge as a solidly soulful Smooth Jazz presence. Blending intensely emotional grit with silky cool melodic lines, he creates a passionate, timeless vibe that’s fresh and contemporary yet nostalgically and romantically old school. Testament to his multi-faceted next generation talent, his guests on FEARLESS include genre greats Darryl Williams, Gail Jhonson and Nick Colionne.  

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Ron King - Mellow Out
Ron King
Mellow OutIndependent

Sometimes in life, we all just need to “Mellow Out” – and it’s inspiring to hear Grammy nominated veteran trumpet and flugelhorn great Ron King remind us with his energetic, melodically fluid yet whimsically improvisational romp through the Larry Carlton penned mid-70’s Crusaders classic. Having brassed up everyone from George Benson and Rickie Lee Jones to Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra, he’s vibing these days with producer Paul Brown, whose alternately silky and crackling guitar solo is a highlight of this lively old-school flavored track.   

Brendan Lane - Oldsoulmusic
Brandon Lane
OldsoulmusicIndependent

Richmond, VA bassist Brandon Lane celebrates his recent Masters of Music degree in Jazz Studies from North Carolina Central University with a funk-filled, mightily melodic grooving EP, with a title tells us exactly what’s in store, OLDSOULMUSIC! Influenced by everyone from Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke to Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire, Lane’s balance of snappy, in your face intensity and simmering chill vibes pays glorious homage to the classic R&B era while infusing his youthful contemporary sensibilities.  

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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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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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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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Kevin Stixx Marshall - Fly
Kevin Stixx Marshall
FlyKMStixx Music

A multi-talented drummer, singer, songwriter and producer who’s worked with gospel greats Yolanda Adams and Donnie McClurkin and contemporary jazz pianists Bobby Lyle and Marcus Johnson, Kevin Stixx Marshall keeps it romantic, sensual and tenderly old school on his latest single “Fly.” Building in sweet intimacy, the track is a hypnotically slow grooving, lush and intimate duet with fellow singer/songwriter Michelle Carter Williams.  

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Jody Mayfield - Soul Sanctuary
Jody Mayfield
Soul Sanctuary230 South Records

Drawing on the gospel vibe that’s just one aspect of his multi-faceted background and artistry, versatile jazz/funk keyboardist Jody Mayfield makes jazz (or “jazzology,” as he puts it in his clever spoken word album intro) a deeply spiritual experience on his forth coming album SOUL SANCTUARY. A deeply melodic, easy grooving, old school  mix of romantic, funky and neo-soul vocals and instrumentals, this generous 15-track collection features interactions between his lively keys, trumpet and guitar, and spotlights on singers Sherita Murphy, Gregory Wright and Sophia White, among others. This first single "Rear View Mirror" will have you waiting in anticipation for SOUL SANCTUARY!

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Sly Moore - The Sweetest Thing
Sly Moore
The Sweetest ThingJambeat/BeanBag1 Entertainment

Multi-talented songwriter, guitarist and entrepreneur Sly Moore continues to bring his crisp, inventive string energy and lushly melodic sensibilities to the Smooth Jazz genre after making his mark as a producer for top record labels like Universal Republic and MCA and his own Jambeat Entertainment II. His latest single “The Sweetest Thing” is a silky, picture-perfect romantic track blending his crackling guitar with old school keyboard sensibilities, cool ambiences, dreamy vocals and touches of soulful soprano sax.  

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Motown Moe - Parts Well Known
Motown Moe
Parts Well KnownWindee Records

Fashioned as a fascinating Smooth Jazz travelogue tribute to Anthony Bourdain, Motown Moe’s PARTS WELL KNOWN – a riff on the late TV personality’s show “Parts Unknown” - finds the versatile, easy grooving keyboardist exploring a hypnotic, easy flowing chill/funk hybrid vibe he calls “Nu Jazz.” The Air Force veteran creates a uniquely ambient, surprise filled sonic landscape as he creates an impressionistic soundtrack for cruising through prominent cities in the U.S., Canada and Brazil. 

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Randy Muller - Boom Chang Bang
Randy Muller Boom Chang Bang
Welcome To My LifePlaza Records/Wavehill

With a background that includes being part of 70’s-80’s funk groups Brass Construction and Skyy, flautist/keyboardist Randy Muller has been defining his musical DNA with old school dance grooves for decades. Ten years after his critically acclaimed GROOVIN’ U, the visionary artist/producer blasts into the Smooth Jazz mix leading the perfectly titled collective Boom Chang Bang to create the ultimate high-octane party collection WELCOME TO MY LIFE. It’s a powerful, non-stop celebration of everything from jazz-inflected 70’s disco/soul to alternately silky and feisty Brazilian and salsa beats.    

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Plunky & Oneness - Afroclectic
Plunky & Oneness
AfroclecticN.A.M.E. Brand Records

Once cleverly dubbed “the missing link between Pharoah Sanders and Kool & the Gang,” the innovative, relentlessly grooving Plunky & Oneness – led by world renowned saxophonist J. Plunky Branch – has been kicking up the funk, soul, Smooth Jazz, electronica and African percussion for more than 30 years. True to its titular mission, their latest album AFROCLECTIC uses its zesty brew of exotic Afro-funk, cool nu jazz, dreamy neo-soul and global fusion as a backdrop for empowering, socially conscious messages spreading universal love! 

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Frank Sutton - Rain The Experience
Frank Sutton
Rain The ExperienceNu Groove Jazz

Keyboardist Frank Sutton has a powerful philosophy that defines his multi-faceted musical aesthetic: “What comes from the heart, will touch the heart, so play from that place.” With his extraordinary debut album RAIN THE EXPERIENCE, the Dallas based musician bursts onto the national Smooth Jazz scene with a relentlessly funkified, melodic old school keyboard sensibility that brings the Jeff Lorber/George Duke influence to the next generation. His titles swirl around a cool thematic concept of harsh weather giving way to bright, sunshiny days. 

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Urban America The Band - Urban America
Urban America The Band
Urban AmericaIndependent

The dynamic, stylistically diverse ensemble URBAN AMERICA THE BAND doesn’t drop their stylish, sensual and easy grooving self-titled EP till early 2020, but you can start getting excited now. Creating an infectious, crazy-cool, fusion of jazz, R&B, and pop grounded in deep soul and spirituality, songwriter Josephcat Sanchez, two time Grammy-nominated producer/keyboardist Kevin Toney, lead singer Vince Hall, backing vocalist Domique Toney and masterful trumpet/ flugelhorn player Johnny Britt take a slightly offbeat approach to showcase the bright future of urban adult contemporary music which fits seamlessly onto a current Smooth Jazz soundtrack.

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Bishop Wayne - Same Thing
Bishop Wayne
Same ThingIndependent

Lilting yet passionate, sultry and breezy yet intensely soulful, Virgin Islands born and bred singer/songwriter Bishop Wayne may call his vibrant and jangling new reggae, R&B and rock-influenced single “Same Thing,” but he brings a breath of fresh air to the Smooth Jazz vocal realm. Though his inspirations include everyone from Bob Marley and Van Halen to Lenny Kravitz, contemporary listeners will also hear bits of John Legend and Sam Smith in his soulful, rangy vocals. 

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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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