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Listening Loft : HOTPICKS

Maelan Abran - Time is Now
Maelan Abran
Time is NowPikake Records

On her stylistically eclectic, highly autobiographical new album TIME IS NOW, multi-talented Hawaiian vocalist and poetically insightful songwriter Maelan Abran invites us into a unique, sonically dynamic world. She balances exquisite and vulnerable romantic expressions with edgy social consciousness, an impactful feeling of pop/soul/jazz fired hope and thoughtful, heart wrenching and motivating imagery reflecting on her roots growing up on the Big Island. Adding to the epic, sometimes dreamy and atmospheric, other times, swinging and funky vibe is a beautiful piano and orchestra interlude that serves as a sweeping break between the collection’s powerful dramatic narratives. Helping shape the fascinating soundscapes is Abran’s Grammy nominated co-writer and producer Marlin “Hookman” Bonds, best known for his work with pop superstars Jason Derulo, Swizz Beatz, Jay Sean and Chris Brown.        

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Jim Adkins - Soul Expression
Jim Adkins
Soul ExpressionJim Adkins

In a recent interview connected with the release of Jim Adkins’ latest album SOUL EXPRESSION, the versatile veteran guitarist said it all about his multi-faceted artistry when he talked about the inspiration for the title, “It all comes from within as an expression of my soul.” Nearly 25 years into his award-winning, regularly charting recording career, the Grammy nominated musician is still mixing up a non-stop, cool swirl of varying vibes and energies centered on his alternately crisp/crackling and sensually fluid lines. Complementing a batch of high-spirited originals with a bluesy, slow burning twist on an Ed Sheeran classic, Adkins brings his jazzy hipster magic to tracks that rock, jazz, immerse us in mystical romance and take us to balmy tropical climes.  

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Edmond Baker Jr. - Life is Hard, But God is Good
Edmond Baker Jr.
Life is Hard, But God is

Edmond Baker Jr.’s website finds the versatile saxophonist (aka “Uptown Saxman”) inspiring his visitors to stay true to their passion with his advice: “Never Give Up on Your Dreams, Cause Can’t Nobody Stop You, But You!” Taking this to heart, the Texas-based musician’s been a nonstop working dynamo for years, earning five-star ratings from and for his two decades of playing and DJ’ing (often at the same time) at ceremonies, celebrations, upscale corporate and private events and more across the country. With the release of his new single, the lush, deeply passionate, gospel-influenced piano and sax driven ballad “Life is Hard, But God is Good,” Baker will no doubt be getting those kinds of ratings from – and lift the spirits of – excited Smooth Jazz fans all over the world!

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Sylvia Bennett - Reflections
Sylvia Bennett
ReflectionsOut of Sight Music

Since her recording debut on the Grammy-nominated SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY album with music icon Lionel Hampton, multi-talented jazz vocalist and songwriter Sylvia Bennett has become something of a legend herself, with a dozen solo albums to date, and a successful emergence into Smooth Jazz that includes collaborations with Arturo Sandoval, Paul Brown, Rick Braun and Nathan East. With production by longtime collaborator and producer Hal S. Batt, the vibrant singer’s latest album REFLECTIONS finds her looking firmly ahead, pairing her lush, lilting and sultry vocals with seductive light grooves and sweet caressing musical atmospheres. Complementing her emotionally impactful originals with a tasty “world mix” of a Songbook standard ("Witchcraft"), she thoughtfully explores the many facets of relationships, from hopeful beginnings and making dreams reality to the fine art of working things through. 

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Ron Bosse - Burning Room Only
Ron Bosse
Burning Room OnlyDeep Cat Records

Twenty-five years after establishing himself as an impactful straight ahead guitarist with his renowned ensemble Pursuance, multi-faceted guitarist Ron Bosse – referred to as a “master in the making” by Guitar Player Magazine - pulls a fascinating, freewheeling 180, getting into a funkified, explosive and uber-melodic groove collaboration with Jeff Lorber on his epic high-octane album BURNING ROOM ONLY. The two bring the wildly infectious, ultra-melodic and robustly grooving tracks to life with an ensemble of equally genre-busting greats – including saxophonists Bob Mintzer and Bob Reynolds (Snarky Puppy), bassists Ben Shepherd, Jimmy Haslip, MonoNeon (Prince’s last bassist), Hadrien Feraud, drummer Gary Novak, with sizzling horn arrangements by David Mann. Bosse freely showcases his potent rhythm lead guitar chops along with his colorful and expressive melody lines and burning improvisations, hence the title!

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Doc City - Welcome to Doc City (Deluxe Edition)
Doc City
Welcome to Doc City (Deluxe Edition)Clarence Taylor, MD

More than just a clever name, Doc City is a dynamic, multi-faceted all-star contemporary jazz/R&B ensemble led by real MD, Dr. Clarence Taylor, who is a practicing internal and emergency medicine physician at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic Foundation – and is also a versatile multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Two decades after being nominated as Best R&B/Soul Band by the Cleveland Free Times Music Awards, the powerhouse, lushly romantic and wildly grooving 19-piece (15 instrumentalists, 4 vocalists) band featuring trumpeter Sean Jones and singers Evelyn Wright, Tina Farmer, and Reggie Kelly returns with a DELUXE EDITION of their sophisticated project, WELCOME TO DOC CITY. It’s a stylistically expansive set of music that rolls like a sexy party mix featuring soul, hip-hop, jazz and pop and features beautifully crafted songs as well as vibey dance mix of a Sade classic!

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Skii Harvey - Waiting Cover
Skii Harvey

Often described vocally as a cross between Ella Fitzgerald and Tina Turner, veteran Australian singer-songwriter Skii Harvey is a celebrated citizen of the world, recognized by the Billboard Music Awards, the UK Songwriting Awards and Australian Songwriter’s Association. Over a dozen years after launching her recording career, she profoundly shifts sonic gears on her heartrending, soul-piercing and incredibly cathartic EP WAITING with renowned South Korean producer and K-pop artist Mackelli. The sequel/emotional aftermath to her powerful heartbreak chronicle BROKEN, this four-ballad collection finds her taking stock of the past, moving slowly passed the pain and embracing the fact that she no longer must wait for happiness. She also slyly embraces the reality that the wait for true love (after one that wasn’t) captures the heart in perpetuity.  

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Kombo - This Is The Good One
This Is The Good OneShanachie

Next time you hear “Copacabana,” imagine guitarist Jon Pondel and keyboardist Ron Pedley – collectively recording now as Kombo – playing it on tour behind Barry Manilow in the early 80s. They later joined forces with two other Manilow bandmates to form Uncle Festive, which  scored radio hits in the late 80s and 90s. Pondel and Pedley then launched Kombo around the turn of the century. Over 20 years since their last album, the duo’s new, auspiciously titled collection THIS IS THE GOOD ONE, finds them jamming like no time has passed on funky, fluid, moody and soulful guitar and retro keyboard driven tunes - including several with a swinging horn section. Their blend of driving grooves and whimsical adventure hits the sweet spot between Smooth Jazz and contemporary jazz fusion. 

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Dee Lucas - No Boundaries
Dee Lucas
No BoundariesODL Music

Fresh off his 2022 Soul Café Radio Indie Soul Awards nomination, versatile saxophonist Dee Lucas – closing in on 20 years as a recording artist – is set on fulfilling a dual mission as he releases his wildly eclectic, genre pushing new album NO BOUNDARIES. First, he’s committed to creating music as a coping mechanism for others, which in turn brings joy to his listeners. Second, reflective of the project’s theme, to make music that evolves with less restrictions and expectations. While keeping his infectious melodies and lyrical, ever-grooving horn vibe front and center, Lucas’ outside the box/comfort zone vision leads to an expansive palette of expressions, tapping into his cross-pollinating passions for pop, rock, funk, R&B and jazz and inspiring interactions with Blair Bryant, Gino Rosaria, Selina Albright, David P. Stevens and Ragan Whiteside.   

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Keiko Matsui - Euphoria
Keiko Matsui
EuphoriaShanachie Entertainment

Now in her fourth decade as a contemporary jazz icon and perhaps the genre’s most impactful global and charitable ambassador, keyboardist/composer Keiko Matsui titled her epic, wondrously exotic and wildly eclectic 30th album EUPHORIA after the wonderful feeling she gets when she witnesses how her classical and new aged influenced Smooth Jazz connects people around the world. Packed with luminescent melodies and rhythmic influences from around the globe, the visionary artist engages in jazz fusion, a prayerful meditation, an R&B anthem with Lalah Hathaway, a snazzy tango, a playful romp to Paraguay and a track she calls her “jazz symphony” featuring vibes player Joel Ross. She invites a handful of jazz legends along on the incredible journey, including Kirk Whalum, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker and John Beasley.  

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Dennis Murphy - Mas Que Nada
Dennis Murphy
InfiniteDennis Murphy Music

Having collaborated over the years with both R&B/pop legends the likes of Billy Preston, Maria Muldaur, and The Coasters, as well as Smooth Jazz greats including Acoustic Alchemy, Kirk Whalum and Eric Marienthal, Grammy-nominated bassist and guitarist Dennis Murphy brings a dynamic swirl of history, adventurousness, and hard-grooving energy to his current splash in the genre. Setting the stage for his upcoming, star-studded album INFINITE – the follow up to his hit 2021 collection OUR HIGHER SELVES, which stayed on the TOP100 Chart for 49 weeks, Murphy brings a feisty mix of irrepressible, funky and fiery exotica and gritty blues to Sergio Mendes’ classic “Mas Que Nada.” The fast-rolling track features plenty of trademark improvisations by Murphy, who intermingles throughout with the buoyant, intensely pulsating piano and organ of guest super star Ricky Peterson (David Sanborn, Stevie Nicks). 

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Rei Narita - Let's Meet Up Under The Sakura
Rei Narita
Let's meet up under the sakuraStudio Luna Azul

In establishing his record labels Key Rei Jazz and Studio Luna Azul, prolific pianist, composer, producer Rei Narita – renowned as Asia’s foremost pioneer of Smooth Jazz – has made his intentions clear: to build on the concept of creating beautiful music. Since his two-part full-length album series, THE COLOR OF SOUNDSCAPE in the 2010s, the multi-talented artist has released two follow up EPs and a flurry of popular singles, including one with Omar Hakim and Peter White. The title of Narita’s latest super-melodic, seductive and gently rhythmic gem, “Lets Meet Up Under the Sakura” refers to the Japanese cherry blossom. Narita’s dreamy and atmospheric, easy swaying, and often improvisational flow creates a gentle soundtrack for the image of two people meeting up under this tree that blooms inspirationally in spring. 

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Shawn Raiford - The Next Step
Shawn Raiford
The Next StepShawn Raiford Sax Productions

With a nod to Shawn Raiford’s critically praised 2020 debut album, MAN WITH A HORN, while many may call themselves such, few actually know what to do with it to create the magic and make an emotional connection! Raiford, who’s been sharing his vibrant and adventurous horn fire with fans in and around his home base in California for years, continues his breakthrough hot streak by following his recent single “Forever” with one of the most dynamic, impactful Smooth Jazz cover songs in years. Rich with bright caressing sonic textures, his beautifully performed, sassy and brassy twist on Silk Sonic’s #1 multi-Grammy winning smash, “Leave the Door Open” sets the spirited standard by which instrumental re-imaginings should be judged. Raiford’s alternately tender and muscular approach is sheer romantic delight! Available in advance of his forthcoming album THE NEXT STEP.

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Rainforest Band - Good Medicine
Rainforest Band
Good MedicineSan Francisco Records

With the release of GOOD MEDICINE, an inviting mix of spirited contemporary jazz, robust funk and sensual balladry, six-piece Bay Area ensemble Rainforest Band confirms its status as one of Smooth Jazz’s most environmentally conscious artists. Launched in 2017 by R&B/Gospel soul veterans Tony Saunders (bass), Vernon “Ice” Black (guitar) and Sylvester Burks (keyboards), the group refashions the eco-minded aesthetic of BLUES FROM THE RAINFOREST – A MUSICAL SUITE, an early 90s  “environmental earth music album” created by Saunders’ father, famed keyboardist Merl Saunders, and the legendary Jerry Garcia. While the soaring power and passion of saxophonist Dave Ellis ensures that this collection is more horn-centric than their debut, there’s also plenty of urban jazz and groovin’ soul from Saunders and tasty, melodic guitar magic from Black and Lorn Leber. GOOD MEDICINE will make you feel good!

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Lawson Rollins - Heartwood
Lawson Rollins
HeartwoodInfinita Records/BajaTSR

Closing in on 25 years since he first graced us with his impeccable, melodic and rhythmic acoustic guitar as part of the Latin fusion duo Young & Rollins. Lawson Rollins is a Billboard Top 10 ranked world music guitarist whose sense of adventure and invention has earned him Guitar Player Magazine’s designation as one of the 50 Best Acoustic Guitarists of all time! The multi-faceted artist/composer keeps the intricate six-string fire burning on his latest solo album HEARTWOOD. It’s a robust, high-spirited, ensemble driven collection that celebrates the material foundation of his instrument featuring Grammy winning violinists Charlie Bisharat and Mads Tolling, veteran jazz saxophonist Mary Fettig, Brazilian percussionist Marquinho Brasil, virtuoso bassist Dan Feiszli, multi-instrumentalist Stephen Duros, keyboardist Michael Bluestein, cellist Joseph Hébert and drummers Colin Douglas and Davo Bryant. The pack depart on sensual, high flying and improvisational excursions into bossa nova, rumba and samba – with a frolicsome homage to Spanish classical virtuoso, Segovia included for good measure. 

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Will Sumner - Meadowlark
Will Sumner
MeadowlarkGuitar One Records

After a series of edgy electric guitar driven Smooth Jazz albums featuring beachy/summery titles like COAST DRIVE and RIDE THE WAVE, multi-talented musician-composer Will Sumner got more personal with his 2021 release OCEAN STREET, which featured songs emotionally connected to his longtime former family home in Carlsbad, where his mother lived until her passing at 96. On this latest, truly innovative sonic excursion MEADOWLARK, Will keeps his trademark blend of buoyant funk/rock, sensual atmospheric balladry and breezy, piano-enhanced melodic grace flowing in loving homage to the beautiful working alfalfa farm in Apple Valley, California. owned by his grandmother in the 1960s and 1970s. The collection of infectious tunes brings to life grandma’s warmth and generosity, as well as the sweet nostalgia of his childhood summer vacations there.     

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Phil Walker - In The Air Tonight
Phil Walker
In The Air

As proud of his “day gig” as a nationally published financial planning author, speaker and executive as he is of his burgeoning career as a sly and funky, soul-fired saxophonist, Phil Walker says his goal is destress you in two ways – Smooth Jazz and Smooth Life in Retirement. Because of the title of his latest seductive yet funky, groove intensive and Latin fired album IN THE AIR TONIGHT, much hoopla will be made of the soaring, spot-on Phil on Phil (Collins) connection. Yet Walker, working with genre greats like Steve Oliver, Richard Smith, Chris Tedesco and former Rippingtons’ members Kim Stone and Dave Hooper also kicks it up on a Rufus classic and a batch of inspiring originals showcasing his talents at late night mood setting and firing on all cylinders for a danceable good time.   

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D.S. Wilson - Skyline
D.S. Wilson
SkylineBig Splash Music, LLC

Saxophonist and keyboardist D.S. Wilson has teamed with recording artist, guitarist and producer Adam Hawley along with an all-star cast to produce SKYLINE, the 3rd full album of  contemporary jazz featuring catchy melodies and solid grooves. The A-listers in the mix include Eric Valentine on drums, Mel Brown on bass and Carnell Harrell on keys. Paying homage to the bustling vibe of the Windy City, the project has released advance singles which have proven to grab the attention of radio stations and music fans around the world. His previous single, "Leave It To The Gods" has nearly 100k streams on Spotify! The successfully charting artist, performer and composer has experience in jazz, blues, pop and rock and all of these genres seamlessly flow through the tracks on SKYLINE, giving the listener an exciting experience from beginning to end.

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Listening Loft : MUST HAVES

Carol Albert - Magic Mirror
Carol Albert
Magic MirrorCahara Music

Though pianist/composer Carol Albert has been recording since the early 90s, it’s testament to the fire her singles have caught on at Smooth Jazz Radio since 2016 that two tracks from her 2020 album STRONGER NOW have Spotify streams in the millions – very rare numbers for the genre. Her streak of infectious hits continued with the first two lead singles from her latest wonderwork MAGIC MIRROR, which sweeps us up in spirited whirlwinds of melodic grace via tunes that range from intimate and meditative to exuberant and funky to exotic and Brazilian flavored. While promoting themes of personal soul escape/adventure and self-reflection in this post-pandemic era of new awakenings, Carol showcases her love for  dreamy, easy-flowing contemporary jazz that takes her, and us, to many magical places.

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Amandus - Her Love
Her LoveAmandus Records

Focusing on music after getting a Master’s in physics, German keyboardist/composer Michael Quast wrote his first Smooth Jazz song in 1996, then set his compositions aside and became a busy touring sideman with Paul Young, Nik Kershaw, Johnny Logan and Midge Ure. Since launching his recording career as Amandus in 2020, there’s been no stopping his irresistible blend of lighthearted funk grooves and cheery but often sensually romantic melodies. On his new EP, HER LOVE, Quast optimistically explores the many facets of love real and imagined, complementing his dazzling keys with exotic percussion, colorful vocal textures and the edgy rap of Trinidad born Klyive on the title track. Another essential aspect of Amandus’ sound is his seamless interaction with the fluid energy of German electric guitarist Uli Broderson.  

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Paul Brown - Promised Land
Paul Brown
Promised LandShanachie Entertainment

To riff on the title of Paul Brown’s stellar, bluesy, jazzy and funky second Shanachie album PROMISED LAND, the veteran double Grammy winning guitarist has been the first-choice producer for any genre artist trying to get to #1 spot on the radio charts for 30+ years. As an artist and producer, he’s scored over 60 chart toppers! A few years ago, Brown took stock of his great success with ONES UPON A TIME, cleverly re-imagining those smashes with other artists. Brown brings his dynamic cool urban jazz aesthetic, fluid, crackling string style and soulful rhythmic diversity to a new batch of sure-fire smashes. He rolls from romantic cool, down home blues and tropical Latin cool to tight, infectious in the pocket jams with special sax guests Marion Meadows and Euge Groove.  

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Evan Carydakis - Cherry Pops
Evan Carydakis

Whether a beloved pet, dear friend or close family member, when a loved one passes, just as important as mourning the loss is celebrating the life of the departed. It’s something fast-rising Australian born saxophonist Evan Carydakis does passionately and emphatically on his playful, vibrant new single “Cherry Pops.” A strutting, high energy tune that packs an emotional wallop while paying homage to his Australian Kelpie 'Cherry,' who recently died from canine lymphoma. We can feel the essence of the dog Carydakis calls “the love of my life” and her spirit in every funky groove, kickin' horn lick and blast of brassy fire. Evans says that Cherry never looked backwards and always lived her life to the full, remaining joyful all times. Expect "Cherry Pops" to make you feel that good!

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Bob Coate - Mambo Rosalita
Bob Coate
Mambo Rosalita

Unleashing a blast of musical creativity after his long career in Information Technology, composer and multi-instrumentalist Bob Coate – driven by an aesthetic he dubs “Smooth Jazz and Beyond” – has dropped a flurry of ten tropical, chillout and in the pocket, light funk Smooth Jazz singles over the past two years. The “Beyond” on his latest, wildly danceable and infectious jam, “Mambo Rosalita” is a deeper venture into Latin jazz, creating a frolicsome, fast-moving playground to showcase his formidable melodic flugelhorn vibe, in the style of his hero Herb Alpert. A collaboration with keyboardist/producer Sonix, who adds high energy harmonies and a jaunty solo improvisation to the tune!

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Mike Di Lorenzo - Play It Cool
Mike Di Lorenzo
Play It CoolKeep The Groove

A quote on keyboardist/composer Mike Di Lorenzo’s website reads “Let the Music Tell the Story.” The versatile artist did that early in his career performing with Whitney and Cissy Houston, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and many East Coast symphonies. A decade and a half since launching his solo career, he’s found a fresh way of sharing musical narratives on his two recent albums, including his latest, the masterfully hip, stylish and sophisticated PLAY IT COOL. He artfully pairs his formidable melodic and improvisational piano chops with vibrantly soulful vocalists Sonna Rele, Denise Stewart and Anna Moore. While creating graceful grooves and dreamy atmospheres around their featured vocals, he also showcases his dynamic range on acoustic and electric piano on a handful of free flowing, high-spirited instrumentals. Mike D'Lo always plays it cool... You can count on it!

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Igor Fedotov - Believe in Love
Igor Fedotov
Believe in LoveIgor Fedotov

A multi-talented veteran saxophonist and music educator, Russian born, Australia based Igor Fedotov released albums and toured the world as a solo artist and guest performer while teaching 500+ students as an instructor over two decades. Though he’s been releasing solo projects since the late 90s, Fedotov’s stylistically, culturally and rhythmically eclectic, lushly orchestrated new album BELIEVE IN LOVE marks an emotionally impactful launch into Smooth Jazz. Unlike many saxmen who stick with one signature sound, Fedotov brings a multitude of sonic approaches to the mix, playing everything from a sensual Gato Barbieri-like tenor to lyrical and deeply funky soprano, with plenty of robust intensity and graceful romantic expressions in between. The bold production, big swelling strings and commitment to diversity add up nicely to a magnificent musical trip around the globe

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Ghost Jazz Trio - Groovin Smooth
Ghost Jazz Trio
Groovin SmoothGuitar One Records

After decades leading numerous jazz fusion bands, guitarist/composer/producer James Morgan’s decision to launch his own brand of “West Coast Laid Back Jazz” via the Ghost Jazz Trio has been a spectacular success, including two 'Best Jazz Album of the Year' nominations from the San Diego Music Awards. Recently upgraded from a trio to a funky, hard-poppin’ quintet, the latest full-length jam GROOVIN’ SMOOTH is an infectious, rhythm-centric showcase for Morgan’s fluid style and the natural wood vibe of his Pat Metheny hollow body signature guitar. Everything is colored, of course, by the skillful and adventurous ensemble of seasoned musicians featuring legendary guitarist (album co-writer, arranger and producer) Dean Brown (Bob James, David Sanborn), bassist Nathan Brown (Bob James, Eric Marienthal, Brian Simpson), keyboardist Chase Pado and holding down the groove, Tres Hodgens on drums. Engineered and recorded by Grammy winner Alan Sanderson (Elton John, Michael Jackson, Rolling Stones).  

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Ron King - Cascade
Ron King
CascadeKing Sounds Records

A few years back, when veteran Grammy-nominated trumpeter Ron King first started working with guitarist and producer Paul Brown, the Smooth Jazz hitmaker put it bluntly to his new friend, “You need to write a hit song.” King, whose decades long resume includes Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra, Jeff Lorber and David Benoit, took the advice to heart and has been in solo artist overdrive ever since, releasing 6 singles from his 2020 album DOWNTOWN MAMA. King's latest album, CASCADE offers a silky, sexy variety of hits, including the title track and his latest radio release, "Together Again." Chock-full of slinky grooves and world-class musicianship, CASCADE is a welcome collection for horn man's fans and an exceptional calling card for those newly discovering this icon's solo endeavors. 

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Bobby Lyle - Ivory Flow
Bobby Lyle
Ivory FlowNew Warrior Music

An incredible 45 years after releasing his epic debut album THE GENIE, and 33 years since his landmark Atlantic album IVORY DREAMS, Bobby Lyle reminds us on his latest collection that he’s still engaged and excited about being in the IVORY FLOW. The multi-talented pianist/keyboardist calls this gloriously crafted set “a reunion album,” with support from his equally legendary contemporary jazz pals Rick Braun, Gerald Albright, Najee, Marcus Miller, Marion Meadows, Nathan East, Everette Harp, Stanley Clarke, Kirk Whalum and Paul Jackson, Jr!  This dream team takes fanciful spins through a riveting, expansive landscape infused with classic soul/funk, Latin-fired fusion, straight ahead jazz, solo piano blues and an elegant tune dedicated to Lyle’s son Tommy, who passed away in 2017 from diabetic complications. Step into the IVORY FLOW and feel the love. 

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Bill McGee - Tree of Life
Bill McGee
The Tree of Life804 Jazz

With the release of THE TREE OF LIFE, a multi-faceted collection infused with Smooth Jazz, swinging traditional jazz, groovin’ R&B, new soul and bits of gospel and GoGo Afro Funk, veteran horn master, 804 Jazz founder and CEO Bill McGee celebrates musical greats Ramsey Lewis and Donald Byrd as well as personal milestones. Besides marking over 50 years as a recording artist and two decades in Smooth Jazz, Bill was recently elected President of the Richmond Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization founded by MLK! Beyond stylistic diversity, from sweet ballads and juicy jams to special guest performances from A-listers Freddie Fox, Fred Wesley, Christian de Mesones, James Saxsmo Gates, Najee and more, the project also spotlights McGee’s tender melodic flugelhorn and his remarkable one-man horn sections via the trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and hybrid “flugelbone.” This musical tree provides shelter for enthusiasts who appreciate depth and joy in their listening experience.  

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Gary Meek - Monterey Groove
Gary Meek
Monterey GrooveAutumn Hill Records

A stylistically powerful showcase for his legendary sax skills (Brian Bromberg, Jeff Lorber, Green Day) and equally impressive keyboard playing, the wide range of emotions Meek generates on his adventurous, fusion-fired album MONTEREY GROOVE, might not have been recorded had it not been for Covid-19. The collection was originally intended to be new material for a developing Monterey Peninsula fusion band with neighbor/guitarist Michael Lent (Barry Manilow, Jeffery Osborne). However, the new ensemble struck charismatic musical gold and then the pandemic hit before their first gig. Luckily for listeners around the world, Meek hit record on the new material! With a career that includes more than 200 recordings and notable collaborations with world-class drummer Dave Weckl and a 20-year stint with Brazilian icons Flora Purim and Airto Moreira, this dynamic collection celebrating Meek’s passion for California’s Central Coast features Flora & Airto, as well as Weckl, local bassist Dennis Murphy and of course Mike Lent.

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Ken Powe - On The Level
Ken Powe
On The LevelKen Powe Music

Internationally known as a concert pianist (playing major music halls and festivals) and record producer for three decades, Ken Powe’s decision in 2015 to finally record as a solo artist has led to a wildly prolific run of five full-length albums in seven years – including his 2020 breakthrough STEPPIN’. On his latest, the multi-faceted ON THE LEVEL, he shares his passions for exquisite mood-setting balladry and lively, quick-grooving funk while showcasing a fascinating, dramatic style that reflects a hybrid of his classical training, trad jazz influences and love for Herbie Hancock and Ramsey Lewis. Whether he’s in full on seduction mode or caught up in, off the chain grooves, Powe’s trademark is improvising and creating sparkling flights of fancy at the same time he presents the main melody.  

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Hart Ramsey - A Different Heart
Hart Ramsey
A Different HeartPrayer Closet Records

From Kirk Whalum and Jonathan Butler on down, countless Smooth Jazz musicians use their talents for tasteful, beautiful melodies and infectious rhythms to reflect their love of God. After a decade hiatus from recording, keyboardist/composer Hart Ramsey – Senior Pastor and Founder of Northview Christian Church in Dothan and Montgomery, Alabama and Atlanta – returns to help us groove and dance a bit with his stellar, multi-faceted contemporary jazz EP, A DIFFERENT HEART. Enhancing his foundational acoustic piano with adventurous excursions including electric piano, synth vibes and swirling atmospheres, Ramsey works his divinely inspired musical magic with some of the region’s most acclaimed musicians, including Grammy, Dove and Stellar Award-winning guitarist Rick Watford and saxophonists Kelley O’Neal and La’Roy Bodiford.     

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D.A. Scott - Come to the Garden
DA Scott
Come to the GardenJAS Music Group

In 2012, lifelong gospel musician and jazz enthusiast DA Scott was in a serious car crash that forced him to set aside his budding artistry and give up on his dreams. Ultimately believing that God had much greater plans for him, the multi-talented arranger, composer and keyboardist followed the divinely opened doors and launched his recording career ten years later. His second single, a rousing, passionate, choir-fired arrangement of the classic hymn “Come to the Garden,” is a showcase for Scott’s dynamic gospel-jazz keyboard magic and the deeply passionate saxophone of renowned guest artist Donald Hayes. Though the song is driven by powerful emotion, for Scott it’s the “quiet whisper” which reminds him that God is with him every step of the journey.

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Spontaneous Groovin' Combustion - All's Well
Spontaneous Groovin' Combustion
All's WellTune 9 Records

On many of Spontaneous Groovin’ Combustion’s big airplay singles since 2019, founder/leader Warren A. Keller drew on his history as an NYC rocker, bringing his edgy sax-driven fire to the forefront. On SGC’s latest single, the cleverly titled “Name Dropper” (so named because Keller admits he’s an “insufferable” one!), he showcases his mellower side via a dreamy and heartfelt lead flute melody over an easygoing groove. Fellow hitmaker, frequent collaborator and the song’s co-writer Blake Aaron ups the octane level, adding his trademark cracklin’ guitar and soulful fire, while Keller keeps an easy flowing chill vibe. Speaking of dropping names, Darryl Williams and Tony Moore create a tight pocket as Tateng Katindig dazzles on piano.  

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The Smooth Jazz Alley - Here's the Thing
The Smooth Jazz Alley
Here's the

After two albums and a handful of Smooth Top 30 singles, The Smooth Jazz Alley founder/keyboardist/producer Marco Montoya and longtime drummer/producer Kevin Lewis introduced the latest addition to the group, female Japanese sax dynamo Otoe Mori, on their infectious, fiery 2022 smash “Deep Into You.” That track lays an explosive foundation for the irresistibly sensual and grooving blend of soaring ballads, Latin breezes and catchy funk on their eclectic new EP, HERE’S THE THING. The project continues TSJA’s engaging tradition of vibing with some of the boldest, brightest stars in the genre. In addition to guitarist Chris Camozzi, who brings his acoustic guitar grace to the next single, the guest list includes Jessy J, Blake Aaron, Nathan East, Jeff Ryan and saxophonist WaKaNa, along with co-producer Matt Godina who adds additional keys and guitars to the collection.  

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UltrablueSRS Records

New York based producer- composer John Smatla had already played keyboards for a variety of major pop and rock music acts when he teamed with jazz heavyweight Dave Stryker to produce the first Ultrablue record, DUSK 2 DAWN. Now with the group's second album, the self-titled ULTRABLUE, John assumes full artistic control and creates a fascinating and sophisticated jazz collective with top east coast session cats and special all-star contributors including Randy Brecker (trumpet/flugelhorn), Pete Belasco (sax), Nestor Torres (flute), Gabriela Anders (vocals), David Mann (sax and added production), Philip Hamilton (vocals w/Pat Metheny Group) as well as support from R&B group, "Allure." Ultrablue's in-the-pocket, keyboard-driven tracks combine Brazilian, Latin and African rhythms and textures into an easy funk vibe, yielding an ultra romantic and cosmopolitan flow. 

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Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS

Steve Baxter - Do What You Feel
Steve Baxter
Do What You FeelSlubba Bub Record

Truly manifesting the thought-provoking title of his fourth album DO WHAT YOU FEEL, veteran Urban Contemporary Jazz trombone master, Steve Baxter’s stirring blend of soulful, funky and smooth music invokes the classic R&B/jazz vibe of Wayne Henderson and finds him joining the ranks of Trombone Shorty and Brian Culbertson as contemporary jazz cats making Smooth Jazz a wonderland of possibilities for the instrument’s unique lower toned timbre. Steve’s unique stylistic array has its roots in his years sharing stage and studio time with everyone from The Crusaders, Barry Manilow and Gladys Knight & The Pips to Alicia Keys, Babyface and Ziggy Marley. Adding deeper emotional cool to the mix are the very different moods created on several key tracks by guest vocalists Devere Duckette and Lynn Fiddmont. This is a must have for music enthusiasts!

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David Blamires - With Every Passing Day
David Blamires
With Every Passing DayDavid Blamires

Renowned in contemporary jazz as a member of the Pat Metheny Group from 1986-1997... British born, Ontario-raised and Chicago-based Grammy winning vocalist David Blamires scored an enduring airplay hit in the early '90s with “Deep Is the Midnight Sea.” Decades later, he makes an impressive splash in Smooth Jazz with his new single, “With Every Passing Day” a soulful, dreamy and atmospheric song of longing and regret that serves as a perfect showcase for his emotionally resonant vocals. This lushly produced track is the culmination of an initial burst of inspiration for a persistent and perennial tune that came to him more than 20 years ago.

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Kimberly Brewer - Don't Make Me Wait Too Long
Kimberly Brewer
Don't Make Me Wait Too LongKimberlily

When Stevie Wonder asks you to record one of his songs and recommends a duet with an R&B sensation, you understand that it’s not a matter of saying yes, it’s a matter of how quickly you can say yes! Veteran vocalist Kimberly Brewer has toured the world and recorded three albums with Wonder. She has also toured with Earth, Wind & Fire, Julio Iglesias, k.d. lang, Vanessa Williams and many more. So you also understand why Stevie asked her! When Kimberly and smooth crooner Joe (“I Wanna Know”) recorded “Don’t Make Me Wait Too Long” the author loved it so much that he joined in playing his signature harmonic stylings! It’s a jazzy, contemporary adult smash that’s already had well over a quarter of a million plays on Spotify! What are you waiting for? 

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Marcus Click - Brand New Day
Marcus Click
Brand New DayTwin Records

Louisville native Marcus Click devoted 13 years of his early adulthood to the U.S. Navy – during which time he cultivated a passion for contemporary jazz saxophone. Encouragement from the late George Howard, Nelson Rangell and Najee ultimately led him to win the 2019 Artist Music Guild’s (AMG) Instrumentalist of the Year award. This in turn led Click to drop several charting singles and now his brilliantly diverse, percussively progressive and intoxicatingly exotic breakthrough album, BRAND NEW DAY. The spiritually minded collection includes a sophisticated, radio worthy Stevie Wonder re-imagining and dynamic contributions from multi-Grammy nominee Roger Ryan, Bob Baldwin, Jonathan Fritzen, and Japanese keyboardist Madoca.

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Walter Duda - Got It Down
Walter Duda
Got It Down (remix)World Alert Records

Always full of stylistic surprises, NYC area pianist/composer (and former New England Music Academy piano instructor) Walter Duda followed his two previous singles with saxophonist Marion Meadows with his classical influenced piano and strings EP, GHOSTS OF BYGONE DAYS. Blissfully back in the ultra-melodic Smooth Jazz realm, his latest single “Got It Down” finds him in a passionate, soaring duet with Meadows (in tandem and then each bringing their individual solo sparkle) as his guitarist pal Al Ferrante takes the jam to the next level with a blazing electric solo, and legendary longtime friends Will Lee and Dave Weckl create a tight, vibrant pocket. On this cool remix, Weckl updates his drum track to deliver an incredible groove for a robust sheen on the tune. Mr. Duda indeed has got it down!

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Stephen Duros - The Manhattan Sessions
Stephen Duros
The Manhattan SessionsLuminescent Records

There’s a definite correlation between Stephen Duros’ career as a successful touring lighting director for pop legends like Toto and Olivia Newton-John and his emergence as a bright, exciting electric and acoustic guitar-driven recording artist with his mood swinging from rock to meditative and everything in between. The NYC-themed new album, THE MANHATTAN SESSIONS highlights Duros’ skillset as he artfully infuses his expansive musical palette with exotic elements of reggae and Arabic rhythms into pop and Smooth Jazz. The guitarist has absorbed a level of confidence and comfort in his signature blend of contemporary jazz after lengthy stints playing flamenco and gypsy flavored music with guitar heros Ottmar Liebert and Lawson Rollins. 

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John E. Lawrence - Velocity
John E. Lawrence
VelocitySuper Trax

Having created a major concert series in his hometown of Ypsilanti, MI, where he’s produced shows from greats like Earl Klugh, Ashford & Simpson and Mavis Staples, the multi-faceted teacher, instructional guitar book author and Smooth Jazz guitarist John E. Lawrence has met and vibed with countless genre luminaries. Among them is Jeff Lorber, who co-wrote, produced and includes his trademark dazzling keyboards, tight grooves and sizzling horns to this latest single, the high octane jam “Velocity.” In addition to being an electrifying collaboration, the track is yet another masterful showcase for Lawrence’s snappy and adventurous electric guitar magic. 

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GOM JAZZ - Mood 1 The Miami Sessions
Mood 1 The Miami SessionsPaul Stewart Music

The five multi-talented veteran South Florida musicians who’ve pooled their collective decades of playing funky soul, picante Latin jazz, swing, jazz etc. with locals and legends alike are promoting their full-length debut album Mood 1: THE MIAMI SESSIONS with a ton of colorful, breezy and beachy language to convey that their splashy, vibrantly melodic, alternately sweetly soulful and high energy stylistic fusion is rooted in the rhythmic joys and laid back lifestyle of their hometown. But beyond simply creating catchy radio ready gems, the hard-working quintet fire up inventive, intuitive musical conversations and powerfully emotive solo action to forge a fresh new sound in Miami jazz featuring guitarist Paul Stewart, keyboardist Felix Gomez, saxophonist/flutist Ron Fattorusso, and holding down the low end, Rafael Valencia on bass, with Goetz Kujack on drums.

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Jarez - Everything You Do
Everything You DoJ Star Entertainment LLC

Previously known to millions as longtime touring saxophonist for Coolio – and his appearances on the late rapper’s popular web series “Cookin’ with Coolio” - Jarez became known as the Mayor of J Funk City when his star-studded album with that title made him the first indie saxman to hit #1 on all charts at the same time. He gets cooking on his upcoming album with this lead single “Everything You Do,” an infectiously funkified, fast thumping summer sizzler infused with Jarez’s emotional lead sax vibe, high-speed horn textures, and the electric fire of guitarist AJ Luke.  

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Jay King - Soulful Bossa Nova
Jay King
Soulful BossanovaJay King Music

Three and a half decades since his Grammy winning R&B band Club Nouveau scaled the pop and soul charts with their spin on “Lean On Me” and “Why You Treat Me So Bad,” singer, songwriter and producer Jay King breezes and romances his way into the exotic side of vocal Smooth Jazz with SOULFUL BOSSANOVA – a perfectly titled jaunt full of soulful island rhythms, atmospheric Brazilian sultriness and silky, intimate expressions of love, longing and regret. Helping King cultivate this gentler, more seductive side of his artistry here are hit guitarist Nils and King’s longtime collaborator, saxophonist/flutist Cal Bennett.

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Shawn Kingsberry - Love Saw It
Shawn Kingsberry
Love Saw ItShawn Kingsberry

A master at blending genuine analog with computer generated sounds, veteran bassist, composer and producer Shawn Kingsberry likens himself and his varied musings in Smooth Jazz, neo-soul and classic R&B to the character of Morpheus in The Matrix. Capping ten years of single releases and EPs, the Maryland-based musician brings fresh, deep in the pocket funk-jazz dazzle and buoyancy to the classic late 80’s Karyn White/Babyface duet “Love Saw It.” In addition to Kingsberry’s throbbing, hypnotic bass energy and Greg Cryme’s sensual vocals, the track features the dynamic sax energy of the artist’s son, saxophonist Kyle Kingsberry.    

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Eric Knight - Crazy
Eric Knight

From touring, recording and performing with iconic talent such as The Rolling Stones, Prince, J. Lo, Etta James, Hiram Bullock and Randy Brecker, saxophonist Eric Knight has been setting the stage for his emergence as a powerhouse solo artist for years. Concurrent with the early success of KnightHammer, a Smooth Jazz duo formed with longtime friend Doug Oberhamer, Knight’s debut solo single takes a freewheeling, easy thumping spin through Gnarls Barkley’s Grammy-nominated smash, “Crazy," featuring a burnin' piano solo from Andy Ezrin (Chris Botti, David Sanborn) and an incendiary guitar solo from Marcus Machado. The track showcases the effervescent saxman’s soulful, funky and deeply melodic soprano and his inventive approach to horn texturing making "Crazy" as clever as a fox!

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Le Sonic - Riverside Drive
Le Sonic
Riverside DriveGeneric Records

In 2022, four years after pooling their storied, all-star resumes in pop, dance and R&B, Mike Rogers and Gary Lefkowith – aka the multi-faceted composing/production duo Le Sonic – broke through with two #1 Billboard Smooth Jazz smashes. Two of those, the silky atmospheric ballad “Any Moment” (featuring guitarist Robert Lee) and the sensually grooving romantic gem, “I’ll Be the One” (with vocalist Lauran Beluzo) appear on Le Sonic’s three song debut EP, RIVERSIDE DRIVE. Stylized after Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’,” the jaunty, playfully strutting title track “Riverside Drive” soars with key contributions by trumpeter Jim Hynes and saxophonist Scott Kreitzer.   

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M'Lynn - Safety Net

Smooth music chanteuse M’Lynn is back with an irresistible new hit, “Safety Net.” A neatly packaged production that traverses a steep emotional grade. Proving once and for all that vulnerability is strength, as the indie pop, soul singer goes there… M’Lynn is all in. Channeling her curiosity and confusion to the greater good of  music crafting, the talented recording artist is working closely with Grammy nominated producer Emile Ghantous and Emmy-winning producer and songwriter Josh Goode to release several singles this year. Ironically, the latest song about learning to trust a comfortable, loving connection, offers a profound sense of comfort to the listener. Brilliantly fashioned to move your soul with its catchy, crisp arrangement and impeccable vocals, “Safety Net” is modern day musical gem. Go ahead, jump in, just be prepared to wear out the replay button.

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Belton Mouras Jr. - Mickey's Tree Soundtrack
Belton Mouras Jr.
Mickey's TreeBelton Mouras Entertainment

Fusing his lifelong passion for music and love of animals, multi-talented musician, composer and producer Belton Mouras Jr. creates a fascinating multi-genre soundtrack and EP to his acclaimed short film “Mickey’s Tree,” a touching family drama about a teenage boy who follows various pathways to overcoming personal tragedy, including sharing adventures with a rescue dog named Mickey. He creates thematically illustrative tracks that range from the percussive and global fusion-driven theme to inspirational pop, funky piano jazz, infectious mainstream pop and rap. Mouras’s exhilarating piano is featured on “Mickeys Swag” and he also works with an array of talented musicians and artists, including world-class vocalists Craig Long and Laura Marina on “Sing To Me” and vocalists Ann Roach and Keith Stafford along with saxophonist Otis Mourning on the hit song “Don’t Let the Music Die.” 

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Erisa Nicole - Fresh
Erisa Nicole

The vibrant pink, green and yellow background and bright, multi-hued outfit Erisa Nicole wears on the cover of her slammin’ new single “Fresh,” perfectly reflect the vibrant, buoyant vibes, whimsically soaring melody and hip, groove-intensive flair the saxophonist creates with co-writer and producer Adam Hawley. Soulful and punchy, with a dynamic blend of grit and whimsy, the optimistic track is the latest triumph for Erisa, who has been lighting up gospel and Smooth Jazz stages everywhere from her home base of San Diego to The Apollo Theatre and gigging with the likes of Con Funk Shun, Elan Trotman, Jazz In Pink and Nathan East.    

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Art Ruprecht - Peace Meal
Art Ruprecht
Peace MealArt Ruprecht

Though he played more bluegrass earlier in his career, Art Ruprecht became a spiritually driven force in the realm of gospel inflected Smooth Jazz with his 2018 album CAST YOUR CARE, which ranked #22 on’s TOP 100 Album Chart for 2019. On the vibrant, instantly catchy, pocket funk jam, “Peace Meal," his first single since 2020’s A LOVE SUBLIME, the versatile Joe Pass/George Benson influenced guitarist creates an explosive melodic duality with the hard driving sax of Fred Middlekauff on the hook, then breaks twice for extended, intricate electric string improvisations that take the track to a jazzier, almost surreal artistic level. The cleverly titled "Peace Meal" is a welcome romp in the world of Smooth, taking our current climate a degree or two warmer!

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Talking Book featuring Jared - Muse of Isis Vol. 1
Talking Book Featuring Jared
Muse of Isis Vol. 1Southern Lady Generals Ent

Strategically named after the classic Stevie Wonder album for its intoxicatingly soulful blend of groove, sensuality, romance, spirituality and imparting of life lessons, Talking Book featuring Jared is a unique R&B/contemporary jazz studio ensemble of four vocalists and five instrumentalists captained by songwriter, producer, and keyboardist Jared Johnson. The group’s eclectic, intimately inviting MUSE OF ISIS, VOL. 1 was inspired by contemplating the divine eternal life of the ancient Egyptian goddess as well as a nod to women’s basketball star Isis “Ice” Thorpe. As such, the collection features a graceful blend of sweet acoustic charms, breezy, Sade and Babyface-tinged neo-soul and reggae with comforting, prayer-like tracks designed for healing and uplifting the soul.    

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B. Thompson - P.O.V.
B. Thompson
P.O.V.Opus One Music Group

With the release of his full-length debut P.O.V. (Point Of View), onetime prodigy Bryan (aka B.) Thompson - who overcame a childhood hearing loss to master several instruments – may be a fresh Smooth Jazz sax sensation, but he is already a 100M+ views social media sensation, recognized by everyone from Chris Brown and Cardi B to Mariah Carey. The multi-faceted 25-year-old composer/artist, who’s performed with Najee, Kirk Whalum, H.E.R. and is now touring with Babyface, brings a hipness to the scene with swirling, hypnotic horn arrangements, dreamy soulful atmospheres, and fashionable sonic and rhythmic touches featuring cool hip-hop sensibilities.  

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Threestyle - Better Days
Threestyle feat Magdalena Chovancova & Robert Fertl
Better DaysWeLoveMusicRecords

At its divinely soulful, melodic, and easy grooving core, #1 Billboard Smooth Jazz charting group ThreeStyle is the Euro-bred trio of Bavarian guitarist Robert Fertl and Czech-born twin Chovancova sisters, Magdalena (saxes, flutes) and Gabriela (drums). Yet as their latest sweetly sensual album BETTER DAYS (the band's 11th album) showcases, each fresh batch of colorful R&B/urban jazz expressions reminds us that their incredible array of guest soul-centric vocalists is every bit a part of their uplifting, smooth and romantic vibe. This time out, the guest roster includes Damon Dae, DW3, Latonya Black, Tim Owens, Ashley Sankey and Elvis Stanic. The second single from the collection is "Living in This House," a smooth, laid-back groove that brings to mind the positive vibes of the origins of the genre. And be sure not to miss the ThreeStyle Jazz Radio Show featuring Smooth Jazz favorites as well as tracks from their albums!

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Jayson Tipp - Groove Together
Jayson Tipp
Groove TogetherMind in Overdrive

While celebrating 30 years since launching his recording career as founder of the still active as ever, eclectic contemporary jazz ensemble Under the Lake, keyboardist Jayson Tipp – encouraged by band mate Quintin Gerard W – steps out in grand style as a Smooth Jazz solo artist with “Groove Together.” It’s a brassy, spirited and melodic, improvisation filled piano romp perfectly titled to reflect the swaying, high energy funk he creates collaborating with saxophonist and powerhouse composer/producer Darren Rahn. The lead single from Tipp’s upcoming album TABLE FOR ONE also features guitarist Randy Jacobs and the propulsive energy of drummer Tarell Martin.     

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Eva Vazzana - Sure Thing
Eva Vazzana
Sure ThingIVAVI Music

Prior to making her impactful and impressive Smooth Jazz debut with the brassy, gospel and classic R&B infused romantic funk romp “Sure Thing,” singer, songwriter and classically trained pianist and multi-instrumentalist Eva Vazzana shared her multitude of musical talents as a veteran educator, playing in pop/soul cover bands, serving as MD for musical theater productions and performing at church. The multi-talented artist’s career trajectory shifts now with this compelling track! Produced by Rome-based producer/arranger Maurizio Metalli, “Sure Thing” features ultra-soulful lead vocals by NYC’s Chrissi Poland and buoyant contributions by jazz greats Eric Marienthal, Gary Novak, Jimmy Haslip and Luis Conte. 

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