- Justin Klunk
- Kindness Is Mandatory
- Justin Klunk
- Jack Lee & Nathan East
- Heart and Soul
- Truspace Records
- Bill McGee
- The Tree of Life
- 804 Jazz
- Steve Oliver
- A New Light
- Wide Sky Records
- Shawn Raiford
- The Next Step
- Shawn Raiford Sax Productions
- Rainforest Band
- Good Medicine
- San Francisco Records
- Paolo Rustichelli
- Love Divine
- Next Age Music
- The Southern Gentlemen
- Back in the Game
- Essential Recordings
- Jayson Tipp
- Table For One
- Mind in Overdrive
- Vertice Williams
Listening Loft : HOTPICKS
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.
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!
Closing in on a high impact quarter century as one of Smooth Jazz’s most essential, exciting and sonically innovative artists and performers, saxophonist Euge Groove has amassed over 10 #1 Billboard chart hits while releasing sublime albums whose titles often riffed on his cool name. He pegs the overall vibe of his 14th collection, COMFORT ZONE, speaking to the stretch involved in stepping just outside of his comfort zone while exploring new territory on the new project. This joyous, sexy and somewhat jazzier blend of everything he does best, and what his legion of fans crave most, showcases the Euge trademark of silky romantic seduction, edgy, horn textured funk and hip sonic surprises while using different horns as his lead melodic voice. Continuing his trend of inviting all-star guests to the party, he shares the horn love this time with Candy Dulfer and captures Richard Elliot on vocoder.
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.
Officially, contemporary jazz supergroup Fourplay had three legendary guitarists over its quarter century run – Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton and the late Chuck Loeb. Yet Seoul born, NYC-based Jack Lee, Korea’s most recognized world class jazz guitarist, has done so many amazing projects with Bob James, Nathan East and Harvey Mason he could qualify as an honorary member. HEART AND SOUL, Lee’s latest, perfectly titled album with East, is a sprawling, deeply heartfelt and blues-infused, gospel jazz session that gets to the heart of faith via numerous stylistic twists and turns. Lee and East include an easy-flowing meditation on a holiday perennial, a funky strut through a Stevie Wonder jam, a dramatic church worthy rendering of a Paul Simon classic and unique arrangements of familiar sacred hymns.
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.
If the mid-summer heat’s got you fatigued, there’s a sure-fire instrumental cure that will perk you up and get you dancing. It’s pianist, composer and producer Rei Narita’s sparkling, relentlessly joyous “Glitter Day,” the 9th single release in the last year and a half, from Asia’s foremost pioneer of Smooth Jazz. While his irresistible, ultra-melodic piano and exciting improvisations hook us in, the multi-talented musician and label owner also creates snappy funk grooves, cool and unexpected shifts in tempo and surrounds his ivories with swirls of hypnotic synth magic. Driven by his core philosophy “In the pursuit of beauty,” Narita has extended his creative reach to include fashion and accessory design as well as food products that make the world a more hopeful and colorful place.
After releasing ILLUMINATE in 2018, Steve Oliver engaged in some cool side projects, including a popular duet album with Brian Simpson and a set of acoustic re-imaginings of his greatest hits. Now, the prolific Smooth Jazz hitmaker a journalist once called “musical Disneyland” (for his sunny personality and composing style) is back in snappy, melodic and sonically adventurous radio-friendly mode with A NEW LIGHT. Perfectly in line with his other instantly infectious albums with similarly light-bearing titles, the collection – co-produced by genre mega-hitmaker Michael Broening – offers a blend of funky-breezy drive time jams, gently caressing ballads (one featuring saxman Jeff Kashiwa) and exciting dashes of percussive exotica featuring the one-two punch of his dynamic strings and trademark dreamy wordless and percussive vocals.
Calling to mind the title of sax man’s Shawn Raiford’s critically praised 2020 debut album, MAN WITH A HORN… While many may call themselves ‘men (or women) with horns, few 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, top-charting single, a sassy and brassy twist on Silk Sonic’s #1 multi-Grammy winning smash, “Leave the Door Open,” with his 3rd pre-release single, “Vallejo,” from his forthcoming album THE NEXT STEP. This jazzy nod to the original East San Francisco Bay Area hip hop scene sound, pioneered by Mac Dre and E-40 promises to propel Mr. Raiford further into Smooth Jazz star status! Becoming well-known for his live performances, the artist packs his rich, pure, dynamic tones into an entertaining, muscular delivery making for exciting concert productions featuring this supernova.
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!
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.
Italian composer and innovator Paolo Rustichelli saw jazz icon Miles Davis at the Umbria Jazz Festival in the summer of 1986. Rustichelli slipped Miles’ manager a demo cassette of his music. Several weeks later at the Rome Jazz Festival, intrigued by the demo, Miles invited Paolo to record with him and the magic began at a private studio in Europe. This session yielded beautiful results that have been stored away for decades, until now. “Love Divine” (The Smooth Jazz Mix) unearths these long-lost recordings and sets them into a contemporary yet timeless jazz setting. Steeped in perpetuity, this duet is likely to send chills down your arms and fill your heart with an unfamiliar hope… Almost like rewinding to a better place and time.
After taking an eclectic detour as part of the fusion trio J3 that included his older sister Jamie-Leigh, 16-year-old Justin-Lee Schultz has a blast getting back to the smooth, funky stuff on his latest collection of originals - while still emphasizing his passion for dynamic improvisations – on the cleverly titled JUST IN THE MOMENT. Following an encouraging spoken word intro by Robert Glasper, one of greats of today's jazz, who’s championed the multi-instrumentalist, Schultz explores the melodic and harmonic possibilities of an Eddie Harris classic before jaunting through a Paul Brown-produced set of infectious originals showcasing the teen's mastery of piano, guitar and bass. Brown brings in his veteran crew of greats on two joyful, in the pocket tunes featuring Schultz vibing with Dave Koz and Richard Elliot!
The charming, whimsy filled title and spirited, easy funk vibe of Kim Scott’s latest single “Magic City Streets” captures the whirlwind of positive energy and infectious, melodically accessible flute virtuosity driving this Renaissance woman’s creativity and career since her emergence in Smooth Jazz 12 years ago. Last year, she earned her third #1 Billboard single with “SHINE!” – the title cut from her fifth album that hit #1 on Smooth Jazz Global’s Year End Top 100 Albums chart. A sought-after performer in classical and jazz, she’s also a flute professor at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and respected clinician. Co-written by hitmakers Paul Brown and Shane Theriot, Scott's silky fluttering melody floats over a deep groove and caressing synth atmospheres on “Magic City Streets," laying the foundation for her forthcoming album, appropriately named LIVIN’ IT UP.
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.
Known collectively as The Southern Gentlemen, guitarist Eric Essix, trumpeter Joey Sommerville and violinist Michael Ward have reunited after an 8-year hiatus to release their debut single, the straight-up smooth “Back In The Game.” The group are planning for a 2024 tour, bringing their dynamic on-stage chemistry and compelling arrangement of musical instruments to venues across the land! Individually, the members have toured the world, performed, and recorded with some of the biggest names in the music industry, and have nearly 40 albums between them. The new single promises to propel up the Smooth Jazz radio charts and onto popular playlists worldwide as the ensemble returns with their signature raw energy and excitement and an even stronger sense of purpose and camaraderie!
When saxophonist Kim Waters named one of his twin girls Kayla, which means “keeper of the keys,” it was a prophecy on her future life as one of Smooth Jazz’s most exciting and innovative young artists. Following triumphantly in her dad’s footsteps, Kayla made Billboard history when one of her four #1 singles – “Full Bloom” – stayed in the top spot longer than any other female pianist/composer. On her Shanachie Records debut PRESENCE, she vibes with her dad on most of the programing and production, showcasing both catchy, fast-paced and meditative/spirited-minded melodies amidst easygoing and funked up grooves and trippy-cool atmospheres. While the sparkling magic of the Waters family ties headlines the show, Kayla also works with Chris “Big Dog” Davis on two of the album’s most sonically epic tracks.
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.
Listening Loft : MUST HAVES
Acclaimed TV arranger/orchestrator and Tony Award nominee for the score of the Broadway Musical "Anna Karenina," multi-talented pianist/composer Dan Alan Levine says that “one of the nice things about Smooth Jazz is that it allows the spirit and soul to relax.” It’s joyfully ironic then, that the wondrously inviting, infectious tunes on his stylistically eclectic (and perfectly titled) debut album OVER THE MOON are peppy and optimistic. Advance singles are still receiving airplay around the world on Smooth Jazz radio and being featured on some of the most popular streaming Playlists. Mixed and mastered by chart-topping songsmith Peter Ferencz (Peet Project) and driven by light funk grooves that breeze along the pop, soul, jazz, tropical and Latin landscapes – with a dash of classical. Dan’s emotionally compelling melodies come to life with the support of two genre leading ladies, flutist Kim Scott and saxophonist Jeanette Harris. The full album release is celebrated with the latest single, the sultry "Always."
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.
Fourteen years after the Smooth Jazz world mourned the passing of one of the genre’s (literally!) biggest talents and most engaging and charismatic personalities, former collaborators of Wayman Tisdale's join forces as B2B (Back To Basics) to pay loving (and intoxicatingly grooving) homage to the bassist and former NBA star with a cool and soulful new rendition of his 1995 breakthrough single “After the Game.” The two founders, B2B’s John Paris (drums) and Eddie M (sax) as well as featured artist Derek “DOA” Allen, who captures Tisdale’s trademark deep soul-jazz spirit on bass, all played on the original track. They artfully recreate the magic while adding some additional sonic flair that includes the beautiful, dreamy vocals of Sy Smith (Janet Jackson, Lionel Richie, Usher) and Ariel Deocares on vocoder.
Since winning the prestigious The Voice of Holland 2019, multi-talented crooner, songwriter and all-around entertainer Dennis Van Aarssen has expressed his vocal passion in two distinctive ways – as leader of the DvA Bigband and via a collaboration with Black Tie Affair, a multi-genre, boundary pushing ensemble featuring MC and producer Skiggy Rapz and guitarist Rene van Mierlo. Black Tie Affair and Van Aarssen’s latest single “Lifeline” is a spirited and uplifting, pop/R&B summer anthem showcasing the singer’s silky vocal tone and BTA’s edgy and hypnotic organic grooves and sophisticated, horn-tinged production vibe. It’s a classic-styled song of encouragement in difficult times complete with a modern twist about how we still need meaningful human connection despite always having the world at our fingertips via our devices.
The NFL’s loss turned out to be contemporary R&B and Smooth Jazz’s gain, as Tim Cunningham turned down an NFL contract out of Michigan State University to embark on the much riskier, but ultimately more rewarding calling and career as a first call saxophonist and recording artist. Going stronger and playing more robustly and stylishly than ever 25-plus years after his debut album, the multi-talented artist – who’s opened for both genre greats (Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Norman Brown) and soul legends (Earth, Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly and Luther Vandross) – is all simmering fire, sexy seduction and horn textured excitement on his easy-flowing new take on “Enough Said" (Remix). Originally on the 2022 FREEDOM collection, now a new single, reworked and re-imagined by bassist and multi-instrumentalist, Al "The Burner" Turner!
Though based in South Africa where he is revered as one of the country’s top saxophonists, Karén Devroop is a true citizen of the world, collaborating with artists from all over the planet, performing at international jazz festivals and playing in symphonies in the U.S., Europe and his home country. Building upon the success of his 2020 release ANCESTRAL HOME - which received airplay in over 40 countries – his latest album RELENTLESS finds the multi-talented composer/performer and his all-star Smooth Jazz artists, from South Africa and beyond, on a mission to tantalize fans of everything from incendiary jazz/funk, whimsical dance music and moody, sensual power ballads to exotic mid-tempo jams, spirited tropical and Latin-tinged delights and inspirational vocal ballads. It’s a tasty cosmopolitan combination showcasing Devroop’s relentless passion for jazz.
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 Relé, 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!
Though veteran guitarist/composer Dr. Dave released two popular radio singles from his excellent 2014 album CAREFREE, the full project was never formally released. A few years later, he developed his dynamic ensemble of backing musicians into a bold, powerhouse unit known as The HouseCall Band. Fresh off multiple successful radio singles from their 2018 debut MIDNIGHT DAYDREAM, Dr. Dave & The HouseCall Band have created an explosive re-imagined version of the original collection titled CAREFREE REVISITED. It features a full-bodied horn section energy and flute elements that artfully enhance Dr. Dave’s colorful guitar solos. Complementing a freewheeling journey that includes everything from jazz and blues to calypso and the Beatles is a scat filled vocal twist on a Bobby McFerrin classic originally presented as an instrumental.
Gearing up for the release of OUR BEAUTIFUL MUSIC, follow-up to Jeff Golkin & Forever Love’s acclaimed, unabashedly romantic Smoothjazz.com charting debut WE HAVE LOVE…FOR ALL TIME, the band leader, pianist, drummer and producer/arranger simultaneously drops two versions of the sweeping, lushly orchestrated and film score-like title track single. There’s an R&B/jazz flavored vocal and a sumptuous instrumental spotlighting Fred Reiter’s rapturous, borderline surreal flute melody and Golkin’s graceful touch on the ivories. The dreamlike piece beautifully captures the driving philosophy of Golkin, who began his musical life performing on and off Broadway. He believes that “Love of another, greater than love of oneself, is to know the joy of how to make the world a better place for all time.” Words and music to live by.
The Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever classic has never sounded hipper or funkier than it does in the hands of internationally renowned veteran saxophonist Johnny James Dr J, who unleashes three unique, equally explosive versions on his new HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE EP. The first is a feisty Smooth Jazz delight featuring the late Chuck Loeb’s hypnotic, crackling guitar and the high stylin’ production energy of Jeff Lorber. Next is a classic styled R&B jam with Darrell Tookes' silky floating vocals, while the third (“A W Remix”) is a punchy hip-hop/dance floor classic in the making. Dr J adds two originals that further showcase his formidable talents on his brand new collection which is already hovering in top positions on UK and European Music Charts.
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.
After teasing with four irresistible lead singles over the past year and a half, Justin Klunk unleashes the full fury of his relentless saxophone passion on his party ready debut full length album (after two EPs and loads of individual singles). With a title that doubles as a timely reminder, KINDNESS IS MANDATORY, motivates us (and gets our blood pumping) as the young, mega-talent brings to his solo artistry the same funk, rock and soul fire he’s been lighting up the stage with for years alongside Ariana Grande, Lindsey Stirling, Saint Motel, David Foster, Earth Wind & Fire and David Benoit! By the way, Benoit appears twice on this collection. In the midst of the blazing hooks and burning production skills, a lone romantic ballad offers a sweet meditational oasis. A must have for contemporary sax fans!
From recording and performing with Stevie Wonder and singing and recording with Incognito through her stellar two decade plus solo career, Maysa has been an essential innovator on the R&B/Smooth Jazz landscape. Evolving as a songwriter and producer, she launched her own label Blue Velvet Soul in 2018 to attain more control over her music and marketing. On her first studio album in six years, she defies industry convention with MUSIC FOR YOUR SOUL, an epic 19 song, personal and spiritual journey that boldly unleashes the depths and fullness of her artistry. With danceable up-tempo and slow jams, silky romantic ballads, soul-gospel and even a torchy reworking of a Stevie song that she once sang backup on, the collection also features exciting guest turns by Chris Walker, Chieli Minucci and Kirk Whalum!
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.
In 2022, filmmaker and composer Belton Mouras, Jr. made huge initial splashes in both the movie and music industries as writer/director of the acclaimed short film Mickey’s Tree and writer/performer of an engaging soundtrack featuring two popular Smooth Jazz singles. The charming melodic sweetness and grooving swag keeps rolling, this time with an adventurous Latin/bossa flair on the multi-talented Mouras’ first post-Mickey single, “Magic All Around Us.” It’s a whimsical, pep in your step jam showcasing the composer’s joyful piano amidst exciting contributions by the same great musicians who brought the Mickey’s Tree soundtrack to life. These include vocalist/scat masters Craig Long and Ann Roach and saxophonist Otis Mourning, whose harmony lines and back and forth improv conversations with trumpeter Steve Roach are literally a blast!
A one-time touring saxophonist with the likes of Derek Trucks, Ja Rule and DMC, Nick Stefanacci established a solo career as a high-octane pop fusion artist before emerging as a budding Smooth Jazz powerhouse in 2022. Now three singles deep, the multi-talented composer and artist follows his twist on Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out,” with the original tune “Mirrors" from his forthcoming EP, SECRETS. The tune is a passionate, soaring, horn-textured mid-tempo ballad anchored by the tightly grooving rhythm section of Carnell Harrell, Mel Brown and Eric Valentine. The musical mood-shifting draws on the inspiration of his identical twin sisters’ unique traits, based on his observation of their intricate differences despite their similarities. “Mirrors” starts with a lighthearted vibe before getting deeper and more intense, as if he’s diving further into their souls.
Recently retired after 34 years as a captain with Delta Airlines, keyboardist/composer Paul Tuvman’s 4th album THE ROAD I’VE TRAVELED – which could just as easily be called The Skies I’ve Flown - takes a sweetly nostalgic, high spirited and stylistically multi-faceted look back on his fascinating dual life that includes evolving from youthful Sunset Strip rocker to acclaimed contemporary jazzman. Tuvman is held in such high regard by top genre musicians that everyone from Peter White and Michael Lington to Mindi Abair, Eric Marienthal and Rick Braun hopped on board. The engaging journey eases from gentle ballads and dreamy, romantic trips to Japan and France to more muscular sax driven jams, along with the classically tinged song titled “The Journey” featuring famed oboe player Rong-Huey Liu.
The sophisticated, musical collective Ultrablue is the creation of in-demand New York-based keyboardist and composer John Smatla, a former music school teacher who made his way to the NY music scene from his hometown in Cleveland, OH. On the heels of the project's successful re-release of their star-studded self-titled 2006 recording, "Maria In Blue," rolls out in advance of the forthcoming NEW YORK STORIES recording featuring guest performances by Chieli Minucci, John Patitucci, David Mann and Omar Hakim. Inspired by the artistry of contemporary jazz guitar legend, Earl Klugh, Ultrablue's nod to nostalgia in a contemporary soundscape, offers up seductive and spicy Latin rhythms for Smatla and NYC session guitarist Bernd Schoenhart to deliver a sexy and playful melodic dance, interspersed with balmy solo guitar passages. A tasty peek at what’s to come with full album!
For Chicago-bred saxophonist André Ward, who parlayed his sideman years with Lalah Hathaway and Freddie Jackson into a 20-year recording career as a Smooth Jazz artist, inspiration begins with and continues to be Earth, Wind & Fire – including Maurice White’s love of kalimba and African music. Ward infuses his joyously diverse, socially conscious latest album AFRICA RISING with those classic and colorful R&B vibes, collaborating with Grammy-nominated producer Rahni Song (Najee, Alex Bugnon) on original dance jams, romantic ballads and thoughtful re-imaginings of classics by The Emotions, Sade and Stevie Wonder. In addition to making feel good music, Ward’s passion is conveying his belief that Africa is a force in the world which inspires people to have a vision and hope for future generations.
The long-awaited follow-up to her Billboard charting 2016 track “Guilty,” silky voiced singer/songwriter Vertice Williams’ beautiful new single “Therapy” will surely be the sexiest love song you’ve heard in Smooth Jazz this year – but not in the typical way we think of love songs. Co-written, co-produced and featuring the inimitable Steve Oliver – who also collaborated on Williams’ last album ALL GOOD – the song’s lyrics are romantic, but the real inspiration was the singer’s post Covid reflection that life is fragile and love (giving and receiving) is a complete healing modality, true tenderness and strength. The graceful, subtle arrangement, designed to showcase the pin-drop perfection of her voice, also features the lush piano harmonies and shimmering keyboard soloing of another genre great, Brian Simpson.
Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS
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.
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.
Gathering their collective melodic and intensely grooving energies, Baltimore based five-piece funky and eclectic jazz, soul and hip-hop fusion ensemble Deaddream has been unstoppable since forming just before the pandemic, releasing full length albums in 2021 and 2022. Their distinctive “feelgoodness” extends to the irrepressible cool of their latest single, from the forthcoming album DREAMIN’, a moody and percussive, seduction-minded cover of Debarge’s “All This Love,” featuring Jerold "Jeroldbsax" Baker on saxophone, Ron "Brassnasty" Rolling on trumpet, Brandon "Big B Bone" Cofield on trombone, Travis Higgins on keys and Marcelli on bass. Yet their desire to create music of hope and inspiration comes from a deeper social consciousness about the difficulty people have attaining the American Dream and problems like racism, poverty and lack of inclusion/diversity.
Surely the Chicago bred, longtime Las Vegas based brother duo hears the question all the time: “Which one of you is Everett B Walters?” Turns out, neither, as the band name is a clever blend of their names and playfully defines that fun and funky grooving dual energy of guitarist Michael Everett Brown and bassist Harold Walter Brown III since joining forces as recording artists in the mid-2000s. Once again forging a colorful chemistry with their crew featuring keyboardist Stanley Small (aka Duayne Stanley), saxophonist Audley Reid and drummer Michael white, the Browns pay spirited homage to the rhythmic excitement of their hometown on the new album FUNKIN UNDER THE CHICAGO SKYLINE. Complementing their blend of original bouncy thrillers and silky, laid-back ballads is a crafty twist on a Toto classic featuring Stanley on vocals.
A renowned Bay Area music educator, mentor and 40-year member of the Oakland Unified School Art Education Task Force, Sonny Fairley laid a strong foundation for his emergence as a Smooth Jazz artist in 2019 by opening over the years for Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Earth, Wind & Fire, Cameo and Parliament, among others. The multi-talented, spiritually driven musician ups his game on CONVERSATION, entering a unique new dimension/paradigm as a “saxaflutist,” joining Gerald Albright on an incendiary, horn harmony filled duet and showcasing his lead vocal skills for the first time. Boldly sharing that his musical ideas represent an open gateway into his heart and soul, Fairley brings to his tasty mix equal amounts of cool breeze, lyrical charm, exotica, tropicality, tender balladry and heavy funk.
Having worked with the likes of Patti Austin, Jordin Sparks and Erica Campbell on various projects in addition to his work as an educator and Director of Music at Oak Grove AME Church, Emmy and Detroit Music Award winner Lashawn D. Gary brings a fascinating, multi-faceted resume to his emergence in Smooth Jazz these past few years. The dynamic pianist, composer and producer brings a winsome blend of melodic infectiousness and improvisational artistry to his latest single “For Your Love,” an exciting blast of summery funk featuring and fashioned as a spirited duet with trumpeter Willie Bradley.
Having spent 30 successful years in the car business before his 2020 breakthrough as an R&B/pop influenced Smooth Jazz vocal artist, Gil Johnson finds a perfect way to fuse his past and present lives on his latest single “405” - a whimsically romantic, infectiously grooving sonic adventure produced by Dove and Stellar Award nominee AyRon Lewis and featuring a trademark blazing sax solo by Darren Rahn. Riffing on the reality that the only time Los Angeles has no traffic, is in the middle of the night, Gil sings lovingly about a 2AM top-down ride home with his beloved while listening to his lifelong friend Earl Klugh!
The release of his stylistically varied, highly autobiographical new album TIME TRAVEL, featuring a dynamic full band and stellar performances by Alyson Williams and Karen Briggs, feels less like a sideman taking his pandemic break to create an incredible one-off album than the emergence of a major urban jazz star who’s here for the long haul. Hines’ ability to complement picture perfect radio-ready gems like “Might as Well” with trippy, surreal fusion and orchestrally tinged and horn-fired sonic details makes him a powerful presence who is as bold and adventurous as he is whimsical, spontaneous and grooving. His invitation to TIME TRAVEL is more than an irresistible peak into his musical past – it’s an open door to what promises to be a vibrant future!
In 2021, Tevin Campbell’s 1993 hit “Can We Talk” became a social media sensation thanks to a TikTok challenge inviting singers to strut their stuff by singing the iconic chorus. On the third lead single from his upcoming debut album COVER 2 COVER Vol 1 (after Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and SWV’s “Weak”), saxophonist Eric Knight – a veteran sideman for The Rolling Stones, Prince, J. Lo and others – finds a deeper melodic and harmonic freshness in the Babyface co-penned hit. Starting with a sizzling horn textured hook, the multi-talented performer eases into a slow-burning, laid-back, percussion tinged flow caressed by lush atmospheres. He infuses the track with a unique blend of edgy and silky melodic horn passion that takes the track on its most resonant emotional journey yet.
On a string-of-singles run, smooth soul popster M’Lynn returns with another hypnotic batch of beats and pretty prose untangling her feelings around intimacy on “Fade Away.” A masterful lyricist only in her twenties, has a knack of crafting songs with deep meaning and moving melodies. The L.A. based singer/songwriter and pianist is currently working with the production dream team of Emile Ghantous and Josh Goode, developing a global following that envelops both jazz and pop enthusiasts, and performing live regularly in and around the Southland.
While best known in recent years as a versatile rock, soul and pop songwriter/producer for Hil St. Soul, Noel Gourdin and Lina, Operation Desert Storm era military veteran Regi Myrix offers a unique array of extra-musical services through his Myrix Media Group – including acting and modeling coaching services, selling and leasing instruments and client acquisition. Driven by a sense of deeply heartfelt longing, his sexy and uber romantic new R&B-influenced Smooth Jazz single “If You Don’t Mind” features richly emotional, seduction-minded lead and background vocals by veteran artist Lamar Kelsey. It’s the lead single from their upcoming EP collaboration SOULADELICA.
None other than Fred Wesley, legendary trombonist from James Brown’s band The J.B.’s, said of David Ricard’s five-track EP TOO MUCH, “That’s Real Funk!” Leading his fiery 20-piece jazz orchestra, the two-time Emmy nominated composer/arranger – son of a famous cartoonist and renowned himself for his expertise scoring cartoons – has a literal blast on his solo outing, getting maximum percussive punch out of a Brown classic and a superhero theme while infusing three originals with snazzy horns, nonstop grooves and a bit of Latin spice with the help of soloists Wayne Bergeron (trumpet), Dennis Rollins (trombone), Will Brahm (guitar) and Michael Czaja (alto sax).
At first, the phrase “high energy chill” seems a slight contradiction in terms – but it all makes perfect melodic and breezy rhythmic sense as expressed in the crafty, hip, easy funk-minded hands of veteran Norwegian keyboardist, composer and producer Frank Hestess, who is releasing his splashy, eclectic debut EP SIGNING IN under the moniker Franko Spero. The onetime guitarist and bassist refashioned himself as computer-based music creator, leading to many fresh creative possibilities. In only four tracks, he takes us through many moods, from punchy, atmospheric, George Dukesque soul/fusion and hard driving pop/jazz to sweetly seductive romantic balladry for all kinds of weather. Bravo Franko!
The great Luther Vandross may have departed, but his influence and vibe live on in talented vocalists like Marc Staggers, through beautiful and seductive silky tones! Staggers, a successful gospel recording artist and veteran performer who began embracing a contemporary version of the R&B he grew up with, debuted 15 years ago with his album THEN AND NOW. Vibing off the simmering, slow-burning sax accompaniment of Brian Cunningham, Staggers’s latest single “With Me” invites us to experience his warm and heartfelt, easy-grooving romantic aesthetic, lifting our spirits and touching our emotions in a way that only a classic soul balladeer can!
Thirteen years after his initial impact in contemporary jazz with his debut album WAVES OF GRACE – which became popular on jazz internet stations around the world - multi-flutist and composer Eric Evans, leader of The Eric Evans Project, invites us to escape to the golden beaches, rolling hills and misty mountains of Maui on his latest Smooth Jazz single “Upcountry.” A vibrant, infectious showcase for his deep melodicism and colorful improvisational flair, the track features the crisp, tasteful harmonic guitar tones of co-producer Adam Hawley (who also contributes keys and synth bass) and Eric Valentine’s irrepressible drum groove. Press play and off to Upcountry we go!
While celebrating the 30th anniversary of his self-described, still active “rough jazz” ensemble Under the Lake’s debut album DIVE IN, high energy, ultra-melodic pianist/keyboardist Jayson Tipp continues to develop his promising Smooth Jazz solo career with “Time To Roll” – the 2nd lead single (following the Darren Rahn produced “Groove Together”) from his soon to be released debut solo debut album TABLE FOR ONE. Produced and co-written by another genre heavyweight, guitarist Adam Hawley, the punchy and adventurous, groove-intensive tune showcases Tipp’s vibrant, elegant funk and sizzling camaraderie with his longtime Under the Lake bandmate, saxophonist Quintin Gerard W.