- Mariea Antoinette
- So Amazing
- Masaai/Infinity Productions
- Dominic Camardella
- Moments in Time - Temple of Light
- Global Perspective
- Eric Darius
- SagiDarius Music
- Shelia Moore-Piper
- The Love/Soul Session Vol.1
- BDM/UGroove Music
- Al Staehely
- Post Spirit, Vol. 1: 1974-1978
- Camp Music
- The Pat Petrillo Big Rhythm Band
- The Power Station Sessions
- Autumn Hill Records
Listening Loft : HOTPICKS
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.
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. Mixed and mastered by chart-topping songsmith Peter Ferencz (Peet Project), the full album project will be released in 2023. 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 his latest single, "Cozumel," features the smooth and sexy brass of saxophonista Jeanette Harris!
Gloriously and sensually making the harp not only a viable, but extremely vibrant and melodic Smooth Jazz lead instrument, Mariea Antoinette has enjoyed great success, including hitting the Billboard Top 5 with her debut album STRAIGHT FROM THE HARP and her 2020 single “Overture.” Since her last full length release ALL MY STRINGS, she’s all about celebrating the R&B legends, starting in 2021 with Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star” and now setting our openminded hearts afire with a divine sprinkling of Luther Vandross on her infectious, soaring version of his 1980’s classic “So Amazing.’ Mariea’s twist is pure joy from start to finish, with her inviting and dynamic string melody sweetened with gospel flavored female backing vocals and swelling orchestral textures. Whether gracing us with originals or R&B re-imaginings, Mariea’s vibe is captivating.
With the drop of his tightly grooving and sparklingly tuneful, as well as appropriately titled single “Melody Man,” multi-talented composer, keyboardist and producer Vassal Benford III adds a fresh, dynamic chapter to his mile-long resume in the music and film industries. In just the last few years, he’s executive produced hit films (“After” and “After We Collided”) and hit the Billboard and international dance charts with “Be Right There,” a track he co-wrote with DJ Diplo and Sleepy Tom. Benford has also produced film and TV soundtracks and helped create hits for everyone from Toni Braxton and Sheryl Crow to Deborah Cox, Queen Latifah and Richie Sambora. Starting with the autographical “Melody Man,” his infectious, hitmaking skills are sure to take him to new heights in Smooth Jazz!
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.
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.
If you want to know what the multi-faceted musical city of Miami sounds like in 2022, listen no further than SOULFUL NIGHTS, the latest seductive, snazzy, pop, funk and Latin jazz driven album by Latin Grammy winner and five time Grammy nominated saxophonist Dr. Ed Calle. Calle’s silky, uber-romantic and punchy tenor is the delightfully infectious emotional through-line on the compelling originals and imaginative covers of classics by Stevie Wonder, Bobby Caldwell and Marvin Gaye. Yet at heart, this multi-faceted project is a full-on celebration of the saxophonist’s hometown, featuring guest vocals by two pop greats that make their home there (KC of the Sunshine Band and the bilingual Jon Secada) as well as ace production and arrangements by legendary behind the scenes figures Hal Batt and Mike Lewis.
When keyboardist/composer Mike Di Lorenzo set out to create his first album in over ten years, he had every intention of making it an instrumental project with a few vocals. But when he started reaching out to the world-class singers that now populate the breezy, neo-soulful, easy grooving new project, WHAT WE NEED, he quickly realized that he was creating an all-vocal showcase, with his own dazzling synth, piano and arrangements. The incredible array of vocalists include Joel Kibble from Take 6, Anna Moore, Sonna Rele, Caino, and Denise Stewart. In addition to several silky, ultra-engaging originals, Di Lorenzo creates fascinating takes on tunes ranging from the Great American Songbook to contemporary hits by Charlie Puth and Justin Bieber – a set Di Lorenzo fondly calls the “East Coast Playlist.”
Those fascinating feelings of cathartic release, reflection and exuberance driving the melodic invention, fascinating grooves and colorful improvisations on Mark Etheredge’s latest album LOVE PLANET are hard won, real deal expressions of the multi-talented pianist/composer’s experience of working past the darkest days of his life and celebrating recovery- and the musical freedom he’s found in their wake. With an eclectic, infectious swirl of songs that tap thematically into urban life, reflections on Ukraine, the triumph of the human spirit and his love for his late mother, the collection – which includes contributions from Paul Brown, Steve Oliver, Greg Vail and Ron King – is Etheredge’s emphatic response to a question he wakes up asking daily: “What can I do to be more loving today?”
With a background of performing on and off Broadway at an early age, producer, pianist and drummer Jeff Golkin brings a unique sense of drama and emotional storytelling to the Smooth Jazz genre on WE HAVE LOVE…FOR ALL TIME, the expansive debut album by Golkin and his large ensemble Forever Love. Weaving a dynamic mix of vocals (by Joanne Williams and Kevin Batchelor) and instrumentals, including his four beautiful originals layered between sparkling twists on standards from the likes of The Blackbyrds, Carpenters, Henry Mancini, Peggy Lee, Jerome Kern and others, the visionary creates an inspiring, love-drenched narrative with exciting stops in Latin, soul/funk, and traditional jazz territories on the romantic road to forever. The 13-track, adventure filled collection marks an auspicious launch for this multi-faceted group.
If you’re somehow not familiar with Wayne Gutshall, the guy Sandy Shore calls a “modern master of saxophone” who’s scored five #1 singles on SmoothJazz.com Global’s Listener Chart, you get another inspiring chance with his latest track “Going Up” – a passionate, meditative ballad duet with bassist Brendan Rothwell penned during the pandemic for the sole purpose of soothing our anxieties and lifting our spirits. Gutshall, a favorite on Miami’s vibrant Latin jazz scene, who’s played with Steve Oliver, Paul Brown, Arturo Sandoval and many others, offers up Rothwell’s seductive bassline to build anticipation as he rolls out the song's sultry sax melody. The two fashion a hypnotic dual-energy that balances intuitive musical conversations with vibrant soloing. And all at once you’ll find your blood pressure is going down while your hopes start “Going Up.”
The hipster shades donned by Everette Harp, Paul Jackson, Jr. and Jeff Lorber on the cover of FORECAST, the fourth album by the Smooth Jazz super trio Jazz Funk Soul, says it all about the high-struttin’, cool and dignified yet often wild and funkified attitude they bring to the project. Like the first two JFS projects with the late Chuck Loeb and LIFE AND TIMES (the first one featuring Jackson), the collection offers a master class in the best that contemporary urban jazz can offer –the dynamic emotional highs and lows, tight, edgy grooves, silky seduction, and explosive solos by each member. Beyond the in the pocket radio friendly fare, the trio fashion a down home front porch blues/gospel burner and a lush, lilting ballad paying homage to Loeb’s character and artistry.
In addition to being a sonically fascinating EP, chock full of silky classic R&B vibes, sensual urban jazz, crunchy grooves and hip-hop elements, Christian soul vocalist Shelia Moore-Piper’s latest (perfectly titled) release THE LOVE/SOUL SESSIONS, VOL 1 is seriously one of the most relentlessly optimistic projects of the year. While acknowledging that everything in her life is grounded in and runs on faith, she begins the exuberant, self-empowering journey with a bright affirmation filled intro - and along the way reminds us that love is beautiful, good things are on the way and all things are possible with God. The singer’s perfect blend of uplifting and romantic emotion comes to life with an intricate sonic universe created with the artsy touch of her husband and producer, Glenn GP Piper.
The title of Grammy nominated composer, guitarist, bassist and multi-instrumentalist Dennis Murphy’s 1999 debut HIT ME HARD, perfectly captures the intensity he’s brought over the years to his multitude of endeavors as an early genre radio personality (whose show “Bass Trax” was produced by Smoothjazz.com founder, Sandy Shore), clinician and founder of a popular Monterey, California music school, and studio and touring sideman for Acoustic Alchemy, Maria Muldaur, Billy Preston among others. On this latest foray, the eclectic, ultra-melodic and tightly grooving OUR HIGHER SELVES, Murphy darts artfully between colorful guitar playing and bass-driven Smooth Jazz, fusion, playful samba and spiritual soul while freewheeling with an all-star cast including elite saxophonists Kirk Whalum, Eric Marienthal, Gary Meek and Tower Of Power’s Tom Politzer, as well as late guitar great Jeff Golub and legendary drummer Will Kennedy!
In 2021, as his #1 hits “Caught in the Groove” and “Outta Sight” were spinning regularly – ultimately making him Billboard’s #1 Smooth Jazz Airplay Artist of the Year – guitarist, composer and producer Nils was going through a rough personal time, traveling back and forth from L.A. to his original home of Munich to care for his ailing parents. The stylistically, eclectic gems written for his latest album COOL SHADES (which he dedicates to his late father Kurt) alternately reflect the heavy emotions of this time, the importance of musical catharsis and the need for joyful, infectious and funky jams to balance the sadness and brighten up the world. Not surprisingly, Nils works his bluesiest excitement ever – a point emphasized by his clever jazzy arrangement of a Jimi Hendrix classic.
With one listen, you’ll step deeply into the alluring saxophone world of Shawn Raiford… he is the MAN WITH A HORN, playing it smoothly, brightly and with great conviction! This slickly produced and intensely melodic debut album fires up rich bass lines and hip-hop grooves, creating a proprietary blend of Smooth Jazz, pop, funk, soul and gospel for the Sacramento alto saxman. Raiford’s roots took form in a house of worship, where he played sax for the first time at his late grandmother’s 75-year church anniversary. While showcasing his highly spirited style and emotional range, this collection reflects many styles of musical inspirations, from the exhilarating Raiford-penned originals that the world will surely take notice of, to a select and fun handful of covers from Bruno Mars, DeBarge and Rihanna. MAN WITH A HORN from a man who has arrived.
In the late 90s, the late Steve Raybine received encouragement from Rick Braun, his friend and former band mate in the famed 70’s progressive jazz ensemble Auracle. A longtime fan of the veteran vibraphone master, percussionist and influential, award-winning educator, Braun suggested, “Why don’t you try to do for vibes what I’ve done for trumpet?” Taking up the challenge, Raybine embarked on an extraordinary 20-year career as a solo artist, releasing four multi-faceted Smooth Jazz albums and scoring a multitude of radio hits. While the composer and master musician recently battled for his life with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, he immersed himself in the production of this world-class collection, remixing, editing and remastering. Steve wrote to SmoothJazz.com founder Sandy Shore before his passing, “The album is definitely Smooth Jazz centric, with an extra component of what I can do with Swing music and my solo Vibe artistry. It is a compilation of 15 of my favorite songs I’ve recorded previously.” This brilliantly performed, non-stop melodically and rhythmically infectious 15-track compilation THE BEST OF STEVE RAYBINE celebrates a grand legacy charged with the spark and sizzle of jazz, R&B, fiery Latin music, pop/rock and edgy blues. The artist may be gone, but the BEST of his art lives on!
Long before he was amassing an impressive catalog of urban jazz gems, opening for Chaka Khan and Patti Labelle, recording with Najee and performing with the likes of Ramsey Lewis and Jonathan Butler, guitarist/composer Michael Ross was staff guitarist for a touring company of “The Wiz.” The yellow brick road journey is the perfect metaphor for his blessed and eclectic musical road that leads now to the release of FOUR SEASONS TO CROSS, his first album in eight years that alternates between lighthearted, spirited breeziness, whimsical exotica, seductive funk balladry and contemplative cool that reflects a multi-faceted, polyrhythmic journey through the seasons. From a snappy trip to Rio to a silky seductive tune about winter approaching, Ross invites listeners on a magnificent and inspiring adventure.
Released just before the pandemic, Anglo-Canadian bassist/composer Brendan Rothwell’s 2019 smash single, “Keep on Keepin’ On” – which made him the first indie artist to hit #1 on all three SmoothJazz.com Airplay Charts – offered the musical hope and encouragement we needed to navigate the global challenge. Always evolving and full of surprises, this multi-faceted artist – who was inspired to play bass when he heard Marcus Miller’s groundbreaking work on Miles Davis’ TUTU – infuses his easy-grooving, buoyantly funky and often soulfully meditative third album DESTINY with lush atmospheric soundscapes and exhilarating piano harmonies and textures. Indicative of the intimate and emotionally direct, heart to heart nature of Brendan’s compositions, DESTINY presents twelve master-crafted tracks with titles designed to spark our musical imaginations.
Ten years ago, when Tony Saunders titled his 2011 debut album ROMANCING THE BASS, the two-time Emmy winning Bay Area hyphenate (musician/composer/arranger/producer) set in motion an intoxicating, free-flowing torrent of snappy, grooving and sensual low-end vibes. The ever-percolating adventure culminates now on his Baja/TSR debut with the dynamic, emotionally resonant ALL ABOUT LOVE. It’s a generous 14-track slate of picture-perfect, pocket funk and steamy/sultry originals and re-imaginings (of classics by The Whispers and Burt Bachararch) that are bass driven but created in collaboration with an all-star array of genre greats – including Gail Jhonson, Blake Aaron, Paul Jackson, Jr., Greg Manning, Jazmin Ghent and Adam Hawley. Saunders has a blast taking us on what he dubs a “joyful ride on the Smooth Jazz rollercoaster." "Highway 5" is the affable musician's latest radio single, sure lead straight to the top of the Smooth Jazz charts.
While the staggering number of 6 billion downloads and streams may be hard to fathom, Michael Silverman – the most streamed pianist on the planet - has made each a joyful experience over the past 15 years with his diverse array of stylistic excursions. Sure to add quickly to his total, his latest destination is “Clearwater,” a buoyant, melodically infectious, easy grooving romp blending Silverman’s lively elegance with Eric Marienthal’s always spirited sax. Joining forces with legendary bassist John Pattitucci, Silverman’s brother Rob on drums and percussionist Casey Adams, they have a sunswept blast that celebrates their initial meeting playing the Clearwater Jazz Holiday festival. This perfect Smooth Jazz cure for the winter blues is the second lead single from Silverman’s remotely created upcoming album IN THESE TIMES.
It makes sense that most of the discussions about the musical background of Solomon Edmond (aka Solex) revolves around faith and gospel music. Concurrent with his successful 16-year career in Smooth Jazz – which includes two #1 UK hits – the preacher’s son, who started his career playing bass with his family’s gospel quartet, has been a Minister of Music for over a quarter century. Yet another relevant aspect of his resume is his formal training as a graphic designer. On Solex’s latest R&B/jazz hybrid album, the sultry, atmospheric and sensually exotic TAKE ME THERE, he blends melodic and grooving keyboard, bass, acoustic guitar, saxophone vibes with a series of guest vocalists (including Tony McClendon) to create dynamic, motion filled musical travelogues that spark powerful images of romantic adventure.
With the drop of REASONS, Lindsey Webster’s transcendently dreamy, lightly funky and infectiously soulful – not to mention uber-romantic - new album, the seductive vocalist and songwriter celebrates an extraordinary decade in Smooth Jazz. With the recent Top Ten success of the collection’s lead single featuring Brian Culbertson’s stellar trombone solo, she continues her prominence at Billboard, which includes being the first vocalist to score a #1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart since Sade – and being chosen Contemporary Jazz Artist of the Year for 2016 and 2017! Besides Culbertson, Webster has a crew of all-stars helping bring her latest blend of cool brassy silk and deeply intimate songs to life, including Nathan East, Randy Brecker, Nicholas Payton and Kev Choice who adds a dynamic hip-hop vibe to the mix.
Sharing his long in the making musical success story so that other talented dreamers may follow his bold lead, Chicago-based saxophonist/keyboardist D.S. Wilson explains that in his 20s, he had a chance to go to the Berklee College of Music but ended up working for IBM. Several decades later, he’s making a vibrant splash in Smooth Jazz, with his well-received single, buoyant single “Life With You,” and now “Leave it To the Gods,” his whimsically titled, sparkling and inviting new focus track showcasing his dynamic one two punch as an instrumentalist. Wilson fuses his restless and robust melodic horn excitement with the sly sensuality and jazzy improvisational cool of his piano. Paving the way for his forthcoming album SKYLINE, “Leave it To the Gods,” is a stellar collaboration with Adam Hawley, who brings his songwriting, guitar and production brilliance to the song!
Listening Loft : MUST HAVES
Having released his debut album SOOTHE in 2020, composer and multi-instrumentalist Dominic Camaradella is a newcomer to Smooth Jazz. Yet as the decades-long owner of Santa Barbara Sound Design, he’s used his dual passions for music and technology to engineer sessions for Ottmar Liebert, Michael McDonald, Anita Baker, Kenny Loggins, Depeche Mode and many, many others. With the release of the fascinating, globally eclectic, and enchantingly exotic concept album MOMENTS IN TIME: TEMPLE OF LIGHT, he’s launching an ambitious new contemporary urban jazz meets world music fusion series that should establish him as an innovative force in the genre. With his piano, bass, acoustic guitars, keyboards, and MIDI programming as a foundation, he creates balmy, Mediterranean, even spiritual-minded magic with the likes of saxophonist Gary Meek and Grammy-winning violinist Charlie Bisharat.
In 2021, Australian born, University of New England educated saxophonist Evan Carydakis’ recording career got off to a stellar start, with his debut EP GROOVE HOUSE hitting two SmoothJazz.com charts and earning the praise of Jazz World Monthly. While that album’s theme celebrated his amazing supportive family – which includes his producer, brother Stephan – the empowering message on his spirited and whimsical, new single “Movin’ On” is perfect for these post pandemic times. Combined with his richly emotional expressiveness, its punchy, infectious melody and bursts of percussive sunshine convey moving forward optimistically, striving to live our best lives and embracing the now. Helping Carydakis bring the optimistic magic are guest stars, keyboardist Michael Whitaker and the always explosive Patrick Yandall on guitar.
Boldly embodying the tagline/mission statement “Smooth Jazz and Beyond” on his website, Virginia based emerging saxophonist Bob Coate’s perfectly titled debut single “Super Smooth” takes us on a sensual, exotic journey that’s uniquely suited for a lighthearted, sexy summer soundtrack. Driven by an easy flowing crunch groove, the tune is a dynamic showcase for his understated, steamy low tones on the soul-enveloping melody. Finally pursuing his musical dreams after many years in Information Technology, Coate’s growing catalog of singles are all based around the theme and vibe of relaxation, chillout and tropical island imagery.
Adrian Crutchfield received his first saxophone at age four onstage with Kenny G, has earned praise from Dave Koz and performed and recorded with Prince during the last four years of the legend’s life. The multi-talented musician’s genre fluid credits include Bette Midler, Lionel Richie, Anthony Hamilton and Young Jeezy. Yet all those fantastic associations are mere prelude to what he’s doing as a solo Smooth Jazz artist. Five years after LEAP, he’s back with LOVER, a richly soulful and sonically adventurous album that’s as alternately sassy, sultry, tenderly intimate and romantic as its title indicates. While we can definitely hear the Koz and Kenny influences, Crutchfield continues to fashion a sound all his own on tunes that include Latin and hip-hop as well as a lovely Kayla Waters piano solo.
As he closes in on the big 4-0, it’s inspiring to realize that Eric Darius has been gracing and grooving us with his sizzling funk intensity, sensual soul, and sonic innovation for literally half his life. The saxophonist’s dynamic first 20 years as an urban jazz innovator – including five #1 radio hits and 17 Top Tens - culminates in the appropriately titled UNLEASHED, the second full length album on his SagiDarius label. Darius offers an eclectic slate of edgy and fiery horn intensity, divine dance floor thumping, sensitive slo-jam romance, party jamming, exotic African magic and a lush, soaring ballad featuring Rebecca Jade and the Metropole Orkest. Helping to unleash the foundation for Darius’ next two decades of uplifting sax power are, among others, Paul Jackson, Jr., Justin Lee Schultz and Eric Roberson.
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.
After decades of galvanizing the groove on tour and in the studio for Earth, Wind & Fire, The Crusaders, Bruce Hornsby, Al Jarreau, Steely Dan and Bette Midler, drummer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Sonny Emory is on one of the greatest creative rolls of his career. Following two ensemble projects (Cachet and Full Tilt) with an intensely grooving, rhythmically and stylistically eclectic and yes, spiritually-minded collection on SOUL ASCENSION – his first official solo album in over 15 years. Vibing gracefully, and most assuredly with funk and groove, this project features a killer crew including Ronnie Garrett (bass), Vance Taylor (keys) and Lenny Castro (percussion), as well as special guests the likes of Bob James, Patrice Rushen and Bobby Lyle! Emory does it all from infectious urban jazz to breezy Latin, spirited rhumba, trippy EWF-styled R&B/fusion and even a hypnotic tribute to Herbie Hancock.
The title of Eric Essix’s latest album says it all: 36 years and 28 releases into his extraordinary career, the prolific veteran guitarist is just hitting his STRIDE! Whether recording for outside record companies or his own label Essential Recordings, one of the Birmingham, Alabama native’s greatest ongoing gifts has been sharing his Southern blues, jazz and gospel roots via songs that are either edgy, bright and funky or laid back and simmering. Offering a sweet balance of punchy grooves and soulful atmospheres, STRIDE is a dynamic showcase for his fascinating guitar tone that’s crackling one minute, silky, languid, and smooth the next. Highlights include a haunting meditation on freedom and a vibrant organ and harmonica laced spin on hit current smash single, the Bill Withers classic, “Ain’t No Sunshine” featuring American Idol alum Ruben Studdard on vocals.
When he released his impressive 2021 debut album SOMETIMES A MAN and early 2022 single “You’re Beside Me,” the big story on emerging R&B/jazz vocalist and songwriter Gil Johnson was that he followed his musical dream after 30 years in the car business. But as he releases his latest single, the soaring, optimistic and ultra-romantic ballad “Starting All Over Again,” another wonderful narrative presents itself. His producer, Dove and Stellar Award nominee AyRon Lewis, wrote the dreamy music ten years ago. When he presented it to Gil, the singer took only 45 minutes to pen the hopeful lyrics reflecting this key juncture of his life as he begins to live purposefully again in the wake of the passing of Darlene, his wife of 31 years who passed in 2020.
Decades after making his mark on disco-era classics by Donna Summer, George McRae and KC and the Sunshine Band, multi-award winner Vernon Louis Hicks – renowned as one of the world’s top orchestra percussionists – is creating beautiful, inspiring music as a solo artist that expresses his motto “One People One Planet One Love.” Following up his critically acclaimed 2021 full length debut ONE LOVE, Hicks takes a fascinating approach to the release of his latest single “Je’anne,” a gorgeous, dreamy ballad about being forever changed by one’s true love. Hicks is dropping both a vocal version featuring soulful lead singer Austin Jay (and the sweet backing vocals of Carmel Echols) and a stunning instrumental take spotlighting the sultry saxophone magic of Louis Van Taylor.
Twenty consistently inspiring albums and nearly 30 years into his solo career, Air Force veteran turned prolific Smooth Jazz hit maker Lowell Hopper has been working his soulful, infectious, funky groovin’ music so beautifully and for so long, he’s seamlessly become part of the fabric of contemporary jazz. His latest gem of a collection, ANOTHER HOT SUMMER NIGHT, totally captures our hearts, spirits and intensely tappin’ feet over and over. True to its title concept, this brisk seven track, 30-minute set, is the perfect soundtrack for an evening of sweet summer escape, blending mostly moody, laid-back romantic chill tunes with the snappier flow of a few jammin’ tracks that dare us to let loose and dance!
When you connect Patrice Isley’s surname to her invitingly sensual, silky-smooth voice, it’s the first thing you’re gonna ask: “Any relation?“ Sort of! The veteran backing vocalist whose 5-octave range has graced countless of R&B and gospel performances (Barry White, Philip Bailey, Gladys Knight, Andraé Crouch) is married to Myron Isley, whose family roots intertwine with those of The Isley Brothers through shared relatives from North Carolina. Embracing that legacy, Patrice launched her solo career with the 2016 album BELIEVE IN LOVE. With the release of her intimate and seductive, easy flowing single “Patrice’s Groove” – featuring the sparkling, improvisational piano magic of Spyro Gyra keyboardist Tom Schuman – Isley extends her sacred mission to spread hope and love while doing her part to fill the void after the departure of so many soul music legends.
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.
One of South Florida’s most renowned and prolific jazz musicians, saxophonist Paul Messina’s powerful horn-driven funk vibe is so adventurous and progressive that it merits a category all its own, sharply captured in the title of his latest single “NuFunk.” Though he’s billed as a solo artist and his lead sax melody pops, this joint is every bit a conversational ensemble jam as his decades of popular work with the band Flashpoint. In addition to Flashpoint member and frequent collaborator, bassist Mark Harris,” the track features fascinating, otherworldly organ and trombone solos by the multi-talented Mike Bogle and the snappy guitar improvisations of Greg Minnick. With an incredible seven album releases from 2014-2021, we can no doubt expect the prolific Messina to be gracing us with a major new funk project soon!
Truly one of the most prolific and stylistically wide-ranging artists to grace Smooth Jazz in recent years, saxophonist/flutist Paul Messina’s latest album BLUE FIRE – his remarkable seventh album (solo, dual or with his band Flashpoint) in seven years – balances fiery, robust fusion/funk energy with sleek and lyrical balladry as he showcases the heartfelt and high-octane possibilities of both lead instruments. Each track prominently features the sizzling electric and soulful acoustic guitar of Tommy Paez - and some have the spacey/trippy synth excursions of Grammy nominee Mike Bogle. The passionately performed set is also yet another beautiful chapter in the 35 years collaboration between Messina and bassist Mark R. Harris, which includes their acclaimed recent projects THE BIGGER PICTURE (2019) and RETURN TO SANITY, released earlier in 2021.
The eighteen months have proven a major Renaissance in the life of Art Morris, who transcended a wave of health scares and personal and financial loss to finally achieve his dream of being a recording artist in his 70s. As he releases his vibrant, high-spirited (and super fun!) take on Frankie Valli’s iconic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” produced by Atlanta’s Brad Cox Productions, the big story isn’t just that he’s singing so impactfully, but that he’s probably the only artist pushing 80 whose recent single (“L O V E”) has close to 200K steams on Spotify – big numbers for any jazz artist, let alone a guy who waited decades to fulfill his musical destiny. The new single, from the LOVE collection, is all about the cool crooning, the groove and those snazzy horns on the always delightful instrumental hook!
True to its title “Take It Home,” well- traveled veteran saxophonist Andrew Neu’s bubbling, brassy and soaring new single marks an explosive return to Smooth Jazz after a way too long nine-year layoff – which in all fairness included CAT WALK, an amazing, critically acclaimed foray into big band music. Having toured the world for years with the likes of Bobby Caldwell, Diane Schuur, Norman Brown and Smokey Robinson, Neu knows the power of great collaborations. He moves his fresh and unique sound forward in a bold, brassy, intensely grooving and richly improvisational way via spirited large ensemble worthy horn arrangements and the innate, crackling chemistry he’s shared many times onstage but creates for the first time in the studio with keyboardist Greg Manning, the song’s co-writer and producer.
A prominent “next generation” member of The Petersons aka “Minnesota’s First Family of Music,” saxophonist and keyboardist, as well as singer/songwriter, Jason Peterson DeLaire built his rep touring and/or recording with the likes of Prince, Richard Marx, Oleta Adams and Michael Bolton before his recent emergence as an explosive force in Smooth Jazz. DeLaire’s multi-faceted five track EP AFTER HOURS showcases two distinct sides of his artistry. First, there’s his blistering funk sax vibe on the high-octane radio airplay chart hits he scored with veteran guitarist Chris Camozzi, with titles that collectively tell a story of a fun night on the town. He balances those with his sparkling magic as a singer/songwriter, including a universal love anthem featuring Adams, Jarrod Lawson and Rockie Robbins) and a gorgeous, romantic ballad. The good times happen AFTER HOURS!
Reflecting on a fascinating, wildly exciting career that has included opening for then labelmate Jill Scott and being Prince’s touring saxophonist from 2004-12, Mike Phillips says, “I am a product of hip-hop, the funk and everything that comes by way of the negro spiritual. I can roll the dice and no matter what... I’m gonna make them proud.” The versatile artist and entrepreneur launches his third decade of recording with the new collection, MIKE PHILLIPS – a sexy and sensual, power-packed, funk fired, globally vibing and spiritually uplifting self-titled jam that marks his sophomore release with the SRG-ILS Group. With Phillips, we never know where the journey will head next – but each stop along the way is certain to be an elevating experience!
Coinciding with the release of his high spirited, melodically sparkling and deeply grooving 5th album STEPPIN’, veteran keyboardist, composer and producer Ken Powe recently published a book exploring the possibilities of our visions and dreams being divine experiences. Smooth Jazz fans checking out the array of moods and grooves by this vibrationally in tune spiritual and musical explorer may truly feel they’ve entered an urban dreamscape full of colorful and trippy atmospheric textures, eclectic rhythms and dazzling, dramatic ivory runs – all of which draw from Powe’s mult-faceted background in jazz, gospel, R&B, pop and classical music.
A former “Tonight Show” bandmember who served as Stanley Clarke’s musical director for ten years, keyboardist composer Knick Smith™ brings a multi-faceted Joe Samplesque piano and keyboard vibe to ROMANCE, his dazzling and soulful, stylistically freewheeling Smooth Jazz debut album that follows several traditional jazz projects. Showcasing his fanciful, grooving originals and jazzing up Prince, and Barry White classics, Smith offers up the perfect fusion of lush sensuality, wildly grooving jams, innovative keyboard musings and sparkling improvisations. Along the way, he vibes passionately with several prominent guest artists, including vocalists Jeff Robinson and Lynne Fiddmont and famed percussionist Munyungo Jackson.
Having created studio magic throughout his multi-genre career with everyone from David Bowie, Barry White and DMC to 50 Cent, keyboardist/composer Tim Rouse perfectly embodies both his artist name (Sonix) and his nickname (“The Mad Scientist”). Having gotten his solo Smooth Jazz career off to an explosive start with the flammable, chart-dominating “Easy Street” featuring Eric Marienthal – which was voted #1 on the Smoothjazz.com Listener Countdown Chart four weeks in a row – as well as his successful, follow-up single, the groove-driven, chilled-jazz “Cloud9,” Sonix is finally ready to roll out the full album, a project of passion and dedication. LOVE CRUSADE arrives with his 3rd single, an epic take on Sade’s “No Ordinary Love,” which is also released as a 6-song maxi-single offering 3 unique versions (a smooth jazz mix, instrumental and a vocal mix featuring Patrice Isley) plus extended mixes of each. A transcendent sonic experience, showcasing sparkling, melodic and funky Smooth Jazz, George Duke-like synth-fire fusion and fashionable, contemporary vocals with soulful and spiritual messages. True to its title, LOVE CRUSADE paves a bright, inviting path that you won’t be able to resist… Bringing to mind the famous MLK Jr quote, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only LOVE can do that.”
A trio of incredibly gifted, vocally versatile siblings from the East African island of Mauritius, The Clarisse Sisters – Dominique, Annick and Veronique - bring to their solo career an incredible 35 year resume as headline performers and touring singers, including 21 years collectively with Basia, a world tour with Erasure (Annick and Veronique) and a tour with Incognito (Veronique). Fine tuning their craft as artists, their hip, soulful, romantic, exotic and ultra-cosmopolitan 2nd album FIRE & ICE offers sweet tastes of the sisters’ passions for bossa nova, neo-soul, jazz, cool funk and dance music. While all share their stunning vocals individually, their deepest emotional colors come through in harmony. Not surprisingly considering their deep international connections, two legendary figures – Basia and fellow Mauritian Bluey Maunick from Incognito – make impactful guest contributions.
A renowned session drummer, Pat Petrillo has backed the likes of Gloria Gaynor, Patti Labelle, and Broadway shows. The New Jersey based groover leads his group of jazz, R&B and rock all-stars, The Big Rhythm Band, serving up some mind-blowingly adventurous and high octane jamming, on the group’s latest album THE POWER STATION SESSIONS. Though named after the recording facility where the sessions took place, the title could just as easily describe these freewheeling original tracks and fresh, inventive arrangements of classics by Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel. While Petrillo drives the grooves, the deeper fire comes from the special guest artists, including guitar greats Nile Rodgers, Felicia Collins and Oz Noy, plus appearance by John Popper (harmonica), Glen Burtnik (vocals), and SNL bandleader Lenny Pickett (sax). A cool variety of R&B, Funk, Blues, Rock and Smooth Jazz.
Developing his formidable horn chops and seductive funk vibe in South Korean clubs and talent shows while serving in the Air Force,charting contemporary jazz saxophonist R.L. Walker has been an unstoppable force in Smooth Jazz since the release of his debut MANY FACETS in 2013. Currently on deck, the Whispers' “In The Mood” featuring Castella, the third single from his upcoming COLORIZED album, a seductive collaboration between the saxman and the soulful singer/songwriter. This smooth take of the classic 1987 song is an expressive, in-the-pocket hybrid of R&B and Jazz showcasing the talents of both recording artists and capturing the essence of romance. R.L.'s seventh independently-released full album features nine tracks, three produced by the artist and six produced by renowned producer Lew Laing Jr. The concept behind the new project's title is, according to the composer "Music gives color to the air of the moment."
Listening Loft : ESSENTIALS
Not long after releasing his 2019 debut album MELODENSITY, Atlanta based gospel, jazz and hip-hop influenced keyboardist composer Matthew A. Thomas and his wife went through a crazy, lifechanging time, becoming parents for the first time and purchasing their first home amidst the backdrop of the pandemic, social unrest, and political divisiveness. Thomas’s bright, hopeful, and deeply spiritual musical response to the frenetic whirlwind is CLOTHES & RIGHT MINDS, a groove intensive, often hypnotic batch of uplifting fashionable jams grounded in deep bass and trap/hip-hop rhythms, with soulful and spirited piano and synth melodies dancing joyfully above them.
Michael Quast, the veteran German keyboardist/composer who records under his middle name Amandus, has always considered music his lost paradise, providing necessary emotional healing in his childhood. While helping some in his home country as lecturer in Music Therapy at SRH Heidelberg, the multi-talented artist received a master in physics before pursuing his career as a professional musician. He uses his playful and spirited, funk-fired Smooth Jazz vibe to uplift us here with his latest single “Baby It’s Up To You,” a buoyant and danceable summer tune that’s sure be a party favorite! Just like the colorful musical conversation on his previous radio hit, “Groove Infection,” Amandus continues his collaboration with effervescent guitarist Uli Brodersen
Five years into his stellar, Billboard Smooth Jazz charting solo career, multi-talented saxophonist and all-around Renaissance man (preacher, teacher, motivational speakers, counselor and education official) Daryl Beebe uses the title of his 2nd full length album to offer an uplifting message, that we’re BETTER TOGETHER, a nod to the times we’re living in and this collaborative effort keyboardist/producer Mark “Polo” Dixon. Before emerging as an artist, the Detroit native enjoyed a fascinating career performing and recording with gospel and jazz greats including Donnie McClurkin, Norman Brown and Doc Powell. Drawing on his extensive spiritual and musical backgrounds, Beebe along with Dixon fashion an inviting blend of smooth and sensual, cool and slammin’ horn textured dance/funk on BETTER TOGETHER.
Besides a sensual and soulful flow, infectious melodies and impeccable playing, the two things we can always count on from popular NYC pianist/composer (and New England Conservatory of Music instructor) Walter Duda, are ensembles of world-renowned musicians and dynamic stories illuminating the inspiration behind the music. His latest, which is a revised arrangement of his very first composition, the romantic, impressionistic, and whimsical mid-tempo gem “Second Impression,” is no exception. With saxophonist Marion Meadows adding his lush, lyrical sax, Will Lee (bass) and Chris Parker (drums) grooving the rhythm section, and Al Ferrante’s gentle guitar harmony combining to create a loving, lighthearted reflection of the scenery at Seaside Park in Duda’s hometown of Bridgeport, CT, “Second Impression” of Duda’s first composition is already a favorite of streamers!
“Leather Jacket” is the slammin’, pocket-funky first ever collaboration between veteran guitaris John E. Lawrence and contemporary jazz, Grammy-winning keyboardist/mega-producer Jeff Lorber. The vibrant, hard grooving track has Lorber’s synth stamps all over it, but is one of the most explosive showcases yet for Lawrence’s snappy, fluid, ultra-melodic playing and otherworldly sense of improvisation. Lawrence is a longtime music educator who also now serves as a successful local concert producer and promoter in his hometown of Ypsilanti, MI. The lineup of the John E. Lawrence Summer Jazz Series includes Jeff Lorber Fusion, and the inaugural live performance of “Leather Jacket.”
The name Everett B Walters may sound like a solo artist, but in truth it’s the clever moniker that Chicago bred brothers Michael Everett Brown (guitar) and Harold Walter Brown III (bass) came up with for their popular, infectiously grooving ensemble that’s been recording since the mid-2000s and headlining in Las Vegas for years. The Akademia Music Award winners score another victory with their latest, the perfectly titled, hard grooving EP, IT'S FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC. It’s a rambunctious free-flowing, horn-drenched Smooth Jazz jam fest driven by Harold’s snappy, buoyant rhythms and Michael’s elegant melodies and sparkling otherworldly improvisations.
Continuing a prolific roll with his fourth full length album since 2020, Louie Fitzgerald sets his intention for the deeply felt roller coaster of highs and lows on EMOTIONS with his personally hand-painted cover art imagery of a two-toned eye with the yellow and blue of the Ukranian flag with a prominent tear rolling down. Yet the haunting ballads and darker, hypnotic, underpinnings of some tunes tell only part of his story. Recently distressed by the loss of not one, but two of his brothers, Fitzgerald also offers bright musical rays of joy created to inspire a sense of hope and optimism amidst the storms of life.
Two-time ‘Best Jazz Album of the Year’ nominees at the San Diego Music Awards, west coast contemporary jazz ensemble Ghost Jazz Trio, led by veteran guitarist, composer and producer James Morgan returns with their third collection, DREAMS ABOVE. Highlighted throughout with laidback grooves and world-class musicianship with saxophone provided by Andrew Nichols and melodic musings from piano prodigy Chase Pado in addition to the band’s rhythm section featuring bassist Nathan Brown and drummer Jack Nathan. The live studio recording (all musicians in the same room) fulfills Morgan’s longtime goal of combining tasteful jazz and classical symphonic strings in a Smooth Jazz format lending sophistication and excitement to the project’s overall relaxed vibes.
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.
Embodying the title of his cool-breezy and sensually funky new album, veteran keyboardist Jody Mayfield knows a little something about DOING THE DO – an expression meaning, “if you’re going to do something, do it well.” In addition to working with top hip-hop producers, he’s performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Grover Washington, Jr. and James Lloyd. Stirring up snappy grooves, hypnotic keyboard melodies and dreamy atmospheres, he invites several special guests – including saxman Walter Beasley – to a mix that blends the best of his stylistic worlds, with the intention of promoting positive vibes in response to these difficult times.
If your love for smooth music extends to the mid to late 1970s California soft rock (occasionally called “Yacht Rock”) vibe, you’ll thoroughly enjoy immersing in POST SPIRIT, VOL. 1 1974-1978, featuring previously unreleased gems by bassist, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Al Staehely. After several years performing in the band Spirit in the early 70s, he enjoyed some success as a songwriter before setting aside his rock dreams to become a prominent Houston entertainment lawyer who played music at night. Perfectly reflecting the timeless joy of the 70s, POST SPIRIT’s 14 sparkling vintage tracks include soulful ballads, including his contemporary jazz single, “Without Love,” plus some easygoing pop/rockers and a few raucous numbers for good measure. Nowadays, Al and band play original music to sold out audiences, and he’s planning for the release of a new music collection in 2023!
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 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 apart of their uplifting, smooth and romantic vibe. This time out, the guest roster includes Damon Dae, DW3, Latonya Black, Tim Owens, and Ashley Sankey, while guitarist Elvis Stanic shines and crackles on the project’s funk-filled instrumental single. Don't miss the ThreeStyle Jazz Radio Show featuring Smooth Jazz favorites as well as tracks from their albums!
Grooving optimistically into the post-pandemic era with fresh bursts of musical creativity, guitarist Ellis White’s highly anticipated debut single “Keeping It Real” marks the launch of his career as a solo artist after a dynamic decade of success with the Jacksonville, FL ensemble Catch The Groove. A perfect summer soundtrack tune, the infectious, high-octane track is his first release under a deal he recently signed with Polyphemus Records in the UK. It was produced by Trammell Starks, whose decades-long resume includes legendary R&B vocalists Jennifer Holliday and Patti Labelle, as well as popular smooth jazz saxophonist Michael J. Thomas. This instantly familiar single puts emphasis on White’s hypnotic, ultra-melodic and crackling electric guitar.