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Featured Smooth Jazz Artist Archives (2017)

May 2017

Warren Hill – From Canada With Vision

Toronto-born Warren Hill began his musical journey learning to play guitar when he was eight years old. His guitar teacher asked the question that every music teacher should ask, “Tell me your favourite songs, and I’ll teach you to play them.” What better way to capture a child’s heart? It worked with the young Mr Hill. Within a couple of years, he had a huge repertoire of songs and a burning desire to learn more. That simple question set the stage for Hill’s entire musical future, playing the music that he loved.

His most recent album, Under the Influence, harks back to his early rock days with some awesome jazz covers of thirteen rock classics ranging from Pink Floyd’s “Money,” Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” Edgar Winters awesome “Frankenstein,” and my favourite, his cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.”

After 30 years in the business, the Under the Influence album took Hill back to the music that he had been playing as a 13-year-old fronting a Toronto-based rock band. It wasn’t until he was 17 attending a summer music camp at the Eastman School of Music that he first got to hear jazz. He’d arrived carrying both his instruments, guitar and saxophone, but after hearing Charlie Parker, he left the guitar in the cupboard and focused on the saxophone. Read review

 

Apr. 2017

Wayman Tisdale – Still Looming Larger Than Life

Wayman Tisdale (bassist) 1964-2009 : I am surely stating the obvious to most readers here, but, for the few who were not familiar with him, Wayman Tisdale was an American professional basketball player in the NBA and a smooth jazz bass guitarist. A three-time All American at the University of Oklahoma, he was elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Tisdale graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma,

where he grew up. As a college player at the University of Oklahoma from 1983 to 1985, he was a three-time Big Eight Conference Player of the Year and the first player in collegiate history to be named a first-team All American by the Associated Press in his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons. He still holds the record at Oklahoma for the most points scored by any player through his freshman and sophomore seasons. He won a gold medal as a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team coached by Indiana University’s Bobby Knight, and the Indiana Pacers made Tisdale the second overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. Read full article

 

Mar. 2017

Al Jarreau — Forever the Prince of Song

Al Jarreau (vocalist) – 1940 – 2017: February saw the passing of one of the greatest jazz singers the world has ever known, Alwin Lopez “Al” Jarreau. Jarreau possessed a unique and distinctive voice that he used to create a unique blend of traditional scat vocalising with modern day soul phrasing.

Jarreau was born in Milwaukee, WI on March 12, 1940, the fifth of six children. Jarreau’s father was a Seventh-day Adventist Church minister and singer, and his mother was a church pianist. Jarreau and his family sang together in church concerts and in benefits, and he and his mother performed at PTA meetings.

Jarreau was student council president and Badger Boys State delegate for Lincoln High School. At Boys State, he was elected governor. He then went on to attend Ripon College, where he also sang with a group called the Indigos. He graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Two years later, in 1964, he earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa. Jarreau also worked as a rehabilitation counsellor in San Francisco. Read full article

 

Feb. 2017

George Duke & Jeff Golub – Forever Weaving Dreams Up On Avenue Blue

George Duke  – (January 12, 1946 – August 5, 2013) :: George Duke was a multi-faceted musician, known as a keyboard pioneer, composer, singer, and producer in both jazz and popular mainstream musical genres. He worked with numerous acclaimed artists as arranger, music director, writer and co-writer, record producer, and professor of music.

He first made a name for himself with the album The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio. He was known primarily for thirty-odd solo albums as well as for his collaborations with other musicians, particularly with the avant-garde musician Frank Zappa.

Beginning in 1967, Duke experimented further with jazz fusion, playing and recording with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as performing with the Don Ellis Orchestra, and Cannonball Adderley’s band, while he acquainted himself with Zappa. Duke appeared on several of Zappa’s albums in the early and mid-1970s, including Chunga’s Revenge, 200 Motels, Waka/Jawaka, The Grand Wazoo, Apostrophe, Over-Nite Sensation, One Size Fits All, Bongo Fury and Roxy & Elsewhere. Read full article

 

Jan. 2017

George Howard & Art Porter, Jr. – Trailblazers Who Left Giant Fingerprints on Groove

George Howard (September 15, 1956 – March 20, 1998), an American soprano saxophonist whose polished fusion of funk, jazz and urban soul helped him to become one of the most popular contemporary jazz performers of the 80’s and 90’s. Since he concentrated on groove and overall sound instead of improvisation, Howard received much attention from jazz critics, but he retained a large audience throughout his prolific career.

Howard was born in Philadelphia. In the late 1970s, he began touring with the renowned late Grover Washington, Jr., who was one of his idols. In the early 1980s, Howard released his first studio albums, Asphalt Gardens and Steppin’ Out. Both albums were well received and ranked high on the Billboard magazine Jazz Album charts at number 25 and 9, respectively.

By 1985, Howard’s third album, Dancing in the Sun, had scaled the Billboard Jazz Album chart to number 1. Each of his next three albums, Love Will Follow, A Nice Place to Be, and Reflections would also top the Jazz Album chart. After the success of Dancing in the Sun, Howard left the label GRP Records to join MCA who issued his 1988 recording of Reflections. His next album Personal was released in 1989. Read full article