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Featured Smooth Jazz Artist Archives

Our archives of previously profiled smooth jazz artists of the month

Dec. 2014

Paul Brown – Soul-Filling Artist/Producer

For more than two decades, beginning with saxophonist Boney James’ debut Trust in 1992, guitarist/producer/coPaul Brown pic (backup3)mposer Paul Brown’s dynamic R&B driven sound behind the boards has set the standard for the urban jazz format and made him the genre’s top producer with over 60 #1 radio airplay hits combined as a solo artist and with other artists.

The guitarist and composer recently released yet another dynamic solo ten-track set calledTruth B Told, partially motivated by his desire to do something for himself again and get a little “crazy,” momentarily stepping away from producing others.

The album features performances from many of the artists he’s produced and/or played with over the years, including saxophonists Darren Rahn, Richard Elliot, Euge Groove and Dave Koz, plus Najee on flute. Legendary trumpeter and arranger Greg Adams works his trademark horn section magic on several tracks, including the first single “Take It From Me.” Truth B Told also features some of the final sessions of drummer Ricky Lawson, who passed away in December 2013. Read full article

 

Nov. 2014

Acoustic Alchemy – Over Three Decades of Diversity and Distinction

We often hear about this group or that artist dating back a few decades and how they helped shape what we now know as smooth jazz (preferably “contemporary jazz” by many like me). We would all be terribly remiss if we didn’t throw into the mix the dynamic and creative English group Acoustic Alchemy (“AA”), Acoustic Alchemy pic1first formed in 1981 by guitarists Simon James and Nick Webb. The duo changed in 1985 with James being replaced by guitarist Greg Carmichael. Even though there have been a couple of versions of AA since then, the group and its identity thrive ever so prominently to date.

Looking Back

Historically, AA’s blend of instrumental music has been neither jazz nor pop, but contained elements of both, together with flamenco, reggae, and folk. Webb was a child actor who studied at the London Academy of Music And Dramatic Art and was originally musically influenced by John Martyn and Pentangle who ran a folk club in the historic English market town of Berkhamsted. After studying jazz at Leeds College Of Music, Webb spent a couple of years attempting to become a pop songwriter. Increasingly drawn towards jazz, he co-founded Acoustic Alchemy with classical guitarist James before linking up with Carmichael in 1985. Carmichael had studied classical guitar at the London College of Music and gained experience playing with jazz groups. Read full article

 

Oct. 2014

Nestor Torres – The Pied Piper of Latin Jazz

Being one of the most creative Latin music artists around, flutist Nestor Torres has been both expressive and imaginative in his approach to the music that he soNestor Torres loves. In fact, his love for the music and the way in which he conveys that love have been infectious, literally making him a sort of Pied Piper, especially where  Latin jazz is concerned.

Torres was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, in the early 1950s. Initially, at a young age, he began playing drums, encouraged by his musician father who was a pianist and vibraphonist.

The young Torres complemented the training he received at home with studies at a special music high school where, in addition to percussion, he also studied saxophone. Eventually, however, he decided to focus on the flute as his primary instrument. “[T]o study drums, well, I didn’t see it for me,” he told Angel Ortiz in an interview for the To Salsa website. “Then, I saw a picture of a flute.  I started playing when I was twelve.”

From this rather unusual inspiration, Torres put aside the drums and saxophone and set his sights on the flute. He was further encouraged when he saw piccolo player Hubert Laws perform, an occasion that “changed my life forever,” Torres has said. “He set such a high standard. I have yet to reach that standard,” he added modestly. Read full article

 

Sept. 2014

Marc Antoine – From France With Class

Charisma, exoticism, manual dexterity and fluidity, and soul-deep imagination and creativity have all been factors that delivered guitarist/composer Marc Antoine toMarc Antoine our contemporary jazz experience many years ago. One of the finest European gifts that we jazzers could have received, the masterful and prolific artists keeps delivering quality album after quality album…truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Thrilling concert-goers and record buyers everywhere with his rich blend of World music and jazz (even daring to apply an innovative technique to his interpretations of the works of the classical masters on one album in particular), Antoine always appears to be one step ahead in his thinking about the direction of the music in this genre. Let’s examine this virtuoso up close.

Antoine was born in Paris, France on May 28, 1963. His parents bought him his first guitar when he was 11 years old which quickly became his third arm. Marc has had a guitar in his hands ever since.

At age 13, his father saw such rapid progress that he sent him to the conservatory where he would study classical music. By then his mentors were Andres Segovia and John Williams. At 17, he’d already won many prizes and started showing an interest in a variety of music genres including jazz, rock , world , pop and more. At the same time he was playing in local bands in Britany (France). Read full article

 

Aug. 2014

Nicholas Cole – The Possibilities Are Endless

It is not often that we get to witness an emerging young artist blossom right in front of our eyes. Fortunately, we now have that chance with a young man blessed with talent and whosNicholas Cole pice wisdom is far beyond his age. Keyboardist/producer Nicholas Cole is rooted and grounded in not only who he is but also in whom he wants to be. Since the start of his career, we have seen him do everything from make great music to produce for fellow major artists to grace stages across the country.Blending the incredible jazz gospel vibe of Jonathan Butler and Kirk Whalum and the melodic and funk sensibilities of Brian Culbertson with a dynamic and innovative keyboard style all his own, the native North Carolinian has helped usher in the next generation of contemporary urban jazz artists with his music.
 
Showing remarkable poise, melodic invention, and improvisational jazz skills for a 17-year-old musician, Nicholas produced his debut album A Journey of One (which was executive produced by his musician father, Leon Cole) in his home studio and released it to the world in 2010. Having played piano and organ in church since the age of four, he brought a unique variety of secular and spiritual musical influences to the project—including keys giants/producers Brian Culbertson and Brian Simpson, guitar icon Peter White, and renowned gospel greats Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, Walter Hawkins, Yolanda Adams and producer Kevin Bond. Read full article 

 

July 2014

Hiroshima – Musical Stewards of Universal Hope

Hiroshima pic

No contemporary jazz group has done a better job of making a consistent message of universal love and unity a signature part of their brand for decades more than the personable and eclectic Hiroshima.

In 1971, Duke Ellington recorded an album entitled The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse. As part of that work, Ellington proclaimed “that whole world was going [Asian],” and that no one would know “who was in the shadow of whom.” Hiroshima is the fulfillment of Ellington’s prophecy. In the decades since they first convened, the Los Angeles-based ensemble (now consisting of co-founder Dan Kuramoto – (keyboards/ woodwinds/composer/producer), co-founder June Okida Kuramoto (koto), Danny Yamamoto (drums), Kimo Cornwell (piano/keyboards), and Dean Cortez (bass)) have blended jazz, pop, and rock with traditional Japanese folk music and instruments. The resulting sound was a pioneering voice in the world music movement of the late 20th century and continues to stabilize the celebrated, iconic group in the upper echelons of accomplished and distinctive contemporary music. Read full article

 

June 2014

Cindy Bradley - Sugar & Jazz and Everything Bliss

Sultry smooth jazz trumpeter Cindy Bradley is passionate about her flourishing musical career. In addition to being a well-respected recording and performing artist, she also finds balance in her life as a full-time band instructor to over 200 4th graders. Cindy Bradley pic

Bradley is one of the most dynamic trumpet and flugelhorn players, as well as being an accomplished trombonist, pianist, and awesome composer. As many jazzers know, her signature instrument is the flashy satin pink flumpet which is a cross between the brighter sounds of the trumpet blended in with the mellow sounds of the flugelhorn.  Her niche is a mix of smooth and contemporary jazz, straight ahead, be-bop, R&B and pop.

Bradley was born and raised in North Tonawanda, New York.  When she was in the fourth grade, she started playing the trumpet, and it was destiny that brought her to this musical instrument of choice. She says, “Before I played the trumpet, I started playing the piano when I was around five years old, and when I did come into the music program in fourth grade and we could choose an instrument, I remember the teacher gave us all permission slips where we had to write which instrument we wanted to play and have our parents sign it, and I actually forgot to bring mine home. So, when the day came that the slips were due, I didn’t think I was gonna get to play anything, but this particular teacher knew that I played the piano, so she sought me out to ask why I didn’t want to play something else, and she let me sign up. But I had to pick my instrument right there on the spot. So, I had to think really, and I knew my brother’s friends all played the trumpet; so, I just kinda picked it, you know? I used to think that I ended up with the trumpet by accident, but the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve fallen in love with the instrument, I like to think of it more like it was just meant to be.” Read full article

 

May 2014

Dave Koz – A Bright Sax on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

As if you didn’t already know, saxophonist Dave Koz is a multi-platinum-selling jazz artist with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and nine nDave Koz picoteworthy Grammy-nominations. He’s an extraordinary saxophonist who plays multiple variations of the instrument-alto, tenor, soprano, and baritone. What you may or may not know is that he also plays the piano, specifically when he is writing songs.  The acclaimed saxophonist is also proficient in genres ranging from smooth/contemporary jazz to pop to R&B to rock.

Koz is an extremely passionate man when it comes to his music, but he is also a philanthropist, entrepreneur, radio host, and instrumental music advocate.  He has said, “The beauty of playing instrumental music is that you don’t have a language barrier. You don’t need to know the words, or even the language. Melodies and good music are universal to all people.”

The exuberant saxman was born and raised in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, CA. He grew up in a close-knit and loving family with his parents, a sister Roberta, and older brother Jeff.  Koz’s brother Jeff is a guitarist who, to this day, occasionally performs with him, and they also create musical collaborations. Read full article

 

Apr. 2014

Gerald Albright –Master of Musical and Personal Class

Gerald Albright is an international icon in the world of jazz and one of the most respected and requested artists in the business.  While he is legendarily known for playing the baritone, tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones, he is also a remarkable multi-instrumentalist who brilliantly plays the bass, piano, keyboards,Gerald Albright pic 3 flute, percussions, and is a fine vocalist.

The charismatic saxman/multi-instrumentalist has sold over one million albums in the U.S. alone.When it comes to a specific genre, Albright plays whatever moves him; whether it is contemporary jazz, smooth jazz, rhythm and blues, jazz fusion, straight-ahead jazz, or whatever else might come to mind. So, just know that whatever he plays, you will be toe-tapping, clapping, finger-snapping, and genuinely moved.

Albright is a native Californian, born on August 30, 1957, and raised in South Central Los Angeles. He grew up in a very close-knit family with his parents and older brother. The young Albright began taking piano lessons when he was eight years old. He wasn’t particularly interested but took the weekly lessons from his instructor George Turpeau. However, his interest in music escalated when Turpeau gave him his old saxophone, and Albright felt a connection that has been prosperous and constant ever since! To this day, Albright considers Turpeau a catalyst behind his musical career. Read full article

 

Mar. 2014

Esperanza Spalding – Jazz’s Personified Promise of Continued Excellence

Every once in a while, someone comes along who changes a part of musical history and is truly riveting and unforgettable. In this case, that person is the beautiful, eclectic jaEsperanza Spalding2zz prodigy Esperanza Spalding. Allow me to elaborate on this amazing young lady.

The vivacious jazz musician was named Best New Artist at the 2011 Grammys, a first for a jazz artist in the Grammy’s 53-year history. This is definitely a very big deal for a genre that has been left out of numerous major award categories.

Spalding is a phenomenal jazz bassist, cellist, pianist, multilingual singer/lyricist and composer. Her main instrument is the acoustic double bass. Her awe-inspiring music is a combination of jazz fusion, neo-soul, and bossa nova. She also speaks and sings in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. Read full article

 

Feb. 2014

Jonathan Butler – Musically Gifted, Spiritually Driven

Multi-Grammy nominated acoustic guitarist and impassioned vocalist Jonathan Butler is truly one highly acclaimed musician/composer. His style is multi-faceted, containing elements of R&B, pop, Africana, gospel, and jazz fusion. Jonathan Butler pic 2

When the South African native is asked what came first, singing or playing guitar, he says, “My earliest memory is being a singer first and then a guitar player. It took a while because I really needed to know it before I could hang it around my neck. I love both; they are an extension of who I am. I have come to appreciate both of the gifts I have. It’s important to understand when God gives gifts, he or she better use it. I embrace it. I can’t do anything without the guitar in my life. It’s an important part of who I am. ”

The tenacious musician learned to play guitar from his first role model, his oldest brother Cecil. He also had influences from his father Abraham who was also a guitarist and a banjo player. However, when it comes to the person who was his true inspiration, it is the one and only Stevie Wonder. Read full article

 

Jan. 2014

Paul Hardcastle – The Celebrated Jazzmaster

Paul Hardcastle, the award-winning musician, producer, mixer, songwriter, and composer, is notorious for producing eclectic sounds with the synthesizePaul Hardcastler. He first emerged on the music scene in the early ‘80s as a keyboard wizard in England enthralled in the dance music circuit which ultimately landed him in the United States as a bona fide crossover success. His genres are multi-faceted, ranging from R&B, dance, house, pop, and smooth jazz fusion.

Hardcastle was born on December 10, 1957, and raised in Kensington, London UK. When he was a young lad, he had an interest in synthesizers and other electronics associated with studio equipment. His interests were inspired by the English rock band, Hawkwind. Their lyrics favored urban and science fiction themes. Hawkwind was primarily known for playing “space-rock,” a hybrid of hard rock and acid rock.

Experimenting with electronics was just a hobby for Hardcastle, but his ultimate dream was to be a motor bike racer. However, in 1979, that dream was crushed when he had a bad bike accident and ended up in the hospital for 3 1/2 months. After the accident, and a new perspective on life, he swapped his video camera for his friends’ small synthesizer and transforming his hobby into what has become a prosperous musical career for over 32 years. Read full article