Featured Smooth Jazz Artist Archives (2017)

Dec. 2017

Selina Albright & Lindsey Webster — Rising Ladies of Smooth Jazz (Part 2)

Selina Albright

Factoid: Vocalist Selina Albright tried the saxophone once. She got dizzy, though, and that’s pretty much all it took for her to realize that the sax wasn’t for her.

“I’m just going to use my lungs for my vocal cords, and that’s it,” says Albright, whose father, Gerald, is renowned in contemporary jazz and R&B circles for his sax playing. “It’s really hard to play the saxophone. It sounded horrible. It sounded like an elephant when I tried it. I don’t think I have that calling.”

By her mid-twenties, Albright determined that she wanted to focus on her singing full-time, but her plan — initially, at least — was to finish school first.

“I was in the middle of a grad-school program, and I was going to school counselling, and they make you do counselling yourself to learn more about yourself,” she recalls. “They really make you do some soul-searching, and they help you rediscover some of the milestones you’ve gone through in your life.” Read full article


Nov. 2017

Jazmin Ghent, Kayla Waters, Magdalena Chovancova – Rising Ladies of Smooth Jazz (Part 1)

Jazmin Ghent

Jazmin Deborah Ghent is a gospel, jazz, and contemporary saxophonist. Born in Heidelberg, Germany and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, she became interested in music at age 5 when she began taking piano lessons. She became the Sunday school pianist at the age of 8 and often practiced with the adult musicians and church choir members. After being introduced to the saxophone in middle school, she progressed to becoming the church pianist and saxophonist. Ghent won numerous All State Honor Band awards. Once in high school, she discovered her passion for performing and teaching and began playing professionally in the Huntsville, Alabama area.

The lovely young saxtress won national awards such as the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition and was chosen to perform at the NAACP closing ceremony in Orlando, Florida in 2008. She was chosen for 3 consecutive years as 1st chair tenor saxophonist for the All State Jazz Band. She was also offered a full tuition scholarship in 2009 to Berklee School of Music as well as Florida State University School of Music. She attended Florida State University and was lead tenor in the symphonic band and performed with the jazz band/ensemble in several venues. She graduated in May 2013 and received a degree in Music Education. She has also earned a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Tennessee State University. Read full article


Oct. 2017

Raul Midón – Badass and Gifted

“I realized that even if you’re good, the only way you’re going to really succeed is to become a leader. You have to create a universe that caters to you, because if you don’t, you’re going to have a really hard time.” The words of Raul Midón.

Midón and his twin brother, Marco, were born prematurely in a rural hospital in Embudo, New Mexico. The twins became blind as infants after suffering eye damage from the effects of spending too long in an incubator without adequate eye protection.

Their African-American mother- a New York artist who relocated to New Mexico - died when they were four, and they were raised by their Argentine folkloric dancer father and maternal grandmother in a small town tolerant of difference. Read full article


Sept. 2017

Jackiem Joyner – The Epitome of the Maturation of Quality Smooth Jazz

Smooth jazz saxman Jackiem Joyner is a man of many talents. As well as reaching stratospheric heights with his horn playing, his writing talent is also blasting off into a different orbit. His debut novel, Zarya – Cyndus Final Hope, about a teenaged girl’s fight to save her world from the clutches of a power-crazy dictatorship has received high praise following its release last year.

Joyner has loved Science Fiction ever since he was a child, fascinated by all the stories and imaginations of futuristic worlds. Gathering from his experiences traveling the world as a recording artist, he developed a knack for good science fiction stories after reading several books a month.

Joyner was born in 1980 in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of Dianne Joyner Barnes and Jackie Charles Ray Smith. Joyner inherited some of his musical gifts from his professional bass player father. Read full article


Aug. 2017

Jesse Cook -Coloring World/Jazz Music in Magnificent Hues

The music of Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook is very different from your average smooth jazz musician. His unique blend of Rumba Flamenco, Classical, and Jazz guitar styles produce a soothing tableau that evokes swirling skirts, castanets, and the loneliness of campfires in a forested twilight. It’s an altogether beautiful sound and as refreshing as clear cool mountain water on a hot summer’s day.

Cook was born in Paris and spent his early years travelling with his parents between Barcelona in Spain, the French capital, and southern France. As a child, he was fascinated by the guitar and tried to copy the sound of the great Gypsy guitarist Manitas de Plata (Ricardo Baliardo) who he heard from his parents record collection. De Plata was a guitar maverick who, although gaining worldwide attention as a flamenco artist, was often criticized for not following the traditional flamenco rhythmic rules (compás).

Following his parents’ divorce, Cook and his sister went to live with his mother in her native Canada. It was here that his mother recognised Cook’s prodigious talent, and she arranged for him to take lessons at Toronto’s Eli Kassner Guitar Academy. Cook eventually studied under Kassner, who was himself a student of another guitar maestro, the Spanish classical guitarist Andrés Segovia. Cook went on to study classical and jazz guitar at Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto’s York University, and Berklee College of Music in the United States. Read full article


July 2017

Carol Duboc – Making Dreams Vibrant, Alive, and Attainable

Carol Duboc is one of those smooth jazz artists whose music seems to fall neatly between two camps. There’s the Latin-tinged, smooth jazz glide that permeates everything she does, but then there’s also an undeniable soulfulness that reveals an R&B leaning. I guess that’s only to be expected from an artist who began her career working with legends like Maurice White and Teddy Riley.

Duboc hails from Kansas City, MO and was born into a musical family. Her father was a drummer and introduced her to music from an early age. At age four, Duboc was performing the entire musical My Fair Lady for her family. By five, she was playing the piano, and it was not long before she began studying the saxophone. Duboc went on to join the Kansas City Performing Arts Company as a singer and actress. Read full article


June 2017

3rd Force – A Combination of Superior Music and Humanitarianism

Long before there was a genre called Chill Out, there was New Age music. It was a little loved and mostly ignored genre that seemed to be heard in shops selling crystal balls and expensive incense sticks amid tie-dyed chiffon wraps and small buddha figurines. It was a music that was synonymous with meditation, relaxation, and the centring of mind, body, and spirit. It ran counter to the frenetic rave scene and the trash metal that seemed to be dominant back in the late 80’s and early nineties.

It was where William Aura, one of the founder members of the oft overlooked smooth jazz group 3rd Force, began his career.

Aura’s first album for Higher Octave comes from that period. Named after the seaside studio in California where it was recorded, 1987’s Half Moon Bay, is a delightfully peaceful and uplifting album. Aura’s compositions evoke the sounds of the ocean with timpani rolls blended into warm soft, meringue-like synth pads decorated with harp-string frills that gently rise and fall, before changing pace, and inviting you to dance across verdant meadows following delicate zither lines. Read full article


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 full article


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