Featured Smooth Jazz Artist Archives (2016)

Our archives of previously profiled smooth jazz artists of the month

Nov. 2016

Candy Dulfer – Sweet Funk Personified

Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer is one of the queens of the smooth jazz scene. The daughter of the renowned band leader, Hans Dulfer, himself a respected sax player, she began playing at the age of 6.

In an interview with the Saxophone Life blog, she recalls how her father “would always practice in the back room in our house. He had this beautiful collection of saxophones and, when I was five years old, I asked him if I could play one of them. I started on the soprano because I was so small. I think one of the main things in the beginning for me was that it was such a nice way to spend some quality time together. I remember really bonding over it. He’s a very macho guy, but he never had any doubts that I could do it. So, I asked my Dad for some lessons, but, in the first one, we got into an argument. I was like ‘no Dad, that’s a G’ - he brought me up to really stand my ground! After one hour, he said ‘You know what, I’m not going to teach you - I’m going to send you to the brass band.’ Back then that was the only way you could take lessons.”

The teacher at the brass band switched Dulfer from the soprano to the alto saxophone. A decision that Dulfer says she “cried about for a day!” She credits her experience with the band as being the place that gave her the theoretical grounding that she would use throughout her career. Read full article


Oct. 2016

U-Nam – Paris Struts Its Definition of Smooth and Funky

It’s clear from the opening notes of U-Nam’s latest album, Surface Level, that his philosophy and ethos of the past building the future is still very much alive.u-nam-pic

Parisian born Emmanuel “U-Nam” Abiteboul began playing guitar when he was 12 years old.  From 1986 to 1989, he studied at the Paris-based CIM, the first European school for jazz. He turned professional at 19 and became an in-demand session player around the Parisian studios.

Well known throughout Europe and the U.S. as a musical trendsetter and innovative player in soul, R&B and smooth jazz, U-Nam has more than earned his reputation as a virtuoso guitarist and producer.

His first album, 2005’s The Past Builds the Future released on the Trippin’N’ Rhythm label, was an album of instrumentals and a number of soulful vocal tunes. The deluxe edition features an excellent version of “Love’s Taken Over” featuring Rahsaan Paterson on vocals — and look out for a heartfelt Phil Perry on the track “Right Here, Right Now.” The album picked up a lot of play and was #2 on SolarRadio UK (the largest soul radio station in the UK). The album also had significant radio airplay in Europe and made it into the Top 47 on the U.S. charts. Read full article


Sept. 2016

Ken Navarro – Always Redefining Musical Boundaries

Chart topping & award winning contemporary jazz guitarist and composer Ken Navarro is recognized as one of today’s leading contemporary jazz musicians. His impressive discography of 22 top selling albums showcases his appeal to a wide range of listeners with inspiring compositions and superb guitar performances.

Navarro began his recording career in Los Angeles where he worked as a premier session guitarist, performer and composer. His talents saw him working with a diverse array of artists including Doc Severinsen, Eric Gale, John Pattituci, Dave Koz, and Alex Acuna to name but a few.

It was 1990 when he released his first album, The River Flows, which he issued on his own Positive Music Records label. It was to be the first of many albums released on that label. Out of Navarro’s 22 releases, all but 2 of them have been on his own label. As the founder of Positive Music Records, Navarro has been responsible for launching and furthering the recording careers of saxophonist Brandon Fields, guitarists Grant Geissman, Thom Rotella, and Pat Kelley, and keyboardists Gregg Karukas, Jay Rowe, and Marcus Johnson and many, many more musicians. His vision of a musician’s record label has enhanced the genre with over 35 new artists and around a hundred releases. Navarro’s production talents don’t just grace his own label though. He has produced successful albums for Narada/EMI recording artist Eric Darius, as well as saxophonist Randy Villars to name a few. Read full article


August 2016

Paula Atherton – Marking Her Path With Sexy Vocals & Sax Chops

Native New Yorker Paula Atherton has long been a favourite here with The Smooth Jazz Ride team. The lovely saxtress sauntered onto the scene with her 2001 debut release Let Me Inside your Love. The album introduced us to her soulful singing and vibrant sax playing. From the opening throaty, wistful alto anthem “I Long for Your Love,” her intention was clear. That particular track was picked up by Warner Europe in 2006 and included on the Ladies of Jazz compilation. Not a bad start to a recording career.

As debut albums go, this one was solid. With the exception of the Barbara Mason number “Yes I’m Ready,” the album was totally self-penned and features some standout tracks. “Samba Azul” sparkles, and the title track is a joyous yearning, grooving soulful vocal cut…and the instrumental version is not to be sniffed at either! Read full article


July 2016

Brian Culbertson – Hot-Blooded C-Jazz Bringing the Funk!

Brian Culbertson has got a new album coming out this year. It’s called Funk! Judging by the promotional video blogs on his website, that’s a statement of intent from the man known as much for his fiery smokin’ hybrid funksters as he is his smooth relaxed jazz offerings.
Actually, relaxed is not a word that you could use to describe the Culbertson you find in those videos. He is like a kid in a candy store on the first of the video blogs that he has posted on his website. It’s a real personal, warm, heartfelt, joyful video with Culbertson just being Culbertson. Oh yeah.

He’s inviting us in to take a look around his new studio that he’s building in his home. I defy anyone to watch this and not want to go ‘round there to just hang out with him. He’s got some really cool lights, you know. Oh yeah. They change colors. People, if the video is this warm, how hot will that new album be? Read full article


June 2016

Shakatak – Steppin’ High Through the Decades

Since “Steppin’” broke them onto the club scene in 1980, supergroup Shakatak has maintained a position at the top of the UK jazz/funk scene for the past 30 odd years. Their eclectic mix of laid-back driving funk, bright, twinkling keyboard lines, chunking guitar, and harmonized vocals has helped them create one of the most recognizable sounds on the smooth jazz scene. But how did the phenomenon that is Shakatak come about?

Shakatak is the result of the old expression of paying your dues. The early careers of the musicians who eventually came together to form the group cover a wide and varied ground. Take founding member and drummer Keith Odell, for example. He began playing drums when he was 14. Fast forward a few years later, and he had formed a jazz group and was playing regularly at the Greyhound, a pub come music venue in Harlow Essex, a large town a few miles outside London. The trio that he formed with pianist Alan Gowen and bass player John Hosey played around the local area often supporting some of the top names on the UK jazz scene at the time. Read full article


May 2016

Helen Rogers – A Smooth Jazz Nightingale Expands Her Horizons

Britain has given some amazing things to the world. It was responsible for the jet engine Concorde, the mini-skirt, and, in the mid-seventies, a musical genre called Lovers Rock. Lovers Rock was one of the first fruits from the children of the Windrush generation. A hybrid music that blended the sweet and silky vocal stylings of contemporary soul music with the reggae rhythms from theirHelen Rogers pic parents’ Caribbean-influenced record collections. It was a music that reflected the optimism of the times. It was the music with which vocalist Helen Rogers – best known as the original sultry voice of Paul Hardcastle’s Jazzmasters — began her career.

Growing up in South London, Rogers would visit the Import record shops in and around Brixton to hear the latest Jamaican reggae releases. Helen listened to Marcia Griffiths, The Wailers, and Alton Ellis -whose classic “I’m Still in Love With You Girl” she covered on her recent album Smooth Jazz Meets Reggae (reviewed here by our own Ronald “Smooth” Jackson). It’s a song that Rogers calls one of her favourites and one that she first heard in the mid-70s. Read full article


Apr. 2016

Larry Carlton – C-Jazz Guitar Magician

The concluding member of our Fourplay featured artist series is the guitarist who took over from Lee Ritenour, Mr 335 himself, Larry Carlton (note: our profiles of Bob James and Lee Ritenour were presented in late 2015 and do not now appear on the site as we only maintain profiles for one year. We sincerely hope that you had the opportunity to view them, however).

Carlton began learning the guitar from a young age. Born in 1948, he played his first professional gig at a Los Angeles supper club when he was 14. It was catching Joe Pass playing guitar on the radio that inspired Carlton towards playing jazz and blues. His explorations of the idiom led him to discover other musicians like Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel who became important influences on him.

Carlton’s professional career started after he left education in 1968 and began touring with the popular vocal group The Fifth Dimension. From there, he started to do studio sessions around the Los Angeles area. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he was a session musician in Los Angeles, making up to five hundred recording sessions a year, including albums by Steely Dan (his guitar work on Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” from their 1976 LP The Royal Scam has been listed as the third best guitar solo on record by Rolling Stone magazine), Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, The Four Tops, Christopher Cross, Barbra Streisand, the Partridge Family, and Charly García’s Clics modernos. Read full article


Mar. 2016

Harvey Mason – The Powerful Pulse of Fourplay

Drummer/producer/ composer Harvey Mason’s most recent solo release, 2014’s Chameleon, is an intriguing loHarvey Mason picok back at arguably Mason’s studio heyday when he was among those pioneers that forged jazz fusion. It’s quite astonishing how many of those seminal jazz fusion records from the early seventies Mason was the drummer for. The seven tracks selected for a reworking on this album include Patrice Rushen’s “Before the Dawn,” Donald Byrd’s “Places and Spaces,” and the iconic jazz funk track “Chameleon” which Harvey wrote with Herbie Hancock for the legendary Head Hunters album.

Chameleon could be a description of Mason himself. He has recorded over 1500 sessions and played with an enormous array of stars. He has had multiple Grammy nominations and received numerous awards in recognition of his talent. On June 20th 2007, U.S. Congressman Edolphus Towns (D) asked the House of Representatives to pay tribute to Harvey Mason, “Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a masterful drummer and an all-around great musician, Mr Harvey Mason,” he said. Quite an impressive honor indeed. Read full article


Feb. 2016

Chuck Loeb – Living In and Loving His Smooth Musical Lane

As we hear it, Chuck Loeb’s house has a guitar in every room. “It’s so I don’t have any excuse not to practice,” Loeb confesses in a JChuck Loeb3azztimes interview. This from the man who practiced up to 8 hours a day while learning his craft as a New York session musician.

The latest guitarist with contemporary jazz supergroup Fourplay, New Yorker Loeb is a guy who is probably more of a musician’s musician than a household name like his predecessors, Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour. That, however, is a huge injustice to the man in question. Loeb has had a spectacular if not star-studded career to date.

The tale of Chuck Loeb begins back to the late sixties, when he began teaching himself to play guitar influenced by rock acts like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. By age 13, he was playing youth centre dances with local area bands across the metropolitan area. Read full article


Jan. 2016

Nathan East — A Priceless Ambassador of Bass

Nathan East is probably the bassist on more of your favourite songs than you realise! In a career that has spanned more than 30 yeNathan East picars, he has made over 2,000 recordings. He has been called the “most recorded bassist in music.” The thing is, you probably didn’t realise you were hearing him! Nathan has recorded with everyone from Barry White and Michael Jackson through Toto, Eric Clapton, Daft Punk, and, of course, Fourplay, the c-jazz supergroup that he co-founded with Harvey Mason and Bob James at that fateful recording session for James’ Grand Piano Canyon album.

East’s career began when he was sixteen years old. After switching from learning cello to playing bass at 14, East joined a local band called Power, which was hired to play as the backup band for all the artists on a Stax review concert in his native San Diego. Among the artists on that roster was Barry White who, impressed by the band, hired the entire group to be his touring band.

While working with the Love Unlimited Orchestra, East completed his college education majoring in Music, turning down an opportunity to play with renowned fusion guitarist John McLaughlin to do so. Once graduated, he found himself in the studio recording with Barry White. Read full article