Featured Smooth Jazz Artist Archives

Our archives of previously profiled smooth jazz artists of the month

Oct. 2013

Brian Bromberg – The Consummate Master of Countless Basses

Brian Bromberg is a phenomenon. He is a world-renowned jazz bassist with extraordinarily versatile talent using an ingenious technique on acoustic and electric basses. His technique allows him to play solos while creating the impression that multiple instrumentalists are performing. He’s a producer, composer, arranger, and sideman who has mastered Brian Bromberg picnumerous instruments: the drums and various types of his instrument of choice, the bass - piccolo, acoustic, upright, synthesizer, and electric. However, his most prized instrument is a deep-toned, 300-year-old Italian Matteo Guersam upright that he’s had since he was 16. His music is as eclectic as his ever-evolving style which gravitates towards smooth or contemporary jazz, but his range goes from straight-ahead jazz, pop, rock to jazz fusion.

Bromberg was born December 5, 1960, and raised in Tucson, AZ, in a family full of musicians. His father, the late Howard Bromberg, was a professional drummer. His brother David is also a professional drummer, and he occasionally plays and records with Bromberg now.

Brian, the youngest Bromberg, had a natural talent for the drums before he started kindergarten. It was indeed in his blood. While perfecting the drums, his parents thought it would be cool for him to learn to play a more melodic instrument, not just rhythmic. They suggested the cello and classical music. Without hesitation, Bromberg started practicing and playing the cello, in addition to playing the drums. He was struggling with the cello, and, while in junior high school, a funny thing happened to him. The orchestra director came up to him and said, “Brian, do you see that big neat bass over there? Well, nobody is playing it, and you know we have a lot of cello players in the orchestra and no bass players. Why don’t you give the bass a try? You would be the only bass player in school!” Apparently, the orchestra director had a notion that having one bad bass player was better than not having one at all, and it was his way of getting Bromberg to stop trying to saw his cello in half! Read full article


Sept. 2013

Maysa – A Beautiful Flower Flowing in the Wind

As most jazzers already know, Maysa is a sultry, vivacious, professionally trained vocalist with a silky smooth alto voice that is simply timeless. She is a jazz/R&B fusion singer and songwriter. However, Maysa says it best on how she represents herself to the contemporary jazz community, “I am a storyteller, a counselor, and a friend that helps others through the good times and bad through my music. It’s important for me to connect with the audience because it’s my God given job.”

Maysa Leak, affectionately known as Maysa, was born August 17, 1966 and raised in Baltimore, MD.  When she was six years old, her parents took her to see the Broadway hit Purlie at the Morris A. Mechanic Theater in Baltimore, and, unbeknownst to her, that turned out to be when she would realize she wanted to be a singer. When the show began and she heard Melba Moore belt out those powerful vocals, she was mesmerized and knew she wanted to sing and perform for the masses.  Then, when she was about 12, Maysa’s uncle introduced her to the invigorating sounds of jazz. “I used to listen to Janet Jackson and all of that, and he wanted me to stop listening to pop music,” she recalls. “He told me to turn on PBS one night, and that’s when Al Jarreau was on, and I was like ‘oh my God! What is that? I want to do that!’” With fate on her side at that point in her life, she knew she wanted to be not just a singer but a “jazz” singer and was adamant about pursuing and focusing relentlessly on her dream.  She studied influential jazz masters from Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Dianne Reeves, and Carmen McRae to John Coltrane and Stanley Turrentine. She studied a wide range of styles to find her own jazzy sound. Read full article


Aug. 2013

Phil Perry – Balladeer Extraordinaire

Phil Perry is a grand master vocalist with a multi-octave range. His voice is like a fine wine…smooth, rich, and robust. He is a singer, songwriter, composer, and arranger. Perry is one of the most sought-after session vocalists in the music industry.  He has pulled the ranks as an R&B/Smooth Jazz solo artist showcasing his melodious chops and keeping his fans captivated and intrigued with all his music, whether they are original songs or covers. All they want is more, more, more!

Perry was born and raised in East St. Louis, MO, and his birth date is January 12, 1952.  He attended a Catholic school in East St. Louis. In the third grade, he was recognized as having a musical talent by Sister Elizabeth Ann. While observing the children in class, she heard Perry tapping on his desk. He would change rhythms and timing of the taps in twenty seconds. She couldn’t believe a child his age was capable of doing that. Initially, the nuns thought that he had a propensity for autism, because he didn’t focus on their instruction. He was constantly humming, whistling, or singing during class.  The nuns requested that he get tested for autism at the University of Illinois despite the notion of him being musically inclined. The tests revealed that he was mildly autistic. Still, he also demonstrated the talents of a musical savant.

When Perry went back to school, they changed his curriculum. He was enrolled into the combined Boys Choir, consisting of 7th and 8th graders. Take note, Perry was only in the 3rd grade! Hence, that is when he started singing and learning the art of music. Read full article


July 2013

Marion Meadows – One Creative Spirit

Most contemporary jazz followers know that Marion Meadows is a masterful saxophonist, but he is also a composer, digital designer, photographer, and semi-pro cyclist. He is as eclectic as his ethnicity which is Native American, African American, and European descent. However, when it comes to his music, his sound is unique and fresh, and that has kept him an inspiring musical icon throughout his 20+ year career.

With his signature, well-maintained flowing dreadlocks and 5’9” lean sculptured physique, the veteran saxman is not just easy on the eyes, but his musical talents are purely something to behold in the smooth jazz arena.

Meadows was born in West Virginia but grew up in Stamford, CT. At the age of eight, his teacher heard him playing a recorder (woodwind instrument).  She thought he was exceptional and introduced him to playing the clarinet and studying classical music. 

At the age of 15 and throughout his high school years, he played the soprano saxophone.  His musical inspirations varied from jazz legends Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, R&B greats Earth, Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan, funk masters Parliament-Funkadelic, and rock bands like Chicago. Read full article


June 2013

Boney James – The Charismatic “Horn of Plenty”

Boney James is a solid saxophonist whose style is the quintessence of a well-polished, solid mix of R&B and jazz.  As a saxophonist, song writer and producer, James is one of the most successful instrumental artists of our time with sales totaling over 3 million records. He is known for wearing his trademark hat that I believe giBoney Jamesves him that extra swagger he possesses.

One thing to note for  smooth jazz lovers is that Boney James dislikes labels and refuses any and all of them. “In fact, I have never thought of myself as a ‘jazz’ artist specifically,” he says. With that said, we still classify him as the quintessential funky jazz master we have musically cherished and claimed as our own throughout the years.

James was born James Oppenheim on September 1, 1961, in Lowell, MA and raised in New Rochelle, NY.  When he was eight, he took up the clarinet and switched to the saxophone when he was ten. James was an avid Motown fan which has contributed to his soulful R&B style. He was influenced by greats like Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire and the late iconic saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.

In 1975, his family moved to Los Angeles, CA. At 19, while earning a history degree at UCLA, he started playing in a fusion band named Line One. James said, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. We opened for groups like Kitty Hawk, Flora Purim and Airto and the Yellowjackets. We basically (were no good), I’m sure, but we had fun.”  Read full article


May 2013

Will Downing – The Master of Sensually Soulful Ballads

Will Downing lives up to his name “Will Power” as you will see through his monumental journey of music and personal life. He’s a singer, composwill downing er, music producer, humanitarian, and family man. He’s been in the music industry for over two decades creating remarkable recordings and intimate performances around the globe. He’s recognized as the premier male vocalist for his baritone voice which embodies a sensuous blend of jazz, R&B, and pop. Downing is all that and more. He is also one of the early musical alchemists that fused melodic soul music with demanding jazz grooves, giving birth to what is now called “smooth jazz.”

Will Downing, born Wilfred Downing on November 29, 1963, is a native of Brooklyn, New York. The soulful artist gets his inspiration from musicians like Donnie Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire and The Ohio Players. He started his musical journey in junior high where he sang in the Brooklyn Borough-Wide Chorus. This was around the time that he realized girls liked guys who could sing, and he knew this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

Around 1978, he enrolled in the famed performing arts high school Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York. The high school had one of the strongest performing arts programs in the city and included among its alumni singers Barbra Streisand and Stephanie Mills, record company executives Clive Davis, founder of Arista Records, and Kedar William Massenburg who later became president of Motown Records. Coincidently, Downing eventually recorded for Motown. Read full article


April 2013

Alan Hewitt - The Musical Force of Nature

Alan Hewitt is a jack of all musical trades and a master at everything he pursues. The composer, producer, recording, performing artist and keyboardist, in addition to being a smooth jazz entity, has been associated with the iconic English rock band The Moody Blues and has a huge list of credentials.

Hewitt hails from Petoskey, Michigan where his musical career began at the age of 10 when he took up the drums. By the age of 12, he was well-known by area musicians for his musical chops, and often jammed with the best the area had to offer.

In the early ‘70s while attending Petoskey High School, the keyboardist was part of the popular regional power-trio rock band Rasputin known for their wild outfits and stage antics. After high school he went off to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music in 1976 and, while there, took up piano and keyboards. While in college he played in bands (T-Bone Walker) and even appeared on the original “Star Search” TV talent search show, eventually landing a demo deal with Warner Brothers.  Read full article


March 2013

Jessy J – The Heat Is On

This beautiful Oregon-born, California-raised performer draws her inspiration naturally from several unique musical wellsprings.  While she was growing up, her Mexican-born father and mother, a native of Texas, had parties at their house where festive, live Latin music—including La Banda music of her dad’s home country—flowed all night long. She was a huge fan of Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, but also loved pop. After graduating from USC with a degree in jazz studies—she was named Most Outstanding Jazz Student of her class—she jumped quickly into recording sessions with artists like Michael Bublé and toured with The Temptations (2005-2006) and Jessica Simpson.

A true musical prodigy, Jessy began playing piano at age four and spent most of her childhood as a competitive artist, performing at major conferences, competitions and festivals. These childhood experiences and the discipline and work ethic she gained from them would prove to be a great testing ground for her future career in the industry.

In 2004, Jessy joined the cast of the off-Broadway show Blast! and drew on her multitude of skills as an actress, singer, dancer and sax player as she performed in the U.S., London and Japan. It was during this time that she started to have a strong desire to write and perform more of her own music, the dream she fulfilled with her first recording, Tequila Moon.

The Spanish-speaking saxophonist is also heavily involved in music programs connected with the Hispanic community, including performing with the Hispanic Musician Association Orchestra. In 2006, Jessy had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall as part of the Latin Jazz Project put together by one of her true sax heroes, Paquito D’Rivera. She did a similar project with the Henry Mancini Institute performing with legendary artists like Burt Bacharach. Currently, Jessy is working with the Disney Organization on Disney’s Jazz Celebration, their annual event for young performers. Jessy also enjoys working with Selmer Musical Instruments to provide saxophone clinics for young people across America. She also currently serves on the board of directors for The Young Musicians Project, a non-profit organization that brings music education to inner city youth in Los Angeles. Read full article


Feb. 2013

Candy Dulfer – Princess of Funk

To say Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer has earned a star anywhere she wants to have one placed is truly an understatement. Alive with spirit, energy, and drive, the lovely Dulfer has cranked out hit after hit dating back to the ‘90s, each one full of power, funk, sass, and sexiness. It gives me great pleasure to profile this unstoppable engine personified.

Performing since age seven, Dulfer has been the bandleader of the band Funky Stuff (beginning at age fourteen), an international recording artist since age nineteen, and has toured the world since age twenty. She has recorded and/or performed with artists like Prince, Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics), Van Morrison, Maceo Parker, Sheila E., Mavis Staples, Lionel Richie, Beyoncé, Pink Floyd, Chaka Khan, David Sanborn, Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Cliff, George Duke, and so many others that I could turn this entire profile into a list of who’s who of those with whom she’s performed.

“Lily was here,” her first collaboration with former Eurythmics Dave Stewart in 1989, was a number 1 hit all over Europe. Its infectious, driving groove captivated jazzers here In the States, as well.  In 1999, the two artists worked together on the soundtrack of the Robert Altman motion picture “Cookie’s Fortune,” and in 2002, they toured Europe with Stewart’s project Da Univerzal Playaz, featuring reggae legend Jimmy Cliff.

Dulfer’s 1990 solo debut album Saxuality was recorded when she was nineteen, sold over a million copies worldwide, and was nominated for a Grammy Award.  Read full article


Jan. 2013

Johannes Linstead – In the Wide World of Jazz, the Voice of the Guitarra Del Flamenco y Fuego

Johannes Linstead, a master of the Latin guitar, believes that all of the inhabitants of the planet Earth are one people, and the concept of “no borders” represents the kind of true personal freedom that guitarists of his World and Latin influence and the original gypsies have always appreciated.

The gypsies in Spain were the first to develop the Spanish guitar sound, flamenco and many Latin music motifs. Linstead has always had a bit of the wandering gypsy spirit. Born and raised in Canada to European parents, he now spends part of the year living in Canada near Toronto and the other part in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. When he was a child, his father, who passed down a passion for Latin culture, took the family on numerous trips to places like Spain, Mexico, South America and many islands in the Caribbean. Now Johannes, who has been to approximately 25 countries, travels both for pleasure and to perform concerts in such diverse places as India, Cuba and the Kingdom of Bahrain.

This award-winning artist and his music are internationally acclaimed. His albums include  and include such gems as his latest Tales of a Gypsy, bestselling albums Sol Luna Tierra, Kiss the Earth, Guitarra del Fuego, Zabuca, Mediterranea, Cafe Tropical, and Mistico.

Most of his albums have risen high on the prestigious Billboard New Age sales chart and are regularly Top 10 on various radio airplay charts. Linstead’s last album, Mistico, went to #1 on the eMusic World Music and Jazz/Blues charts and Top 10 on the Zone Music Reporter international radio chart, and the recording also was the winner of “Best World Album” and “Best Acoustic Instrumental Album” at the ZMR Awards.  Read full article

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