While reviewing Gail Jhonson’s excellent new album ‘Pearls’ it was noted that the track ‘Whisper Yours’ features ‘bass player to the stars’ Sekou Bunch. Its turning out to be quite a year for Bunch who for the last thirty something years has played bass with the likes of Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Lionel Ritchie, Tom Browne, George Benson, Michael Jackson and George Duke. Now signed to Trippin ‘N’ Rhythm Records this first call session player, producer and writer is finally taking the reigns as leader with his outstanding solo CD ‘The Next Level’. It features some of the biggest names in urban contemporary jazz including Stanley Clarke, Boney James, George Duke, Angela Winbush, Everette Harp and Sheila E who each in their own way contribute hugely to the eleven eclectic tracks. Highlights include ‘Smooth Sailing’ where the vocals of Angela Winbush are simply superb, a startling cover of the Hendrix classic ‘Purple Haze’ that is sweetened by the sax of Everette Harp and spiced up by the Latin percussion of Sheila E and Bunch’s take on the Ramsey Lewis creation ‘Sun Goddess’ for which he is joined by bassist Stanley Clarke. Check back here soon for a complete review of ‘The Next Level’’ and of Gail Jhonson’s ‘Pearls’. For more information on Sekou Bunch go to www.sekoubunch.com
After being diagnosed with cancer, and the debilitating bouts of chemotherapy that followed, Wayman Tisdale will take the final sure footed steps to full rehabilitation with the June 3 release of the CD ‘Rebound’.Although those who witnessed him struggle through his appearances at the 2008 Smooth Jazz Cruise will be thrilled to hear that he will be supporting the album with an intensive summer schedule of concert dates, fact is this is a recording that is destined to fly.The first single to be lifted for radio play is ‘Throwin' It Down’ and is already racing up the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio.This upbeat and jaunty tune is co-written with Darren Rahn who produced the Wayman's earlier hit ‘Ain't No Stopping Us Now’ that has since become an anthem synonymous with the Smooth Jazz Cruise.
‘Rebound’ also features special guest performances from country giant Toby Keith, the outstanding Brian Simpson, gospel legend Marvin Sapp and Tisdale’s long time mentor Dave Koz.
According to the American Cancer Society's 2007 Facts and Figures report, approximately 1,444,920 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed this year.Fortunately Tisdale's prognosis for his recovery is good so to learn more about the fight against cancer visit the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org.Check out Wayman Tisdale at www.waymantisdale.com
KOCH records has strengthened its rapidly developing presence in the world of contemporary jazz with the signing of saxophonist Warren Hill.His first release with the label, ‘La Dolce Vita’, hits record stores across the USA on June 24 and features a stellar line-up of guest and supporting artists that includes Jeff Golub, Philippe Saisse, Nathan East, Paul Jackson Jr., Ricky Lawson and Greg Phillingaines.‘La Dolce Vita’ is Hill’s first studio album since ‘PopJazz’ in 2005, and his eleventh in all.Blending the sultry and soulful with the rhythmic and funky it promises to be a welcome return for an artist who first made his mark in 1991 with his debut CD ‘Kiss Under The Moon’ and subsequently pioneered the now familiar concept of the ‘smooth jazz cruise.
Check back here soon for a complete review of ‘La Dolce Vita’.For more information go to: www.kochrecords.com
Dwayne Kerr, aka The Funky Fluteman, is having quite a year.His latest CD ‘Higher Calling’, which features a guest performance by Kirk Whalum, is being received with rapturous reviews and has already spawned two radio singles.‘Smooth’ hit the airwaves in March and followed Kerr’s remake of the Bill Withers classic ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’.This ultra cool cover is blessed with the sultry tones of Erykah Badu and in fact Kerr is a long time member of her band.You can catch them both this summer as Erykah embarks on a nineteen date tour across Europe.
For more information on Dwayne Kerr, his new CD and a comprehensive breakdown of tour dates go to:
Smooth Jazz Therapy has always followed the career of Latin vocalist Fernanda Cunha with great interest and now, with her new album ‘Zíngaro’ on the way, she is all set for two festival appearances in Canada.She will perform with pianist Ricardo Rito in Toronto, as part of the TD Canada Trust Jazz Festival, at Lula Lounge on June 26th when they will play a selection of songs by significant Brazilian composers such as Jobim, Joao Donato, Johnny Alf and Eumir Deodato.Three days later the duo will be in Vancouver for yet another festival performance where, in the company of special guest Celso Machado, they will mark the 50th anniversary of the bossa nova sound with what is expected to be another stellar performance.
When, in 2006, I reviewed ‘Keepin It Cool’ by guitar man Nick Colionne I speculated that it had everything necessary to propel him into the upper echelons of smooth jazz stardom.Those words proved to be prophetic as the first single from the album, ‘Always Thinking of You’, monopolized the R&R charts for most of the year that followed.Parallel with this success his reputation as a sensational live performer grew and grew.Those who have seen him perform will have been blown away by the sheer energy that Colionne injects into his music.It’s an element of his persona that comes right out of his home town of Chicago and he uses his stage show to incorporate many of the influences that have touched his career to date.Just as likely to be singing the blues as he is to be tearing off his blazing trademark jazz licks, Colionne is now taking that diversity back to the recording studio for his brand new CD, the aptly named ‘No Limits’.
Smooth jazz icon Peter White has never been slow in recognizing the emergence of new talent within the genre.His collaborations with the likes of Roger Smith and Allon Sams perfectly exemplify the significant support that he generously provides and now, with another standout guest appearance, he is back to add weight to the brand new release from jazz guitarist Ed Taylor.Although ‘Songs From A Taylor’ is his first smooth jazz CD, and only his third in all, Ed Taylor is no newcomer to the scene.From Motown session guitarist to opening act for Bachman Turner Overdrive and with more club appearances in the last forty years than even he can remember Taylor is the consummate professional.Growing up in Los Angeles he was influenced by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and by George Benson who inspired him to take up the guitar at age 13.Equally comfortable when playing funk, soul music or jazz this new foray into contemporary jazz seems a natural progression and the eight original tunes plus three choice covers that ‘Songs From A Taylor’ provide have enough going on to really get him noticed.
It’s with great sadness that after a short hiatus Smooth Jazz Therapy is back but with a distinctly bad news story. As the word came in from my good friend Denise Jordan Walker that Clear Channel smooth jazz station WSMJ 104.3 in Baltimore is gone for good it was impossible not to reflect on what is turning out to be a terrible year for the genre.This latest hammer blow follows the equally sad demise of radio stations KHJZ 95.7 in Houston, TX, WQCD 101.9 in New York, Smooth Jazz WJZW 105.9 in Washington DC and of course 104.3 FM in Denver, CO.The closure leaves a massive gap in the market right down the I-95 corridor and, in a bizarre twist after Program Director Lori Lewis, was let go, WSMJ actually played Christmas music through until May 24 when its new format came on stream.
Leaving aside the growing band of smooth jazz starved radio listeners, the principle victims in all of this are those mainly independent artists who struggle to find an outlet.Consequently let’s thank heavens for the publicists, websites and streaming radio stations who are prepared to offer a voice to those performers who otherwise would now never be heard.