Ron Miller - - Your Jazz Music Connection - - Your Jazz Music Connection Tue, 23 May 2017 21:41:09 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Blown Fuse by Lucus Pickford and Steve Hunt Blown Fuse is a fantastic release with hot creativity almost reaching overload mode through each of the ten compositions! Bassist Lucas Pickford and veteran fusion keyboard…
Blown Fuse is a fantastic release with hot creativity almost reaching overload mode through each of the ten compositions! Bassist Lucas Pickford and veteran fusion keyboardist Steve Hunt (Allan Holdsworth), glisten throughout a collection of original fusion gems. The band isn’t scared to perform challenging material like their daring cover of John McLaughlin’s composition,‘The Wish’ either.

Pickford and Hunt prove that fusion is not dead but a live wire of intensity as they improvise with great melodic sense and rhythmic interplay - including some South Indian rhythms and instrumentation. Fans of RTF, Weather Report, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Jean Luc Ponty and Shakti will want to keep this CD in their favorite stash.

After listening to Blown Fuse, it becomes apparent why Lucas Pickford was featured in Bass Player Magazine with the MP3 of the month in November 2001. Peer approval of this scale must signal the weighing in of a new bass heavyweight champion. While grooving on his various basses or sarod, Lucas runs through a sound spectrum related to Jaco, RTF and his musical hero John McLaughlin, while remaining completely original and inspired. Pickford’s melodic sense is amazing and a great contrast to the current trend in bass performance where slapping has taken place of melodic adventure and pursuit of harmony. Steve Hunt has the touch and sound of a veteran fusion player not afraid to challenge himself or his fellow musicians like his tenure with Allan Holdsworth can testify.

The opening piece ‘Mysterious Passage’ has a very upbeat feel and processional melody with percolating bass and fretless textures. ‘Ikshvaku’ has the mystic sound of India in a programmatic setting full of tabla and a fretless bass performance that uses rhythm reminiscent of Kai Eckhardt or Jonas Hellborg. Hunt adds some retro synth textures to his modern tones. ‘The Croaker,’ has the percolating bass stylings of Jaco with some nasty odd-meter funk drumming from Steve Michaud and Holdsworth guitar touches from Tim Miller. ‘Arjuna Speaks’ is another Pickford composition that develops from the sublime texture of a South Indian meditative piece complete with fretless bass soloing and the constant tabla. Fans of "Desert Fun" from Stanley Clarke’s ‘School Days’ era will have fun with this piece.

‘Smatter’ adds some stoptime funk and bent note grooves from Pickford while hunt gets into some great keyboard sounds like lavinet and other juicy bits reminiscent of George Duke. ‘Blown Fuse’ simply defies the current trends of playing it safe or laying back - like you might expect from most smooth jazz or vocal music of 2002. Pickford and Hunt sing instrumentally and jam on each tune with a sense of adventure and intensity lost in most of the world or fusion music that is available today.

Fans of Shakti and Weather Report will be satisfied to hear the echoes of the past mingle with the future of fusion electronica. While listening to ‘Blown Fuse,’ I couldn’t help but smile at the intensity of the music and the performers who created such a great collection of adventurous melodies and rhythms. Be sure to check out the artists web sites for an interesting background listing and purchase link for ‘Blown Fuse.’ I’m sure we will be hearing more about Pickford & Hunt in the future with more electronic circuitry overloads.

]]> (Ron Miller) Fusion - CD Reviews Tue, 01 Jan 2002 12:00:00 -0600
Cruisin by Marc Antoine Cruisin’ is the fifth CD by acoustic guitarist Marc Antoine on the Verve label where he offers a very mellow and melodic performance. Using the acoustic nylon string guita…
‘Cruisin’ is the fifth CD by acoustic guitarist Marc Antoine on the Verve label where he offers a very mellow and melodic performance. Using the acoustic nylon string guitar throughout ‘Cruisin’, Antoine performs some great melodies with a very soft delivery. The title of the CD is appropriate, given the feel throughout the collection of smooth jazz tunes. ‘Cruisin’ eases from one piece to the other with no great contrast of tempo velocity and certainly, spontaneous jamming.... .Yes, improvisation is woefully non-existent. While incorporating great production by Tommy LiPuma (of George Benson and Diana Krall fame) and guest appearances Patti Austin, Jerry Hey, Phillippe Saisse and Peter Erskine one might expect stellar music performances but everyone seems to be.... you guessed it-cruisin’.

Smooth Jazz listener’s of the late night café crowd might be just the audience for this calming collection of tunes. While Marc Antoine is certainly a competent, melodic performer he seems to have just one mood on his latest disk where he chooses to "cruise", so don’t expect to run, skip, hop or fly with this CD since it seems to be stuck in a one tempo ALA mode. I’m surprised there was no velocity or tension release in the rhythms or melodies. Be prepared to have a safe cruise with no surprises, interaction or even romance.

‘Cruisin’ does offer some great melodies and mellow tones so if you want a great background disk for conversation after a date movie, Marc Antoine will certainly deliver the goods and get you home safe before late night jazz curfew.
]]> (Ron Miller) Smooth Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 06 Jan 2001 18:00:00 -0600
Pulse by LT ( aka Linda Taylor) Pulse’ is the Rubicon Music CD debut by guitarist LT a.k.a. Linda Taylor. With ‘Pulse’ the listener is treated to a hip dose of acid jazz with funk and hip hop percussion …
‘Pulse’ is the Rubicon Music CD debut by guitarist LT a.k.a. Linda Taylor. With ‘Pulse’ the listener is treated to a hip dose of acid jazz with funk and hip hop percussion and LT’s blues inflected "Monk-esque" guitar lines. This collection of 9 tunes lets Taylor strut her stuff as she weaves lines inside / outside reminiscent of Mike Stern and Scott Henderson. With ‘Pulse’ the grooves are happening and the edgy hip hop production gives the vibe of the CD extra grit. Each tune is at least 4 minutes long and lets the bant get the groove happening for some long solo passages. From the opening piece "NY Garden" and throughout, Taylor exhibits some graceful moves and unexpected turns with her lines and guitar tones. Taylor’s tone is reminiscent of Jeff Beck, Larry Carlton, Ronnie Drayton (DeFunct) and Mike Stern. While she uses a midrange tone through most of her collection, Taylor incorporates a searing overdriven tone for scorchers like her slow burning gospel style ballad "Baby Blue".

LT is a seasoned musician who has toured with many prominent jazz, R&B and pop acts which include Kirk Whalum, Thelma Houston, Chante Moore and Tracy Chapman. Taylor is also performing her improv jams every week on the ABC show "Whose Line is it Anyway". She was also featured in a TV guide article entitled "Cool Jobs" and the Hollywood Squares show. Hopefully, we will be able to catch her show live and hear her compositions at full strength or even hear them on film. Since this collection of acid jazz or aggressive groove with a rocking tone is not in the traditional jazz vein, it definitely requires a rock taste to enjoy. The audience for LT’s flavor of fusion is for rock to jazz converts and hip pop groovers who want to hear some outside tension release in the melody. ‘Pulse’ offers a great mix of tone, groove and outside lines for the post rock fusion enthusiast to get a hold of.
]]> (Ron Miller) Soul / Funk Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 06 Jan 2001 06:00:00 -0600
Pacific by Natural High Tim Best is a British born instrumentalist with a knack for creating large smooth jazz arrangements as a solo artist. With his band Natural High, Best conjures up a dance g…
Tim Best is a British born instrumentalist with a knack for creating large smooth jazz arrangements as a solo artist. With his band Natural High, Best conjures up a dance groove offering on his Higher Octave Music release, performing all the instrumental tasks himself. The music is textured with synth and a very up front drum machine that percolates in each tune. Tim Best definitely knows how to groove but his music sounds like a soundtrack to a date movie flick or a Sade composition with out her vocals or bass player. Smooth Jazz audiences will be split on how they interpret this grooving project. On one hand, the music is very contemporary and it grooves with abandon but where is the jazz? You could hear early on in this project that the interaction of musicians is needed. Best has great grooves but without a great sax or melodic soloist the collection of tunes sound like .... ..Teckno Jazz! I also have a strange feeling of how this music would translate in a LIVE performance. Jazz has many incarnations but the interaction of the various musicians is basic yet paramount to the production of the final performance. I hear the project as film backgrounds or an extended dance mix collection other than most smooth jazz products but the one man show of Best deserves recognition in the way he can cover the instrumental bases efficiently. Hopefully, Tim Best will look to performing with other instrumentalist on another release and work his groove into the listener’s ear via a heartfelt melody.
]]> (Ron Miller) Smooth Jazz - CD Reviews Sat, 06 Jan 2001 00:00:00 -0600
Jazz Crusader Ed Smith Features A Shop & Bop Experience At His Jazz Store Ed Smith and his "JAZZ" store celebrate 1st year Birthday Bash with Kirk Whalum, Benita Hill and Rod McGaha to an enthusiastic crowd all day at Bellevue Center Mall. The festivities mark Ed’s first year in business in Nashville and the birthday of his wife Lynn (Dec, 01, 2001), who incidentally, is from the Crescent City. Ed Smith is a renaissance man who has an infectious excitement about jazz music and art as evidenced by the "top shelf" products he stocks his store. He has been an arts curato …
Ed Smith and his "JAZZ" store celebrate 1st year Birthday Bash with Kirk Whalum, Benita Hill and Rod McGaha to an enthusiastic crowd all day at Bellevue Center Mall. The festivities mark Ed’s first year in business in Nashville and the birthday of his wife Lynn (Dec, 01, 2001), who incidentally, is from the Crescent City. Ed Smith is a renaissance man who has an infectious excitement about jazz music and art as evidenced by the "top shelf" products he stocks his store. He has been an arts curator and still delves into artwork when he can find the time. The in store ambiance is festive and full of mementos from New Orleans where art, jewelry and beads abound alongside the abundant music collections. There is also a collection of music instruments from New Orleans musicians including a saxophone from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s original sax player with the original leather case included.

While not a performer himself, Ed Smith is a catalyst for local jazz and blues artists and they can showcase their material "live" in the store while you shop. I refer to the experience as, "Shop And Bop!" This organic forum is perfect for artist and aficionado’s alike, since the artists have a way to sell product while having a "direct link" to the fan base they are working to reach. His support is invaluable and has positively affected the local music community. Smith currently has 70 releases from local acts where they are showcased live and prominently in the store displays. Every Saturday and Sunday features performances of the local artists just like this Saturday (DEC. 01, 2001) line up including, Kirk Whalum and his Warner Brothers holiday release, ‘The Christmas Message.’ Benita Hill also showcased her new holiday release, which received a 5 star rating from Jazz Review, featuring Kirk and Rod as accompanist. What Ed has been able to do for the music community is immeasurable as he has brought the jazz and blues music community together and working as a force of one. This accomplishment is a feat anywhere, but given the fact this is in Nashville, Tennessee, is even more of a welcome surprise. Among the groups celebrating the 1st year party, the Tennessee Jazz & Blues Society, WMOT 89.5 JAZZ FM and the Rage entertainment guide with information tables and other goodies. There were door prizes, special sales which included a limited series John Coltrane lithographs and below cost jazz publication subscriptions to JAZZIZ.

This "up-front" venue is the networking place for musicians and artists to mingle and even hook up with their similar interests. Perhaps, you want the latest import poster of Miles, Coltrane, Lady Day, Bob Marley, Hendrix or Marilyn Monroe - Ed has it! If you are looking for the latest Hendrix, Mingus or Jaco shirt or baseball cap- look no further. Among the greatest "finds" in the JAZZ store @ Bellevue Center, is the collection of 24-bit Japanese imports of jazz and other styles. The 24-bit format offers excellent, true- to- the -album packaging and extra tracks and rare extras. He also caries a large selection of European imports of posters, calendars, CD’s and video/ DVD. Jazz video and early Black films, many of which feature classic jazz artists, are also available giving light to the history and events that have given us jazz as we know it today. Serious collectors will revel in the selection of 180 gram virgin vinyl pressings of ‘Kind of Blue’ and ‘Blue Train’ from England and around the world.

If you have any questions about an artist (local or international), Ed is always eager to help and he is a wealth of information. Smith’s approach is simple- offer what no one else has and the people will come searching for your products. Indeed, Ed Smith has products that are not even in the databases of the most prominent chains but he has the uncanny ability to access product for any music lover's whims. "I have all the information here" he stated, pointing to his head." I now get referrals from the major chains and receive calls from out of state as well." No wonder since the word of mouth from the areas prominent musicians and collectors have created a well-deserved buzz in the area. "Many people can’t believe they are in the mall and I pull them in and ask them what their taste are. They seem surprised that I have an interest in what they like but I do and many of my customers have changed their buying habits for the better." Smith has a great love for his business and clientele. While some of his collectibles are for his high end customers he has a large number of young music fans searching his racks for that hard to get import poster or CD. Ed engages both customer types with equal enthusiasm and actually connects well with the young customer looking for Beatle, Hendrix and blues paraphernalia alongside the upscale /seasoned 24 bit jazz fan.

Another great aspect of the Jazz Store @ Bellevue, is the fact you can look for CD’s of artists and meet the artists and sidemen themselves-while you are shopping. While Kirk Whalum and Benita Hill performed their fans (and people passing by) were able to see great collaborations and get autographed copies of their CD’s. Where else than Nashville and Ed’s store could you see a Grammy -winning sax player with a lady jazz vocalist that wrote a number one hit for Garth Brooks? Quite simply nowhere except the Jazz store. You might even see Billy Cox or Buddy Miles while your looking for that ‘Band of Gypsies’ import or Grammy winning video documentary. Perhaps the most animated and uninhibited part of the store experience is Ed Smith himself! Smith sums it up like this," I’ve always believed that people want to be part of something exciting, special and unique. People want to be part of that, I’m not just talking about supporting it which they ultimately do, but they also like to be a part of what’s going on like that. Another thing about the music and the store is the enthusiasm I have about the music and the store is infectious I think. With my enthusiasm I end up grabbing people by the leg and pulling them along with my enthusiasm" Smith stated. Well one thing is for certain, Ed smith and his store JAZZ is certainly a tribute to jazz, blues and the enrichment of the community he is now an influential part of. Thanks for the memories and the music Ed. We salute you. FINE.

For more information write Ed Smith at his all that’s JAZZ store @ Bellevue Center, 7620 US Hwy. 70 South Suite 273 Nashville TN 37221, call him at:(615)646-5151 or email him at:

]]> (Ron Miller) Jazz Viewpoints Sat, 29 Jan 2011 20:34:59 -0600
Jazz Clubs Swing Back to Life TIMES in jazz are hard enough. Chain-store music retailers are taking fewer and fewer jazz albums. Back catalogs are permanently endangered as parent companies of labels like Blue Note, Atlantic and Verve shift among new mergers and new top executives. Jazz clubs are becoming harder to sustain, and after the flowering of new jazz spots around Manhattan in the mid- and late- 90's, the attrition process had already begun. Then downtown fell apart. You must analyze the effect of Sept. 11 o …
TIMES in jazz are hard enough. Chain-store music retailers are taking fewer and fewer jazz albums. Back catalogs are permanently endangered as parent companies of labels like Blue Note, Atlantic and Verve shift among new mergers and new top executives. Jazz clubs are becoming harder to sustain, and after the flowering of new jazz spots around Manhattan in the mid- and late- 90's, the attrition process had already begun. Then downtown fell apart.

You must analyze the effect of Sept. 11 on jazz clubs case by case. Some were hurt by proximity to the attack site, some by a thinning of tourists in the city, by constant schedule changes or by grown-up cover charges at a time when many grown-ups are back to spending like college students. One thing's for sure: business is down.

There aren't many live-music clubs in the neighborhood of the World Trade Center. The small performance space Roulette, on West Broadway at White Street, caters to abstract- music fans who generally know what they're seeing and wouldn't be deterred unless the neighborhood were quarantined. TriBeCa Blues, on Warren Street, is closed, with no reopening date yet announced. The Lafayette Grill, on Franklin and Lafayette Streets, which held weekly jazz shows, has canceled its music for now. The Blarney Star, at 43 Murray Street, which booked Irish traditional music once a week, is in an area still officially closed to all but locals and relief crews and has been forced to relocate its music events temporarily to the Irish Arts Center on 51st Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan.

But there is one big club: the Knitting Factory, which has been at 74 Leonard Street in TriBeCa since 1994, a multigenre hub with four performance spaces and three bars. After the attack the club was blocked entirely for six days. On Sept. 17 staff members could get back inside the club, which was accessible only to neighborhood residents; there were still police checkpoints at Canal and Chambers Streets.

"We found our club intact, our office intact, but all our technical capabilities were down," said Guy Compton, the Knitting Factory's publicist. "No T1 Internet access, no Web or e-mail server, no long distance. You go to the corner to get a soda, and there's this huge mangled girder going by on a flatbed. We're covered in that chemistry-class toxic stink. Those first days were really bad."

The first question raised by the club's owner, Michael Dorf, and his staff was whether it was right to go back to business at all. Music on the fringes just didn't seem like a necessity in a war zone. The Sept. 11 bookings were to have included the electronic composer Herbert, playing semi-jazz with chanteusy vocals; the Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band; and a free-jazz trio.

But the mayor's public urgings and phone calls from local musicians answered that question. "They were trying to tell us that they wanted to play if there was a jam session, for their own healing," Mr. Compton said. Meanwhile, the rules kept changing.

On Sept. 17 the police told Mr. Compton that it could be two weeks before the public was allowed into the neighborhood. The next day that changed to a month.

"There was so much confusion with every shift change at the local precinct and the checkpoints," he said. "It was very disheartening to not have any solid info we could stand on."

Knitting Factory employees rented cellphones, hacked into their server from outside and pushed ahead for an opening on Sept. 19, access or no. To help things, they had opened the club to emergency workers, offering them soft drinks and showers.

"We forged a bond in the area," said Mr. Compton. "And with that we were able to get a verbal agreement with the local precinct here that if someone had purchased tickets in advance, their name would go on a list, and each checkpoint at Canal Street would have the list."

There were some advance ticket sales for the show, a double bill of the singer-songwriters Freedy Johnston and Stacy Earle, and 50 people bought tickets that night.

On Sept. 26, when all four spaces within the Knitting Factory were reopened, the final tally revealed a bit of ground-zero math: ticket sales for the entire club, which holds 700, were less than usual, but bar receipts were higher, Mr. Compton said.

Since then the Knitting Factory has been operating with every space open and few cancellations; but an eight-day closing and reduced business thereafter is surely going to hurt the club. It did not reduce the size of the staff, though some employees have left and others were hired in their place.

"But we started to realize the ripple effect of what this thing is going to do very quickly," said Mr. Compton. And he is not optimistic about receiving federal aid. Blue Note

The Blue Note, on West Third Street in the West Village, has become a business hugely dependent on tourists; they make up 60 percent of its audiences, said the club's president, Sal Haries. The night of its reopening, Sept. 14, I was heartened to see a crowd in the club that looked large, considering the circumstances, for a late set by the saxophonist Charles Lloyd.

But Mr. Haries said he felt differently. The club wasn't full, and it hasn't been full since.

"The Japanese are not coming, basically," he said. "We also get tour groups from all around the world, and all the tour groups that made reservations have canceled since Sept. 11."

The club has repeatedly had nights that were half-full or less. Some staff members have been let go, and others have reduced their hours by half.

To get things back to normal, Mr. Haries has gone to an unusual measure for a club where cover charges routinely rocket over $50 a set. He has been giving out free tickets: to students, to the Fire and Police Departments, to jazz organizations and over-65 groups. He said those in need were encouraged to call and see whether free tickets were available.

"We want to give tickets away just to get back to life," he said. "We understand that people might not be in the mood, and they might not want to come and spend. So we're willing to give."

Village Vanguard

The Village Vanguard, while one of the more affordable jazz clubs in the city, has been affected by the lack of tourists. "Like all other clubs, I went through the same syndrome," said Lorraine Gordon, the proprietor. "You know, everybody closed two or three days at the beginning. And the first weekend, for Tommy Flanagan, business was down. How could it not be?"

But business has picked up. The French pianist Martial Solal began a run on Sept. 18 with a slow trickle of critics and hard-core fans and attracted full houses by the weekend. On Saturday the Vanguard had its first advance sellout since Sept. 11, for the guitarist Bill Frisell's quartet.

"The Japanese are noticeable by their absence," said Ms. Gordon, but she added that people from the New York region were coming out in force.

The Japan Travel Bureau, which dispatches groups of 5 to 15 once a week, has recently been sending its parties to the club again.

Ms. Gordon said she wasn't too nervous. "I say, be cool," she said. "This is our hideout. This is where I'm going to hang out." She added with a laugh, "I've already put in provisions."

Joe's Pub

Joe's Pub, in the Public Theater on Lafayette Street in the East Village, skips between styles of music. It's draw isn't so much as a foreign- tourist magnet as a tony, upscale- hipster boîte, with well-programmed concerts until 11 p.m., when a club crowd arrives.

In some respects it seems like a club that wouldn't be hit too hard. But as Bill Bragin, the club's director, explained: "We program 25 shows a month, and at this point we've had 25 program changes, starting on Sept. 11. That's a month's worth of work that needs to be made up every night while you're trying to go forward."

Except for the Mexican alternative-rock singer Ely Guerra, every international artist canceled, including Kevin Breit, a guitarist and half of the duo Supergenerous, who had trouble coming to the United States from Canada on Sunday. And some, like the singer Sam Phillips, canceled for more personal reasons: she lives in Los Angeles and didn't want to be separated from her family.

Even intrepid downtowners and cult fans lost their nerve. Mr. Bragin offered as an example the band the Billy Nayer Show, which played Joe's Pub over Labor Day weekend, the worst weekend of the year for nightclubs, and sold out the place. The band returned on Sept. 24, and filled only a third of the seats.


Iridium, at Broadway and 51st Street, was gearing up for the week of Sept. 11. The saxophonist Michael Brecker, a perennially popular musician, was booked there. The club, with a capacity of 150 people, reopened on Sept. 14.

"Honestly, I couldn't imagine playing," Mr. Brecker said. "It was the last thing we were thinking about."

But he saw an opportunity to raise money, and he donated his performance fees to the club, bringing in $15,000 in three nights. When Les Paul arrived the following Monday for a weekly gig that's almost always sold out, he played to only 25 people. It took two weeks for Iridium to get back on its feet. On Tuesday, the first night of Charlie Haden's Nocturne Quintet, the club was full.

"It's slowly coming back," said Rich Okon, Iridium's co-manager. "Since then waitresses have mentioned to me that for the first time in all the years they've been working in clubs, strangers sitting next to each other tend to start talking to each other before the show. There's a closeness, a humanity, about sharing a common thing they like, which is the music."

Information The places in the article on Manhattan jazz clubs and what's playing this weekend.

BLUE NOTE, 131 West Third Street, West Village, (212) 475-8592. The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Stars. Tonight through Sunday night at 8 and 10:30. Cover, $37.50 and a $5 minimum.

IRIDIUM, 1650 Broadway, at 51st Street, (212) 582-2121. The Charlie Haden Nocturne Quintet, tonight through Sunday night at 8:30 and 10:30 with a 12:15 a.m. set tonight and tomorrow night. Cover, $32.50, minimum, $10.

IRISH ARTS CENTER, 553 West 51st Street, Manhattan, (212) 757-3318. Tonight at 10, Randal Bays and Keith Murphy; $12.

JOE'S PUB, 425 Lafayette Street, East Village, (212) 239-6200. Tonight at 8:30, Erin Herold, a singer-songwriter. Tomorrow night at 8:30, Tammy Faye Starlite, a singer; $10. Sunday at 5:30 p.m., "Matthew Chapman Book Release Event," with readings by Kathleen Turner, Treat Williams and others; $15. Sunday night at 8:30, Julian Fleisher and His Rather Big Band, a jazz singer and his group; $20.

KNITTING FACTORY, 74 Leonard Street, TriBeCa, (212) 219-3006. In the Main Space: Tonight and tomorrow night at 10, . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, the Rock-A-Teens, Explosions in the Sky and Long Goodbye; $10. Sunday night at 7, The White Octave, Sorry About Dresden, Desaparecidos and Cursive; $10. In the Knit-Active Center: Tonight at 7 and 9, Osos Amistosos, $7; at 11, Spazztet, $8. Tomorrow night at 9, Skyflower, $7; at 11, Knee-Coal Beth, $7; Sunday night at 7, Dan Bechellis, $7; at 11, Nicholas Anzivina, $7. In the Old Office: Tonight at 8:30, Eletfa; $10. Tomorrow night at 8 and 10, Calvin Weston's Big Tree, $10; at 11:30, the Waz, $8.

ROULETTE, 228 West Broadway, at White Street, TriBeCa, (212) 219-8242. Tonight, the Barton Workshop; tomorrow night, Peter Cusack and Nicolas Collins, electronic musicians; Sunday night, Burton Greene, pianist; Mark Dresser, bassist; and Perry Robinson, clarinetist. All shows are at 8:30, and admission to each is $10.

VILLAGE VANGUARD, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th Street, West Village, (212) 255-4037. David Sanchez Quintet, tonight through Sunday night at 9:30 and 11:30, with a 1 a.m set tomorrow night. Cover (which includes $10 minimum) is $30 today and tomorrow, $25 on Sunday.

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
]]> (Ron Miller) News Story Sat, 29 Jan 2011 20:21:33 -0600
Al Jarreau Singer Al Jarreau has been known as a pop singer, a soul singer and a blues singer. However, for the longest time, he has always wanted to show that he is a jazz singer as well. His newest dynamite release Accentuate the Positive brings Jarreau into the jazz idiom with a style all his own. He says that recording the new CD was a joy for him. "Just like in other forms of music, you have to be yourself and show what you’re made of," says Jarreau. "This new release has been a labor of love f …
Singer Al Jarreau has been known as a pop singer, a soul singer and a blues singer. However, for the longest time, he has always wanted to show that he is a jazz singer as well. His newest dynamite release Accentuate the Positive brings Jarreau into the jazz idiom with a style all his own. He says that recording the new CD was a joy for him. "Just like in other forms of music, you have to be yourself and show what you’re made of," says Jarreau. "This new release has been a labor of love for me and shows an extension that I haven’t had the chance to fully show to my audience. It’s my first jazz-oriented album and the record is definitely jazzy."

Back in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s, there was a form of radio music format called Middle of the Road. The format featured some of the best music that was aimed at an adult audience. The format featured not only performers like Frank Sinatra, but also the Beatles, Peter and Gordon, and Simon and Garfunkel. Jarreau remembers the two stations in Milwaukee, his hometown that featured that format, WTMJ and WEMP. He says, "The beauty of that format was that the music was diverse enough to incorporate many musical styles, including pop, jazz, rock, and other styles that are hard to find on over-the-air radio stations today."

Jarreau is reunited on Accentuate the Positive by producer Tommy LiPuma, who produced Glow in 1976 and Look to the Rainbow in 1977. Jarreau says that unlike his previous two efforts that he did with LiPuma, this release is not has highly produced. He says, "Tommy’s ability to create space in which I’m both comfortable and challenged is a great blessing. When we went to select songs for the album, we wanted to bring not only songs that were jazz standards, such as I’m Beginning to See the Light and going back to the Great American Songbook with The Nearness of You, Tommy wanted to show my vocal creativity as well."

Many people don’t realize that Al Jarreau is not only a great vocalist, he is also a good songwriter. Jarreau co-wrote five of the songs on Accentuate the Positive, but he says, "I had great help with writing the songs. I salute Eddie Harris with Cold Duck and Dizzy Gillespie with Groovin’ High. But I also got help with some great people. Pianist Russell Ferrante helped write Scootcha-Booty and Freddie Ravel helped with Betty."

To support Accentuate the Positive, Jarreau is first going to perform a concert tour of Europe. It will be followed by a tour of the United States in late summer and early fall. Then Jarreau will go on a tour of Asia and the Pacific Rim. He says it is always important to let people know what you’re doing. "It is how fans know what I’m doing and show my versatility in the kinds of music I do, and to put my own stamp on it," he says.

Al Jarreau is an American treasure. From his humble roots in Milwaukee to his world- renowned superstar status, Jarreau always wants to bring out the best, and at the same time, challenge himself. Accentuate the Positive provides both. If you’re not an Al Jarreau fan now, listen to the new CD. You will become one.

]]> (Ron Miller) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:23:46 -0600
Jay Graydon ''Mr. West Coast'' Jay Graydon is a much-celebrated artist wearing many hats, producing a staggering body of work that encompasses a full spectrum of disciplines in the music industry. This body of work transcends rock, pop and jazz with equal vigor and success. Mr. Graydon has been awarded two Grammy wins and ten more nominations for songwriting, performance, arranging, engineering and production duties. While somewhat an enigma, Jay is like a cat with nine lives, always re-inventing himself while landing on his …
Jay Graydon is a much-celebrated artist wearing many hats, producing a staggering body of work that encompasses a full spectrum of disciplines in the music industry. This body of work transcends rock, pop and jazz with equal vigor and success. Mr. Graydon has been awarded two Grammy wins and ten more nominations for songwriting, performance, arranging, engineering and production duties. While somewhat an enigma, Jay is like a cat with nine lives, always re-inventing himself while landing on his feet after changing musical directions and duties.

Jay Graydon’s latest project is simply titled, "BEBOP." This latest CD is a fire-driven collection that offers great interplay between stellar players, in a "fun" and relaxed setting that has some really great moments of jazz improvisation and conversations. Graydon has come full circle from the time he was a young child and spoke about his favorite music. The first thing you hear on "BEBOP" is Jay Graydon’s father posing a question to Jay on a live radio program his father hosted. Jay’s answer to his question was "bebop," and he’s stated his return to the music with this energetic release.

In order to fully appreciate Jay Graydon’s career, one would only need to browse his website and see his achievements and awards. What I found so refreshing was the fire that came from "Mr. West Coast" and the energy that oozes from the disk. While editing a fruitful career would do some injustice to such a great talent, I will introduce Mr. Jay Graydon to you with this brief introduction:

Graydon has performed on soundtracks to "Grease" and "Lady Sings the Blues," while penning film scores to "Ghostbusters" and "St. Elmos Fire." Jay is the guitarist soloing on "Peg" from the Steely Dan release, ‘AJA’ which etched a signature in pop/rock music history forever. He co-wrote "After The Love Has Gone" and "Turn Your Love Around," which both received Grammy Awards for Best R&B song. Graydon also produced Al Jarreau, which garnered much attention as Best Engineered Recording and Producer of the Year nominations for his expertise. He is also running his independent record label, Sonic Thrust, and serving the music industry as a music consultant who helps bridge technology and art together. If this edited listing isn’t enough Graydon is working on a series of books about recording techniques with Craig Anderton. It would be a sure bet the information in these books will be gospel, given the preacher!

In our discussion over a great career and quest for even more success, I couldn’t help feeling like I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a great master of music. Jay is candid, excited, and full of information about his knowledge of what works in the music industry. Graydon definitely likes a challenge and is currently adding educator, industry consultant, and author to his Grammy Awards and Gold & Platinum certifications. Jazz students will be able to perform with Jay and his stellar band mates with his "Music Minus One Series" called "JAM with the Band," CD’s for guitar, sax, piano, bass and drums. Could you see and hear you grooving and soloing with Jay and Dave Weckl? Let’s look into the mind and hands of the music master, while we gain some insight into how a creative mind can touch the collective heart of music peers, the nation, and the world. A beautiful mind indeed!

JazzReview: Greetings Jay, I’m glad to speak with you about your latest recording project, "Bebop," and go to some great highlights of your important impact on the music scene as a guitarist and producer. We appreciate your time.

JazzReview: When you approach a recording project of original material, it must be hard to focus on which style you are going to be packaging because you are so talented, and equally versatile in so many different genres of music.

Jay Graydon: I thank you for your kind words. Regarding "focus", that is not a problem after I decide upon the style of music. Typically, pop music is the type of album I record as an artist. The "BEBOP" album happened quite by accident. I get called to consult and Beta test product from time-to-time. Marcus Ryle (chief designer of the ADATs and much more, and the co-owner of LINE 6 (guitar amps), typically brings me into such projects. I needed to record a project as to beta test the ALESIS M20s. I considered recording a pop record, but that would typically use 16-bit samplers for drums, etc. I decided to record a bebop album as the recorder format is pro and needed real players as to show the sonics in full.

On the pop side of things, around February 25, 2002, I am releasing a pop album that was not available in the states and most other territories. The album is entitled "Airplay for the planet," and includes singers such as Joseph Williams (TOTO), Bill Champlin (Chicago), Sherwood Ball, Warren Wiebe, and Bill Cantos. This album is quality pop along the lines of Steely Dan and the like.

JazzReview: Could you elaborate on your process of evaluating your focus for any project and how "BEBOP" became a full circle return to your initial roots with your father?

Jay Graydon: When I produce an artist, the key is to know what the artist is about musically. The next step is to take them to the next level without hurting their core audience, meaning, "how do I get more sales and still keep them happy?" For the most part, I feel I have done a good job. I took Al Jarreau from total jazz into POP/R&B/AC, similar with the Manhattan Transfer and a few others. The bottom line here is to take chances and hope I first- guessed correctly. In most cases, I did my job.

Regarding my "BEBOP" album, my Dad was in his twenties when bebop surfaced. He was a great pop singer of his era, but not a jazz singer per se. Since he was very musical, he appreciated bebop and opened me up to the style of music at a very young age. This must have been subliminal as I do not remember the content as a kid, but in the "rap" with my father on his TV show in 1950, on my 2nd birthday, I state, "I liked bebop!"

JazzReview: Jay, you have always had a great sound and I believe that is one of the strongest quality a player, especially at your level, can have. As a player, how do you approach getting into a great sound from the roots up?

Jay Graydon: The never-ending story! Obviously, it starts with the guitar. I like low action and light strings. I adjust the neck of the guitar to be almost straight (just a sight back bow). Most important that the high "E" string does not "plunk" out when playing high up on the neck (around the 12th fret and past). This is most important when using a clean sound as with the "BEBOP" album. I decided to record "direct" using an Eddy Reynolds’ direct box that has not been available for many years. I have been looking for Eddy for years with no luck. If anyone knows how to find him, please drop me an e-mail at

When going through many guitars for the "BEBOP" CD, I learned something. As mentioned, I want the high "E" (and other strings as well) to sing up high. One of my guitars has a fingerboard that slightly angles down around the 12th fret. This really helps the issue mentioned! Since then, when getting frets dressed on guitars by John Carruthers, I have him file slightly more around the 12th fret and higher. The key is to find the point where the neck bow starts coming back up and then smooth out and down from there to the end of the neck.

When listening to the "BEBOP" record, you will notice what I am talking about, meaning when I play up high, there is very little "fret out." It occasionally happens when I picked too hard, but for the most part, the notes sing.

Regarding a good distortion sound, obviously the amp is very important. I like a smooth mid- range tone without too much top end. My Rivera signature amps have such a tone. These are now only custom built by Paul. Anyone interested can go to and Paul will build one.

The way I set up these days, in this era, is I always overdub as to have control over the sound. If hired to play solos, it usually requires a distortion sound. The best way to do this is to have the signal to the guitar amp with no effects. The reason being is pitch shifting and delays cause the amp head and speakers to "sweat" in an unfriendly manner. If using the effects after the amp mic, this gets rid of the problem.

Note that I am in the control room. I use my Bossa signature guitar (I am now looking for another signature guitar deal), and plug an Orange Squeezer compressor at the output. The Orange Squeezer output goes into an Ernie Ball volume pedal input. The volume pedal goes into the amp head. The amp bottom is in the studio (another room) and is miked. Miking details will be available very soon in a book series that I am writing along with Craig Anderton, along with full recording techniques.

The mic is routed into a mixer input and bused to a recorder track. The mic module is also assigned to two buses: one routes to a harmonizer, and the other routes to a deal line. The harmonizer returns to a non-used mixer module and the delay returns to another non-used mixer module. Both mixer modules are assigned to the same recorder track as the mic. I set the harmonizer slightly sharp, and set the delay line to 45 milliseconds. I blend in the effects to taste. The bus output to the recorder gets slightly compressed through a GML compressor.

Block diagram: Guitar to Orange Squeezer compressor, Orange Squeezer to volume pedal, volume pedal to amp input, and amp head speaker out to speaker bottom in another room.

Amp miked with Shure SM 57 mic patched into mixer module input bused to three buses one for recorder track, one for harmonizer, one for the delay line. Harmonizer and delay line returns to two unused mixer modules. Both harmonizer and delay line get assigned to recorder track bus. Recorder track bus patches into GML compressor. GML compressor output patched into recorder track input.

JazzReview: Bebop has some great guitar sounds, not to mention the burning solos throughout. I was impressed with how you and the players come across as a band, and not just a bunch of seasoned players just laying down a session.

Jay Graydon: Thanks man! I ran down the sound thing as mentioned above. Regarding the playing, most of the guys in the band rarely play bebop, so the energy and fun factor really sticks out.

JazzReview: When I listen to "BEBOP" as a collection, I sense you had a really great time with this project. With your earlier success with Grammy Awards and songwriter credits, you must feel like you have even more to say now as an instrumentalist. I’ve missed hearing you on the "Thicke of the Night" talk show. I’m glad you’re back.

Jay Graydon: Man, I seem to be answering questions before you ask. Yeah, we had so much fun playing the stuff. I never though I would do an instrumental album, but as I mentioned, this happened quite by accident. Will I do this again? That depends upon the sales. Making a jazz record is fun, but selling such a product is tough.

JazzReview: Were the arrangements for "BEBOP" penned recently or did you get the inspiration over a long stretch of time before recording?

Jay Graydon: I wrote about half the songs in a few days. The others were written with Bill Cantos, and that took a few days as well. The arrangements were simply chord charts with the melody written out. There were a few things written out to catch and some of the stuff was worked out on the session. The tracks were all recorded in one night and typically, only two or three takes per song.

JazzReview: The band really cooks on all the numbers! Beside you, there is Dave Weckl on drums, Dave Carpenter on bass, Bill Cantos on piano and Brandon Fields on sax. You guys play well together. This would be a treat to see live. Do you have any plans to tour around the country with this line-up?

Jay Graydon: That won’t happen, as all the guys in the band are involved with many projects.

JazzReview: I thought your treatment of the Star Spangled Banner was fantastic and seemed to be like an original version, not derivative of any other I’ve ever heard. The rippling harmonics were really beautiful and gave a sensitive touch to the anthem. This piece showcases your great touch.

Jay Graydon: Here is the story. I was in Japan promoting my album, "Airplay for the Planet." I was asked to do a video for a major TV show. They asked that I play the "Star Spangled Banner," starting with a melodic chord melody thing and then break into a Jimi Hendrix thing. I spent a few hours in the hotel working out the chord melody thing. When I got back to L.A., the song came to mind and I finished the chord melody arrangement in full. I never thought I would record the arrangement, but when I recorded the "BEBOP" album, a few of my guitar pals said I should record the arrangement. Most bizarre is that the track has major meaning in this era!

JazzReview: I like the stop time phrases on the head of "Tubs." This piece really lets Dave Weckl showcase his varied swing rhythms and swing dynamics. The band is really jamming on "Tub," while your sound is really thick and the harmony guitar lines work like a horn section.

Jay Graydon: Yeah, this song was written to feature Dave. This is the only song in which I used a distortion sound. I wanted to use the front pickup and most of my amps are set up for the rear pickup, meaning the front pickup sounds too thick and mushy in distortion land. My Cruise amp has a channel blend option that allows 2, 3, or 4 channels to be blended. When in blend mode, the sound gets smaller since blending needs this as to not spread out. I used a clean sound, blended with a distortion sound, that resulted in note definition along with distortion.

JazzReview: Jay, You have had a lot of success in various formats in music. There really isn’t any other instrumentalist that has such a varied music industry appeal. You’ve been able to capture awards for production, engineering, songwriting and with your instrumental prowess. Do you miss the songwriting now or have you passed into a phase of falling in total love with instrumental music and your guitar?

Jay Graydon: Instrumental music does not sell as well as vocal stuff. I truly love playing jazz. If the album sells well, I would do others. In the mean time, I am back to writing and producing.

JazzReview: Your solo in the Steely Dan classic, "Peg," is etched in the history of rock music forever. This must make you feel great. I think you really made a great contribution to the track, but most importantly, you help progress the soloing feel in rock so much. Your work in the 70s & 80s really changed FM radio forever.

Jay Graydon: You are too kind! Playing solos can be scary as I am always on the edge of the chair hoping I can connect ideas that makes sense.

JazzReview: How does this accomplishment feel to you now?

Jay Graydon: It seems that the "Peg" solo is the one mentioned more than others. I truly love the fact that 25 years later, it still gets noticed as a quality solo.

JazzReview: Could you elaborate on your quest for great sounds on the guitar? Did your sensitivity to the guitar opens you to production or did the production help your guitar playing even though your chops were down?

Jay Graydon: I ran that down earlier. Regarding record production, that does not have much to do with the guitar. Arranging and psychology are the keys here. Also, business dealings are added into the equation.

Regarding guitar chops, when producing an artist, even me as an artist regarding vocal records, guitar playing suffers big time! During the course of making a record, I play guitar for about a week and spend months doing all of the other production stuff. In the last 20 years, if I had been playing straight through, I would be a much better guitarist. The trade off was worth it regarding making a living.

JazzReview: The one aspect that hits me when listening to "Bebop," other than the sheer fun of the project, is your energy and passion on all the performances. That passion is rare today.

Jay Graydon: Just doing what comes from the heart.

JazzReview: Do you have any sage advice or words of music wisdom for someone wanting to work more in the jazz and smooth jazz markets?

Jay Graydon: Try to not sound like other artists.

JazzReview: I like the humorous feel that you display on the track "Oh Yes, There Will," where you perform over "There Will Never Be Another You." This is a great tribute to your father and the great musical lineage both of you has recorded for jazz music fans.

Jay Graydon: Many of the titles are intentionally humorous. "My Hot Girth" is an anagram of "I Got Rhythm." "G Wizz" needs no explanation. "Blow Man" is a common term with old-school jazzers when a cat is told to take a solo. "C Bop" is simply Bebop in "C." "Tubs" relates to drums.

JazzReview: I would like to mention to the readers that you have an ambitious project for students where they can perform with you and the band in a "Music Minus One" format. I’m looking forward to trying this out my self. That’s a great idea. Did you get the idea from working with students or just decide now is the time for some teaching materials?

Jay Graydon: There have been similar recordings over the years, but very little with great players in this era (as far as I know). Since I could mix in that fashion, I did so. Yeah, players will have fun jamming with this stuff! I am in negotiations with a major regarding release. You can check my web sight for release information. When released, the buyer gets the "Minus One" CD and a book with all the charts. Also, check out They have just launched a play-along, online site for guitar players. Three of the songs are available on the site! The site has the charts, as well in real time.

JazzReview: Thanks for your time Jay. We really appreciate you shedding some light on your latest activities and the music of "Bebop." I’ve had a blast listening to your work over the years and who knows, maybe another Grammy is around the corner. Best regards and take care.

Jay Graydon: My pleasure. Hey, another Grammy is always welcome! By the way, one more thing, I am now consulting for D’Addario regarding their cable line called "Planet Waves." This stuff is great for all instruments and consumer-to-pro recording studios!

For more information on Jay Graydon and his massive discography, log on to his website, and for copies of his exceptional "BEBOP" CD, try Fine!

]]> (Ron Miller) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:20:42 -0600
Boney James R&B Saxman Takes his Music to the Streets with 'Ride' Boney James is a tenured artist on the smooth jazz circuit who has just released his eighth recording "Ride" to a mix of retro-soul and current bass-tinged postproduction. Excited about the possibilities of reaching a wider audience, James has a collaborative effort focused on the R&B and Hip Hop crowd, with great vocals and instrumental colors. Although changing his jazzy sound to a more pop focus, Boney James still displays great performance and artistry with his vocal and instrumental efforts …
Boney James is a tenured artist on the smooth jazz circuit who has just released his eighth recording "Ride" to a mix of retro-soul and current bass-tinged postproduction. Excited about the possibilities of reaching a wider audience, James has a collaborative effort focused on the R&B and Hip Hop crowd, with great vocals and instrumental colors. Although changing his jazzy sound to a more pop focus, Boney James still displays great performance and artistry with his vocal and instrumental efforts.

James has been deeply influenced by Grover Washington Jr., which might account for his desire to work with pop vocalist in the "Winelight" era recording from the seventies. "Ride," Boney’s new release follows the high charting success of the "Shake It Up" collaboration with Rick Braun on brass. With the instrumental "Grazin’ In The Grass (Can You Dig It?)", James’ exposure in the film "Space Cowboys" reached many new fans to his groove-based music. "Ride" is in step with a melodic and vocal enhanced style of recording that has always reached the R&B and pop fan base Boney James is synonymous with, and might have introduced more listeners to smooth jazz and eventually other forms of instrumental music. The music of Boney James is always full of great horn tones, melody and an R&B grooving rhythm section. "Ride" is James’ latest sensual R&B-soaked offering that is definitely marketed to the urban pop and R&B market, more than a direct jazz listener of improv and trading eight’s.

James has had a string of success with the crossover market and his three gold certifications prove he is in demand. A classic jazz music listener would not be the market this release would find safe haven with. However, if you ever see Boney James perform, you will be on your feet enjoying great music and an electrifying performance, seldom matched by most pop stars. We were able to speak with Boney about "Ride," the sensual role his music plays on others, his desire to work with other artists in various ways, including a great desire to tour in the next few months. Let’s take a cruise with Boney James as he offers an insight into the making of "Ride" and his views on creating sensual "good time" music for his audience.

JazzReview: Hello Boney! How are you doing?

Boney James: "I’m doing fine, Ron."

JazzReview: Great to hear, Boney. I want to thank you for your time and go over some of the major happenings in your career this last year and a half.

Boney James: "My pleasure. No problem."

JazzReview: With your new release "Ride," you are now on your eighth release.

Boney James: Yeah, my eighth record. It’s hard to believe (laughs)."

JazzReview: That’s fantastic. As we speak, your duo record with Rick Braun "Shake it Up" is still hitting high on the Contemporary Jazz charts.

Boney James: "Yeah, it’s doing pretty good. You know (laughs)."

JazzReview: Yes, after a year and a half it is still in the top 25. In fact, I’ve even heard some cuts from it at the movie theater.

Boney James: "Oh, yes. That would be from [the movie] "Space Cowboys."

JazzReview: Yes, "Space Cowboys," but also during the previews and intermission."

Boney James: "O.K, that would be "Grazin’ in the Grass" during the "Space Cowboy" film, but I’ve heard they have been playing that music on Movie Tunes. A lot of people have been telling me about that."

JazzReview: So now, you are all over film and Contemporary/Smooth Jazz radio. I’m real excited about the new CD "Ride" because I’ve listened to it quite a bit. I was a little surprised by track #11 which was kind of delayed on the track sequence.

Boney James: "That is the hidden track, man."

JazzReview: Yes, called "Boneyard."

Boney James: "Yes, now some of my favorite records have been having that in the last couple of years you know. Lauryn Hill’s record had a hidden track and actually that track turned out to be the hit, you know. Jill Scott’s record, which I really like, that had a hidden track too. I think it was #44 and then she had like 25 seconds of silence before it came on. So I thought that would be fun and, thought how would I want to do it? So, I just put it on there but I did list the credits [Boneyard] underneath the CD. A lot of my fans are going to my website and asking, "What’s with the extra song?’"

JazzReview: Well, "Ride" is a fantastic collection of smooth jazz and you’ve gone into some new realms with your (post) production. "Ride" seems more low (bass) ended and a heavier bass. I like the dark, low contrast with the color/texture of your horn performance.

Boney James: "Yeah, that’s what people are telling me. I had worked with a different engineer on this record by the name of Russell ‘The Dragon’ Elevado whose work I really admired (Grammy win with D’Angelo). I heard a number of records that he did for D’Angelo and others, in fact,\\ the last one, he won a Grammy for his work as engineer. I just thought the songs sounded more serious or something. So, I wanted a different sound for it. I think it worked out really well. I really love the sound of the record I think it sounds richer."

JazzReview: Yes. Overall I enjoyed the resonant Bass and I can’t say enough about my favorite track ‘See What I’m Sayin’?’ The track of course features the incredible Marcus Miller.

Boney James: "Yeah, we really had to make the bass loud on that one, (laughs) since it’s Marcus."

JazzReview: Your playing throughout is really good. I like the way you mix the current street R&B sounds with the retro soul of the Seventies. I think a lot of your fans will be a little surprised with both the production and the feel of the street beats. It will give them a nice new element to draw upon. Your sound is still instantly recognizable partly because of your tone and great fluid, melodic playing, but also the great grooves you get the audience going with in a live setting. This next tour should magnify that intensity even more. The Groove is an important element of your performances for sure.

Boney James: "Thank You. Well, I agree. I think this record captures more of the intensity we bring to the music when we play it live and that’s something I definitely wanted to do. And also, with the whole R&B thing , I think that current R&B these days, a lot of it, is sounding much more like the music I like. A lot of these guys are called retro-soul or neo-soul artists like Maxwell or Jill Scott. In a way, current R&B is coming closer to the music that I like, you know. So, for me to make the record to kind of fit in more with what is current, because it is so retro, actually makes a lot of sense to me. I wasn’t bending over backwards to try and change my sound at all. I think I just gave in a little bit more to what I would normally have done because it feels more modern. You know what I mean?"

JazzReview: Yes, I like the way you have the old R&B flavor mixed with the current R&B flavor and really great melodies. I mean even if it’s an R&B blues or groove based tune, the melody is always there.

Boney James: "That’s the thing. Take a song like ‘See What I’m Sayin’?.’ It’s really basically a funk jam, not a complicated song harmonically, but I think it keeps you interested all the way through. There are all of these interesting elements there. You have Marcus’ (Miller) playing and the melody itself, and the interplay between the groove and the saxophone. Almost like James Brown used to do where there’s not much song there, but it is still a great song."

JazzReview: Sure. I think the pacing of the CD is really good. ‘Ride’ seems to open up as you listen to it and grow as you progress through the music. I think of course, this is my perception. You did a great job on the sequence of tracks.

Boney James: "Thanks. Sequencing (track order on CD) is something I really spend a lot of time thinking about. Honestly, my wife often makes fun of me for doing that because she says ‘everybody is going to come home and set the CD player on random anyway or make his or her own sequence.’ Still, I look at it like it (collection) like it is a whole story. I spend a lot of time trying to be like a story, so I appreciate you saying that."

JazzReview: Well I definitely picked up on the story idea because all of your CD’s have a certain element of progression or opening up performance wise. You know, it is not like you hear one track and know how the whole collection will sound.

Boney James: "Right."

JazzReview: Although ‘Ride’ opens with "Heaven" and you have vocals and there are four vocal cuts out of eleven tracks. You even have a great contrast with the vocalists. You have a male and female solo(Dave Hollister, Trina Broussard), a hip-hop type rap vocal from Jaheim and a great vocal duo with Sue Ann & Carl Carwell.

Boney James: "Thank You. I think all of the singers gave great performances. It really felt natural to me especially, a song like ‘Heaven’ and starting with it. I think it was a little controversial over here at the record company, but I wrote the music and I’m playing all the instruments. It just felt very much like me even though I’m not singing the lead on the vocal pieces. It felt very natural to include all that stuff and I think some people might be concerned about so many vocals. But, I actually placed more tracks on the CD so I really have the same number of instrumentals as my other releases because there are more songs total. This was the first record /CD I’ve made that didn’t have nine songs on it."

JazzReview: Yes. If you were to look back at some artists like Grover Washington Jr.’s ‘Winelight’ or the work he did with Bill Withers and others. Those were gems and for someone to say he should have added a bebop tune instead of a vocal tune you can be a catalyst for someone in a pop listening background moving in to jazz or smooth jazz music. This collection you have on ‘Ride’ can in effect go to two (or three) markets. Say for instance, you have someone into Dave Hollister and they like your performance and the arrangements because of the sax. It looks like you are working on great music but could serve as someone’s introduction to smooth jazz or eventually even jazz as a whole genre.

Boney James: "Thank You, man. I agree, but basically I’m just trying to make great music and that’s the main thing for me (laughs)."

JazzReview: You are definitely making good music. It (‘Ride’) is fun to listen to and you are definitely showcasing contemporary pop grooves and instruments. You don’t apologize for the grooves, melody and tone you have on your horn.

Boney James: "Thank You."

JazzReview: Your tone is always very good on all the horns you play (soprano, tenor). We, the listener, can hear a saxophone and it sounds great, but a sensitive player/performer can make that tone more important. You always have a great tone.

Boney James: "Thank You ,man. I definitely work hard on that, you know."

JazzReview: ‘Ride’ has some great elements I want to touch on with you and get your idea of composing and arranging. The soprano contrasts really well with the tenor and the bass frequencies we touched on earlier. I also wanted to note the great experiments with instrumentation you offer on ‘Ride’ as well. Like on "This Is The Life." You have steel drums with Andy Narell, which adds to the festive nature of the piece.

Boney James: "Well, you know Andy Narell of course did such a great job on that and it was really fun hooking up with him. Yeah, like I said a lot of that stuff just wrote itself because I had been working on that song. Then all of a sudden it hit me one day that this almost has a tropical feel. So, we flew Andy down from San Francisco where he lives (Berkeley) and he came to LA with his drums on the airplane. It was kind of funny. We had to rent a van for him to bring his (steel pans) drums to the studio with those big drums. It was just so great. As soon as he started playing it was like yes, this is working!"

JazzReview: That’s great you are experimenting on ‘Ride’ like that. In contrast you feature your tenor sax playing with vocals and what I call a "steamy" soprano sax with the Dave Hollister vocal on "Something Inside."

Boney James: "Yeah. Thank You . That’s workin’ (laughs)."

JazzReview: I think there are some couples that will be thanking you for some of the romantically inspired material on this collection.

Boney James: "I guess that is part of my role inspiring people’s romantic encounters. People thank me quite a bit about the music and the mood."

JazzReview: On "See What I’m Sayin’?" you make good use of handclaps and vocal punches (UH-Huh) which are a nice touch and come together great.

Boney James: "I’m glad you dig it. Like I said, a lot of that material was just spontaneous. Just a stray idea and it’s like well, let’s see how this works. I felt really encouraged."

JazzReview: On "The Ride", you have Jaheim on vocals with a street groove. His vocals stand out and lend a touch to the overall romantic feel of the album. I sense a sultry feel on the album.

Boney James: "Oh definitely! It plays into that whole mood with the saxophone and many people think it is a sexy instrument and I just go straight there (with romantic themes). Like you said, its just unapologetic, sexy music. It’s like ‘lets get into the car and do it.’"

JazzReview: Yes that theme is in the music and the steamy windows in the car on the CD cover. When you are preparing a live set you have to select your favorite and strongest cuts from ‘Ride’ to coincide with the previous live tour sets. That has to be difficult after eight releases. How do you go about the process of picking the right tunes for your powerhouse live shows? Do you already know your set list or are you still working that out?

Boney James: "I think I ‘m still working through that. It’s hard, besides you have your other songs that the fans come to hear and to showcase new material. Every time I put a new show together it’s a little bit like torture, but we get into rehearsal and learn a lot of songs, then just experiment (it is almost like making the record) and hopefully, it will please everyone a little bit."

JazzReview: You definitely have some great cuts here for your live show and I remember the tune "Sara Smile" which had a great melody and translated very well with the live audience. I was at Indianapolis at the first Indy Jazz-Fest. You build up great tension in your live tunes. I just tell people to listen to you and smooth jazz go see Boney James live.

Boney James: "Thank You. I mean I love playing live. It is definitely one of the fun things I do. I guess that is one of the things people enjoy about our shows is that the whole band is like in a party. We are not trying to be cool, we are just having fun!"

JazzReview: That comes across clear in the music. When you chose to do a cover like "Sara Smile," what elements are you looking for in the composition that affects you and makes you want to do a tribute to the artist, and do a cover?

Boney James: "Well, there are so many songs that have really affected me over the years and they just stick in your head. You kind of wonder if that would translate onto the saxophone as an instrumental or how can I make that sound more like me. All of that stuff goes into it and then it is just a matter of experimenting. I’ve had some ideas that didn’t work or see the light of day. You just kind of get an idea, well maybe this song can be "Boneyized" and see what works after fooling around in the studio."

JazzReview: Your formula is working as your last three releases have gone gold and this should do as well and even open your music to a more pop/neo-soul crowd and get into more markets.

Boney James: "That’s kind of what I’m hoping. I really feel proud about this record. Not that I didn’t like my other records too. I think this one just hit the nail on the head, so I’m really hoping a lot of people get the chance to hear it."

JazzReview: I like the idea of how you varied the instrumentation for yourself and the collection and believe that will add to the next/current tour. Will you be touring this winter with anything from "Boney’s Funky Christmas?"

Boney James: "Not at this time because this record is brand new and I don’t tour until next year, but I will do a couple of fund raisers here in L.A. but, nothing as far as touring with the ‘Ride’ CD until next year."

JazzReview: You have certainly had a lot of great things going on this year with your music being performed on film (Space Cowboys), a new release (Ride), and tour in the coming year. We hope to see you on tour and have fun with your new album.

Boney James: "Thanks a lot, Ron, for your kind words. Thank You."

JazzReview: Thanks for your time Boney and have a great time touring with your new release. Take care.

]]> (Ron Miller) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:20:17 -0600
Up Close and Personal with Kazu Matsui Kazu Matsui is synonymous with American cinema music, particularly the films that feature Ry Cooder and James Horner as composers. Bursting on the scene in the early eighties with his eerie, suspense-laden accompaniment of the epic TV movie SHOGUN, he has been an ever-growing staple of action films. While he is a resident of Huntington Beach, CA, Kazu is the main proponent of his instrument, the Japanese shakuhachi flute, in the Western world. While carrying on the tradition of his mystical inst …
Kazu Matsui is synonymous with American cinema music, particularly the films that feature Ry Cooder and James Horner as composers. Bursting on the scene in the early eighties with his eerie, suspense-laden accompaniment of the epic TV movie SHOGUN, he has been an ever-growing staple of action films. While he is a resident of Huntington Beach, CA, Kazu is the main proponent of his instrument, the Japanese shakuhachi flute, in the Western world. While carrying on the tradition of his mystical instrument, Matsui is opening up a new audience for his native temple flute that has a history well over 1000 years.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Hello Kazu, I'm glad to meet with you and Keiko today. It was a great pleasure to see Keiko and the band in action during sound check and you working on the mix. I also appreciate the chance to eat with you and the band; it was a great pleasure. Thanks so much for your southern hospitality. Kazu, I've noticed by viewing your various web-sites that you don't seem to have very many mid-west bookings. I have attended the last 2 Indy Jazz-Fest weekends in Indianapolis, Indiana and missed your music very much. I know they have about 60,000 in attendance over the weekend and pull jazz and blues fans from Bloomington, South Bend, Detroit and Chicago. Hopefully, you can be booked there on the summer tour schedule and more fans can see a great show.

KAZU MATSUI: We do play in Indianapolis about every 2 years but I don't remember where.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: I remember the first time I heard your shakuhatchi music when watching the film Southern Comfort with the Ry Cooder soundtrack. Your flute was so dreamy and eerie at the same time. It really added to the tension and ambience of the swamp scenery and the chase sequences. This was the early eighties. The next film was the Long Rider's, another Ry Cooder exploit you contributed to. I love the mix of the slide guitar and the shakuhachi for great soul tones. I have some of this music on Ry Cooder's compilation, but wish the Southern Comfort soundtrack was released. How does the shakuhatchi work as far as the tonal range of the flute? Is the basic range at 2 octaves?

KAZU MATSUI: Yes. Two octaves and a little bit more.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: With saxophones you have the altissimo range, almost like harmonics on a string instrument.

KAZU MATSUI: Yes you have 2 . I'll say 2 ½ octaves.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Do you mean solid fundamental notes? Because, I hear some shrill tones that contrast with the lower range.

KAZU MATSUI: I can play 2 1/3 octaves with solid notes and half of the other range is more like overtones.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Harmonics? It seems like it has a fairly low midrange and extremely high level.

KAZU MATSUI: Yeah. It depends on the length of the bamboo. Different lengths.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: So you don't just use one set length or flute like you have here? (Kazu is holding the flute he performs "Wind And The Wolf" and "Walls Of The Cave" with in concert.)

KAZU MATSUI: For the movie soundtracks? Yes, I will use different lengths.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Was the one you used on Southern Comfort longer?

KAZU MATSUI: Yes it was longer and lower pitched. I'm pretty sure.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: When you perform on the shakuhachi, I'm not sure many people are aware that you were in India for 2 years and spent time in Europe as well. Did you pick up any different playing techniques or style of playing that was different to temple playing or do you add anything to what you learned from other places or instruments?

KAZU MATSUI: No. No. It's just shakuhachi technique. Yeah.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Which is really good. I really like it and so do many other people. You really bring a spiritual vibe to the music you perform and it is a pleasure to experience.


JAZZREVIEW.COM: I do have one question for you and Keiko. When you finish a tour or recording project, how do you refresh yourselves for the next project or recording?

KAZU MATSUI: What do you mean refresh?

JAZZREVIEW.COM: How do you clear your mind or prepare for the next recording after doing the standard "live" set-list for a time? Say, you finish the current tour ("Whisper from the Mirror"). Do you travel or listen to different kinds of music for inspiration?

KAZU MATSUI: Oh No. Keiko might listen to a couple of other peoples music but I listen to just Keiko's CD's. Yeah. I rarely listen to other people's music. I just make music, which I want to listen to.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Yes, I love that because that way you're in control of the music but there is a certain time frame when you get the influence of whatever is around you.

KAZU MATSUI: Oh, Yes. Some players and arrangers they get influenced but I (pauses), maybe I'm getting some influence but I really never thought about it.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Then it gets to a point where once you reach a certain level you're too busy creating?

KAZU MATSUI: Not too busy, we just want 1 month every year to create new tunes or new CD. Other than that, we play about 50 to 60 shows a year then, other times we are a housewife and father.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Yes, you're two girls Mako and Maya. Do they go with you in the summer?

KAZU MATSUI: Summertime? Yeah.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Do the girls have any interest in music?

KAZU MATSUI: Yes. They are both taking piano lessons. I don't know how serious they want to be but I want to let them try it.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: That's really great you let them have access to music and even if they might go in another direction of the arts or other creative area. Of course, you've heard music can help children with cognitive skills and working both areas of the brain at the same time. In regards to your bookings, have you received any offers to perform in Nashville or Indianapolis lately? My first experience listening to Keiko came from a now defunct smooth jazz radio station there.

KAZU MATSUI: Yeah, I mean there are so many cities we missed this year and we get many letters from fans saying, why didn't you play our city this year and things like that but I don't know why that happened. You know, Just sometimes we miss a city. Nashville, I don't know maybe there is not a radio station there. We haven't done anything in Nashville.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: I was telling Steve Snyder (the renaissance gentleman that hosts the USA fan site, that the first time I heard Keiko was on a local smooth jazz station that was featuring the 'Dreamwalk' CD. I was knocked out by the melodies which, seem to be missing in all styles of music right now. Do you have any confirmed plans or dates on the "Ever After" composition dual piano or four hand techniques with Bob James in Asia or the US?

KAZU MATSUI: Yes. We are doing about a thirty-city tour.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: That's a great tour!

KAZU MATSUI: Yes. February, March, April here in the USA. And January in select cities in Japan. That is four hands piano.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: That is really going to be a treat. A 30 date tour with four hands piano is really interesting. I have the release with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock from the seventies but that was dual piano not in a four hands, one piano context. I hope that I can make a performance of this concert because this is unprecedented for two great icons of jazz are going to perform on the same instrument at the same time. This is like Count Basie and Duke Ellington on piano together or Chick and Herbie. Do you have any plans to go to Europe? I was just wondering because I haven't seen or heard of any dates for those fans.

KAZU MATSUI: Our records haven't really been promoted in Europe . Yet. You know, after Keiko making 11 albums that is kind of sad but nobody has been promoted, but we are going to (perform in Europe).

JAZZREVIEW.COM: You're going to get even more fans.

KAZU MATSUI: And you know, having this Internet shopping service, I do not think it is that difficult for European people or other people to get Keiko's music. They have access but we have to promote it.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Yes because I didn't know there was a video available for 'Light above the Trees' and didn't know it was filmed until I saw it on PBS.

KAZU MATSUI: We promoted the video to PBS in other countries and also they just aired BET (Black Entertainment Television) for a number of weeks (special program which was filmed early this Summer featuring music from the new release Whisper From The Mirror) here in the US. They will be airing Keiko's show in Europe and the BET performance will be released on DVD coming out in January.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Will this also be released as VHS as well?

KAZU MATSUI: DVD and video.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: I have seen your video at Borders bookstore, which is really great because they sell CDs, VHS and DVD.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: I noticed a picture of some music from the Mask of Zorro written in standard, western notation. Do you always read standard notation or do you have to use the traditional temple notation instead?

KAZU MATSUI: If it is simple I can read regular notation but usually for security I use the Japanese notation on top of the regular notation.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: I'm not really familiar with the physical aspects of playing the shakuhachi like how to lip up, lip down or even if there is an embouchure. I was talking with Steve Snyder and he said he is learning the shakuhatchi and sometimes there can be a note that is fingered one way but has to be articulated with lip up or lip down to get the correct tone or inflection of the pitch. I really wanted to find out about the notation and technique. When I see a D note, which would be your base keynote in guitar notation, it might have instructions to use tremolo, slides, bends and vibrato. These raise or lower the pitch and give it that inflection. I knew you were playing on the Zorro movie soundtrack when I saw the movie. I'm really glad to meet you here in person today and talk about a really special instrument. I do have one question in particular. The "Garden" tune that Keiko performs on the video seems to have the same musical passage as an NBC public service announcement and I think they used her melodic sequence from the tune.

KAZU MATSUI: But that is such a short melody. That could be from anywhere.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: But it sounds like that exact articulation.

KAZU MATSUI: Maybe somebody stole it.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: I looked up "A Night Hawk's Dream" because of the Gift of Hope breast cancer awareness that Keiko had performed at the event with Ekaterina Gordeeva live as a duo. I found that she had used the music in three other contests and had placed 1st and 2nd in international contests using the tune. That must make you very proud. Are you glad to see more sales of music in Japan, which has picked up lately? It seems to be really catching on, especially with the DVD releases, which are really being anticipated there.

KAZU MATSUI: Of course. Any country!

JAZZREVIEW.COM: The music speaks for itself just like your shakuhatchi music is like a homecoming of sorts for you and Keiko. I was surprised she was not more well known there.

KAZU MATSUI: Because there is no smooth jazz station there, so Boney James, David Benoit, nobody knows them there.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: That will certainly change with your tour announced ahead of time and the collaboration with Bob James. I know that the jazz audiences in Japan have a special place in their hearts for Bob and he in turn has a great affinity for them as fans and the culture overall.

KAZU MATSUI: Yes, Bob is a very good artist and really was great on the four hands tune "Ever After" from 'Whisper from the Mirror', it was a special moment. Bob James urged Keiko to try more or encouraged her to create or develop in this style.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: That is very beautiful to see two very secure and creative artist urging one another on to an undiscovered level of creativity. Guitarist develop this bonding or friendship early in the development of duet or group playing but it is certainly rare for contemporary artist of piano even in the classical genre.

KAZU MATSUI: The four hands piano is totally different for Keiko and Bob but they enjoy the style very much.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: There is no doubt that the music will be most inspired. I'm just trying to picture the piano and the two of them switching sides or staying in the same player position. This is a great technical challenge for both of them but well worth the effort.

KAZU MATSUI: We think the audience will enjoy it very much.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: I believe they will be happy and mesmerized at the same time. I mean, you just don't see 4 hands piano performed by virtuosos every day. This is as big as Chick and Herbie or Chick and Gary Burton on vibes but unique just the same.

KAZU MATSUI: Yes. This is very rare. Keiko and I are very happy with the tour.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: What, a great homecoming for you and Keiko, a special performance in front of family and friends in Japan. I hope to see four hands show, in fact, I'm sending your booking agent information to my area concert halls and colleges. I even sent a memo to a concert hall in St. Louis Missouri.

KAZU MATSUI: We haven't toured as much this year compared to last year but will tour a lot more with a new CD coming out in January and the duet project.

JAZZREVIEW.COM: Yes, indeed! Kazu, I have to complement you on your great production on Keiko's music as well as your mixing of the stage sound during the sound check awhile ago. You are a very gifted musician on the shakuhachi and producing.


JAZZREVIEW.COM: I have really enjoyed your film music performances and the classical salutes on 'Tribal Mozart' and 'Tribal Schubert'. I hope you have time to record again soon and I can't wait for the show tonight. Many thanks for your valuable time and best of luck in Japan. I'm sure you will be surprised from the fan response this January and have a great time with friends and family. Domo Arigato! Peace.
]]> (Ron Miller) Jazz Artist Interviews Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:19:41 -0600