Chicago guitarist, composer and producer Vince Agwada has worked the Chicago music scene for over 25 years. This heavily blues and rock oriented musician has worked with artists like Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Magic Slim, Otis Rush, Syl Johnson and Sammy Lawhorn, to list but a few. Of his many awards the most standout one was when, in 1996, Agwada was listed as one of the top 40 Blues artists under 40 by Living Blues Magazine. Basic Blue is his second release as a leader.
One of the more delightful bands to come out of Sweden in the most recent past is The Soup. This quartet of keyboards, guitar, bass and drums has a rockabilly type of backbeat that is incredibly infectious. With drummer Tom Steffensen's two-beat dance hall backbeats and Johan Bendrik's B3 organ playing, this quartet gets down to the nit-and gritty from the first notes of the first track to the last beat of the final 11th cut.
Alto saxophonist and composer Libby Richman's abilities are easily seen in her winning two Meet The Composer grants and one New England Foundation On The Arts grant. Originally from Indiana, she earned her degree from the University of Massachusetts and now lives and works in the New York area. Among the artists she has worked with include The Duprees, The Earls, Leslie Gore, The Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Martha Reeves and The Shirelles. Open Strings is Richman's third release as a leader.
Bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist and composer Joseph Toliver is perhaps best known as being smooth jazz saxophonist Tom Braxton's bass player for the past five years. Dancing In The Window is Toliver's first release as a leader.
Smooth jazz groups are, unfortunately, becoming a dime a dozen. Smooth jazz sounds, to most unsophisticated ears, as being remarkably easy to play. With no need to have to master tricky rhythms or complex harmonies, as in straight-ahead jazz, many musicians have turned to smooth jazz in hopes of cashing in on this lucrative music market. The truth is, however, that to play smooth jazz well, one has to truly feel the music. There have been a ton of musicians, including greats like Kenny Garrett, who tried their hand at smooth jazz, only to fail. The reason being they do not have a genuine love for the style.
Nothing hurt the new age artists and their market more than the advent of smooth jazz. When smooth jazzers took the kind of music new agers had been creating and gave it a backbeat, along with obvious R&B sentimentality, sales of new age music dropped off the radar. A few of the more well-known new age musicians have survived, such as David Lanz, but in order to do so they moved their music more towards the light R&B stylings, smooth jazzers grew and cultivated. Another new ager who has survived this market shift is keyboardist and composer Keiko Matsui.
Smooth jazz guitarist, vocalist and composer Roger Chong, a graduate of York University in Toronto, works leading his own jazz group, playing in bands lead by others and teaching grade school students in Toronto. Love Me One More Time is his second release as a leader.
Saxophonist and composer Ohad Talmor, now a Brooklynite, came to the United States by way of both Israel and Switzerland. He has garnered not only rave reviews but also peer recognition having played in the Steve Swallow Trio, the Mass Transformation nonet, and with artists such as Jason Moran, Josh Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Chris Cheek, Dave Douglas, Carla Bley, Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, Chris Potter and Billy Hart. Most distinctly it is his relationship with his mentor Lee Konitz, with whom he co-leads three bands, that has brought the young Talmor to prominence.
Danish pianist, keyboardist, composer and arranger, Martin Lutz's third release with his own group, It's Swing – Not Rocket Science, is a collection of disparate compositions all connected by Lutz's rather uniquely slanted compositional concepts. Organized into five suites, all featuring a guest artist, the music is passive at some moments and energetically manic at others, sometimes all within the same suite, as occurs most obviously during the "Africa" suite.
There are far too many young musicians who think the way to achieving success is to release a recording as early as possible. This misguided method usually finds the musician displaying a lack of musicianship, technique and musical maturity. The problem is that even if the musician goes on to develop adequately they will always have to stand behind their first release; one done when they weren't musically ready. Thankfully that is not the case with Seth Ford-Young's first release as a leader.