A major milestone has been achieved by KHJZ 95.7 "The Wave" in Houston, Texas. The radio station celebrated five successful years of smooth jazz programming with a concert entitled "Wave Day 5" featuring Fourplay, Boney James, Roberta Flack, Michael McDonald and Houston’s own saxophonist Dean James. In that amount of time, KHJZ has annually celebrated their success with a multi-faceted array of stellar musicians in a live setting. During the past four years, smooth jazz aficionados and music connoisseurs have experienced Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Norman Brown, Shilts, Eric Darius, Rick Braun, Kenny G, Craig Chiquico, Alan Hewitt, Mindi Abair, George Benson, Gregg Karukas, Richard Elliot, Gerald Veasley, Pamela Williams, Nick Colionne and a host of other outstanding musicians in their own right. As such has been the case, "95.7 The Wave" has seemingly done everything right to be a viable entertainment source for the greater Houston metropolitan area. For all practical purposes, the line-up for "Wave Day 5" continues a philosophy of highlighting a style of music known as smooth jazz.
The featured line-up for "Wave Day 5" provided an overview of popular, R&B and contemporary/smooth jazz music for patrons of the concert. Of all the musicians performing, the group Fourplay consisting of guitarist Larry Carlton, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Bob James and drummer Harvey Mason can be considered collective icons in contemporary jazz. Their continued longevity is a testament to the band’s approach to their craft, cohesive contribution to what is played and the overall chemistry between them as musicians. Individually, each member of Fourplay has achieved major milestones as solo artists, composers, arrangers and sidemen on a variety of projects. But with that being said, it is most notable that the quality and texture of their music has remained consistently intact for the past 17 years. Progressively Fourplay’s brand of contemporary jazz has also evolved to a higher level with each passing year, so much so the mundane is never the expected. At each juncture of their numerous recordings and concert appearances, they are known as stylized perfectionists with a definite message that combines contemporary jazz with smooth jazz radio.
From the very beginning of their performance during "Wave Day 5," Fourplay made full use of their stage presence and jazz prowess. With renditions from their latest CD entitled ‘X’ and a number of other tunes from previously released albums, Fourplay provided approximately 55 minutes of jazz activated contemporary stylized music. In speaking with the band after their performance, they explained that one of the more consistent characteristics has been their ability to stay focused upon their own level of artistic impressionism. The idea is not to embrace trends as a number of artists have done, but to find an artistic balance between the old and the new. Just because smooth jazz is now the so-called flavor of the month, creativity and growth remains Fourplay’s primary approach.
Another more consistent aspect of the group’s performance on October 20th was the ebb and flow between popular, R&B and jazz music, which has been persistently fluid throughout their existence. Since 1990 the philosophy between the four members of Fourplay remains uniquely philosophical regarding what is played. During a live concert appearance as in "Wave Day 5," the improvisational nature of traditional jazz is even more evident, which allows each member of Foreplay to flex his musical muscle. That is another important aspect to consider when examining Fourplay’s body of work. The group speaks with one voice ideologically with a series of checks and balances that allows the highest level of productivity to manifest what is creative and relavent as musicians. In retrospect, this has allowed them to broaden their advantage as one of jazz’s most prevalent groups. When combined collectively, this quartet have more than 100 years of experience, thus the individual voice that each one possesses brings a flavor totally unique to the musical message they provide. By most applicable standards of appreciation, Fourplay’s approach to contemporary jazz that evening exemplified a style of play that was a melodically correct groove activated musical experience. "Wave Day 5" opened the door of opportunity to highlight a tailored package containing four outstanding artists. Their primary objective was not to embrace a specific trend, but to open a door of opportunity for aficionados, beginners and connoisseurs to enjoy and experience contemporary jazz Fourplay style in conjunction with a variety of other flavorful genres.
Following Fourplay, saxophonist Boney James, Roberta Flack and Michael McDonald took center stage to further the festivities of "Wave Day 5." As one of Houston’s most revered artists, Boney James’ appearance is a welcome addition to any smooth jazz concert coming through the city. Reflecting upon his latest release entitled ‘Shine,’ Boney’s high-octane approach to performing was an energetic R&B styled musical experience that was steeped in charisma and a funk flavor tinged with systemic rhythms. As one of smooth jazz’s finest saxophonists, he is always the consummate showman. Not only was James’ performance entertaining, he exhibited musical craftsmanship that has made him one of the poster boys for smooth jazz. As a so-called top tier artist, Boney receives considerable airplay on many radio stations. In most instances, a great number of artists do not have that luxury. To be specific, smooth as with other styles of jazz is an entity unto a specific category of its own; as such is the case, airplay is determined by adherence to certain commercial requirements that may not always follow traditional jazz programming. That aspect notwithstanding, Boney James has clearly become one of the highlighted favorites of smooth jazz radio. He and a number of other notable artists consistently chart and maintain a significant presence at concerts and festivals throughout the United States. "Wave Day 5" as with other concerts and festivals is a showcase for Boney and other smooth jazz artists. As such was the case on October 20th, Boney’s inclusion was an ingredient typifying why he is in demand as one of the genre’s premier artists.
After more than 35 years on the music scene, vocalist Roberta Flack stands as one of music’s premier contemporary vocalists. Her ability to meld the elements of gospel, R&B and jazz into a significant artistic form of entertainment has garnered Roberta a Grammy Award, numerous Grammy nominations and accolades from many walks of life. Her addition to "Wave Day 5" allowed the audience and fans of her music to become familiar and get re-acquainted with a vocal style that only she could project. Songs such as "Oasis, Killing Me Softly and The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" have become American standards. For 65 minutes, Roberta Flack’s finely tuned vocalese provided a historical perspective on songs etched in love, joy and the struggles of mankind’s earthly existence. Without a doubt, the addition of wide and varied musical styles made "Wave Day 5" a treat to experience. This was definitely an encapsulated auditory listening experience that re-introduced Ms. Flack to Houston on a variety of musical fronts. Her voice in song is timeless and she will always be one of the most significant artists of her generation.
The fourth and final installment of "Wave Day 5" was vocalist Michael McDonald, whose repertoire of music is steeped in the traditions of rock, R&B and popular music. As a composer and arranger, Michael has contributed significantly to the overall musical landscape. Known primarily as an adult contemporary artist, Michael McDonald’s main focus during "Wave Day 5" was to highlight his broad range of music, including songs covering Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. In addition, Michael’s musical style bodes well with the programming of KHJZ 95.7 and other smooth jazz radio stations throughout North America. His broad fan base heightened the level of anticipation at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, which in many ways exemplified the very nature of smooth jazz congeniality with varying styles of music. McDonald’s performance culminated an extra special array of varying musical formats and preferences. Although smooth jazz is often sighted for being controversial as a viable resource, the one thing it does provide is exposure to varying musical styles. Under the guise of radio, Michael McDonald, Fourplay, Boney James, Roberta Flack and others have achieved much success as popularized artists that adhere to a specialized jazz format. At best smooth jazz radio may not follow traditional programming; however, concerts such as "Wave Day 5" serve as vehicles to expand upon this extremely popular form of entertainment.