Rick Braun, in October 2011 issue of JazzTimes magazine, admitted what those who are in the smooth jazz business end have known for a while, notably the demise of commercial radio and its commercial music business. He admits the good side of this is that, “there’s no pressure on the artists to come up with radio-play hits anymore.” With both of the above facts now in play, there has been a mad scramble going on among record companies and artists.
Vocalist Tony Adamo’s new CD, What Is Hip?, is a funkified and deeply rhythmic locked affair with some of the best musicians of the day. Put together by master guitarist and producer Jerry Stucker, this horn-laden album reminds one of the early days of Tower Of Power (TOP) brought up to date by modern sensibilities. Some of the big names assisting Adamo include master drummer Steve Gadd, percussionist and Headhunter Bill Summers, trumpeters Mic Gillette, Henry Hung, and Eddie Henderson, as well as TOP bari saxophone soul man Stephen “Doc” Kupka and keyboardist Rodney Franklin.
After a number of recent recordings that were average at best, George Benson has released his best recording in well over a decade. Guitar Man reminds everyone that George Benson used to be considered the finest guitarist of his generation. An exceptional melodic improviser of the highest level and refinement, Benson plays his heart out, and the result will most certainly be one of the top 10 discs of not just this year, but probably this coming decade.
Zagreb Croatia native, pianist and composer Matija Dedic earned a collegiate degree from the Jazz Academy in Graz, Austria. Dedic comes from a musical family; his father received musical awards and his mom sang with Louis Armstrong and Phil Woods. Some of Dedic's piano teachers have included jazz stalwarts Hal Galper and Barry Harris. Among the musicians Dedic has played with are Benny Golson, Kenny Burrell, Roy Haynes, Alvin Queen, Lenny White and Larry Grenadier. As a composer Dedic has written for television, the theatre and some Croatian pop artists. M.D. in NYC is his second release as a leader.
There have always been bands of superstar jazz musicians. Usually put together by a producer, witness the Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham, Deron Johnson & Najee Live At The Greek tour, or a record company, witness the 1970s CTI label-mate concerts, but a band of superstars who come together on a regular basis is almost unheard of. That has all changed with the SF Jazz Collective.
Monrovia Liberia born guitarist Martin Mathelier was raised mostly in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. First learning the guitar from his well-known Haitian guitar virtuoso brother Marc Mathelier, the younger brother focused, as he got older, on Brazilian Bossa Nova. In 1981, in New York, Martin, along with two others, founded the group Vibes, a long lasting band featuring Haitian Kompa music.
Saxophonist, flutist, keyboardist, composer and arranger Eric Person, who was born in St. Louis and trained at the St. Louis Conservatory of Music, continues his tradition to release good music that is questing, yet firmly planted in jazz's tradition with his latest CD, The Grand Illusion.
There are a number of excellent saxophonists who have worked in the area of gospel jazz, including Kirk Whalum, Angella Christie and Tom Braxton. Todd Ledbetter is another one of these musical pioneers. A student of Dr. Nathan Davis at the University of Pittsburgh, Ledbetter eventually worked with artists like saxophonists Grover Washington Jr., James Moody, Eddie Harris and trumpeter Jon Faddis. Later work in the bands of Joe Harris, Roger Humphries and Bishop Walter Hawkins led to Ledbetter becoming a leader in his own right.
Great musicians, truly great musicians, can play any style of music. That is true in any of the great recording cities in the United States. The wealth of fantastic musicians in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville almost boggles the mind. This CD is a compilation of different jazz artists currently working in Nashville. All the cuts, as is typically true with compilations, are great. When artists have the ability to put their best foot forward you're going to get their best. There are 11 different cuts on the disc led by 10 different artists.
One of the constants in the music world is that saxophonist, composer and Philadelphia native Andy Snitzer will always be working. Even though he gave up his gig with the Rolling Stones to Tim Ries, Snitzer is not hurting for work. Since being discovered by Bob James when Snitzer was a student at the University of Miami, he eventually went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from New York University. Snitzer has worked steadily as a session musician and touring artist when not working for Wall Street investment firms. Whether touring with Paul Simon, playing his own gigs or sitting in with the David Letterman band, Snitzer is offered far more gigs than he can ever adequately accept.