WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE! * WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE! * WELCOME TO THE SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE!

fo/mo/deep — Syzygy

September 13, 2019

Sept. 13, 2019

I have been following this eclectic groove machine known as fo/mo/deep since 2010, and I have to say that, with each of its colorful releases (including the current Syzygy — interesting title), the band has given me plenty of reason to continue following it.

Operating as a trio these days (Ron “FatKat” Holmes on all basses, Andre Scott on drums and percussion, and Robert Mason on piano/keys) and continuing in the vein of eclecticism (as one of its albums is titled, by the way), the group gives nods to the funk/soul groove while still holding up high the contributions of the masters of the traditional jazz persuasion. Read More

Bennett B – Groove Time

June 6, 2014

June 6, 2014

For those who may not know, Bennett B (aka Bennett Brandeis) is a four-time recipient of ASCAP’s Popular Music Award and is listed in the Who’s Who World of Jazz. Now, with that brief Bennett B CDintro, allow me to delve into the artist’s latest activity – a cool and often funky offering featuring some of today’s best known artists in accompaniment.

The album is called Groove Time and features the renowned guitarist Paul Brown (who also produced and mixed this effort), saxman Elan Trotman, trumpeter Greg Adams, and the late great drummer Ricky Lawson.

The album has that cool, confident Paul Brown production feel to it while Brandeis exhibits his own storytelling style on guitar. Read More

Peggy Duquesnel – All I Ask For Christmas

November 1, 2013

Oct. 28, 2013

No, we don’t regularly feature straight-ahead jazz or country here, but here’s a project from the attractive pianist/vocalist with the bubbly Peggy Duquesnel CDsmile, Peggy Duquesnel, that transforms many of our beloved Christmas carols into seriously bopping and strolling jazz numbers sprinkled with a healthy amount of country influence. It’s called All I Ask For Christmas, and it warrants a good listen.

Now, granted, some of the renditions may take you by surprise, and you may or may not prefer the version of one or more of your personal faves as presented here, but overall, it’s a wonderfully innovative take on the classics.

Each track has its own appealing twist – like “What Child Is This?” resembling “Take Five.”  Then, there’s the country influence on her own “Under the Christmas Tree,” complete with pedal steel guitar. Brow-raising seasonal music?  Despite the many other takes you’ve heard on carols, yes, I think it’s safe to say that. Duquesnel definitely puts her own signature on these tracks which include timeless pieces like “Little Drummer Boy,” “O Christmas Tree,” “Silent Night,” and “What Child Is This?”

Did I mention that this project contains two CDs? No? Well, that’s a huge factor here, since the second CD features Duquesnel’s cool and jazzy vocals on some of the same carols.  With Duquesnel’s vocals carrying the day, you just may reconsider your hesitancy about the instrumental version of your faves here. Her vocals transport the songs to yet another place. Take, for example, her vocal versions of “Mary Did You Know” and “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).” Absolutely beautiful.   Also, the country feel of “Silent Night” works here.

Helping along with the vocals are Bill Cantos and Emma Werderman. Add to that the bright lights of such high caliber talent as trumpeter Rick Braun and bassist Brian Bromberg, some smooooth scatting from Duquesnel and Cantos (check out the jazzy/bluesy title track and Duquesnel original), and you’ve got something new and comfy with which to bring in the season.

Different? Yes. Unappealing? Not at all. This Christmas season, let a little creativity, innovativeness, and imagination allow your spirit to open its door to this holiday present. – Ronald Jackson

Nocy – Live at the Bellagio

June 26, 2013

June 25, 2013

Flamenco guitarist Nocy (who also plays other styles) likes to say that “If your heart is touched, my music has spoken.” Here with his first live album called Live at the Bellagio (due for release on June 30), it’s not hard at all to feel the touch of many of these tunes.Nocy Live

From the melodic up-tempo opening track (“Amor Mi Amor”), you know that it’s time for the fiesta. As a show of true eclecticism, the guitarist then launches full blast into a raw 12-bar blues tune (“Blues 66”) that is as much fiery as it is anything else.

From smooth Brazilian flavors to the irresistible flame of flamenco, the entire CD breathes exoticism. Among my faves would be the lead track, “Blues 66,” “Arabica,” the cozy and romantic “Imagine You’re In Love” with the lovely vocals of Felice Hernandez (in fact, her vocals are laced throughout the album, adding some additional color to Nocy’s already colorful guitar), “La Vida,” “Noce Time,” and the fiery “Ya Madame,” just to name a few.

Nocy says that this recording is a completely unedited one. You get that sense as you are transported to the Bellagio and witness all of the beauty and nuances of live recording.

As you can imagine, this album is full of life, romanticism, and electricity – qualities that keep Nocy’s music so very enticing.  The mostly up-tempo tunes here have what it takes to keep hearts racing and feet on the dance floor.

From his debut release years ago to this current live CD, this is one guitarist who clearly knows how to effectively use phrasing, melodies, blindingly fast riffs, and catchy hooks to punctuate his wonderful  brand of music. – Ronald Jackson

David Arkenstone & Charlee Brooks — Loveren

May 22, 2013

May 22, 2013

To me. some of the most alluring and beautiful music in the world (outside of my obvious loves) is Celtic, New Age, neo-classical, and World music. One of the well-regarded icons in this David Arkenstonefield is composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist David Arkenstone. His new release, Loveren, is another masterpiece that I’m sure is headed for yet another GRAMMY nomination.

On this journey, he features the golden-voiced Charlee Brooks and a full orchestra. Featuring Brooks turns out to be one of the best things Arkenstone could have done. Her celestial, all-enthralling, and lilting voice carries you on gossamer wings through the wonderful world and imagination of this 3-time GRAMMY-nominated master of sound and mood.

Loveren is based on an original story commissioned by Arkenstone who, by the way, is celebrating his 25th year as a recording artist.

There is so very much to the Arkenstone story. It’s an understatement to say that he has done quite well. To learn more about him, I invite you to visit www.davidarkenstone.com.

Focusing on this moving, touching, shaping latest project, Arkenstone & Brooks begin – where else? – at the beginning with the lovely “Origins.” They gently escort us though a world of enchantment, silky veils, and melody…plenty of melody.

Beyond “Origins” lie such light and tasteful tracks as “The Forbidden Sea,””Luminara,”  “Sessa Nulma,” “Lost,”  and one of the most hypnotically melodic tracks I’ve heard in a while, “Slip Away,” presented by the dreamy and impassioned voice of Brooks. This tune alone is reason enough to grab a copy of this album. So full of the warmth and caress of the message and story Arkenstone & Brooks set out to tell.  However, you will find so much more to love about this album.

Arkenstone considers this “one of my best in many ways.” No argument here. – Ronald Jackson

Lawson Rollins – Full Circle

May 22, 2013

May 22, 2013

I stand convinced that, in order to be a truly effective Latin or flamenco guitarist, one must be somewhat well-travelled. Just take a look at the world travels of Jesse Cook, Ottmar Liebert, and Johannes Linstead. All are great guitarists with enormous vision. Well, add to that list, guitarist Lawson Rollins who always brings a refreshing pLawson Rollinserspective to his music and transfers that perspective to his fans. The guitarist now brings us what could be considered a commentary on his travels and music: His latest release entitled Full Circle.

Rollins brings to light the beauty of all the world as he offers World-influenced gems here while never relinquishing the Latin flair that yours truly has come to know and love so well. Rollins says, “’Full Circle’ is somewhat of a return to my roots in a sense, with the focus shifting to a sound that is more centered and grounded in the instrument I know best—the nylon string Spanish guitar. I was determined and indeed excited to create a cohesive, guitar-focused album. I had to reign in my instinct to apply layer upon layer of sound to any given track. That’s not to say that ‘Full Circle’ does not have some adventurous musical rides, but the heart of the album can be found in concise musical statements…’Full Circle’ is perhaps the most accurate, pointed expression of my guitar style and approach to melody and songcraft to date.”  Personally, I have always felt that Rollins’ approach to melody and songcraft have been dead-on, but, of course, being the perfectionist that he clearly illustrates that he is, who can argue with the man’s assessment?

This powerful work and the beginning of the circle starts with a rich and melodic rumba called “Momentum” that immediately captures and brings the listener to that point of anticipation of the next track …and the next…and the next. By tossing in an exotic touch of Japanese music, Rollins ensures that the combination is simply irresistible. On its heels is another lesson in Spanish exoticism called “Point of Attraction.” Full of beauty and structured so meticulously, its call is almost hypnotic.

“Pursuit” picks up the rumba pace, and we dance on…atop the wings of Rollins’ vivid and very colorful imagination and musical ingenuity.

A stop in Brazil brings a pair of bossa nova goodies in “Flight” and “Bloom,” while “Serpent’s Tale” takes us and the Latin vibe farther into the World influence. The combination is wonderfully tasteful.

Perhaps my favorite track is “Gone From Here,” an 8-minute riveting piece of melodic art that finds  Rollins on electric guitar, has blinding riffs and a rock-like feel toward the end where there exists a gripping and stirring crescendo.  A masterful demonstration.

Nimble-fingered with lightning speed and possessing a full grasp of the cultures of the world as voiced through his guitar, Lawson Rollins wears his captivating music like a second skin. – Ronald Jackson

Ava Lemert – Ava L Soul

May 14, 2013

May 14, 1013

Saxophonist/vocalist Ava Lemert has released a  4-track EP of cover tunes  called Ava L Soul that proves to be quite interestingAva Lemert2 with innovative interpretations by the artist. I seldom review such projects, as regular visitors to the site know, but this begs exception.

It’s obvious that Lemert loves what she does. You can hear that in her vocals, which, by the way, are quite noteworthy and work well with the real attraction for me: That bluesy sax which just stirs that something in you.

She takes her sax and vocals on a bluesy/R&B sexy walk with each track. From the lead track, Sade’s “Your Love Is King,” to the Billy Paul classic “Me and Mr. Jones” (slight variation on the title for obvious reasons, of course) to her easy roll into the classic by Yvonne Elliman “If I Can’t Have You.” Read More

Terra Guitarra — Dragonfly

May 4, 2013

May 4, 2013

This nuevo flamenco-based project called Dragonfly from guitarists Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli –aka Terra Guitarra — has a really nice flair to it that can and probably Terre Guitarrawill capture and hold your attention for the duration of the album.

From the enticing and rhythmic lead track, “Janvier” onward, you are treated to much diversity. While the first few tracks are clearly Latin-influenced, the duo ventures out around the world to create a cornucopia of brilliance and sound. As Hecksel says, “…Julie and I have immersed ourselves in world music and global ethnic folk so the Nuevo flamenco style evolved very naturally for us. People from all over the world come up to us at our performances and tell us how they hear the music culture represented in Terra Guitarra, be it Greek, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Columbian, or any number of other countries.”  Yes, this offering of pure aural delight certainly proves that the pair truly wanted to share its cultural experiences through its music.

There is a fascinating story behind many of the selections on this album. In fact, the very theme represents “a spiritual journey of personal exploration and discovery,” explains Patchouli. With roots spanning punk and folk rock, it has obviously been an interesting journey to say the least.

The “map” of this project is pretty clear. For the first few tracks, you witness some very melodic, unadulterated nuevo flamenco grooves. Later on in the CD, the diverse World appeal begins to make its bold and telling appearance with such tunes as “Danu” and “Discovery.”

Not noted for an abundance of cover tunes, the duo also offers up a very creative and imaginative cover of the film theme from one of the James Bond thrillers, “You Only Live Twice.”

Dragonfly is the fourth CD from Terra Guitarra. With a style so full of flavor and charm, my guess is that you can count on more. – Ronald Jackson

Note: At the time of posting, this album was not available via Amazon. However, you can find it with music samples on CDbaby.com by clicking on the CD image above.

Arun Shenoy — Rumbadoodle

May 4, 2013

May 4, 2013

With strings, loads of spirit, and quality songwriting, GRAMMY-nominated producer/songwriter Arun Shenoy shakes it up pretty well on his most appealing World musiArun Shenoyc debut release Rumbadoodle. If nothing else, looking down at a CD in front of you with that title should drive your curiosity to pick it up and pop it in your player. Doing so will produce for you some very interesting results, I’m sure.

Shenoy grabs various elements of World music influences and wraps them around a rumba flamenco theme that is most prevalent. Rumbadoodle is an album chock full of rich melodies, the adept phrasing of instruments, solid, happy rhythms, and little surprises such as the rock vibe found on “Rock and Rigmarole”and “Blue Sky Happiness” (both “Part I” & “Part II”).  In other words, this album has personality.

In another twist, “Sleepy Town” takes a turn farther east, and “Wanderlust in Keys” straddles both eastern and Latin worlds in a clever merger between the two.  Shenoy had to truly be in “happy town” as he reviewed how sweetly all of this came together.

Shenoy wraps it all up with a two-minute finale called “Rhythm of the Sun,” which has a bass line that resembles the rock group Electric Light Orchestra’s “Evil Woman.”

All of this music breathes. It exhales the air of newness, innovativeness, imagination, and exoticism. The world travels about which Shenoy talks (“Recorded almost entirely live across the globe, this record is an exploratory journey”) have rewarded the producer with a wealth of ideas that he shares here with listeners.

If you enjoy World music, this handsome piece of work will certainly appeal to you. If you’re new to the genre, Shenoy makes sure that you will want to return for more. I surely will. – Ronald Jackson

Delilah – Sweeter Life

April 17, 2013

Apr. 16, 2013

Here’s a cool project that features R&B as the headliner, splashed with a bit of jazz, pop, and soft rock sway and swagger – along with the nostalgDelilahia of house music and disco.

Hailing from Hungary, the lovely vocalist Delilah is making headway into the world of diverse musical tastes with her latest release Sweeter Life.

Moving the needle on infectious music, Delilah introduces her brand of seductive vocals and backing harmonies, driving rhythms, and truly catchy melodies.

The vocalist has been working closely with guitarist Jim Peterik (of Survivor fame – “Eye of the Tiger,” “Vehicle”).  He says of the vocalist, “Once in a great while, you find a voice with a certain ethereal quality that speaks to the soul. When I first heard Delilah sing I felt that. It’s been a joy working with this gifted singer and her musician partner Dave Sereny…I’m looking forward to the world discovering this great artist.”

Tunes range from the soulful, rhythmic, and sure-footed title track to the syrupy jazz/R&B-infused “Love Me” featuring the strong vocals of Wade O. Brown to the stompin’ shake-it-up dance jams “Queendom” and “My Happiness,” two tunes nostalgic of those frenetic disco years. Then, there’s the R&B/soft rock mid-tempo track “I’ll Be Over You,” the soulfully contagious dance tracks “Precious Love” and “Unbelievable,” and the melody-rich “Hello.” There’s more, but you get the message. This project is loaded with something for every R&B or pop fan.

Another competent vocalist who wears the badge of a provider of good music. No, I don’t get a smooth or contemporary jazz vibe from this project, but the very soulfulness of this charmer works its magic to get across to you a message that’s loud and clear: Delilah is a name to remember. – Ronald Jackson