Friday, February 17, 2017

Pianist Christian Sands Manifests New Experiences Stretching Into Progressive New Territory on Mack Avenue Records Debut, REACH - Available April 21



With his debut Mack Avenue Records recording, REACH, singularly talented pianist and five-time Grammy® Award nominee Christian Sands is stretching into exciting progressive territory as he breaks new ground traversing from the straight-ahead zone into fresh-sounding music influenced by a range of styles, from Afro-Cuban rhythms to hip-hop beats to dirty blues with an edge. That's impressive for a youngster who is just 27. "The collection here is about reaching new ideas and reaching new music," he says. "I'm reaching from past recordings to bring in the future, which is really all about finding myself. It's a chance to express my experience."
  
REACH becomes one more milestone in Sands' auspicious career that stretches back to his New Haven, Connecticut upbringing. Beginning music classes and composing his first piece at age five, he quickly became a professional by ten. Sands was well-prepared to attend such prestigious schools as the Neighborhood Music School and the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven (he later received bachelor's and master's degrees from the Manhattan School of Music).
 
But a key moment came when he attended the Jazz in July summer workshop at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst when he was in high school. That was where he met and began his mentorship with Dr. Billy Taylor. "I was 13 or 14 and I studied with Dr. Taylor," Sands says. "After the first week, he asked me to stay a second. I went on to take private lessons with him and master classes. He became my music grandfather; I went to his house in the Bronx and we'd talk about different music such as his piano heroes like Art Tatum and then bands I was listening to, including The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, John Legend and he was hip to all this."
 
The recording is co-produced by Grammy® Award-winning producer Al Pryor and famed bassist Christian McBride, who Sands has collaborated with in his Grammy® Award-winning trio, as well as some of McBride's other groups, since 2009. "Upon first meeting Christian, I could feel a cool connection," Sands recalls. "From when I first sat in with his Inside Straight band, I realized that we think about music in the same way. When I got signed to Mack Avenue, I asked if Christian could produce me, as someone who knows my playing and what I want to accomplish in my music."

Sands has assembled a stellar trio here, including bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Marcus Baylor. The album also features guests Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet and percussionist Cristian Rivera. He even convinced McBride to make a cameo appearance, bowing his bass at the end of the slow tempo "Use Me."
 
Photo by: Anna Webber
With a record deal in hand, Sands set out to make a grand artistic entry with REACH, which includes eight originals and two covers. He opens the album with the upbeat piano trio tune, "Armando's Song," with its dazzling keys, rhythmic drive and overall ebullience. Inspired by Chick Corea, the song features a catchy melody and piano counterpoint and flies through different keys and strikes with rhythmic hits. More piano ecstasy follows with the blues-tinged "Song of the Rainbow People," again a trio trip. "This is a song about bringing people together in the midst of all the racial and religious tension, hate and misunderstanding in the world today," Sands says.
 
The swinging "Pointing West," written when Sands was attending the Manhattan School of Music and playing piano in the practice room overlooking the West Side Highway and the Hudson River beyond, features an inspired collaboration with Strickland that features remarkable harmonizing and trading. The pair links up again in the cosmic "Freefall," with more intertwining of piano and sax and new colors: the bright synthesized electronics and the dark-toned bass clarinet that speak to the song's theme of chasing an elusive apparition.
 
Informed by his Afro-Cuban music experiences in Bobby Sanabria's band, as well as playing in Los Hombres Calientes and in local Latin bands in Hartford, Connecticut, Sands sizzles on the firestorm "Óyeme," which features Rivera taking wild freedom with his percussion runs. "I love the groove, the dance," explains Sands. "This is about having a fiesta. This is what music should be like. Not going too deep, but having a lot of ridiculous fun." That's followed by a cooking and bouncing trio swing on "Bud's Tune," Sands' homage to Bud Powell and Herbie Nichols.
 
The next three songs showcase guitarist Hekselman, whom Sands has worked with for several years, especially in bassist Ben Williams' band. "I wrote 'Reaching for the Sun' with Gilad in mind," Sands says. "He's so easy to play with and we never get in each other's way." The tune is another easy-going dance with the guitar adding a cool tonal color above the percolating rhythms and an excited fleet-fingered piano solo. Hekselman delivers a rock-edged, bending-note solo on the blues-drenched "Use Me" and helps drive the rhythm on the moving hip-hop grooved "Gangstalude." Of the former, Sands says that he was a big fan of soul music growing up, with one of his biggest influences being Bill Withers. "I always loved that tune 'Use Me,'" he says. "Originally I was just going to cover it, but then I started to bend and move the rhythm and extended and stretched the bass and melody lines." As for "Gangstalude," Sands says it was originally designed to just be a short swing interlude about gangsters--he loves mob movies like The Godfather--but then he came up with a bridge and brought the hip-hop flow into the mix.
 
The album ends on a romantic note with a non-original tune, the melodic gem "Somewhere Out There." Composed by James Horner, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the original recording, sung by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, won Grammy® Awards for "Song of the Year" and "Best Song for Film" from its appearance in the 1986 animated film An American Tail. "I was looking for a ballad and I didn't want to do Strayhorn or Porter," Sands says. "I wanted to play something that was not that familiar. So I was talking to my mother and she said, 'What about the song from the movie with the mouse that you used to watch when you were a kid?' She used to sing it to me when I was four or five years old and my dad would play piano. So I told her she was genius; I don't think this has ever been done as an instrumental. When people hear this, I'm hoping they go, 'Oh, yeah, I remember this.'"
 
The end song is yet another example of how Sands shifts musical gears with a variety of styles onREACH. "Actually, my biggest influence in making this album was Michael Jackson's Bad record," he says. "There are so many different kinds of tunes on that, so many changes. So that's what I was setting out to do."
 

Saxophonist Bobby Watson Shines Light on Vital but Largely Unappreciated Black Pioneers on Made in America, Available April 21 via Smoke Sessions Records

While Black History Month provides an annual reminder of the momentous contributions that African-Americans have made to the nation's history, 28 days out of 365 aren't nearly enough to compensate for the neglect those "hidden figures" (to borrow the title of a recent hit film) have suffered in classrooms and history books. On his latest album, Made in America, saxophonist and composer Bobby Watson does his part to call attention to some vital but largely unappreciated black pioneers in a variety of fields, from politics to pop culture, science to sports.

Made in America, due out April 21 from Smoke Sessions Records, offers a musical portrait gallery of nine influential African-Americans. Listeners may be familiar with some -- surely everyone knows the name Sammy Davis, Jr., while Grant Green, Butterfly McQueen and Madam C.J. Walker will ring a bell with many -- most of them remain obscure despite their history-making achievements.

"This project has been a history lesson for me," Watson says, "and I hope it will be a history lesson for the listeners."

To shed light on these overlooked giants of American history, Watson enlisted a few collaborators with whom he shares some significant history of his own. On Made in America the renowned saxophonist is joined by the Curtis Lundy Trio, featuring bassist Curtis Lundy, pianist Stephen Scott and drummer Lewis Nash. All four have tenures with the influential singer Betty Carter in common, while the album marks a welcome return to the scene for Scott, who has been largely silent for the last several years.

In a sense, Watson's enlistment of Lundy and the bassist's veteran trio expands the mission of the album itself, finding another too-undersung figure in Lundy himself. "I've known Curtis for over 40 years," Watson says. "He's a groove master, and he knows how to put a trio together. I thought it was only fair to give him the recognition that he deserves on this album."

The same impulse drove the concept of Made in America, the honorees of which were in most cases new to even Watson himself before he embarked on the project. "I've been studying black history for years," he explains, "and I would come across these great figures in history whom I'd never heard of. It set me on a path to find other black figures in history that weren't as big as George Washington Carver or Booker T. Washington, and to try to illuminate these folks."

The album takes off, almost literally, with a clever quotation of "The U.S. Air Force Song" -- think "Off we go into the wild blue yonder" and you'll have the refrain in your head -- for "The Aviator." That piece pays homage to Wendell Pruitt, a pioneering military pilot and Tuskegee Airman who was killed during a training exercise in 1945.

Each subsequent piece paints its portrait with similar wit and feeling for the nuance of its subjects. The inspiration that Watson finds in these forgotten innovators comes through in his -- and the band's -- playing throughout the album. Watson's Kansas City roots shine through in the soulful swing and boisterous grooves that make for a hell of a funky history lesson.

Photo by John Abbott
Looking back at a history that intersects more directly with Watson's own four-decade career, "The Guitarist" captures the merger of soul and jazz that distinguished the work of Grant Green, which presaged artists like Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Watson bends his notes like a blues axeman on the tune's guitar-like lines. Scott's appropriately fluttering piano opens "The Butterfly," penned for actress Butterfly McQueen, best known from her defining role as Prissy, Scarlett O'Hara's maid in Gone With the Wind. Watson evokes the actress' trademark high-pitched voice with his piping alto, while the ultimate tragedy of her life is captured in Scott's aching solo over Nash's wrenchingly whispering brushwork and Lundy's mournful bass moans.

"The Cyclist" and "The Jockey" both pay tribute to landmark figures from the sports world. The former, whose buoyant rhythm seems to spin in time with a bicycle wheel, was written for Major Taylor, the first African-American cyclist to win the world one-mile track cycling championship in 1899, setting numerous world records in the face of rampant racism. Composed by Lundy, the heavy trot of "The Jockey" depicts Isaac Murphy, a Hall of Fame jockey who won three Kentucky Derbies in the late 19th century.

Co-written with Watson's wife Pamela, the anthemic "The Entrepreneur" is an ode to Madam C.J. Walker, whose line of beauty and hair products for black women made her the first female self-made millionaire in the country. Highlighted by the deep gallop of Lundy's bassline, "The Real Lone Ranger" takes a look at Bass Reeves, a U.S. Marshal in the American west thought to be the inspiration for the famed masked man; while the driving, mechanistic rhythms of Scott's "The Computer Scientist" are a nod to Dr. Mark Dean, who holds three of the nine original patents for the first IBM personal computer.

While its title might suggest Muhammad Ali to most, "The G.O.A.T." -- or Greatest Of All Time -- is actually meant for Sammy Davis, Jr. Watson sees Davis as the epitome of the all-around entertainer, and Nash's skittering rhythms are an apt impression of Davis' tap-dancing prowess. "I was always happy to see Sammy on TV when I was young," Watson says. "There weren't many opportunities to see a black man on TV doing the things that he did. I only learned later that he started as a child -- he was like the Michael Jackson of his time."

Watson also borrowed his self-proclaimed theme song, "I've Gotta Be Me," from Davis' repertoire. The classic song closes the album, its lyrics suggestive of Watson's own artistic path as well as the necessary qualities shared by his inspirations on Made in America: "I want to live, not merely survive, and I won't give up this dream of life that keeps me alive."

Finally, "A Moment of Silence" allows listeners to bow their heads and reflect on their own heroes. Originally composed for the late Mulgrew Miller, the track was written to last exactly one minute and provide an appropriately elegiac soundtrack to such commemorations.

"This is not your typical jazz record," Watson concludes. "I want to try, in the time I have left, to reflect the things that I'm learning about history, about America and about the world and the people that came before me, and hopefully connect that with some of our young people and older people, both black and white."


Thursday, February 16, 2017

NEW MUSIC: Don't Forget to Smile - Kennedy Administration

There is a new President in town and she wants you to join her on her musical journey with Kennedy Administration A staple to the NYC jazz club scene, The Kennedy Administration's live shows consist of jazzy version of R&B and pop songs as well as jazz covers.
With the release of their EP recently, we have extracted the vibrant "Don't Forget to Smile". Lead singer Kennedy has a voice that is so pretty as its pristine with lots of soul and it goes down well with the exotic arrangement that this track holds. The affirmative message on this single plus the bossa-nova type rhythm are the one-two punches needed to chase the blues away.
The Kennedy Administration definitely has our vote! Take a listen to the track and while you are there, please support the band by purchasing a few singles. https://kennedyadministrationnyc.bandcamp.com/…/dont-forget… #thekennedyadministration #smoothjazz2017#kennedyadministrationbandcamp #nycjazzbands

NEW MUSIC: Allen Carman Project - Groove Salad


A refreshing beat that's healthy for your soul? You've got it! Bassist Allen Carman from the Allen Carman Project takes you there and on another level with the groove on the fun-filled track "Groove Salad." Saxman Andy Snitzer floats in and out with hypnotic notes serving as the perfect salad dressing to this tasty musical morsel. Add Philippe Saisse's peppered keyboard style along with Allen's basstastic skills and you will have a groove that will leave audience pleasantly satisfied. Hear this track and more on #jazzmoodsradio Your spot for new jazz releases and contemporary favorites!

NEW MUSIC: Vanessa Moodley - You Believed

Ever so often a vocalist comes along and blows us away with a voice that is pure and ethereal. South African born, Canada based Vanessa Moodley is that vocalist with passion in her voice and she is heating things up with her latest single "You Believed." The single takes on a jazz fusion, smooth but with a bite of fresh funkiness that is uplifting to the spirit.
The track is further embellished with Vanessa's vocals which travel like a whisper on the wind, like a gentle caress with great tonality. You can hear "You Believed" and more tracks on #jazzmoodsradio

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

NEW MUSIC: Kirk Fischer - Dis 'Sup


Rolling piano notes add a larger than life sound to the latest track from Kirk Fischer called "Dis 'Sup". Listening to this track you get all the elements of good and funky contemporary jazz which along the way the big band orchestration gives off a film-score feel. The track is taken from Kirk's debut CD entitled "Friends." Kirk is the protege of East Bay Soul's own Greg Adams and Greg has also been named the producer of Kirk's latest compilation.#kirkfischer #dissup #contemporaryjazz2017

New Music: Justin Klunk - Changing Tides


Los Angeles based saxophonist Justin Klunk has just released the single "Changing Tides" from his Cd "Clarity" and we have added this single to our playlist on #jazzmoodsradio
"Changing Tides", embraces smooth jazz but there is a significant amount of old school soul that is unmistakable. It's the kind of song that would make you want to "doo-wop" along with the melodies but the soulful sax brings it back to where smooth jazz stays.
Justin is a graduate of the University of Southern California where he received his BM in Popular Music Performance. After graduating, he toured with pop artist Ariana Grande and subsequently released his debut eponymous CD.
On the new compilation, you would find everything from Pop and Rock influences on smooth jazz tracks both on original and cover singles. #justinklunk #smoothjazzsax #jazzreleases2017

Friday, January 13, 2017

NEW MUSIC: Chase Huna - Pure

Tune in to #jazmoodsradio and hear the debut single from saxophonist Chase Huna. His first single "Pure" which is on his CD "On the Chase", is high on funk with well-textured melodies that is the perfect indication that Chase's career is off to a good start. With producer and jazz guitarist Steve Oliver in his corner as producer, engineer and arranger, the two were able to sit and put together 10 songs for the debut CD. #chasehuna #steveoliver #debutjazzcd2017 #2017jazz

NEW MUSIC: Mark Etheredge - Roger That

Stay a while on #jazzmoodsradio just long enough to hear the latest single from keyboardist Mark Etheredge. From his latest CD called "Connected" we give you "Roger That".
Joining Mark on this single include fine musicians such as bass player Roberto Valley, percussionist Richie Garcia, drummer Gordon Campbell and his fellow East Bay Soul bandmate Greg Vail. The track is indeed in a class by itself as it progresses as elegantly as a model sashaying on a catwalk. 
Mark is based in Los Angeles who has been on own as a solo artist since his debut CD "As Dawn" back in 1990.

NEW MUSIC: Walter Beasley - Don't Say A Word


It's 2017 and new jazz music abounds on #jazzmoodsradio We've untied the bow on the box of new music for the year and pulled out the latest single from Walter Beasley entitled "Don't Say A Word."
Taken from his upcoming CD "Blackstreams" under the Affable Records label, "Don't Say A Word" brings together instruments such as a slamming bassline, sassy sax and a drizzle of flute notes making for a very hypnotic affair
Far from his singles last year, this new-age and very European-sounding approach is indeed a good fit on Beasley in terms of his playing style and improvs. It's the kind of grooves you can get giddy with, one that has an acid-jazz feel that can transport you to a jazz cafe on a rainy night. #walterbeasley #newjazz2017 #acidjazz #smoothjazz #contemporaryjazz

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

NEW MUSIC: Threestyle featuring Magdalena Chovancova - The Road to Monterey


#whatsnewwednesdays European duo Threestyle featuring Magdalena Chovancova has been consistently releasing new tracks that sit in winners' row and their latest track "The Road to Monterey" is also a strong contender for success.
"The Road to Monterey" is indeed paved with good intentions. The musical relay that goes on between the sax and the guitar is graceful against a very cool and breezy melody that can optimize any scenic driving experience.
Tune in to #jazzmoodsradio 24/7. We're portable!! http://tunein.com/radio/Jazz-Moods-Radio-s209303/

Friday, November 11, 2016

New Music: Jan Daley - When Sunny Gets Blue


From time to time, we often glance back to straight-ahead jazz and add it to our #jazzmoodsradio playlist just as we have done with Jan Daley's latest single, a reworking of the classic "When Sunny Gets Blue." This classy music affair commences with a romantic sax, the perfect lead-in to Jan's sultry and pristine vocals. A former Miss California, Daley follows in the Great American Songbook tradition of many of the legends she's opened shows for, including Louis Armstrong. This single will come in handy for those chilled, winter nights when romance is at its peak. Indulge. #jandaley #smoothjazz2016 #straightaheadjazz

New Music ; Herb Alpert - Human Nature


Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" has been covered by many musicians of every genre over the years, but none has been able to take originality up a notch the way Herb Alpert has. Taken from his latest CD "Doodles", the legendary trumpeter's interpretation has a cosmic and very futuristic effect to it. Beats and notes that you would never think would work together to fall in place actually do, and it's the element of surprise with this track that makes it what it is...pure genius. On this single, Herb maintains his signature Latin pastiche; the use of the electronic bassline gives it a nice, vintage touch. We are feeling this track strong; tune in often to hear new music like this and more on #jazzmoodsradio http://www.jazzmoodsradio.com #herbalpert #humannature #doodles #newjazz2016

NEW MUSIC: Derek Ryan Edwards - Heads Up


Somewhere between the avenues of straight-ahead and bossa jazz lie the robust "Heads Up", the latest track from saxophonist Derek Ryan Edwards. 
Currently streaming on #jazzmoodsradio, "Heads Up", is also cool and tempered with a somewhat electric jazz element that is outstanding as it is unique. 
After playing several live circuits at the Montreux Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival and touring with the Ball State University jazz lab ensemble, this single is from Derek's debut solo release entitled "10 WEST."
The compilation is expected to feature Currently streaming on #jazzmoodsradio, "Head's Up" the single is taken from Derek's debut solo release album entitled "10 WEST". 
One can expect to hear ten original songs on the debut CD which will feature Derek on soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones. #derekryanedwards #smoothjazz2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

NEW MUSIC: Doc Powell - So Cool and Tyler Reese - Moving On


The coolest spot you would want to be is riding on the contagious rhythms of the track "So Cool" from guitarist Doc Powell.
Taken from his latest CD "This is Soul", "So Cool" harbors a funky urban-jazz melody that contains funky notes from the trumpet and upright bass which, together with Doc's smooth guitar strokes, gives this track a very futuristic touch.

Gearing down, but still keeping the chill factor on point, we are also streaming Tyler Reese's new single "Moving On". Referred as a "spirit-lifting, sweetly melodic acoustic guitar sojourn", "Moving On" definitely hits the sweet spot.Drop in often and check us out on http://www.jazzmoodsradio.com Streaming 24/7 with a better variety of jazz...the way you like it!! #tylerreese #docpowell #jazzmoodsradioplaylist#newjazz2016 #smoothjazz2016

Grady Nichols releases holiday CD with classics and original music


Acclaimed saxophonist Grady Nichols has release his first-ever holiday project Falling in Love with Christmas via RED/Sony Music and New Day Christian Distributors. The seventh career album to date for the Emmy nominated artist features Nichols’ signature sounds in a vibrant blend of seasonal classics mixed with new, original tunes. In addition, Falling in Love with Christmas is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.

“This project is the culmination of years of musical experimentation as well as a lifetime’s worth of holiday experiences,” says Nichols. “I’ve always appreciated the integral part music plays in our Christmas celebration and it’s always been a dream of mine to be able to do a record like this… to create a celebration of the most precious season of all!”

Drawing on Nichols personal influence with masters of the genre such as Henry Mancini, Eddy Arnold and the Carpenters, Falling in Love with Christmas features instrumental renditions of Christmas favorites such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “O Holy Night.” The holiday album also offers original tunes through the upbeat anthem “One More Christmas Song” (vocal guest performance by 4Him’s Andy Chrisman) and title track, “Falling in Love with Christmas.”

“I really wanted to capture that traditional Christmas that I listened to and grew up with through the years,” says Nichols. “But, at the same time, try and do something different with it to own those songs and create something musically modern and fresh that has a timeless quality to it.”

One of the most poignant moments on the album is “The Message of Christmas,” a spoken word track featuring Nichols, his wife, Lisa, and their three sons. “Being able to have my family as a part of this record and share the story of Christmas with all the other families that pick this up at Christmastime is pretty special,” Nichols says. “My hope is that this project will become part of everyone’s family traditions for decades to come.”

Falling in Love with Christmas presents a cast of world renown musicians and longtime friends that collaborated alongside Nichols, including Grammy Award-winning producer Michael Omartian (Billy Joel, Steely Dan), Dove Award-winning producer Chris Rodriguez (Keith Urban, Faith Hill), David John, Matt Pierson, Steve Brewster and Dove Award winning orchestral arranger/pianist David Hamilton (Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith) who also arranged and conducted The Nashville String Machine, a 30-piece orchestra that is featured on the project.

“This album was such a joy to help create,” says Hamilton.  “The combination of the rhythm section and Grady's saxophones, with the power, beauty and majesty of a symphony orchestra captures the spirit of Christmas in a unique way.  The blending of classic orchestral traditions and jazz is a vibrant setting for Grady’s masterful and lyric playing.   You can sense the joy and feel the true meaning of the season in this music.”

“Grady sings through his saxophone and communicates the joy of Christmas with every fiber of his being,” adds Rodriguez. “It was such a pleasure to see his vision of a holiday (‘Holy Day’) record with orchestral sections come to fruition.”

Throughout his musical journey, Nichols has collaborated with some of the world’s leading talents. He has opened for Ray Charles, the Temptations, Al Green, and Luciano Pavarotti, making him the only artist allowed to open for Pavarotti on his North American farewell tour.  Nichols has performed with Peter Cetera, the Beach Boys, Kirk Whalum, and Roy Clark. In addition, his albums have featured acclaimed guest vocalists such as two time Grammy Award winner Bill Champlin of Chicago, Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer and Zac Maloy, alumni of the Nixons who also penned the No. 1 hit “Temporary Home” for Carrie Underwood, Jeff Lorber, and Grammy Award winner Chris Botti who toured with Sting, among others.