Watch Jonathan Fritzén: “Love Birds – solo piano” on Facebook

By Phillip Martin

On Saturday night, Swedish smooth jazz pianist Jonathan Fritzén celebrated the eight year anniversary of his debut record Love Birds. For the occasion, he recorded a piano solo of the title track on Facebook. I have embedded his video below:

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Watch “Lindsey Webster: ‘Open Up’ (Original from album ‘You Change’)” on YouTube

By Phillip Martin

Follow my blog through the past couple of months, and you’ll see the name of an emerging star: Lindsey Webster.

In March, I shared about Webster’s landmark accomplishment of leading Billboard’s “Smooth Jazz Songs” chart four consecutive weeks with her fully driven vocal “Fool Me Once.” The song was the second full-on vocal to lead the mostly instrumental chart all-time.

Over the past seven weeks, the soul, pop, and R&B singer earned another entry onto the contemporary jazz chart. “Open Up,” which is also from her 2015 album You Changeclimbed to No. 5 on the chart over the past month.

With the success of the second hit, Webster recently shared a live recording of the song for SoulandJazz.com. You may watch it below or on SoulandJazzLIVE!’s YouTube channel.

Cole, Trotman, Andrew and Vaughn releasing new music

By Phillip Martin

In my latest new music watch, I highlight new releases by Steve Cole, Elan Trotman, Vandell Andrew, and Julian Vaughn.

Steve Cole releases single ahead of new album

Sax player Steve Cole released his new single a few days ago. “Mirage” (embedded from Spotify below) will appear on his new CD album Turn It Up. The new album is expected to release in mid-July but is available for pre-order.

Cole released his Pulse album in 2013. His fans will likely remember his 2000 album, titled Between Us. That particular album featured his hit “Got It Goin’ On” and his cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls.”


Elan Trotman teases redone songs from previous albums

Elan Trotman, another successful sax man, posted a video teaser of his newest project via Facebook and Instagram. He has presumably titled the project Double Take, and, according to his post, it will feature redone versions of songs from his previous albums. He concluded his post by saying he will release the album July 1 at Scullers Jazz Club, in Boston.

Elan Trotman allowed fans to listen to a teaser from recording software. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.
Elan Trotman allowed fans to listen to a teaser from his recording software. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

Trotman’s recent work includes collaborating on Marion Meadows’ “Magic Men” and Julian Vaughn’s “Ride Along.” The native from Barbados also earned an education from the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, according to his biography on his website. He is also the founder and host of the Barbados Jazz Excursion, held every Columbus Day weekend.


Vandell Andrew offers pre-order of new album

Like the two aforementioned sax players, Vandell Andrew is also releasing new music. All For Love is set to release on July 29. Andrew has posted a pre-order link on VandellMusic.com.

The New Orleans native released a short play album earlier this year titled For Lovers. Additionally, Andrew’s 2011 debut Years Later earned “rave reviews from smooth jazz fans, music lovers and critics across the world,” according to his biography on his website. “Let’s Ride,” the hit single from his 2014 EP Turn It Up, earned Billboard chart success and a Soul Train nomination.

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Vandell Andrew shared artwork for his new record set to come out this July. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

Julian Vaughn pushes new release back to 2017

I first shared a few months ago that bass guitarist Julian Vaughn announced he would release his new album this summer. Apparently, Vaughn pushed back the release date for sometime in March of next year. This is according to a post he shared recently on Facebook.

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Bassist Julian Vaughn updates his fans on the progress of his new record via Facebook. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

Stanley Jordan’s look and spirit “transcends gender”

Featured photo (above) titled “Stanley Jordan” and by Anna Staselovich on Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/g4as9c. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use permitted. 

By Phillip Martin

Over the past year, gender identity became a hot issue. During this time, Bruce Jenner transitioned to Caitlyn Jenner, emerging as the citizen she intended to be. Then in May, President Obama’s administration mandated that all American public schools install transgender-friendly bathroom policies or risk losing federal funding. Recently, guitarist Stanley Jordan’s change in look and dress, to a more “femme” style, garnered attention to the issue.

In a January interview with the Jazz Times, Jordan spoke about how he arrived at his androgynous appearance and how it has affected his life and music. He experimented with different looks to go with each new project and fit his art form, Jordan said.

“If jazz is about expressing who you are, you gotta really deal with who you are. And who am I? There’s so many different facets,” the guitarist said in the article.

Jordan, 56, told the Times that he started changing his look around the year 1990. 20 years later, while shopping for himself and his girlfriend, he found himself an open-armed mini-dress. After trying the outfit on and enjoying how it brought out the masculine and feminine elements of his appearance, he said he realized in that moment “that my spirit transcends gender.”

Later on in the article, the guitarist spoke about how his girlfriend of 10 years has supported him through his changes. He also mentioned how he felt he has helped create change in people’s perspectives towards gender equality.

Jordan played this weekend at Brian Culbertson’s fifth annual Napa Valley Jazz Getaway. The guitarist is known for his distinct two-hand touch technique, by fretting two hands on the guitar neck. He also plays the piano.

Jordan has earned four Grammy nominations, and his 2011 Friends album earned an NCAAP Image Awards nomination. He and Kevin Eubanks recently recorded an album titled Duets.

BWB: Flurry of upbeat groove by super trio

BWB
B.W.B. (Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, and Rick Braun)
Artistry Music, 2016

Album Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

CD Design / Art: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

By Phillip Martin

This past April, a trio of smooth jazz musicians released a new album packed with upbeat and gleeful grooves.

BWB, the newly self-titled release, is the third collaboration by guitarist Norman Brown, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and flugelhorn and trumpet player Rick Braun. Although it’s been three years since the super group’s previous record, their latest release is definitely worth the short wait.

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(Left to right) Decked out, Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, and Rick Braun adorn the front cover of their latest release, self-titled BWB.

The synergy among the three talents and their fun-filled sounds characterize this new album. Some tracks might remind middle-aged listeners of “the good ole days” of their youth. Other listeners may bob their heads or tap their toes to the ebullient horn play by Whalum and Braun. Some might enjoy Brown’s signature guitar riffs as he plays along with the other two on the carefree rhythms. Then, others might sing along to the vocals the musicians provide on a few tracks. Either way, BWB is a must-have album contemporary jazz lovers should purchase for this summer.

“Triple Dare” opens the album with a layered melody by Whalum and Braun’s sax and horn. You don’t want to miss Whalum’s solo around the 1:50 mark. Braun adds his own solo about 25 seconds later. Brown then closes the track with his guitar.

Next is a catchy track titled “Bust A Move.” In between the upbeat jam, the three musicians sing:

“You think you got something kinda hot.
“Go ‘head and bust a move, baby. Bust a move, baby.
“If teeny, tiny or if you got a lot.
“Go ‘head and bust a move, baby. Bust a move, baby.”

Along with the lyrics, you’ll hear what sounds like a synth bass in this song. You’ll hear this distinct sound especially behind a short solo by Brown in the middle of this track.

The fun continues with the title track, “BWB.” This soft jam climbed into the top five of Billboard’s “Smooth Jazz Songs” chart in the month of May. The song topped the chart on the week of May 21.

After the title track, the trio plays an interesting fourth song. In “Bolly Pop,” the musicians sing “India, turn it up real loud. India, can you do the Bolly Pop? Whoa…” In between the vocals, you’ll hear ethnic sounds that represent the subcontinent.

The tempo slows down and the mood settles in “I Want You Girl.” This very soft track sounds like a light jazz ballad. Whalum’s saxophone sounds prominently throughout this elegant track.

Perhaps the funnest tune on the second half of the album is “Lemonade.” It might even make you thirsty on a humid and scorching day this summer. Once again, B.W.B. sing on this track. You’ll hear the trio sing first:

“Lemonade.
“That’s what you got to do with those lemons.
“You’ve got to make some lemonade.
“That’s what you got to do with those lemons.”

The next three songs each present signature sounds of each musician, respectfully. “Memphis Steppin’” features guitar riffs by Brown typically heard throughout his own solo discography. In a similar fashion, you’ll hear Whalum’s saxophone on “Hey Baby.” The pattern is set, as Braun plays his style of horn in “North Star.”

Finally, the trio closes the lively album with “Turn Up.” It seems that this track sounds funky like many upbeat jams Brian Culbertson has played throughout his career. Nevertheless, this final cut features a few vocals and brief instrumentals to a basic guitar beat.


B.W.B. as solo artists:

• Norman Brown is no stranger to collaborations. Four years ago, he teamed up with sax player Gerald Albright on their album titled 24/7. Brown also teamed up with guitarist and producer Paul Brown. Paul produced Norman’s Just Chillin’ from 2002, for which both earned a Grammy Award the following year for Best Pop Instrumental Album. It is also important to note that one of Brown’s popular songs is “Let’s Take a Ride,” from nine years ago. Another song of his I enjoy is “That’s The Way Love Goes.”

• Kirk Whalum emerged after his pairing with Whitney Houston. His sax solo can be heard on her historic single “I Will Always Love You.” So far he has earned a total of 12 Grammy nominations. He most recently earned one this past year for The Gospel According to Jazz Chapter IV.

• Rick Braun too has performed with other popular smooth jazz artists. In the year 2000, he and Boney James released Shake It Up. Their remake of “Grazin’ In The Grass” is perhaps the most popular song on that album. Shortly after co-founding what is today known as Artistry Music with Richard Elliot, the two released an album together titled R n R. “Notorius” and “Kisses In The Rain” are songs I enjoy by Braun.

Watch for new music from these longtime artists

By Phillip Martin

The year 2016 is nearly halfway over, and a few longtime contemporary jazz artists are recording or will release new music soon. In my latest new music watch, I focus in on Nathan East, The Rippingtons, and Joyce Cooling.

Nathan East records with Barbra Streisand, announces his own new solo record

On the eve of Memorial Day, this past week, a photo of bassist Nathan East and Barbra Streisand showed up on Facebook. SmoothJazz.com Global Radio’s page originally shared the photo (screen-captured below). The bassist of smooth jazz group Fourplay apparently has been recording new music with Streisand.

Nathan East and Barbra Streisand take a break in the studio to let fans know about the new music they are making. Post shared by SmoothJazz.com Global Radio and originally posted by East on Facebook. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.
Nathan East and Barbra Streisand take a break in the studio to let fans know about the new music they are making. Post shared by SmoothJazz.com Global Radio and originally posted by East on Facebook. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

In addition to working with the multi-award-winning singer and actress, East announced he will release his own new solo album. His second solo album will be out this fall on the Yamaha Entertainment Group of America label, according to prweb.com. The website reported the news on May 27. East’s new album will reportedly feature a more contemporary jazz sound than his first solo album and will have guest artists from his past. 

East’s first solo album, which was self-tilted and released in 2014, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s jazz charts and No. 1 on SmoothJazz.com’s “Top 50” chart for 36 weeks.


New Music by The Rippingtons hit the airwaves, due out late June

Sirius XM Watercolors shared on Facebook this past Wednesday that the station was playing a new single by The Rippingtons. “Wild Tales” is already considered a hit. The band’s entire new album, titled True Stories, will be out June 24 but is available now for pre-order on Amazon and iTunes.

The Rippingtons, featuring Russ Freeman, share artwork from the band's new album due out later June.
The Rippingtons, featuring Russ Freeman, share artwork from the band’s new album due out later this June. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

The Rippingtons celebrate 30 years ever since its leader and guitarist Russ Freeman formed the band. Throughout these years, the band has produced music that crosses over smooth jazz and jazz fusion. Plus, music from the band did appear often during The Weather Channel’s “Local on The 8’s” segment prior to Universal purchasing the network.


Joyce Cooling updates, settles fans uneasiness

Apparently fans of jazz guitarist Joyce Cooling have been anxious to know about her latest projects. Some might say her fans’ uneasiness is justified, given that her latest release, Global Cooling, was seven years ago.

However, Cooling finally eased those fans’ restless minds this past Wednesday.

In her first Facebook post since March, she acknowledged that some fans have asked “What’s up?” She then said that “we’ve been having a ball recording” and that her friend from Spain visited the studio to record drums. Her friend Danny can be clearly seen laying down some percussion in the photo post.

Danny Montgomery came over to Joyce Cooling's to record drums during a laid-back session for her new music.
Danny Montgomery came over to Joyce Cooling’s studio to record drums during a laid-back session for her new music. Cooling originally posted this photo on Facebook. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

Cooling has won numerous awards, including the Gibson Best Guitarist of The Year. She taught herself the guitar, learning to play it by ear, according to her biography. She initially played a straight-ahead / bebop style of jazz but is now recognized as a contemporary jazz player with a funk and pop flavor. Some jazz stars she’s played with include Joe Henderson, Al Jarreau, and Lee Ritenour. Cooling is also a national advocate for the National Alliance for Mental Health.

30 Day Overview: April and May 2016

By Phillip Martin

A lot has happened since my most recent post on April 28. Below are some highlights of the past month in the world of smooth jazz:

Lindsey Webster breaks through, charts again on Billboard

Up-and-coming singer Lindsey Webster has done it again. After her “Fool Me Once” led Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart for a record-breaking three weeks as a fully-led vocal song, the singer found more success on the chart. Her song “Open Up” will reach No. 15 on the chart for this coming week. The song has charted three consecutive weeks.

Lindsay Webster celebrates her most recent chart hit "Open Up" on her social media accounts. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.
Lindsey Webster celebrates her most recent chart hit “Open Up” on her social media accounts. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

 


 

Sade possibly making new music

Multi-genre singer Sade shared on her Instagram account (sadeofficial) four months ago has led people speculating she may be working on new music. Houston Williams of allhiphop.com originally shared the artist’s post for Facebook.

Many fans, including Williams, regard Sade as a celebrated artist that has been influential for smooth jazz and several other genres dating back to the mid-1980s.

Sade’s most recent album release was Soldier of Love in 2010. The title track, “Soldier of Love,” charted well on a few Billboard charts. The song once held the record for a vocal before Lindsay Webster’s “Fool Me Once” a few months ago. 


Brian Culbertson launches another Indiegogo campaign

Jazz, funk, and R&B pianist Brian Culbertson launched an Indiegogo campaign this past Saturday for his new record Funk! set for release in September. The crowd-funded campaign is the second for Culbertson since he went independent for his Another Long Night Out album two years ago.

His fans can choose options like paying for a pre-order mp3 download, a pre-ordered autographed copy, or even to have him write a song or play a private concert for a fan (the latter being a more expensive options). The funding, he said on a recent YouTube video, will help finance his latest record and his funk tour scheduled for this fall.

Like some of his more recent albums, Culbertson has also released a video blog on YouTube that chronicles parts of his project.

Michael Lington sets personal best with new release

Danish sax player Michael Lington released his new album Second Nature one month ago. His new release started at No. 3 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums Sales chart, which is the best start for any album in his career. His new album features mostly new songs, inspired by old school R&B.

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Michael Lington thanks fans for helping him earn his best album sales debut. Screenshot by Phillip Martin.

Other new music releases chart well

BWB (Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, and Rick Braun) released a self-titled album on April 22. The title track, “BWB,” from the latest album, reached No. 1 one week ago, and has remained in the Top Five of Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart since. The new album features an upbeat and pleasant sound overall. This is the third recording of Brown, on acoustic guitar, Whalum, on saxophone, and Braun, on flugelhorn and trumpet.

 Chris Standring recently released Ten. His hit single “Ready Steady Flow” peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart for the week of April 16 and has remained in the Top Six throughout the month of May.

 

TBT: American Idol Crush Drives My Smooth Jazz Fandom

Image above of Allison Iraheta was uploaded by labird on coveralia.com and was labeled for free use, sharing, and modification on bing.com.


By Phillip Martin

Seven years ago, a 16-year-old girl with bright red hair took the stage during American Idol′s semifinals phase. She surprisingly captivated me with her scintillating performance that night. From that night on until her graceful but disappointing elimination several weeks later, Allison Iraheta earned my utmost attention. Interestingly, my fandom for her also drove my following for smooth jazz.

My fandom for Iraheta began the night she competed for a spot in Idol‘s Top 13. The show introduced her as a young Mexican American girl who had competed in another vocalist contest earlier. When she took the stage, I initially took a liking to the unknown girl. I, 17 at the time, quickly would remember her. It certainly helped that she had dyed her hair a heavily saturated bright shade of my favorite color.

I soon would remember Iraheta, not just for her appearance but for her strong voice. “Alone,” originally by Heart, was the song she sang. The music started out soft and melancholy. Then, the teenager’s voice resounded with the emotional chorus. Her performance that night decidedly was the catalyst for her long run into the final four. That moment also spurred me to follow her through the season’s run… with a big crush on the side.

Because of following Iraheta, I learned to become a better fan of a performer. Each week, I would back my big crush with support. Another guy, who was my project partner in a high school tech class that year, backed another contestant named Megan Joy. We both had massive crushes on the girls we were routing for, and we both made our cases for them. Then, hours after school, I would watch the latest round of Idol for that week with my mom and sister. I was so happy to see the red hed singing her tail off to the judges and to the other 20 million Americans watching. I was always so nervous watching each results show because Iraheta finished in the bottom three for voting a few times. Despite her moving on from those scares, I would constantly think to myself “America, please keep Allison on a little longer. Please help her earn a record deal.” America was kind, as the red head finished fourth overall for Season 8. Because of her long run, she earned a record deal. This helped her produce her first record, which I have owned for five years now.

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Allison Iraheta’s iconic red hair from American Idol and her face graced the CD package of her solo album Just Like You (2009). I made this collage for an Instagram post.

Iraheta’s run also helped me enjoy music regardless of its popularity, and it helped me embrace my love for smooth jazz. I started following Iraheta not just because she caught my eye but because she captured my ears and my heart. Becoming one of her fans became part of my identity. Such can be said about my love for smooth jazz — that it is a part of who I am, a part of me I am proud to present. If you’ve read my author bio on this blog (directly linked within my byline in this post), you’ll read that I tried listening to other music genres. For a good part of my teenage years, I was a country music fan, and I also tried listening to what was popular in high school. With all due respect, none of those other music genres won me over like smooth jazz. Yes, a lot of the stuff I listen to has few words or lyrics, has a fan base mostly over the age of 45, and can be described as “boring” or like elevator music. I get that. Still, smooth jazz is who I am. The relaxing sounds of soft acoustic guitars and mellow saxophones represent a part of me as much as my favorite color that once covered Iraheta’s hair.


Iraheta has changed hair styles a few times since her run on American Idol but still looks recognizable. This a recent photo from her Instagram account.
Iraheta has changed hair styles a few times since her run on American Idol but still looks recognizable. This is a recent photo from her Instagram account, allisonirahetaofficial.

• Allison Iraheta was born on April 27, 1992. Yesterday was her birthday.

Today Iraheta is part of a band she formed a few years ago called Halo Circus. She got married to bass player Matthew Hager. She also returned to American Idol a few times to sing back-up vocals for contestants.

I quit watching Idol after Season 8 in 2009.

Jazz Community Pays Tribute to Prince

Featured image of Prince from Google Images, labeled for non-commerical use.


By Phillip Martin

The death of superstar musician Prince this past Thursday shocked many people across the world.

Many of his fans are jazz recording artists. Some were inspired by his music at some point in their life. Some even had the privilege of playing with the multi-talented phenom during their careers. I captured some screenshots, below, of several jazz artists who expressed their thoughts on the transcendent artist via social media.


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