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Album Review
Artist: Patrick Bradley
Title Of Album: Under The Sun
Release Date: April, 2011
Label: Bradley Music
Genre: Smooth Jazz / Fusion
 
‘Under The Sun’ by keyboard player Patrick Bradley signals a return to his jazz fusion roots and with eleven all original compositions plus a wonderful line-up of supporting musicians, the entire project shimmers with a groove that is entirely pleasing. In fact the calibre of those involved is quite remarkable. The always excellent Jeff Lorber plays Rhodes throughout, duties on drums are shared between Tony Moore and Dave Weckl, Alex Al is on bass whereas Dwight Sills and Michael Thompson variously take the strain on guitar. Not only that, with guest performances from Dave Koz, Rick Braun and Eric Marienthal ‘Under The Sun’ represents a real ‘who’s who’ of the best that contemporary jazz has to offer.
The project strikes a fine balance between highlighting the performing and songwriting talents of Bradley while providing the space for this enormously gifted cast of musicians to flourish. The mid tempo Latin tinged swagger of the title cut is a case in point where the duelling keyboards of Bradley and Lorber are outstanding whilst elsewhere ‘Time and Chance’ is a feisty fusion orientated track that near its end is invigorated by the fabulous horn arrangements of David Mann.
In fact Mann leaves his mark often and none more so than with the CD’s opening number, ‘Straight Path’, for which an easy grooving lilt and Bradley’s dazzling keys really gets the job done. Great keys from both Bradley and Lorber combined with more sparkling horn arrangements are key components the intense ‘A Message’ and although the reflective ‘Tears from the Sky’ represents a soothing change of pace, ‘Rush Street’ glows with more of Bradley’s tight streetwise playing.
Bradley cites Rick Wakeman as one of his influences and the expansive ‘The Empress of Dalmatia’ with its overtones of the 70’s concept album makes it easy to see why yet, when he slips closer to fusion territory, the mid tempo ‘Crows On The Lawn’ is afforded an extra dimension by cool alto sax from the consistently good Eric Marinethal. Rick Braun’s jazzy trumpet and smoky flugelhorn add hugely to the fusion scented ‘Slipstream’ whereas the warmly rhythmic ‘Into The Sunset’ is arguably the most commercial track that ‘Under The Sun’ has to offer. It is already a firm personal favourite yet the star quality of Dave Koz (who takes the lead for ‘Just Let Go’) should ensure that this is another tune that enjoys ample exposure. Co-written with Lorber, and with sultry vocals from Irene B, it’s a song that shows off the more chilled out side of Bradley’s musical persona and much like the entire collection is sure to do well.

Spend
a Week with Pat Metheny

National Guitar Workshop is Proud to Present The Pat
Metheny Summer Music Workshop

The National Guitar Workshop is proud to announce this exclusive workshop with
world-renowned jazz musician Pat Metheny. This special event is a rare
opportunity to study in an intimate setting with Pat and his trio mates,
Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez. This workshop is open to any intermediate
to advanced jazz musician. So whether you play guitar, drums, bass, keyboard,
brass or woodwinds, we have a place for you.
Each day is filled with
workshops, special ensemble programs and master classes. Each evening features a
private concert including Pat and his trio and a special duet concert with Pat
and Mick Goodrick. Students will also get the opportunity to perform during an evening concert.
This incredible five-day event is held at the elegant Spa of Norwich Inn, located in picturesque Norwich, Connecticut. The Inn features luxurious accommodations, gourmet meals and an attentive staff that
will pamper you at every turn.

2011 Portland Jazz Festival

Fran Kaufman's photos from performances and events at the 2011 Portland Jazz Festival

This year's 8th Alaska Airlines Portland Jazz Festival Presented by U.S. Bank featured over 120 events in 30 plus venues over an 11 day period.  Certainly the timing of Esperanza Spalding's arrival less than two weeks after her Grammy coup was auspicious. She packed Portland State University with her mentor Darrell Grant in doing a series of workshops geared for music students prior to her doing community outreach as part of Grant's curated "The Incredible Journey of Jazz" which was presented in Portland area middle schools and Congregation Beth Israel which tied into the festival's "Bridges & Boundaries: Jewish & African Americans Playing Jazz."
Additionally a wide array of artists (Spalding included) took part in the "Jazz Conversation" series, an annual tradition of live in-person one on one interviews between headline artists and a prominent journalist.  Also two highly anticipated panels were presented, both re-inforcing the theme from the artists (Spalding, Don Byron, Anat Cohen, Grant) and community perspective featuring Cantor Bletstein, Marcus Mundy (Oregon Urban League President), Larry Miller (Portland Trail Blazers President), political commentator David Sarasohn, newscaster Ken Boddie and US Bank VP Quentin Strode.  All panels and Jazz Conversations were podcasted through Oregon Music News.
Highlights from the first weekend included three pianists: a rare Portland appearance from NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, the debut of ECM artist Anat Fort and Dave Frishberg who was honored by the City of Portland as a "Portland Jazz Master."  The second weekend offered a multitude of performances:  Esperanza Spalding's "Chamber Music Society" performance which played to a capacity audience of 900 at the Newmark theatre, a return performance from Nik Bartsch and Ronin with the Blue Crane's as an opening act at the newly renovated Alberta Rose theatre, Portland debut's from Gerald Clayton and Grammy nominee Gregory Porter, eclectic programming tied to the theme featuring Don Byron Plays Micky Katz, The Three Cohens and the Afro Semitic Experience.  Debut highlights included the first time Joshua Redman featured the trio of Eric Harland, Aaron Goldberg and Matt Penman and the first date of SF Jazz Collective doing the music of Stevie Wonder.  Regina Carter and Reverse Thread, Poncho Sanchez and Maceo Parker also played admirable culminating weekend performances.

Jazz Violinist Billy Bang Dies

Co-founder of String Trio of New York and collaborator with Don Cherry, David Murray and other creative music notables was 63

By Lee Mergner

Violinist Billy Bang, noted for forging his own way on his instrument, died on April 11.  According to an associate, he had been suffering from lung cancer.  Bang was 63.
Born in Mobile, Alabama, as William Vincent Walker, Bang was raised in the Bronx and began playing the violin at a very young age.  He was given the nickname Billy Bang in homage to a cartoon character.
Although he won a scholarship to a prestigious boarding prep school in New England, Bang ended up dropping out and returning to the Bronx.  Alienated from formal education, Bang gave up the violin. He was drafted into the Army at the age of 18 and served in Vietnam until his discharge a few years later.  Many years later he would put the harrowing experience into his music with a set of albums—Vietnam: The Aftermath (2001) and Vietnam: Reflections (2005), the latter even including contributions from Vietnamese musicians.
Bang told JT’s Thomas Conrad in 2005 that his experience in Vietnam haunted him. "I lived in Vietnam, totally, all the time," the violinist Billy Bang told Conrad. "I couldn't get on with my life. I couldn't even handle the Fourth of July."  Although he got his G.E.D. in the Army and studied pre-law and even went to law school for a short time, Bang bounced around at various jobs after his release from the military and eventually picked up the violin again.  He dedicated himself to relearning the instrument and became part of the downtown loft-jazz scene of the 70s.
He told Conrad: "The violin was the only instrument I knew, and I wanted to play music. I didn't know about Leroy Jenkins or Ornette Coleman at that time—or Stuff Smith or Ray Nance or anybody. But I said, 'I'm determined to become a musician now. Not a violinist, but a jazz musician who happens to play that instrument.'" Bang said that the decision "was almost like joining a priesthood. I knew I would never be rich. It was like accepting a nonmaterialistic approach to life."
Bang played briefly with the Sun Ra Arkestra. In 1977, inspired by the approach of the World Saxophone Quartet, he formed the New York String Trio with John Lindberg and James Emery, with whom he would play regularly for many years.  Bang also developed his own career as a solo artist and bandleader.  Over the next 20-30 years, Bang would collaborate with many of the greats of the improvising jazz scene, including William Parker, Hamiet Bluiett, Don Cherry, David Murray and many others.  He recorded over 30 albums, including many for the Canadian Justin Time label. 
Jean-Pierre Leduc, who worked with Bang at Justin Time, said:  "Billy was not only an innovative violinist but also an inspiring one. For too long pegged by many as an 'out' or avant-garde player, the last decade saw him deservedly playing much larger venues and instantly gaining new fans. Composing, rehearsing and then recording the two 'Vietnam' recordings not only renewed interest in Billy's music, but it also helped bring peace and order to his life. Playing even a small part in this healing was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
"At the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2008 Billy brought the house down at the Salle Wilfred Pelletier - a 2,000-seat venue. Very few in the audience had known his name; now they were standing and cheering. I'll never forget the look on his face when he came offstage: sheer joy."

 
 
Jazz breaking news: Keith Jarrett Trio Returns To London For July Show
Promoters Serious have confirmed that the Keith Jarrett standards trio will appear in London in the summer, their first appearance in the UK for two years. The confirmed date is for one night only, on Wednesday 27 July, at the Royal Festival Hall. Tickets go on sale for the concert on 28 April.
The trio – Jarrett with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette – has become one of the biggest draws in jazz since its formation in 1983 and was expected until recently to release a new album in the autumn. This is now planned for 2012 with the next Jarrett release believed to be a solo concert performance recorded quite recently.  Jarrett only rarely appears in the UK with or without his trio although when he does it tends to be a special event, as his solo concert in December 2008 proved becoming part of the award winning Paris-London album Testament which was Jazzwise album of the year in 2009. Last time the trio was in town the concert opened with Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Tonight’ and played other standards including ‘Autumn Leaves’ and a lovely ‘God Bless The Child’ as well as originals like ‘Butch and Butch’ from the Juan-les-Pins live album, Up For It. There is bound to be strong demand for the concert so you’d better be quick next week if you want a ticket.
– Stephen Graham

Smooth Jazz Network News
 
Singer Mary J. Blige has rounded up some of her powerful and talented friends for a special concert.  The show, scheduled for May 1 at New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom, will raise funds to help disadvantaged young women.  Anita Baker, Corinne Bailey Rae, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah are among those scheduled to perform.  Blige's Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now was organized in 2008; last year, it gave full 4-year college scholarships to 25 youngwomen                                                                                                                                                                           

2011 marks the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye's landmark album, What's Going On.  To honor the occasion, a series of tribute concerts are being lined up with artists including Stevie Wonder, John Legend and The Roots paying homage to the late singer. The series will kick off on May 3 and 4 with the National Symphony Orchestra at Washington DC's Kennedy Center.  Later this summer, other artists will join the roster at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A.   In related news, Paul Hardcastle has released a mashup of his hit, "Rainforest" with Gaye's "What's Going On."  It will be featured on his upcoming Hardcastle 6 album, out in June.

 

At Seabreeze Jazz Festival in Panama City, FL, the long-awaited Oasis Jazz Award winners were finally announced. The awards, drawn from voting among over 10,000 fans, had been scheduled to be handed out last month in San Diego, but some last-minute snafus prevented the ceremony.  Brian Culbertson was the big winner among the 19 categories, taking home (among others) Entertainer of the Year, Male Artist, Keyboardist and CD of the Year (for XII).  His song with Earl Klugh, "That's Life," also nabbed Collaboration of the Year.  Mindi Abair was named Female Artist of the Year, while Dave Koz took the prize for Saxophonist.  Jonathan Butler was honored as Vocalist of the Year and Fourplay took Best Group. Peter White was named Guitarist of the Year, while Boney James was named Artist of the Decade and also got CD of the Decade for his album, Shine.

Culbertson, White and James were playing the festival and received their awards in person -- along with a standing ovation from the crowd of over 7500.


Even though singer Paul McDonald was just voted off of American Idol, his performance with Mindi Abair was still one of the highlights of this week.  Mindi was contacted by producer Don Was to perform alongside McDonald on BoB Seger's "Old Time Rock N Roll" - and she immediately caused a stir.  Judge Steven Tyler commented after the song, "I wanna know who your sax player is!"  For her part, Mindi says the act could've been even crazier, since producers had wanted her to dress up like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, which put that song on the map.  She told the AP that in dress rehearsal, she wore a men's shirt, underwear, socks and Ray-Bans -- but at the last minute, Idol producers let her stay fully-clothed. "I figured I'd be a good team player and go out there in my underwear and rock it, but I'm glad I didn't have to do that in front of 26 million people!"

Guitarist Nick Colionne has just signed with a new record label.  He joins the Trippin N Rhythm family which is currently home to artists including Tim Bowman, U-Nam, Michael Lington and Paul Hardcastle's Jazzmasters.  CEO Les Cutmore said in a statement, "[Nick] is truly the missing piece we were looking for to help round out [the roster]...He is the consummate entertainer...and that's the foundation we will continue to build upon."  For his part, Colionne is finishing up his debut for the label.  Feel the Heat will be ready in time for summer.

It's not easy being Toni Braxton -- and we're about to see why as her new reality TV series, Braxton Family Values, hits the air tomorrow [April 12]. Braxton, who's battled illness and bankruptcy in recent years, is living with her four sisters and their manager-mother as she tries to relaunch her career.  The idea for the show came from Braxton's youngest sister, Tamar, who noted their ongoing family drama would make for great television.  Toni was opposed at first, but tells Entertainment Weekly, "We have a story to tell because there are so many families that go through this and nobody talks about it."  She adds that having her sisters as her backup singers adds an additional twist: "I love my sisters so much but I cannot deny that some days I wish I could just have my own background singers.  There have been moments when I've been on tour and I [had my own], and let me tell you, life was good."  Braxton Family Values airs on the WE network.

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