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 Rick Braun Talks "Singing"

For fans of Rick Braun, Trumpeter, his new project, ...Sings with Strings may seem like big departure. But its been in the back of Braun's mind for years. The just-released album features him on a collection of standards, backed by an orchestra, and fulfills a lifelong ambition. Talking to, Braun recalled starting out as a songwriter back in the 70s, and recording demos. He admits that his first dream was to become a singer rather than an instrumental artist. So what was it like tackling classics once done by the likes of Tony Bennett, Sinatra and Ray Charles? "In one word, humbling... I tried to put my own individuality on it. And I tried to focus on the sincerity of the lyrics and focus on the message and the simplicity of the message rather than trying to outdo anybody who’d done it before because there is no way I’m going to... I needed to find my own individual voice and say what I needed to say. That’s how I have forged a career as a trumpet player and I come from the same melodic song place when I approached the vocals. " Braun admits that Sings with Strings may be a stretch for some of his fans, but he's optimistic: "I know there are going to be a handful of people who are going to look at this and say this is a little bit too different for me...But I’m hoping that people will be touched by the record and the sincerity of it and come along for the ride. I hope they love it."

Spyro Gyra Shares Inside Story on "Foreign Affair"


After 35 years, SpyroGyra has been all over the planet -- several times. And they're bringing that global perspective to a new album, A Foreign Affair, out on Sept. 13. The record reflects, in their words, "their love affair with the music of the world." Apart from the signature Caribbean rhythms that put them on the map, the band tackles everything from Indian music to the sounds of the Far East on this new one. You can get an inside look at the making of SpyroGyra's upcoming album with the video the band is sharing here.

Spyro Gyra started out with the rhythms of the world. From the samba rhythms and Caribbean feel of their early hits to the latest album, they have made it a point to embrace the music of the places they have visited. Their new album, A Foreign Affair, is ready to take you around the world from the Caribbean to South America, and even to South Africa, India and Japan. Besides the memorable instrumentals, there are also three vocal tunes, one of which features Grammy® winning Keb' Mo'.

George Benson, "Guitar Man"


George Benson will release his new album, Guitar Man, on October 4. The 12-song collection includes both jazz and pop standards, and features the piano work of Joe Sample, bass by Ben Williams and drums by Harvey Mason. David Garfield serves as musical director for the project, and assists on keyboards. Benson admits that the group took an "old school" approach to recording, jumping in with minimal rehearsal time. Most of the tracks were done in few takes, over the course of a single day. “We figured that we would get the best energy if we went into the studio with some live musicians who are savvy and flexible,” says Benson, “and boy, did we accomplish that.” Among the songs covered on Guitar Man include "Tenderly," "My Cherie Amour," "Paper Moon" and "Since I Fell for You," which also features Benson's vocals. Two other surprising tracks are a fresh take on the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and a rollicking version of the 1958 hit, "Tequila." Benson will hit the road in October, sharing both his classics and songs from the new project.


Sade's Surprising Source of Inspiration


Considering that she's only done six studio albums during the course of her 30-year career, one would assume that Sade must require some sort of dramatic, painful event to kickstart her creative juices. And you would be wrong. During a stop in New Orleans on her current tour, she gave some insights to the Times-Picayune on why she goes so long between projects. "Every time somebody asks me this question, I give a different answer, partly because I don’t really know what that deciding moment is. It’s a series of events that triggers it. Mainly it’s that there’s no crisis in my life. When I go in the studio, I cut myself off from the world. That’s the only way I can do it. If there’s nothing too important in my life, if my life allows it, then that could be the time. That’s what precipitates it: Calm in my own life."


Sting Set to Release Retrospective



Sting is set to release a special career-spanning collection on Sept. 27, honoring his years as a solo artist. Sting: 25 Years will include 3 CDs comprising 45 remastered tracks, an unreleased live concert DVD and a comprehensive hardcover book filled with rare photos and commentary by Sting. The collection will span his entire career beginning with his first solo album, The Dreamof the Blue Turtles and featuring many rare live tracks, remixes and more.



Groove Notes

Music superstars Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis got together last April for a concert at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City. The concert featured songs hand-picked by Eric Clapton, then arranged by Marsalis, and included highlights such as a guest appearance by Taj Mahal.

While the concert will be released on September 13th on a CD/DVD combo pack (Warner Brothers), there is an even better opportunity to hear this show for those of us who weren’t able to make the cross country trip to see the show live.

On September 7th, the concert will be shown at over 550 movie theaters at 7:30 PM local time. This is a one-night only opportunity, and while there is no substitute for being at a live concert, top quality movie theater video and audio is certain to be a second best (especially when you compare it to my car stereo system).

In the Puget Sound area, the show is playing at the following theaters:

Anacortes Cinemas – Anacortes

Auburn 17 Theaters – Auburn

Century Theatres Federal Way 16 – Federal Way

Columbia Mall 8 – Kennewick

Alderwood 7 Theaters – Lynnwood

Bella Bottega 11 Cinema – Redmond

AMC Southcenter 16 with IMAX – Seattle

AMC Oak Tree 6 – Seattle

Thornton Place with IMAX – Seattle



All-Star lineup to be featured at the 2011 Earshot Jazz Festival

 The Earshot Jazz Festival gets kicked off in Seattle on October 14th and runs through November 6th. While the full schedule does not get released until September, the early bookings feature a wonderful variety of top tier musicians. Included are:
◦Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette – “Very simply, this is jazz at its finest” (Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times). “The trio of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette is about as good as jazz gets” (Mike Zwerin, International Herald-Tribune). November 1, S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium at Benaroya Hall. Tickets for this concert go on sale in mid August through Benaroya Hall at and (206) 215-4747
◦Brad Mehldau, solo –The highly regarded jazz genius performs with astounding technique and “almost spiritual resonance” (Time Magazine). October 21, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall.
◦The Bad Plus– The seminal bad boys of jazz return to ruffle the sedate Town Hall, on a bill with Europe’s iconoclastic Das Kapital. October 29, Town Hall Seattle
◦Roosevelt & Mountlake Terrace High School Jazz Bands– An opening concert with the bands that took 2nd and 3rd spots at this year’s Essentially Ellington competition. October 14, Town Hall Seattle
◦We Four: Celebrating John Coltrane – New York heavyweights Javon Jackson, sax, Mulgrew Miller, piano, Peter Washington, bass, and Jimmy Cobb, drums, pay tribute to Coltrane’s jazz legacy. (Jimmy Cobb, 82, performed with Coltrane on Miles Davis’s epochal album, Kind of Blue). October 22, Venue TBA
◦Evan Flory-Barnes’s Acknowledgement of a Celebration– The Seattle bassist and composer reprises his jazz/rock/classical/hip-hop masterwork. October 22, Kirkland Performance Center
◦A series of concerts and educational programs with fresh young artists, jazz masters, and returning Cornish alumni and faculty, featuring Myra Melford, Allison Miller, Julian Waterfall Pollack, Jim Knapp, Jay Clayton, Jerry Granelli, and the Mongolian jazz ensemble Arga Belig. October 24 through 29, Poncho Concert Hall, Cornish College of the Arts
◦Grace Kelly group– The emerging but hard hitting saxophonist premieres in Seattle in Tula’s, “one of America’s top 100 jazz clubs.” November 2 & 3, Tula’s
◦Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra– “An Evening with Ol’ Blue Eyes: The Music of Frank Sinatra.” November 5, Nordstrom Recital Hall & November 6, Kirkland Performance Center
◦and many, many, more

Tickets for the Earshot Jazz Festival will be on sale in early September through Earshot Jazz. Complete concert information will be available as it develops at and 206-547-6763.




Jazz Tribute to Joni Mitchell Coming to Hollywood Bowl

Concert will feature Herbie Hancock, Kurt Elling, Wayne Shorter, others

The Hollywood Bowl will present “Joni’s Jazz,” a concert featuring special guests performing works from the jazz-based recordings of singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. Artists will include Herbie Hancock, Kurt Elling, Glen Hansard, Aimee Mann, Chaka Khan, Wayne Shorter and Cassandra Wilson. Backed by an ensemble with arrangements by drummer Brian Blade and pianist Jon Cowherd, “Joni’s Jazz” takes place on Wednesday, August 17 at 8 PM and includes a complete performance of her 1975 album The Hissing of Summer Lawns. (Note: Mitchell is not scheduled to perform.)
Ticket price ranges from $1-$101 (prices are subject to change). Tickets are currently on sale at the Hollywood Bowl Box Office; via credit card phone order at 323-850-2000, or through Ticketmaster.
For more information, visit Hollywood Bowl.



Litchfield Jazz Festival 2011

Roy Haynes, Vijay Iyer are standouts at Connecticut fest

In 2009, the Litchfield Jazz Festival moved from its previous location in Goshen, Conn.—held in a huge tent with clear views of the stage from the grassy area surrounding it—to its present location on the grounds of the Kent School, where the successful month-long Litchfield Jazz Camp holds forth. In its first year in Kent, the festival was hampered by torrential rains, which caused flooding in the tent, forcing the festivities into the Springs Center hockey rink located on the Kent School grounds.

To avoid the issue of flooding, the festival moved into the spacious hockey rink in 2010 and remained an indoor event in 2011 for its 16th edition. Long-time regulars now lament the move from Goshen, where the Litchfield Jazz Festival felt more connected to the great outdoors. While the hockey rink provides protection from the elements (and it did indeed rain steadily on Saturday night), the boomy acoustics indoors are hardly ideal. And the vibe has been seriously diluted in this dark, sterile environment. Watch for the festival to move to a new location in the future, possibly by next year.

Meanwhile, the Litchfield Jazz Festival remains a major event for Connecticut jazz fans. Unfortunately, this year it was held on the same weekend as both the Newport Jazz Festival and Caramoor Jazz Festival, which probably siphoned off a significant portion of the New York crowd. Those die-hards who did show up on Saturday, August 6, were treated to performances that ranged from charming and engaging to galvanizing and transcendent. And the star of the evening was none other than the amazing Roy Haynes, who at age 86 shows no signs of slowing down.

Monterey Jazz Festival Announces 2011 Lineup, Sept. 16-18, 2011

Written by Cheryl Hughey

Press Release Link:

Sept. 16-18 - The 54th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, Sept. 16 through 18, will include headliners Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock (pictured), Huey Lewis & The News and Poncho Sanchez & His Latin Jazz Band starring Terence Blanchard, to name a few.

A variety of other jazz and blues greats, totaling 500, will perform on eight stages, during three days at the Monterey, California, Fairgrounds. Among these are James Farm, featuring Joshua Redman, the John Pizzarelli Quartet, An Afternoon in Treme with Dumpstaphunk and the Hiromi Trio Project.

As well, the Miles Davis/Gil Evans: Still Ahead Orchestra, directed by Vince Mendoza, featuring Blanchard, Peter Erskine and Miles Evans, will celebrate music from Miles Ahead, Porgy & Bess and Sketches of Spain.

Other highlights: Performing throughout the Weekend will be 2011 MJF Artist-In-Residence, Redman, 2011 MJF Showcase Artist Robert Glasper and festival commission artist Geri Allen & Timeline, premiering her composition, "The Dazzler, "Saturday night.

Saturday afternoon, as always, will be dedicated to the blues with the raucous return of New Orleans to Monterey with An Afternoon in Treme, bringing in an all-star bill with Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk and the Soul Rebels Brass Band. In addition, the 1960s soul music of Memphis' Stax Records will be highlighted by Huey Lewis & The News

Sunday afternoon will be dedicated to the best in high school and college jazz, displaying the festival all-star student band, the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, featuring appearances by alumni Redman, Benny Green and Donny McCaslin. Also on tap will the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Orchestra.

Tickets are on sale now at (925) 275-9255 and on the website,
Jazz Beyond Jazz



Jazz Beyond Jazz

UNESCO names pianist Herbie Hancock “goodwill ambassador”

Pianist Herbie Hancock has been appointed a “goodwill ambassador” by UNESCO. The 71-year-old multiple Grammy winner, Chicago-born child prodigy, Miles Davis’ keyboards man ushering open-form improvisation, electronic instruments and studio procedures into the past half-century of jazz-based music and talent scout with global interests joins an international coterie that currently includes Nelson Mandela, Pierre Cardin, Claudia Cardinale, Forest Whitaker, Jean Michel Jarre and royal personages from Belgium, Jordan, Morocco and Thailand.
A composer, interpreter, performer, soloist and bandleader of serious, sophisticated and also commercial crossover success — one of the rare musicians who is both artist and entertainer, leader and accompanist, classicist and innovator — Hancock will “use music to cross cultural boundaries and promote literacy and creativity among youth around the world.” He calls for April 30 to be recognized as “international jazz day” and will lobby for UNESCO to cite jazz on its World Heritage List of “936 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.”

Hancock’s evergreen-hip, vamp- and ostinato-based tunes such as “Watermelon Man” (written in 1962, re-arranged in ’73), “Chameleon” (issued in ’73, basis of garage jam sessions ever since), “Rockit” (the ’83 injection of hip-hop turntablism to the future-funk mix, marketed with an eye-grabbing video) and “Cantaloupe Island” (from the 1963 recording, Hancock and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard sampled to make US3′s “Cantaloop” a dancefloor smash in ’93) have intrigued musicians as well as listeners over four decades. So has his virtuosic, spontaneous pianism, which runs the gamut: cool-to-the-point-of-minimal, inquisitive, expansive and engaged, rhythmically energized or rhapsodic, post-modernly self-conscious or really, truly, freely free (hear him with Miles at the Plugged Nickel, 1966.

Hancock’s 1998 album Gershwin’s World is an excellent example of his range. It includes his performance of Gershwin’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G, second movement and Prelude in C# Minor with soprano Katheleen Battle, alongside renditions of “St. Louis Blues” with Steve Wonder playing harmonica, “Embraceable You” sung by Joni Mitchell, a piano duet with Chick Corea and a couple of relatively straightahead tracks for a combo with saxophonist Wayne Shorter, his collaborator of nearly 50 years. But even that recording skips several of Hancock’s interests.

Besides popularizing the Fender Rhodes electric piano on Davis productions Filles de Kilimanjaro and In A Silent Way, Hancock introduced synthesizers (at first programmed and played by Dr. Patrick Gleeson) to jazz with his Mwandishi band. He’s worked with Latin percussionists (“Watermelon Man” was originally a hit for Mongo Santamaria). He’s had a longtime interest in Brazilian music, recording with Milton Nascimento, on video with Gal Costa and Antonio Carlos Jobim. River: The Joni Letters was only the second jazz recording ever to win the Grammy nod for Album of the Year, in 2008.

My desert island choice of Hancock’s music is Maiden Voyage, released in 1965. Discovering it when I was 16 led me to his just-previous Emperyan Isles and many subsequent recordings by Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams (his colleagues in Miles’ great quintet), Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Sam Rivers, Dexter Gordon, and more. In this clip he wades in gradually, is bouyed by Carter (bass) and Willians (drums), then welcomes Hubbard and saxophonist Joe Henderso
Hancock has been in the front line of modern jazz piano evolution, following from Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor to Andrew Hill, Joe Zawinul, McCoy Tyner, Paul Bley, Mal Waldron, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett. On Crossings and Sextant he entered synthesized spheres only Sun Ra had dared before. He’s said his early adoption of multiple keyboards and processors was informed by his college studies of electrical engineering.

Hancock’s understanding of jazz-funk-fusion and openness to producer Bill Laswell’s hip-hop beats, and most recently his song collections with casts of famed singers, have kept him in the public eye. So have his mid ’80s PBS/BBC video show Rockschool, his movie work (Blow Up, Death Wish, Round Midnight), his chairmanship of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, his sponsorship of emerging talent like guitarist Lionel Loueke and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Wynton Marsalis first recorded for Columbia Records in Herbie Hancock’s band.

I dig Hancock’s lesser-known Village Life, a duet with Senegalese griot Foday Musa Suso, and recommend Gershwin’s World and River. His current album, The Imagine Project, is ultra multikulti, with collaborators Dave Matthews, Céu, Pink, John Legend, The Chieftains, Los Lobos, Tinariwen, K’Naan, Anoushka Shankar. It appeals to a different crowd than that to which the pianist played on his just concluded European tour featuring tenor saxist Shorter and bassist Marcus Miller, Davis’s late-career electric bassist and producer.

In September Hancock has several California dates with his his piano-guitar-bass-drums quartet, and in November he’s scheduled three Pacific Northwest performances with orchestras of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue. He is also the current “creative chair for jazz” of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His activities as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador are not yet posted. Presumably he’ll keep doing what he’s been doing, even more selflessly and world-wide.





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