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Marc Antoine Shows His Classical Roots

August 13th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

French-born guitarist Marc Antoine is currently on the smooth jazz charts with “Brother Earl,” his duet with Paul Brown — but he’s preparing to show off his classical chops on the upcoming album, My Classical Way, due in September. For this project, Antoine puts his own spin on pieces from Mozart, Bizet, Bach, Chopin and more, re-interpreting them and adding fresh new musical ideas. Keyboardist Phillippe Saisse joins him for several tracks.

Classical music is an area where Antoine is extremely comfortable: he began his formal training at the Conservatoire de Paris, drawing inspiration from masters like Andres Segovia. The guitarist credits his versatility with this early exposure to the classics. After moving to L.A., he quickly became a favorite session player for artists including Celine Dion, Cher, Queen Latifah, Sting and George Benson.

As to the seemingly unusual choice to do an entire album of classically-inspired music, Antoine sums it up this way: ”So now I am a smooth jazz artist, but I don’t consider myself being a smooth jazz artist because I am a musician and I think I’m mixing a lot of things in my music.”

Chicago to Host Smooth Jazz Awards Show

August 11th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

The first American Smooth Jazz Awards show is relocating to Chicago. Organizers for the event stated that the ceremony, originally planned for Michigan City, will now be held in the Windy City at the DuSable Museum of African American History. The date of Oct. 29 remains the same.

Bernie Scott, president of Scott & Co. Music Group who’s helming the event, noted, “We have artists coming…from all over the globe, and they’re really not familiar with Michigan City. With it being an awards show of this caliber, it really needs to have a big city name with it.” He added, “Our artists are happier it’s there. They are more familiar with Chicago, and it’s easier with their flights. I really wanted it to work in Michigan City, but I think it’s evident that it would not, which is really a tragedy for our community. It just makes more sense to have it in Chicago.”

This first-ever event is attracting artists from Europe and Canada as well as the U.S. Among those scheduled to perform are Nick Colionne (pictured above), Peter White, Oli Silk, Marc Antoine, Richard Elliot, the Sax Pack, Four 80 East and Darren Rahn, among others.

Refunds will be offered to those holding tickets for the Michigan City event, with instructions on getting preferred seating at the new location. Tickets go on sale to the general public starting next week. Complete, up-to-date information can be found at

“Deja Vu” Again for George Duke

August 10th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

Legendary keyboardist George Duke goes back to the future with the release on Aug. 10 of Deja Vu [Heads Up International]. The album is an extension of his 2008 work, Dukey Treats, in which he revisited some of the funkier sounds from his past.

In a statement, Duke said, “The whole idea behind Déjà Vu was to take a look back at some of the stuff I used to do that was a little more musically challenging. In some way or another, whatever happened before always comes around again. It may be a little different, but it will resurface. That’s kind of what this album is – a resurfacing of some ideas I had back in the ‘70s when I recorded albums with a lot of synthesizers, like Feel and The Aura Will Prevail.”

The artist added that he used some vintage analog synthesizers for the album, along with more current digital technology. Guest players include saxophonists Everette Harp and Bob Sheppard, flutist Hubert Laws and trumpeter Nicholas Payton.

Duke is scheduled to perform this weekend [Aug. 15] at the Long Beach Jazz Festival with longtime collaborator Al Jarreau.

Eric Darius’ Mission for Music

August 9th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

The title of Eric Darius‘ new release pretty much sums up his philosophy: On A Mission. The young saxophonist is passionate about using music to reach out, educate and break down some boundaries — especially when it comes to music. In an interview with, he recounts the sorry state of music education, not just in schools, but among young people who’ve missed out on the greats from the past.

“Most people my age and younger don’t really listen to jazz and are not exposed to it. When I was growing up, my parents would play Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, George Benson, David Sanborn, and Grover Washington, Jr. So this was [what] I grew up with. Most kids nowadays don’t hear this type of music.” He adds, “It’s definitely part of my mission to take my music to younger people and inspire them and show them that jazz can be really cool. You can still dance to it like you can to hip-hop music. It doesn’t have to be about words. It doesn’t have to be about all of these bad messages. It’s just good, positive music that they can enjoy listening to and play, also.”

On A Mission, released on June 29, is Darius’ fifth album, and his debut for Shanachie. While he’s busy with non-stop touring, including dates with fellow artists like Brian Culbertson and Nick Colionne, he has a plan for when his performing career starts to slow down. “I would love to start my own charity organization, which would be geared to providing instruments to less fortunate kids, and maybe even opening up my own music school here in Tampa. Start locally here in my home town and maybe branch it out. I really want to make a difference with my music and feel like I have been put in this position for a reason.”

Euge Groove Gets Interactive

August 6th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

Fans of Euge Groove can now jam with him — literally. On Aug. 31, the saxophonist is releasing Groove On This!, an interactive CD that lets you join in on the music via your computer keyboard. The project was developed with something called Beamz software and allows listeners to interact with the track in a number of ways. ”The cool thing,” says Groove, “is you can interact with my songs from either the laser beam controller, a midi keyboard, or directly for the keys on your computer. It’s for anyone to mess with even if they know nothing about playing a musical instrument. I re-recorded new versions of 10 of my most popular songs and spent the last eight months getting it all to work inside the Beamz software.”

Groove adds that there will be video tutorials available on his website by the end of August, plus content on the DVD that explains how to work it all. ”It’s a pretty bitchin’ project,” he says. “It truly is a blast to play with.”

Anita Baker Announces New CD Release

August 5th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

Grammy-winning songstress Anita Baker has announced November 9 as the target date for the release of her next project.

21st Century Love [Blue Note] is the followup to her 2004 release, My Everything, and Baker’s 7th album. It will feature 10 tracks, including some surprising collaborations. Snoop Dogg raps on the first single, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s, “Give Me Your Love.”

Baker is currently performing a handful of dates, including one in her hometown of Detroit on Aug. 28.

Tim Bowman Unveils “The Collection”

August 4th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

Guitarist Tim Bowman has written and performed some amazing music over the course of his career. Now he’s assembled those musical memories in a single place with the release of The Collection [TrippinNRhythm].

The Detroit native first came to prominence in the gospel world, as musical director for the Winans. He found his place in contemporary jazz with breakthrough albums including Smile (2000) and This Is What I Hear (2004).

The album is a retrospective of his work, which also includes three new songs. One of those new tracks, “Let I Shine,” is the first single, and produced by hitmaker Darren Rahn [Talk of the Town]. Also included on the album is Bowman’s hugely-popular (and long out of print) “Summer Groove.”

Dave Koz Charts A Course for “Tomorrow”

August 2nd, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

The world has been particularly challenging these last few years — but Dave Koz is hoping he can provide a little bit of hope with his next project. The Grammy-nominated saxophonist releases Hello Tomorrow in October, an album geared to providing inspiration for navigating what’s to come.

In an interview with Smooth Jazz News, Koz said, “I recognized this discomfort in my own life and wanted to do something about it, comment on it. [I wanted to provide] Some sort of awakening so people can embrace this new world and its changes.”

Hello Tomorrow contains 13 songs, with upbeat titles including “Think Big,” “Start All Over Again,” and “What You Leave Behind.” Koz also sings for the first time on a cover of the Bacharach/David classic, “This Guy’s In Love With You” which Herb Alpert took to #1. ”[The producers] said that you don’t have to be a great singer, and Herb had a big hit with his song,” Koz said. “I’m proud of…the way I did it, and there’s a surprise at the end of the song when Herb actually comes in after the song’s outro and plays those famous two notes.”

The album, his first for his new label, Concord Records, seems a fitting milestone for Koz, who marks 20 years in the business this year. ”In many ways, I feel like I’m just beginning.”

Mindi Abair’s “Social” Songwriting

July 29th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

Mindi Abair may be a hardworking artist — but that doesn’t mean the process of creating music isn’t a whole lot of fun. With the release of her In Hi-Fi Stereo album, the sax diva is giving some insights into her songwriting process. She told that, “For me writing is a social thing. I’ll call up a friend and go “Hey, wanna get breakfast and write a song?”… We get together and…write the song that is in our heads, we write the song that we’re feeling. We listen to old records for inspiration and kind of jam or just start playing… we’ll have a blast and see what comes out.”

What came out for In Hi-Fi Stereo was about 45 songs. For Abair, paring down the list wasn’t easy: “It took a few weeks. I would put them up against each other and feel out which ones I loved and which ones I just liked. I thought about which ones go together and which ones don’t really fit in. I played them for friends to see what they thought. I’d play them in the car or on the plane and just see which songs I went back to.”

The first single from the album, “Be Beautiful,” originally appeared on United We Cure, a charity CD to raise money for breast cancer research. It remains one of Abair’s favorites: “That is such a great anthem. It’s full or words people need to hear: believe, belong, be strong, be beautiful.”

Abair performs tomorrow night [July 30] in Honolulu.

Phil Collins’ Lucky Diss

August 9th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

It may have stung at the time, but a diss by Phil Collins‘ bandmates turned out to be a huge stroke of luck for him. In an interview, Collins says he offered his smash single, “In the Air Tonight” to Genesis while they were recording their 1980 Duke album. Apparently, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks didn’t think much of the song– they passed on including it. Collins recalls, ”I’d demoed (solo album) Face Value and as my house was empty we started writing the next Genesis album there. I did play them (Banks and Rutherford) ‘In The Air Tonight,’ but I was glad they turned it down.”

Collins’ next project, Going Back, is set for a September 13th release; the first single, “(Love Is Like A) Heatwave,” is already generating buzz.

Going Back is a collection of Collins’ favorite Motown songs. “My idea was not to bring anything ‘new’ to these already great records,” he told an interviewer, “but to try to recreate the sounds and feelings that I had when I first heard them. My intention was to make an ‘old’ record, not a ‘new’ record. To be able to have three of the surviving Funk Brothers play on all the tracks was unbelievable. There was one moment when they were tracking ‘(Love Is Like A) Heatwave’ that I experienced a wave of happiness and wonder that this was actually happening to me!”

Sting’s Tuscan Store

August 6th, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

Sting is putting his 900-acre estate in Tuscany to good use: the singer and his wife, Trudie Styler, have just opened a shop on the property selling their home-grown goodies.

Tenuta il Palagio will sell their organic olive oil, honey, veggies and a specialty salami made from a local breed of pig. Also available are wines made from the estate’s grapes. Up until now, all the produce grown there had only been available to select outlets in the U.S. and Britain; now locals can purchase it directly at the store.

The shop was officially opened earlier this week, amidst Sting’s neighbors and the mayor of the town. The 58-year old singer noted that the connection between good food and good art was important to him: “If I don’t eat well, I can’t sing.”

Sting and his family have lived on their estate, which lies south of Florence, for the last 13 years.

Jackiem Joyner, Front and Center

August 3rd, 2010 Smooth Jazz Network

He’s only 30 years old, but saxophonist Jackiem Joyner is well on the way to being one of the most prolific young artists in music. He releases his new self-titled project today [Aug. 3] — his third album [Artistry Music].

Jackiem Joyner was partly influenced by a surprise in Joyner’s personal life: after 23 years, he reunited with his father and two older sisters. Besides discovering just how much he and his father physically resemble each other, Joyner also uncovered some musical roots — his father was a bassist. Two songs in particular, “The Reunion” and “Back Home Again,” capture this joyous experience.

Besides his trademark saxophone sound, the album is full of complex rhythms. Joyner explains: “Ever since I was 12 in my mom’s house, I’ve been drumming on walls, tapping out rhythms with spoons and beating on anything that I can. I still have that habit today. I always hear beats in my head; it’s intriguing to see where they take me.” As with his other records, Joyner wrote, produced and mixed it himself — as well as playing most of the instruments.

Joyner’s last project, Lil’ Man Soul, remained at the top of the charts for 12 weeks; it’s hit single, “I’m Waiting for You,” was the longest-running #1 song for 2009 and is up for an award at the upcoming American Smooth Jazz Awards in October.

Like Lil’ Man Soul and his debut CD, BabySoul, the titles played on a nickname given to him as he supported artists including Gerald Albright, Joe Sample and Keiko Matsui. But Joyner’s putting that behind him. ”This whole record is about writing and making the type of record that I wanted to make,” he says. “You can really hear me right up front. My first two albums were titled after my nicknames, but now it’s just me front and center for the entire world to see…”

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