THE QUEEN CITY JAZZFEST

The Queen City JazzFest was an amazing treat for attendees this year. Once the announcement was made that Michael McDonaldGerald Albright, Jonathan Butler, and Such would be performing, the stage was set. This year’s festival was hosted by Al B. Sure who serenaded the crowd with snippets of his hit songs. Such opened the show with a few of her songs and her single “Before Dark.” When Gerald and Jonathan hit the stage together, fans knew they were in for a special treat. The pair fueled the crowd with song after song, taking turns individually and together. The soulful, funky, uplifting performance left fans on their feet dancing and singing. At that point, everyone was ready for the highlight of the evening; Michael McDonald stepped on stage to a roaring crowd. As expected, Mr. McDonald did not disappoint. He sat at the piano accompanied by his incredible band and sang his heart out. Fans were taken on a journey through his expansive musical career; they sang along and swayed while holding onto his every word. It was such an amazing moment to witness a true legend sharing his gift. June 15, 2019 was a memorable night that attendees will be talking about for a while.

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HIT-MAKERS PIECES OF A DREAM CONTINUE INSPIRED JOURNEY WITH NEW RECORDING ON ANOTHER NOTE TO BE RELEASED ON SHANACHIE MAY 24, 2019

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Dubbed the “Steely Dan of smooth jazz” by All About Jazz and praised by JazzTimes Magazine for their “consistently winning contemporary jazz,” Pieces Of A Dream has been churning out chart-topping hits for four consecutive decades. Even the iconic Count Basie declared Pieces Of A Dream “A tough act to follow!” Hailing from The City of Brotherly Love, the celebrated band has joined the ranks of some of Philadelphia’s most revered music-makers including Grover Washington, Jr., Patti LaBelle, The Roots, Jill Scott, John Coltrane and Stanley Clarke. Throughout their illustrious career, childhood friends, pianist James Lloyd and drummer Curtis Harmon, have managed to stay true to their mission. “I don’t feel the vision for Pieces has changed at all,” explains Lloyd. “It’s a very simple one, to spread peace through our gift of music.” Curtis Harmon adds, “The band has changed a lot from 1976 to now. I mean just think about it – when we started we were only 3, now we’re 7!” Pieces Of A Dream, whose name is inspired by Pittsburgh tenor titan Stanley Turrentine’s song “Pieces Of Dreams,” remains one of the architects of contemporary jazz and has no plans of slowing down. “Our fans keep us alive and kicking,” declares Harmon. May 24, 2019 Shanachie Entertainment will release On Another Note, Pieces Of A Dream’s 24th recording. “We’re back folks with one more to add to your collection,” says James Lloyd. “I hope the new music shows the passion we put into the performances on this project and our constant drive to improve on everything we deliver to our fans.”
Pieces Of A Dream has toured the world, sold over one million albums, and scored both Smooth Jazz and R&B radio hits along the way. Curtis Harmon reflects, “So far our fans and the DJs seem cool with what we have been doing so I say if the recipe works, keep cookin’ with it!” Crowned “Pioneers of Smooth Jazz” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pieces Of A Dream’s longevity is a testament to the brotherhood shared between James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon. On Another Note was truly a labor of love. Lloyd shares, “These songs very much reflect both of our hearts and vibes. I believe we are all products of our environment and if one creates music from the heart it contains all of their emotions.”
On Another Note finds Pieces Of A Dream doing what they do best – serving up their irresistible signature fusion of Jazz, R&B, Funk, Pop, Blues and beyond. There is something for everyone and for every mood. “This CD should play like the set list of life,” says Lloyd. “It is for moments of joy, melancholy, high activity, retrospection, party-mode, pain, hopefulness, and sometimes just plain fun.” The CDs first single and title track is a sweet and soulful groove showcasing the tenor of Tony Watson Jr. The sultry and R&B laced “Floating” follows and features the fluid and enchanting guitar of Chris Harris. Lloyd and Harmon provide the right vibe with their high-octane groove “Kickin’ & Screamin’.” The spirited anthem joins the duo with both Chris Harris and co-writer Tony Watson Jr. Together the ensemble kicks it up a notch for a funk showdown. “This song is my favorite track,” shares Harmon. I just think that this song is a true funk instrumental that’s going to be a whole lot of fun for our audience to hear and for us to perform. Tony and I had a lot of fun writing it.”
Pieces Of A Dream shifts gears with the gorgeous ballad “Take Me There,” which provides the right showcase for James Lloyd to demonstrate just how he makes the keys sing. The spirited and jubilant “A Pieces Fiesta,” is a Latin-tinged affair and cause for celebration showcasing the multi-dimensional range of Pieces Of A Dream. The explosive track features the percussive wonder of Curtis Harmon along with Elec Simon. The tranquil and graceful “Images of Peace,” which James Lloyd cites as his track favorite, offers a sublime meditative oasis from the rushed pace of our daily lives, while “Rolling Along” is a bluesy anthem with a kick and groove that is sure to elevate your mood.
On Another Note also features the sweet bounce of “Smooth Dreams” and the uplifting “Real To Me.” The album comes to a rousing finale with the swinger and stepper-esque groove of “Last Call.” But don’t worry it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. James Lloyd says, “Here’s the game plan folks; create and release music to try to touch people, perform live and try to touch people there and along the way, teach others what we’ve learned along our way and repeat it until we expire.” So let the music play!
Not many groups manage to stay together for 42 years and amass a catalogue of 24 recordings. The story of Pieces Of A Dream is remarkable considering James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon were 16 and 18 respectively when they released their first recording in 1981. Not long after that they hit the road performing in Grover Washington Jr.’s rhythm section and opening for him as Pieces Of A Dream. “Mr. Magic” himself took Lloyd and Harmon under his wings and signed the band as the first group with his brand new production company. Danny Harmon, Curtis’ father and a jazz musician himself, became their manager and had the guys listening to the Modern Jazz Quartet, Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson as they developed their unique sound, blending their jazz roots with R&B, soul and funk. Pieces released three albums in quick succession, firmly establishing its place in the world of smooth jazz with the CDs Pieces of a Dream (1981), We Are One (1982) and Imagine This (1983). Those albums include some of their biggest early hits, including “Warm Weather,” “Mount Airy Groove” and “Fo Fi Fo.” Pieces Of A Dream recorded their Shanachie debut, In The Moment, in 2013, followed by 2015’s All In and Just Funkin’ Around in 2017.
“Hopefully On Another Note will take our fans on a joyride like no other ‘Pieces’ album or CD ever has. The range of influences on this one are broad, from Funk to Latin ballads. You can’t help but feel a wide range of emotion. We just want everyone to enjoy the entire journey,” concludes Curtis Harmon. James Lloyd adds, “We’re looking forward to Pieces Of A Dream’s Golden Anniversary. We’ve already been blessed with so much but that is an incredible milestone that few are able to reach…fingers crossed!”

Jazz guitarist Chris Standring reimagines his best

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Jazz guitarist Chris Standring reimagines his best

The album dropping June 21 consists of a dozen remixes, including the upcoming single, “Kaleidoscope” (Neptune Mix 2019).

STUDIO CITY (1 May 2018): Over twenty years and twelve albums into his career as a solo artist, chart-topping guitarist Chris Standring had no interest in putting out a typical “best of” album. After a gig, a fan approached him with a novel idea that did get his creative wheels spinning.

“I had thought about releasing a ‘best of’ for a long time, but it didn’t make a lot of sense because with streaming and downloadable songs, anyone can grab their favorite songs thus a compilation felt a little redundant. But then a fan brought me the idea to take my most popular songs and do something new with them. It’s nice to breathe new life into some music that has been around a while,” said Standring who drops “Best of Chris Standring Remixed” on June 21 on the Ultimate Vibe Recordings label.

The British guitarist remixed eleven songs from his catalogue of instrumental R&B, soul jazz and electronica, including the No. 1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Track of the Year in 2010, “Bossa Blue,” and a 2014 Billboard No. 1 single, “Sneakin’ Out the Front Door.” According to Standring, the songs for “Best of Chris Standring Remixed” were selected based on two criteria.

“First and foremost, the popularity of each track. Most of these songs were heavily searched on the internet. Secondly, songs were chosen based on how each might lend itself to a remix,” said Standring, who will celebrate the album release by performing two shows at the Blue Note Napa in the heart of the Napa Valley on the record release date.

The only song not culled from a previous Standring solo album is the 1996 track “Stop It!” from an acid jazz band he was in called Solar System. One of his former bandmates and longtime songwriting partner, Rodney Lee, reconfigured that track along with four others – “Fast Train To Everywhere,” “Liquid Soul,” “Pandora’s Box” and “Sneakin’ Out The Front Door” – adding imaginative bursts of electronic ingenuity over chunky beats. British techno DJ Matt Cooper put a clubby trance vibe on three cuts – “Bossa Blue,” “Oliver’s Twist” and “Ready Steady Flow.” Standring’s only advance directive to Lee and Cooper was “‘Do your thing.’ I didn’t want them to be constrained in any way. And they certainly weren’t.”

Standring remixed four tracks himself, taking two swings at “Kaleidoscope.” The Neptune Mix 2019 version will be released as a single, collecting playlist adds on July 22.

Although placed in entirely fresh contexts, Standring’s guitar work throughout “Best of Chris Standring Remixed” – whether playing an electric jazz guitar or nylon-string instrument – remains at the fore, melodically embarking on lyrical runs, dexterous embellishments and impassioned finger-work forays.

A consistent hitmaker, the classically-trained guitarist basked in the glow of his “Sunlight” album last summer when it went No. 1 on the SmoothJazz.com chart. Standring notched three No. 1 Billboard singles the previous year, including duets with trumpeter Cindy Bradley (“Category A”) and two-time Grammy-winning guitarist Paul Brown (“Piccadilly Circus”). He was a first-call session player when he first came to America, recording with Jody Watley and Bebe & Cece Winans among many others before touring extensively with trumpeter Rick Braun.

In addition to playing spot dates such as a two-night Memorial Day Weekend stand (May 24 & 25) at Seal Beach’s Spaghettini, Standring will spend the year working on an album of all new music for release next year. In the meantime, he’s eager for people to hear his best material in an all-new way.

“My hope is that everyone embraces the experimentation that took place and simply loves it.”

“Best of Chris Standring Remixed” contains the following songs:

“Stop It!” (Mercury Mix 2019)

“Fast Train To Everywhere” (Jupiter Mix 2019)

“Bossa Blue” (Outside Mix 2019)

“Kaleidoscope” (Neptune Mix 2019)

“Liquid Soul” (Venus Mix 2019)

“Pandora’s Box” (Saturn Mix 2019)

“Sneakin’ Out The Front Door” (Earth Mix 2019)

“Soul Express” (Love Mix 2018)

“Oliver’s Twist” (Outside Mix 2012)

“Constellation” (Galaxy Mix 2018)

“Ready Steady Flow” (Outside Mix 2019)

“Kaleidoscope” (Cake Mix 2019)

For additional information, please visit http://www.chrisstandring.com.

Saxophonist Elan Trotman has “Got To Give It Up” to Marvin Gaye

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Saxophonist Elan Trotman has “Got To Give It Up” to Marvin Gaye

He drops a tribute album, “Dear Marvin,” on April 2, the iconic crooner’s 80th birthday. The first single, “Got To Give It Up,” is the No. 1 most-added single on the Billboard chart this week.

BOSTON (20 March 2019): Sax salutes sexy soul on Elan Trotman’s “Dear Marvin,” a collection of ten of Marvin Gaye’s best-loved songs that drops on April 2, the late legendary R&B singer’s 80th birthday. Preceding the set’s arrival is the single “Got To Give It Up,” a vibrant reboot of one of Gaye’s funky dance tracks that is the No. 1 most-added single on the Billboard chart this week as an instrumental from the Woodward Avenue Records album produced by Charles Haynes (Marcus Miller, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah) and Trotman.

“It’s amazing how this project came about. ‘Got To Give It Up’ has been a huge part of my live show for the past two years and has always been a crowd favorite. That is just one of the many factors that inspired me to record the song and to dig deeper into Marvin’s catalogue and life story. I had no idea that his 80th birthday would be coming up around our time of completing the album, but once I found out, I knew we had to release it on April 2 to mark the occasion,” said Trotman, an award-winning saxophonist who has topped the Billboard singles chart more than ten times.

In reimagining Gaye’s catalogue in instrumental form, Trotman shares the spotlight on “Dear Marvin,” with premier soloists, including Grammy-winning keyboardist Jeff Lorber, seminal urban-jazz flautist Najee, esteemed trumpeter Patches Stewart, soul-jazz-hip hop-funk trombonist Jeff Bradshaw and veteran guitarist Sherrod Barnes. Trotman strategically deploys vocals to illumine a few key tracks. Ray Greene (Santana, Tower of Power) begs on “Mercy Mercy Me”; rapper Obadele Thompson plies his come-on skills to “I Want You”; and Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith provides the cure through “Sexual Healing.” Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra enhance a pair of tracks with strings. Including Haynes, Trotman’s core collaborators are his former colleagues from Berklee College of Music: keyboardist Mitch Henry (Marsha Ambrosius), bassists Kyle Miles and Keithen Foster (H.E.R.), and percussionist Atticus Cole.

“It’s been an honor to be able to share my interpretations of some of Marvin’s classics. As with all cover projects, I made an extra effort to learn lyrics and storylines for each composition in order to truly understand his interpretations and performances on each song,” said the Boston-based Trotman, who is planning to be in Los Angeles on April 2 for an 11am ceremony held by the United States Postal Service at The Greek Theatre to celebrate the release of the Marvin Gaye commemorative Forever stamp.

“We, Marvin’s family, heard about Elan doing a musical tribute to Marvin. We are very pleased with his album ‘Dear Marvin,’ and are so happy that it will be released on his birthday, April 2. The musicians are all incredible! Thank you, Elan Trotman. Job well done,” said Janis Gaye, Gaye’s second wife.

“Dear Marvin,” is Trotman’s eighth album and second on the Woodward Avenue Records imprint. The label issued the saxophone-flute player’s 2013 disc, “Tropicality,” an autobiographical album that colors contemporary jazz with native sounds from Trotman’s homeland, Barbados. Trotman curates, produces and hosts the Barbados Jazz Excursion and Golf Weekend annually over Columbus Day Weekend with the sixth edition taking place this October 10-14. Bringing that winning formula closer to home, he will launch the first annual Martha’s Vineyard Jazz Excursion and Golf Weekend in Oak Bluffs, MA on June 28-30. To support the album release, Trotman will perform at festivals, theaters and nightclubs through October beginning with the prestigious Boscov’s Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, PA on April 5.

“Dear Marvin,” contains the following songs:

“Inner City Blues” featuring Sherrod Barnes

“Got To Give It Up”

“Distant Lover” featuring Patches Stewart

“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”

“Mercy Mercy Me” featuring Ray Greene

“I Want You” featuring Obadele Thompson

“Sexual Healing” featuring “Smithsoneon”

“After The Dance” featuring Najee

“Trouble Man” featuring Jeff Lorber

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” featuring Jeff Bradshaw

For more information, please visit http://elantrotman.com.

Brian Culbertson’s “Colors” comes alive

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Brian Culbertson’s “Colors” comes alive

The electric entertainer captured his hit-filled Colors of Love Tour in Las Vegas for his first live concert video that dropped Valentine’s Day as a stunning Blu-ray and double CD.

LOS ANGELES (15 February 2019): Fans have been asking multi-instrumentalist hitmaker Brian Culbertson for years, “When are you going to put out a concert video?” As the dynamic performer rolled out his elaborate Colors of Love Tour on a 77-show, 14-week journey last year, he knew he had to capture the magic. Filmed during his stop in the neon city, “Colors of Love Tour – Live in Las Vegas” was released by BCM Entertainment on Valentine’s Day as a Blu-ray disc and two-disc CD through Culbertson’s site (www.BrianCulbertson.com). Amazon also has the CD set available now and will soon list the Blu-ray. Digital fans can obtain the audio version now from all major digital retail outlets.

“I’ve been aspiring to finally film a concert and for this tour, I knew we had an impressive-looking show and a great-sounding band. It’s the most visual show I’ve ever created in terms of the lighting, video elements and wardrobe. It’s stunning. Once the tour started, I knew we had to film it somehow,” said Culbertson about his first live concert video.

The 2018 spring/summer trek was mounted in support of the “Colors of Love” album, a romantic release that dropped last Valentine’s Day and was inspired by Culbertson’s 20th wedding anniversary. In addition to showcasing the bouquet of love songs from the intimate collection, Culbertson constructed a generous three-act set list comprised of more than two hours of music culled from his extensive catalogue of Billboard No. 1 hits and fan favorites. With the first and third acts centered on the amorous material from “Colors of Love” along with similarly-themed library cuts, the second act is a high-energy, get-down-tonight funk set. Culbertson holds down the keyboards, grand piano, trombone and vocals, sharing the stage and spotlight with his five-piece band – Marqueal Jordan (saxophone, vocals and percussion), Eddie Miller (keyboards, organ and vocals), Tyrone Chase (guitar), Joewaun Scott (bass) and Chris Miskel (drums). They are joined by special guest vocalist Noel Gourdin along with comedic bits from Sinbad that separate each act.

Three video screens adorned the stage projecting Sinbad’s comedy sketches, a fun cartoon sequence that accompanies the performance of “Mile Sauce,” and photos of Culbertson’s wife, Michelle, and Culbertson’s collaborators, Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire) and Bootsy Collins. Helmed by award-winning television producer-director Scott Sternberg in his first full-length concert video, the production utilized ten cameras to film the concert that took place at the Aliante Casino last May. The two-and-a-half-hour performance was lensed in its entirety with the video offering 26 songs plus bonus features, including “BC Medley” from 2016’s Funk! Tour Live, an in-studio performance of “Through the Years,” a solo piano performance of “All My Heart” shot live at SiriusXM, the “Mile Sauce” cartoon, and a commentary track from Culbertson and Miskel.

“The ‘Colors of Love’ album is personal and intimate, so we set out to create a show and video that tells a more personal story. The videos and photos on stage, like the pictures of my wife who inspired the music I wrote, is part of that. Scott (Sternberg) and his crew used unique camera angles so that it feels like you’re on stage with the band when you watch the video. It’s much more up close and personal than most concert videos,” said Culbertson.

Although Culbertson knew early on that he wanted to film the production, what he didn’t know initially was the how and where. After financial backing arrived upon sharing his creative vision for the project, he looked at the itinerary and circled the two-night stand in Las Vegas.

“I earmarked the Vegas dates because I knew the venue has great in-house lighting that would look amazing on camera. We recorded the audio from both nights to have as a backup, but the film crew shot only the one show, so we had to nail it in one take,” said Culbertson.

The video opens with Culbertson walking the Vegas strip filmed overhead by a drone. “I wanted viewers to feel like they are in Las Vegas. It was important for the opening to establish that feeling and location,” said Culbertson. “After we shot the concert, I put on my silver-sequined jacket and we drove the strip at midnight to shoot additional footage for the opener. I can’t wait for people to see the video. It’s really exciting energy.”

To view the trailer for “Colors of Love Tour – Live in Las Vegas,” click https://bit.ly/2OFW1Kp.

The songs included on the Blu-ray and CD are:

ACT 1

“Love Transcended”

“It’s On Tonight”

“Another Love”

“I Want You”

“Wear It Out”

“You’re My Music” featuring Noel Gourdin

“I Could Get Used To This”

“All About You”

“Hookin’ Up”

“Somethin’ Bout Love”

“Through The Years”

“Colors of Love”

 

Sinbad – “Kinda Pimpish”

 

ACT 2

“Feelin’ It”

“Funkin’ Like My Father”

“Always Remember”

“Been Around The World”

“Damn, I’m Hungry”

“Mile Sauce”

“Got To Give It Up”

“Hollywood Swinging”

“Play That Funky Music”

 

Sinbad – “I’m Black Dangit, 100%”

 

ACT 3

“Secret Garden”

“Michelle’s Theme”

“On My Mind”

“Colors of Love Reprise”

“Our Love”

For more information, please visit http://www.brianculbertson.com.

NORMAN BROWN SHARES “THE HIGHEST ACT OF LOVE”

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Norman Brown “had to dig deep” when creating his upcoming album “The Highest Act of Love,” which will be released on February 22, 2019. He is ready to share this project and says, “I’m so excited about this record.” It took Norman two albums’ worth of music to create this very special one. He describes this record as a “framework for thinking and reasoning about life.”  When beginning the project, Norman visited his archived music and started from there. The first song he pulled was a demo of Deniece Williams’ hit “Free.” Ironically, it didn’t make the first round of songs selected for the album, but it definitely made the final cut. The collaboration with Deniece on her song was very special because when she heard it, she was elated, saying it was “incredible.” Norman also collaborated with Paul Brown on the first song on the album, appropriately titled “Inside The Garden of Peace and Love.” That’s where the journey for the listener begins. Kim Waters and Chris “Big Dog” Davis collaborated with Norman on the album, as well.

Listen to my in-depth and enlightening conversation with Norman:

EXPERIENCE “LIFE AND TIMES” WITH JAZZ FUNK SOUL

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When you combine three powerhouse musicians who have had amazing careers for decades, you are in for a masterful musical journey. Jazz Funk Soul was formed in 2014 with the late Chuck Loeb. The group made an instant impact and realized they had something very special. When the music world lost Chuck Loeb, it was obvious that no one could fill his shoes. However, Paul Jackson, Jr. had been filling in for Loeb when the band was on the road performing. Paul previously worked with Jeff and Everett in their individual careers, and they embraced the musical language he brought into the group. “LIFE AND TIMES,” the groups latest project, is set to be released on January 25th. The single “Windfall” was an obvious first release and a new sound from the project. It perfectly displays the individual gifts that each member possesses. Jeff, Everette, and Paul each believe that working together propels them to constantly reach higher levels of musicianship.

Listen to Jeff, Everette, and Paul discuss the project with me: