KAYLA WATERS IS IN “FULL BLOOM”

Kayla Waters

Urban-jazz pianist Kayla Waters has everything it takes and more to be a successful artist. She is strong, confident, grounded, focused on her gifts, and translates it all beautifully through her music. Kayla is enjoying the success of her sophomore album “Coevolve” and feeling the love with her second consecutive Billboard No.1 single “Zephyr.” This week, her latest single, “Full Bloom,” is No.2. Waters took an eight-month hiatus from social media to focus solely on her music and her connection with God. The fruits of doing so was the creation of “Coevolve.” It tells the story of two things: first is life of a plant and how it grows; second is Kayla herself and how, like the plant, she, too, is growing and blossoming. Essentially, Waters is telling her life story in every song. Additionally, she collaborated with Michael Broening on the single “Full Bloom.” She is currently working on her third album, touring, and preparing to launch her own production company. She’ll be sharing the stage with her father, saxophonist Kim Waters, on December 6th in Charlotte, NC at the Mcglohon Theater.

Listen as Kayla shares some of her story with me: 

This Friday: Urban-Jazz pianist Kayla Waters to perform Dec. 6 at the McGloghon Theater in Charlotte

Kayla Waters

One of the most exciting and visionary urban-jazz artists to arrive in recent years, pianist Kayla Waters (www.iamkaylawaters.com) is touring in support of her sophomore album, “Coevolve,” which spawned her second consecutive Billboard No. 1 single, “Zephyr.” The creative and energizing force of substance and style plays the McGloghon Theater in Charlotte on December 6.

Waters, an award-winning musician, songwriter and producer, crafted “Coevolve” that she describes as a collection of “rich polyphonic textures, unique sounds, tones, impromptu melodic, harmonic and rhythmic nuances that justly epitomize the aeolian cycle of God, music and natural life.​” That description  alone reflects the depth of her recordings. Waters masterfully deploys alluring melodies and enveloping grooves while presenting scholarly, divine concepts that stimulate contemplation. Her earthy and organic aural palette incorporates soulful R&B, improvised modern jazz, freeform indie sensibilities and celestial inspirational music that touches hearts, minds and souls. And she has only begun to scratch the surface of her artistic gifts and vision.

“Coevolve” follows Waters’ 2017 debut disc, “Apogee,” an enchanting flight far beyond the borders of contemporary jazz powered by the Billboard No. 1 single, “I Am,” a confident introduction to a compelling and charismatic artist who is making the music genre refreshing for the stalwarts and appealing to young millennials through her recorded offerings and by her powerful presence. Both the breakthrough single and album ended the year on Billboard’s yearend charts.

The Black Women in Jazz and the Arts Foundation honored Waters with their Rising Star in Jazz award and the Washington, DC-based artist was named Best Jazz Artist at the Wammies. Waters has performed at major festivals, theaters and clubs around the globe with the upcoming tour stop part of a busy concert itinerary.

MUSIC KEEPS CALLING RAPHAEL SAADIQ

Raphael S.

On a recent pleasurable visit to Blakeslee Recording Studio in Burbank, California, I sat down with studio owner Raphael Saadiq to discuss his latest project “Jimmy Lee.” Saadiq shared glimpses of his childhood growing up in Oakland, California and his emergence as an artist, songwriter, and producer, as well as the creation of what the world now knows as the album “Jimmy Lee,” named aptly for his brother. It is a collection of songs that most can relate to in one way or another. Raphael is candid, humble, and brilliant. His artistry has touched and crossed over a multitude of facets in the entertainment industry including movies and television. The first single from the album, titled “Something Keeps Calling” featuring Rob Bacon, came in recently at no.1 on the Urban Contemporary/R&B chart.

Enjoy my conversation with Raphael Saadiq at Blakeslee Studio where his hits come to life:

#1 Billboard Artist Najee Drops 18th & New CD Friday – Jazziz Has Exclusive Stream Now!

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#1 BILLBOARD ARTIST & MULTI-PLATINUM SELLING JAZZ VISIONARY NAJEE IS BACK WITH NEW MUSIC SURE TO CAPTURE
THE CENTER OF THE HEART
In a business where trends and artists come and go, Najee’s name is synonymous with innovation, consistency and the best in contemporary jazz. The visionary has enjoyed an enviable three-decade career by staying true to his own artistic vision. “Throughout my career, I have enjoyed working with diverse musicians in so many different musical contexts,” confides the two-time Platinum-selling and four-time Gold-selling multi-instrumentalist. “All of these experiences live inside you and they come out in your music. Honestly, if I were not able to mix it up, I would be bored.” Mentored by iconic saxmen Jimmy Heath and Frank Foster and flutist Harold Jones, the New England Conservatory of Music alum has worked with a who’s who list in music that includes Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock. Najee’s anticipated 18th new recording, Center Of The Heart, (Shanachie, November 15, 2019) showcases his technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion and fearless genre bending on ten thrilling tracks. Deftly wielding the soprano, flute, tenor and alto, Najee steers the ten-track excursion, showcasing moving originals, a hauntingly beautiful orchestration of a Bacharach/David classic, a sizzling reinvention of a Maxwell hit and unforgettable collaborations with singer Kenny Lattimore, pianist Greg Manning (Brian McKnight, Deniece Williams, Dave Koz, Jonathan Butler), saxophonist Darren Rahn (Wayman Tisdale, Toby Keith, Dave Koz, Jeff Lorber), and keyboardist/producer Demonte Posey (Eric Benet, Babyface, Toni Braxton).
Najee is a master storyteller. Whether the debonair multi-instrumentalist is engaged in a verbal or musical conversation, his alluring charisma has a way of seducing you into his world. Center Of The Heart finds Najee doing what he does best – shape-shifting through diverse musical terrain and fusing all of the elements that have made him a fan favorite all of these years. The CD opens with the exhilarating and inviting “Bella Vista,” an original Najee penned with Demonte Posey that shines a spotlight on Najee’s dazzling, agile and pristine flute work. The album’s first single unites Najee with saxophonist Darren Rahn who co-wrote the track and who has previously produced for Najee and written hits for Dave Koz and Wayman Tisdale. “I went to Denver,” recalls Najee. “When we got in the studio I could not get Darren’s sax sound out of my head so I said ‘let’s do this one together’ and call it ‘Face To Face.’” Najee puts his own timeless and sensuous spin on Maxwell’s Sumthin’ Sumthin’ from the singer’s acclaimed Urban Hang Suite and he conjures up his own lush arrangement of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Alfie” from the 1966 film of the same title that was scored by Sonny Rollins. Najee’s idea to play flute instead of the often-recorded tenor saxophone on this track is genius. His impeccable phrasing, flawless tone and sense of timing on this gem almost make time stand still. His performance is breathtaking from the opening note until the end.
Center Of The Heart marks the first time that Najee has recorded with Grammy nominated vocalist Kenny Lattimore. “Kenny and I started our careers around same time and never did a record together even though we have been around the world together. We first met in 1998 when we both performed at Nelson Mandela’s Gift To the Nation concert in Johannesburg and Durban.” It is undeniable that Najee and Lattimore both get “Better” with time. The laid-back and in-the-pocket flow of “The Way She Moves” features Najee’s bluesy tenor while the soulful “One Note Love” is a family affair. The latter features Najee’s son, rapper Superb Clawson and his granddaughter is also heard on the track. The banger “Speak Love!” will have you confessing your love over the way Najee rides danceable grooves and elevates the mood with his joyful orchestration and jubilant melodic anthems. The album’s title track was co-written by and features bassist Blair Bryant, who has collaborated with Stanley Clark, Eric Roberson and Bernie Williams among others. The euphoric and hypnotic feel good track is an album highlight. Center Of The Heart Najee closes with “Tonight We Say Goodbye.” This bittersweet parting is a reminder of why we keep coming back for more.
“When I was about 14 I was playing on a school instrument and everyone in the house was covering their ears and saying “stop, stop!” My mom noticed that it was my thing and kind of my release and bought me my first saxophone,” recalls Najee. As I began to develop on my instrument, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Yusef Lateef and Hubert Laws on flute were some of the artists that inspired me. As an industrious and hungry young musician, Najee had the good fortune of coming through Dr. Billy Taylor’s now legendary Jazzmobile program. While a student at the New England Conservatory (where both Najee and his brother attended) he studied jazz with George Russell and Jaki Byard. When he finished school Najee returned to New York in the early 80s and was lucky to land a gig with Chaka Khan along with his brother, guitarist Fareed (who is now his manager). In 1987 Najee’s Themewas released and the saxophonist earned a slot on tour with singer Freddie Jackson. The following year, Day By Day was released, and in 1991, Tokyo Blue, which is one of Najee’s most successful and enduring recordings. Tokyo Blue (whichwas producedby Najee’s brother Fareed) and Day By Day both went Gold and led to two Soul Train Awards for Najee (Best Jazz Artist in 1991 and 1993). Just An Illusioncame in 1992 and around this time he collaborated with such iconic figures as Quincy Jones and a collaboration with jazz greats Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham and Larry Carlton resulted in the album Live At The Greek. Share My Worldcame in 1994 and was followed in 1995 by a critically acclaimed tribute to Stevie Wonder’s 1976 classic, Songs In The Key Of Life. The CD was produced by George Duke and featured Herbie Hancock and Sheila E. among others. His CD Morning Tenderness, released in 1998, went to #1 on the contemporary jazz charts. For Najee, the late ‘90s were marked by extraordinary international experiences, from performing at Nelson Mandela’s birthday celebration in South Africa to playing as a special guest of President Clinton at the White House at an event honoring President Jerry Rawlings of the Republic of Ghana. Najee also spent two years of touring (2001-2003) with Prince and appears on Prince’s albums Rainbow Children and One Night Alone. In 2003 Najee released Embrace, featuring special guests Roy Ayers and BeBe Winans. My Point Of View was his follow up in 2005 featuring his good friend and vocalist Will Downing. 2007’s Rising Sun joined Najee with Phil Perry and Mind Over Matter from 2009 paired Najee with singer Eric Benét.  The Smooth Side Of Soul (Najee’s Shanachie debut) followed in 2012, successfully covering such diverse terrain as Jimmy Heath and Ne-Yo and the follow-up, The Morning After, arrived in 2013 debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts and exploring the many sides of love. You, Me & Forever was released in 2015 and united Najee with James Lloyd and Frank McComb among others. In 2017 Najee released Poetry In Motion, dedicated to the memory of Prince and Al Jarreau and featuring an all-star line up including Maysa, Will Downing, Eric Roberson and Incognito.
“I’ve known real legends,” concludes Najee. “I remember watching Charles Mingus rehearse when I was a kid and meeting Sonny Rollins at 16. There is a saying about musicians. It says that we never retire – we just stop hearing music. I still hear music and I love working with people and that is what keeps me inspired.”

Brian Culbertson’s 2020 vision: Drop his 20th album, “XX,” and launch The XX Tour

 

 

 

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Brian Culbertson’s 2020 vision: Drop his 20th album, “XX,” and launch The XX Tour

Tickets go on sale this week for the three-month US concert trek that begins April 1.

CHICAGO (7 November 2019): As chart-topping multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Brian Culbertson crafts his 20th album, the aptly titled “XX” – Roman numerals representing twenty – he revealed plans for the extensive US concert tour that will support the record release. Beginning April 1 in Louisville, Kentucky, Culbertson will take an elaborately designed concert production, The XX Tour, on the road for three consecutive months, playing more than 70 shows, an extremely rare feat for a contemporary jazz artist.

Culbertson’s catalogue includes recordings of jazz – contemporary and straight ahead – as well as R&B, funk, instrumental pop and New Age. “XX,” which drops April 10, reflects his remarkable diversity.

“It’s a mix of things that I’ve done throughout my twenty records. There’s a lot of funky instrumentals, some pop-sounding tracks, a couple slow jams, straight-ahead jazz, gospel, some vocals, lots of horns and some straight-up FUNK! The album is very much a mixture of some modern sounding programming along with live instruments, too. Real drums on almost everything mixed with programming. Definitely a cool sound,” said Culbertson, who invites fans to get involved with the making of “XX” via an Indiegogo campaign that launched this week (https://igg.me/at/BCXX).

Recreating that cool sound live for The XX Tour is Culbertson’s favorite part. Like his massive Colors of Love Tour that played 77 shows in three months and was captured for “Brian Culbertson’s Colors of Love Tour: Live in Las Vegas” Blu-ray disc and two-disc CD that dropped last Valentine’s Day, Culbertson is creating the sound and look for The XX Tour as a sensory experience. The exuberant performer spends months in preproduction meticulously conceiving stunning visuals – staging, lighting, wardrobe and effects – in order to put on a mesmerizing show each time he takes the stage. In addition to spotlighting the new album, the setlist will include cuts from Culbertson’s hit-filled songbook that has amassed 32 Billboard No. 1 singles. There will also be a segment showcasing songs from “Winter Stories,” an album released last month that placed him in an acoustic jazz trio setting for the first time.

Culbertson, who founded and curates the annual Napa Valley Jazz Getaway and Chicago Jazz Getaway music and lifestyle festivals, is offering two tiers of VIP ticket experiences during The XX Tour. The Ultra VIP package includes front row center seats; an intimate pre-show champagne toast backstage with Culbertson; pre-show meet & greet, photo opportunity and performance; exclusive tour merchandise gift; autographed tour poster; commemorative The XX Tour VIP laminate; and early access to the venue for crowd-free merchandise shopping.

The Meet & Greet VIP package consists of premium seats; pre-show meet & greet, photo opportunity and performance; exclusive tour merchandise gift; autographed tour poster; commemorative The XX Tour VIP laminate; and early access to the venue for crowd-free merchandise shopping.

Tickets for The XX Tour go on sale on Wednesday, November 13 at 10am local time exclusively for American Express cardholders and those connected to Culbertson’s social media and fan email lists as well as subscribers to the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway and Chicago Jazz Getaway email lists. On Thursday, November 14 at 10am local time, presales begin for Ticketmaster and the venues’ email lists. The public on-sale starts on Friday, November 15 at 10am local time.

Below is The XX Tour itinerary (more dates will be added to the itinerary when confirmed):

April 1              Louisville, KY                          Bomhard Theater

April 3              New Haven, CT                        Lyman Center for Performing Arts **

April 4              Cranston, RI                             Park Theater

April 5              Reading, PA                             Scottish Rite Cathedral **

April 7              Morristown, NJ                         Mayo Performing Arts Center

April 8              Collingswood, NJ                      Scottish Rite Auditorium

April 9              Buffalo, NY                              Buffalo State Performing Arts Center **

April 10            Pittsburgh, PA                           Roxian Theatre

April 11            Columbus, OH                          Southern Theatre **

April 14            Detroit, MI                               MotorCity Casino Hotel

April 15            Ft. Wayne, IN                           The Clyde Theatre

April 16            Indianapolis, IN                        Egyptian Room at Old National Centre

April 17            Akron, OH                                Akron Civic Theater

April 18            Washington, DC                       Warner Theatre

April 19            Richmond, VA                          The National

April 21            Clearwater, FL                          Bilheimer Capitol Theatre

April 22            Orlando, FL                              Plaza Live

April 23            Sarasota, FL                              Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall *

April 24            Panama City, FL                       Seabreeze Jazz Festival *

April 26            Jacksonville, FL                        Florida Theatre *

April 27            Newberry, SC                           Newberry Opera House *

April 29            Nashville, TN                           Marathon Music Works

May 1               Atlanta, GA                              Atlanta Symphony Hall

May 2               St. Louis, MO                           The Pageant

May 3               Minneapolis, MN                      Fitzgerald Theater

May 5               Joliet, IL                                   Rialto Square Theatre

May 6               Kansas City, MO                      Arvest Back Theatre at The Midland

May 7               Tulsa, OK                                 Cain’s Ballroom

May 8               San Antonio, TX                       Empire Theatre

May 9               Dallas, TX                                Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas

May 10             Houston, TX                             Cullen Performance Hall

May 14             Ft. Collins, CO                          The Armory

May 15             Denver, CO                              Paramount Theatre

May 19 & 20    Mesa, AZ                                 Mesa Arts Center

May 21             Tucson, AZ                               Rialto Theatre

May 22 & 23    Las Vegas, NV                          Aliante Casino

May 24             Lake Tahoe, NV                        Montbleau Resort Casino & Spa

May 27             Santa Barbara, CA                    Lobero Theatre

May 28             Fresno, CA                               Tower Theatre

May 30             San Diego, CA                          Humphreys

June 3               Bend, OR                                 Tower Theater

June 4               Spokane, WA                           Bing Crosby Theatre

June 5               Seattle, WA                              The Moore Theatre

June 6               Boise, ID                                  The Egyptian Theatre

June 7               Portland, OR                             Revolution Hall

June 12             Yountville, CA                         Napa Valley Jazz Getaway *

June 14             Los Angeles, CA                       The Wiltern

June 17             New Orleans, LA                      The Civic Theatre

June 19             Memphis, TN                            Minglewood Hall

June 21             Charlotte, NC                           Knight Theater

June 24             Durham, NC                             The Carolina Theatre

June 25             Birmingham, AL                       Lyric Theatre

*Denotes tickets are already on sale

** Denotes tickets will go on sale at a later date

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

 

 

Kim Scott

Soul-Jazz flutist Kim Scott emerges in the GRAMMY® race

Music from her “Free to Be” album makes the first-round ballot in two categories

BIRMINGHAM (5 October 2019): It was a hot July for soul-jazz flutist Kim Scott, who rocketed like fireworks to the top of the Billboard chart with her first No. 1 single, which has inserted the emerging artist into the GRAMMY conversation. Scott’s solo on “Emerge” (http://bit.ly/354BX9Y) made the first-round ballot for Best Improvised Jazz Solo while the album on which the track appears, “Free to Be,” is garnering consideration in the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album category.

Scott wrote “Emerge” with keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen, a hitmaker who is featured delivering his own shimmering solo. However, it is the flautist’s fanciful flourishes that are meriting consideration from the voting members of The Recording Academy for the 62nd GRAMMY Awards that take place on January 26, 2020.

After setting the stage to perfection with a Billboard chart-topping single that also went No. 1 on the Groove Jazz Music chart, Innervision Records dropped “Free to Be,” Scott’s fourth album, in mid-July. She had a hand in writing five of the album’s nine songs, which offer an alluring blend of instrumental pop appeal, jazz spontaneity and funky R&B grooves. Scott’s classically trained flute melodies share the spotlight equitably on a few numbers with prominent guest soloists Fritzen, saxophonist Jazmin Ghent and Pieces of A Dream keyboardist James Lloyd. Guitarist Eric Essix, drummer/percussionist James “PJ” Spraggins and bassist Sean Michael Ray anchor the rhythm section with compelling textures and vibrant harmonies crafted by keyboardist/programmer/producer Kelvin Wooten, keyboardists West Byrd and Jaden Scott, alto saxophonist Cameron Ross and instrument programmer Dimitri Turner. The disc’s second single, the bumping “Take It To The Rink,” is presently skating laps around playlists after earning Most Added honors in its debut week at radio.

In addition to her recording career, Scott hosts the nationally syndicated “Block Party Radio Show,” which added to its growing list of stations with the recent pickup on Alabama Public Radio, an NPR affiliate. The artist infuses her energy and enthusiasm into the weekly broadcast featuring the latest  contemporary jazz, urban and Latin jazz releases.

The Birmingham, Alabama-based Scott debuted in 2011 with “Crossing Over.” Her records have consistently produced Billboard Top 20 singles. On the concert stage, she’s performed at clubs and marquee festivals, including Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival and Seabreeze Jazz Festival. Scott is also a member of the all-female supergroup Jazz in Pink with whom she has played shows across the US. For more information, please visit http://kimscottmusic.com.

Spyro Gyra taps vinyl for inspiration

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Spyro Gyra taps vinyl for inspiration

Seminal contemporary jazz band mines a collection of vinyl classics for their first album in six years. “Vinyl Tap” drops October 11 with the first single, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” going for playlist adds September 23.

NEW YORK CITY (18 September 2019): Free of the tension of having to write great songs, the five members of Spyro Gyra were laughing and having fun in the recording studio. Creativity flowed as the venerable contemporary jazz band revisited the songs that inspired them from their youth when they were listening to music on vinyl. That artistic fount was spun into “Vinyl Tap,” Spyro Gyra’s first album in six years, which drops October 11 on the Amherst Records label.

“It was tensionless as we ‘warped’ the tunes. We had a world of brilliant music to choose from and we didn’t have to worry about writing brilliant music. It was a really fun project to make,” said saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, who will lead Spyro Gyra on tour to support “Vinyl Tap” with a string of US concert dates beginning November 15 in Newark, NJ after a three-week international trek that begins at the Cancun Jazz Festival on October 23.

When Spyro Gyra manager Phil Brennan proposed the albums concept a few years ago to bandleader Beckenstein for their 31st album, he knew that it might take some convincing, so he came prepared with an intriguing concept. Brennan suggested that the band use their arrangement talents to transform the originals into something brand new. The challenge appealed to Beckenstein, who soon overcame any misgivings.

“It’s cliché (to record covers) in saxophone-based contemporary jazz. We did not want to sound like a fantastic wedding band. I was really afraid that if we didn’t do our own thing, that our identity would be lost. It was imperative in the creative process – and everybody (in the band) knew this in a big way – that things had to be mixed up. Things had to be jolted out of the old way of approaching the songs. We really tried to come up with a new take on whatever (song) we were doing. We put solos into tunes that really are complete extensions that never had anything to do with the originals,” said Beckenstein.

What initially stands out on “Vinyl Tap,” which was produced by Spyro Gyra, are the wildly imaginative arrangements. Beckenstein said, “The arrangements were put together with everyone in my basement with all the equipment set up. We were all together in the pre-studio arrangement process. It was all done democratically. Spyro Gyra is a musician’s group collective. When you have five talented guys, you can do some cool arranging things.”

Spyro Gyra are Beckenstein, Tom Schuman (keyboards), Julio Fernandez (guitars), Scott Ambush (bass) and Lionel Cordew (drums). The musicians have somewhat of a wide range of ages, which explains some of the diversity of the material recorded for “Vinyl Tap.” Beckenstein selected the album opener, “Secret Agent Mash,” a supercharged and ultrahip mashup of “Secret Agent Man” and “Alfie’s Theme.” “Sunshine Of Your Love” is virtually unrecognizable in its new form as a Latin big band number. The first cut going for playlist adds on September 23 is the plaintive “Can’t Find My Way Home,” which takes on a bit of a western feel and benefits from the soulful perspective of Beckenstein’s saxophone protagonist. “What A Fool Believes” is slowed to become a contemplative power ballad that breaks into a mid-song swing cadence.

“I spent a lot of time listening to radio – classic rock radio – looking for material that had fantastic melodies. If there was a beautiful, arching melody, like ‘What A Fool Believes,’ it would definitely translate to my saxophone ‘voice,’” said Beckenstein.

Adding chromatic and bass harmonicas by Gary Schreiner, “The Cisco Kid” vacillates in time and tempo, letting the band members stretch out into improvisational banter. Exemplative of Spyro Gyra’s ethos, each band member shares the spotlight equitably, adding sweetness and redolent depth to “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” “Tempted” always oozed soul, but the band’s reading is deliberate, adding romance and underscoring the sweeping chorus. “Stolen Moments” is another that essentially becomes an “original” composition in Spyro Gyra’s inventive hands after the piece was reconstructed using entirely new, deft and complex rhythms. The set closes with an exhilarating romp cascading through a groovy expanse on “Carry On.”

“This is the first record we’ve done where we have allowed ourselves to do other people’s material full throttle,” said Beckenstein. “That is not to say in any way that we tried to copy what other people did, but it was really great to reach outside of our writing capabilities for inspiration for us to take off on. And that’s what this album is about.”

Pre-order sales for “Vinyl Tap” begin on iTunes and Amazon on September 23, the same day “Can’t Find My Way Home” becomes available.

“Vinyl Tap” contains the following songs:

“Secret Agent Mash”

“Sunshine Of Your Love”

“Can’t Find My Way Home”

“What A Fool Believes”

“The Cisco Kid”

“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”

“Tempted”

“Stolen Moments”

“Carry On”

For more information, please visit https://spyrogyra.com.