Dwayne “Smitty” Smith

How do I begin telling the story of Dwayne “Smitty” Smith? Well, I can start by saying that the artist from Washington, DC is kind, and humble. He’s also a writer, producer, and super talented bassist. It was in middle school that Smitty realized his love for the bass guitar. He heard a fellow classmate playing “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder and asked him to teach it to him. Amazingly, he not only learned the song, but played it perfectly with one finger. WOW!!! A bassist was born, and a stellar career soon followed. He moved to LA and quickly became the bassist to call. Not only would he work on the local scene, but would work with artists like Gerald Albright, Teena Marie, Anita Baker, and Kirk Whalum. Just to name a few. He was fortunate enough to spend 7 years with the legendary band The Isley Brothers. He continues to collaborate with other artists and has released his sophomore project titled “Stories.” This CD has something on it for everyone. Smitty beautifully covers “People Make The World Go Round”, and offers other songs that will have you swaying to funky grooves, and listening intently.

A conversation in Seattle.


Dwayne "Smitty" Smith

Dwayne “Smitty” Smith

Jazz Rescue: All-star concert set for August 2nd to benefit the Yarnell 19



Jazz Rescue: All-star concert set for August 2nd to benefit the Yarnell 19


Phoenix, Arizona (29 July 2013) – Jazz relief is on the way for victims of the recent Yarnell fire. The M.U.S.I.C. Foundation of Arizona and Arizona Jazz Festivalproducer Brad Laughlin have teamed with Phoenix City Council Member of District 8 Michael Johnson and Alan “AP” Powell to assemble a galaxy of contemporary jazz stars to perform a benefit concert for the families affected by the tragic fire, including the 19 families of the fallen firefighters and those who lost homes. The show featuring a bevy of hitmakers will be held this Friday, August 2nd at 7 PM at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets are on sale now atwww.arizonajazzfestival.com or by calling 602-244-8444. The minimum donation per ticket is $50.00 although digging deeper is encouraged.


The All-Star Jam will feature contemporary jazz and R&B luminaries George Benson, Brian CulbertsonPeter WhiteEuge GrooveWarren HillMichael LingtonEric DariusJessy J and Dominic Amato along with other surprise guests.


“Dating back to (Hurricane) Katrina, BTWconcerts (producer of the Arizona Jazz Festival) has been donating funds whenever and wherever these devastating natural disasters occur, but this one, the Yarnell fire, happened right in our own backyard thus we had to do something significant to help our local community. We’re working with the local government and the firefighters to raise much needed funds. The artists generously agreed to waive their performance fees and the Orpheum Theatre stepped up to donate the venue. We’re (BTWconcerts) covering the costs to bring the artists in so that we can donate every dollar from ticket sales to assist the families of the fallen firefighters and those who lost their home,” said Laughlin.


“This is a tremendous loss for our community and we need to continue to support the families of those 19 firefighters not just today, but even years from now. We reached out and gathered an all-star line-up of jazz artist from across the country who wanted to help and all of them have waived their fees so we could give everything we make this night to the families and children of fallen firefighters,” said Johnson.


All of the proceeds will aid the victims of the Yarnell fire disaster through the 100 Club of Arizona, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides immediate financial assistance to families of public safety officers and firefighters who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, and provides resources to enhance their safety and welfare.


The M.U.S.I.C. Foundation of Arizona purchased tickets and has set them aside so the families of the fallen firefighters can attend and be part of the evening.










Brian Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway raises money for the GRAMMY FOUNDATION

Brian Culbertson with his 7 foot Mason & Hamlin Model BB Grand Piano that was auctioned June 8, 2013 to benefit the GRAMMY Foundation

Brian Culbertson with his 7 foot Mason & Hamlin Model BB Grand Piano that was auctioned June 8, 2013 to benefit the GRAMMY Foundation

Brian Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway raises a significant sum to benefit The GRAMMY FOUNDATION®

Mason & Hamlin grand piano the big ticket auction item that helped double last year’s donation to support music education programs in schools

Napa, Calif. (25 July 2013): Enthusiastic bidders and generous event sponsors packed the Lincoln Theater in Napa, Calif. on June 8th during Brian Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway to raise an impressive $66,000.00 at a fundraising auction and wine reception to benefit The GRAMMY Foundation® more than doubling last year’s take. With over 3,000 jazz and wine enthusiasts gathered from across the nation for the 5-day festival, Brian Culbertson auctioned off theMason & Hamlin 7-foot model BB grand piano that he used to record many of his chart-topping contemporary jazz albums, including “It’s On Tonight,” “Bringing Back The Funk,” “A Soulful Christmas,” and “XII.” The highly-esteemed piano that was also featured in a number of Culbertson’s videos was donated by festival sponsor Mason & Hamlin.

Tom Lagomarsino, Executive Vice President of Mason & Hamlin Piano and PianoDisc, was thrilled that one of their exclusive handmade pianos, which are still built in the United States, was the coveted centerpiece of the auction. “We are honored to partner with Brian (Culbertson) and the wine and jazz communities to sponsor this great fundraiser to benefit The GRAMMY Foundation. We all recognize the essential need for music education programs in schools as well as the value of preserving our cultural heritage in both music and art. Together, we can truly make a difference.”

Mason & Hamlin pianos are acclaimed for their even touch, consistent action, and well-balanced tone, and are Culbertson’s exclusive piano choice. He describes them as having “the purest and richest tone on the market – period. To make great music, it always starts with an amazing instrument. That’s why I’m excited about exclusively playing Mason & Hamlin,” said Culbertson, the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway’s Founder and Artistic Director, a passionate music education advocate.

The GRAMMY Foundation was established in 1989 to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture — from the artistic and technical legends of the past to the still unimagined musical breakthroughs of future generations of music professionals. The foundation works to bring national attention and support to important issues such as the value and impact of music and arts education.Kristen Madsen, The GRAMMY Foundation’s Senior Vice President, expressed her sincere appreciation for the tremendous support. “The value of this generous donation from Mason & Hamlin and Brian (Culbertson) can certainly be calculated in the number of grants to schools and students it will facilitate. But equally important is the vision it reflects of a promising future, where music takes a central position in the vibrancy of our communities. We are delighted to have such remarkable support.”

The Napa Valley Jazz Getaway is a not-to-be-missed interactive lifestyle experience at which fans share their passion for wine and jazz with the star studded lineup of concert performers while dining, during wine receptions and tastings, autograph sessions, a golf tournament and at casual post-concert hangs. The third annual festival will be held June 11-15, 2014 and will again include an auction to benefit The GRAMMY Foundation. Additional information is available atwww.NapaValleyJazzGetaway.me.


About Mason & Hamlin

Mason & Hamlin is one of America’s oldest names in piano making and a pioneer in piano design and manufacturing technology. Mason & Hamlin builds its high-end, handmade pianos in its factory in Haverhill, Mass. and its line of vertical and grand pianos is sold in countries around the globe. Seewww.masonhamlin.com

Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley

The legendary Jazz Alley has been around for over 30 years. It’s a premier dinner club that has hosted legendary artists like Oscar Peterson, and Dizzy Gillespie. Before there was Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, John Dimitriou opened Blues Alley in Washington, DC. He then moved back to Seattle and subsequently opened 2 jazz clubs. Soon thereafter, he decided to close the 2 and create 1. Thus, the birth of Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. The Jazz Alley opened in 1979.  It’s a venue you must attend if you’re in the Seattle, WA area. You can count on an encounter with musical artists every week. The Jazz Alley hosts a variety of artists offering music for everyone to enjoy. They’ve since relocated to accommodate more people, while still maintaining the feeling of an intimate club. There is no bad seat in the house, and now they’ve expanded to include a mezzanine. The venue holds 350 people, and are the Nation’s 3rd longest running dinner club of its kind. While enjoying the music coming from a state of the art sound system, you can also dine. The menu includes mostly a Northwest cuisine. For convenience you can make cocktail and dinner reservations when attending a show. I think fine cuisine and great music make a wonderful combination. John realizes that music is forever changing and embraces that change by showcasing music that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of jazz. It’s a way of introducing new music and artists as well as gaining new and different audiences.

Dimitriou’s is host to the Pacific Jazz Institute which is a non-profit organization that’s geared to educating and introducing youth in the area to jazz. They offer workshops that are sometimes led by artists. There are many reasons why Dimitriou’s has received accolades such as being one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world.

I say, be careful, you could easily become spoiled by the intimacy of the Jazz Alley.

Monica Murphy Eaves

Dimitriou's Jazz Alley view from the balcony

Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley view from the balcony

Kelvin Wooten, musically he does it ALL

There are so many words to describe the multi-talented Kelvin Wooten. In fact, there are so many, that it’s challenging to limit my perspective to just a few. Growing up, music was always a part of his life, whether it was at home or in church. In middle school, when he decided to actually pick an instrument to play in the school band, he chose the Baritone. That was only the beginning of what Kelvin was going to accomplish in his future. After his freshman year at Alabama A&M University, his life was forever changed. As some would say, he was in the right place at the right time. He was doing what he loved to do when unbeknownst to him, someone heard him playing the guitar in the background and asked to speak with him. That someone was the one and only Raphael Saadiq. Kelvin was asked to fly to LA, and that was the beginning of his illustrious career. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, writer, arranger, and producer. He’s worked with some of the best in the business. This year, he received a Grammy nomination with Anthony Hamilton for Best R&B Album. He’s produced music that has sold more than 10 million albums, yet he also makes the time to give back and be a part of his community in Alabama. I could honestly go on and on about Kelvin and what he’s accomplished. However, I’ll let his work speak for itself.

Listen to what he has to say.

Kelvin Wooten

Kelvin Wooten

Kelvin Wooten

Kelvin Wooten

Eric Essix, the man behind the music

There’s no questioning the talent of guitarist Eric Essix. Straight from his southern roots, and true to who he is, Eric brings his music to life. It’s full of soul, funk, gospel, and blues. He doesn’t limit himself to just being a guitarist. He’s a musician that’s not afraid to take chances, and reach for the stars. His talent knows no boundaries, and his music is timeless. Eric is enjoying the success of his current self titled CD “Eric Essix”, while also working on a project with the group Southern Gentlemen.

Eric and I discuss his incredible career.

Eric Essix

Eric Essix

Eric Essix
Eric Essix

The Colorful Matt Marshak

You can’t think about Matt Marshak without thinking of musical diversity. He’s a guitarist from Long Island that grew up listening to Rock n Roll, and playing some blues and R&B. While in High School he was mentored by some teacher’s that guided him into the world of jazz. For that, he’s ever so thankful. Matt is skilled at fusing his music with specific instruments to create the exact sound he wants. Creating music that is diverse and colorful is what Matt Marshak does. Thus, his latest CD is titled “Colors of Me.” It’s funky, fun, and full of life.

Although Marshak is passionate about making music, he’s just as driven to give back and share his gift for great causes. He goes into the schools and talks with kids about music. He is also a supporter of Multiple Sclerosis, and Autism Awareness.

I sat down with Matt after a energy packed performance recently. He opens up during our conversation.

Q. Hi Matt, how are you after the wonderful show you performed tonight in Winston Salem, NC?

A. I’m doing just well, and it was a great time tonight. Happy to be with you here.

PBN: The weather gave us a break at 75degrees. I’m sure it was cool for you.

Matt: I had a good time. I left hot and steamy New York in the 90’s so this was a nice break from that.

Q. I saw you working the crowd. Could you feel the energy coming from the crowd?

A. It was a good time, yes. I saw some folks smiling, and some kids laughing. So we had a good time out there.

Q. Coming from your home in Long Island, and listening to Rock n Roll, how did you end up transitioning to jazz?

A. It was an evolution. You know you grow up with one thing, and then suddenly things are presented to you in different kinds of music. Certain experiences and I kept getting exposed to jazz music. Went out to a couple shows and I was hooked. Went to see George Benson and Larry Carlton and these people really changed my whole musical mindset.

Q. Around what age were you?

A. This was late teens. So I started pretty late, and then I knew at that point that was what I wanted to do. I was thankful for the rock beginnings and I haven’t abandoned it but jazz has become my life.

PBN: Tell me how your teachers in High School inspired you.

Matt: I had a couple good teachers that inspired me to follow whatever unique qualities I had and to focus on the style. They exposed different music to me. That was good because it opens up your mind to all the other languages of music.

PBN: You had an opportunity to play some blues and R&B while in college at SUNY.

Matt: Yes!

Q. Compared to playing jazz, which would you say is the most complex to master?

A. I think playing a contemporary form of jazz that blends everything is maybe the most complex thing, and sometimes how much to blend of each. Sometimes you can strike the perfect balance which is a certain amount of traditional jazz, certain amount of R&B, certain amount of Blues, and the funk. Getting that right formula, that’s the hardest thing.

PBN: So we’re going to go with Contemporary jazz.

Q. Upon graduating from college, did you immediately hit the music scene performing?

A. I wish I could say that I had a storybook beginning but I didn’t. I started kinda late, in my late teens, and I didn’t really have my first bit of success until I decided to go record some ideas. I always wanted to do this instrumental jazz thing, and wasn’t career minded at this point. Just wanted to document what I had done. Little did I know that the record would find its way into the hands of agents, managers, the next thing I know I was opening for Guitars and Saxes in New York City, and getting played on the radio there. At that point I said, “oh my goodness I think we’re onto something here.”

PBN: It’s clear you enjoy showing your diverse background in music.

PBN: Thus, the creation of your latest release “Colors of Me.”

Q. How did you come up with the major theme for “Colors of Me?”

A. It starts with the cover where I met a wonderful fan in Atlanta who’s so supportive. I was down visiting with them and they left the house for a moment. They had the most colorful walls I’ve ever seen anywhere. So we said let’s do a quick photo shoot while they’re not here. If it turns out good, we’ll just explain and ask permission later. So we took a bunch of photos in every different room and had all different colors. The cover is one from their kitchen. That’s Will and Maggie, great jazz fans in Georgia. So I showed them the picture and they really loved it and said it was fine we could use it. They gave me permission. At the same time I was recording music where I would just go into the studio and play anything. There were no pre-conceived ideas. Whatever came out of the guitar I put down. So it’s sorta like all the styles within. Hence, we have “Colors of Me.”

Q. Out the 10 original songs, why was “Cadillac Kid” chosen as the first radio single?

A. When we put out a single, we have a radio promoter, and the artist, and the agent. We all talk and originally the radio promoter wanted to release “Down In Deleware,” which I like the song, but I already released something similar. So I said no, I think “Cadillac Kid” is different. I’ve never done anything like this. It’s gotta a little bit of Cuban funk, and NYC bugaloo beat. What happened was they said ok. We put it out and Sirius radio picked it up and it’s been my biggest single to date.

PBN: Well that was a good choice. You were on that bugaloo beat. So you were on to something.

Matt: He wrote me back, the radio promoter and said “good call.”

PBN: You are extremely good at fusing music with certain instruments to create the sound you want.

PBN: Your touring band consists of drummer Carl Anderson, bassist Kenny Harris, and keyboardist Rodney Williams.

PBN: Describe what makes them perfect for this project.

Matt: That’s my main unit, the band I use a lot. Besides musically often, we started from way back. When no one knew about us we were playing in a little casino in rural West VA. Those were really formative years. We formed a bond in those times. Some of the moments were not glorious at all, but they were memorable at least. So what happened was, we formed a bond musically and as friends. So when we’re on stage, there’s a unity that extends far beyond the notes.

PBN: You are very busy on the road performing and sharing your music on many stages including some festivals.

Q. Do you enjoy playing the big festivals?

A. Oh yeah! It’s a lot of fun. You get to see and hear a lot of other musicians. You get to see the artists that influenced you in the first place. You get to see new artists, and be around the fans that are a unique brand of fans. Just the dedication and friendliness, and the diversity among the crowd at Jazz Festival’s is something that I really like.

PBN: You’ve come a long way Matt from 2001 when you released your debut CD “Preservation.”

Q. Looking back, did you have any idea your career would be where it is today?

A. You know what, no, sometimes I can’t believe it. We’ve had some moments where we’ve gotten some great opportunities like this evening here in Winston Salem to play in front of great audiences. Like I said, when we started we were playing in little bars, so to get to play in big events with great sound systems and big crowds. It’s like being a baseball player. We’ve slugged it out in the little minor league stadium, now you get the big field, the lights are perfect, the crowd is there, the base’s are nice and polished. I’m very fortunate and filled with gratitude to be able to do this.

Q. How important is it to you to “brand” yourself?

A. You know what, I think Bob James once said it. “You have to blend commerce and creativity.” So if you can do that, it’s important. Sometimes that can be a difficult for an artist. Our music is something very personal and passionate. We don’t want to compromise ourselves and our integrity. But at the same point, this is a job and a business. Marketability and branding can be done tastefully, where it’s honestly artists, but also pleasing to the end recipient.

Q. Who would you most like to collaborate with that you haven’t thus far?

A. Wow! I think at some point if I could ever have a chance to feature George Benson or Larry Carlton on a record, that would like the ultimate.

Q. Is that a goal of yours?

A. If it ever happens it happens, but I’m not going to force it.

PBN: I’m not sure if most of your fans know this about you, but you write TV jingles.

Q. How did you get into that?

A. Yes! Going back to this commerce thing, you gotta branch out sometimes. I’ve had a chance to write for baseball teams, and little songs they’ve used in their commercials. I’ve written music for children’s books, and TV commercials. A lot of different things.

PBN: You also are a huge supporter of Multiple Sclerosis and Autism awareness.

Q. Why are they close to your heart?

A. Those two causes, I’ve had fans that had family members that were affected or they were affected, so they told me about the benefits that were going on, and how I could help the cause to help people affected by MS and autism. I became very interested in how I could use my music to help these causes. It’s very fulfilling to be a part of that.

PBN: That is wonderful. You’re just a huge supporter of all things good and positive.

PBN: You also find time to go into the schools and talk with kids about music.

PBN: You’re not only a phenomenal guitar player, but you’re to be commended for understanding the importance of giving back and keeping music alive in our youth.

Q. I know you love performing in and around your hometown, as well as on stages nationwide. So what do you love most about performing in Long Island, NY? What do you do differently there that you do no where else?

A. I like to bring some of the southern energy that I gained back up to NY, and some of the stuff that I’ve picked up playing with folks from MD, south of FL and to present that to the people I grew up with. It’s a different flavor and brands of jazz, brands of funk. Sometimes I bring the band up so my fans who knew me from way back get to see me in a different light. Playing more of a R&B based or urban based jazz.

Q. What’s next for your Matt, and how can your fans keep up with you and where you’ll be performing?

A. My website is Mattmarshak.com and is updated weekly. On Facebook it’s Matt Marshak. We’re hoping to put forth a collection record. It’s been almost 10 years, 7 or 8 records. We’re going to pull off a couple songs off each. Maybe add a brand new song. I can’t believe it already. We’re going to put that out, and suddenly feeling old talking about this.

PBN: Thanks for sitting down with me Matt.

PBN: I enjoyed the show, and it was a pleasure spending this time getting an introspective view into Matt.

Q. Where are you headed next?

A. Tomorrow I’m leaving here at 4am headed to Nashville, TN.

Matt Marshak

Matt Marshak

Matt Marshak
Matt Marshak