Jazz guitarist Chris Standring basks in the positive glow of joyous “Sunlight”
The March 23 album release, featuring appearances by Bob James and Mica Paris, will be preceded by the rousing radio single, “Love Street.”
STUDIO CITY (18 January 2018): Much like a prism refracts light into a colorful spectrum, guitarist Chris Standring’s “Sunlight” reflects rays of multihued jazz into a vibrant sonic palette of joy and positivity. The Los Angeles-based, native Brit will drop his twelfth album on March 23 on the Ultimate VibeRecordings label, marking the twentieth anniversary since the release of his debut disc (“Velvet”). Paving the way for the new collection penned and produced by Standring is the jaunty “Love Street,” set to cast an alluring spell as the first radio single.
Diverse strains of jazz reign on “Sunlight” with Standring’s clean electric jazz guitar shining brightly throughout the ten tracker plus a reprise that closes the session. The prevailing sounds and engaging textures create warm, organic backdrops for his nimble fretwork forays that traverse lush rhythms and grooves. Wave after wave of Fender Rhodes keyboards and Hammond B3 organ wash over the taut beats serving as the rhythmic spine. Vintage elements offer a compelling contrast to the imaginative electronic nuances, deftly making the recordings feel retro, futuristic, experimental and visionary all at the same time while Standring’s cool-toned guitar slices through to the fore cranking out nifty licks, precision fills and impassioned melodic sojourns.
Helping flush out his vision for “Sunlight,” Standring shares the spotlight with contemporary jazz forefather Bob James (piano) on the stratospheric exploration “The Revisit” and UK soul-pop chanteuse Mica Paris on the lusty R&B, jazz and electronic hybrid “No Explanation,” the latter a tune he wrote with seven-time Grammy nominee Lauren Christy. Also lending their artistry to the platter are noted saxmen Pete Christlieb and Brandon Fields, keyboardists John Novello, Mitchel Forman and longtime collaborator Rodney Lee; bassists Jimmy Haslip, Andre Berry and Roberto Vally; and drummers Chris Coleman and Dave Karasony.
“For the first time, I feel a huge degree of comfort stylistically. ‘Sunlight’ seems to be a much more refined version of who I am. Musically, I can’t shake off who I am. It just is. It’s a fusion of my traditional be-bop background with infectious soul and funk grooves, and a sense of arranging and orchestration that comes very easily now. My influences are not from my contemporaries. They come from orchestral music, traditional jazz and European chill, lounge and progressive club music plus a good dose of R&B. It’s a weird mix, but I guess that’s what results in everything sounding like me when it all comes together,” said Standring who purposely infused the set with uplifting notes of hope and glee.
Perhaps a commentary on our times or just a thoughtful embrace of a longtime personal favorite, Standring reimagines Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows” as a serene guitar meditation.
“The album is upbeat and joyful for the most part. Perhaps it is somewhat reactionary to these challenging times we are presently living through, but I am inherently a positive soul who tends to see the bright side of things, albeit with a touch of British cynicism. Sunlight represents positivity and joy to me, hence the title.”
Standring celebrated three No. 1 singles in 2017: his solo hit “Like This, Like That,” and duet collaborations with trumpeter Cindy Bradley (“Category A”) and two-time Grammy-winning producer-guitarist Paul Brown (“Piccadilly Circus”). The classically-trained guitarist’s ambitious catalogue of instrumental R&B, soul jazz and electronica includes his hit debut single, “Cool Shades”; 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.” Coming to the U.S. after a lengthy and prosperous run at the BBC and on London’s West End in theatrical orchestras, Standring was a session ace who recorded with Jody Watley and Bebe & Cece Winans among many others. He partnered with Lee to form the acid jazz outfit SolarSystem before touring extensively backing trumpeter Rick Braun. Standring issued “Velvet” soon after, launching his solo mission that continues to climb in trajectory and scope.
Fourplay: a legendary group that needs no introduction, much like its iconic band members Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason, and Chuck Loeb. The rarity of a group sustaining longevity and success for twenty five years is virtually unheard of these days. Even more remarkable, each member is successful and has amazing careers individually. To celebrate the timeless essence of this group, Fourplay will release “Silver” on November 20th, 2015. “Silver” is a collection of all original songs quite apropos by representing silver in some manner. Former members of the group Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenhour were asked to join the project for this monumental recording. Additionally, long time friend of the group Kirk Whalum lent his one-of-a-kind sound to “Silver.” Bob, Nathan, Chuck, and Harvey share an undeniable cohesive bond and share language that illuminates with every note they play.
I spoke with guitarist Chuck Loeb about the groups’ “Silver” anniversary:
Cool: precisely the way I describe the new album from Bob James and Nathan East titled “The New Cool.” The new album will be released on September 18, 2015. James and East step into duo mode with pure ease; that is to be expected since the two have been friends and musical collaborators for over 25 years. Individually and collectively as part of the legendary group, Fourplay, Bob James and Nathan East have been making music for a very long time. It was the obvious next step for the two of them to embark upon a journey together doing what they do best. As friends and collaborators, the ease of which the two fused their talents with just a piano and upright bass was masterful. That camaraderie and spirit shines forth in every note of every song on “The New Cool.” It is comprised of an array of original songs and a few covers of some good old favorites, like Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” on which Vince Gill delivered stellar vocals. East describes the project as an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and present the music as pure and unplugged as possible–no filters, no barriers, and no rhythm section to hide behind. The result is a recording like none other you’ve heard from either of them as well as a beautiful representation of two legendary artists and their friendship.
Nathan and I have a wonderful conversation about “The New Cool”:
“The New Cool,” an expansive acoustic offering centered on scholarly jazz piano and bass duets, will be released September 18, a first from the GRAMMY®-honored artists and long-time collaborators.
Nashville, Tennessee (7 July 2015): Albums just aren’t made like the way “The New Cool” was made. Yamaha Entertainment Group label president Chris Gero put legendary keyboardist Bob James and master bassist Nathan East in the recording studio, equipped them with state-of-the-art Yamaha gear and gave them free reign to create. Recorded entirely in Nashville, the long-time collaborators emerged with an unexpected and audacious collection of original compositions plus a few handpicked classics, an acoustic jazz outing that will make you forget everything you thought you knew about these GRAMMY®-recognized artists best known as contemporary jazz luminaries. The disc produced by Gero, James and East will be released September 18.
“The New Cool” unfolds much in the way the meticulously-crafted project was conceived. The germ begins organically with a couple of intimate James and East duets. Pastoral piano wanderings explore the outer perimeter of straight-ahead jazz where they peruse, mirror and engage with meandering bass lines. In fact, more than half of the record’s compositions written by James and/or East are sparsely-produced, probing piano and bass sojourns. As the seed sprouts, dramatic orchestral accoutrements added by the Nashville Recording Orchestra illuminate the piano, keyboard and bass explorations, contributing hues that are warmly rustic and autumnal or whimsically vibrant. James challenges with deftly inventive arrangements on complex pieces like “All Will Be Revealed” while East counts off supple rhythms that are astutely measured and metered. Fluid melodies and harmonies ranging from subtle, serene and meditative to lush, exquisite and cascading blossom throughout, whether emoted by a dexterous piano, keyboard or bass or East’s celestial vocalese. An imaginatively-arranged version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” bops and swings in sublimely surprising style before the ultimate surprise is revealed: a serendipitous vocal from Vince Gill. The proceedings flourish in a gust of breezy Brazilian jazz when percussionist Rafael Padilla and drummer Scott Williamson appear on “Canto Y La Danza” and climax in a crashing crescendo on the explosive and intricately orchestrated “Turbulence.”
“‘The New Cool’ project carries with it a special level of excitement for me as Bob and I have been courting the idea of this duo adventure for many years,” said East, who released his self-titled, GRAMMY® nominated solo debut album last year via Yamaha Entertainment Group on the heels of playing on Daft Punk’s 2014 GRAMMY®-winning Record of the Year “Get Lucky.” “I’ve always loved the sound of the piano and bass together, and have enjoyed duo recordings by the greats: Bill Evans & Eddie Gomez and Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden. ‘The New Cool’ is our celebration of more than 25 years of friendship and musical camaraderie. This collaboration was embraced by Yamaha Entertainment Group and producer Chris Gero, who took it yet to another level.”
“The more I played with Nathan over the course of many live performances and spanning more than 25 years, the more in sync we were whether or not we had the anchor of the drums,” said James, a two-time GRAMMY® winner considered one of the founding fathers of smooth/contemporary jazz and whose extensive catalogue is frequently sampled on hip hop tracks. “Something special happens when we only have each other’s notes to play off of, when the music is totally exposed.”
Although busy with touring and recording individually as well as together, including as half of the contemporary jazz supergroup Fourplay, James and East are committed and energized by “The New Cool,” which will be supported comprehensively in traditional and non-traditional ways harnessing the full power of Yamaha Entertainment Group. Nearly a dozen video vignettes that take viewers into the recording studio during the making of the album will soon begin to trickle out through the official website (www.TheNewCoolAlbum.com) as well as on the artists’ social media platforms and a full-scale documentary film will unspool in the fall shortly after the album’s street date. A grand-scale concert date is in the initial planning stages, which is expected to be streamed live and captured for television broadcast.
The songs that make-up “The New Cool” album are:
“The New Cool”
“All Will Be Revealed”
“Midnight Magic/Love Me As Though There Were No Tomorrow”
If you’re a fan of the best musicians in the world, or if you’ve ever listened to any music, I assure you you’ve heard the sounds of Nathan East. He’s been making music for the last 40 years and has set a precedent that far supersedes most musicians’ careers. Nathan is driven by his passion for music and his family. Those forces have propelled him to the top of his craft. Additionally, he is a founding member of the renowned group, Fourplay whom he still performs with. All throughout his career, he’s been a sought-after collaborative force that has worked with the best in the industry in a variety of genres. At the behest of fellow musicians, East took a leap into the spotlight releasing his debut solo self-titled album, “Nathan East.” For his fans worldwide who love his music, he has delivered a collection of songs that will leave you longing for more. For this project, he joined forces with Bob James, Chuck Loeb, Michael McDonald, Sara Barielles, and his own son featured on the song “Yesterday.” Although this is Nathan’s solo album, he remains true to who he is as a seasoned musician and welcomes his collaborators to showcase their talents, as well.
Nathan tells me about his journey and how blessed he feels everyday.
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.
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.