SUNSET JAZZ FESTIVAL

The fifth annual Sunset Jazz Festival was nothing short of spectacular. The evening was hosted by Will Downing and featured guest appearances by Chris Walker and Norman Brown. The line-up included Regina Belle, Boney James, and concluded with a stellar performance by the master himself, Mr. George Benson. The weather was beautiful at Chastain Park in Atlanta, providing music lovers with the perfect atmosphere. Regina Belle serenaded the audience with hit after hit, wooing the crowd as they sang along. Boney James gave fans the show they’ve grown to expect and enjoy. After the sun set, George Benson and his amazing band graced the stage giving fans a night to remember. The legendary Benson played song after song from various era’s of his illustrious career. He was simply phenomenal.

GUITARIST ANDREAS VARADY

Andreas Varady is a young guitarist with the sound of a veteran who has been playing for many years–to say the very least. He is not an old soul with an old sound but quite the contrary; he is a young soul with a refreshing mature sound. Surrounded by music and hailing from a home full of music, it was natural for Andreas to pursue what came most natural to him. For him, that was playing the guitar starting at the age of four. He never considered any other options. He recalls hearing his hero George Benson’s album Breezin’ and the impact it instantly had on him. Varady has appeared at Jazz Festivals on international stages around the world since he was twelve years old. Andreas’ life took a dramatic turn after he was invited to play in a group at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It was there during practice that he met the legendary Quincy Jones who would soon thereafter sign him to his Management Company. Varady’s life now at seventeen years old continues to escalate. He recently signed with Verve, and his first CD is self titled Andreas Varady. It features newcomer Gregory Porter as well as the legendary Greg Phillinganes. Andreas appreciates different genres thus is also influenced by them. Through it all, Andreas remains grounded, humble, and focused. He looks forward to making new music, experiencing different projects, welcoming new opportunities, and building his career.

I spoke with Andreas at the 4th Annual John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival:

avarady-cover

GUITARIST ANDREAS VARADY

Andreas Varady is a young guitarist with the sound of a veteran who has been playing for many years–to say the very least. He is not an old soul with an old sound but quite the contrary; he is a young soul with a refreshing mature sound. Surrounded by music and hailing from a home full of music, it was natural for Andreas to pursue what came most natural to him. For him, that was playing the guitar starting at the age of four. He never considered any other options. He recalls hearing his hero George Benson’s album Breezin’ and the impact it instantly had on him. Varady has appeared at Jazz Festivals on international stages around the world since he was twelve years old. Andreas’ life took a dramatic turn after he was invited to play in a group at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It was there during practice that he met the legendary Quincy Jones who would soon thereafter sign him to his Management Company. Varady’s life now at seventeen years old continues to escalate. He recently signed with Verve, and his first CD is self titled Andreas Varady. It features newcomer Gregory Porter as well as the legendary Greg Phillinganes. Andreas appreciates different genres thus is also influenced by them. Through it all, Andreas remains grounded, humble, and focused. He looks forward to making new music, experiencing different projects, welcoming new opportunities, and building his career.

I spoke with Andreas at the 4th Annual John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival:

avarady-cover

 

“Funk Is Everything”

I read a quote that said, “Funk is everything, it’s a religion to me.” Knowing the man who said those words makes it easy to understand exactly what they mean. Funk is everything to guitarist Rob “Fonksta” Bacon. He is called the “Fonksta” for a reason. Growing up in the Motor City of Detroit, you can’t help but be surrounded by the sound of music. Having a father who played the guitar and a mother who sat down with him and played records all the time, Rob could feel the music stirring on the inside. One day, his dad heard him playing George Benson’s “Breezin” and to his astonishment discovered that he was playing it with only 3 strings because one had broken. Now that’s what I call an “aha” moment. The gift revealed itself not only to Rob’s dad but to Rob himself. After leaving Detroit and heading to LA,he began to work with artists like Raphael Saadiq, DJ Quik, and George Clinton. It didn’t take long for him to become one of the best session guitarist in LA. Rob is fortunate to be able to play different genres of music such as pop, R&B, funk, rap, and jazz. He’s mastering his craft and constantly learning. This year is a very big one in his life. He will release his first solo project and will be the guitarist for the new Aresnio Hall Show airing in September. It’s still surreal for him, but he has worked very hard and appreciates growing even more in new directions. You can count on this for sure: where there is Rob “Fonksta” Bacon, there will be FUNK.

On a calm evening in Seattle, Rob and I talk about music, the past, present, future, and funk.

Rob "Fonksta" Bacon

Rob “Fonksta” Bacon

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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

A talk with Norman Brown

Grammy Award Winner Norman Brown talks to me about his love for music and the guitar. From those who inspired him, to his huge decision to move to LA after High School to pursue his dream, Norman reveals how it all came together. He quickly established himself as one of the best guitar players. From his debut album in 1992 “Just Between Us” to his collaboration with Gerald Albright in 2012 “24/7”, Brown has continuously given us great music. He shows off his vocal skills on his project “West Coast Coolin”, and then again on his R&B hit “Stay With Me.” Finally, Norman can add Broadcaster to the list of his accomplishments. He once hosted his own weekend radio show on the Smooth Jazz Network.

In his own words.

Norman Brown

Norman Brown

Norman Brown

Norman Brown

BWB

BWB

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