Brian Simpson knows quite a bit about making hits. After all, he has had a few of them since his solo career began in 2005. He has been and continues to be the guy that his fellow musicians call upon when it comes to producing. Brian’s belief is that “the melody is still king.” To go along with that, he also remembers what a teacher once told him he should always remember: “unity, variety, and continuity.” While it may have been unbeknownst to him at the time, those three vital components would later become very clear. While embarking upon the creation of his latest album, “Out Of A Dream,” Brian embraced the idea of variety and enlisted a host of co-composers. “Out Of A Dream” could be viewed as an album of duets. Simpson features the superb saxophone skills of Grace Kelly and the flute of Najee on the title track, “Out Of A Dream.” Brian’s collaboration with longtime friend Dave Koz exhibits why the two have such a successful working relationship. Keeping variety front and center, Simpson’s first single, “Sky Watcher,” was co-written by Ryan Farish–who only does electronic music. Furthermore, being an international traveler, Brian takes his listeners on a global journey from Spain to Brazil through songs featuring Marc Antoine and Maysa. And as a tribute to Joe Sample, Simpson penned “Lets Get Away” with Oliver Wendell. Other collaborators include Jonathan Fritzen, Maurice Brown, and Norman Brown.
Brian and I discuss the importance of variety and the creation of “Out Of A Dream”:
Life for Greg Chambers has certainly changed since the release of his EP, After Hours. His fans are eager, and the buzz is loud surrounding the August 1st release of his latest album, Can’t Help Myself. Chambers admits that it is a great feeling to know that the work you poured your heart and soul into is loved and well received by old and new fans. With this in mind and a clear direction, he embarked on a year-long process to make sure that each song was done the right way–an indicator that Greg will continue to make an indelible impression on smooth jazz, amongst his peers, and on his fans. Can’t Help Myself consists of nine original songs and two covers that Greg produced with Nate Harasim and Matt Godina. He also collaborated with Julian Vaughn, Paul Brown, and Nils. Chambers’ desire was for each song to have his its own identity. He went into the creative process for this album with three standards: each melody had to be on point, the performances had to be compelling, and it had to have dimension. The first radio single and album title Can’t Help Myself represents the aforementioned standards and was added to radio on July 21st. On the morning of our interview on July 22nd, Greg received an email that his single was the fourth most added on the billboard. With that in mind, I would say that Can’t Help Myself is off to a great start.
In the company of prominent friends, saxophonist Mike MacArthur releases a sterling jazz album,
“Feels Like Home,” his first major release as a frontman.
Tampa, Florida (4 June 2013): In the midst of graduation season, it seems like the ideal time for the release of long-time sideman Mike MacArthur’s first major recording on center stage. The saxophonist’s 10-song “Feels Like Home” was released today by Paradise Point Music. On the collection produced by Grammy-nominee Brian Bromberg, MacArthur graduates surrounded by his scholarly musician friends on the set comprised of soulfully performed jazz standards and alluring originals.
When asked to describe how he felt after recording the album at Bromberg’s suburban Los Angeles home, MacArthur said “It felt like the beginning of a lot of things to come – like I’ve finally moved away from the kids’ table with my own (musical) offering. It confirms that I can stand alone as a frontman.”
“Feels Like Home” sounds live. MacArthur describes it as “real players making real music on real acoustic instruments.” Playing the music of the masters such as Duke Ellington (“In A Sentimental Mood”), Miles Davis (“Jean Pierre”), Sonny Rollins (“Blue Seven”) and Joe Zawinul (“Birdland”), MacArthur, bass prodigy Bromberg, Ron Reinhardt (piano, B-3 organ) and Frank “Third” Richardson (drums) formed the core quartet that features spotlight soloing from contemporary jazz maverick Jeff Lorber on piano, Rick Braun on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Jeff Golub on guitar. Journeyman percussionist Alex Acuna decorates and texturizes the tracks. MacArthur graciously gives his friends permission to uncork their finest vintage of improvisational jazz.
Radio stations have been playing the gospel soul cut “Sanctified,” which was christened as the first single and includes a vocal hook belted out by the almighty Alva Copeland. MacArthur wrote the three other original tunes on the disc, including the title track, a heartfelt ballad with a gorgeous melody gracefully emoted from his tenor sax. He penned the boisterous blues joint “Around The Corner” specifically with Golub’s gritty guitar in mind. Written on piano in his daughter Sydney’s playroom while the then 5-year-old was gleefully dancing, MacArthur refers to the frenetic “Sydney Style” as the “up tune on the album.”
Throughout the album, MacArthur’s sax play is dexterous, precise and efficient. He plays just enough notes to convey the song and solos with just enough pizazz to get his point across. Having performed with a bevy of marquee musicians as a sideman throughout his career, including with Bromberg, Braun and Golub, he wants the release of “Feels Like Home” to signal the start of a new chapter. Setting the bar high in terms of performance, production, and composition, MacArthur’s stride into the spotlight is smartly executed with confidence, poise and a whole lot of soul.
After recently opening for superstar Queen Latifah, MacArthur will lead his own band at Uptown Altamonte near Orlando, Florida on June 15th sharing the bill with guitarist Nils and will open for guitarist Peter White on July 21st at Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee, New York.
“One of the best for 2013 no matter what flavor jazz you may be into. That nice fat tenor sound with chops to match, if ‘Feels Like Home’ doesn’t move you then you must be waiting on your autopsy report.” – Critical Jazz
“This album has no safety zone. It is entertaining, listenable, and catchy but it is not safe. Some of these guys have made a name for themselves in smooth but this is a jazz album. It is not an academic, archival, or intimidating jazz album. It’s a jazz album because there is a lot of improvisation and about half of the songs on here are benchmark songs in the history of contemporary jazz, and beyond…This is an album that will lead even the most skeptical pop/smooth listener deeper into the world of jazz.” – SmoothViews
“He (MacArthur) has surrounded himself with some pretty fine players and has made an album which is simply terrific…Of the album’s ten tracks, three are MacArthur originals and it’s a testament to his skills that you can’t differentiate them from the standards…this is a warm and enjoyable album that is a treat for the ears.” – Bass Players United
“’Feels Like Home’ is superior jazz made among friends. From the first track ‘Filthy McNasty’ by Horace Silver to the 10th and final cut ‘Mo Better Blues’, music enthusiasts will know that this one belongs on the top shelf.” – The Entertainment Bank
“Rolling through a set of tracks as diverse as any jazz enthusiast could hope for, MacArthur puts both feet into this project, offering appealing sax runs while his pals mix up a batch of riveting acoustic bass runs, soul-wrenching guitar riffs, tantalizing piano/keys action, and solid drums and percussions.” – The Smooth Jazz Ride
“He (MacArthur) comes out firing – surrounding himself with some of the very best players on the circuit and wisely mixing the repertoire between tried and tested jazz standards and quality originals.” – Soul and Jazz and Funk
“The result is a predictably eclectic and jazzy mix with which jazz lovers of all persuasions will find favor.” – Smooth Jazz Therapy