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.

Super trio BWB is in the mood to party Memphis style

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Super trio BWB is in the mood to party Memphis style 

The self-titled album from long-time friends Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum and Rick Braun

is the first set written by the hit-makers. Their Artistry Music debut arrives April 22.

SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF. (23 March 2016): You can almost smell the tangy barbecue sauce dripping from the forthcoming third album “BWB” by chart-topping trio BWB, who throw down like a sweaty garage band at a Memphis backyard house party on their debut for the Artistry Music label arriving April 22. It’s the first time the band made up of GRAMMY® winners Norman Brown (guitar, vocals) and Kirk Whalum (saxophone, flute, vocals) and Rick Braun (trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone, vocals) cooked up a festive, sticky-fingered feast of ten new contemporary jazz, R&B, soul and funk joints. Braun produced the session in his suburban Los Angeles-area home studio where the band moved in with their families and lived together for an entire week. The result is a collaborative disc celebrating brotherhood and live music. The tantalizing title track is the first radio cut, which enters Billboard’s Top 10 on next week’s singles chart and appears to be ticketed for the top spot.

Anytime the three solo stars get together to record, it’s an instant candidate for event album of the year in the contemporary jazz world. BWB has been itching to record original material ever since they first recorded as a high-wattage trio in 2002 when they released a collection of covers entitled “Groovin’.” Over a decade later, they reunited as a combo in 2013 with “Human Nature,” paying tribute to Michael Jackson’s songbook and scoring their first No 1 hit with “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground).” This time around, they decided to compose the material entirely on their own, creating party jams specifically with their spirited live shows in mind.

As Braun tells it, “A long time ago in a faraway galaxy, three brothers dreamed of recording a CD of all original material as a band. Although the evil forces of time and geography stood in their way for many years, a dream is a powerful idea and ultimately the collective, creative force will prevail. And in that spirit, Norman and Kirk moved into my house for a short week with their loved ones. We played our horns, sang, drank wine, wrote, laughed and lived together. Thus it began!”

Primarily instrumental with a batch of tunes amped up by fun-filled vocal refrains and catchy, sing-a-long choruses, BWB’s members wove DNA from their hometowns into the music mix. With Whalum’s Memphis soul serving as the nucleus, Braun’s Philly funk atoms and Brown’s Kansas City jazz genes add flavor, flair and some old-school stank to the homegrown offering that struts and seduces with swagger and sophistication along with a devilish dash of mischief. An equally important nonmusical component is incorporating the enduring love and joy of treasured friendships that exists between the musicians.

“As I grow wiser, grayer and more awesomer (!), I realize just how important relationships are to me –– much more important even than music. But how awesome it is to make great music with great friends! This is a glorious bonus and a wonderful journey. I am grateful for “the Chord of three strands” that is BWB,” Whalum testified.

Brown concurred enthusiastically. “I believe in the Master Mind! Two or more minds joined in harmony with a common goal will surely connect to higher source energy. BWB is a brilliant vibration channeling a spirit of joyful elevation. I love my brothers!”

BWB are touring throughout the year in support of the new album playing festival dates including Boscov’s Berks Jazz Festival (April 8), Las Vegas City of Lights Jazz and R&B Festival (April 16), St. Lucia Jazz Festival (May 7), Steel City Jazz Festival (June 4), Tri-C Jazz Festival (June 25), QC Summerfest (July 31), Wolf Creek Jazz Festival (September 4) and the Capital Jazz SuperCruise (October 23) as well as a pair of Texas dates in Austin at the One World Theatre (May 27) and Houston at Dosey Doe (May 28).

The songs contained on “BWB” are:

“Triple Dare”

“Bust A Move”

“BWB”

“Bolly Bop”

“I Want You Girl”

“Lemonade”

“Memphis Steppin’”

“Hey Baby”

“North Star”

“Turn Up”

For more information, please visit www.MackAvenue.com.

BRIAN SIMPSON STRAIGHT “OUT OF A DREAM”

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”:

Brian Simpson

THE 3RD ANNUAL SUNSET JAZZ FESTIVAL

The 3rd annual Sunset Jazz Festival–held in Atlanta, GA–did once again raise the bar. I’ve attended the jazz festival all three years, and I’m always enamored by the line-up and even more so by their performances. Tucked beautifully away and where all the magic happens is Chastain Park. It is by far one of the best outdoor venues I’ve seen. The list of performers this year included chart-topping, Grammy-award-winning artists. Jonathan Butler, who recently released “Living My Dream,” shared the stage with Norman Brown and Alex Bugnon also know as the Summer Love Tour. They were followed by the lady of the evening, Grammy winner Dianne Reeves. She too recently released a new album titled “Beautiful Life.” As the sun faded and night fell over the park, Brian Culbertson lit up the stage with an electrifying performance that had everyone on their feet. Culbertson’s latest album, “Another Long Night Out,” is quite indicative of how an evening at the Sunset Jazz Festival feels–a long night out and certainly a night to remember. Headlining for the evening was the man with a sax that everyone loves: Boney James. Boney delivered everything and more of what his fans love.

The producer of the Sunset Jazz Festival–amongst other titles–Kyle Newport has created an event that is not to be missed. Each year, he exceeds expectations and brings forth a show that is unlike any other. With so many choices for jazz lovers to choose from, no matter where you’re from, the Sunset Jazz Festival is one you don’t want to miss.

Sunset Jazzfest

Sunset Jazzfest

Rising above the struggles, Jonathan Butler is living his dream‏

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Rising above the struggles, Butler is living his dream

Family, friends – including Marcus Miller and the late George Duke – and an “African Breeze” combine forces on “Living My Dream,” coming June 24 from the R&B-jazz artist.

Sherman Oaks, Calif. (30 April 2014): It took a while for Jonathan Butler to feel comfortable saying it, but the South African singer-songwriter-guitarist’s confidence has grown as he celebrates what he calls “the season of me” and finally admitting that he is living his dream. He tells the story of his life and loves in the eleven original songs that “came from the heart” on his forthcoming Artistry Music album, “Living My Dream,” which will be released June 24.

Like Butler’s best material from a diverse, award-winning and chart-topping career that’s spanned R&B, jazz, pop and gospel, “Living My Dream” provides an honest and revealing soulful songbook probing the artist’s passions: God, family and his homeland. He has been taking care of others ever since he was seven years-old when he became a child star and was the first black artist played on white radio stations while growing up under Apartheid. Writing and producing gold-selling albums and international hit singles, the two-time Grammy-nominee’s entire life has unfolded in the public eye. Enduring recent struggles forced him to do a lot of reflection and ponder the type of man he wanted to be. He decided that he was finally in a place where it was time to celebrate his own extraordinary life and accomplishments.

With a much needed push from his daughter, singer-songwriter Jodie Butler, and guitarist-songwriter Dennis Dodd Jr., he wrote music every day before heading into the House of Blues recording studio in Los Angeles to record the material in a live setting “like records used to be made.” Bassist-songwriter-producer Marcus Miller co-wrote “Let There Be Light” with Butler and played on that track as well as on “Be Still,” which Butler wrote with George Duke during a 5-hour visit to the late legend’s wine cellar. Saxophonist Elan Trotman also appears on “Let There Be Light.”

“It’s one of those albums that I really didn’t think I had in me. I had been struggling, going through this emotional period. Last year was a transitional period. Once I got my wind and got back to a place of focus, it turned out to be the best experience for me. I had to be vulnerable to the songs,” said Butler about the essence of “Living My Dream.” “It’s the story of my life and the newness of discovery. These really are the best years of my life.”

Butler wrote or co-wrote ten songs for “Living My Dream,” which is a balanced blend of contemporary jazz instrumentals and R&B vocal tunes. The first radio single, “African Breeze,” is a reboot of an instrumental that he wrote 30 years ago for “The Jewel of the Nile” motion picture soundtrack. It is a brisk, energetic African-hued dancer on which Butler plucks the festive melody on nylon string guitar.

A captivating and impassioned performer, Butler will help launch “Living My Dream” during a summer concert tour at which he will share the spotlight with Grammy-winning guitarist Norman Brown.

Butler takes you into the recording studio and talks about recording “Living My Dream” in his EPK, which can be viewed at http://youtu.be/UFFmGWfsKkk. For more information, please visit www.JonathanButler.com.

“Living My Dream” contains the following songs:

“African Breeze”

“Living My Dream”

“Be Still”

“Let There Be Light”

“Heart and Soul”

“Song For You”

“Catembe”

“Night To Remember”

“All About Love”

“Sweet Serenade”

“A Prayer”

“SECOND CHANCES” FOR JESSY J

Haven’t we all wished we had the chance to do some thing over again? Of course we have. According to Jessy J, she too wanted that chance, thus the title of her latest cd: “Second Chances.” It boasts funkiness, sexiness, and grooviness. Being a multi-instrumentalist, playing the saxophone, piano, and flute, and also being a singer and songwriter adds creative texture to the cd. She produced this project herself, collaborating with Jeff Lorber, Norman Brown, Jimmy Haslip, and Joe Sample. With a collective core of musicians such as that, the outcome is sure to be a winner, and Jessy’s beautiful vocals are sure to enhance the overall tone of the project. She has successfully fused jazz, latin beats, and R&B into each song. The first single, “Listen 2 The Groove,” has just that: a groovy vibe, and her vocals take it to another level.

I talked with Jessy J about “Second Chances.”

Jessy J

Jessy J

Jessy J

Jessy J

“SECOND CHANCES” FOR JESSY J

Haven’t we all wished we had the chance to do some thing over again? Of course we have. According to Jessy J, she too wanted that chance, thus the title of her latest cd: “Second Chances.” It boasts funkiness, sexiness, and grooviness. Being a multi-instrumentalist, playing the saxophone, piano, and flute, and also being a singer and songwriter adds creative texture to the cd. She produced this project herself, collaborating with Jeff Lorber, Norman Brown, Jimmy Haslip, and Joe Sample. With a collective core of musicians such as that, the outcome is sure to be a winner, and Jessy’s beautiful vocals are sure to enhance the overall tone of the project. She has successfully fused jazz, latin beats, and R&B into each song. The first single, “Listen 2 The Groove,” has just that: a groovy vibe, and her vocals take it to another level.

I talked with Jessy J about “Second Chances.”

Jessy J

Jessy J

Jessy J

Jessy J