Featuring the Smooth Groove of Today's Jazz!
This Week at CaféJazz.ca

November 14th, 2004
Edition #339 Previously Next

Greetings! I'm afraid that I may have gone a bit overboard with this edition of show notes but it's tough to be minimal when it comes to fabulous music, so please forgive my exuberance! In any event, apart from a blockbuster showcase cd and an FT segment to match, this program comes very close to being a two-hour Smooth Jazz highlight reel. Norman Brown sets the stage with Up 'N' At 'Em and we take off from there. Included is a long list of favourites, both past and present, all the way from Vonnie by Bass X to Spyro Gyra's You Can Count. Over the years, the closing set has evolved into a sort of "classic trax" feature that in a way both balances & compliments the FT feature. Here you'll be treated to some of the finest selections that this genre has to offer ... from Torcuato Mariano, Club 1600, Brenda Russell, and Brian Tarquin. There's more including a piece that's brand new to the program from Peter White as we delve a bit more deeply into Confidential.And as added bonus, near the start of hour two, you can catch Outside the Box from Gene Cannon! This is a Café Jazz exclusive as we present a sneak preview of the title track from Gene's forthcoming cd. So that gives you just some idea of what lies in store. One thing is certain, you won't want to miss any of this show!

In This Issue:

3D - Steve Oliver

I'm Here - Vernon D. Fails
Love Come Down - Shades of Soul
Dance With My Father - Rick Braun
Let's Waste Some Time - Marc Jordan
Southwest Shuffle - Stacey Knights

Rare Requests - Volume 4

Then & Now - Bob Baldwin
SPINLIST: Spinlist Ed#339

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Showcase CD
3D - Steve Oliver:
Steve Oliver's combination of talent and energy is indeed a rare commodity in music and as such, it's really no wonder that Oliver is quickly becoming a star attraction in the Smooth Jazz genre. Although he's been involved in the music business for over 25 years, Steve claims to have never worked a day in his life. He loves what he does and that vitality is embodied in his albums & in his live performances. We pick up the Steve Oliver story in 1995 in San Francisco, where Oliver was born and raised. At that time Steve was working with Skipper Wise, an LA based musician who had helped produce Peter White's first two albums. After attending a Rippingtons show, Oliver went up to Steve Reid, the long time percussionist for the band, introduced himself and made a contact. The paths of the two Steves crossed again about a year later when Oliver opened for Reid and Bamboo Forest. Steve (Reid) really enjoyed Oliver's singing & playing and asked him for his card.

It was about three months later that Oliver received a call from Reid saying that he needed a guitarist for a new cd that he was working on. To quote Steve (Oliver), "He called the right guy!" Oliver not only appeared on the next two Bamboo Forest albums, he penned many of the tunes on both cds and also ended up touring with Reid for three years. In the course of things, this led to a record deal & the release of First View, Oliver's solo debut in 1999. As an "undiscovered" artist trying to gain radio airplay Oliver presented a stripped down version of his music on that release. Nevertheless, the effort was well received and gained Oliver exposure in the USA on a national level resulting in Oliver's selection as Debut Artist of The Year by the Smooth Jazz News.
It took Steve about three years to complete Positive Energy, his follow up project. Being an upbeat kind of guy, Oliver's compositions tend to naturally gravitate to songs with a "feel good" vibe. In that regard, Positive Energy perfectly captured what Oliver was all about as a musician. The release garnered loads of rave reviews including our own endorsement as one of the finest cds of 2002. High Noon, the associated single, stayed near the top of the charts for most of the year and Steve was nominated Guitarist of the year and best New Artist at the Smooth Jazz Awards. It now appears that Oliver is fully intent on exceeding even that fine effort as he recently issued 3D, his fittingly titled 3rd release. The name of the record works on another level as well, as Steve demonstrates a further dimension in his playing. Spurred by his love of electronica and the samba-flavoured sounds of Brazil, he incorporates elements of these as well as influences from pop, R&B, and world-beat. The album was co-produced by Spyro Gyra's Tom Schuman who performs on all the tracks. Included on the guest list of players are several top shelf musicians such as Harvey Mason & Eric Marienthal.
Nevertheless, it's Oliver himself who is the star of the show. His guitar work is innovative, vibrant, & inspired. But that's not all as Steve also scats & adds assorted vocalese to the tracks. Steve is "always hearing sounds" so that this seems like a totally natural thing for him to do. As Steve puts it, ".. it's really a lot more fun singing wordless vocals ... (you can add) whatever the song evokes". Some percussion here, a bit of bass there or perhaps some "high voice" sounds if that's what the song brings forth. It's this latter aspect of his musicianship that has become an Oliver hallmark and sets him apart as a true original and a one-of-a-kind performer.
Now from reading this, you're probably thinking that I'm a huge fan of Steve and his music. If so, you're right! Café Jazz was among the first shows in Canada (& may very well have been the first) to air Oliver. It was also my pleasure to initially include Positive Energy and to later include 3D on our indispensable listening list. So it's now also with much pride that we present a tremendously gifted artist as the subject of our showcase feature.
We begin with Wings of Spring, an uplifting and optimistic selection that feature Tom Schuman on keys. Magic World, the album's opening track, transports us to another dimension as it opens hour two. And finally Funhouse with Eric Marienthal on sax brings things to an amazing & funfilled climax!

CD: 3D
Label: Koch Records
Site: Steve Oliver

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Fresh Trax: Part One
I'm Here - Vernon D. Fails:
In spite of a rather late start in music, Vernon D. Fails has enjoyed a highly successful 20-year career as a top songwriter, keyboardist, arranger, and producer. He received private piano lessons starting at 13 and in time went on to complete a rigorous four-year program with a major in music education. In the early years of his professional life, Fails played in churches, clubs, and bars. Meanwhile, he was also employed as a teacher. In 1984, that all changed when Vernon was asked to play keyboards and arrange two songs for Anita Baker's Rapture release. That landmark album went on to sell five million copies and its success paved the way for Fails. In this regard his resume is extensive and includes work with familiar names such as Oleta Adams, Randy Crawford, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Eric Clapton, Joe Sample, David Sanborn, and Stevie Wonder among many many others. This nicely set the stage for Fails and Hear The Vision his debut project. From that effort we've selected I'm Here. This is piece soothing and melodic & features Fails on both piano & vibes!

CD: Hear the Vision
Label: DelVon Records
Love Come Down - Shades of Soul:
Jeff Lorber's name has long been synonymous with contemporary jazz. However, it's only now that a little known project has finally been released. In 1994, Lorber had joined guitarist Marlon McClain and bassist Nathaniel Phillips to form Shades of Soul. However, the complete story actually began quite a few years before that in the 70s in Portland Oregon. McClain and Phillips had been founding members of a group called Pleasure and Lorber had been featured on synthesizer on that band's 1979 release. In the next few years Lorber's own career took off, as he fronted The Jeff Lorber Fusion which became one of the most popular jazz acts of the period. In any event, throughout the 80s and the 90s, the paths of the three crossed on several occasions as both McClain and Phillips guested on a few of Lorber's albums.
It was 1994, when the trio reconnected and recorded a few of their sessions. Perhaps most notable of these from a historical perspective were a couple of tracks laid down by the late Art Porter Jr. (Lorber and Phillips had guested on Porter's Under Cover cd earlier that year and invited Porter to take part on their project, since "It seemed like a natural fit ...".) Work on the album stretched out over the years. In 2000, trumpeter Chris Botti took part on a couple of tracks and finally Terry Stanton's vocals were added as the finishing touch. Although Lorber had often been urged to release the cd, he never really felt the time was right. That is until now, so that 10 years after those initial sessions the Shades of Soul debut has just been issued. The project includes a broad spectrum of soul-based styles, from funk and R&B to the smoother side of jazz, and as such, Shades of Soul seems to be a totally appropriate title. From that effort I've chosen Love Come Down an exceptional cover of Evelyn "Champagne" King's # 1 hit. The track features the sax work of Patrick Lamb. Lamb has long been a staple on the contemporary scene in Oregon's largest city and has performed & toured with Diane Schuur since 1991. In any event, this selection immediately galvanized my interest and is a Café Jazz pick as one of the finer tracks of the year!

CD: Shades of Soul
Label: Narada Jazz
Sites: Shades/Narada ; Jeff Lorber ; Patrick Lamb

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Fresh Trax: Part Two
Dance With My Father - Rick Braun:
In the world of Rhythm & Blues, Luther Vandross ranks as one of the most respected and most successful artists of the '80s. Early in his career Vandross was acknowledged as a top session vocalist. In 1975, he earned his first big break when he was asked to sing on David Bowie's Young Americans release. Safe to say that Bowie was highly impressed, and in fact he invited Vandross to tour as his opening act. This led to a variety of projects in the latter half of the 70s including a pair of albums under the name Luther. In 1981, Vandross was signed to Epic Records and with the release of his debut on that label he not only achieved chart-topping success but he also sold two million cds in the process. Luther did some production for Aretha Franklin and others, while his own career soared.
His records all sold in the millions and spawned several major hits. However, it wasn't until the release of The Best of Luther Vandross ... The Best of Love in 1989 that Luther scored a Top Ten pop hit with Here and Now, an accomplishment that had eluded him to that point in his career. Luthor continued to record one hit cd after another and with the release of Dance With My father that total reached 18 in all. That effort was recognized with four Grammy Awards in February, 2004. Sadly though, about one year ago, Luther suffered a diabetes induced stroke. Since that time, he has made a partial recovery and although he's presently confined to a wheelchair, Luther reportedly remains in great spirits. Earlier this year, producers Rex Rideout and Bud Harner, gathered together nearly a dozen top SJ artists who had worked with Luther over the years. They focused on songs written or co-written by Vandross and released Forever, For Always, For Luther, an album paying tribute to Vandross. From that effort we've selected Rick Braun's rendition of the title track from Dance With My Father, a selection which had previously won Song of the Year for Luther at the Grammys!

CD: Forever, For Always, For Luther
Label: GRP
Sites: Luther Vandross ; Rick Braun.
Let's Waste Some Time - Marc Jordan with Molly Johnson: Following a brief stint as a film student at Brock University in St. Catharines ON, Jordan began in the early 70s to pursue a career in music. His father had been a singer and voice teacher and so it seemed that Marc came by the entire creative process quite naturally. After a bit of travel & a few varied experiences, Jordan returned to Toronto. In 1978 he released Mannequin, his solo debut. He had one more release in Canada before relocating to Los Angeles in about 1980. For a time Marc more or less disappeared from public view. He stopped playing live & devoted most of his time to working in the studio while learning various production techniques. He recorded a handful of projects during his time in LA, but chose to move back to Canada in the mid-90s or so.
Since his return, Jordan's music has taken a decidedly jazzier slant which has continued on Make Believe Ballroom, his latest. From that effort Let's Waste Some Time is the tune that I've selected. Featured on the track is another Canadian who coincidentally shares the initials MJ, namely Molly Johnson. The exchange between the two is exquisite. Possessing styles that perfectly compliment one another, the pair swirl & dance around the melody and in the process create a welcoming space where I for one am quite content to linger ... & in spite of the title, there's definitely no waste of time whatsoever when we're listening to this one!

CD: Make Believe Ballroom
Label: EMI
Sites: Marc Jordan ; Molly Johnson
Southwest Shuffle - Stacey Knights:
Although clarinet had been Stacey's first choice to play in the school band, when her dad brought home a sax she took that up instead. It turned out that she enjoyed practicing on the instrument, and it wasn't too long before she was at the head of her class. Shortly thereafter, Knights joined a summer band camp where she also took up flute. Unlike the sax, the flute was a quieter instrument that Stacey could play at any time of the day or night and as such, it well suited the part of her practice routine from midnight until 3am. By the time she was sixteen, Knights knew music was going to be her life. On a scholarship, she attended the State University in St. Cloud, MN for three years before transferring to North Texas State. However, meeting tuition & living expenses proved to be a struggle so that three years later, Knights moved to the Tampa Bay area of Florida where her family had relocated.
She played with several different bands, but it quickly became clear that if she was to develop her style and sound Stacey would have to set out on her own. In this regard, her act as a solo performer has flourished. Through the Window was her debut a few years back and proved to be a fine first effort which provided Knights with exposure on the national level in the USA. When asked to describe her focus in music Stacey states and I quote: "There is a whole generation of people out there that ... have the desire to hear something that speaks to them with more contemporary ideas that relate to their adult lifestyle.. with all of its commitments and concerns. I'm sure of that, because I'm one of them! ...So that's where my music centers." In keeping with that statement Ms. Knights has just released While You Dream, her sophomore project. From that effort we're presenting Southwest Shuffle, an energetic track that features Stacey on sax with some fine guitar work from Brad Carlton!

CD: While You Dream
Label: Bonsai Records
Site: Stacey Knights

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Special Mention: Rare Requests - Volume 4

Based on the continuing success of the Rare Requests series, 215 Records has just issued their latest installment. As with the previous cds, the philosophy behind this album is quite straight forward. The release is packed with hard to find, top songs compiled from the requests of Smooth Jazz radio listeners. Among others, Volume 4 includes two superb guitar-based selections; Ocean Way by Torcuato Mariano and Brian Tarquin's Darlin' Darlin' Baby. Both have long been Cafe Jazz favourites. The former begins the final set in hour 2 while the latter completes it. There are eleven pieces in all, but this compilation is well worth investigating on the strength of these two tracks alone!

CD: Rare Requests Smooth Jazz Volume 4
Label: 215 Records

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After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site:
Lots of music with very little talk, what a novel idea! This time around I had to split the AH segment into two parts as the entire piece came in at just over 90 minutes. There are a total of 20 tracks, many of which have never before been played on our show. Delving a bit more deeply into some recent releases yielded a few gems from James Vargas, Novocento, The Benoit/Freeman Project 2, Ron Fattorusso, Vlad, & Swing out Sister. Of course there's much more including current favourites from Rafe Gomez, Garry Goin, Craig Chaquico & Soul Ballet. I've also included the latest release from Jazzy Devils and their Burning Bridges cd and then we're also introducing the music of Sharon Musgrave & Joel Virgel. As well, there are four great tracks from Bob Baldwin who is featured on T&N. We begin with guitarist Michael Dowdle and a very cool track called Into the AM!

Then & Now Feature: Bob Baldwin

Cool Breeze
Shanachie Entertainment

Orpheus Music

Standing Tall
Narada Jazz

Brazil Chill
A440 Music Group

Bob Baldwin: Bob was born in Mount Vernon, NY. and was exposed to a wide array of music and artists by his father, Robert Baldwin, Sr., who was a jazz pianist in his own right. In 1986, the younger Baldwin enjoyed his first significant foray into music with the creation of The Bob Baldwin/Al Orlo Project. The group ended up performing at the legendary Bottom Line in NYC and thru the course of events this led to his first production with trumpeter Tom Browne. In turn this resulted in the release of Bob's debut in 1988, so that now Baldwin is a music industry veteran with nine solo projects to his credit. Career highlights include Cool Breeze in 1997, which yielded a top 10 single, and his independent release Bobbaldwin.com in 2000, which was critically acclaimed and has proven to be his best seller to date. Well known for his innovative approach to music, Bob is also well known as a highly spiritual individual. Baldwin looks to his faith not only for direction on a daily basis but he also draws on that faith for inspiration for his music and this definitely comes thru in his playing and production. So, as we feature Bob Baldwin on Then & Now, we present Ties That Bind, Business Call (with Joey Sommerville ), It's A New Day, and Sho Nuff from the above albums respectively!

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