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

April 10, 2005
Edition #358 Previously Next

We're musically firing on all cylinders with Pacific Coast Highway from Nils in the spotlight on the showcase feature. Then in hour two, look for something just a bit different as in lieu of Fresh Trax, we're introducing a brand new segment of past favourites. That's right, Cafe Jazz is going retro as we rediscover some "golden oldies" and present for lack of a better name our Back Trax feature. On this inaugural episode you'll be hearing from Joe Fuentes, Duncan Millar, & Steve Laury, among others. That's only a small part of what lies in store. In no particular order there is music both new and old from Joyce Cooling, The Benoit/Freeman Project, Larry Carlton, Pamela Williams, Bobby Caldwell, Nicolas Bearde, Kenny G and Chieli Minucci !

In This Issue:

Pacific Coast Highway - Nils

Dream Your Dream - Duncan Millar
Astoria - Steve Laury
The Greeting - Alvin Davis
Hangin' Out - Joe Fuentes
O.B.C. - J.Michael Verta

Then & Now - Alexander Zonjic
SPINLIST: Spinlist Ed#358

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Showcase CD
Pacific Coast Highway - Nils:
So what has been the most pleasant surprise in Smooth Jazz so far this year? The advance balloting has been completed and the early odds on favourite to run away with top honours is Pacific Coast Highway from Nils! For a musician who originally hails from Germany, Nils certainly has got this whole smooth jazz thing nailed down cold! True, he's resided in Southern California since the mid-80s and he has worked with The Temptations, Marcus Johnson, and George Benson among many others. In fact, it was none other than Benson who covered a Nils composition on his own Standing Tall cd a few years back and then followed that in 1998 with a guest spot on Nils' Blue Planet solo debut. At about the same time, Nils was also doing a bit of work with The LA Jazz Syndicate. He appeared on the second release to bear 'syndicate status' and was featured on their track Summer Nights.
All of this activity attracted the attention of Paul Brown, the top producer in Smooth Jazz, who enlisted Nils to appear on releases from both Gabriela Anders and Rick Braun. In addition to his extensive studio resume, Nils has composed for TV and Film and has also become involved with music production. In light of these credentials perhaps Nils' fluency in the genre isn't that surprising at all!

In any event, Pacific Coast Highway is Nils' brand new release and one, which has already drawn loads of favourable attention. It's definitely one of the finer breakthru projects to this point in the year and fittingly finds itself in our musical spotlight on this occasion. To launch our feature, we begin with the tune that's been flying high of late. It's Pacific Coast Highway, the title track and it has already cracked the top 10 on a couple of different Smooth Jazz charts. Cruisin', another superb tune, opens hour two and features the saxwork of Restine Calhoun. And closing the show is the energetic drive and warm passion of Summer Nights, the same tune that Nils recorded with LA Jazz Syndicate a few years back!

CD: Pacific Coast Highway
Label: Baja/TSR
Web Site: Nils

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Back Trax: Part One
Dream Your Dream - Duncan Millar:
It was Millar's dad who was always playing bits of boogie-woogie around the house who first opened Millar's ears to the possibilities of jazz harmonies. Millar recalls that a friend of the family, was not only a fan but also a personal acquaintance of Oscar Peterson. He arranged for the awe struck teenager to meet with Peterson backstage at the London Hammersmith Odeon. That did it, there was now no choice for Millar but to follow a course as a musician. Listing Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea, as early influences, Duncan spent some time in the US while he attended Boston's Berkley School of Music. Upon returning to London he found himself getting more involved with the pop and dance scene and enjoyed some chart success. Exciting as this was, Millar felt unfulfilled as a jazz musician. In an attempt to combine the many influences in his career, he recorded Dream your Dream, releasing it in 1998 to a fair degree of critical acclaim. The title track proved to be a hit in NA and it's the track that we have for you on this edition. I know you're going to enjoy this one!

CD: Dream Your Dream (1998)
Label: Instinct Records
Web Site: Duncan Millar
Astoria - Steve Laury:
Laury was born & raised in Vineland New Jersey and began playing the guitar at the age of 11, although he didn't get serious about being a musician until he turned 16. During his formative years he was drawn to the sounds of the blues and rock greats of the day but any listen to Steve's music will also reveal the importance & influence of Latin and Brazilian rhythms in his playing. On the advice of a friend, Laury relocated to California and in the course of things met up with Carl Evans and Mark Hunter, two members of what was then the fledgling group Fattburger. The pair introduced Laury to the other members and Steve soon joined their combo. For five years in the late 80s, Laury occupied the guitar chair with that band as they became one of the seminal groups in Smooth Jazz. It was in the early 90s however, that Steve chose to set out on his own. He released four solo projects and for a large part of that period he became one of the most popular musicians of the day. Well known for his compelling style and arrangements, perhaps no track better illustrates these qualities than the selection that we've chosen for today's feature!

CD: Keepin' The Faith (1993)
Label: Denon
Web Sites: Steve Laury

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Back Trax: Part Two
The Greetings - Alvin Davis:
The debut release from this young sax player from the UK did well as it reached #4 on the American R&R chart in 1992. That success gained Davis valuable exposure and opened the door to world wide touring. Let The Vibes Decide was the follow up album that was released a couple of years later. This second effort even improved on the fine showing of the first album as it sold in excess of 10,000 copies on a prerelease basis and peaked at #3 on the charts. However, in the time since, Alvin has for the most part been busy producing a variety of local artists. Although, he recorded two additional projects, neither quite matched up to the success enjoyed by those initial pair of efforts. On this occasion we return to 1994 and his sophomore album. From Let The Vibes Decide we're featuring The Greeting, a superb track which greatly contributed to success of that release!

CD: Let The Vibes Decide (1994)
Label: TriStar Music
Hangin' Out - Joe Fuentes:
Although he was born in Los Angeles, Fuentes spent most of his youth growing up in Mexico. He realized early on that he wanted to pursue a career in music and after some initial recognition he headed back to LA at the age of 20. In the course of things, Fuentes' tastes gravitated to jazz. Following a brief visit to San Francisco, Joe fell in love with the city by the bay and moved northward. There he released a disc of original material, which gained him immediate recognition as he was named the Jazz Review's New Artist of the Year. For his follow up project, Fuentes chose a unique theme, one that reflected the hip coffee scene in San Francisco as well as his Epicurean love of the beverage. In fact Fuentes titled the album A Good Cup of Joe. The release gained immediate attention and earned Fuentes a nomination as Best New Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year. On a personal note, since the album first debuted on our show, A Good Cup Of Joe has continued to be a favourite and remains to our tastes, such as they are, one of the best ever recorded in the genre !

CD: A Good Cup of Joe (2001)
Label: Trippin 'n' Rhythm Records
Web Site: Joe Fuentes
O.B.C. - J. Michael Verta featuring Greg Vail:
Quick simply a fantastic track that is lit up by the tantalizing piano of J.Michael Verta together with the saxwork of Greg Vail. The pairing of Verta and Vail resulted in one of the more vital and dynamic performances for 1995. The tune appeared on The Phoenix, J.Michael's debut release and was recorded when Verta was only 22 and had barely graduated from USC. Although Verta had a follow up album the following year, he's more or less disappeared from the record scene. Nevertheless, some amazing chops from an obviously gifted young musician and you can label this track highly combustible!

CD: The Phoenix (1995)
Label: BrainChild Records
Web Site: Greg Vail

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After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site :
On today's installment, we have more from Paul Taylor, Chuck Loeb, and Will Donato as well as from 3rd Force and Matt Bianco as we explore each of their recent albums. Alexander Zonjic is featured on Then & Now and we're also introducing Michael Brandeburg & Cascadu each with the music from their brand new releases. We get things off to a flying start with Stanley Jordan and Novecento and a track from their recent collaboration!

Then & Now Feature: Alexander Zonjic

Elegant Evening

Hi-Falutin' Music

Reach For The Sky
Heads Up

Seldom Blues
Heads Up

Alexander Zonjic: Zonjic didn't even own a flute until the age of 21 and then it was only through a chance encounter with a shady character on a street corner that he bought his first one. Alexander liked the way it gleamed in its case, but within a year, he had learned enough of the basics to be accepted in the music program at the University of Windsor. While there, he became immersed in the works of Bach & Mozart but at the same time Zonjic was getting turned on to the sounds of modern masters of the flute. It was by listening to jazz artists such as Hubert Laws and Herbie Mann that he developed a love for a more contemporary style of expression.

Shortly after graduating, while Alexander was performing in a club in Detroit, he was approached by Bob James. James enjoyed his playing and asked Zonjic to join his band. That was a relationship that blossomed into a lengthy association as Zonjic toured with James for about ten years. In the course of events, this led to a variety of gigs and eventually to the launch of Alexander's own solo career. In this regard, Zonjic has had several well accepted releases which provide us with all the material that we need for our feature. To start things off we head straight back to 1988 and Alexander's Elegant Evening release for the full seven minute version of Angel of the Night. That's followed by Progress from 1993's Passion album. From Reach for the Sky we chose Mr. Z's superb cover of Bellavia and we close with Leave It With Me, the excellent opening track from Seldom Blues, his latest release. Fantastic listening from beginning to end!

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