October 16th, 2005
|Karukas was only 17
and right out of high school when he found his way into the jazz clubs
and studios of the Washington, DC - Baltimore area as a member of East
Coast Offering. That band grew to become the city's top crossover act.
After five years with the group, Gregg left to form Natural Bridge, and
in that capacity he opened shows at the Cellar Door for a few of the top
artists of the day, such as Larry Carlton & Jeff Lorber. In 1983,
Karukas headed west to LA since that afforded the possibility of many
more artist with which he could play. Thanks to a recommendation by Russell
Ferrante (whom he'd met years earlier while playing at the Cellar Door),
Karukas was soon performing with the likes of Patti Austin, Richard Elliot,
Grant Geissman, & others.
Following a one-and-a-half year stint backing Melissa Manchester, he started his own band. Dave Koz, Gary Meek and Boney James, were among the first young & undiscovered sax talents to join his group. Gregg released his solo debut in 1987 and later that same year, he took part in the very first Rippingtons project. In the period since Karukas has became well known for his melodic & tasteful arrangements. His albums have been well received, he's had a pair of #1 hits and he's long been a favourite here at The Café. Looking Up is his debut on trippin 'n' Rhythm Records. This is Karukas's 10th release overall and ranks among Gregg's finest projects to date. With due respect to those whose opinion may differ, we find Looking Up an exceptional album and indeed one of the strongest for the entire year! Each track has something going for it, be a catchy hook, a relaxed vibe, a rhythmic groove, or some infectious or irresistible melody.
Photo ~ album insert!
And quite simply, the selection of Looking Up for the show case feature
was a rather obvious one! In that regard, we just couldn't go wrong
with the trio of selections that we've chosen. Opening things is Looking
Up, the title track, featuring guest Thom Rotella. With an upbeat rhythm
and a measured groove, this is one of our favourites on the album. Both
Peter White & Richard Smith appear on Deep Into You which kicks off
hour two. Smooth, soothing and laid back, you'll find yourself humming
along in no time at all. And last but not least, closing the feature
is Relentless with Michael O'Neill on guitar. Fabulous guests &
inspired playing, this is a terrific album! If you enjoyed any Gregg's
previous work, I'm certain that Looking Up will readily find its way
into your heart & mind!
CD: Looking Up
Label: trippin 'n' Rhythm Records
Sites: Gregg Karukas
|Fresh Trax: Part One
One Eyed Jack - Joe McBride:
The Fulton, MI native started on piano at the age of four and while he was still in high school, he began performing at a few of the local jazz clubs In St. Louis. However, during his teens, McBride contracted a degenerative eye disease that eventually claimed his sight. Nonetheless, Joe's passion for music was undeterred. He continued studying music and majored in jazz performance. In about 1983, McBride moved to San Diego. Soon after he connected with Steve Laury & the band Fattburger who were then still very early in their careers. He might have continued there had it not been for a trip to Dallas to visit his brother. What had been intended as a two-week excursion turned into a long term stay as he was flooded with performing opportunities in the Dallas area. McBride soon became one of that city's leading jazz musicians.
It wasn't too long afterwards that Joe met up with a young trumpeter named Dave Love. The two hit it off, and so it was that when Love launched the Heads Up record label a couple of years later, McBride was one of the first to be signed to a deal. Joe's debut was issued in 1992 & he instantly became a core artist for smooth jazz radio. Now with a total of seven well-received releases to his credit, Texas Hold'Em is his most recent effort. It's another great album from one of the most gifted performers in the genre, and a project where Joe's heightened development as a musician comes shining through. No shortage of great music here, and as we begin to explore this fine effort, we have the melodic & very hip closing track!
CD: Texas Hold'Em
Label: Heads Up International
This Must Be For Real - Euge Groove:
Euge Groove is the alias that's become Steven Eugene Grove's musical calling card. The native of Hagerstown MD, began playing piano in the second grade and turned to the sax when he was about nine. Grove underwent some classical training and after high school he continued his education by attending the University of Miami's School of Music. That was when he first developed an interest in jazz. After graduating, Steve took part in a variety of sessions in and around the Miami area while he also played in a few different bands. He later moved to LA where he become a member of Tower of Power. After about a five-year stint, Steve turned to freelancing and enjoyed a mix of session work and sideman gigs. The scope of his playing proved to be quite extensive. He appeared with a long list of performers that included Joe Cocker, the Eurythmics, Huey Lewis and the News, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, & Aaron Neville.
Right toward the end of the 90s Grove adopted his musical pseudonym. At about the same time he landed a deal that resulted in the release of his debut in the year 2000. All of this occurred as he toured as a member of Tina Turner's entourage. Now well established as one of the new favourites in the genre, Euge has enjoyed a solo career that's four albums deep with Just Feels Right as the new one. This latest release sees Groove in a bit of a retro mode as he attempts to recapture the style & feel of 70s. No drum machines on this one, instead we have a collection of well-seasoned studio musicians all contributing to the organic vibe of the project. The result is some of Groove's most creative work to date. From that effort, we're featuring This Must be For Real. Peter White contributes some tasty playing to the selection, but the star of the show is Euge himself. With a tone that's full, fat & juicy Groove has never sounded finer!
CD: Just Feels Right
Label: Narada Jazz
Sites :Euge Groove
|Fresh Trax: Part Two
Journey - Bona Fide:
Bona Fide is the creation & musical alter ego for the smooth jazz crooner known as Slim Man. Tim Camponeschi is the man behind the project. He connected with a few friends in & around the Baltimore area back in the late 90s and what began as a trio on their 1999 debut has evolved into a five-piece combo over the course of that & their next couple of projects. Always true to their mantra of delivering a grittier & funkier brand of music, Soul Lounge continues the Bona Fide tradition. On this their debut on the Heads Up label & their third release overall, Bona Fide continue to tug at the boundaries of their unique brand of jazz infused chill. In that respect Soul Lounge is an on the mark description for the project and from it we have The Journey, a very cool & hip track that features the sax work of Kevin Levi. Another excellent project from Slim & the boys!
CD: Soul Lounge
Label: Heads Up International
Sites: Slim Man
With Time - Veronica Martell:
Martell grew up with the pop music of the 70s and 80s, but was also influenced by traditional greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. She studied the styles of Patti LaBelle and Anita Baker and in turn, these all played an important part in the development of her musical identity. Her work embraced a mix of genres and led to opportunities in TV, radio, & movies. She became a fixture on the NY club scene before releasing her debut in 1999. The success of that project led to a tour of Denmark in 2002 and her eagerly awaited second album was released that same year. With The Art of Intimacy as her latest & 3rd musical installment, Ms Martell is poised to bring her exquisite stylings to the forefront of the musical mainstream. From The Art of Intimacy we have Better With Time, one of three Martell originals, and a samba flavoured piece that features the guitarwork of Romero Lubambo!
CD: The Art of Intimacy
Label: Independent Release
Site: Veronica Martell
Living in Jersey - William Woods:
Woods is a New Jersey native who began in music on violin before discovering his affinity for piano. As a teen, Woods focused on composition and developed a passion for improvisation. He went on to study at The Juilliard School of Music. However, he also continued his education outside of the sphere of music. He attended & graduated from both Princeton and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and presently works as a radiation oncologist. Over the years Woods has balanced a rigorous schedule as a physician with his love of being a jazz musician. Encouraged by the recent success of many projects that were strictly studio ventures, he decided to throw his hat into the ring and in 1997 he issued A Doctor's Dilemma his debut. That & his subsequent release attracted a fair degree of interest so that Woods has developed an ever increasing & eager following. His 3rd and most recent album is titled With Every Part of Me, a project that was to a large extent created to fulfill his own needs as a musician. As such, it provides a refreshing change from some of the more predictable & mundane fare that permeate music today and show cases some of Woods' most compelling work to date. A case in point is Alive, Living in Jersey, an exhilarating piece that we're very pleased to present on this edition of the show!
CD: Every Part of Me
Label: Whaling City Sound
|After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site:
|On this edition we're spotlighting music from a variety of Paul Hardcastle projects as well as from all four of his Jazzmasters releases. We have nearly a dozen tracks and so for the first time in quite a while we're presenting an After Hours installment in two parts. In the first half you'll hear new music from Dean James, Steve Raybine & Gretchen Lieberum. We're also playing pieces from Praful and Richy Kicklighter that we've somehow neglected over the past few weeks. Hour 2 sees more from Mr. Hardcastle plus brand new never before been played on our show tracks from Tom Schuman, Bruce Cockburn, & Chuck Leavell. There's also something from the latest release by Kirk Whalum that I know you won't want to miss!
Then & Now Feature : Paul Hardcastle
Paul Hardcastle: Although he had been a part of the London music scene as far back as 1981, things didn't really start to click for Paul Hardcastle until the release of Zero One in 1984. As a teen, Hardcastle had messed with tape recorders and gadgets eventually landing a job as a stereo sales man. In the early '80s, he traded a video camera for a synthesizer and after three months of experimenting, he joined his first band called Direct Drive where he first met with Helen Rogers - Hardcastle would continue to collaborate with Helen well into 90s. Direct Drive scored a pair of modest dance club hits but soon broke up. Hardcastle's follow-up group, the funk band First Light, cracked the UK dance charts making the Top 20. However, in spite of these successes, Hardcastle was experiencing increasing frustration with the business side of the music business and as a result, he started his own label in Total Control. After two additional small hits, Zero One was issued with the track Rainforest as the accompanying single. The track made the British charts peaking at number 41; but it was in America where the tune really took off, reaching #1 in sales as a 12-inch and in the process, it knocked Madonna off the top of the dance charts! It was Hardcastle's follow up, however, that would break his name internationally. Ever staying true to the dance floor feel that had always been integral to his sound, Paul released the track 19 as a single, the concept being based on a statistic he had heard about the average age of combat soldiers in the Vietnam War. It went to #1 in 13 countries, sold 4 million copies worldwide, and was one of the top single for '85!
The project caught on in Japan and in due course, some of the DJs
in the smooth jazz format in America started playing a few tracks -
in time, it swept not only the US but also the entire world! In the
period since, Hardcastle's music has become a staple in the genre. He's
maintained a characteristic sound & style while continuing to explore
a seemingly infinite number of variations on a smooth & soothing laid-back
sort of theme. With the recent release of the appropriately numbered
Hardcastle 4 bringing his output to four projects under his own name,
that to go along with four more as The Jazzmasters, the time seemed
apropos for a substantive PH Then & Now feature - so here it is! Therefore,
from the cds as pictured above, we present the following tracks: Maxine,
Lost Summer, Lazy Days, Slomotion, Bird Island, Paradise Cove, Nightcrawler,
Shelbi, Walkin in the Rain, Puerto Banus, and finally the radio edit
of Serene, Hardcastle's most recent hit! Stay tuned, you know there'll
be plenty more in the years ahead!