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

March 18th, 2007
Edition #438 Previously Next

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This Week at CafeJazz.ca!
Highlights on this edition include a retro pack that winds down hour 2 - we have Louie Shelton, Khani Cole, Kenny G, and Brian Tarquin. Otherwise, we're checking out a few classic trax from Machan Taylor, Boney James, Kuh Ledesma, Paul Horn, and Alan Hewitt. Current faves include Special EFX, Lamb and Meyer, and Doc Powell while there's another great piece from Terry Disley and Across the Pond!

Countdown to Program #450!
6th annual 'very best of' - twelve shows to go and counting!
In This Issue:

Ready to Play - Nils

Anthem For ... America - Jeff Lorber
Just Because - Dotsero
R 'n' B Bump - Paul Brown
Listen to the Wind - Slim Man
Tropica - Will Donato

Then & Now - Spyro Gyra (Part 2)

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Showcase CD
Ready to Play - Nils:

Undoubtedly, "the" smooth jazz story for 2005, was Nils and Pacific Coast Highway. Although the track proved to be #1 for the year on just about everybody's list, this belay the fact that the German-born guitarist had been honing his craft as part of the vibrant LA session scene since the mid-80s. As a teenager growing up in Munich Germany, Nils took up guitar while becoming hooked on funk. In spite of endless hours practicing, the opportunities for a musician both educationally & professionally were limited - as such, he moved to the US to study composition, arranging, and film scoring. While making inroads in film and television, Nils got his first job as a guitar teacher. He also started doing sessions as a rhythm guitarist. He appeared on George Benson's 1998 Standing Together and contributed a track to the project - later that year Benson returned the favour by playing with Nils on his Blue Planet debut.
An opportunity with The LA Jazz Syndicate resulted in Nils appearing on the second project to bear "syndicate status" and as the featured performer on Summer Nights. This all attracted the attention of top producer Paul Brown, who enlisted Nils for releases from Gabriela Anders and Rick Braun. Then in the midst of composing for TV and Film, Pacific Coast Highway happened! Although Nils has continued as Music Editor on the Fox sitcom Undeclared and other projects such as composing for the Independent Spirit Awards, things have changed somewhat. Previously, touring was a missing piece in the puzzle but this aspect has become increasingly important in Nils' career. Hence the title for the latest project "Ready To Play"! In talking about the new project, Nils relates "The most important thing I learned from the success of PCH, was that everyone likes a good groove" and "to make sure Ready To Play featured my best writing and playing from start to finish." Moreover, he goes on to say, "My pop sensibilities are there in the songwriting, and my R&B background is the force behind all the grooves. All of those elements play a part in making this even a better album than Pacific Coast Highway." Considering the hit that he had with PCH, to some this may seem like so much bravado or perhaps at best a bit of wishful thinking.
Nils_In The Studio Nils in his studio
Photo courtesy of NilsMusic.com
Nonetheless, there is at least one true believer, that being yours truly, and to help state the case we're presenting a trio of our favourite tracks as part of the showcase feature! The first selection is an optimistic mid-tempo number called Just Smile. Offering up just a hint of the Blues is Last Night, a beautifully dreamy melody featuring some very tasty playing on top of a simple but effective groove and that opens hour 2. Finally, Midnight Breeze features Nils at his lyrical best! So, does Nils have another smash on his hands? Ultimately, time will determine Ready to Play's rightful place in the annals of music - however, in my humble opinion the answer to this question is a rather obvious and resounding yes!

CD: Ready to Play
Label: Baja/TSR Records
Site: Nils Music

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Fresh Trax: Part One
Anthem For A New America - Jeff Lorber:
An acknowledged pioneer in Smooth Jazz, in the late 70s Lorber formed The Jeff Lorber Fusion which featured a little-known sax player named Kenny G. The unit went on to become one of the most popular acts of the day; however, Lorber disbanded the group at the height of their popularity choosing to focus on producing and session work. In 1993, Lorber returned to recording his own music and quickly reassumed his position as one of the most influential players of the day. Now eight cds into this most recent phase of his career, his latest is He Had a Hat. From that effort, we have a track that shows a slightly different aspect of Lorber's musicality - a pretty piece called Anthem for a New America!

CD: He Had A Hat
Label: Narada Jazz
Site: J.Lorber
Just Because - Dotsero:
Brothers Stephen and David Watts have guided the fortunes of Dotsero for the past 20 years or so on sax and guitar respectively. They broke onto the national scene with their debut in 1990 and followed that with a sophomore release that enjoyed chart-topping success on Gavin for five full weeks. Subsequently, Dotsero scored another top-ten record, while other efforts have also faired well. In spite of the success of their albums, the Watts' main claim to fame is their live show and the energy contained therein - they frequently appear at Jazz @ Jack's, Denver's premier jazz and comedy room and a venue that they operate and co-own. A short while back they decided to "bottle" some of that vitality, the result being Alive at Jazz @ Jack's, subtitled Kickin' Butt and ….Takin' Names! On the effort the Watts boys live up to their billing with a project that's powerful yet poetic - from it we've selected a sterling track that delivers a balance of both passion and punch!

CD: Alive at Jazz @ Jack's
Label: Cinderblock Records
Site: Dotsero ; Jazz@Jack's

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Fresh Trax: Part Two
R 'n' B Bump - Paul Brown:
He's quickly closing in on an unprecedented 50 #1-hits behind the console, while in 2006 he scored a #1-track on his own with Winelight - top producer Paul Brown now turned top recording artist takes centre stage with White Sand, his 3rd project as a front man. Brown unofficially launched his career as a producer at his first gig when he was 15 and discovered he had an affinity for the technical side of music. The LA-native was raised in a family where both parents worked as vocalists & arrangers in the record industry, in movies, & on TV variety shows. Taking up the drums at age five, Brown picked up the guitar a couple of years later.

A confessed Deadhead, growing up Brown was fond of The Beatles, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix - however, when he heard George Benson's Breezin' his tastes swung to jazz. Now in spite of his success, the two-time Grammy winner views his career in music as evolutionary, stating rather matter-of-factly: "The reason I got into this business was to play the guitar and perform live." From White Sand we've selected the Les McCann - Eddie Harris influenced R 'n' B Bump, punctuated by a sizzling call and response between Brown and David Benoit.

CD: White Sand
Label: Peak Records
Site: P.Brown
Listen to the Wind - Slim Man:
Slim Man is the musical alter ego for Tim Camponeschi. Camponeschi worked as a Motown in-house songwriter back in the late 70s and early 80s. Later in the decade, he MC'd a country music travelling talent show - it was during this period that he first adopted the Slim Man moniker in order to escape irate contest losers. Meanwhile, after a few efforts fronting a rock band, Camponeschi launched his solo career as Slim Man with his debut in 1995. His perpetually love-struck sounds gained an avid following but with the changing climate in commercial radio, the Slim Guy found himself "on the outs" toward the end of the 90s. At about the same time, the Slim Dude found broader success as a member of the hip and funky group known as Bona Fide (named the top new group in Smooth Jazz for 2001). This success also spurred resurgence in his own solo career. With this latest release, the Slim Meister's catalogue now includes seven albums plus a seasonal effort. From Solstice, we have Listen to the Wind, a beautifully crafted track that shows the Slim Hombre at his absolute best as a stylist!

CD: Solstice
Label: Oui Oui Music
Site: Slim Man
Tropica - Will Donato:
Based in Palm Springs, California, Will Donato is an exciting young saxplayer who's built his reputation with expressive & dynamic playing. Fans may have been introduced to Donato thru his work with the two Steve's, Reid and Oliver. Donato was one of the front men with Steve Reid's Bamboo Forest for four years and, while performing with Steve Oliver, he handled the saxwork on Oliver's chart-topping High Noon single! Add the names Gregg Karukas, Blake Aaron, and Tony Guerrero to the résumé and you should get the idea - Donato has played with some of the best. Outside the smooth jazz sphere, he's appeared on the soundtracks to Thelma and Louise and The Untouchables. Meanwhile Donato has also steadily expanded his presence in the US nationwide with five fine releases of which Will Call is the most recent. When we reviewed Donato's previous release, back in the spring of 2005, we asked, who would be the next rising sax star in smooth jazz. The answer of course was Will Donato. This latest effort, only serves to further solidify that opinion!

CD: Will Call
Label: Innervision Records
Site: Will Donato

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After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site :
On this edition, we're continuing with our then & now tribute to Spyro Gyra. Part 1 covered the period from the inception of the band in the 70s thru until 1989. Now we resume the story with the 1990 Fast Forward release!
Then & Now Spotlight Artist:
Spyro Gyra - Part 2 (1990-2006)
Fast Forward
GRP Records
GRP Records
Three Wishes
GRP Records
Dreams Beyond Control
GRP Records
Love & Other Obsessions
GRP Records
Heart of the Night
GRP Records
GRP Records
Road Scholars
GRP Records
Got The Magic
Windham Hill
In Modern Times
Heads Up
Original Cinema
Heads Up
The Deep End
Heads Up
Wrapped in a Dream
Heads Up
Spyro Gyra: Thruout college and for a few years afterward, Jay Beckenstein worked many of the clubs in Buffalo NY as a sideman, but eventually he began to feel the need for a personal creative outlet. He started doing a few sessions with Jeremy Wall and over the period of a year or so, this evolved into the band Spyro Gyra. Tom Schuman joined the group in its second year with Beckenstein and Schuman being band-mates ever since. At pretty much the same time, Beckenstein went into business with Rich Calandra, a local drummer with aspirations of being a record producer. They worked a number of local acts recording Spyro Gyra whenever there was spare studio time - it was in this way that the first album slowly came together. They pressed 500 copies using their own cash and on their own label and within a year, they had sold tens of thousands of copies. This all led to a record deal and to the birth of the band as a recording entity. To produce the landmark Morning Dance album, Beckenstein chose to relocate to New York City in 1979 and resided there for four years.

L to R:Tom Schuman, Jay Beckenstein,
Scott Ambush, and Julio Fernandez
Photo Credit: SpyroGyra.com
After producing albums at a rate of roughly one a year, Beckenstein and Calandra bought a turn of the century stone farmhouse just outside of New York. They converted it into the BearTracks studio, and that became the official recording home for Spyro Gyra for nearly twenty-five years. That brings us to Part 2 in our presentation - we had left off in Part 1 with the 1989 Point of View release. Now as we resume the story we have Bright Lights from Fast Forward, You Can Count on Me from Collection, and Pipo's Song from Three Wishes. Upon the latter album, the band fielded one of their strongest line-ups ever - guitarist Julio Fernandez had become a full-fledged member in about 1984, Scott Ambush had just assumed the bass chair, while Dave Samuels continued with the group for another year or so!

Our second set contains the tracks South Beach, Ariana, and Believe followed by The Unwritten Letter from 20/20, Best Friends - the only studio track from the otherwise live Road Scholars release, and an all-time favourite, If You Will from 1999 and Got The Magic. That all then brings us to the final set for "the Heads Up years" and includes Open Door, Capetown Love, Summer Fling, and Tuesday. So ends our 26-track presentation on Spyro Gyra, a band that has achieved an unparalleled level of success in a genre whose boundaries they helped redefine. For their efforts, Spyro Gyra were recently named the recipient's of The George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards!

Site: Spyro Gyra

A Closing Note - The Spyro Gyra Compilation Catalogue!

Spyro Gyra 1977-1987
Spyro Gyra 1977-1987
BMG Records
Spyro Gyra - Retrospective
(promo only)

GRP Records
The Best of Spyro Gyra - The First 10 Years
Best of ... The First 10 Years
The Very Best of Spyro Gyra
The Very Best of Spyro Gyra.
GRP Records

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