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This Week at Café

April 20th, 2008
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This Week at!
Your Café Jazz update ... it's Miami-based keyboardist Mike Levine in the spotlight with From The Heart, we've chosen three selections that we'll be spinning as part of the showcase feature. Then get ready for golden oldies in hour 2 with the Back Trax segment and more favourites from back in the day. Headlining this edition are Justo Almario and Yulara. Also appearing is the band P.C.S., while guitarists Henry Johnson and Harry Hmura round out the feature. Then later in the hour, we've assembled a collection of flashy current faves - with Chris Geith, saxman Jaared, Jeff Oster, and Jim Savitt, while thruout you'll find selections by The Rippingtons, Greg Adams, and Jay Soto!
In This Issue:

From The Heart - Mike Levine

Caribbean Romance - P.C.S.
Feel The Spark - Harry Hmura
Romance Me - Henry Johnson
Jugando - Justo Almario
Om Namah Shivaya - Yulara

Then & Now - Grady Nichols

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Showcase CD
From The Heart - Mike Levine:

Based in the Sunshine State, Mike Levine has developed a reputation as one of the premiere sessionists on the Miami music scene. With a career that stretches back to the early 80s, the U of Miami alumnus made his record debut in 1981 as co-leader of The Ross-Levine Band - a project upon which Pat Metheny guested. The effort drew national attention and remained in the top ten of the C-jazz chart for six weeks. The subsequent effort also faired well and paved the band's way as an opening act for such highly regarded performers as Michael Franks, Gato Barbieri, and Dionne Warwick. In the time since, Levine has enjoyed a variety of gigs - from working with Michael Bolton, the Jaco Pastorius Big Band, and saxophonist Ed Calle to touring Mexico, Costa Rica, The DR and beyond. He's played a variety of festivals across the USA and appeared as part of Peter Graves's Atlantean Driftwood Band for 13 years. Additionally, he's backed artists both great and small while building a resume too lengthy to mention in full detail.

Mike Levine - From The Heart
Having written for radio & TV, several Levine compositions have been used on Star Search and by major advertisers such as Pizza Hut and Burger King. Moreover, Levine was at the production helm for Roberto Perera's superb 2002 Grammy Nominated Sensual cd! In the midst of this activity, Levine 'took a break' a couple of years back to record From the Heart, his smooth jazz debut although the project has only recently entered a promotional phase to coincide with its official release!
Mike Levine Photo courtesy of
Mike Levine
As such, it's our distinct pleasure to nudge Mr. Levine and his heartfelt release into the soft sheen of our showcase spotlight! We've chosen three zesty selections and we have those for you - beginning with a tune called Just Passin By featuring Hiram Bullock on guitar. Opening hour 2 is the unaffected beauty of the title track while taking us home we have Headin Home the album opener with another Mike, that being Mike Scaglioni (formerly of Miami Sound Machine), contributing his tasty sax licks to the track! Combining R&B, Smooth and Latin Jazz styles with that unique Floridian flavour, Mike Levine has crafted From The Heart into a genuine winner!

CD: From The Heart
Label: Independent
Site: Mike Levine ; Levine/Rhombus

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Back Trax: Part One
Wave Music - Volume 1
Caribbean Romance - P.C.S.:
The little known band called P.C.S. was comprised of three of the top sessionists in the business in the likes of John Peńa, Tom Coster Jr., and Nate Scott II on bass, keys, and drums respectively. Each has had a significant career backing a variety of high profilers. However, in the late 90s, the trio recorded the track Caribbean Romance under the banner of P.C.S. using only the initials from their surnames to identify the effort, perhaps in anticipation of a project that unfortunately never materialized. Once again, we have our good friends at California Sunset Records to thank for committing this selection to disc on their groundbreaking compilation Wave Music Volume One!

CD: Wave Music - Volume One (1999)
Label: California Sunset Records
Site: John Peńa ; CSR ; Wave Music Vol.1
Harry Hmura - Passion
Feel The Spark - Harry Hmura:
Taking up guitar at age 7, Harry Hmura (the 'h' is silent) was 11 when he went to see his first ever, live performance by a guitarist, that being B.B. King. He even met the guitar legend after the show and suffice it to say, that was a life-altering event that set the aspiring young guitarist on his career path. Well known for the five years he toured and recorded with Brian Culbertson, Hmura played an important role on the rising smooth jazz superstar's first 3 albums as well as breaking in the then shy 20-year old to life on the road as a musician. In addition, Hmura has also performed with Buddy Guy, The Allman Brothers Band, and Johnny Winter among others and while playing a variety of festivals around the world and writing scores for TV, he issued his solo debut in 2002. From the effort entitled Passion, which Harry dedicated to Chimp Haven* and in memory of Sparky the chimp, we have a great track called Feel The Spark!

* Chimp Haven is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides lifetime care for chimpanzees who have been retired from medical research. Additionally, Harry Hmura lends his support to the following: Save the Chimps, Center for Great Apes , and Chimps Inc.

CD: Passion (2002)
Label: Look In The Mura Music/Storm Cloud Record Company
Site: Harry Hmura

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Back Trax: Part Two
Henry Johnson - Missing You
Romance Me - Henry Johnson :
With a career that stretches back to the 70s, Chicago-born guitarist Henry Johnson started playing at age 12. The veteran performer spent many of his formative years in Memphis playing gospel and R&B before being "formally introduced" to the music of Wes Montgomery who became his greatest influence. After his family moved back to Chicago, Johnson developed a solid reputation on the local circuit before going on the road with jazz organist Jack McDuff in 1976. Stints with Donny Hathaway, Ramsey Lewis, and Joe Williams followed before Johnson's 1986 solo debut reached the coveted top spot on both the R&R NAC & Contemporary Jazz charts. After a couple of more efforts Johnson moved over to the Heads Up record label - from Missing You, his '94 sophomore Heads Up release, we selected the ever-so-refined Romance Me and one of Johnson's finest!

CD: Missing You (1994)
Label: Heads Up International
Site: Henry Johnson
Justo Almario - Family Time
Jugando - Justo Almario:
Born in Columbia, Justo Almario was just 16 when an exchange program allowed him to tour the US as part of a folk ensemble; in turn this opportunity led to a permanent move when in 1969, he enrolled at Boston's Berklee College of Music. Connecting with Mongo Santamaria while at Berklee, Almario was soon working with the Latin Jazz great as his music director. Launching his solo career back in 1981, Almario went on to record a successful but albeit modest series of releases thru to the new millennium. Perhaps more significant, is the litany of top performers whom Almario has supported - among them: Charlie Mingus, Linda Rondstadt, Dave Grusin, and Tito Puente. Additionally, Almario has appeared as a featured soloist with the American Jazz Philharmonic. In recognition of these and other accomplishments, in 1996, Almario was honoured with Berklee's Distinguished Alumnus Award and is listed as one of that institute's all time top 50 graduates. From the '89 Family Time cd, we have one of his finest!

CD: Family Time (1989)
Label: MCA Records
Site: Justo Almario
Yulara - Future Tribe
Om Namah Shivaya - Yulara:
Although they took their name from a small town in Australia's Northern Territory, the band Yulara hailed from Germany and was comprised of Berlin natives, Robert Matt on keys & programming and Annie Hilsberg on flute & sax. The pair first began collaborating in 1992 and developed what some described as "an organic fusion" containing elements of groove-jazz, world music, and trance-dance - often mixed with a variety of sounds from nature. The duo issued their first project in 1994, with two subsequent albums and a fourth effort that was primarily a best of, before Hilsberg's untimely passing in 2006. From the year 2000 Future Tribe release, and what was their final album of all new material, we've selected the cosmic and transcendental
Om Namah Shivaya, named for the powerful Hindu mantra for meditation!

CD: Future Tribe (2000)
Label: Higher Octave Music
Site: Yulara

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After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Site and Select Affiliates :
This week ... Grady Nichols enters our spotlight. We've gone to Grady's 5 solo releases and selected a track from each as part of our Then & Now feature; that's coming up roughly 20 minutes into the hour. Otherwise, there's a 9-pack of fresh listening and today that line-up includes: saxlady Jessy J, keyboardist Marcos Ariel, as well as Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, & Kim Waters recording as The Sax Pack. Brand new to the show are the band Present Tense and trumpeter Larry Lagerberg, while rounding out the remaining tracks we have the latest from Matt Marshak, Nate Harasim, Bradley Leighton, and David Wells - those are all coming up in another great non-stop action-packed fun-filled hour of musical entertainment!
Then & Now Spotlight Artist: Grady Nichols

Between You and Me
Grady Nichols - Mysterious Intentions
Mysterious Intentions
Grady Nichols - In The Fullness Of Time
In The Fullness Of Time
Grady Nichols - Sophistication
Grady Nichols - Take Me With You
Take Me With You

Grady Nichols: Although hardly a smooth jazz hotbed, saxman Grady Nichols hails from the rural community of Siloam Springs in north-west Arkansas. Residents of the tornado-prone region are always on the lookout for severe weather and so, perhaps ironically, Nichols' exposure to smooth jazz came while watching The Weather Channel in a regular vigil to track storms as they headed that way. Captivated by the instrumentals played during the updates, he even wrote to get their spin list!

Grady Nichols
Courtesy of Grady
Starting on sax in the sixth grade, Nichols performed professionally throughout high school & university and after graduating, moved to nearby Tulsa OK where, he soon became known for his appealing blend of jazz and gospel. He released his debut in 1996, & with the effort, the majority of which was recorded live, he became recognized as one of the bright emerging stars on the Smooth Jazz scene. With his follow-up Mysterious Intention, Nichols gained national radio exposure and in 2000, he was a featured performer and presenter at the inaugural edition of the Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards. In the Fullness of Time, released in 2001, also recorded before a live studio audience, set the stage for what to this point remains as Grady's crowning commercial success in 2003's Sophistication.

In addition to yielding three hit singles and other accolades, the cd enjoyed a strong presence on the smooth jazz charts, and earned for Nichols the #8 Most Played Album of 2004 on our own humble program while gaining recognition for Nichols as the #3 Break-thru Artist for the Year! Meanwhile Grady's career has blossomed having opened for or played with performers from Stanley Turrentine and Paul Taylor to Jeff Lorber, Bob James, and Marion Meadows. With the issue of Take Me With You just this past year, Grady's cd output has now reached five full albums, giving us as much reason as we need for a Grady Nichols Then & Now feature. Naturally, we have a track from each release beginning with Off The Cuff from Grady's '96 debut - additionally, The Last Goodbye, Tuesday Morning, Circle of Friends, and Dove round out the set. Displaying a style that runs from ever so sweet to the wallop of a knock out punch, this entire segment provides a non-stop highlight reel!

Site: Grady Nichols

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