Harvey Mason – Chameleon

Harvey-Mason–Chameleon

Chameleon, the scintillating Concord Records debut from multi-GRAMMY® nominated Harvey Mason, finds him drawing upon the rich jazz-funk legacy of the 1970s and recasting seven of that era’s most enduring classics with an early 21st-century sheen. A legendary session drummer, producer, composer and recording artist, Mason is among the most recorded and in-demand musicians of all-time.

Co-produced by Chris Dunn, Sr. Director of A&R for Concord Music Group, Chameleon features some of the brightest young jazz talents on the scene today. NEXT Collective alumni such as trumpeter Christian Scott, bassist Ben Williams, pianist/keyboardist Kris Bowers, guitarist Matthew Stevens enliven Chameleon. Bringing more young firepower to the fore are trombonist/vocalist Corey “CK” King, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, vocalist Chris Turner, and keyboardist/electronica producer, Mark de Clive-Lowe.

Helping Mason steer this cooperative are some of his contemporaries – bassist and co-founder of the legendary Yellowjackets, Jimmy Haslip; percussionist and founder of Los Hombres El Caliente, Bill Summers; and bassist Paul Jackson. Summers and Jackson worked with Mason on Herbie Hancock’s 1973 landmark LP, Head Hunters.

The lead composition, “Chameleon,” from Head Hunters serves, in part, as the signifying reference for Mason’s disc. Not only did Mason provide the rhythmic spank for the jazz-funk staple, he co-wrote it with Hancock along with several other bandmates – Jackson and reedist Bennie Maupin.

The other part of the equalization for the disc’s title comes from “chameleon” being a nickname, given to Mason, because of his incredible versatility. As a first-rate session musician and live performer, his brilliance resides not only in jazz. He’s demonstrated musicianship in R&B, pop, country, Latin and European classical music; Mason also has played on an astounding number of recordings, movie and TV scores and commercial jingles.

After two decades of playing with the GRAMMY®-nominated ensemble Fourplay – with which he’s still a member – Mason decided to reignite his solo career by forming a band based on the first edition of Hancock’s Head Hunters ensemble. Mason took the combo to Japan and received rave reviews. That reception, along with serious encouragement from his manager, inspired him to record Chameleon. “I came back [from Japan] and my manager spoke with Chris Dunn, who was real excited about it. He championed the idea with Concord,” Mason recalls.

During the sessions, Mason was surprised about how strongly ’70s jazz-funk resonated with today’s more cutting-edge jazz artists. “It’s funny because a lot of those records, I may have listened to them maybe one time since I recorded them,” Mason explains. “As a musician, you’re always trying to evolve. When I listen to my drumming back then, it sounds dated. Now my sound is more opened. Back then, I had only one head on the toms, so they didn’t ring as much. They had a darker sound. I’ve modernized my drumming to accommodate the music that’s happening now. So when I listen to the old stuff, I just say, ‘Wow! That’s really something. That’s what they want to hear now.’”

After witnessing Dunn’s passion for the project, Mason took his lead in terms of repertoire and sound quality. “I said to myself that there might be something to this that I might not be seeing. So I trusted his instincts,” Mason says. “As we put it together, I saw where he was coming from.”

A tour-de-force destined become a new hallmark in Mason’s illustrious career, Chameleon begins with a smoldering rendition of Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Black Frost,” arranged by King. It features Kamasi Washington blasting a searing tenor sax solo across an evocative sonic terrain crafted by Bowers and Corey King keyboard and synth chords as Steven’s bluesy guitar accompaniment helps the rhythm section give it more funky momentum.

Like most of the songs on the disc, Mason participated in the recording sessions of the original version of “Black Forest.” That 1974 date was of his first opportunity working with CTI Records and Creed Taylor. He recalls that except for Bob James (who co-wrote and arranged the song), many of the other musicians initially gave him the cold shoulder. “I remember no one would speak to me except for Bob because I was this hotshot making all these hits in L.A.,” Mason says, “Bob was very welcoming to me. We instantly became friends. When we started playing, everything sort of opened up and things were cool after that. Those guys became some of my greatest friends.”

The disc continues with an imaginative take on Bobby Hutcherson’s “Montara,” which has become a hip-hop gem thanks to people like the Roots and Madlib sampling it. On Chameleon, Mason handles the vibraphone part but allows Stevens, who arranged the makeover, to emerge as the lead voice on the melody, before passing the baton to de Clive-Lowe on Fender Rhodes.

Mason wasn’t on the original version of “If I Ever Lose This Heaven,” a soul-jazz ballad classic on Quincy Jones’ 1974 LP, Body Heat. But Dunn insisted on including it on the disc; he suggested Turner, who croons a simmering rendition of the lyrics, originally sang by Minnie Riperton and the song’s co-writer, Leon Ware. Arranged by King with vocals produced by Mason’s son, the new version retains the sensual vibe of the original, yet it shimmers with a modern, after-hours appeal.

Chameleon then breaks into one of its three sensational interludes. The first one, “Going Back” provides an ideal vehicle for showcasing de Clive-Lowe’s arranging and instrumental prowess on the keyboard as he tickles a hypnotic groove alongside Mason and Jackson.

The disc then slides into Bowers’ stunning arrangement of Rushen’s jazz-funk gem, “Before the Dawn,” which is graced by impressionistic horn chords from Scott, Washington and King.

Donald Byrd’s classic “Places and Spaces” arrives next, first with a haunting prelude, before it launches into a swaggering groove, enlivened by Scott’s electrifying trumpet solo. King, who arranged the strutting down-tempo makeover, also lends his suave vocals on lead.

Afterward, Mason’s wistful ballad, “Either Way” arrives. Originally appearing on Dave Grusin’s 1979 LP, Mountain Dance, the song became famous in hip-hop circles after being sampled on Biggie Small’s 1994 rap tune, “Everyday Struggle.” Bowers deftly taps into that hip-hop/jazz connection with a melancholy arrangement.

The title track comes as a grand finale with an imaginative arrangement from reedist (and Concord labelmate) Ben Wendel of Kneebody. For the new arrangement, Mason invited Summers to reprise his famous hinedewho intro to “Watermelon Man” from Hancock’s Head Hunters LP as a suspenseful teaser. It works like a charm as “Chameleon” moves into its trademarked stuttering melody and humpback groove.

The disc is a true testament to the enduring vitality of ’70s jazz-funk, and to Mason’s incredible musical flexibility. He’s a musician intent on constantly pressing forward. So Chameleon is hardly caught up in shallow nostalgia; it’s undeniably contemporary. “The music sounds different than it did back then,” Mason says. “But you get the same feeling and vibe. “

Source: Concord Records

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Sam Rucker – Tell You Something

Sam-Rucker–Tell-You-Something

Hip-hop producer turned contemporary jazz saxophonist Sam Rucker has something to say. Blending jazz, hip-hop, soul and gospel, he communicates through inspirational instrumentals that meaningfully resonate with listeners. Nearly three years in the making, his sophomore album, “Tell You Something,” is slated for release from Favor Productions on June 3 and includes contributions from Norman Connors, Bobby Lyle, Tom Browne and Alyson Williams on the set mixed and mastered by Euge Groove.

Rucker produced “Tell You Something” featuring eight originals that he wrote or co-penned. The tracks harness the rhythms and intensity of hip-hop, melodic phrasing typical of R&B, rousing gospel affirmations and improvisational jazz nuances. A fan of vintage R&B, Rucker was honored to share production chores with Connors on instrumental renditions of three classics: “Before I Let Go,” “Footsteps in the Dark” and Connors’ signature hit, “You Are My Starship.” Lyle’s keyboard wizardry is on full display on each cover tune with gregarious solos while Browne’s regal trumpet adds a touch of class along with a fervent solo to “Starship.” Williams’ glorifies “Before I Let Go” and “Footsteps” with her lustrous voice. But it’s one of Rucker’s own empowering compositions, “Be True 2 Who U R,” that will be the first to receive airplay from the radio-friendly disc when it is serviced to stations in May. Rucker, who plays keyboards as well as tenor, alto and soprano sax on the record, elects to use his soprano horn over the chunky hip hop beats on the single.

“My desire as an artist is not only to entertain, but to be a communicator – to connect with the listener in such a way that they are encouraged and inspired by my music. Even as an instrumentalist, I believe my music speaks lyrically and I use it to convey uplifting messages. I wrote ‘Be True 2 Who U R,’ ‘No Other Way’ and ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Like It’ to inspire confidence in one’s individuality. My music has a unique fingerprint and the songs on the album celebrate what the Creator put in me to share with the world. ‘Tell You Something’ and ‘A Million Ways’ convey my gratitude for the gifts He’s given me. ‘Brighter Day,’ ‘Love’s Melody’ and ‘A Long Way to Go’ were written to offer compassion for the sacrifices and struggles that we face in life and touch that place in our soul where adversity rests. ‘Brighter Day’ advocates that a brighter day will come if you keep the faith. The covers I selected pay tribute to some of the great R&B artists that shaped my listening while growing up. One of whom, Norman Connors, I had the pleasure of working with on this album,” said Rucker, a Virginia Beach, Virginia native who studied music while attending nearby James Madison University.

Shortly after releasing his 2011 debut album, “Heat from the Heavens,” that introduced his formula of “hip-hop grooves + jazz melodies + a splash of inspirational lyrics,” Rucker met Connors and planning commenced straightaway for “Tell You Something.” The saxman toured as a member of Connors’ Starship Orchestra through 2012. Over the years, Rucker has performed with Peter White, Ronnie Laws, Phil Perry, Cindy Bradley, Ivan Neville, Howard Hewett and Gerald Veasley as well as Groove, Browne and Williams. His work as producer spans hip-hop, gospel and spoken word. Rucker gigs throughout Virginia and looks to expand his routing nationally with the successful release of “Tell You Something.” For more information, please visit www.SamRucker.com and http://www.reverbnation.com/rpk/samrucker.

The cuts contained on “Tell You Something” are:

 

“Tell You Something”

“Before I Let Go”

“A Million Ways”

“You Are My Starship”

“Be True 2 Who U R”

“Ain’t Nothin’ Like It”

“Footsteps in the Dark”

“Brighter Day”

“No Other Way”

“Love’s Melody”

“A Long Way to Go”

“Tell You Something” (album version)

 Source: Great Scott Productions

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Chris Geith – Chasing Rainbows

Chris-Geith–Chasing-Rainbows

Keyboardist Chris Geith is known for his sales success on the internet platform Mp3.com. His recent albums Timeless World (2007) and Island Of A Thousand Dreams (2010) were also chart toppers. His collaboration with David Wells No Side Effects (2013) was often played on radio stations around the USA.

His newest album Chasing Rainbows (2014) is currently available as download only, but Chris has promised to manufacture some CDs for his next show. The first track Andromeda shines with elegant piano performance. Atmospheric force receives the piece through sustainable reverb effects. Comparable is this with Brian Culbertson’s newest effort Another Long Night Out.

However, Chris’ music tends more to the New Age field. Green Shadow wide spreads romantic advances. Absolute Magnitude takes the style sheet of the first piece again. Chasing Rainbows has nothing to do with Ray Wilson’s album. It is knit more for the Weather Channel, where Chris found already considerable appeal.

Celestial Equator reminds me of the music of Jean Michel Jarre, while Chris is based more on the strength of the piano in opposite to the synthesizer. On YouTube there are numerous videos of his new songs like for example Freedom At Sunrise. The reaction is throughout positive.

The journey continues with Roundtrip To The Stars. Chris puts great emphasis on harmonies. As well as the development of the melody and the arrangement is not neglected like on Evening Starlight. Can we expect surprises? Heat Index simmers with elements of rock. Otherwise, Chris remains true to himself. Early On Cruise includes a delightful guitar component.

His fans come with Chasing Rainbows to their usual feelings of happiness. More perhaps next time.

Album Information

Title: Chasing Rainbows
Artist: Chris Geith
Year: 2014
Length: 0:49:03
Genre: General Jazz
Label: CDBaby

Tracks:
01 Andromeda [4:05]
02 Green Shadow [4:40]
03 Absolute Magnitude [3:36]
04 Chasing Rainbows [3:16]
05 Celestial Equator [3:20]
06 Freedom At Sunrise [4:13]
07 Roundtrip To The Stars [4:02]
08 Evening Starlight [4:31]
09 Oxygen From Mars [3:17]
10 After The Rain [3:23]
11 Heat Index [3:40]
12 Chain Reaction [3:23]
13 Early Am Cruise [3:37]

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Dave Sharp’s Secret 7 – Worlds

Dave-Sharps-Secret7–Worlds

There is world music, and there is jazz. When the two collide, you get Worlds (Vortex jazz Recordings, 2013) by Dave Sharp’s Secret 7.

Recognized in the JazzTimes 2010 Critic’s Poll, Dave Sharp’s Secret 7 blends rhythms, sounds, textures and musicians from around the world. Sharp mostly plays electric and fretless bass. On selected tracks, he plays acoustic guitar, Hammond B3 organ, acoustic guitar, upright bass or ride cymbal. A variable lineup assists him on the different tracks. No two songs have the same lineup.

“Sherehe,” which is Swahili for celebration, opens the set. It’s a happy, playful tune which features Andre Frappier on lead guitar, Walter White on trumpet and Chris Kaercher on saxophones. The saxes and percussion carry the mood most of the way, with Kaercher contributing a baritone sax solo.

“Nu Africa the D Mix,” one of four arrangements of the song, is a collaboration with co-writer and vocalist Cheikh Lo. It’s a funky piece with Gayelynn McKinney on drums and the full horn repertoire of Kaercher and White. The latter delivers a sassy, brassy trumpet solo. Also contributing is Chris Codish on Hammond B3. The piece is described as a mix of New Orleans, Detroit and African sounds composed from a November 2011 impromptu jam session with Lo and Sharp in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Among the others collaborating with Sharp, contributing co-writing credits, are an international cast of characters. In addition to Lo, who is from Senegal, are Parthiv Gohil of India; McKinney, White, Codish, Gary Schunk and Evan Perri of Detroit; Jonita Gandhi of Toronto; Elden Kelly of Lansing; Mehdi Darvishi of Iran; Frappier of Los Angeles; and Indrajit Chowdhury of New York.

Sharp was born in Detroit, where he was exposed to and inspired by the city’s rich musical heritage. He earned a degree from the University of Michigan. During a stint in the San Francisco area, he was bassist and composer for the modern jazz ensemble the Spheres of Influence and the Killer Joe Trio.

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Citrus Sun – People of Tomorrow

Citrus-Sun–People-of-Tomorrow

Incognito founder Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick presents his alter ego – eight-piece band Citrus Sun featuring acclaimed UK guitarist Jim Mullen. Says Bluey: “Citrus Sun is a project born of my love for Jim’s playing and the desire to be part of a band with him. We are now good friends and I have collaborated with him on several projects, including Terry Callier and Mario Biondi, but as a teenager in the Seventies I was just a fan. He is an amazing musician.”

Mullen’s credits in a 40-year career include Brian Auger, Average White Band, Kokomo, Jimmy Witherspoon and the pioneering British jazz funk band Morrissey-Mullen. The obvious difference from Incognito is that Citrus Sun is largely instrumental, with vocals from Valerie Etienne (of Galliano and Jamiroquai) on “What’s Going On” and Terry Callier’s “What Color Is Love”.

There was an earlier Citrus Sun album released back in 2000, which also featured Jim Mullen in the line-up, and the new album “People of Tomorrow” is a renewal of that relationship. “In terms of sound it is also more sparse as it features the sole trumpet reminiscent of the late Donald Byrd, and there is a cool Latin jazz flavour on some of the cuts”, says Bluey. “The distinctive sound of Jim Mullen’s thumbing guitar brings a tonal quality that is very different to Incognito, but at times it is obvious that this is the Incognito rhythm section and for that we make no excuses, instead celebrating the fact that this is a new project by the same band with me at the helm”.

Bluey worked as a producer on several tracks with the late Terry Callier and he regards “What Colour Is Love” as a Callier classic that was an obvious choice for the band to cover. He also worked on “What’s Going On” as part of the Red Bull Music Academy/RAI Radio jam session with Thundercat, Nate Smith and Jason Lindner, over the original recording of Marvin Gaye’s voice, and this experience inspired the Citrus Sun version.

Some tracks are more connected with the Incognito sound. “You’re So Far Away” and “Cooking With Walter” (a title inspired by the TV series Breaking Bad) began their lives as jams with the Incognito rhythm section and title track “People of Tomorrow” was co-written by Bluey and Incognito bass player Francis Hylton. “Tonight We Dance” and “Mais Uma Vez (One More Time)” are stunning Latin jazz tunes that were a result of Bluey listening to Herbie Mann’s “inspirational” album “Latin Mann (Afro To Bossa To Blues)”.

“People of Tomorrow” is a fine addition to the Bluey discography, and shows him continuing to branch out following the 2013 release of his debut solo album “Leap of Faith”. Citrus Sun will be playing live dates during 2014, beginning with an album launch concert at London’s Under The Bridge on April 17 As he says: “The Citrus Sun is rising – come catch the sunshine!”

The full line-up of Citrus Sun is Bluey (guitar and vocals), Jim Mullen (guitar), Valerie Etienne (vocals), together with Incognito members Matt Cooper (keyboards), Francis Hylton (bass), Francesco Mendolia (drums), Joao Caetano (percussion) and Dominic Glover (trumpet).

Source: Dôme Records

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Blue Claw Jazz – Smooth Jazz Playlist 2

Blue-Claw-Jazz–Smooth-Jazz-Playlist2

Thomas James Ackley aka Tomazz started his musical activity as recording engineer in the Philadelphia area. Boyz to Men and Grover Washington, Jr. counted to his clients. After his move to New York he worked at the famous Hit Factory Studios for artists including Celine Dion and Will Smith.

Since 2007 he releases solo projects like Orient Bay (2007), Chronicles (2008), Lucid Dream (2010) and Thinking About You (2010). His  album is Winter Chill (2012), currently only available as download. Under the project name Blue Claw Jazz he now offers a great collection of smooth jazz songs. Smooth Jazz Playlist 2 is just arrived at CDBaby.

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