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Brian Hughes: Fast Train to a Quiet Place

It’s been eight years since Brian Hughes entered a recording studio to document his own music. He’s been busy, recording and touring with fellow Canadian Loreena McKennitt, and they’ve made some beautiful sounds together. His return, though, is welcome news for a small subset of contemporary jazz aficionados who build shrines to Pat Metheny’s two … Read More “Brian Hughes: Fast Train to a Quiet Place”

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Spyro Gyra: A Foreign Affair

Spyro Gyra is a quintessential American jazz band that often gets lumped into the pop-jazz category thanks to two monster radio hits from more than 30 years ago: “Shaker Song” and “Morning Dance.” But while those songs helped band members buy houses and gain a worldwide audience, they don’t speak to saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and … Read More “Spyro Gyra: A Foreign Affair”

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Paul Hardcastle: Hardcastle 6

The U.K. synth wizard can’t seem to let go of his two biggest hits, “19” and “Rainforest.” He leads with “Rainforest/What’s Going On,” featuring a sample from “19,” then includes the great Marvin Gaye’s vocals with the “Rainforest” groove. Hardcastle dips into the well later with “Rainforest/What’s Going On (Chill Mix).” Wait, we’re not done. … Read More “Paul Hardcastle: Hardcastle 6”

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Eumir Deodato: The Crossing

As most baby-boomer jazz fans will recall, Brazilian pianist, producer and arranger Eumir Deodato, billed by only his surname, created quite a stir in the early 1970s when his LPs Prelude and Deodato 2 helped define the sultry, sharp vibe of CTI Records. One particular track on Prelude, Deodato’s funky recasting of Strauss’ “Also Sprach … Read More “Eumir Deodato: The Crossing”

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Andy Snitzer: Traveler

Music icon Paul Simon’s new CD has been well received, and audiences on his summer tour are no doubt digging it. But they also may be thinking, “Hey, that sax player’s pretty good. Where can I buy his latest CD?” The answer is everywhere, as Andy Snitzer’s just released his first all-new CD in 12 … Read More “Andy Snitzer: Traveler”

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Dave Grusin: An Evening With Dave Grusin

Veteran composer and pianist Dave Grusin has won 10 Grammys, but he’s also that rare musician who’s earned an Academy Award- a statue for his score to 1988’s Robert Redford-directed The Milagro Beanfield War. An 11-minute medley from that movie is featured on An Evening With Dave Grusin, recorded live in Miami and featuring the … Read More “Dave Grusin: An Evening With Dave Grusin”

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Boney James: Contact

Saxophonist Boney James returns with his first CD of all-new music since 2006’s Shine. James has always leaned toward the R&B side of instrumental music, and he’s cleverly expanded his base by inviting new and seasoned vocalists to his projects. Contact continues that formula. The vocal tracks here are what his fans have come to … Read More “Boney James: Contact”

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Larry Carlton: Plays the Sounds of Philadelphia: A Tribute to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff

Seasoned guitar master Larry Carlton gets to pick his own music now that he’s free from Fourplay and on his own record label. Since he began going it alone, he’s reinterpreted some of his best songs and created duo projects with Robben Ford and Tak Matsumoto-the latter of which recently won a Grammy. Now Carlton … Read More “Larry Carlton: Plays the Sounds of Philadelphia: A Tribute to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff”

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Keiko Matsui: The Road

Keiko Matsui is a master on the piano or the keytar, and she’s demonstrated her technical skills both on record and onstage-especially during her remarkable four-hand piano gigs with Bob James. But throughout her distinguished career, Matsui hasn’t been overly concerned with garnering recognition for her virtuosity. The Tokyo-born artist, although often placed in the … Read More “Keiko Matsui: The Road”

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Steve Cole: Moonlight

And now for something completely different but not at all unexpected. Windy City saxophonist Steve Cole, who released his debut CD in 1998, has been a steady force on the smooth-jazz charts and touring scene for more than a decade. He’s also a member of the Sax Pack, an in-the-pocket trio with fellow saxophonists Jeff … Read More “Steve Cole: Moonlight”

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The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman: Cote D’Azur

The Rippingtons’ Russ Freeman has always led a peripatetic existence, growing up in Nashville and living in L.A., Colorado and Florida, among other locales. His wanderlust is reflected in much of his group’s music (Life in the Tropics, Morocco, etc.). On Cote D’Azur, French, Latin, Gypsy and Euro rhythms mix and mesh to make what … Read More “The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman: Cote D’Azur”

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John JR Robinson: Platinum

His bio proclaims him the most-recorded drummer in history. He’s performed on tons of songs from top artists: Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Lionel Richie, Madonna. He’s John JR Robinson, and if you aren’t familiar with his name, you ain’t the only one. After all, he’s a session drummer; you’re not supposed to know his name. … Read More “John JR Robinson: Platinum”

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Michael Powers: Urban Ukulele

Michael Powers is a well-known contemporary jazz artist in the Pacific Northwest, where he frequently performs at festivals and clubs. But Powers, who has recorded more than 10 CDs of jazz and blues music on his guitar, has a new instrument: the ukulele. He turned to the tiny four-stringed ax after playing in 2006 with … Read More “Michael Powers: Urban Ukulele”

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Brian Simpson: South Beach

Keyboardist and Dave Koz bandleader Brian Simpson is simply at the top of his game. Combine the best and brightest from Joe Sample, David Benoit, Gregg Karukas and Bobby Lyle and you get Simpson: sterling acoustic piano instrumentals, a leader in bright melodies and an overall expert in the pop-jazz genre. LeBron James isn’t the … Read More “Brian Simpson: South Beach”

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Aaron Bing: Secret Place

“Experience the long-winded, smooth and sensual sounds of jazz artist Aaron Bing,” reads his current press bio. That statement veers into unintentional hilarity after you’ve learned a little bit about the saxophonist. A few years ago, Bing scored a gig on Late Show With David Letterman, where he attempted to break the world record for … Read More “Aaron Bing: Secret Place”

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Jackiem Joyner : Jackiem Joyner

Maybe smooth-jazz saxophonists with an R&B feel are slowly, finally, realizing that what’s come before just ain’t doing it. One listen to the first track from Jackiem Joyner’s third CD holds out hope. “The Reunion” has hyper-staccato drum patterns, a thick funk beat and a progressive mentality sorely lacking in the genre. Joyner’s sax playing … Read More “Jackiem Joyner : Jackiem Joyner”

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Tom Schuman: Reflections Over Time

Tom Schuman gets some spoken-word help from a few of his heroes on the Spyro Gyra keyboardist’s fifth solo CD. The late Joe Zawinul extols music’s virtues on “A Quote From Mr. Z,” a fusion bopper with Schuman’s trippy organ runs and Sennie “Skip” Martin’s long trumpet lines. There’s Al Gore, Barack Obama, Martin Luther … Read More “Tom Schuman: Reflections Over Time”

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Eric Krasno: Reminisce

Guitarist Eric Krasno has stepped away from the funk-and-jam trio Soulive for a funk-and-jam solo CD, his first. Soulive members Neal (organ) and Alan Evans (drums) are here in reduced roles, although the latter mixed the project. The new crew, which will tour to support the CD, includes Adam Deitch on drums; Nigel Hall on … Read More “Eric Krasno: Reminisce”

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Gerald Albright: Pushing the Envelope

Gerald Albright doesn’t try to do too much-just kidding. With his aptly named new CD, Albright simply burns on his soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes, while also playing flute, bass, keys, drum programming, synth and the EWI. Like all of his solo work, Pushing the Envelope is a deeply satisfying, diverse collection of jazz, … Read More “Gerald Albright: Pushing the Envelope”

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David Benoit: Earthglow

After an orchestral CD, some more Peanuts music and an unplugged set paying tribute to his heroes, David Benoit reclaims his stature as one of contemporary jazz’s favorite pianists. In spite of a somewhat new-agey designation, Earthglow is a synthesis of Benoit’s favorite musical styles that lays down his easy-on-the-ears groove and recognizable flourishes, while … Read More “David Benoit: Earthglow”

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Mindi Abair: In Hi Fi Stereo

If all you’ve heard from Mindi Abair is what’s played on smooth-jazz radio, you’ve probably got her pegged as a Sanborn-style saxophonist who offers bright and catchy songs. As a singer she’s written and performed several girl-power-type ballads that are no worse than anything you might hear on your preferred soft-rock station. But Abair has … Read More “Mindi Abair: In Hi Fi Stereo”

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Kirk Whalum: The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter III

Religion isn’t just a part of Kirk Whalum’s life, it is his life. That’s what makes the third installment in Whalum’s fusion of gospel and jazz music such a true vision. You feel the power of Whalum’s spirit as you imagine him, eyes closed, playing his sax during a live recording in 2007 at the … Read More “Kirk Whalum: The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter III”

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Maysa: A Woman In Love

Vocalist Maysa has the kind of soulful and husky vocals that allow her to travel seamlessly between genres. She’s amassed an underground-soul rep with the British funk-jazz band Incognito and built a following among smooth-jazz folk by guest-starring on projects by Rick Braun and Jonathan Butler, among others. She’s also recorded original R&B CDs and … Read More “Maysa: A Woman In Love”

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Nestor Torres: Nouveau Latino

Nestor Torres is one versatile flutist, having created smooth-jazz tunes in addition to contemporary jazz with hard-driving Latin rhythms. On Nouveau Latino, the Puerto Rican native now living in Florida returns to his Latin roots with his versions of Latin salsa hits from the ’60 and ’70s, plus a few standards, such as “Cocinando” by … Read More “Nestor Torres: Nouveau Latino”

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