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

September 6, 2003
Edition #299 Previously Next

Highlights !
I believe that we have another incredible show lined up for you, but would you expect less? For reasons that will become apparent (if you read further along in this newsletter - be sure to check out "Tommy at the Fair" below) we're kicking off this edition with a track from the Australian guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel. I had the great fortune of seeing TE play live not too long ago and in recognition of this extraordinary performance we're playing Hellos & Goodbyes from Tommy's the Very Best of cd.

We also have superb new music from Acoustic Alchemy, Michael Bublé and Brian Hughes as well as vintage SJ from Chuck Mangione. Throw in a handful of Café Jazz treasures from artists such as Joe McBride, Nestor Torres, Glenn McNulty, Philippe Saisse, Danny Jung and Jonathan Cain; add a few current favourites from Noel Webb, Norman Brown and Spyro Gyra, and there you have it, all the right stuff for an exceptional listening experience. So who deserves great music? The answer of course is you!

Showcase CD
Let It Ripp - The Rippingtons :
The concept for The Rippingtons can be traced back to about 1987 or so, when a small record label in Japan contacted Russ Freeman. Following the success of Nocturnal Playground, his debut solo project, there was a fair degree of interest in having the guitarist and synthesizer whiz produce an album. So it came about that Freeman called upon a few friends; David Benoit, Gregg Karukas, Kenny G, Steve Reid, Dave Koz, and Brandon Fields; and asked if they would be interested in playing on the record. Today these artists have for the most part become very familiar names in contemporary instrumental music but at that time, they were all nurturing neophyte solo careers. As such, Freeman appropriately chose to title the undertaking Moonlighting. The cd became one of the most successful projects ever in the SJ format and significantly changed the lives of all of those involved particularly Freeman’s as leader.

Over the years, the sound and style of The Rippingtons has continued to change as new personnel make their way into the line-up every few years or so. What originally started out as a studio project with a revolving group of musicians evolved into one of the most popular ensembles of the late 80s and into the top selling smooth jazz band of the 90s. Yet the one constant is Freeman himself, who writes all the songs and is largely responsible for the production duties. This has resulted in a musical library that is now over a dozen cds deep with Let it Ripp being the latest and the one that finds itself in our musical spotlight on this occasion. As we showcase Let It Ripp, we begin with Lucky Charm and follow that up with Bella Luna and 17 Mile Drive.

CD: Let It Ripp
Label: Peak Records
Site: The Rippingtons

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Fresh Trax: Part One
Seraphim - Lawrence Barris:
Barris is an aspiring young musician out of Detroit and a relative newcomer to the SJ scene. Following the release of his self-titled debut album a couple of years or so ago (which provided the guitarist with some much deserved exposure both nationally in the US and internationally), Barris is back at it. Just out is Love on Me, Lawrence’s sophomore cd. As with his initial offering, this project is packed with creative melodies, the music at times being somewhat reminiscent of the stylings & tone of Earl Klugh. From that effort we’ve selected a pretty & reflective piece.

CD: Love On Me
Label: Pretty World Records

Havana Nights - Jimmy Sommers :
Sommers picked up his first sax at the age of 10 and shortly after made his record debut as a featured soloist with his high school band. By 16 and while still underage, Jimmy would often sneak in to some of Chicago's hottest nightclubs to sit in with blues legends such as Buddy Guy. For a time he moonlighted as a model and actor before his music career took off. Although rooted in the blues – Sommers sound today stretches to include jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, pop and hip-hop. Lovelife is now his third release as a solo performer and continues to take Sommers’ music to a higher level. From that endeavour, we’ve chosen the Latin spiced Havana Nights.

CD: Lovelife
Label: Higher Octave Jazz
Site: Jimmy Sommers

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Fresh Trax: Part Two - "The Williams Set"
Unconditional - Pamela Williams :
Perhaps one of the more underrated performers on the smooth jazz scene and one that I personally prefer to refer to as the first lady of sax. Williams has resided in LA since the late 80s but it was her time growing up in Philadelphia that was primarily responsible for moulding her musical identity. One of her earliest influences was Grover Washington Jr. It was Grover’s cutting-edge blend of jazz and R&B that first instilled within Williams an interest in jazz. In high school, Pamela joined the Jazz Ensemble and as such was required to embrace both contemporary and traditional styles of playing. By the time Williams left Philly, she had toured extensively backing fellow Philadelphian Patti LaBelle, among others. In 1989 she chose to relocate to LA primarily because of the opportunities it afforded in television and film. Williams has always enjoyed performing a wide variety of styles from Latin, to jazz, R&B, hip-hop and house, many of which are well reflected on The Perfect Love her fourth release overall and first on Shanachie Records.

*Café Jazz Pick of the Week*

CD: The Perfect Love
Label: Shanachie
Sites: Pamela Williams
Miles To Go - Billy Paul Williams :
Williams is a producer and remixer who has travelled the globe as leader of the dance/fusion group The Walk. As well, just about a year or so ago, he scored a big worldwide dance hit when teamed with DJ Robbie Rivera. However, we will be hearing a very different side of Billy Paul. Miles To Go is his debut album under his own name and although it is sometimes difficult to categorise, the music on the cd fittingly reflects the many varied influences that have worked to forge his creative style over the years.

CD: Miles To Go
Label: Kriztal Entertainment
Site: BP Williams/Kristal
La Salsa En Mi - Bernie Williams :
Although he is best known as a gifted athlete (Williams plays as an all-star center fielder with the NY Yankees) Bernie’s first love was music. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Williams was, at the age of 13, awarded a scholarship to a attend Escuela Libre de Musica, a high school for promising musicians in San Juan. The curriculum included traditional subjects but the primary focus was music with the second half of each school day devoted entirely to that discipline. As he became more accomplished as a player, his teachers and Bernie himself thought that he might follow a career path as a concert musician. However, at the same time, Williams developed both as a track star and baseball player, to the extent that major league scouts soon took notice. The rest is history as they say, but some of that history remains to be written as now 20 or so years later, Williams has resumed his musical journey by releasing The Journey Within, his debut.

CD: The Journey Within
Label: GRP

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Tommy at the Fair - Tommy Emmanuel Live !
Just about a week ago I had the enormous privilege of seeing Tommy Emmanuel perform live. The event took place at the Minnesota State Fair on August 31, 2003. The cost ...well it was on the free stage, so the price of admission to the fair took care of that. It was approaching 4:30 PM and it was to be Tommy's second show of the day.

Now I had heard Mr. Emmanuel on several records and was aware of his reputation as the Australian guitar legend, so naturally I expected that seeing Tommy perform live would be something special, after all he was regarded as one of the world's best guitarists. In fact I couldn't have begun to imagine the level of artistry that I was about to witness. Superlatives have never come easily to me, but on this one occasion and one occasion only I feel it necessary to use the word "astounding" as that may be the only single word that comes close to encapsulating the entire affair. One man, that being Tommy, plus one acoustic guitar for one hour on a very pleasant afternoon in August in St. Paul Minnesota equalled sheer musical brilliance.

On Café Jazz we focus on Smooth Jazz, and Tommy has recorded some fine efforts in that vein with guests such as Dave Koz, Warren Hill, Larry Carlton and Robben Ford among others. In the course of his career, however, Emmanuel has played a wide variety of styles including some incredibly energetic efforts - a great example would be Big Brother from 1993's The Journey, Tommy's first North American release. Over the past few years Emmanuel has moved more to a finger picking style of playing, due in no small part to the association that Tommy enjoyed with the late Chet Atkins. Atkins, himself acknowledged as a phenomenal talent, held Tommy in the highest regard and in fact conferred upon Tommy the rarest of distinctions; the CGP (Certified Guitar Player) designation.

That's the setting and a bit of background to help put the show in the proper context. A quick sound check a few minutes before he was scheduled to begin was when I caught my first glimpse of the guitar sensation - no more than 25 feet away! A quick but friendly greeting and Tommy was immediately into it! The dynamics of TE's performance were incredible as he moved fluidly between selections, alternating between sensitive ballads and acoustic pieces that were packed with fire, energy, and raw emotion. He immediately established a rapport with the audience. Each and every piece was impeccably performed with the utmost taste and always with the greatest regard to melody, mood and presentation.

Highlights included a percussive piece with Tommy tapping various parts of his guitar with pinpoint precision as he exploited the varying timbres to maximum effect. I sat there dumbfounded, not being able to reconcile what I was hearing to what I was seeing. There were the two songs in one song where Emmanuel played Yankee Doodle on the upper strings and Dixie on the lower strings (or perhaps it was the other way around). Early on he played "Those Who Wait" from Only his all acoustic cd and as well he paid tribute to Atkins, his friend and mentor, on a couple of other tunes. The Australian classic Waltzing Matilda featured Tommy on vocals as well as guitar. But all too soon it was over.

So did I enjoy it? You bet I did! I was thoroughly entertained. I gained an incredible amount of respect for Tommy as a player and as a person (we managed to speak briefly following his performance during an autograph session. He was engaging and had a warm smile and friendly handshake). And yes, I was moved.

In closing, if you love music and have the opportunity to see Tommy Emmanuel perform live, it will undoubtedly be an experience that will long standout as one of the finest musical moments in your life.

For more information on TE be sure to check out the following sites:
Tommy Emmanuel CGP.com : Tommy Emmanuel.com
Tommy's Official Site in the UK: Tommy Emmanuel.co.uk

Indispensable Smooth Jazz Listening:

Each week we give you a short list of cds that are not only recommended but ones that we feel would be most welcome additions to your SJ library. As is our custom, we're playing a track from each of the following and endorse these without hesitation as indispensable SJ listening!

Tommy Emmanuel - The Very Best of Tommy Emmanuel
Glenn McNulty - Raw Silk

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