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This Week at Café

March 12th, 2006
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Exceptional listening, that's our mantra and I think we deliver! On this edition, we're spotlighting Wrapped In A Dream, the latest from Spyro Gyra. Now you just can't go wrong with this band, one of the seminal groups in the smooth jazz movement. Then, we resume our musical walk down memory lane with a fabulous Back Trax feature. This time out, we've included tracks from Louie Shelton, Paolo, Stanley Clarke, The Dave Valentin Group, & The Fantasy Band. Expect more and you get it! There's another track from Vince Mai & his new one; something from Chieli Minucci that's become a favourite, as well as selections from Nils, William Woods, Allon Sams, Euge Groove, Souls Ballet, Kim Waters, and Gregg Karukas, although I must reiterate, they're not always the ones that you might expect!
In This Issue:

Wrapped In A Dream - Spyro Gyra

Mandalay Sunset - Louie Shelton
Bandit - Dave Valentin
Cruisin' - Stanley Clarke
Paisa - Paolo
Double Talk - The Fantasy Band

Then & Now - Joe McBride

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Showcase CD
Wrapped In A Dream - Spyro Gyra:
It's now been 30 years since Spyro Gyra first delivered their innovative blend of jazz fusion, pop, and R&B. Founded & fronted by Jay Beckenstein the band has regularly been at the forefront of the contemporary scene due in no small part to the creative chemistry between Beckenstein and keyboardist Tom Schuman, the only other original member. Now after 24 albums this inspired partnership remains in tact while long-time members Julio Fernandez on guitars and Scott Ambush on bass each appear on their 17th and 11th albums respectively. Newcomers Josh Dion and Ludwig Alfonzo on drums together with alumnus Dave Samuels on Marimba, round out the sound of the combo. Although Beckenstein confesses, "… it's not always easy to develop new material." Over the years, there has generally been an effort to veer away from what was done on previous records while simultaneously attempting "to embrace anything that explores new ground."
This philosophy has kept the sound of the band fresh. A case in point is this their latest release. Never allowing their sound to become pigeon holed, this album is packed with creative gems, and so it's with great pleasure that we place Spyro Gyra & Wrapped In A Dream in our music spotlight. We may be setting a bit of a record with this one as the cd arrived at our studios a little over a month ago. So from auditioning the album, to its debut and being featured on Fresh Trax and now as the subject of the show case feature, all in a little over four weeks. We're that impressed! First up is the Jeremy Wall composition, The Lowdown, a very hip piece that's fuelled by a cool groove.
Photo Credit: Album Insert
The track features a rather slick exchange between Jay Beckenstein on sax, Julio Fernandez on guitar, and Nathan Eklund who guests on trumpet. Walkin' Home, written by Tom Schuman opens our second hour while Tuesday, a tune penned by Chuck Loeb, wraps up the presentation and the show! In all three quality never-before-been-played-on-our-show tracks and in that respect a first for the show case feature! Now with over 20 albums to chose from, you know I'm already looking forward to a Spyro Gyra Then & Now extravaganza! Stay tuned!

CD: Wrapped In A Dream
Label: Heads Up
Site: Spyro Gyra

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Back Trax: Part One
Mandalay Sunset - Louie Shelton :
It's hard to imagine listening to music over the past 40 years or more without having heard the inventive guitar lines of Louie Shelton somewhere in that time span. Shelton first made his mark in 1966 when he picked off the intro for the Monkees hit, Last Train to Clarksville. Shelton has appeared on countless albums with Barbara Streisand, Marvin Gaye and many more. Two of his more memorable contributions were to the Jackson 5 's "I Want You Back" as well as the tasty solo on "Lowdown" from Boz Scaggs. In 1996, Shelton delivered a fine solo release and for a period it appeared as though he was on his way to moulding a career as a front man. Urban Culture released in the year 2000 was his third and arguably finest release. We return now to that fine effort for a superb track called Mandalay Sunset which features Mark Douthit on soprano sax!

CD: Urban Culture (2000)
Label: Nuance Records
Site: Louis Shelton
Bandit - Dave Valentin:
At a young age, Valentin showed some talent as a percussionist but at 17, his focus switched to the flute. He first tried playing one in the hope of attracting the attention of a girl who was a flautist. He was soon able to play circles around her but in doing so, he discovered his own gift on the instrument. After purchasing an album by Hubert Laws, Valentin contacted Laws and asked for lessons; after all, there is nothing like learning from one of the best. He studied with Laws for about six months before he became absorbed with some classical training. Since then, Valentin has spent the past thirty plus years playing a versatile mix of styles. He recorded his first album in 1980; he has now authored 20 or more efforts and has appeared on countless other albums as a guest performer. He's played Carnegie Hall and among his many honors is a 1985 Grammy nomination for best R&B instrumentalist while for seven consecutive years he was voted Best Jazz Flutist in Jazziz Magazine. This time out, we have a great track from Valentin's 1999 release!

CD: Sunshower (1999)
Label: Concord Records
Site: Valentin/MySpace

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Back Trax: Part Two
Cruisin' - Stanley Clarke:
The so-called "lord of the low tones" first came to prominence as the bassist in Chick Corea's acclaimed fusion group, Return To Forever, when he was in his early 20s. Shortly thereafter, Clarke launched his solo career which literally took off. Since that time his record production has been prolific, but often overlooked is the volume of music that Clarke has written for movie soundtracks. This time round that was our focus as we checked out the Passenger 57 soundtrack from 1992. From that release, we have Cruisin'. The track features Gerald Albright, Paul Jackson Jr, Bobby Lyle and several other prominent players in support of Clarke on what is one of his finest recorded efforts to date!

CD: Passenger 57 Soundtrack (1992)
Label: Warner bros.
Site: Stanley Clarke
Paisa - Paolo:
Paolo Rustichelli was born into a musical family, his mother was an opera singer, and his father the renowned composer and three time Oscar nominee Carlo Rustichelli. It's no accident then that Paolo started studying classical music at age five. Being the first Italian artist to make use of the new electronic instrument in the 70's, Paolo was soon doing synth session work for all of Italy's pop stars. In the early 90s Paolo spent five hours in the studio with jazz icon Miles Davis and the two cut three tracks, snippets from which wound up in several of Paolo's future projects.

In any event, in 1997, Paolo recorded Mystic Man for which Carlos Santana was the executive producer. The album featured contributions from Davis, Santana himself and several other high profile players among then Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Andy Summers. It yielded an NAC Top 10 track in the USA titled Paisa, yet this selection featured Rustichelli exclusively!

CD: Mystic Man (1996)
Label: Guts and Grace Music
Site: Paolo
Double Talk - The Fantasy Band:
The inspiration for the Fantasy Band came about thru a cancellation for a music cruise in 1988. This rather unfortunate occurrence gave rise to an opportunity that resulted in the birth of an all-star ensemble. The individual members of The Fantasy Band are all familiar names to fans of contemporary jazz. Since the band's inception, the core of the group was comprised of Chuck Loeb, Dave Samuels, Marion Meadows and John Lee. They recorded a trio of projects beginning in 1993 and culminating with The Kiss, their third effort, in 1997. From that release, we have Double Talk, which features the melody and punch of Nelson Rangell on sax!

CD: The Kiss (1997)
Label: Shanachie Entertainment

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After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site :
On Then & Now, we're taking a rather extensive look at the career of Joe McBride, one of the most talented players in the smooth jazz arena. We have selections from each of his seven solo releases as well as a trio of tracks from various other projects that he's been involved in, so that's 10 selections in all from Mr. McBride. Then, apart from that, we're up to our usual tricks of playing new music exclusively. Just check out our line-up…. We have the latest from Steve Oliver, Ramsey Lewis, and Ray Parker Jr. There's something brand new from Sergio Mendes, his first project in about 10 years, and from Philippe Saisse we have his latest single. There's new music from Tom Schuman as we begin to explore his Deep Chill release, and we're introducing Mark Cassara, Bill Keis, and Gerry Wall out of Ottawa. We've packed more music into this segment than is legally allowable; and consequently we've had to stretch After Hours into a 90-minute presentation for this occasion!
Then & Now Feature: Joe McBride

Heads Up

A Gift For Tomorrow
Heads Up

Keys To Your Heart
Heads Up

Double Take
Heads Up

Live at Berks Jazz Fest
Heads Up

Smooth Africa
Heads Up

Texas Rhythm Club
Heads Up

Keepin' It Real
Heads Up

Smooth Africa II
Heads Up

Texas Hold'em
Heads Up

Joe McBride: Although he may be a bit under-rated, Joe McBride is easily one of the most gifted performers in the genre. The Fulton, MI native, was already playing in some of the jazz clubs in nearby St. Louis although he was still in high school. It was right around then that McBride was stricken with a degenerative eye disease, which eventually claimed his sight. His passion was undeterred & he continued his studies at the Missouri School for the Blind and then at Webster University where he majored in jazz performance.

Photo: Publicity Shot

In about 1983, McBride moved to San Diego, and not long afterward, he connected with Steve Laury & Fattburger who were then early in their careers. He might have happily continued in that fertile environment had it not been for a fateful trip to Dallas to visit his brother. What was intended as a two-week stay turned into something just a bit more long term. McBride took part in a few jams and was flooded with performing offers. He ended up moving to Dallas, and while enrolled at the University of North Texas, he developed into one of that city's leading jazz musicians. During this period, McBride connected with a young trumpeter named Dave Love and they quickly became friends. A few years later Love launched the Heads Up record label and McBride was one of the first to be signed to a deal. Joe's debut was issued in 1992. He instantly became a core artist for smooth jazz radio and he's recorded exclusively for Heads Up ever since.

To date McBride has seven well-received releases to his credit. He's contributed to a pair of Smooth Africa compilations and he also performed as a member The Heads Up Super Band on several occasions. That band was comprised of a few label mates, namely Gerald Veasley and Kenny Blake while Keith Carlock rounded out the combo. They were captured Live at The Berks Jazz Label Fest and that proved to a one time offering from the quartet. In any event, we have tracks from each of these release, as we devote about 45 minutes in a mini-tribute to Joe McBride. We've split things into three sets. First up is Central Expressway, Secrets with Larry Carlton guesting, Highland Park, and Midnight in Madrid, which features both Rick Braun & Peter White. One for Albert kicks off the second set and that's followed by 11 K's to Freedom and White Rock. Finally, there's Woke Up This Morning, Adderley Street, & Big Slick from McBride's current release; ten great tracks in all!

Site: McBride/MySpace

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