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

March 19th, 2006
Edition #399 Previously Next

A quick glance at the names on our Fresh Trax feature, might lead you to believe that we goofed. However, it's no mistake. Although these are all artists with lengthy careers that go back to the 80s, the 70s or even earlier, they've all recently issued brand new releases and we have something from each of those on the FT feature. Meanwhile, the focus for this program is Althea René René and In The Moment, her latest release. Apart from that, the remainder of our line-up is in a word incredible, as we've included selections from Norman Brown, Marion Meadows, Richard Elliot, Michael Franks, Thom Rotella, Brian Culbertson, Brian Hughes, and Dave McMurray among others. You won't want to miss it!
In This Issue:

In The Moment - Althea René

Choose Me - Bob James
Dansa - Dan Carlin
Dinner At Nine - Danny Weis
H Gang - Donald Fagen
It Won't Last Forever - Main Gazane

Then & Now - Rick Braun

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Showcase CD
In The Moment - Althea René:
In the Moment is now the third chapter in the recording career of Althea René, a Detroit native and a master of improvisation on her chosen instrument. Having first picked up the flute at the age of four, René trained in classical music while she received the inspiration to pursue a career in music from her father who forged a career as a sideman with a number of Motown artists. She underwent several years of direction from Clement Brown of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and then continued her classical training while attending Howard University in Washington DC. After college, her focus switched to Jazz and R&B and for a time she studied with the legendary Donald Byrd while gaining further inspiration from the works of Hubert Laws. In 1997, Ms René began to tour with Straight Ahead, an all female internationally acclaimed jazz band. Over the years, she developed her own creative style to the point where she is widely regarded as one of the top jazz flautists in the US. Following the 2000 release of her debut, In the Moment is now René's third and most compelling release. This album should turn more than just a few ears. The title of the record suggests that one should try to live life to the fullest. "
Upon experiencing the music, it becomes evident that Althea may well have embraced the phrase in the album title as her motto. She's seldom been more focused or shown more confidence than she does on In The Moment. "In fact, that's what In The Moment is all about to her. 'The present moment is perfect if we put all of our attention and energy on it and not on the past or the future.' Althea continues, 'Both in my life and musically, it feels like everything is coming together to lead me toward my goals. This is my third album and I've never been able to express myself musically better than now. I'm aiming to make the most out of this musical moment and hope that people enjoy it with me.' " The collection consists of sensual grooves and danceable funk all expertly connected by varying elements of R&B, pop, jazz, and reggae. The songs are all neatly meshed so that skill, soul, and artistic versatility are properly accentuated.
Therefore, it's with the utmost pleasure that we place Althea René & In The Moment in our spotlight. There are many standout selections, so we could have featured any of several. Nevertheless, I believe we've done a masterful job with the trio of tracks that we have chosen! To begin there's the affirmative I Can, a tune written by Kendall Duffie of Kloud 9 fame. Opening hour 2 is In The Moment, the title track and the single that's presently being promoted to radio. Finally, there's Midday Grind with a bit grittier edge that features Ms René on all instruments apart from a short flash of keyboard work from Tony Gordon. In all, a nicely varied & highly appealing feature and one which affirms that this is indeed the moment for Ms René!

CD: In The Moment
Label: Chocolate Caramel Music

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Fresh Trax: Part One
Choose Me - Bob James :
With a career that dates back to the 60s, Bob James qualifies as one of the elder statesmen in Smooth Jazz. In fact, it's been said 'James was putting smooth into jazz well over a decade before it became an official radio format.' James received a Masters in music in 1962. He moved to New York and became in-demand as a session player. That was followed by a four-year stint as Sarah Vaughan's musical director. In 1974, James embarked on a solo career with the first of several releases for CTI Records. Included in any list of Bob's most memorable pieces would be Angela, also known as the theme from Taxi, which became one of the most recognizable songs in TV history. In 1991, James set out on a parallel career as member of the Smooth Jazz super group Fourplay. The band's self-titled debut reached Number 1 on Billboard's jazz chart and stayed there for a record 34 weeks. In all, James has been involved as a leader or co-leader in the recording of well over 30 projects.

Urban Flamingo is his most recent & just released effort. For the album, James assembled some of his favourite Motown players; Perry Hughes, Wayne Gerard, Ron Otis, Al Turner, & Dave McMurray among others, the intent being to convey some of their live energy and passion thru a studio recording. There are several tracks that accomplish this and more in so doing, James reassumes his position as a highly respected and prolific innovator in the genre, a role he's enjoyed for the majority of his career. In any event, from that endeavour, we've selected Choose Me, the advance single with Dave McMurray on sax!

CD: Urban Flamingo
Label: Koch Records
Site: Bob James
Dansa - Dan Carlin and Friends:
Dan Carlin is a veteran fusion based guitarist and composer who has performed with several high-energy acts and artists among them Blue Cheer, Robert Conti, and Michael Pinera. Although his career stretches back to the 60s, Tradewinds is his recently released solo debut and as you might expect from the title, Carlin explores a mix of world influences on the album. There's a great line up of guest players featured on the disc that includes Rocco Barbato on Sax, John Ferraro on Drums, Vernon Porter on Bass, and Mark Massey on Keys. Carlin composed the majority of the material, but on the track we've selected, Les B. Fine handles vocals on a piece that he co-wrote. From that release we have quite an excellent up tempo Afro-flavoured tune entitled Dansa that's just continued to grow on me ever since I first heard it!
CD: Tradewinds
Label: Mastermind Sist Productions/Rhombus Records
Site: Carlin/MySpace ; Carlin/Rhombus

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Fresh Trax: Part Two
Dinner At Nine - Danny Weis:
Say Iron Butterfly and the first thing that pops into most people's mind is In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. In actuality, there's much more to the band's story as it went thru several incarnations. Zip back a year or two, to the time before the recording of that ode to the 60s and you've hit the period when Danny Weis was a member. It was 1963, when Weis, a San Diego based guitarist took a hand in founding what became one the mega band in heavy metal. He made one record with Iron Butterfly but left prior to their issue of the nefarious anthem, so at least we can't pin that on him. After Iron Butterfly, Weis played with the group Rhinoceros and then followed that by playing and recording with The Everly Brothers, Burton Cummings, The Rascals, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Melissa Manchester and others.

In 1979, he appeared as Bette Midler's guitarist in the film "The Rose", based on the life of Janis Joplin. As bandleader and guitarist for the movie's soundtrack, he received a platinum album award. Weis now makes his Canada his home. The 40 year plus veteran, has only recently issued his solo debut called Sweet Spot. In this regard, Danny brings all his experiences in rock and more, to the making of the record. Taught guitar by his dad, a well-known country jazz guitarist, Danny would often witness his father jamming with the renowned Barney Kessel who was a frequent visitor to their home. These early influences helped mould Danny's unique style. So that now, in spite of a very able cast of supporting players, it's Danny's show from beginning to end. From that effort we have the excellent blues tinged Dinner at Nine!

CD: Sweet Spot
Label: Marshmellow Records
Site: Weis/Marshmellow
H Gang - Donald Fagen:
After suffering a case of what might be termed severe writer's block for a good portion of the 80s, Donald Fagen, he of Steely Dan fame, appears to be entering what may prove to be the most prolific part of his career. The new millennium has already given rise to two new Dan projects and with the release of Morph the Cat, the album represents Fagen's third full creative outlet in the past six years. Fagen had previously issued a pair of solo projects in 1981 and 1993 but with Morph the Cat, the album appears as the most recent in a very powerful and at times deeply personal trilogy. To quote Fagen, "The Nightfly is sort of looking from the standpoint of youth, "Fagen explains. "Kamakiriad would be more about midlife. This new one is about endings really."

The material for the album was written over a period of several years, although the project really crystallized in the past couple. When Fagen's mother passed away in 2003, it was a huge shock and perforce Fagen began to ponder life and death issues in a new way and to reflect on his own mortality. So for in spite of the fuzzy sounding title, the album "is really talking a lot about death." Nevertheless, Fagen's lyricism has seldom been more inspired while his musical integrity remains intact. Quoting Fagen once again, "I operate under Seventies rules no matter what time it is. It's a contract I have with my mind. I just keep forging on no matter what and reality doesn't have much to do with it." In fact, apart from the sheer brilliance of his writing, it's this single aspect of Fagen and his music that I personally find most comforting. From Morph the Cat, we have H Gang, the first single to radio and one of the finest pieces Fagen has recorded in what is already a fabled career!

CD: Morph the Cat
Label: Reprise / WEA
Site: Donald Fagen ; Steely Dan
It Won't Last Forever - Main Gazane:
The band known as Main Gazane is comprised of Mark Minchello on keyboards and Bob Magnuson on sax. The two first signed a record deal in 1985 and were set for to release their debut when the only Contemporary Jazz station in New York changed formats. The label folded and Main Gazane eventually dissolved. Although, Bob and Mark continued to play together throughout the years, for the most part they went their separate ways. Minchello started touring with Luther Vandross and went on to serve as Regina Belle's musical director. Recently he's performed in the dual capacity of Keyboardist & musical director for Jazz Explosion with Boney James, Will Downing, & Gerald Albright. Meanwhile Magnuson became a staple on the New York studio scene.

He's done countless radio and TV commercials and been featured on albums by Patti Austin, Whitney Houston, B.B. King, & others. Not too long ago, they discovered themselves living within miles of one another. Consequently, it was only a matter of time before their mutual musical affinity would culminate in a full collaborative effort and that has just been released. It's called Hip Space and from it this totally hip duo provides the very progressive vibe of It Won't Last Forever!

CD: Hip Space
Label: Apria Records
Site: Main Gazane

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After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site :
In spite of a rather slow week for new music, we've still managed to generate a bit of excitement by exploring recent favourites from RC & The Groovediggers, TFOXX, and Grant Geissman. There's also something brand new from Incognito that will be coming towards the end of the segment. But to get us thru to that point in the show, is an extended Then & Now feature as we spotlight the music of Rick Braun. We have selections from eight of Rick's solo releases as well as from a couple of high profile collaborations first with Boney James & then as a member of BWB. In all, one of our finest Then & Now features bar none. In the meantime though we did manage to discover a track by Patrick Yandall from The Eyes of Mars that had somehow to this point escaped our attention but that situation is resolved by its choice as the opening track!
Then & Now Spotlight Artist: Rick Braun

Intimate Secrets

Night Walk

Beat Street

Body and Soul

Full Stride

Shake it Up
Warner Bros

Kisses in the Rain
Warner Bros

Warner Bros

Warner Bros.

Yours Truly

Rick Braun: Over the past dozen years, Rick Braun has become firmly entrenched as one of the most popular players in Smooth Jazz. It all began in 1977 when Braun's band Auracle was offered a record deal and he made the trek across the US to LA to find his musical destiny.

All Star Smooth Jazz Cruise Photo: Randall & Elizabeth Ware
After a pair of projects with Auracle, Braun toured with the group War in the mid-80s and then experienced his first big success in music, when he wrote the pop hit Here With Me for REO Speedwagon. He then enjoyed an eighteen month stint with Rod Stewart's band before finally launching his solo career in the early 90s. Shortly thereafter, he got a gig as the trumpeter for Sade on her "Love Deluxe" tour. Soon after, Braun found his niche in contemporary jazz with a string of chart topping successes not to mention the numerous accolades that were heaped upon him by yours truly. Nevertheless, as we spotlight Rick Braun's music from that twelve or so year period, we've included tracks from eight of his solo projects as well as a couple of high profile collaborations with Boney James & as a member of BWB, all conveniently presented in three sets.

First up from Rick's 1992 solo debut we have The Midnight Caller Theme. Things Change and Marty's Party round out the opening set.

The second batch includes Missing in Venice, Magic Moment and Central Avenue; the latter tune is from Shake it Up, an album that represent one the finest project that Braun has involved with to this point in his career and that of course was issued with Boney James. Next are a pair of Rick's biggest hits, Kisses in the Rain and Groovin', which he recorded as a member of the 'super group' BWB with Kirk Whalum, & Norman Brown. That's followed by the lesser known Turquoise from Esperanto. Finally, Love's Theme brings us full circle, it being one of the tunes that Braun heard repeatedly during that fateful trip across The States back in the 70s. Ten fabulous track and about 45 minutes exclusively devoted to the music of Rick Braun all make this a simply outstanding Then & Now feature as we cruise memory lane with Mr. Braun!

Site: Rick Braun

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