December 10th, 2006
Edition #426 Previously Next
So Many Ways - Oli Silk:
Over the past 7 years or so, keyboardist Oli Silk has been laying the groundwork for an auspicious debut. Hailing from the west end of London, Silk began playing keys at age 11 but by 13, he already showed a keen interest in music production. Thru his teens, he played in a variety of shows while his first smooth jazz excursion was as one-half of a creative duo in which he shared star billing with bassist and college friend Danny Sugar. The two connected in the late nineties and released their debut in 2000 to critical acclaim. A second project, a rather polished affair titled Duality, followed a few years later and delivered exactly the type of sound that you would expect from a combo calling themselves Sugar & Silk. It was right around this time that Silk first came to our attention here on this side of the water as the sweet and smooth stylings of A.T.S. (Another True Story) from that album proved to be a Café Jazz favourite for the year!
|Silk's name next surfaced in 2004, this time on the debut from sax man James Vargas. Vargas had been the featured saxplayer on Duality and so now Silk returned the favour; he produced the album, shared in the writing credits, and appeared on all the tracks. The record caught the attention of Trippin' N Rhythm Records CEO Les Cutmore, who released the project in the US; this then led to an appearance by Vargas and Silk at the Catalina Island Jazz festival. But, as we turn the page in the Oli Silk story, this all now nicely set the stage for Silk's own solo debut, one upon which he serves up a lush and simmering brew that is nothing less than quintessential smooth jazz!
Photo: album insert
as we thrust Mr. Silk and So Many Ways into our showcase spotlight, we've
selected our usual complement of three tasty pieces; I wouldn't be at
all surprised if you're going to love 'em all! We begin with the hook-laden
melody of Eve's Song, the album opener. The aptly named Easy Does It,
launches hour 2, whereas the light funk rhythms of San Carlos approach
take us home! So there you have it; not only one of the finer debuts for
2006 but a smooth as Silk album that's hands downs one of the best projects
for the year!
CD: So Many Ways
Label: trippin 'N' Rhythm Records
Site: Oli Silk
|Fresh Trax: Part One
People - George Benson & Al Jarreau:
Recorded between April and June of 2006, this much-anticipated release from superstars George Benson and Al Jarreau is being trumpeted as one of the top collaboration for the year. There's already been one spin-off #1 hit with the new instrumental arrangement of Mornin' but also included are a few savoury covers, including a great take on the John Legend 2004 Grammy-winning track Ordinary People. Joining Benson & Jarreau is an all-star cast headed by saxman Marion Meadows. The result, for us at least, creates an exquisite moment in time!
CD: Givin' It Up
Label: Concord Records
Site: Benson ; Jarreau
The Way She Moves - Michael Manson:
After graduating from Chicago State with a Bachelor's degree, Manson earned a Masters in Music Performance from Northwestern. Meeting up with Steve Cole in 1995, led to several performance gigs and a record appearance with Brian Culbertson while connecting with Kirk Whalum a couple of years later resulted in Manson's contributing to Whalum's The Gospel According To Jazz. This in turn led to an association with George Duke, who as musical director of the Montreux Jazz tour for the summer of 2000, invited Manson onboard; Manson shared the stage with his greatest childhood hero, Al Jarreau, along with David Sanborn, Roberta Flack and Joe Sample. Thru Whalum, Manson met Larry Carlton with whom he toured following the Fingerprints album. In 2002, Manson's focus shifted from sideman to front man with the first single from his solo debut making the top 10 on the R&R Smooth Jazz chart. Just Feelin' It is his just released sophomore effort and from that album we have It's the Way She Moves.!
CD: Just Feelin' It
Label: 215 Records
Site: Michael Manson
|Fresh Trax: Part Two
Can't Help It - Dave Dunlop:
London Ontario native, Dave Dunlop moved to Toronto in 1975 to study at Humber College and since, has gone on to enjoy a lengthy career with myriad club and studio work. Well versed in a diversity of styles from Cuban and Gospel to Big Bands, Dunlop has played with Shania Twain, Michael Bublé and Paul Anka as well as Peter Appleyard and Manteca. Among others, he's backed Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, and Lou Rawls in addition to jazz greats such as Mel Torme, Al Jarreau, and Manhattan Transfer. Other gigs have included Canadian jazzers such as Guido Basso, Moe Koffman and Maynard Ferguson as well as sessions with Holly Cole, Brian Hughes, and Eddie Bullen. The Hang, recorded at five Toronto studios and co-written in collaboration with keyboardist Jim McGrath, has been described as "brilliant" and "an excellent example of high quality modern-day fusion". Now from his debut, we have Dave Dunlop and one of his finest tracks!
CD: The Hang
Label: Doubledee Records
Meant To Last - Brookville:
New Yorker Andy Chase is best known as one-third of the pop group Ivy that came together in 1994. Together with Adam Schlesinger and Dominique Durand, the trio have issued five releases thru until 2005. Meanwhile, Chase had also begun work on an alternate concept as far back as the end of the last decade. Using this new band as a vehicle enabled Chase to experiment with and to explore a more atmospheric, and "Euro-romantic" sounding style while balancing his talent for song writing with his love for sonic textures. Life in the Shade is the second project to be released under the Brookville banner. From that effort, we have the sublime advance single, Nothing's Meant To Last, with Sabina Sciubba on vocals!
CD: Life in the Shade
Label: Unfiltered Records
You Are - Daryl Stuermer:
The title of this latest release, Rewired - the Electric Collection, says it all. Fans of high-energy fusion will no doubt be ecstatic about Stuermer's shift in musical direction. Stuermer formerly played with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty for three years in the mid 70s and with Genesis from 1978 until 1992. Since 1982 he's been an essential part of The Phil Collins Band. Meanwhile, Stuermer has issued several solo efforts, more so in the past few years, which have run a wide gamut of styles. However, for this latest effort, Stuermer has gathered an aggressive, edgy, and guitar centric collection. Be advised, even though we've chosen a track that very nicely balances several contrasting elements and on the whole comes off as one of the milder tracks, this assembly is not for the faint of heart!
CD: Rewired - The Electric Collection
Label: Urban Island/Unicorn
Site: Daryl Stuermer
|After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Web Site :
|Hey, welcome to Café Jazz After Hours! On this edition: we're featuring selections past & present from Urban Jazz Coalition. We've taken a piece from each of their five releases, and that will be presented in a single set Then & Now feature about 20 minutes in. Otherwise, we have never-been-played-on-our-show tracks, from Marion Meadows, Jim Brickman and The Rippingtons, as well as the full six-minute version of a tune from Briza that debuted on Fresh Trax a few weeks back. A bit later on, we'll hear Wayne Jones, Vince Madison, Perry Joslin, and J. Thompson. Finally as an added bonus, there's the advance from the forthcoming Randy Crawford - Joe Sample release!
Then & Now Spotlight Feature: Urban Jazz Coalition
Urban Jazz Coalition: Based in Columbus, Ohio, Urban Jazz Coalition were formed back in 1995 and since that time, their personnel has stayed virtually unchanged, a fact that for a rather large band speaks very highly for its members! Bassist and bandleader, Phil Raney is the founding member. Raney studied a variety of instruments in his teens and was self-taught on guitar along with childhood friend and UJC guitarist, Joe Gothard. In 1986, Raney moved to LA where he held down a variety of gigs during an 8-year stint, returning to Columbus in 1994. Shortly after Raney reconnected with drummer Jim Bridges and percussionist, Hector Maldonado with whom he had played as part of the fusion group Orion in the early 80s.
Now you know we love to do things right here at The Café! Therefore, our five-track-feature on UJC, includes and begins with that hard-to-find 1998 debut. From that release, we're going with the band's excellent cover of the Erykah Badu track Tyrone. Following are San Juan Nights, After Dusk, and Luquillo Beach. Each was a Café Jazz favourite for its day and collectively these selections are of a calibre that puts them among the finest in contemporary instrumental music! Finally, the title track from Down To Get Up, the most recent release from UJC, neatly wraps up the feature and the set on Urban Jazz Coalition, a band undoubtedly deserving much broader recognition!
Site: Urban Jazz Coalition