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This Week at Café

February 13th, 2011
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This Week at
... taking center stage for this edition is the band Mezzoforte. Volcanic is the new one and we're featuring a nice sampling of tracks, all as part of the showcase segment. Hour 2 brings a time-travelling adventure with the newly renamed Vintage Collection (formerly Back Trax). This installment features the late Bob Berg as well as a project by Open Door. Also appearing are Colour Club and Hiroko Kokubu; while teaming up are Don Grusin & Bill Sharpe to round out the set. Then following Vintage Collection are Nicholas Cole and Brad Rambur plus there's something by The Rippingtons; while filling out the remainder of the show are Patrick Yandall, Norman Brown, and Alan Hewitt. A great beginning makes for a great program and starting this one is a super tune from Marc Antoine - from the new one called My Classical Way we have Marc with a nice read on a Claude Debussy composition written over a century ago!
In This Issue:

Volcanic - Mezzoforte

Freedom Words - Colour Club
Travellin' Man - Bob Berg
Battery Park - Open Door
Lettin' Go - Hiroko Kokubu
The Bomba Shack - Grusin & Sharpe

AFTER HOURS : After All This Time
PLAYLIST: Playlist for Ed#602

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Showcase CD
Volcanic - Mezzoforte:

Hailing from the island nation of Iceland, the band Mezzoforte released their self-titled debut in 1979. A few years later, in 1983, they became the first Icelandic group to score an international hit with the track Garden Party. In the years since, they've continued to record and to tour regularly. Now over 30 years later, the group has issued over a dozen albums and has performed in over 40 countries around the world - and, on occasion, the original members sometimes all appear as part of a 6 to 10 piece unit. Even so, it would appear the best is yet to come!

As fate would have it, Iceland experienced a mammoth volcanic eruption in 2010. But prior to that in the spring of 2008, Mezzoforte spent a few days in a summer house in the southern part of the country near Hekla, Iceland's best known volcano. Writing music for the current album in the shadow of Hekla sparked a song called Sleeping Volcano. Little did the group suspect the irony in that title until a few months later an earthquake triggered eruptions in Eyjafjallajökull that would affect the lives of millions.

Mezzoforte - Volcanic
Nonetheless, that event now seems to have only been foreshadowing the far-reaching effect of Mezzoforte's latest, the recently released Volcanic cd. The project is the band's first since the 2007 deluxe package Live in Reykjavik and first studio album for over seven years. With founding members Eythor Gunnarsson on keys, Gulli Briem on drums and Johann Asmundsson on bass, guitar duties are split between Bruno Mueller and Fridrik Karlsson. Filling out the combo are: reed-man Oskar Gudjonsson; on trumpet & keys is Sebastian Studnitzky, considered by many as one of Germany's most engaged Jazz musicians; while the power on percussion is Thomas Dyani. Listen to album and read the reviews and you'll get the sense that there's something special going on - and that thru the convergence of several factors, Volcanic may prove to be the group's most active album to date!

The cd has been called a masterpiece and many fans consider Mezzoforte as the greatest funk/jazz/pop/fusion band in history. After repeated listens to the disc, there's little if anything that would cause me to question the validity of these glowing phrases - in fact, I'm even more apt to simply add to the praise! There is no doubt this project will be among our elite in 2011!
Mezzoforte - Ready to Boogie in Berlin (2010) L to R: Sebastian Studnitzky, Bruno Mueller,
Oskar Gudjonsson, Eythor Gunnarsson, Gulli Briem
& Johann Asmundsson
So it is that we're now featuring Mezzoforte and Volcanic, all with the hope that Iceland will once be in the headlines with far reaching but positive global impact! And to initiate the segment, we have a tune that nicely shows the polish of the veteran ensemble and it's called Down on Sunset! With a groove that's relaxing and smooth, the very pretty Sea Breeze gently carries into the second half of the show; while in the end we're set to party on with the funky vibe of Berlin Boogie. So for the second time in as many years, there's some shaking going on in Iceland and an eruption of epic proportions - this time it's with the sounds of Mezzoforte and their Volcanic release!

CD: Volcanic (2010)
Label: Mashhad Music

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Vintage Collection: Part One
Colour Club - Freedom Words
Freedom Words - Colour Club:
The combo Colour Club emerged in the mid 90s led by the duo of Skipper Wise and Les Pierce. A veteran producer of some repute, Pierce had worked with Take 6, Herb Alpert, Patti LaBelle, and many others. Skipper had, thru the 80s and early 90s, headed up the group known as Windows that delivered eleven albums over the course of about a dozen years. He had also released two solo vocal records yielding a few top 40 hits in the European market including the song "Standing Outside in the Rain" co written by Peter White whose first two records Skipper produced . Windows frequently featured players such as Peter White and Richard Elliot who were then rising commodities in the world of smooth jazz. Wise left music in the late 90s to head up the high-end technology company Blue Microphones.

Together Wise and Pierce came up with the Colour Club concept as a mix of smooth jazz with hip-hop rhythms, in the early 90s. They set aside a variety of individual projects and for their second and third albums they recruited vocalist Lisa Taylor along with jazz musicians such as Gary Meek and Rick Braun. Their self-tilted debut in 1994 featured the single Freedom Words with the video being nominated for an AMA (American Music Award). Released simultaneously with the album was an EP with 5 different takes on the track Freedom Words and from it we have the instrumental mix that received favorable play back in the day!

Note: Expect the re-launch of Skipper's site later this year with stories, albums, and pictures as he documents his 25 or so years in music!

EP: Freedom Words (1994)
Label: JVC
Bob Berg - Back Roads
Travellin' Man - Bob Berg:
A student from the hard bop school of jazz, Bob Berg enjoyed a 30-year career that included stints with Horace Silver, Miles Davis, and Chick Corea. Born and raised in Brooklyn NY, Berg began classical piano at the age of 6. He took up the alto sax at 13 and at about the same time he started listening to jazz. He tried free jazz in the mid-60s, but gradually developed a greater interest in earlier styles with John Coltrane becoming a major influence. After dropping out of the High School for the Performing Arts when he was 18, Berg enlisted at Juilliard for a special curriculum devoted entirely to music. While at Juilliard, Berg toured with organist Jack McDuff and then thru the 70s he served his apprenticeship with Horace Silver and Cedar Walton, before gaining wider notice as a member of Miles Davis's band.

Berg went on to lead and co-lead his own groups while working with many top names including fellow Davis-alumnus Chick Corea. In his day, Berg was considered one of most expressive improvisers in the contemporary movement and was regarded as a major figure. Tragically, he perished in a traffic accident in 2002 during a snow storm. On this occasion we're checking out Back Roads from 1991. From that release, there's the track Travellin' Man featuring Jim Beard on piano trading off with Berg's inspired work on the tenor!

CD: Back Roads (1991)
Label: Denon Records

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Vintage Collection: Part Two
Open Door - North From Riverside
Battery Park - Open Door:
Having studied music at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Berklee College of Music, the New England Conservatory, and the University of Maryland, Michael Whalen is likely one of the most accomplished musicians we've ever played on this show. He's a two-time Emmy winner who has composed over 550 TV and film scores, thousands of ads and numerous TV themes. Included in this latter grouping are credits for The Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning America. Over a period of about 6 years in the early 90s, Whalen took time wherever he could to write a series of jazz/pop/world songs. Issuing the collection under the group name of Open Door, Whalen was aided in the project by Steve Khan, Marc Egan, Danny Gottlieb, Chris Botti, and a few other noted session players. From that release, we have Bob Magnuson on sax and Michael himself on piano, keys, and synth steel drum on the track Battery Park, Whalen's ode to the reserve located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island!

CD: North From Riverside (1997)
Label: Helicon Records
Hiroko Kokubu - Bridge
Lettin' Go - Hiroko Kokubu:
The comparisons between Hiroko Kokubu and Keiko Matsui are inevitable. Both hail from Japan and both excel as jazz pianists in a genre dominated by men. And although not quite as well known as her counterpart, Ms Kokubu is nonetheless an accomplished and well-respected performer in her own right. Born in Tokyo, Hiroko excelled at classical piano but after graduating from the Kunitachi Music College, she journeyed to New York in order to study jazz. Her first album recorded in 1987, was highly acclaimed in Japan and well received in both Canada & the US. Since then, she has had 9 albums released in Japan and 4 in the US, some of which have also been issued in Europe and other parts of Asia. With a world-wide fan base, Hiroko has played at jazz festivals from Jakarta to Catalina. In 1997, she lived in LA for the better part of a year and in addition to playing with some great musicians, she recorded the cd Bridge. From an album sporting some high caliber talent in the likes of Tom Coster, Gary Herbig, Abe Laboriel and others, we have the pretty piece Lettin' Go with Greg Adams guesting!

CD: Bridge (1997)
Label: JVC
Don Grusin & Bill Sharpe - Geography
The Bomba Shack - Don Grusin & Bill Sharpe :
Although separated by over 5000 miles, in 2006 Don Grusin and Bill Sharpe set about to record an album. The two had met 10 years earlier in Japan through their consultancy work for Technics keyboards and they became good friends. The following year Sharpe enlisted Grusin to co-produce State of the Heart, his second solo album, which met with a fair bit of critical acclaim world-wide. In time, they decided upon a full blown collaboration that came to known as Geography. Well-named it was, as a good portion of the project was done long-distance by way of sending files thru the internet. Similarly, the scheme utilized the talents of some of their favourite players and singers, among them Till Brönner, Fridrik Karlsson, Charlie Bisharat, and Nelson Rangell to name a few. With a great mix of flavours from the US, Brazil, Europe, and Africa, the album has spurred a follow-up that is due for release later this year; but we seem to be getting just a bit ahead of ourselves. From that initial joint effort, we have the island rhythms of The Bomba Shack and perhaps a bit of a nod to the notorious surfside beach bar in the British Virgin Islands!

CD: Geography (2006)
Label: Don Grusin Music/JVC
Links: Grusin: Sharpe: Geography:

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After Hours ~ Exclusive to our Site and Select Affiliates :
After All This Time: ... the 2nd in our series of 'after track shows' We've dubbed this one After All This Time for a tune by Four80East and, we'll be playing selections like Miles After Dark, The Sunday After, and After the Rain. But lest you think we're too stiff to be hip - we've loosened things a bit by including a track called Your Place and Mine - and that's from the band Aftertouch (as once again we make the rules and then we break them) Now the entire session starts with Ronny Jordan and a classic track - After Hours from his debut The Antidote! Playlist for Ed#602

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