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for March 2002


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Current releases are listed below.

Reviews of earlier releases are available by clicking on the appropriate icon at the bottom of this page.

Don't forget, this is an expanding page, so check back throughout the month for more updates!

By the way, there are no negative comments here. These are just things I like and that should be shared with other jazz lovers. No sense wasting time with things I don't like. Besides, just because I don't like something doesn't mean others won't...and visa-versa. Make sense?

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notes Larry Carlton notes David Benoit notes Chris Botti notes David Lanz
David Lanz cover artIn the nearly two decades that David Lanz has been an icon and ambassador of new age music, the pianist has enjoyed creating diverse, creatively challenging recordings ranging from solo piano works (1983’s Heartsounds) and sweeping orchestral projects like Skyline Firedance to his platinum-selling 1998 ensemble oriented breakthrough classic Cristofori’s Dream. His 2000 Decca debut, the Grammy-nominated East of the Moon, created with top pop producer Hugh Padgham, was an ambitious combination of rock-edged new age and orchestral grandeur. His most enduring adult contemporary hit, 1985’s "Behind the Waterfall" (recorded with Paul Speer), reflects his lifelong love of pop instrumental music and has endeared him to smooth jazz audiences all over the world. Performing and producing with a handful of the most popular artists in that genre, Lanz creates the ultimate, ultra-melodic "smooth age" experience on his latest recording, Finding Paradise.

"East of the Moon was an eclectic, dual concept kind of projects, but here I’m aiming for a single mood which keeps the essence of my piano melodies front and center while weaving them into a fresh contemporary framework," says Lanz. "I feature a lot of well known guest stars, but my piano is the musical thread which holds everything together. My approach here is in a pop instrumental framework but the goal is always the same for me – to write songs which can be equally effective as backdrop music to the activities of life and music that prompts deeper spiritual reflection by the listener."

Saxman Dave Koz – who produced three songs, "That Smile," "Romantica," and "Luna," plays on the second two and on the song "Walk on Water." Reflecting the album title in a musically literal sense, the songs on Finding Paradise also mark exciting first-time collaborations with keyboardist Gregg Kaukas, who co-produced six tracks with Lanz, jazz pianist David Benoit as arranger of the classically flavored orchestral pieces "Tears for Alice" and "Love Lost…Love Found," Marc Antoine, who adds a flamenco guitar tinge to the festive, tropical themed "Romantica," guitarist Peter White shares the spotlight with Lanz’s piano on "Dorado," and trumpeter Jeff Beal, drummer Will Kennedy, and famed percussionist Luis Conte, join in on the moody "Theme from the Other Side."

Lanz and his brother Gary co-produced "Tears for Alice," "Love Lost…Love Found" and the meditational solo piano piece "The Sound of Wings." On the compositional side, Lanz also collaborated with renowned TV composer W.G. Snuffy Walden on the gospel and folk flavored "Walk on Water." Reflecting the patriotism of the country in the wake of September 11th, Lanz also recorded an emotional, sax driven cover of Neil Diamond’s anthem "America."

"It was great working with all of these guys, but I really found a special kinship with Gregg Karukas," says Lanz. "His piano and keyboard style are more jazzy than mine, but we share the same background with our love for Stevie Wonder and legendary 70’s fusion music. We both love jazz, strong soulful rhythms and the intellectual aspects of music.

"Finding Paradise," he continues, "reflects the reality that we’re all searching for joy and meaning, and this search is an ongoing process. Paradise can either be a literal place or a state of mind." David Lanz’s music has long been associated with the introspective, melodic and healing powers that new age music is noted for, but he humorously refers to his sound as a "heavy mellow." Which leads, of course, to the natural process of "smooth age."

"People tend to associate me with solo piano because my tours are generally solo ventures," he says. "The truth is most of my better known works are very collaborative in nature, and I love the process of interacting creatively with talented musicians, arrangers, and producers. As musicians, it’s our responsibility to use our gifts in inspiring ways, and it’s always fun to work with new people who can challenge me to try totally new approaches, as I’ve done here. I like being part of the cool LA based musician group now. Musically, it’s like I’ve found stretches of paradise in some of the most unexpected places."

Lanz’s recordings for the Narada label catapulted him into the mainstream and led the artist into a chart-topping career which includes eight best-selling solo albums and three popular collaborations with new age rock guitarist Paul Speer -- Natural States, Desert Vision and Bridge of Dreams. Lanz’s solo albums include the gold selling genre landmark Cristofori’s Dream (the Number One chart hit on Billboard’s first adult alternative/new age chart for 27 consecutive weeks); Nightfall; Skyline Firedance (a two disc collection featuring the same songs done as piano solos and with orchestra); Return To The Heart; Christmas Eve; Beloved (a greatest hits collection); Sacred Road; and Songs From An English Garden.
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Chris Botti cover artThe title of Botti’s fourth CD, Night Sessionsis a clue to what is presented to us in this most interesting project. Recorded in a LA Hollywood Hills house in many late night recording sessions during Botti’s hiatus from the Sting tour, gives us the atmosphere for what we have here. Botti said that "the setting had a lot to do with the sound that emerged." The CD starts off with a very smoky sounding love, hip flavored track "Lisa." If you close your eyes while listening to it you can feel Botti just take you away and travel through some street of life looking for "whatever." Like a midnight caller. "Streets Ahead" is the first radio single. A high energy track with Botti laying down rapid notes and a wonderful melody with Jeff Lorber keyboard licks in his famous style behind him. They jam on the theme together which just sounds like they are having a blast playing because it’s a blast listening to it. Grammy-winning vocalist Shawn Colvin sings a lustrous version of a previously unrecorded Sting original, "All Would Envy." Her voice is very clean and warm and Botti accompanies her softly and perfectly, letting Covin take the lead and just joining in only at the appropriate times. It’s funny that, that was the Sting written track because when I first heard "When I See You" I thought it was a play on Sting’s ‘It’s Probably Me." Botti thought the same thing. It’s not, though one can imagine that after playing with Sting you just have to have some of his magic rub off on you. I get that out of this piece. A medium to fast pace tune with similar phrasings of "It’s Probably Me" only with a Botti twist. One of the most interesting pieces on the CD is the innovative "Blue Horizon." You’ll never hear this on a ‘Smooth Jazz’ radio station. It’s funky, hip, smoky, beatnik, fusiony and Miles Davish all at the same time. Billy Childs is playing some licks that would make you think he was Herbie Hancock from Headhunter days. Botti’s playing is perfect. This is the type of song that other musician appreciate. I can see guys like Billy Cobham and Marcus Miller digging this piece. No fluff here! Night Sessions is produced by Grammy-winning producer, multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist Kipper whom Botti met while working together on the road during Sting’s Brand New Day tour. Since time was a factor in recording this project Botti just concentrated on playing and let Kipper and the other musicians (Christian McBride, Vinnie Colaiuta, Abe Laboriel, Jr, Jimmy Johnson, Billy Childs, Luis Conte and Dminic Miller) work on the rest. If I had to describe Botti is just one word "soft’ would come to mind. Not in the volume sense, but in texture.
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David Benoit cover artFuzzy Logic might be the best David Benoit CD ever. That’s a pretty bold statement considering that Benoit has done quite a few excellent CD’s in the twenty-two he has done as a leader in twenty-four years. Nevertheless much thumbs up on this project. Rick Braun and Stuart Wade of Down To The Bone lend their hand on producing some of the songs with Benoit producing the others. The CD kicks off with the first radio single "Snap!" A very up tempo, funky piece that has Braun’s influence stamped all over it full of vigor and energy. The funk continues on the title track that incorporates a powerful horn section. The rhythm section isn’t too bad either led by bassist Abe Laboriel, drummer Steve Ferrone, Tony Maiden and Pat Kelly on guitars. Benoit is playing the keys like he is possessed. He even pulls out the Hammond B-3 just to add the right extra touches. "There’s a certain sound that only a Hammond can make. And it’s a fun solo vehicle for me, to get away from the piano for a minute," Benoit is quoted. "Fuzzy Logic" is a strong song. Benoit gives us a Ramsey Lewis feel on "Then The Morning Comes," possibly my favorite song on the CD. This is the type of song you put on repeat. Benoit does a great solo in the middle and it shows off a Benoit’s playing ability to fullest. It also is an up tempo tune. Not all of the songs are up tempo. He does give us some slower, pretty songs that you know he is good at like "Reflections" with Tim Weisberg on flute and adding French Horn and Oboe. When was the last time you heard that on a Smooth Jazz project? "Someday Soon" is another slower, dramatic piece that is co-written and produced by Braun. Benoit sounds very hip and European on "Coming Up For Air" a piece co-written by Stuart Wade and Neil Angilley (Angilley played on the last two DTTB CD’s). The rest of the guys on this track are from Wade’s neck of the woods with Tyler playing with his band and Gota and Mulford doing the bass with Paprika Soul. This is one of the two that Wade produced and sounds Down To The Boneish which is a fresh and different approach for Benoit. The same cast and situation on "Tango In Barbados" only this time the beat might be similar, but you hear more of Benoit’s influence in it. The song sounds like the title implies. "War Of The S.U.V.’s" is Benoit’s favorite piece on this disc. Kind of a West Coast, bouncy flavor mid tempo track with a supportive horn section. This disc will get many plays in your CD player.
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Larry Carlton cover artIf you like blues, jazz and a little soulful flavored R&B then you’ll like the new CD from guitarist Larry Carlton. Deep Into It definitely mixes these like a big ‘ol cake. Leaning more on the blues and soulful R&B side of things than the jazz, it doesn’t really matter because if you can appreciate good musicianship you’ll groove on this. Take Steve Winwood’s "Roll With It" featuring some dynamite tones from saxophonist Kirk Whalum. Boy is he blowing! Carlton mixes the soul sax influence of King Curtis with his own take and the results are fantastic. You might have heard the first single "Deep Into It" by now on the radio. If anybody is ever "one" with the guitar it would be Larry Carlton and if you listen to his licks on this track you’d get what I’m saying. Whalum on sax once again. The funkiness of Deron Johnson’s organ playing also adds a nice touch. More on the "smooth jazz" side of things comes a tasty ditty "Morning Magic" with a nice hook and Carlton doing what he does best picking soulful notes in a slow, mid tempo fashion. For all you Fourplay fans of which Carlton is a member of, you’ll dig "Like Butta." Though no other member of Fourplay is on the song it sounds Fourplayish with saxophone. The CD, which is co-produced by Paul Brown kicks off with one of my favorite Joe Sample tunes, "Put It Where You Want It." You know Carlton does it justice! Then as an extra treat at the end of the CD there is the "Bonus Track," an extended version of Put It Where You Want It." There are two vocal tracks on the CD, one featuring Shai on the Eagles hit "I Can’t Tell You Why." The other, Wendy Moten with Sue Ann Carwell lending some nice harmony on "I Still Believe." The later is a really pretty song that might find it’s way on a couple of different types of radio stations playlists. The former is more for R&B radio. A few years ago I saw Carlton give a concert and I remember thinking to myself that I thought the only thing that made Larry happy was playing guitar. Deep Into It confirms my thoughts.
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