The critically awaited new release from Alfonzo Blackwell entitled “Dance To This” will hit stores on March 31, 2008. This electrifying new release features opening/title track, “Dance To This” which is a feel good track with a heavy dose of sax. “Back It Up” (featuring Utopia Records label mate Rebecca Buxton on Baritone Saxophone ) and is a very upbeat track with some serious horns.
“Inside My Heart”. is a compelling ballad with Blackwell’s soprano sax pulling lifelessly through the track. Blackwell’s horn has a crispy sound, sharp to the soul but smooth on the ears. “This Is Real” is a mid-tempo track, which by my prediction will hit the charts with a bang. “Take A Look” will get you up and dancing to the drum lines that lace its tracks is enough to get you up and kicking. Alfonzo will be strutting all the way to the bank as his CD hit the shelves. Brilliant, genius, melodious and down right hot is this CD.
Alfonzo first took contemporary jazz scene by storm in 1995 with his debut CD release, “Let’s Imagine”. He broke the mold upon his arrival. He garnered great success and critical acclaim with all of his CD projects while delivering his unique musical style. Top 10 radio hits including “Alfonzo’s Love Theme”, “Herminia”, “Passion” and “Funky Shuffle” contribute to his many accomplishments. Alfonzo’s music videos have struck an indelible chord with such original content; he received recognition with Billboard Award nominations. He also composes themes for movies as well as television, having co-written the theme song to the internationally successful television show, “Baywatch Nights” where he was featured every week with David Hasselhoff. Among honing his craft of playing alto, soprano and tenor saxophones, he is a well accomplished bass, drum, guitar and piano player. He has graced the stage and performed with numerous music greats which includes Gladys Knight, The Whispers and Roy Ayers to name a few. He also performs with contemporary soul artists such as Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Brian McKnight.
As a child he taught himself to play the piano by ear at the tender age of six. Destined for greatness, this Queens, New York native was accepted at the prestigious (Fame) Performing Arts High School in NYC and then continued his advance studies at Queens College and Five Towns College in Long Island, NY.
Undoubtedly, Alfonzo Blackwell is one amongst the elite music industry veterans. He is a maverick in every way. His music, sophistication, passion and style are forever young and fresh…he’s forever timeless.
Adekemi Owens known professionally and affectionately to music fans as KEM has come a long way from Nashville, Tennessee to his current hometown of Detroit, Michigan. So one figures that is why this musical genius has written and performed songs that could be considered as Jazz, R&B, Soul or Adult Contemporary. This Detroit native with Nigerian roots has overcome some hurdles in his life, but is living the true American dream of success through perseverance.
Kem who wrote, produced and financed his self-released debut album, Kemistry was later signed by Motown Records in November of 2001. He released his sophomore project Kem II which sold over 500,000 copies nationwide. “Love Calls” the single from his debut album became a hit on the urban adult contemporary and smooth jazz radio, and USA Today tagged him as a “Motown Classic”. “I Cant Stop Loving You” from his second album went to No. 1 on Adult Contemporary Radio for several weeks. Kem enjoyed success to with another single “You Might Win”, which featured Steve Wonder on Harmonica.
Kem has been touring to promote his albums for the last three years. I caught up with him after his red hot performance at the City of Miami Gardens 3rd Annual Jazz In The Garden, which was held March 15-16,2008. Here is how we “chopped it up”:
AM: I hear that you are in the studio now recording tracks for the new album, how is that going?
KEM: I am currently working on my third album entitled KEM III – Intimacy. We are working on bits and pieces of the, three or four songs at a time, and at this stage would say its working in progress.
AM: Let’s talk a little about your performance at Jazz In The Garden. In my opinion, that performance will be on my mind for a long tine. The crowd loved you, how did you feel being on stage delivering such great music?
KEM: First of all it was a relief to come to South Florida during this time of year, because of the weather back in Detroit. I was exciting to be a part of Jazz In The Garden due to the fact that it would be our first real performance in Miami. We have performed as part of the Tom Joyner Morning Show – Sky Show, but doing the Jazz In the Garden gave us the opportunity to reach out even more to old fans and new. It certainly felt good to be on stage, using my god given talent to entertain the people.
AM: How do you get mentally prepared for a performance?
KEM: I normally get together with my band to rehearse, figure things out with my production team, eat well and rest. The day of the performance we do our sound check, we pray prior to the show, asking for guidance through the set. Since every audience is different and the cities are not the same, I am always adapting to my environment. You have to be mentally prepared to be able to communicate with the audience and to deal with any unforeseen events during the performance.
AM: Do you feel that as a performer, you need to practice more or prepare more mentally?
KEM: Practice is good and it makes for a smooth performance, but the mental preparation is important if you want to deliver a great show over and over again.
AM: So tell me about your journey from your birthplace in Nashville to where you currently reside in Detroit?
KEM: I was born in Nashville, and moved to Detroit, where I started Pre-K. I still have a large amount of my family members in Nashville. Even though I was raised in Detroit, I was still influenced by the music that my family grew up on. I grew listening to Steely Dan, Grover Washington, Hiroshima, Steve Wonder, Fleetwood Mac. Living in Detroit, it was divine landing in the low town music era
AM: Exactly how would you describe your genre of music?
KEM: My music certainly has some jazz overtones, but its also R&B. So I would say that its R&B/Jazz/Adult Contemporary. However, my new material will be a little different.
AM: Tell me about what motivates you?
KEM: Being spiritual is very important to me and its definite at the forefront of my life. At the end of the day your value system and your spirituality is all you have. Life is about find that spiritual solution
AM: Has anyone ever told you that you sound like Al Jarreau, if so, how do you feel about that?
KEM: Yes, I have been compared to Al Jarreau which I thing is the highest honor anyone could obtain. I have met Al personally, and we have shared the stage performing together. We have also talked about doing something together and I admire his work and consider him a friend.
AM: Who has been your musical influence over the years?
KEM: I am definitely inspired by the work of Michael Jackson and Prince. Although we have totally different styles, I admire them because they make you feel good. You definitely feel something from listening to them or seeing them perform. Prince had great musicianship and is so prolific in composing songs and producing them. I admire him especially because he has the atomy on his projects and that’s what I would like to continue to do.
AM: Some of love songs are said to be about your spirituality and not necessarily about boy meets girl. Was that your intent when you wrote the song “Each Other”?
KEM: When I write my songs, although they might means something special to me, I want my listeners and fans to take the lyrics for what it means to them, whether it love or spirituality. I leave it up to them.
AM: So I hear that you are a self-taught musician, what instrument do you play?
KEM: Yes that is true, I play the keyboards and is planning to learn to play the guitar.
AM: Having produced both of your albums, have you produced for anyone else?
KEM: We are getting request to produce other artists and have recently produced a song on the Madea’s Family Reunion soundtrack, which is entitled “Tonight”. I have also produced the track called Fascination for the soundtrack to the movie Take The Lead. But I want to continue to pursue my career by build on what I have now.
AM: Tell me about your days as a wedding singer, shared some of your stories?
KEM: I was introduced by the leader of the wedding band by a friend of mine. Being a wedding singer has given me some of greatest experience as a singer. I did a bunch of cover tunes and got chance to hone my craft. It taught me to interact with the audience and develop my stage presence. I did it for four years and did regret a moment.
AM: Since your first album, who are some of the artists that you have toured with?
KEM: I have been going non-stop for the last three years and have with some great artists, people like OJays, Nancy Wilson, Will Downing, Reuben Stoddard, Fantasia, Kindred & Family, Boney James, Michael McDonald, Ashford & Simpson, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, among others.
AM: Have you toured abroad?
KEM: Yes. I have gone to several European Countries and to South Africa.
AM: Was it difficult to finance you first album? What were the pitfalls, if any?
KEM: I financed my first album on my credit card. I did whatever work I could on the album and hired musicians to do what I could not. It was a learning experience for me.
AM: What experience did you take to the making of your second album?
KEM: I have gained a wealth of knowledge from the first album, like learning to budget my money and my time. I have definitely learned what not to do. I would recommend this hands-on approach to young artists who are stating out.
AM: Well good luck on the new project.
KEM: Thanks. I will get into your hands as soon as it’s ready.
Over the past seven years the Riviera Beach Music Festival (“RBMF”) has become a staple for jazz lovers far and near. The festival which attracts local, national and international performers for a three-day musical celebration. RBMF has earned a reputation throughout the State of Florida and across the country for being one of the best Music Festivals in the southeast. The 2008 installment of RBMF will take place from April 11 – 13, 2008. Past performers at the Rivera Beach Music Festival includes: Frankie Beverly and Maze, Arturo Sandoval, Keiko Matsui, Nestor Torres, Alex Bugnon, Najee, Mindi Abair, Spyro Gyra. City of Riviera Beach has an appreciation for music as the universal language bringing hundreds of thousands of people together from various backgrounds. This event began as a Jazz and Blues Festival and has grown into a Music Festival appealing to a wide range of music lovers to a peak attendance of over 20,000 attendees.
Some of the artists confirmed to perform for RBMF this year are Najee, Amiel Larrieux, Maysa, Michael Franks. There will also be a salute and tribute to Will Downing.
Najee: With two platinum and four gold albums, Najee is one of the pioneers of what is commonly known as contemporary jazz. A native New Yorker, Najee began his career playing clarinet and later saxophone and flute in his hometown Jamaica, Queens New York. While in high school Najee began studying under the direction of Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, and Billy Taylor at Jazzmobile in Harlem. Najee also studied flute with Harold Jones at the Manhattan School of Music. Najee has worked with many great artists such as Quincy Jones, Patti LaBelle, George Duke, Lionel Richie and Jonathon Butler. Most recently he performed as a special guest artist on the “Hit and Run” tour with Prince.
Will Downing: Suffice it to say that after nearly two decades of remarkable recordings and performances around the globe, Will Downing is recognized as a premier male vocalist for the embodiment of his singular, sensuous blend of R&B, jazz and pop. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he is an accomplished vocalist and composer. Downing’s began singing with Arthur Baker’s “Wally Jump Junior” group, and later employed Baker as his producer when he signed with Island. He did session work in the ‘80s, singing on dates with Daryl Payne, Marc Sadane, Warp 9, and Jennifer Holiday. In 2007, under the most difficult conditions for most people, he released what is unquestionably the most crucial album of his career – After Tonight. The crux of After Tonight, Will’s 13th album and first for the Peak Records label, is the commitment in the face of adversity he summoned to complete it – the sheer “force of Will” that inspired the man to see it through to its fruition.
Jeff Lorber: With a smooth sound that blends elements of funk, R&B, rock and electric jazz, keyboardist Jeff Lorber helped pioneer a genre of fusion later formatted under such names as NAC and Contemporary Jazz. Born in Philadelphia in 1952, he began playing the piano at the age of four, and as a teen performed with a variety of local R&B bands. Lorber’s infatuation with jazz began during his stay at the Berklee College of Music, and after forming the Jeff Lorber Fusion he issued the group’s self-titled debut in 1979. During the first half of the following decade, the band became one of the most popular jazz acts of the period, touring non-stop and even scoring a Best R&B Instrumental Grammy nomination for their radio hit “Pacific Coast Highway.” He recorded for Verve and Zebra in the 90’s before moving over to Narada in the 2000’s and releasing successful smooth jazz albums like 2003’s Philly Style and 2005’s Flipside.
MAYSA is a singer/songwriter/activist. A smooth jazz artist, she is consistently on top of Billboard’s Sales Chart. Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Maysa is graduate of Morgan State University with a degree in classical performance. In the early 90s, Maysa auditioned over the phone to become a member of the acclaimed British jazz/funk/R&B band Incognito and in 1992 she relocated to London and recorded Tribes & Scribes, featuring the hit single “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing.” Maysa has appeared on seven Incognito recordings including their latest CD, Bees and Things and Flowers. She recorded her self-titled debut in 1995, followed by her solo sophomore effort All My Life in 1999, Out of The Blue in 2002, Smooth Sailing in 2004, Sweet Classic Soul in 2006, and now Feel The Fire, 2007. Maysa is one of few Smooth Jazz Artist to remain consistently on top of the Billboard’s Sales Chart. Maysa has also collaborated with Rick Braun, Will Downing, Jason Miles’ Soul Summit, Rhythm Logic, Jonathan Butler and Pieces of a Dream. And has been produced by George Duke, Rex Rideout, Mike White(Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly),Chris “Big Dog” Davis, Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick of Incognito, Richard Bull (Acoustic Alchemy). MAYSA is a singer/songwriter/activist. She is a spokesperson for RSV, a disease that can be fatal to premature babies. She is featured in a nationally televised PSA, sponsored by the March of Dimes.
Michael Frank: Over the languorous course of 33 years and 16 albums, Michael Franks has mesmerized an international legion of fans with his one-of-a-kind artistry. Seamlessly weaving lyrics of stunning sensuality, wit, reflection and literary eloquence over music that tastefully utilizes top shelf shadings of jazz, soul, pop, chamber and music from around the globe, Michael Franks the songwriter has set a bar in the music world that places him as nothing less than a statesman of song craft. He made his first album in 1973, and enjoyed success with a string of late ’70s albums on Warner Brothers. He has worked with the likes of Flora Purim, Kenny Rankin, Ron Carter, the Crusaders, David Sanborn, Toots Thielemans, Eric Gale, and others, and has had songs recorded by The Manhattan Transfer, Patti Labelle, Carmen McRae, and the Carpenters.
Amiel Larrieux:An urban chanteuse by birth, the bi-coastal Amel Larrieux grew up in a West Village “artists building” in New York where her parents exposed her early to bohemian characters and experiences that would mold her eclectic sensibilities. By 18, sure that she wanted to express herself musically, she wrote a song and created a demo tape, which led to her pairing with Bryce Wilson to form the duo Groove Theory. As lead siren and co-writer for the group, Amel enjoyed success with “Tell Me,” which broke the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 and the top five on the R&B charts before being certified gold in October 1995. Amel fuses a range of genres – R&B, soul, hip-hop, jazz and folk, with flashes of Middle Eastern, West African, and Indian styles.
Rebecca Buxton is no newcomer to the jazz scene; she has been featured on several projects for some of today’s top jazz artists.
Buxton recently completed work on the single “Back It Up” from Alfonzo Blackwell’s latest release entitled “Dance To This”. Rebecca is set to release an album of her own in the coming months, which is slated to take the contemporary jazz scene by storm. Buxton is described as an innovative jazz musician, who has a command of the Baritone Saxophone, and is also an accomplished Flutist and Clarinetist.
Look to Dascoop for more news on this up and coming star.
Plans for the 16th annual Capital Jazz Fest to held from June 6-8, 2008 are on the way. Capital Jazz Fest known to be one of the largest jazz festival will attract some of the industry’s biggest contemporary jazz acts, who will be performing on two stages simultanelously over two days.
CJF is more than just a concert, it’s a musical and social event. Personally, I would say that as a patron, you get to people-watch, eat, drink, shop for art, mingle, relax and of course satify your musical appetite.
The Pavilion Stage will showcase the best in contemporary jazz and will be hosted by Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Patti Austin. Featured artists include Chris Botti, Randy Crawford, Joe Sample, Dianne Reeves, Brian Culbertson, The Funk Experience, Roberta Flack, and many more.
The Symphony Woods Stage will showcase urban and alternative artists and will be hosted by Tony Richards. Featured artists include Jeffrey Osborne, Ledisi, Average White Band, Howard Hewett, Plunky, and many more. And this year’s Friday kickoff concert will feature a special performance by Boney James and Brian McKnight.
After the show, check out the late night after-parties, plus the 5th Annual Capital Jazz Challenge competition, featuring some of the finest up-and-coming contemporary jazz talent, to be held this year at the Hilton Columbia Hotel.
Stay tune for more scoop.
Hello all fashionistas, Miami Fashion Week is right around the corner. Seasoned designers, Models, Celebrities and regular style watchers will be gathered for five days, April 9 – 13, 2008 in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District for the 10th Annual Miami Fashion Week. The trends for Spring and Summer 2008 will be showcased as these designers match wits and fabric.
Fashion Week is not only about fashion shows, there are educational seminars and parties to commemorate the event. Miami Fashion Week has been the beacon for International and Hispanic fashion events in the United States. This event attracts elite fashion buyers, socialites, celebrities and hundreds of media people and fashion insiders.
A few of this year’s official sponsors including Cadillac, Citibank, Tiffany, CHI, COPA Airlines, Terra Networks, Vanidades, Harper’s Bazaar en Español, Spanish Broadcasting Systems, Michele Pommier Models, Room Service Rentals, The City of Miami and Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council have emerged as key players in enhancing the already stellar environment at Miami Fashion Week.
Fashion Week is open to the public, patrons can obtain tickets for the five day event at http://www.miamifashionweek.com