The ninth installment of South Florida’s uber jazz festival dubbed “Jazz in the Gardens 9” gets on the way from March 15-16, 2014, on the grounds of the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. In case, you have been hiding under a rock for the last eight years, Jazz in the Gardens (“JITG9”) was created by the former City of Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson. Over the past eight years, JITG has been held as a two-day festival, but this year, the organizers added the first annual opening night party featuring the 80s Dazz Band with the SOS Band, to be held at Calder Casino & Race Course on March 14. This musical extravaganza has grown to become highly regarded in comparison to its counterparts around the country, and is definitely a “must-see and must go” for music lovers both nationally and internationally, attracting some 63,000 fans in 2013. The JITG stage has been graced by some of the music world’s biggest icons from across the globe. With artists such as Jonathan Butler, Angelique Kidjo, KEM, O’Jays, Isley Brothers, Al Jarreau, George Duke, Common, Erykah Badu, Nancy Wilson, Kenny G, Stanley Clarke and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly (Clarke and Maze are both returning this year), so one could definitely say music fans were have been treated to a musical feast for the past eight years. JITG9’s lineup of musical acts will satisfy the young at heart and the seasoned fan, who enjoys a little Soul, Hip Hop, R&B Classics and would even get down with some Adult Contemporary flavor. The opening night party will reintroduced fans to the 80s hot shot bands, from Cleveland, Ohio’s Dazz Band (Let It Whip) to Atlanta’s very own SOS Band (Take Your Time – Do It Right), it should be a show with each band parading their hits, as both bands have had their fair share. Saturday’s lineup will showcase the stylings of jazz man himself Boney James, R&B crooners Mint Condition, Trey Songz and Jamie Foxx and R&B goddess Kelly Rowland. When Rachelle Ferrell, Stanley Clarke, Anthony Hamilton and LL COOL J hit the stage on Sunday, all of the fans on the grounds of the Sun Life Stadium will be blown away by the musical diversity. But with all the saxophone, bass guitars and showmanship, closing out Sunday night will be the incomparable, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, who is also returning to JITG9 and whose existence and track record needs no further introduction. With such hits as “Happy Feelings,” “Workin Together,” and “Lady of Magic,” this group who arrived on the scene in 1977 ha snot missed a beat since. For the true JITG fan, the festival is not only about the music and the artists performing, JITG is about bringing cultures together, it is about the foods, the friendships and the vibes. JITG9 will bring together vendors and their culinary creations from vegetarian to BBQ, so bring your healthy appetite. Every good music festival surely needs a great host, so for JITG9 comedian/actor D.L. Hughley signed on to be the Emcee. Hughley will have some big shoes to fill as “Fly Jock” Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden brought their A game to JITG previously. However, Hughley is no slouch, he is one of the four Original Kings of Comedy and has launched his own daily radio show – “The D.L. Hughley Show, which airs on Reach Media Network and done his own HBO special. Bring on the fun stuff – I know you will DL.
Will Downing who is definitely a crowd “teaser and pleaser” is working to promote his latest album – “After Tonight”. The number thirteen is never a lucky one, but Will Downing has proved it to be his lucky charm. Even though he has enjoyed significant success with his other albums, album number thirteen was the one, where he had to put more than just creativity and his raspy voice to work.
Downing suffered a setback, after being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease known as “Polymyositis”. Polymyositis is an inflammatory muscular disease, which causes severe muscle weakness and fatigue. But instead of succumbing to this illness, he managed to put together one of his best album to date, by exhibiting the courage and determination that we all hope we had in our darkest hour. This album entitled “After Tonight” is jammed packed with his repertoire of classic ballads coupled with his silky smooth voice. After Tonight is not just your regular Will Downing album, but a compilation of songs that will definitely stir your imagination and help you to fall in love over and over again. The ten-song compilation has musical arrangement, melodies, and vocals made for each other. There is a song for what ever mood you are in on this album.
Downing reunited with his long time co-producer, Rex Rideout, collaborated on a musical journey which has led to the success of this monster undertaking. The work he put in on this album was extremely challenging, but it is evident from nothing musically vocally was left behind. The Skip Scarborough penned classic “No One Can Love You More” made famous by the late Phyllis Hyman, is one of two cover tunes which Downing performed on the compilation. This rendition featured sax man Gerald Albright, a long time friend. The other cover tune is the Bill Withers classic “You Can’t Smile it Away” which features Kirk Whalum. Downing’s wife, Audrey Wheeler-Downing and Noel Goring teamed up with Will to compose the track “God Is So Amazing.” Knowing all that Will Downing endured while making this album, this track sums it all up. Will Downing performance in Miami Gardens this Saturday is a must see.
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.
If you just can’t get enough jazz, then let’s hop onboard the Dave Koz & Friends Cruise sailing out of Fort Lauderdale on November 2nd and returning November 9, 2008. The cruise which will be produced by Jazz Cruises, LLC, who is responsible for producing and promoting the only full-ship charters in the world dedicated to live jazz music including The Jazz Cruise; The Smooth Jazz Cruise, hosted by Wayman Tisdale; Dave Koz & Friends at Sea, and our newest edition to the family, the Playboy Jazz Cruise.
The lineup for the Dave Koz and Friends Cruise will feature some of jazz music’s pioneers in the business, names like Dave Koz, Najee, Jonathan Butler, George Duke, Candy Dulfer, Jeff Golub, Euge Groove, Eric Benet, Rick Braun, among others. The cruise will make a voyage to Grand Turk, St. Barths, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. With such a beautiful setting with the backdrop of the Caribbean and great music, too bad this is not for Valentine’s Day. Stay tuned for more updates.
Miami Gardens, Florida came alive for the third year in a row when the City welcomed an average of ten thousand patrons for the two-day festival Jazz In The Garden. Jazz In The Garden is not just a concert, over the past three years it has vastly become a major stop for old school and new school artists and fans. This two day event took place on March 15 – 16, 2008 at the Dolphins Stadium grounds. Unlike the Miami Dolphins, Jazz In The Garden was definitely a winner.
The concert on Saturday opened up with some home-cooking, Miami’s own Jesse Jones, Jr. Jones who is considered to be a legend in his own right maneuver through a repertoire of musical tracks which could only be described as intricate, soul-searching and sometimes riveting. Jazzy, Jr. as Jesse is affectionately called put together an ensemble of rhythm and sounds with his Saxophone and his signature “scatting” which had the crowd showing him some love.
Haitian born trumpet player, Jean Caze was the next artist to hit the stage. The winner of the 2006 International Trumpet Guild Competition did more than just hold his own on a stage where legends were to follow him that night. Caze could be easy well be considered as a veteran even though he is only 25 years old. His lyrical tones and taste blend of music was showcased on Saturday evening. Jean definitely hit it out of the park, Florida Marlins style.
Swedish, born and raised, singing sensation Elin (pronounced EE-a-Leen) followed the smooth sounds and enchanted performance of Jean Caze. She was electrifying as she was talented, she performed music inspired by her Peruvian roots and incorporated a Brazilian, Latin and contemporary jazz sound. Let’s just say that she was a little samba and a whole lot of Basia performing music from her latest CD entitled Lazy Afternoon. Elin’s stock has risen even more after her performance at Jazz In The Garden.
Hidden Beach recording Artist, Mike Phillips woke up the over ten thousand patrons when he took the stage in Miami Gardens, Florida. The confident young saxophone player was all about hip hop, funk and contemporary jazz, as he blew that sax like a veteran with years under his belt. He played a mixture of songs from his two albums and some of his favorites from others. After his set, Mike and I spoke about his trip to South Africa, where he performed with Steve Wonder and Michael Jackson for Nelson Mandela’s birthday party. A jazz musician with a great sense of humor is quite different from, what I have seen and heard from jazz musicians, they are normally eccentric, quite and soft spoken. But Mike, who seemed very outgoing and free spirited, chopped it up with the members of the press. He said that he was excited to perform at Jazz In The Gardens, and hope to be back next year. As the release of his third album – MP3 approaches, Mike continues to tour and showcase his music.
It was my first time seeing either George Duke or Stanley Clarke perform, so to be able to see them perform together was more than a treat. The performance was electrifying, Clarke was mean on the guitar, and his solos were definitely a signature to his performance. George Duke was equally complementary, he played several of hits, but the old school medley paying tribute to funk, was the highlight of his performance for me. George said that his love for the music keeps him coming back to make good music year after year. He said that Johnny Guitar Watson was of his influences. George said that he is currently in studio working with Diane Reeves, Shante Moore and Tower of Power on their new album. He said that he is also working on a new album of his own. As a musician, he said that the internet has given him great exposure as a musician. Duke said that kids, who are learning to arrange music, should learn to play instruments instead of just using the computer to just push a bottom.
Stanley Clarke, who is considered to one of the most talented jazz musician alive, gave a stellar performance at the Jazz In The Garden. Appearing with George Duke, there could be no bigger reward for the jazz fan, as they gave a high energy performance. The crowd was literally up their feet cheering. Stanley said that he blames his mother who was a fine artist, for taking him to museums and galleries, and introducing to different sounds. Clarke, who has done music for over 50 films, says his latest project – First Sunday starring Kat Williams, Tracy Morgan and Ice Cube was a lot of fun, because he has a lot of respect for the young comedians. His advice to young musicians is work hard to hone their skills and to be disciplined from the start. He said that bass player Charlie Mingus was a great influence on his life. Clarke said that he would sit for hours talking about philosophy and music with Mingus.
After Duke and Clarke, the night belonged to the man they call the Greatest…George Benson. There was no stopping him on broadway, as he hit the stage running. His mean guitar, just strummed off hit after hit. It was Love Times Love, Turn Your Love Around, Kisses in the Moonlight, as the crowd stood together for this up-tempo, finger-clicking performance. There was no time to waste, no ad-libbing, no talking to the crowd, Benson allowed his vocals and guitar to for the talking. In short, George’s set was to the point, he was confident; the music was priceless and vintage. Jazz In The Garden rocked with Benson.
The ninth annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival (“CTIJF”) will take place in Cape Town, South Africa from March 28-29, 2008. This long awaited musical event will attract over twenty one (21) internationally renowned artists this year.
Scheduled to performed at the CTIJF will be some of our very jazz artist from stateside as well as other jazz artists from South African and the likes.
Some of the artists who are scheduled to perform are as follows:
Candy Dulfer was born on September 19, 1969 in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, as the daughter of tenor saxophonist Hans Dulfer Candy Dulfer (born September 19, 1969) is a Dutch smooth jazz alto saxophonist and television presenter. Dulfer began her career at the age of 12 when she played in a band with Rosa King, an American expatriate living in the Netherlands. Soon Dulfer was fronting her own band, Funky Stuff, who were invited to backup Madonna for part of her European tour. She was brought to the limelight by Prince, who introduced her to the world through his video for Partyman. This appearance led to session work with Eurythmics guitarist and producer Dave Stewart, who gave Dulfer a credit on “Lily Was Here” (the title song of a Dutch movie starring Marion van Thijn), reaching number six in the UK singles chart and number one in the Dutch radio charts in 1990. She also played with Pink Floyd at the band’s performance at Knebworth ’90 in June 1990. Candy Dulfer’s debut album, Saxuality, was released later in 1990. With her funky alto sax stylings proving popular with fans of contemporary jazz at several recently launched smooth jazz radio stations in the United States, Saxuality was nominated for a Grammy and certified gold for worldwide sales in excess of half a million. “Lily Was Here” also crossed over to the pop charts in America, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though Dulfer has had no other pop hits in the U.S., she has had a number of major smooth jazz chart hits, including “For The Love Of You” and “Finsbury Park, Cafe 67”.
Gerald Albright who began to make a name for himself as a sideman of great insight and musicianship, playing on albums by a wide variety of artists – including Anita Baker, Ray Parker, Lola Folana, Atlantic Starr, Olivia Newton-John, the Temptations and Maurice White. He also toured extensively with Les McCann, Rodney Franklin, Jeff Lorber, Teena Marie, the Winans, Marlena Shaw, Debra and Eloise Laws, Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, and many others. With 9 CD’s under his belt and one collaboration CD, Albright has definitely gained his place in the music world as a player, songwriter and producer. A native Californian, Gerald Albright grew up in South Central Los Angeles. After high school, he attended the University of Redlands where he received a B.S. degree in Business Management, minoring in Music. In addition to numerous appearances at clubs and jazz festivals, Albright had also been a part of the popular Jazz Explosion tours, which saw him teaming up with contemporary jazz stars like Will Downing, Jonathan Butler, Hugh Masekela, Chaka Khan, and Rachelle Ferrell, to name a few. Gerald Albright has also branched out as a TV Star to his already substantial resume. The saxman has appeared on numerous shows, such as “A Different World,” “Melrose Place,” Channels 2 and 5 “Morning News Shows,” “BET” jazz segments as well as piloting a show in Las Vegas with “Designing Women” star Meshach Taylor. Albright’s contemporary and straight-ahead collections have established the Los Angeles-based musician as one of the most prominent artists. Indeed, Albright was one of the ten featured saxophonists who performed at President Clinton’s inauguration. He was also featured at the Presidential Summit, as well as several private functions for the President.
Hiromi born in Shizuoka, Japan, in 1979, discovered jazz when she took up the piano at age six. Within a year, she was a student of the Yamaha School of Music, whose progressive approach to musical training allowed the young student to tap into her emotions as well as ma stering the technical aspects of writing and performing. Hiromi first built her reputation when her 2003 Telarc debut, Another Mind — produced by Ahmad Jamal — shipped gold in Japan (100,000 units) and won the Recording Industry Association of Japan’s (RIAJ) Jazz Album of the Year Award. Her 2004 release, Brain, won the Horizon Award at the 2004 Surround Music Awards, Swing Journal’s New Star Award, Jazz Life’s Gold Album, HMV Japan’s Best Japanese Jazz Album, and the Japan Music Pen Club’s Japanese Artist Award (the JMPC is a classical/jazz journalists club). Brain was also named Album of the Year in Swing Journal’s 2005 Readers Poll. Back in the U.S., Hiromi has been featured on the covers of Keyboard, Jazziz, Billboard and Goldmine. In 2006, Hiromi won Best Jazz Act at the Boston Music Awards and the Guinness Jazz Festival’s Rising Star Award. She also claimed Jazzman of the Year, Pianist of the Year and Album of the Year in Swing Journal Japan’s Jazz Readers Poll for her 2006 release, Spiral. Time Control is the sound of progressive jazz for the next generation. With her latest Telarc release, Hiromi continues her streak of simply timeless albums.
Javon Jackson was born in Carthage, Missouri and raised in Denver, Colorado. Music captivated the young Javon who was exposed to some of the greatest musicians in jazz through his parents’ record collection. Gene Ammons and Ahmad Jamal were early favorites. As he matured, Javon soon became captivated by the work of Sonny Stitt. Stitt, known for his prowess on both the alto and tenor saxophone, was considered one of Charlie Parker’s most avid disciples early in his career but later developed a distinctive voice of his own. Like so many other horn players today, Stitt’s music inspired Javon to pick up his irst saxophone, an alto, at a young age. More musical discoveries followed: Rollins, Henderson, Coltrane. The work of these legends eventually led Javon to favor the tenor. Honing his craft, Jackson began working professionally in local jazz clubs at age 16, playing with former Max Roach Quintet pianist Billy Wallace. In high school he also performed in the McDonald’s All-American Band. During this time, Javon met and was befriended by Branford Marsalis. It was Marsalis who encouraged Javon to attend Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music.
It is no flattery that The Los Angeles Times calls Kenny Barron “one of the top jazz pianists of the world”. Inducted onto the American Jazz Hall of Fame in 2005, the 64-year old pianist is a leader in his trade. Barron who served his apprenticeship with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef and Stan Getz, brings to Cape Town a Japanese bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela. Kitagawa is known for his work with his fellow countryman, Makoto Ozone. The percussive Mela has been creating waves as a member of the Joe Lovano Quartet When Barron takes on a ballad he can make his audience weep as he bends lucidly his chords. Equally, the retired Rutgers University professor of jazz piano can put fire underneath those who are listening to him play. His explorations of Brazilian rhythms in albums such the 1993 Sambao and 2002 Canta Brasil are proof of Barron’s versatility and deftness in his touch. It is no flattery that The Los Angeles Times calls Barron “one of the top jazz pianists of the world”. Inducted onto the American Jazz Hall of Fame in 2005, the 64-year old pianist is a leader in his trade. Barron who served his apprenticeship with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef and Stan Getz, brings to Cape Town a Japanese bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela. Kitagawa is known for his work with his fellow countryman, Makoto Ozone. The percussive Mela has been creating waves as a member of the Joe Lovano Quartet.
Jazz guitarist Kunle Ayo’s virtuosity with the strings has earned him several musical accolades and even comparisons, with giants of the contemporary school like George Benson, Earl Klugh and locally-based Jimmy Dludlu. His guitar work pulls at the heart-strings – soulful as it is cheerful, funky as it is jazzy. Brought up in a devout Christian household, it was logical that he would join a gospel band, De Cross and after completing his accountancy studies in 1996, The Compassion Band, the latter, which proved to be an influential outfit that exposed him to the big time. By the late nineties he was part of Lagos’s musical mainstream as a groundbreaking guitarist who was experimenting with cool/fusion styles made popular by artists like George Benson and Jonathan Butler while at the same time drawing inspiration from indigenous styles such as Juju, Highlife and Afro-Beat – the latter a traditional/jazz blend that was invented by the late Fela Kuti. By 2000 Kunle was recording and playing with some of Nigeria’s internationally respected artists, including Chief Ebenezer Obey, Kayode Olajide and the enigmatic Lagbaja (The Masked One) with whom he toured Europe, North Africa and South America. He runs his own company, KCool Productions, and has produced music for talented acts like MXO, Mac Jays, Peggy, Dudu Ndlovu, Mayé and a host of others.
Lee Mack Ritenour, 11 January 1952, Los Angeles, CA, USA. The prolific Ritenour has established himself as one of the world’s leading jazz guitarists with a series of accessible albums over three decades. Starting at the age of 16, Ritenour played his first session with The Mama’s and the Papa’s. Two years later he was backing Tony Bennett and Lena Horne at L.A.’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Know as “Captain Fingers,” Ritenour became a sought-after session player in the mid-70’s. Starting in 1976, at the age of 24, he began his own solo career which now includes over 30 albums and collaborations. Although heavily influenced in his early days by the relaxed styles of Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and Barney Kessel, he now has his own distinctive sound and fluid style. His list of session work is awesome (some 3,000 sessions), but some of his notable performances were with Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and Pink Floyd. Since the mid-80’s Ritenour has been strongly influenced by Brazilian music. Along the way, Ritenour has received 17 Grammy nominations, earned several gold albums, numerous #1 spots in guitar polls and the prestigious “Alumnus of the Year” award from USC. In 1981, he scored the pop15 hit “Is It You,” featuring vocalist Eric Tagg, which has also become a smooth jazz radio classic. He joined GRP Records in 1985 after recording for Electra the previous 7 years. At that time, he recorded the magnificent “Harlequin” album with GRP co-owner Dave Grusin. It was nominated for 4 Grammy”s and won 1 that year.
One of Brazil’s most international musicians, Sergio Mendes was born in Niterói (Rio de Janeiro) and started taking piano lessons as a child, switching from classic to jazz in his youth. In the beginning of the 60s, Mendes started playing jam sessions at nightclubs. He competed in jazz festivals and was leader of the Brazilian Jazz Sextet (who recorded with Cannonball Adderley), who soon turned into Sexteto Bossa Rio, playing the Carnegie Hall Bossa Nova Festival, in 1962, in New York. The 1964 album made by Sergio Mendes & Bossa Rio, arranged by Tom Jobim, is considered fundamental for bossa nova. Still in the 60s, he toured many countries with different groups before rounding up Brazil 66, with whom he made records and very successful tours. The album “Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66” sold over a million copies, with Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada” hitting the top of the charts in North-America. He played at the White House in 1967 and has made many albums, both solo and with his groups, always mixing bossa nova with jazz and Brazilian rhythms, international musicians and including songs like “Ponteio” (Edu Lobo/ Capinam) e “A Banda” (Chico Buarque). He won a Grammy in 1993. Immediately after college, Albright began to master his talent by working extensively in the studio with such artists as Patrice Rushen, Anita Baker, Ray Parker, Jr., Lola Folana, Atlantic Starr, The Winans, Olivia Newton-John, The Temptations, and Maurice White. He also toured with Les McCann, Rodney Franklin, Jeff Lorber, Teena Marie, Marlene Shaw, Debra and Eloise Laws, Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, and many others. In addition to numerous appearances at clubs and jazz festivals, Albright had also been a part of the popular Jazz Explosion tours, which saw him teaming up with contemporary jazz stars like Will Downing, Jonathan Butler, Hugh Masekela, Chaka Khan, and Rachelle Ferrell, to name a few.
Born in Benin, a small country of West Africa, Lionel Loueke first picked up percussion instruments before choosing guitar at the age of 17. In 1990, he moved to Ivory Coast for a general musical training in the “National Institute of Art” which lasted four years. As he was listening to outstanding jazz musicians such as Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, George Benson, he was definitely convinced that he needed to improve his playing. The next step would be to enroll in a well known jazz school. In 1994, he was accepted at the “American School of Modern Music” in Paris (France) where he got his Diploma in 1998. The dreams were coming true. In 1999, he was awarded a scholarship to “Berklee College of Music” in Boston, Massachussetts. He quickly graduated in 2000 majoring in Jazz Performance. In 2001, he auditioned for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and was selected in a world wide search by a panel of judges including jazz legends Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard and Wayne Shorter. He studied on this full scholarship at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, until May 2003. In 2002, while still at the Monk Institute, he stated playing with trumpet player and film music composer Terence Blanchard. He recorded two albums with him, the second one on the famous Blue Note label. Between 2003-2006, Lionel lives in New York and plays around the world. He played onTerence Blanchard last CD and DVD “Flow”. Also on Herbie Hancock’s last CD and DVD “Possibilities”. He also recorded two CD’s under his own name: “In A Trance” and “Virgin Forest” on the labels Space Time and Obliqsound.
Najee is one of contemporary jazz’s true pioneers. Creating a fresh and pulsating “rhythm and jazz” dynamic in the early days of the smooth jazz format, the versatile saxophonist—whose first two recordings, 1986’s Grammy nominated Najee’s Theme and 1988’s Day By Day, went platinum—inspired the whole urban vibe that took over the instrumental world throughout the ’90s. Recording on Heads Up International since 2005, he continues to explore new creative avenues by mixing up his trademark soulful soprano with dynamic touches of flute and alto, and surrounding himself with some of the best session players and collaborators in the business.
Midón was born in Embudo, N.M., to an Argentinean father and an African-American mother. A passionate music lover for as long as he can remember, Midón started playing drums at age 4 before shifting his focus to the guitar. He turned down a scholarship in creative writing offered by the University of New Mexico after being selected by the University of Miami for its highly regarded jazz program. Staying in Miami after graduating, Midón became an in-demand backup singer, working primarily on Latin projects for artists like Julio Iglesias, Shakira and Alejandro Sanz, while moonlighting as a club performer, sprinkling the requisite cover songs with the original tunes he was starting to write. On the city’s stages, he diligently honed his craft as a singer, writer and guitarist, developing a syncopated, flamenco- and jazz-infused approach to the steel-stringed acoustic. In 2002, when Midón felt he was ready, he walked away from his lucrative profession in order to pursue a solo career in New York City. “I wanted to become an artist and do what I wanted to do instead of being someone else’s hired gun,” he explains. When Midón performed for the legendary producer/arranger Arif Mardin, fresh off the recording of Norah Jones’ breakthrough album, Come Away With Me, he offered the newcomer a deal on the spot-it would be the final signing of Mardin’s long career. Raúl readily accepted, eager to form a partnership with the highly skilled veteran and with Arif’s multi-instrumentalist son Joe. Father and son co-produced State of Mind, which garnered critical accolades for its heady fusion of old-school soul, timeless pop, Latin, jazz and the singer/songwriter idiom. Intrigued by what the youngster was cooking up, Wonder himself appeared on one track.
The recently concluded Third Annual City of Miami Gardens – “Jazz In The Garden” was indeed a success. The two-day music festival, which was held March 15-16 on the grounds of the Dolphins Stadium. Artists appearing at Jazz In The Garden were George Benson, Chaka Khan, The OJays, Wyclef Jean, Nancy Wilson, KEM,George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Chrisette Michele, Mike Phillips, Anthony David, and Elin among other local artists. When I saw the news releases leading up to this concert, I was extremely excited about seeing singer/songwriter Kem. Kem of course, is a talented singer whose music captures a wide cross-section of different genres – R&B/Jazz/Adult Contemporary. Enjoying the success of his sophomore CD – Kem II, he has been staying on the road, touring with the likes of Fantasia, Reuben Stoddard, Al Jarreau, OJays, Nancy Wilson, Boney James among others. Kem says that he has performed in Miami before at the Tom Joyner Sky Show, but the gig with Jazz In The Garden was his first main billing. Appearing on the Sunday’s Show at Jazz In The Garden, Kem gave a stellar performance from start to finish. He performed songs from his debut album as well as his sophomore album. Due to his schedule, I had to catch up with Kem two days after the festival, we talked via telephone, covering topics like how he first started, his advice to up and coming artists, to producing and being knowledgeable about the music business. Kem, who is current working on his new album in the studios, says that this album will be a little different from the others. But it will not be a deviation from who is musically. A full interview with Kem will follow. For more information on Kem, visit his website at . Look out for KEM III – Intimacy when it hit records near you soon.