Curtis Brooks

Performing Sunday, July 9

Curtis Brooks is a professional Saxophonist, Songwriter and Producer with more than a decade of experience entertaining audiences with his music. His debut CD “Relax” has been ranked in the top-five on Amazon Music Bestseller’s list and plays on stations Worldwide. “Relax” has also been a top seller at festivals and concerts.

Curtis’ devotion to his music, as well as his passion, humbleness, improvisation skills, stage presence and distinctive ability to energize audiences has earned him the attention of concert promoters, fellow artist and fans. Highlights of his festival appearances include 2016 Newport Beach Jazz Festival, 2015 Cancun Jazz Festival, San Diego, Arizona and Gardena Jazz Festivals. He has also performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Thornton Winery, Spaghettini Seal Beach, Humphreys San Diego and other similar venues.

His talent has allowed him to work with a plethora of great musicians, co-producing Jazzy and Love You Anyway on his “Relax” CD with Tracy Carter, platinum songwriter, Producer, Composer and Keyboardist. He has performed with industry greats Paul Brown, two-time Grammy Award Winning Guitarist, Gerald Albright, multi-Grammy Award Nominee Saxophonist, Jazz Guitarist Peter White, Nick Colionne and Adam Hawley, Keyboardist Gregg Manning, Brian Simpson, and Ervin “EP” Pope Keyboardist and Producer to Grammy, Gold and Multi-Platinum Recording Artist. With Curtis, expect nothing less than originality, entertainment and passion for pleasing his audience.

Jonathan Butler

Performing Sunday, July 9

South African singer-songwriter-guitarist Jonathan Butler is tending to his herb garden at his suburban Los Angeles valley home. Growing tomatoes, bell peppers, rosemary, sage and thyme, his new pastime that he says gives him “a new sense of heaven” is part of a mindset he’s cultivated that he’s dubbed “the season of me.” The musical counterpart to this harvest season in the two-time Grammy nominee’s life is “Living My Dream,” a bountiful feast of organically-nurtured contemporary jazz instrumentals and soul-mined R&B vocal cuts – all original songs that he produced and tracked live in the House of Blues studio in Los Angeles.

“Each album is a page of your life and this is the season of Jonathan Butler, the season of me. It took years for me to be able to use the term ‘living my dream.’ I had to grow in my confidence and comfort and security first,” says Butler. “It’s one of those albums that I really didn’t think I had in me. I had been struggling going through this emotional period. Last year was a transitional period. Once I got my wind and got back to a place of focus, it turned out to be the best experience for me. I had to be vulnerable to the songs. It was magical tracking the album and I felt surrounded by the positive vibes from everyone in the studio, especially (daughter) Jodie (Butler) and Dennis Dodd Jr. They beat me up to write every day. They motivated and pushed me, and kept me focused. When others believe in you, it’s nothing to take lightly. Jodie and Dennis believed in me and I think we did something great on this album. I kept the production natural. These are all original compositions that came from the heart. It’s a classic Jonathan Butler album.”

Like Butler’s best material from a diverse, award-winning and chart-topping career that’s spanned R&B, jazz, pop and gospel, “Living My Dream” provides an honest and revealing soulfully-inspired songbook probing the artist’s life and loves: God, family and his homeland. “It’s the story of my life and the newness of discovery. These really are the best years of my life. I consider all that has happened so that I may gain the knowledge of Christ. What I’m going through, what I’ve been through and what I will go through is going to make me better. It’s a healthy piece of my life. Forgetting all that is behind me and all that lies ahead, I press on,” shares Butler, who often references scripture in conversation.

The set opens with the instrumental “African Breeze,” the first radio single that was originally penned by Butler 30 years ago for “The Jewel of the Nile” soundtrack, a big Hollywood movie starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. “I wanted to redo it and make it a now experience,” he says of the brisk energetic African-hued dancer with the festive melody plucked on nylon string guitar.

The down-tempo title cut cruises an R&B groove highlighted by horn fills and a trademark electric guitar-vocal scat from Butler mid-tune. “I love the urban-ness. It’s old school with real urban grit. It’s about enjoying where I’m at in life. It’s a cool groove that really comes alive,” says Butler about the song he memorably debuted live last August at the iconic Hollywood Bowl with Jodie Butler singing background vocals.

Writing and recording the gorgeous meditative instrumental “Be Still” during George Duke’s final days taught Butler a lesson. “I went to hang with him and he took me into his wine cellar. We sat for 4-5 hours and George spoke the entire time. I didn’t even speak. He just opened up about family, our wives, faith, and relationships. I had to remind him that I came to write a song with him. I picked up my guitar and the song came so easy and fast. George taught me to connect first as friends before making music. The song has a lot of emotion and was named for one of George’s favorite scriptures.”

Marcus Miller played on “Be Still” as well as on the mid-tempo R&B instrumental “Let There Be Light,” which the legendary bassist-songwriter-producer wrote with Butler, who illuminates on nylon string guitar. Saxophonist Elan Trotman graces the track with soprano sax elegance. “I played him a few notes and Marcus just heard it all. The song is reminiscent of the Marcus Miller-David Sanborn collaborations.”

Butler wrote the R&B-pop confessional “Heart and Soul” in twenty minutes while tears flowed. “It blows my mind. It’s a true reflection, an apologetic love song. It’s the essence, the heart of where I was at the time. It’s a testimonial.”

Dodd Jr. penned “Song For You,” which takes a bit of a different detour. The undeniably infectious R&B-pop tune has a shuffling beat infused with reggae nuances and Butler’s cool-toned electric guitar. “It’s a fun song and we threw in the horns just for fun. It adds a nice flavor to the record. It’s part of the unique story I’m trying to share with everybody. It’s not my song yet it affects me and tells part of my story. It connected with me and it’s different than what people would expect from me. I’d rather not make the same music over and over again.”

Butler speaks through a laid back electric guitar instrumental adorned with rousing, churchlike organ on “Catembe,” named for a place where he hopes to live one day in the Indian Ocean in Mozambique near Maputo.

An urban adult romancer, “Night To Remember” makes tantalizing electric guitar overtures amidst a vocal duet from Jonathan and Jodie Butler. “Jodie is pretty savvy as a songwriter. She has some amazing ideas. I’m proud of her.”

“All About Love” begins with an extended vocal and keyboard intro before a sophisticated R&B beat kicks in. “It talks about the family – this household – these women that I love so much,” reveals Butler, a dedicated family man.

Butler closes the session with a pair of poignant nylon string guitar instrumentals. The first composition Butler wrote for “Living My Dream,” “Sweet Serenade” is a poetic beauty with drama underscored by a horn section. A solemn, bluesy offering that was written at sound check, “A Prayer” stirs the heavens with celestial vocal harmonization. “I’m fortunate to work with some of the best young Israeli musicians, including Davy Nathan, who plays keyboards with Babyface and Toni Braxton. I love the chant part that Jodie and I sang at the end. That’s where the prayer comes in.”

The youngest of 13 children, Butler grew up in destitute in Cape Town, South African ruled by Apartheid and segregation. “I was born poor, but richly blessed with talent and the gift to make music,” he says. “I can’t dismiss where I’ve been or where I’ve come from. I’m a proud South African and I came from nothing.”

Butler began his singing career at age seven, releasing his first album in 1973 and winning the Best New Artist Grammy in South Africa the following year at age twelve. He made history by being the first black artist played on white South African radio while earning three gold records (“Please Stay” went double gold and “I Love How You Love Me” went gold) in 1975 as he became a teenager.

More than a decade later, Butler moved to London, England after signing with Jive Records and released his first album internationally. The self-titled set went gold in 1987 in the United Kingdom and in the USA. He received Grammy nominations for Best R&B Song for his R&B-pop vocal hit “Lies” and for Best Jazz Song for the instrumental “Going Home.” His genre-busting material earned songwriter’s awards and received abundant airplay in multiple radio formats: pop, urban, contemporary jazz, adult contemporary and gospel. Butler’s 2004 album, “Surrender,” went gold in South Africa where he remains a superstar. “I don’t think I’ve ever really celebrated these moments in my life. I’ve spent my whole life taking care of people ever since I was seven. And I’m grateful, but this is the season of me.”

Butler is still taking care of people back home. Last fall, he launched the Jonathan Butler Foundation in his native country to fund music education programs that give children the purpose to overcome a life of drugs and poverty just as he did. The music and arts programs serving South African children ages 4-17 operate with the mission statement “Purpose kills addiction.”

“I’m very proud that this is my legacy, giving back to people in South Africa. I’m happy to inspire these young kids and I’m extremely proud and encouraged about reclaiming our children from drug lords by teaching them how to sing and play instruments. The (South African) government has stepped in to find ways to progressively move and get more people involved. We’ve been in Pretoria and Johannesburg since we started and we’ll be launching in Cape Town in October. It’s so important to be in that city because it’s where I’m from,” explains Butler about the foundation that aims to launch a satellite component in the U.S. this year to increase assistance in South Africa.

Another aspect of Butler’s “season of me” is his blossoming love affair with golf. He’s only been playing slightly more than a year, but he’s smitten and plays almost daily, often with other musicians. “I’m not sure how golf took over, but it attached itself to me. I can go out on the golf course and have ‘guy time.’ I’m completely taken over by this little white ball. I’m so at peace and calm when I’m out there and so relaxed after playing, which I never thought would be the case since I’ve never been a sports guy. I wasn’t trying to find another passion, but it actually found me. Golf has become my saving grace and has given me a look inside me. I think it’s the freedom. It’s amazing how much it’s given me.”

In concert, Butler remains a captivating and powerful performer pouring his heart into selections from his immense catalogue. In addition to being a popular draw at headline dates, festival shows and music cruises, Butler thrives on interacting with his fans. For the past four years, he has led a group of 35 guests each fall on the Jonathan Butler Safari during which he shares his South Africa by visiting important landmarks in his life as well as historic locales such as the prison on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was jailed.

“I’ve come to a really good place in my life even if finding my way there was tough. I’m living my dream and it’s amazing what God is doing – seeing all these things through tears and pain. Seeing God place me in these extraordinary places and opportunities…if I couldn’t see it, I’d really be blind and faithless. I need to hold onto the love surrounding me. I had never really dropped my shoulders to embrace it. It took shedding my skin, realigning and readjusting myself as a person, honestly looking at how I can become a better person, which affects my family. We stood together through difficult periods and it taught me not to make too many allowances in life of which I had been making too many. It was a trying time and a difficult year emotionally and personally, but I did a lot of reflecting over the past two years and I’m in a good place,” summarizes Butler.

During an extraordinary musical life that has unfolded in the public eye, Butler has seen and endured a lot. He’s watched his country turn itself inside out for the better – much like he has done with his own life. Living and witnessing the brutalities and injustice of oppression as a celebrated child star while at the same time not permitted to enjoy basic human rights, indulgence naturally became his coping device. If not for a spiritual intervention, his light would have been extinguished long ago on the mercilessly dark path of abuse and self-destruction. His music has purpose, providing comfort and genuine inspiration. When he sings, he testifies to the glory and healing power of love. When he plays guitar, his fast fingers innately find notes of passion and divinity. Jonathan Butler’s recording career has carried him far, far beyond his wildest dreams. He’s living his dream and that is a blessing for us all.

Gerald Albright

Performing Sunday, July 9

One of the biggest stars of R&B, contemporary and straight-ahead jazz, Gerald Albright has earned his reputation as a “musician’s musician.” Born in Los Angeles, he began piano lessons at an early age. Albright’s love of music picked up considerably when he was given a saxophone that had belonged to his piano teacher. By the time he enrolled at the University of Redlands, he was already a polished saxophonist. Albright decided to switch to bass guitar after he saw Louis Johnson in concert. A few months after graduating from college, he joined jazz pianist/R&B singer Patrice Rushen, who was in the process of forming her own band. Later, when the bass player left in the middle of a tour, Albright replaced him and finished the tour on bass guitar.

During the ’80s, Albright became a highly requested session musician, 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, Jeff Lorber, Teena Marie, the Winans, Marlena Shaw, Quincy Jones, and Whitney Houston, among many others. Albright also went on to record numerous successful solo albums for Atlantic Records. Two albums hit the number one slot on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Chart, and were nominated for GRAMMY® Awards in 1989 and 1990. Phil Collins asked him to front a Big Band in 1998, and they toured together. The two of them also recorded one of Albright’s tunes, “Chips N’ Salsa” on Collins’ Big Band Project, entitled A Hot Night In Paris. Later that year, Albright released Pleasures of the Night with Will Downing on Verve Forecast, which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart as well.

Albright moved to GRP in 2002 for the Groovology album, and continued to maintain his busy schedule as a session man. His second GRP album, Kickin’ It Up, followed in 2004. Two years later, he signed with Peak Records, which released the 2008 GRAMMY® nominated New Beginnings, and the 2009 GRAMMY® nominated, Sax for Stax; both in the category of Best Pop
Instrumental Album.

Over the years, Albright has appeared on numerous TV shows such as A Different World, Melrose Place and BET Jazz segments, as well as piloting a show in Las Vegas with Designing Women star Meshach Taylor. Albright was selected to be one of 10 saxophonists to play at President Clinton’s inauguration ceremony. Along the way, he has sold over a million albums in the U.S. alone and has appeared on nearly 200 albums by other artists.

Albright released Pushing The Envelope in June 2010 on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group. Pushing The Envelope is a showcase for Albright’s remarkably fine balance of songcraft and musicianship, and features special guest appearances by Fred Wesley on trombone, Earl Klugh on acoustic guitar and George Duke on acoustic piano. In December 2010, Pushing The Envelope received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

On June 19, 2012, Albright teamed up with GRAMMY®-winning guitarist Norman Brown for 24/7, their first album together. Featuring ten killer soul-jazz tracks, 24/7 includes updated versions of “Tomorrow,” a Brothers Johnson classic from 1976, and “Champagne Life,” from singer Ne-Yo’s album Libra Scale. 24/7 was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award in the category of Best Pop Instrumental Album.
On August 5, 2014, Albright releases Slam Dunk and continues his reign supreme as the genre’s most compelling and consistent artist. Fans will hear his searing and soulful sax lines on this twelve-track recording. And, they’ll be in for a surprise, as Albright shows off his chops as a bassist, along with his ebullient tenor, baritone and soprano saxophone arrangements on his own compositions, and his super covers of classics by Phil Collins (“True Colors”) and James Brown (“It’s a Man’s, Man’s Man’s World”), with special guest vocalist Peabo Bryson.

West Coast Jam with Richard Elliot, Rick Braun, and Norman Brown

Performing Sunday, July 9

RICHARD ELLIOT

Having embarked upon one of instrumental music’s most dynamic and multi-faceted career, Richard Elliot’s sound has played a huge part in pioneering the genre and radio format that became today’s contemporary urban jazz.

Born in the Scottish highlands and transplanted to Los Angeles at the age of three, he primarily grooved to R&B and was smitten with the Motown sound. As a teenager, he was taken by the tenor sax and found himself capable of expressing his own musical voice through it.

His early career included touring with Natalie Cole and Yellowjackets and recording sessions with Motown soul heavyweights like Smokey Robinson and The Temptations.

While touring with Tower of Power, he released his debut solo album Trolltown and the success of that album encouraged him to go solo. His subsequent career has been nothing short of phenomenal.

His numerous #1 albums include On The Town, Soul Embrace, After Dark and Jumpin’ Off and he has held a consistent presence at the top of the Billboard and NAC charts. Elliot has also enjoyed the distinction of having two releases chart simultaneously; Chill Factor remained on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart for over 94 weeks, 26 weeks simultaneously with the greatest-hits collection, The Best of Richard Elliot.

His most recent recording, Summer Madness, inspired Richard to want to tour with a three-piece horn section and a supporting cast of musicians. He reached out to his long-time collaborator, Rick Braun, and guitarist Norman Brown to join him in creating West Coast Jam, a wall of sound that will be funky and rocking.

RICK BRAUN

Nearly twenty years into his solo career, Rick Braun’s done just about everything, from backing the likes of Rod Stewart and Sade to stepping out into the spotlight as a vocalist and a master of the trumpet and flugelhorn.

The Allentown, Pennsylvania-born Braun began playing music in elementary school, ultimately winding up at the prestigious Eastman School of Music. There he hooked up with like-minded musicians to form a jazz-fusion combo, Auracle.

Braun’s first big break came when he composed “Here With Me,” a Top 20 hit for REO Speedwagon. He soon became a highly regarded pop sideman, touring and recording with the likes of Rod Stewart, War, Sade, Tina Turner, Natalie Cole, and Tom Petty.

The trumpeter became a NAC fixture with his debut, Intimate Secrets. His records have ranked in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart with Kisses in the Rain reigning at #1 for 11 weeks and his singles have held the #1 position on the R&R NAC/Smooth Jazz album charts.

The recipient of numerous National Contemporary Jazz Awards, he shared a Best Collaboration award with Boney James for their hit Shake It Up. He also teamed up with Richard Elliot in RnR and their duet project hit #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. A much-in-demand producer, he has delivered #1 radio hits with artists including David Benoit, Marc Antoine and Jeff Golub.

NORMAN BROWN

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, GRAMMY® Award winner Norman Brown first picked up a guitar at the age of eight. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s mind-bending rock sounds, Brown soon discovered his father’s favorite artist, Wes Montgomery, and found his stylistic holy grail. After high school, Brown moved to Los Angeles to pursue his musical career, attending the Musicians Institute where he also taught for a time. While playing with his own group in local clubs, and drawing comparisons to George Benson, Brown was discovered and signed to the MoJazz label, a division of Motown. He delivered his 1992 debut, Just Between Us, and followed with the gold-certified After The Storm and 1996’s Better Days Ahead.

With critical acclaim and sales behind him, the talented musician made the leap to Warner Bros. and released Celebration, which first teamed him with producer Paul Brown. The 2003 followup, Just Chillin’, earned Brown much-deserved recognition with a GRAMMY® Award in the best pop instrumental category. That project was followed by his 2005 release West Coast Coolin’, where Brown tested out his skills as a vocalist, a move that was welcomed by the urban AC radio market. In addition, his 2005 compilation The Very Best Of Norman Brown was one of the best-selling smooth jazz albums of that year.

Brown made the leap to the Peak Records label, a division of Concord Music Group, in 2007 for his smash CD Stay With Me, which yielded the R&B vocal hit “Stay With Me” and the smooth instrumental favorites “Let’s Take A Ride” and “Pop’s Cool Groove.” The guitarist kept the good vibes going on his long-awaited June 2010 release, Sending My Love.

In addition to success as a musician and producer, Brown launched a successful career as a broadcaster. In January of 2007, he brought his engaging personality to Broadcast Architecture’s Smooth Jazz Network as an on-air personality, hosting this own weekend radio show.

Boney James

Performing Sunday, July 9

Four-time GRAMMY nominee and multi-platinum selling sax-man Boney James continues his artistic evolution with the dynamic futuresoul. Fusing his love for vintage soul music with his mastery of modern production, Boney has created another genre-bending work following on the heels of his 2014 GRAMMY-nominated album The Beat.

“The forms I’m working with are rooted in my early influences,” says James, dropping names like King Curtis, the Stylistics and Earth, Wind & Fire. “But recently I’ve been listening to contemporary artists like Tinashé, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding, and I’m inspired by the sound of their recordings. The production is so cool and evocative. As I started the new record, I was in my backyard studio messing around with this “gearhead” stuff I’ve collected. Ideas started flowing and it sounded like modern soul music to me. I thought to myself, ‘What is this?’… And then it hit me: ‘futuresoul.’”

His 15th CD, futuresoul contains 10 original songs produced and written or co-written by James. Released by Concord Records May 4, 2015, futuresoul features vocalist and Mint Condition frontman Stokley on “Either Way,” a collaboration enabled by Twitter. Says James, “Like my recent duet with Raheem DeVaughn, I was able to meet Stokley on Twitter and send him the music for this track. He wrote the brilliant lyric and sent me a finished vocal all via email!”
Also featured is rising-star trumpet player Marquis Hill (2014 winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition) on the plaintive “Far From Home.”

Other notable collabs on the record are title-cut “futuresoul,” co-written and co-produced by neo-soul mainstay Dwele, and “Drumline” and “Watchu Gon’ Do About It?” with co-writer/co-producer Jairus Mozee (Anthony Hamilton, Robin Thicke).

futuresoul is the follow-up to The Beat (2013), nominated for the GRAMMY for Best Pop Instrumental Album, which prompted The New York Times to praise “The relaxed charisma of Mr. James’ tone…”

“Tone, or the ‘sound’ of my horn, is really crucial to me,” says James. “I practice my saxophone in my backyard studio every day when I’m not on the road. I’m still dedicated to trying to be a better player. I spend much of my time with a keyboard next to me and a computer behind me,” he continues. “So when I get a creative idea, I’ll reach over to the keyboard and pick out a few notes or record myself singing a melody. I start gathering pieces. Then I’ll build on them and gradually they’ll turn into songs. I get more and more excited and start spending 14-hour days out there. Before I know it, I’ve made an album. It’s amazing how it happens – like a ball rolling down a hill, it develops its own momentum.”

Of course this process would not be possible if James weren’t so skilled with the production technology – he says he views digital production as an instrument in itself. He almost certainly could not have imagined such a thing when, at age eight, he picked up his first instrument: the clarinet. “I really wanted to play the trumpet, but when we went to the local music store, all they had were clarinets,” he explains. “I had to have something that day, so I took one home. The saxophone came up two years later because there were so many clarinet players in the band. My teacher kind of leaned on me to switch,” James laughs. “It was fate.”

The ‘analog’ tone of the sax combined with the ‘digital’ sounds of modern production contribute to the sonic tension that fuels futuresoul.

Boney says, “The track ‘Vinyl’ really embodies the blending of retro and modern,”
as it represents the first time he has sampled a classic record. “What you hear in the chorus,” he notes, “is a ‘filtered’ piece of the Stylistics song ‘People Make the World Go Round.’”

Born in Lowell, Mass. and raised in New Rochelle, NY, Boney became seriously interested in music in the mid ‘70s, a very vibrant and freewheeling period for popular music. “You could hear different genres all over the radio. Contemporary jazz was everywhere – people like Grover Washington Jr., Herbie Hancock and George Benson were stars,” he marvels. “Artists like Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire were incorporating jazz into what they were doing, and the jazz guys were mixing R&B into their sound. It was a great time to be a young musician.”

By 13, James – born James Oppenheim and nicknamed “Boney” in his mid-20’s when a meager touring per diem saw him growing thinner – was jamming in basements and garages. One summer during college, he found himself sitting in with some friends at a club. “Playing in a real club, with the energy of a real audience was such a fantastic rush,” he remembers. “That was the spark for my decision to become a professional musician.”

Following early pro gigs, (including sideman stints with Morris Day, the Isley Brothers, Randy Crawford and Teena Marie) James released his debut album as a leader, Trust, in 1992.

Over the following 23 years James has racked up sales of more than 3 million records, four RIAA gold albums, four GRAMMY nominations, a Soul Train Award, nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and 10 CD’s atop Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. In 2009 Billboard magazine named him the #3 Contemporary Jazz Artist Of The Decade (trailing just Kenny G and Norah Jones).

What’s in the future for futuresoul? Already making inroads at radio with the funky “Drumline” and the sultry “Either Way,” Boney will hit the road mid 2015 and continue touring throughout 2016. James says, “When people ask me what category my music falls under, I always say, ‘It’s Boney James music’.” Known for blurring the lines between genres, with futuresoul, Boney is doing the same between eras. Let’s just call it “retro music for a modern age.”

The L.A. Collective

The L.A. Collective ft Adam Hawley, Greg Manning, Darryl Williams & Tony Moore

Performing Saturday, July 8

What is evident about the LA Collective, a contemporary Jazz group, is their musical persona galvanizes the stage with high powered energy and they delight in each other’s company which creates a palpable synergy. This group is comprised of four accomplished musicians, guitarist ADAM HAWLEY, drummer TONY MOORE, keyboardist GREG MANNING and bassist DARRYL WILLIAMS.
The LA Collective originally came together as a backup band for different artists on the 2014 Dave Koz Cruise to Alaska. However, the band’s success catapulted them into deciding they would be a permanent fixture in the Southern California contemporary jazz music scene. There is a raw energy to their sound, which is a blend of jazz, funk, Latin and soul. The group draws directly from the diverse talents of its members and the “collective energy” they manifest on stage. Their ability to switch effortlessly from one style to another comes from a shared passion for varying styles of music, plus each musician’s proficiency on their instrument.

The group is certainly no stranger to the music scene as they have been honing their skills for well over a decade by recording and touring with some of the biggest names in the music industry. The band has a sensational live show which has performed at The Moreno Valley Jazz Festival, The Market Creek Jazz Festival and various other venues throughout California. The songs have a lovely smooth, funky groove and the chemistry onstage comes naturally. The LA Collective just happens.

Nick Colionne

Performing Saturday, July 8th

Since breaking through to contemporary urban jazz stardom in the early 2000s, Nick Colionne has been one of the genre´s most dynamic and tireless live performers, headlining hundreds of shows and energizing fans across the U.S. and Europe with his sizzling blend of jazz, R&B, funk, blues and soulful, seductive vocals. Over the years, the charismatic, inspirationally fashionable (courtesy of designer Stacy Adams) Chicago based guitarist´s album titles have kept everyone in the loop as to where his musical heart is. He has mastered the art of Keepin´ It Cool (2006), pushed musical boundaries to a place where there are No Limits (2008), urged us to Feel The Heat (2011) and later explored some of his deepest Influences (2014).

On his newly-released Trippin ´N´ Rhythm album The Journey, Nick takes stock of his extraordinary career, the wonderful musicians he´s played with, the people he´s met, worked with and entertained, and the amazing places he´s traveled with his electric guitar. It´s taken him to great heights recently, as the three Top 5 singles from Influences led him to be named Billboard´s #5 Artist of the Year for 2015. Nick keeps the forward momentum going with the infectious and grooving title track and lead single from The Journey. Upon the single´s release at the end of February 2016, it earned a “#1 Most-Added” designation on iTunes and Billboard, and quickly reached #1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz and Groove Jazz Music charts!

The Journey is the perfect album title for an artist who has become one of the most in-demand headliners on the circuit, playing up to 75 shows a year throughout the country at top festivals (Berks Jazz Fest, Capital Jazz Fest, Catalina Jazz Trax Festival, Seabreeze Jazz Festival, JazzFest West, Punta Gorda Jazz Festival, Thornton Winery Jazz Series), on popular cruises (Capital Jazz Cruise, The Smooth Jazz Cruise, Dave Koz Cruise) and in other top venues (The Soiled Dove in Denver, Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, etc). Expanding his reach to Europe in recent years, Nick has played several times at the Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg in Germany, the Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival and Pizza Express Jazz Club in London, where he is returning in June 2016 (his third appearance) to headline shows with fellow Chicago-bred saxman Steve Cole.

Nick has received numerous honors and accolades throughout his multi-faceted career, including the prestigious 2007 International Instrumental Artist of the Year Award at the Wave Jazz Awards, where he succeeded 2006 winner Chris Botti. He was nominated for the award again in 2009. He was also chosen Artist of the Year at the 2011 Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival and Performer of the Year for Jazz Trax Jazz Festivals in 2010 and 2011.

In 2010, Nick was nominated as Guitarist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year by the American Smooth Jazz Awards and received the Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award for his ongoing commitment to mentoring children and his work in the community and nationally in support of breast cancer causes. The recipient of the 1996 Malcom X College Alumnus of the Year Award (he earned his degree there in music), Colionne has devoted much of his spare time over the past 20 years to mentoring children at St. Laurence K-8 School in Elgin, Illinois. His roles include counseling, teaching music, computer music skills and guitar, and assisting with talent shows and holiday pageants.

Though most urban jazz fans were first introduced to Nick via his 2003 hit single “High Flyin´” (which was one of the genre´s Top Ten songs that year), folks in “The Big Windy” started grooving to him much sooner with his early album releases, starting with It´s My Turn in 1994. Fully in line with the sense of gratitude and reflection that drives The Journey, he includes on the new album the sensual and reflective “East Evergreen Revisited,” which first appeared as “East Evergreen” on his recording debut. It is his way of not only coming full circle creatively, but also paying tribute to Carol Ray, his longtime partner, manager and guiding force in his life who passed away in 2013. That was the name of the street Carol lived on when Nick wrote it.

Aside from showcasing his incredible skills on the Epiphone Nick Colionne ES175 Premium (his own name model!), the Epiphone Sheridan, the Epiphone Broadway Elitist, Epiphone Swingster and Gibson L-4 C, The Journey also features Nick collaborating with a unique array of jazz and R&B talent. Wanting to explore a deeper palette of flavors, moods and attitudes, Nick invites Grammy nominee and Soul Train Award winning sax great Najee to play on the old school funk jam “Buckle Up” and complements his own compositions (including the percussive blues funk jam “On the Move” and the title track) with tunes written and produced by legendary Pieces of a Dream keyboardist James Lloyd (the sensual ballad “Say What´s On Your Mind,” and Chris “Big Dog” Davis (Maysa, Will Downing, Chante Moore). Lloyd and Davis previously worked with Nick on Influences. The coolly grooving, atmospheric mid-tempo tune “Uncle Nick” was written and produced by emerging urban jazz keyboardist Nicholas Cole, who refers to the guitarist in this affectionate way. Saxophonist and producer Darren Rahn mixed on four tracks.

“Working with all these great artists, including Najee and Nicholas for the first time ever, made me think of how blessed I have been throughout my career to work with so many great musicians whose work I have admired,” says Nick, who honed his skills as a teenager gigging with The Staples Singers, The Impressions and late greats Curtis Mayfield and Natalie Cole.

“When I was coming up in the ranks, I was so excited to be playing shows with guys like Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Rick Braun, whose music I had been listening to for years. My personal journey has thankfully led me to a point where they became friends and peers. For me, the most amazing thing is that I´m still here, able to perform and tour with musicians I love; I continue to receive love and support from my fans and meet so many warm, inspiring people every day. They have truly made The Journey a remarkable experience for me.”

Keiko Matsui

EPK featuring Euge Groove, Peter White, Keiko Matsui

Performing Saturday, July 8

Keiko Matsui is an icon of contemporary jazz. With nearly 1.2 million units sold in the U.S. alone and packed concert halls, she is one of the most recognized artists in the genre. Her elegant piano melodies and gentle jazz grooves have enormous appeal and never disappoint her loyal fan base which she has cultivated with over a dozen albums and stunning live shows.

Matsui has taken her music to extraordinary places since that fateful day of her first piano lesson. By the time she was in junior high school, she began composing and developing a taste for jazz, drawing inspiration from a variety of classical and contemporary composers ranging from Chopin, Mozart, and Rachmaninov to Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and Stevie Wonder. At the age of 17, Matsui was chosen to record for the Foundation, and that same year, she composed her first film score.

Matsui commenced her solo recording career with 1987’s A DROP OF WATER. The album (financed with funds she and her husband, shakuhachi flute player/producer Kazu Matsui, had planned to use for their honeymoon) established Matsui as a talent of note. Her subsequent albums, including NO BORDERS (1989), UNDER NORTHERN LIGHTS (1990), NIGHT WALTZ (1991), CHERRY BLOSSOM (1992), DOLL (1994), SAPPHIRE (1995), and DREAM WALK (1996) further cemented her reputation and increased her popularity. No stranger to the upper reaches of the contemporary jazz album and airplay charts, Matsui was named Top Indie Contemporary Jazz Artist Of The Year by Billboard magazine in 1996.

In 1997, The American Society of Young Musicians honored Matsui with its Essence Award, which recognizes artists whose vitality captures “the very spirit and soul of audiences worldwide.” That same year, she launched a tour dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer, and released a four-song CD entitled A GIFT OF HOPE that benefited the Y-Me Breast Cancer Organization. Matsui’s music was prominently featured in Say It, Fight It, Cure It, a special profiling several courageous women who were battling breast cancer that aired on the Lifetime cable television network. In 1999, Matsui performed at “A Golden Moment,” a skating concert featuring Olympic figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Ekaterina Gordeeva, and Katarina Witt that benefited the renowned breast cancer organization, the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

1998 saw the release of Matsui’s album FULL MOON AND THE SHRINE, which was accompanied by an acclaimed PBS-TV special entitled Keiko Matsui: Light Above The Trees. The special reflected the multicultural nature of Matsui’s life and music and was filmed, in part, at Japan’s breathtakingly beautiful 1,300-year-old Itsukushima Shrine and during a high-energy concert in San Francisco. The special earned Matsui a National Smooth Jazz Award for Best Long-Form Video Achievement in 2000. She was also honored as the Best Female Artist that year and again in 2001.

On 2004’s WILDFLOWER, Matsui once again used music as a platform for inspiring good. The album’s title track benefits the United Nations World Food Programme’s efforts in Africa. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency, which, in 2002, fed 72 million people in 82 countries including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people. “I decided I wanted to support the WFP after learning about the tremendous problems in Africa and how humanitarian assistance can change people’s lives for the better,” Matsui said. “So much help is needed there, particularly for the children who have been orphaned or abandoned because of war and AIDS.”

WALLS OF AKENDORA (2005) showcases her signature sophisticated jazz style on ten tunes that range from the classically inspired to bold and brassy. ‘Akendora,’ Matsui explains, ‘is a fictional place of my own device! It is a place that I to go to find peace and to spend contemplative moments.

Matsui’s latest release (Shout Factory, 2007) is the CD, MOYO. (Moyo means heart & soul in African.) Her extended stay in South Africa influenced many of the tunes. Some of the tracks were even recorded in Johannesburg. Guest artists on this CD include Richard Bona, Gerald Albright, Paul Taylor and the legendary Hugh Masekela. This was one of Matsui’s best selling releases and the single, ‘Black River’ reached #3 on the radio charts and stayed on those charts for 36 weeks. For more, please visit www.keikomatsui.com.

Peter White

EPK featuring Euge Groove, Peter White, Keiko Matsui

Performing Saturday, July 8

Like so many millions of us, guitarist Peter White still feels closest to the music he absorbed while growing up. As a British teen in the ’60s, he kept his ears glued to the radio—soaking up the exciting new sounds of rock bands like the Beatles and soul giants like Stevie Wonder—and tried to learn how to play those songs on the acoustic guitar his dad had given him. It didn’t take him long to get the hang of it, and now, after more than four decades as both a leader and sideman, he’s returning to those tunes that impacted him so forcefully in his youth.

Groovin’, set for release on October 28, 2016 via Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, is White’s third collection of guitar-centric interpretations of timeless compositions from those halcyon years of the 1950s to the ’80s. Taking up where his previous all-covers albums Reflections (1994) and Playin’ Favorites (2006) left off, Groovin’ finds White not only nostalgic but adventurous and playful, injecting vocal shadings and bold horn charts into the mix, and even some tougher guitar sounds than he’s generally known for.

“I always gravitate toward this era,” says White about the songs he chooses to cover. “At that time the music meant more to me than at any other time in my life.”

Groovin’ takes its title from the Rascals’ tropical-hued ballad hit of 1967, and also includes, from that heady decade, the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere.” From the same era, the R&B classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a hit for both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight, gets a distinctive new reading here by White, as does Otis Redding’s timeless “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” The oldest tune, “Sleep Walk,” was a number one instrumental hit in 1959 by Santo and Johnny in the United States, but White actually heard it first by the Shadows, a British guitar combo massively popular in the U.K. that never really caught on in the States. For White, the challenge in interpreting such familiar music is in putting his own stamp on a number while retaining the characteristics that make it instantly recognizable.
“I like playing covers because if you can take a song that people know, by a well-known artist, and make it your own, then you have defined yourself as an artist,” he says. “Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley did that and no one complained. One of the purposes in my making these cover albums is that I want to be very faithful to the melody. But I ask myself, if I had just come up with this idea and it had never been recorded before, how would I record this song? Do I need to use any part of the original arrangement, and if I don’t then let’s not. On at least half the songs on this album, if you took my melody off, you would not recognize the song.”
Several songs on Groovin’ originated in the 1970s and ’80s, the decade that White considers his “cutoff point.” The Stevie Wonder track that follows “Groovin’” on the album is “Do I Do,” from 1982, and “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” originally recorded by Stephanie Mills, is also an ’80s-vintage track. “I Can See Clearly Now,” the classic reggae chart-topper by Johnny Nash, the Three Degrees’ Gamble and Huff-penned “When Will I See You Again” and “How Long,” the Paul Carrack-written hit by Ace, all stem from the first half of the ’70s. Once White narrowed down the material he wanted to include, he got to work on the arrangements. “You have to forget the original version,” he says. “I start with a beat and then I start playing the piano—most of these arrangements come from the piano.” Self-producing, White then worked out his guitar parts and fine-tuned the roles that the various musicians would play. Among them was drummer Ricky Lawson, a friend of White’s who passed away shortly after contributing to the album and to whom he dedicates Groovin’.

“A lot of the ideas on Groovin’ were left over from my last two cover songs albums,” White says. “I make song lists and go through them—‘Does this work? Does that work? Oh, that works.’ I had this list of songs and said, ‘Let’s see what happens.’”

In a way, “Let’s see what happens” has been White’s modus operandi since he first picked up a guitar. Influenced at first by folk music, he learned fingerstyle picking by listening to Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell recordings. An introduction to the revolutionary rock of Jimi Hendrix sent him scampering toward the electric guitar, but when his first model was destroyed in a fire he returned to the acoustic. He fell for the British blues of bands such as (early) Fleetwood Mac and was introduced to jazz by a friend. It was his ability to adapt his playing to multiple styles of music that got White noticed by British singer-songwriter Al Stewart—first as a pianist, then as a guitarist. White played on Stewart’s top 10 album Year of the Cat in 1976 and co-wrote the hit title track of the singer’s next album, “Time Passages.” White spent 20 years in all accompanying Stewart, and performed sideman duties for many other artists, but by 1990 he was ready to go out on his own.

“I was listening to the radio,” he recalls, “and they played a song I’d recorded with Al Stewart, ‘Ghostly Horses of the Plain,’ which was pretty much a guitar instrumental. The DJ comes on and says, ‘That was Al Stewart.’ I said, ‘No, that was me!’” From that point on, White began concentrating on his own music, composing and recording under his own name. His 1996 Caravan of Dreams album sold over 300,000 copies and by the early 2000s his shelf was bulging with awards for his virtuosic musicianship. “I never thought I’d be in the position of having a career playing my instrumental music,” White says. “When I started out, that wasn’t a road that was open to me. Then it worked.”

It’s still working. “I throw my net far and wide,” he says, “and don’t label it. It’s just instrumental music. I like to play nice songs on the guitar and I hope people like it.” Based on his stellar four-decade track record, and the instantly contagious grooves he’s created on Groovin’, that’s not going to be a problem.