Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mellow jazz at AA dizzying 35,000 feet

The options opened to the Offbeat Blogger, provisionally confined on an American Airline Boeing 757-200 jet plying the Miami to Los Angeles route, were enough for the over 5-hour long journey.

Read the carry-on novel and do crossword puzzle, rummage through the American Way mag, sip a Cola (complimentary meal is passé) while watching the moving, picturesque landscape below, watch the hilarious Imagine That, a movie starring Eddie Murphy and cutie Yara Shahidi, or just kick back and listen to some really mellow and sophisticated blend of jazz instrumentals and vocals.

With time to spare the Blogger did all of the above.

The After Hour jazz channel certainly helped to take the edge off a 2300-mile long flight cruising at a dizzying 35,000 feet. And, Anita O’Day, Diana Krall, Miles Davis, James Darren complemented what was a smooth flight to LA.

The Sky Radio audio included Miles Davis - Blue in Green, Kevin Mahogany - Since I fell For You, Gene Harris & Scott Hamilton Quintet - At Last, Bloosom Dearie - Someone To Watch Over Me, Kenny Burrell - I’m Falling For You, James Darren - Blame It On My Youth, Astrud Gilberto - The Girl From Ipanema, Chet Baker - Time After Time, Diana Krall - Everytime We Say Goodbye, Marian McPartland - What’s New, Anita O’ Day - I Can’t Get Started.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jamie Cullum shows change and evolve in The Pursuit

While it is being strongly mooted that jazz is in steady decline and that the average jazz enthusiasts are among the geriatrics an emergent band of young musicians have not only given credence to the genre but also wining new jazz fans while garnering measurable return on a chancy investment.

Jamie Cullum , English based pop-jazz, crossover jazz singer, pianist is one such musician who stuck his neck out and earned the distinction of being UK’s biggest selling jazz artist of all times and with only three studio albums.

His fifth album, The Pursuit, released November 9, pragmatically sidles to some extent to the pop-side assuredly an effort to captivate a wider, larger market. Purposefully, the Decca Record 14-track CD/DVD Deluxe Edition opens with a Cole Porter jazz classic, “Just One of Those Things”, first of five covers, and closes out with an atypical house music track “Music Is Through” that is indicative of the roadway The Pursuit travelled.

Jamie Cullum penned the first album single “I’m All Over It”, the cheery “Wheels”, the animated swing “You and Me Are Gone”, his love songs “Mixtape” and “Love Ain’t Gonna Let You Down”. Cullum adopted Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music”, Leslie Bricusse’s “If I Ruled the World” fitted snuggly after “Wheels” (fallen off the world), Stephen Sondheim’s promise “Not While I’m Around” and another Cole Porter tune, "Love For Sale", the latter makes the DVD side of the album.

While the album cover art illustrates an exploding piano, which is the way Jamie prosecute his live performances, The Pursuit is a pop compared to the piano fireworks of Twentysomething. Yet, the intention of both Grammy-nominated producer Greg Wells and Cullum, the former British Jazz Rising Star, seemingly was to move the album outside of the expected and extends the musician’s reach.

Another point to note is that The Pursuit title has no reference in any of the composite tunes. The Grammy and Golden Globe nominated musician admits “The reason I made it the album title was that I've come to realize that life is one long pursuit. Being a musician is not about any obvious goal; it's about appreciating the journey as opposed to the destination”.

Actually, the title was drawn from Nancy Mitford’s classic novel, The Pursuit of Love. "In life, we pursue everything. Life is one long pursuit," Jamie continued, and the album is just such a pursuit”, a combination of his eclectic music tastes and enduring love of Jazz and its timeless standards.

Music Week’s Andy Morris calls The Pursuit ‘bold, experimental and the best thing Cullum's done’. His fans will offer their own superlatives of this exciting musician who admires people like Miles Davis and Tom Waits much because they “make all kinds of different records, they change and evolved over the years”.

The Pursuit shows that Jamie Cullum is changing and evolving into a more seasoned, matured, better musician.

1. Just One of Those Things
2. I'm All Over It
3. Wheels
4. If I Ruled the World
5. You and Me Are Gone
6. Don't Stop the Music
7. Love Ain't Gonna Let You Down
8. Mixtape
9. I Think I Love You
10. We Run Things
11. Not While I'm Around
12. Music Is Through

Friday, November 6, 2009

Smooth Jazz stars shone on Santa Catalina Island

Catalina Island Casino Ballroom

The stars of Smooth Jazz shone in the Avalon Casino Ballroom on Catalina Island at the 23rd staging of the Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival that is held each year over the first three weekends of October.

Organised and produced by Art Good, host of the syndicated JazzTrax radio show, the crowd that included this Blogger sailed across from the Californian mainland on the Catalina Express to imbibe on the very best of Smooth Jazz (California is awash in Smooth Jazz).

Although not a huge fan of Smooth Jazz, the show was a treat in itself and what stood out most was the high quality musicianship of all who mounted the ballroom stage. Not a misnomer, no dice roll, no gambling occurs in the The Avalon Casino Ballroom, a circular, 12-story building perch at the edge of Avalon harbour.

This year Catalina JazzTrax dates were October 2-18 and Good billed some 30 acts over the three weekends. Headliners of the multiple venue series included Marc Antoine, Peter White, Norman Brown, Nick Colionne, Eric Darius, George Duke, Kyle Eastwood (Clint's son), Gregg Karukas, Earl Klugh, Phillip 'Doc' Martin, Keiko Matsui, Pieces of Dream, and Najee.

We got to see former baseball star cum saxophonist Bernie Williams, guitarist Craig Sharmat, saxophonist Jackiem Joyner and show stopping saxman Kim Waters (who passengers applauded on the boat back to the mainland).

Offbeat highly recommends this beautiful Catalina Island and the 24th Annual Catalina JazzTrax Festival to be held First 3 Weekends of October 2010.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

California the definitive Smooth Jazz hub of the US

California could be dubbed Smooth Jazz hub of the United States. Smooth Jazz has its most success as a radio format and radio is the powerful force behind this fast growing music that is most popular among middle agers.

The Californian landscape is dotted with Smooth Jazz dedicate channels as we found out on a recent visit. The diehard stations are Radio Free KJLH 102.3 FM (Los Angeles), WAVE 94.7 FM (Los Angeles), The River 105.5 FM (Modesto), K Jazz 102.3FM (Palm Spring), Bridge 96.1 FM (Redding), KSSJ 94.7 FM (Sacramento), KIFM Smooth Jazz 98.1 FM (San Diego), Magic 106.3FM (Santa Barbara) KJZY 93.7FM (Santa Rosa), KMYT 94.5 FM (Temecula).

Offbeat must mention Saddleback College radio KSBR Jazz 88.5 FM, a radio station that airs New Age/World & Roots Reggae music, features much of Smooth Jazz live performance from various locations in the LA area (Kevin Melvin hosts a Smooth Jazz show on weekends).

A sub of jazz, Smooth Jazz had its influence in R&B, funk and pop and was established as a commercially viable music in the mid –late 1970. Among the early pioneers were Earl Klugh, Lee Ritenour, Grover Washington Jr, and bands such as Spyro Gyro, Foreplay. The saxophone followed by the guitar are the featured instrument of Smooth Jazz.

From San Diego Melanie Maxwell, managing Editor & Publisher, brings news of the genre in a monthly magazine called Smooth Jazz News. And, while the premier American Smooth Jazz Award ceremony commutes to different US States, California’s highlight of Smooth Jazz is the over two decade running Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival produced by Art Good, host of the nationally syndicated JazzTrax radio show and staged over three consecutive weekends of October.