BWB: Braun/Whalum/Brown Hit NYC

Collaborating in 2002 as BWB, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown recorded the album Groovin’. The title track hit #1 and was followed by a popular US tour in the Fall of 2002. Now they’re back thrilling audiences as the super group BWB.

BWB performs “Can You Feel Me” at Brian Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway 2013

These are three time tested musicians. Rick Braun has 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. Kirk Whalum was an in demand session player for top artists like, Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones and most notably, Whitney Houston, amongst many others. Norman Brown taught at the Musician Institute in Los Angeles and his “Just Chillin’” release earned him a GRAMMY® Award in the best pop instrumental category.

Brian Culbertson Joins Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum & Rick Braun

Three of contemporary jazz’s finest musicians again join forces – celebrating the recent release of their album Human Nature. This long-awaited sequel to their debut project spotlights BWB’s stupendous re-imagining of 11 selections made famous by the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. This new release features familiar, much loved material with a fresh new twist as only these top musicians can provide.

Tribute to Michael Jackson – please watch!

BWB hits New York City next week! Showtimes are Wenesday, June 26th at 6:30pm and 9:30pm. Celebrate the Smooth Cruises’ 16th year on the Hudson, aboard The Spirit of New York, located at Pier 61, Chelsea Piers (23rd St & West Side Highway). Listen to BWB while taking in breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Enjoy a night to remember as Rick Braun (trumpet/flugelhorn), Kirk Whalum (saxophone), and Norman Brown (guitar) play tracks from the new release — and a whole lot more!

BWB perform “I Can’t Help It” at Brian Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway 2013 – slow and moody….

For information and to purchase tickets, visit Tickets are ON SALE NOW online and by phone. Standard tickets for the Wednesday, June 26th BWB show are $59.50.

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David Sanborn & Bob James are back

The musicians that brought us the iconic record, Double Vision, featuring such gifts as Maputo have combined their talents yet again, decades later, for a project titled Quartette Humaine. Who are they? They are two legends, two musicians, who have set the stage for all those who came after in jazz, funk, fusion and beautiful music in general. They are none other than saxophonist David Sanborn and pianist Bob James.

It was 1986 when Sanborn and James released the platinum-selling, Grammy-winning Double Vision record which became one of the most successful smooth jazz releases, garnering impressive airplay and spending 63 weeks on the Billboard charts, topping out at #50. Now they teamed up with drummer Steve Gadd, also a Double Vision alumnus, to record Quartette Humaine with bassist James Genus.

In a sense the new project is an homage to New York City, to Brubeck and to the surviving friendship between these two veterans of the art form. While I typically try to bring inspiring live performances to this site, please allow an interview that wonderfully captures these two old friends and this project.

Interview with Dave Sanborn and Bob James about the Making of Quartette Humaine

On Thursday night, June 6, 2013 we ventured down to 43rd Street to the Town Hall (a concert venue in NYC) to see, as Sanborn put it, “my third rehearsal.” It was a masterful live performance by Sanborn, James, Gadd and Genus. While I do not have any live footage from the performance, here is a tune from Quartette Humaine titled Deep in the Weeds.

Deep in the Weeds

It would be an affront to their history not to present a live performance of the tune Maputo off their Double Vision record. This version is performed by Bob James’ band Fourplay and they are joined by David Sanborn.

David Sanborn with Bob James and Fourplay playing Maputo

When they recorded Double Vision, Marcus Miller wrote some of the songs and recorded the record with them. Miller, a legendary bass player, also wrote Maputo and played with Sanborn during the height of his career. Here is a touching interview in which Miller talks to Sanborn and James.

Marcus Miller interviews Bob James and David Sanborn – Part I

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Peter White and Euge Groove are two of Smooth Jazz’s biggest stars. Their music is undeniably recognizable and always finds its way to the top of the charts. So it is a delight when, during the summer concert season, Peter White and Euge Groove team up to impress audiences in person. They will be performing two shows in NYC on July 18th.

Before we delve into who these guys are and what makes them spectacular, let us tease you with a performance of Peter White’s “Bueno FunK” in which they team up to show audiences why they are on the top of this genre!

Both these musicians had a long history before they became Smooth Jazz legends. Let’s start Peter White. This is man that many of us have heard a long time ago, but never realized it. White first gained fame with his distinctive guitar style as accompanist to Al Stewart. During a 20-year tenure with Stewart, he co-wrote many songs, including Stewart’s 1978 top-ten hit “Time Passages”. In the late 1980s, White accompanied Basia on a series of acclaimed albums. In 1996, Basia was featured on White’s album Caravan of Dreams, with vocals on the single “Just Another Day”.

Peter White performs “Caravan of Dreams” with Richard Elliot

Euge Groove’s sax stylings were also familiar to our ears without us realizing. He had replaced Richard Elliot in the Tower of Power when Elliot decided to pursue a solo career, and he also did session work with various pop acts, most noticeably the Miami girl group Exposé. He has a sax solo on their #1 hit “Seasons Change,” and another on their 1993 hit “I’ll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me).” Later on Groove went on tour with Queen of Rock and Roll, Tina Turner.

Euge Groove performing his hit “Religify.”

Euge Groove performing his hit “Livin Large.”

The two are touring together again, and hit NYC on July 28th! They will be part of Smooth Jazz New York’s Smooth Cruise summer series with two sailings at 6:30pm and 9:30pm. For more information, visit Because the Smooth Cruises sell out quickly, it is highly recommended that tickets be purchased early.

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David Sanborn and Brian Culbertson, two phenomenal musicians who have already appeared on this site will kick off the 2012 Smooth Cruise season on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 with The Dream Tour. The Dream Tour obviously celebrates the anniversary of the song, “The Dream,” that Sanborn released 20 years ago this year.

“The Dream” is from Sanborn’s Album titled “Change of Heart” and is one of the most important albums in the genre. We remember it fondly and how it impacted our lives when it was first released. David Sanborn is now playing with the very musicians he influenced.

“The Dream”:

David Sanborn is the Godfather of Smooth Jazz and most of today’s hottest musicians credit him as their greatest influence. As a matter of fact, Brian Culbertson, grew up listening and learning how to play instruments against the backdrop of David Sanborn’s music. Brian notes, “I remember growing up as a kid listening to David’s music. I studied it in school. To share the stage with one of my musical icons and friends truly is a dream come true.” But Brian Culbertson is a master musician too (piano & trombone), with his 13 album’s release date scheduled for June 12!

Brian Culbertson, “Get it on”:

With these two milestones in mind, the decision to name this collaborative 30-date tour was a no-brainer: The Dream Tour. The multi-Grammy awarding winning Sanborn and #1 Billboard charting Culbertson have amassed huge followings over the course of their careers, both known for uniquely blending jazz with instrumental pop and R&B. Audiences can expect a full collaborative show, with both artists sharing a bond playing one another’s repertoire. They’ll be sure to perform the current hits but promise to bring out some of their catalog, including fan favorites that have not been played live in recent memory.

And just to remind you as to why David Sanborn is so well respected, watch this performance of a song he is sure to perform on this tour. “Chicago Song”:

For more information, visit Tickets are $65 and are on sale now online on the Spirit Cruises web site and are available by phone at (866) 211-3812. Because the Smooth Cruises sell out quickly, it is highly recommended that tickets be purchased early.

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New York’s Premier Summer Contemporary Jazz Series Returns

Smooth Jazz New York Announces the 2012 Smooth Cruise Schedule

2012 Smooth Cruise Series
Hot Jazz & Cool Hudson River Views
Wednesdays from June 27 thru August 29 at 6:30pm & 9:30pm
Spirit of New York, Pier 61 @ Chelsea Piers

New York, NY – April 11, 2012 – Smooth Jazz New York is pleased to announce a star-studded contemporary jazz line up for the 2012 Smooth Cruise Series, now in its 15th year aboard The Spirit of New York cruise ship.

This summer’s roster includes nine shows featuring 16 of the world’s greatest jazz artists in an intimate setting, Wednesday evenings from June 27th through August 29 with 2 Shows/sailings at 6:30pm and 9:30pm. (Note: No shows are scheduled on July 4th). The Smooth Cruises set sail from Pier 61, Chelsea Piers (23rd St & West Side Hwy) and cruise down the Hudson River, offering exceptional music as well as breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline.

“This year, we’re thrilled to offer long time smooth jazz lovers and enthusiastic new fans a truly dynamic line up featuring some of music’s top artists. The season includes many innovative musicians responsible for crafting what has evolved into contemporary jazz over the past thirty years, as well as a few standout newcomers who’ve embraced the sound with their own unique flair,” notes Bill Zafiros, co-founder of Smooth Jazz New York.


June 27: David Sanborn & Brian Culbertson / “The Dream Tour”
July 11: Phil Perry & Kim Waters
July 18: Peter White & Euge Groove / “White Hot Summer Groove”
July 25: Najee
August 1: Jonathan Butler, Warren Hill & Maysa
August 8: Rick Braun & Richard Elliot
August 15: Rachelle Ferrell
August 22: Norman Brown & Gerald Albright
August 29: Regina Belle

For more information, visit Tickets are ON SALE NOW online at and are available by phone at (866) 211-3812. Standard ticket price is $55 ($65 for the 6/27 show.) Check the Smooth Jazz New York web site for Early Bird ticket deals. Because the Smooth Cruises sell out quickly, it is highly recommended that tickets be purchased early.

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Tom Braxton – Smooth Jazz Saxophone Extraordinaire

Sometimes we meet people that we immediately recognize deserve to be at the top of the field because they possess the right characteristics in ability and personal integrity. Such is what we discovered in saxophone extraordinaire Tom Braxton. He is a kind and gregarious soul with the musical spirit of a tiger on the Serengeti. He controls the stage when he is on it!

As always, in this post we will include many live performance videos as well, but we start with an interview that highlights Tom Braxton’s warm and easy-going personality, a trait that has easily transferred over to his playing.

Tom Braxton was saxophonist and musical director for Smooth Jazz legend Wayman Tisdale. His relationship with Wayman extended over 15 years until Smooth Jazz tragically lost Wayman and Tom lost a friend. We start with a performance of Steely Dan’s classic tune “Peg” featuring Tom Braxton and Wayman Tisdale.

Tom shared with us that he is beginning the process of writing for his next CD. As we wait, let’s check out the title track to his last release titled, “Endless Highway.” When he released “Endless Highway, wrote, “. . . it’s absolutely his best album to date! Tom Braxton is a treasure, both as a musician and as a human being . . . ENDLESS HIGHWAY is filled with that ‘sweet sound’ and positive energy we’ve come to expect from this incredibly talented composer, producer, and musician. “

Tom has shared the stage with many well-known artists including David Sanborn, Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Peter White, Earl Klugh, George Duke, Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, Jeff Golub, Marcus Miller, Keiko Matsui, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross and Phillip Bailey. That’s pretty impressive company to keep and a resume topper that one earns only by performing at the highest level of musicianship. Here is another song off the Endless Highway CD titled, “Open Road.”

Tom Braxton wrote and performed a tribute to Wayman Tisdale titled, “That Wayman Smile.” It is as heartfelt as everything else Tom Braxton touches, plays or speaks. We present “That Wayman Smile” here.

We hope the next time we see Tom Braxton, it will be back in New York, but trust us when we tell you, he is worth travelling anywhere to see!

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Acoustic Alchemy – Spiritual Smooth Jazz

The British Smooth Jazz super-group “Acoustic Alchemy” was originally the title of a CD by two guitarists, Nick Webb and Simon James. Oddly enough, today neither is part of the band called, “Acoustic Alchemy.” However, Nick Webb’s spirit lives on in the direction of their music. Acoustic Alchemy’s sound is wonderfully soothing yet spiritually motivating. It has a magical ability to transport the listener to a better place.

Catalina Kiss

The irony is that this group, with music that is truly uplifting, has faced some difficult setbacks that could have led others to write more somber pieces. Yet this is not the case. Shortly after the release of that original CD titled “Acoustic Alchemy,” James left the partnership to study flamenco guitar in Spain. Webb turned to a rock guitarist named Greg Carmichael and the two assumed the name of Acoustic Alchemy. Sadly after much success on GRP records and a Grammy nomination, Nick Webb died of pancreatic cancer in 1998 during the recording of “Positive Thinking.”

Angel of the South

Webb’s role was filled by Miles Gilderdale, who was playing in the electric guitar slot in the band at the time. As we all know, that positive energy that inspired Acoustic Alchemy up to this point continued almost as a tribute to Webb.

A Beautiful game

The band moved to EMI’s Higher Octave label, where they released a short string of successful albums, beginning with The Beautiful Game (2000), which also introduced keyboardist Anthony “Fred” White to the band lineup. Then a line of smooth jazz superstars began joining their recording sessions. The GRAMMY®-nominated “Aart” (2001) is their biggest selling album to date, and includes assistance by saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa. “Radio Contact” (2003), is the first in their discography to include a vocal track – “Little Laughter,” performed by Joe Harrop. “This Way,” (2007) includes collaborations with jazz/funk/soul band Down to the Bone and a guest appearance by trumpeter Rick Braun.

Panama Cat

Their most recent effort,” Roseland” was self-produced in Gilderdale’s home studio in York, England, which thanks to software based recording packages allows many artists to record in private home studios (which has hurt the recording industry, but that topic is for another time). Nonetheless, British smooth jazz group Acoustic Alchemy climbed to the top of the charts with lively grooves and infectious melodies, capturing three Grammy nominations!


Playing Time

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Richard Elliot – a Tower of Power unto himself

When you have “horn play for Tower of Power” on your resume, it gives you lots of street creed in the world of Funk and Smooth Jazz. And when you see Richard Elliot play, he lives up to expectations created from such a resume! He was born in Scotland, but grew up in the Smooth Jazz Mecca of Los Angeles and quickly became a fan of West Coast classic R&B. This week he owns the top spot of Billboard’s Jazz charts. And, to the delight of those who follow, there are plenty of videos that capture great performances by this gifted player.

We’ll start the videos off with “Move On Up.”

Although he’s called a “smooth jazz artist,” saxophonist Richard Elliot is equally at home with most rock & roll and classic R&B. For five years in the 1980s, he was a big part of the classic R&B band’s horn-based sound. Elliot landed his first job while still a teenager with Natalie Cole and the Pointer Sisters. A few years later, he was tapped to record with some of his idols from Motown Records, which had relocated from Detroit to Los Angeles. In the 1970s, he had the chance to record with Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops, and the Temptations.

Elliot performs “Boom Town,” his latest chart busting hit.

Elliot was later tapped to record with the Yellowjackets on their second album. After touring with Melissa Manchester for a time, he was asked to become a full-fledged member of the Tower of Power horns in 1982. He stayed with the group until 1987 and looks back fondly on those years for they shaped the style he has today.

Richard Elliot performing “Rock Steady” off his new release.

He released his debut album Trolltown in 1986 and has since scored four #1 albums (On The Town, Soul Embrace, After Dark and Jumpin’ Off) and a growing number of #1 airplay singles. In addition to his participation in all-star tours like Groovin’ For Grover and Jazz Attack, in the mid-‘90s he helped launch another of the genre’s annual franchises, the “Guitars & Saxes” tours, which he has participated in on and off ever since. Elliot is known for his zebra-striped tenor saxophone. In 2005, Elliot joined trumpeter Rick Braun as they co-founded their own label, ARTizen Music Group (now known as Artistry Music).

Enjoy a performance of “Down and Dirty” with Rick Braun.

Here is another great performance…

Hope you enjoyed this piece on Richard Elliot. Please feel free to give us feedback, we always appreciate it!

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Mindi Abair – America’s Sweetheart of Smooth Jazz

Mindi Abair is America’s darling with a saxophone. But she is so much more! She has just released a book titled, “How to play Madison Square Garden – A Guide to Stage Performance.” And how does she know this? While Mindi Abair is a brand unto herself, she has also toured and/or recorded with the Backstreet Boys, Duran Duran, Mandy Moore, Josh Groban, Adam Sandler, Keb’ Mo’, Lalah Hathaway, Lee Ritenour, Teena Marie, John Tesh, Bobby Lyle, Jonathan Butler, Peter White and Rick Braun.

Abair also plays the flute and keyboard and sings, and she has hosted the nationally syndicated radio program Chill with Mindi Abair since 2007, which focuses on chill out music

This first video is quintessential Mindi Abair, it’s upbeat and just makes you feel good.

Mindi has also been in demand on television. She recently made an appearance on Fran Drescher’s new hit comedy “Happily Divorced”. The show premiered on June 15th and Mindi appeared on the 4th episode. She’ll be recognizable, as she’s playing herself in the piano bar scene at the end, jamming alongside cast member Tichina Arnold and Ron Abel to close out the show. She also appeared recently on American Idol with Paul McDonald, nearly stealing the show from him. Steven Tyler remarked to Paul McDonald after her debut on the show “Forget you, who’s your sax player.”

Here is a beautiful song called “Remember.”

She is an elected governor for the Los Angeles Chapter of NARAS (The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc.), and is an Artist Ambassador for Campell’s Labels for Education and The Grammy Foundation. She’s won Best International Instrumentalist at the 2011 Wave Awards in Toronto, and Best Female Artist of the Year at the 2011 Oasis Contemporary Jazz Awards.

Here Mindi covers “Summertime,” which lets the audience see the musically more serious side of her.

Born into a musical family in St. Petersburg, Fla., Abair started playing piano at age 5 and picked up saxophone and songwriting three years later. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston where she earned a degree in woodwind performance and developed skills in styles spanning jazz, rock and R&B. Her debut album, 2000′s Always And Never The Same, featured nine tracks co-written by Abair and producer/musician Matthew Hager. It Just Happens That Way followed in 2003, peaking at No. 7 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart.

“Girls Night Out”

Abair’s most recent release, In Hi-Fi Stereo, was released in 2010 and climbed to No. 6 on the Jazz Albums chart. The album spawned the No. 1 Jazz Songs hit “Be Beautiful.” Abair is currently on tour throughout the United States.

And for you New Yorkers, or those visiting New York, Mindi Abair will be performing with Peter White and Kirk Whalem on December 10, 2011 at B.B. Kings Blues Club & Grill near Times Square. Below is a great video of Mindi Abair and Peter White performing a Christmas song that Mindi wrote called, “I Can’t Wait for Christmas.”

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Chris Botti – Smooth Jazz with Soul & Charm

Not many trumpet players have the resume that Chris Botti developed over his career. Chris Botti, was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2007, including Best Pop Instrumental Album. Then in 2009 he was nominated for three more Grammy Awards, including Best Pop Instrumental Album and Best Long Form Music video. Three of his albums have reached the #1 position on the Billboard jazz albums chart.

His smooth style and charm come across in all his performances, whether on a recording or in a live performance. And Botti also effortlessly can transition from sultry to funky. We have tried to provide examples of both. And for New Yorkers, he will be here live on October 30. For more information click here.

Our first video features Chris Botti & David Sanborn performing “Flamenco Sketches.”

Botti started playing early and in his senior year of College he left to tour with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich. In 1985 he moved to New York City to hone his craft as a studio musician. In 1990 he began touring and recording with Paul Simon and in 1991 performed with Simon in Central Park. The performance was commercially released as the “Concert in the Park” CD. He began performing with Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant and others. In 1995 he produced the Brecker Brothers “Out of the Loop” Album that won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.

Here is Botti performing a heart tugging song in which you can also sense a tinge of anger called “Alone in the City.”

In 1999, Botti joined Sting as a featured soloist on the Brand New Day tour. Today Botti attributes Sting as having changed the course of his career. Here is a performance, with Sting, of a song called “Seven Days.”

With his smooth, rich and sultry sound, Chris Botti has the ability to make the trumpet one of the sexiest instruments. Here is a great piece called “Steps of Positano.” For those that doubt his charisma, this should change your mind.

Finally, while a staple of the smooth Jazz genre, Botti clearly shows an affinity toward the classics. Here is Chris Botti paying his respects to one of his former bosses, Frank Sinatra, in a performance of “Under my Skin.”

As we all know it is important to support the musicians and promoters who tireless work so that we may enjoy the music we love. New York Smooth Jazz is one such promoter and here is a list of their upcoming shows!

October 30 Chris Botti at NYCB Theatre at Westbury

December 2 David Benoit: A Charlie Brown Christmas

December 10 A Peter White Christmas w/Mindi Abair & Kirk Whalum

Thank you for supporting Cool Grooves and keep supporting Smooth Jazz!

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