Nelson Rangell – Sharp, Intelligent Smooth Jazz

Rarely does a player stand out as naturally gifted with musical abilities like Nelson Rangell. He effortlessly finds his groove and melody no matter in what musical environment he finds himself. That very well may be why Jazziz magazine writes that Nelson Rangell is “an artist of depth, a master of song, and an improviser non pareil.” The Times of London notes “his extraordinary facility on a range of instruments and his undoubted virtuosity,” adding that Nelson is “one of fusion’s most accomplished exponents.” Saxophone Journal writes “He commands the alto saxophone with such authority there can be no denying that Rangell is a true artist,” and Flute Talk Magazine states “Nelson Rangell creates the impression that anything is possible when he improvises.”

You should know that while most people know him as a saxophone player, he also plays the piccolo and flute. I’ve also seen his whistle the Sound of Music to a standing ovation.

Here is Nelson Rangall performing his hit “When Day Turns to Night.”

Nelson first played flute at the age of 15. Within six months he was studying both classical and jazz at The Interlochen Arts Academy, a national camp for gifted music students. He went on to attend The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. As a student he twice won Down Beat Magazine’s prestigious National Student Recording Awards competition both as best jazz and best pop/rock instrumental soloist. After college he headed to New York in 1984 to pursue his career. The next four years were spent sitting in, playing alongside, and gigging with some of the world’s greatest contemporary jazz musicians including Eric Marienthal, Hiram Bullock, Eric Gale, Richard Tee, Jaco Pastorius, David Sanborn and many others. Nelson’s 1987 debut album was released on Gaia/Gramavision Records, but soon thereafter he was signed by Larry Rosen and Dave Grusin at GRP Records.

A great example of his ability not to be overshadowed even when playing with the finest players in the world, in this case Dave & Don Grusin, is evident in this next clip. Enjoy Nelson’s solo in this.

Little surprise than that Nelson has recorded with The Rippingtons, Chuck Loeb, Patti Austin, Tom Browne, and The GRP All-Star Big Band to name a few and is featured on Don Grusin’s Grammy nominated CD “The Hang.” Though Nelson has recorded mostly in the contemporary/pop and smooth jazz formats garnering top radio play and a large audience, The Times notes that live “a much more robust and idiosyncratic player emerges.” Nelson comes to the east coast October 9th and will be performing at the New Brunswick Jazz Festival. Click Here for More Info

Here he is performing “Good Morning Love.”

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Boney James – Dishing Up Some Phat Smooth Jazz!

Boney James is one of smooth jazz’s most successful saxophonists, and deservedly so. He is a prolific writer and is on fire whether in the studio or on stage. Just look at the facts, to date nine of his studio works have reached #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts and two reached the top 10 of the R&B Albums Charts, a rare feat and huge feather in the cap of any Instrumentalist.

His new CD, “Contact” has already taken the charts by storm. The first single titled, “Spin” has been on the charts for an impressive 11 weeks and currently holds the number two position. There is also a great story behind his stage name. His real name is James Oppenheim, but when on the road with Randy Crawford in 1986, his per diem as a touring musician barely kept him fed, and a bandmate (Wayne Linsey) commented of his dwindling physique, “We’ll have to start calling you Boney James!” The name stuck.

Here is a great Boney James performance of his called “Lights down Low.”

Boney James has combined jazz, R&B and hip-hop and by doing so helped popularize an updated version of contemporary jazz called Urban Jazz. Among his long list of accomplishments are his three Grammy Award Nominations (Best Pop Instrumental Album, 2001 & 2004, and best Traditional R&B Performance, 2009), and Soul Train Award for Best Jazz Album. He has also been honored with an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Jazz Album and has accumulated four RIAA Certified Gold Records. Most impressive though, he has sales totaling 3 million records.

Here is a great performance of “After the Rain”

From one of Boney’s earlier works, here is a tune called “Bleeker Street.” In this performance you can see that he has earned all the accolades that he has received.

Boney James was born in Massachusetts, spent his early teens in New Rochelle, NY before his family head out to Los Angeles. He was influenced by Motown , R&B and, as so many others, by Grover Washington, Jr. His R&B influence was further strengthened by seven years of touring and sessions as a sideman with Morris Day, the Isley Brothers, Bobby Caldwell, Randy Crawford, Teena Marie and many others. In the early 90′s, after joining Bobby Caldwell’s band, he caught the attention of the engineer/mixer & producer Paul Brown. In 1992 he released his debut album, Trust, and the rest is history.

Tragically, in May of 2010, James was involved in a car crash coming home from a performance when he was rear ended by a drunk driver. James suffered a fractured jaw, two shattered teeth and facial lacerations. Thankfully he was only sidelined for 2 months.

Boney James is married to Actress/Director Lily Mariye. (Nurse Jarvik on NBC’s ER for 15 seasons.)

Finally, while many of our regular readers know we love the live experience, we could not find a live version of Boney’s new single “Spin” so we hope you forgive us for posting the studio version.

Smooth listening!

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Jeff Golub loses sight, but continues making music

Jeff Golub is one of Smooth Jazz’s most well known guitarists. While recording his latest release “The Three Kings,” Jeff Golub lost vision in one eye. Loss of vision in the other soon followed. Golub posted this on his web site: “While recording the record I started having a little trouble with my right eye. I tried to ignore it, but the condition worsened. Oddly enough, I was working with Henry [Butler], who coincidentally is blind. After the recording and trips to several of New York’s top eye specialists, I was diagnosed with a collapse of the optic nerve in my right eye. It is just some random thing that can happen to people … no real reason why or real cause … just a curve ball life throws at you sometimes.” Late last month, Golub says he began losing vision in his left eye as well. “(I’m) getting to spend all this time with Henry Butler, who can give me the inside track on how the heck one navigates life with severely impaired vision. Just wanted to let you all know what is going on with me. I may need a bit of time to adjust, but God willing, I have every intention of playing guitar forever and a day.”

Judging from the two killer shows recently on the NYC smooth jazz cruises (which also included a dynamic performances by keyboardist Henry Butler) Golub is more than managing. Recently on the Smooth Jazz New York Facebook page, one fan who witnessed one of the shows noted “Jeff is living proof to the saying, “Mind over matter.” Seeing this sort of perseverance gives me hope like nothing else.”

Golub’s manager posted this update to the web site: “…two specialists have given us hope that something can still be done to help reverse this situation. This requires extensive testing which Jeff is undergoing as we speak. These tests are vital to continuing the search for a solution, but they’re also expensive.” Towards this end, a Jeff Golub Medical Expenses account has been set up to which fans can donate. Per Bud Harner of Chapman Management, “Any donation would go a long way to help cover the costs of Jeff finding sight again.” Click Here to learn more or donate by check or PayPal.

Remember, it’s hard to make a living as a musician, and no one covers your healthcare costs, so if you can help, it’s much appreciated.
Meanwhile, let Jeff entertain you with a performance with Jeff Lorber as they perform, “Drop Top,” in London.

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Cindy Bradley – Smooth Jazz Trumpet Sensation

Most people never heard of her, yet this week she adorns the top spot on the Billboard Jazz Charts and Cool Grooves is delighted to write about her this week. She is trumpet player Cindy Bradley and her tune “Massive Transit” has comfortably settled in at #1.

Cindy Bradley broke onto the scene in 2007 with her debut CD, “Just a Little Bit.” That effort led her to a record deal and gave her entre to a new set of great musicians. While Cool Grooves enjoys showing live videos so readers can enjoy the improvisational skills of these player, Bradley doesn’t have a quality version of this song live. We offer you the studio version of here tune “Massive Transit,” but follow it up with a few live performances.


Cindy Bradley is a native New Yorker hailing from Buffalo and has been playing trumpet since fourth grade, which happened by accident, but was an accident that became a passion and career. Her style is smooth jazz through and through. That said, her new chart-topping single has a bit of techno-chill stylings.  That should not deter anyone
from believing she isn’t a serious musician. We provide evidence here that the lady can jam with the best of them. She has been a regular performer on the smooth jazz circuit and in 2010 was awarded “Best New Artist” by the American Smooth Jazz Awards.

Her strong hooks have helped position her for a promising future in smooth jazz, as evidenced by this performance of “Solid Ground.’


Cindy Bradley also does a nice slow groove, as demonstrated in this version of “Before I Go.”


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Radio Smooth Jazz New York– Another great online station

As terrestrial Smooth Jazz radio stations become more and more difficult to find, the internet has exploded with great stations. It’s only a matter of time until your car radio is surfing the web for music too. So let’s take a listen to another great online smooth station streaming out of NYC, RadioSmoothJazzNewYork. It is run by the same great folks that produce the smooth jazz concerts every Wednesday all summer on the cruise ship that sails around Manhattan. They bring names like Dav Koz, Candy Dulfer, Gerald Albright, Peter White, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot and the Rippingtons to their grateful audience. They are just as important as the Statue of Liberty to smooth jazz fans visiting our great city. They know smooth jazz, so you will not be disappointed when you tune in this station.

While we have written about other online stations, the great thing about RadioSmoothJazzNewYork is that the moment you click on the link, the music starts. This is great for the lazy or harried computer user. Most stations require numerous clicks to finally hear music. Even if you listen on itunes, it’s not instantaneous as it is with RadioSmoothJazzNewYork. So if you are like me and want to hear good music immediately so you can get on with what you really sat down to the computer for, you’ll like this station.

Enjoy the music.

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Paul Taylor is #1 on Billboard this week!

For a jazz musician, it doesn’t really get better than it is for Paul Taylor this week. He played his way all the way to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Charts and holds the number 1 spot for his second week. The tune that pushed him to the top is called “Push to Start.” This, however, is not his first time at #1. He first arrived here in 2007 with a tune called “Ladies Choice.”

While on his website he posts comments like “Got my fingers crossed for another week,” we hope he keeps them uncrossed and on his horn. If he continues to play the way he does, he’ll continue to be a regular name on the charts and we’ll continue to be happy listeners. Below is a video of a live performance of Paul Taylor performing “Push to Start.”

Originally from Denver, Paul Taylor has lived and worked in the thriving musical environment of Las Vegas since graduating as a music performance major from UNLV. He began playing sax at age seven and discovered his true calling while playing in a local high school garage band called Mixed Company, which played Top 40, funk and Crusader-styled fusion..

Here is another live performance video, which if you follow, you know is our favorite type of video because they really show the musicianship of those we cover. In this video you can enjoy Paul Taylor cutting loose and doing some great improvisation.

Contemporary jazz stardom came naturally for Taylor, whose mix of funk and silky, groove heavy chops on soprano, alto and tenor, dynamic stage presence and catchy melodies were a natural fit for the genre. The #1 title track of Pleasure Seeker became one of Radio & Records most played genre cuts from his earlier work. Although Taylor has since been one of the genre’s most popular live attractions as a solo artist, he eagerly accepted Russ Freeman’s invitation to tour with The Rippingtons as a special guest artist in 2000—the year he released his third album Undercover–after Jeff Kashiwa left the group.

Finally, let me end with Paul Taylor Performing “Ladies Choice,” a song that will hopefully leave you with a smile.

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Brian Culbertson – The Smooth Jazz/Funk experience

You can tell when a group of musicians have mojo. It permeates the music and leaves the audience with a sense of euphoria and a silly grin that only appears after witnessing something wonderful. I know that after seeing these sessions hosted by Brian Culbertson, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to.

Brian Culbertson is a master pianist and trombone player. He proves his skill each time he gets close to an instrument. Born in Decatur, Illinois to a band director and trumpet player, one sees where his skills as band leader emanate. Not only does Brian play, write and produce, he knows how to assemble a great group of musicians and how to get them to lay down a groove.

In this first video you will recognize many familiar faces, especially that of saxophone extraordinaire, Eric Darius. Here they perform “Back in the Day” and “So Good.” If you have the CD “Live from the inside,” here are a few of the corresponding videos tracks shot at Capitol Recording Studio in Hollywood, CA. Watch and be part of this incredible recording session.

Hold on!!!!!! Just when you thought it can’t get better, Dave Koz, Smooth Jazz’s unofficial Ambassador showed up to join the session and it is captured in this next video titled, “Get it on.”

Brian Culbertson to date has released 12 CDs. We expect many more yet to come. He is young, energetic and a prolific composer. I look forward to what our readers think of this post! Please share it with your friends. Enjoy the music and be well.

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Jessy J. Jams on!

Smooth Jazz has many female stars, and no one should underestimate their talent to jam with the best of them or their ability to wow an audience. And ranking way at the top of the Smooth Jazz charts, Jessy J sits comfortably. She is a superstar by every definition.

With her sizzling mix of hot beats, Latin and samba rhythms, instantly captivating melodies, and model looks, this Mexican American saxophonist/singer proved quite the sensation with her debut CD Tequila Moon. This first effort earned her such accolades as Radio and Records “Debut Artist of The Year” and contemporary jazz song of the year by R&R and Billboard for the title track, which stayed perched at #1 for an incredible eight weeks. Adding to the multi-talented artist´s rising star was her cover story in Jazziz Magazine.

Her third CD comes out this September, titled “Hot Sauce,” and by listening to the pre-release, it certainly lives up to its title. Today she is a regular on the smooth jazz circuit, often performing with the likes of pianist Jeff Lorber and guitarist Jeff Golub. Check out the video I’ve selected below. This woman is a musical force to be reckoned with.

Jessy J is Mexican-American. Her father is from Mexico and her mother is a native Texan. She was born in Portland, Oregon and raised in Hemet, California. A true musical prodigy, Jessy J began playing piano at age four and spent most of her childhood as a competitive artist, performing at major conferences, competitions and festivals. At the age of 15, at the Bela Bartok Festival, she won the Piano State Championship. Not only a championship pianist, Jessy J played saxophone in state honored bands, such as the Grammy Band, and played internationally in festivals like the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Earning a scholarship to University of Southern California, she obtained a degree in jazz studies and was named the “Most Outstanding Jazz Student.” After graduating from USC, she worked in the studio with Michael Bublé. She toured with The Temptations, Jessica Simpson and Michael Bolton, who she still occasionally tours with. Even while working post-USC with so many exciting pop and Latin artists, she was putting together her own band, performing at such L.A. hotspots like The Jazz Bakery. Today, we are fortunate enough to reap the rewards of her hard work. Jam on Jessy J! We’ll sit back and enjoy!

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NYC Smooth Jazz Gem Alert!

Recently artist/photographer Tear-n-Tan caught a group we wrote about a while back called the Dangling Success on a hot sweaty night at a club on NYC’s upper west side called P&G’s Bar & Grill. Tear-n-Tan sent us a video she created from this up-coming Smooth Jazz group’s performance. We hope you enjoy both the band and Tear-n-Tan’s work. (
The Dangling Success broke the top 40 of the Smooth Indie Charts with their single “City Life” and is certainly a band to watch.

This band can be frequently caught performing in small clubs throughout NYC. But they have also performed at large festivals like the Hartford International Jazz Festival. So if you’re looking for an intimate Smooth Jazz show, catch them soon! Let’s support our smooth jazz community.

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The Rippingtons – Decades of Great Music!

Just because this band first thrust on to the scene in 1986, don’t think they are retiring anytime soon or that they are opposed to new blood. Among their celebrated members are Smooth Jazz superstars such as Dave Koz and Kenny G. Today another saxophone superstar tours and records with the Rippingtons and that is Jeff Kashiwa who is also part of the SaxPack (we’ll cover them later).

But enough of the rotating Smooth Jazz Celebs, let’s look at the one constant in the group, and that’s founding member Russ Freeman. Freeman plays guitar and keyboards and is responsible for composing and producing what you hear on a Rippington’s album. Under his tutelage, the Rippingtons have released an impressive 18 Albums and have had Grammy nominations to boot.

Here are the Rippingtons performing “Weekend in Morocco” in Los Angeles.

Here is a well produced video of the Rippingtons performing Topaz at the Puerto Rico Jazz Festi val.

The up-coming schedule for the NYC smooth Jazz Cruise is:
July 27: The Rippingtons
August 17: Norman Brown & Richard Elliot
August 3: Najee
August 24: Rachelle Ferrell
August 10: Kirk Whalum & Jeff Golub
August 31: Pieces of a Dream
Visit their website at:

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