Lineup

Dave Koz Summer Horns

About

Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, and Aubrey Logan

Dave Koz:

In a career that spans more than a quarter century, nine GRAMMY® nominations, nine No. 1 albums on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart, numerous world tours, playing for multiple presidents and a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, saxophonist Dave Koz has maintained a commitment to celebrating the magic of the holiday season like few other artists of his genre or generation. Since 1997, Koz has assembled a stellar lineup and taken them on the road every December to ring in the most wonderful time of the year with audiences across the U.S.

The tradition continues in 2017 as Koz celebrates a milestone anniversary with a recording that features the tour’s earliest original lineup. Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas, released on Concord Records in 2017, reunites Koz with pianist David Benoit, trumpeter/flugelhornist Rick Braun and acoustic guitarist Peter White. Also on hand are a cadre of highly talented vocalists – Selina Albright, Javier Colon, Kenny Lattimore, Gabriel Orengo and Jeffrey Osborne – and the Lisbon, Portugal-based West European Symphony Orchestra.

“The songs on Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas are all very important to those of us who recorded them,” says Koz. “We’ve poured a lot of love and care into them, and we hope people feel those same emotions when they hear them.”

The lineup on Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas is just the latest in a long list of artists with whom Koz has collaborated over the years: Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Luther Vandross, Shelby Lynne, Kenny Loggins, U2 and Michael McDonald, to name a few. A platinum-selling artist, Koz is also known as a humanitarian, entrepreneur, radio host and instrumental music advocate.

Born and raised in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, Koz initially just saw the saxophone as a way to gain entry into his big brother’s band. What began as a ploy became a life-long obsession. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in mass-communications, Koz decided to become a professional musician. Within weeks of that decision, he was recruited as a touring member of Bobby Caldwell’s band. It was during this time that Koz befriended keyboardist Jeff Lorber, who invited Koz to play on one of his tours. That stint was followed by a fourteen-month tour with pop singer Richard Marx.

Signed to Capitol records by Bruce Lundvall in 1987, Koz released his self-titled solo debut album in the fall of 1990. This was the first installment in a large body of best-selling work, which includes the gold-certified Lucky Man (1993), Off the Beaten Path (1996), and the holiday-themed albums December Makes Me Feel This Way (1997) and Dave Koz & Friends: A Smooth Jazz Christmas (2001). His gold-certified fifth album, The Dance (1999), spawned no less than five Top 5 contemporary jazz hits. Saxophonic (2003) produced another four Top 5 singles and garnered two GRAMMY® nominations in two consecutive years.

In 2007, Koz released two chart-topping collections of standards. At the Movies, his lush, romantic celebration of timeless melodies from cinema, spent 12 weeks atop Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz chart. Produced by the legendary Phil Ramone, it was nominated for a GRAMMY® in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category. Memories of a Winter’s Night, a festive collection of holiday standards, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz chart in December 2007. Dave Koz At The Movies Double Feature CD + DVD followed in early 2008, which featured the At the Movies CD with two previously unreleased bonus audio tracks, a new DVD and a track-by-track commentary.

Capitol Records released Dave Koz: Greatest Hits, his first ever retrospective album, in the fall of 2008 and it debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and iTunes’ Jazz Album chart. The collection included many of Koz’s smash singles – including “Castle of Dreams,” “Can’t Let You Go” (featuring Luther Vandross), “Together Again,” “Honey-Dipped” and “All I See Is You” – plus four brand new songs. The lead single, “Life in the Fast Lane,” which Koz co-wrote with writer/producer Darren Rahn, spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the R&R Monitored Smooth Jazz chart. It was followed by the Top 5 single, “Bada Bing.”

Hello Tomorrow, Dave’s first album for Concord Records, debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and iTunes’ Jazz Album chart, and was named Best Smooth Jazz Album of 2010 by iTunes. The CD was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Hailed as “an event record” by The New York Times, its lead single, ‘Put the Top Down,” spent 18 weeks at No. 1 on the Mediabase Smooth A/C chart – the longest stint at No. 1 of any of Koz’s chart-topping hits. Ultimate Christmas, featuring 18 perennial holiday classics performed by Koz, bowed in 2011 on Capitol/EMI. Live at the Blue Note Tokyo, Koz’s first live CD, was released by Concord Records in 2012 and received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Koz and his friends Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Mindi Abair turned to producer Paul Brown (Al Jarreau, George Benson, Boney James) to help them realize the vision for 2013’s Summer Horns (Concord Records), which paid tribute to the high-octane, richly arranged horn sections that fueled so many hits in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The album also features trumpeter/flugelhornist Rick Braun, trombonist Brian Culbertson, vocalists Michael McDonald, Jeffrey Osborne and Jonathan Butler – plus arrangements by Greg Adams (Tower of Power) and Tom Scott (Michael Jackson, Steely Dan). Topping it off is a sax-only rendition of “Take Five” with Gordon Goodwin offering his arrangement to the quartet and a new original composition, “Summer Horns.” The album was honored with a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album and an NAACP Image Awards nomination for Outstanding Jazz Album.

Koz’s 2014 holiday recording, The 25th of December (Concord Records), was his eighth album to top Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. Produced by Rickey Minor, it featured collaborations with India.Arie, Eric Benet, Jonathan Butler, Gloria Estefan, Fantasia, Kenny G, Heather Headley, Richard Marx, Johnny Mathis, Trombone Shorty, BeBe Winans and Stevie Wonder. The first single – an all-star rendition of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” – beautifully captured the spirit of the season and was a Top 5 hit on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart. Collaborations: 25th Anniversary Collection debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in August 2015 while the lead single, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” with Kenny Lattimore and Rick Braun, entered the Top 5 at Smooth A/C and Jazz Radio.

Koz is constantly touring, with annual summer jaunts (“Side By Side” with David Sanborn and Larry Graham) and holiday tours (Dave Koz and Friends Christmas) and the highly successful Dave Koz & Friends at Sea cruises – which included two back-to-back cruises to “Venice and Beyond” in 2017 and two upcoming back-to-back cruises in Scandinavia and The Baltic scheduled for May 2018. He’s also planning another Summer Horns tour in conjunction with a second Summer Horns recording, both of which are scheduled for 2018.

Koz recently recorded the new theme song for ESPN’s “The Jump” debuting in the Fall of 2017. Koz is also prominently featured on the track “La Dee Da” from the forthcoming Foo Fighters album Concrete and Gold.

Beyond the stage and studio, he continues to flex his mass communication muscles as a radio personality. As host of his syndicated Dave Koz Radio Show, he has been broadcasting coast-to-coast and internationally for nearly 25 years. In the spring of 2014, he launched The Dave Koz Lounge, which airs Sundays on SiriusXM satellite radio, and Dave Koz & Friends Radio, a 24-hour radio channel personally curated by Dave on JAZZRADIO.com, a multicultural internet radio service.

As an entrepreneur, Koz founded Rendezvous Entertainment. In 2015, always looking to flex his “hospitality muscles,” he partnered with Southern California restaurateurs Cary Hardwick and Laurie Sisneros to open Citizen Beverly Hills, a restaurant in the golden triangle that focuses on a shared plate menu and craft cocktails.

As a philanthropist, Koz has served as global ambassador for the Starlight Children’s Foundation for more than 20 years – an organization for which he has raised more than a half-million dollars. Dave donates all his proceeds from KOZ Wines, founded in 2009, to Starlight. The wines are available at Whole Foods Markets and online http://www.davekoz.com. Two wines from Koz’s partnership with premium Santa Barbara winemaker Terravant picked up Gold and Best of Class awards in the 2014 Los Angeles International Wine Competition.

Koz completed a four-year term on the GRAMMY® Foundation Artists Committee and has served as National Trustee for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS).

 

Gerald Albright

Gerald Albright has a generous invitation for fans of his hit 2014 album: If you thought that mix of deep funk and simmering sensuality was a Slam Dunk, wait’ll you get a load of G. It’s that album’s high octane sequel, which draws even deeper connections to that in-your-face horn-section-magic, of classic bands like Earth, Wind & Fire and Tower of Power.

Early in his career, the versatile saxophonist was often told by his labels to “be funky, but not too funky” – but after 30 years at the top of his game as one of contemporary urban jazz’s core artists and sonic innovators, the eight-time Grammy nominee is letting loose like never before. What we get from G is nothing less than Genuine Gerald, with powerful support from his co-producer Chris “Big Dog” Davis and legendary special guests Michael McDonald and Doug E. Fresh.

When Albright titled his 2006 album New Beginnings, he was referring to the move he and his family made to Colorado after a lifetime in Southern California. Ten years later, he’s in a similar mode, blazing into the next phase of his storied career with the release of his first album ever as an indie artist, after decades on major and major affiliated labels. Like a lot of his peers in the genre, he realized that the business models of those big companies don’t fit into the current economic structures of urban jazz. Inspired by a loyal fan base of thousands throughout the world, he knew it was time to leverage his hard won success, step out in faith, and create a company that could not only release his music but also serve as a legacy for his family. Choosing the name Bright Music Records, just as in calling the album G, was not only a play on his name but also reflective of his great optimism in embarking on an endeavor that uniquely defines who he is.

G gets right down to business, celebrating his fresh start by titling the thick and feisty, brass fired and groove intensive opening jam “Taking Control.” He creates all the horn sections himself, texturing alto, tenor and baritone around the lead melody, while handling the thick bottom via bass guitar. With Davis (one of urban jazz’s top hit makers, who has worked with everyone from Najee to Maysa, Phil Perry, and Kim Waters) creating an array of keyboard sounds, Albright infuses many of the other tracks with a mix of horns and other instruments. His passionate, high flying soul-jazz fusion spin through Bill Withers’ classic “Lovely Day” features McDonald on lead vocals and G himself mixing alto, C flutes and bass flutes while holding down the spirited rhythms on bass. Likewise, the exotic, briskly paced old school horn-fired jam “We Came To Play (La Calle)” features G on alto, tenor, bass, a bass solo and C flutes. On the tight, edgy “G and Doug E.,” a whimsical self-portrait with Fresh fashioning a tribute to Albright in rhyme, G also plays the organ. The soaring, emotional power ballad “I Miss You” features the saxophonist on alto, tenor and bari, in addition to C flutes, alto flutes and bass flute and bass guitar. It also features his daughter Selina – a solo artist in her own right – on background vocals.

Other highlights on G include “Frankie B,” a simmering, horn-drenched light funk ode to his dear friend Frankie Beverly and one of Albright’s favorite bands, Maze; the mystical soul ballad “Boom Boom” and buoyant, free-wheeling horn explosion “Funkism,” both of which showcase G’s every deepening skills as a jazz improviser; a sly, seductive cover of Avant’s 2003 R&B vocal hit “Read Your Mind”; and the sensual, ambient “Closure”, a simply arranged ballad that wraps the set in a romantic mood.

Albright says that the big, multi-faceted sound of the album, particularly his use of multiple flutes, is a throwback to the way he came up in music. “I’ve been implementing them over the past few projects, using flute seasonings strategically with certain songs, and it was exciting to take those sounds to the next level,” he adds. “I come from that orchestral big band sound that defined my high school years playing in the 70s, and had great teachers who believed that musicians should never take shortcuts. In those jazz band days, I doubled on other instruments besides sax, and coming from that world, it’s always been hard to neglect those instincts. I like having a lot of sonic options. I use everything as a facility to bring my music to another level. When I think of those EWF and TOP horns, they were so ‘in your face, present and clear’. That’s what I was striving for on G.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Albright was already an accomplished saxophonist by the time he enrolled at the University of Redlands, but he switched to bass 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. Playing both sax and bass, he became the consummate session and touring musician in the 80s, working with everyone from Anita Baker, Ray Parker, Jr., Atlantic Starr, The Temptations and Maurice White to Les McCann, Teena Marie, the Winans and Whitney Houston.

He launched his solo career in the infancy of what became the smooth jazz format, with Just Between Us in 1987 and has been a core part of the genre with chart-topping albums, countless radio hits and as a member of many all star tours, including Guitars & Saxes and Groovin’ For Grover. In the late 90s, he fronted a big band for and toured with pop star Phil Collins and did a dual recording with vocal great Will Downing called Pleasures of the Night. Between his last two Grammy-nominated solo albums Pushing The Envelope (2010) and Slam Dunk (2014), he enjoyed hit collaborations with two huge hits – 24/7 with guitarist Norman Brown and Summer Horns by Dave Koz and Friends (including Mindi Abair and Richard Elliot), which were also Grammy-nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Albums. He toured with Brown and Summer Horns, and most recently has been on the road with South Africa gospel/jazz singer and guitarist Jonathan Butler. Albright’s other albums whose titles perfectly reflect their flow include Smooth (1994), Groovology (2002), Kickin’ It Up (2004) and Sax for Stax (2008).

Because Albright’s musical muse has taken him to so many fascinating locales along the contemporary R&B/urban jazz spectrum, he’s joyfully defied easy categorizations. Roland S. Martin, Host/Managing Editor, NewsOneNow, TV One, at last has found a way to explain all the things that make G who he is. “For two decades,” he says, “jazz artists like Gerald have been placed in the suffocating box known as ‘smooth jazz.’ But in my years as an Albright fan, I much prefer to call him a funky, ice cold jazz impresario who can make your head bob while cruising down the freeway with the sunroof open or make you do the scrunchy stank face of a George Clinton/Parliament Funkadelic.”

“Top to bottom,” Albright says, “I wanted my new album G to take the listener on a musical journey with different textures, rhythms, chord progressions and moods. I want people to know where I’ve been and where I’m going, and to let them hear that I’m in a really good place in my life.”

 

Rick Braun

I just want to continue to explore the boundaries of what I am capable of as a musician,” declares acclaimed chart-topping trumpeter, composer and producer Rick Braun. Known for his impeccable technical chops, melodic wizardry and keen compositional prowess, the consummate Los Angeles based musician has been thrilling audiences for decades. Braun has made a mark staying true to his own musical voice and eclectic influences that have allowed him to collaborate across genre with some of the biggest names in music including Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, Sade, Natalie Cole and REO Speedwagon. Having clenched over 20 #1 Smooth Jazz hits, Braun has collaborated with all of the brightest stars in contemporary jazz from Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown and Peter White, to Dave Koz, Boney James and Brian Culbertson. February 24, 2017 Shanachie Entertainment will release Rick Braun’s 17th recording as a leader, Around The Horn. The dynamic trumpeter’s label debut is an adventurous mix of originals as well as exhilarating reinventions of hits by Coldplay, Alicia Keys and Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez. Shanachie VP of A&R, Danny Weiss states, “Rick’s tone, chops and phrasing link him to the jazz giants of the past. He can hold his own in any setting. Yet he communicates to a vast audience far beyond the jazz aficionado. His warmth, wit and musical spirit make him a great communicator – a hit maker!”

Rick Braun arrived at the title Around The Horn as a way to convey his ambition to fully explore his diverse influences. “It is kind of a play on words using the saying ‘around the horn.’ In the old days before the Panama Canal people had to travel around Cape Horn in South America to get from New York to California and it was a very dangerous journey. This record is all about the trumpet. I wanted to push myself to explore the horn more deeply.” On the album’s title track Braun invites fellow trumpeter Till Bro?nner from Germany for a splendid trumpet expedition as the two challenge one another to reach new heights. Around The Horn opens with the intoxicating and alluring “So Strong.” Braun’s warm trumpet and valve trombone soar above a hypnotic and exotic groove that is underscored by pulsating global rhythms and sultry voices. “To me ‘So Strong’ has a real Brazilian feel and the rhythmic guitar part is very South African,” explains Braun. “On this record, I wanted to take you on a musical journey and around the world.” Braun transports us to Portugal with his scintillating composition “Vila Vita” featuring acoustic guitarist Peter White. “I love Peter White!” exclaims Braun. The duo has scored several hits through the years including “Club Harlem” and “Missing In Venice.” “Vila Vita” was inspired by a trip Braun spent with his family at a jazz festival in Portugal. “It was one of the most amazing experiences,” recalls Braun. “I was working on the record and played some of the songs on a rooftop balcony that we had. I felt like there needed to be a song for the beautiful experience that I had in Portugal and ‘Vila Vita’ is it.”

Braun shows off his versatility on Around The Horn with a few surprising and imaginative re-workings of notable pop tunes. He explains, “This album is a bit different for me in that it reflects some of what is going on in R&B and pop music now. I really tried to pull from those influences and sounds as opposed to making a retro inspired record. I am hoping the music will bring some of my fans into this new generation of music as well.” Braun takes on Charlie Puth’s Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 duet with Selena Gomez, “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” This is a song that Braun was introduced to by his 16-year-old daughter Emma. “Everyday my daughter goes outside in back of the house and listens to and dances to all of this wonderful pop music and the music just takes over her,” explains Braun. “This is not my music or the music of my generation but I was listening and started hearing some incredible tunes and so I decided to use some for inspiration. It’s a new journey into the realm of contemporary pop music both sonically and content wise. I use a lot of sequenced sounds and samples that hopefully will sound fresh and interesting to my fans.” Braun’s tender trumpet and flugelhorn lines along with Peter White’s sailing guitar transform this number into a delightful rhapsodic version. Around The Horn also showcases Alicia Keys’ “In Common,” which Braun turns into a haunting trip-hoppy, tropical house inspired elixir that promises to have you dancing. Braun also draws inspiration from British alt-rock sensation Coldplay and their first true American hit, “Yellow.” Braun enlists help from multi-instrumentalist and vocalist John Stoddart, who also co-wrote a number of the songs on Around The Horn.

“John Stoddart is an amazingly talented singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and producer. He is just an awesome human being. We toured together with BWB (a group that included Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown), and we were label mates way back in the day on Warner Brothers. I have been a fan of his for the past 20 years,” shares Braun.“

John actually suggested we record ‘In Common’ and he came up with the beautiful re-harmonization and incredible arrangement on ‘Yellow.’ This record would not be what it is without John’s help. I am grateful for his contribution and I love him.” Braun and Stoddart let loose and have some fun with a funky and bluesy original they penned together “Everything Is Alright.” “This song is another example of the genius of John. It has a Ramsey Lewis or Eddie Harris ‘Cold Duck Time’ feel. At the same time sonically, I wanted to pull from Bruno Mars in terms of the sonic palette with the horn section sound and the big kick drum that you hear.” The snappy and electrifying “Pool Dancer,” opens the door to Braun’s creative fancy as he stretches out and gets down to the nitty- gritty and concocts soulful flights of fancy trading off with himself on trumpet and flugelhorn. The dazzling “Love Take Me” features the chart-topping soul jazz diva and Shanachie label-mate, Lindsey Webster. “Working with Lindsey was absolutely fantastic” shares Braun. “I have to thank my dear friend and co-manager Bud Harner for his input on this one because it was initially an instrumental cut. There aren’t a lot of people in the world that can write lyrics and sing like Lindsey Webster does. She is an amazing talent and I have nothing but great things to say about her.” Also included on Around The Horn are two more songs that John Stoddart and Rick Braun co-wrote; the vibey, R&B flavored ballad “I Love You More” and the free-flowing cool swing of “One South Beach Night.”

“Every time I sit down to play my horn, I realize the shortcomings and the amount of information that I do not have. It is a humbling experience,” says Rick Braun. “For me it is important that I continue to keep my horizons open and keep looking forward and try to improve on what I do.” Braun was blessed to discover music at an early age. “When I started playing as an eight year old boy, I loved it right away. I loved the smell of the horn, the sound that it made and everything about it and I continue to love it.” There was a time when Braun was contemplating pursuing medical school but luckily for us music won out. Still a student of the music, of late Braun has been intently listening to Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown and Chet Baker. In fact he is working on a tribute concert featuring Chet Baker’s music. Compositionally Braun says, “My influences are all over the map. But a few of my favorites are Earth, Wind and Fire, The Brecker Brothers, Quincy Jones, The Crusaders and Ramsey Lewis.” Coming of age in Allentown, PA (about an hour outside of Philadelphia), Braun was acutely aware of the volume of jazz musicians who developed in his area. “The Brecker Brothers were a huge influence. My dear friend Jeff Lorber is also from Philadelphia and Keith Jarrett is from Allentown. There is a rumor in my family that Jarrett is actually my third cousin! “ Rick Braun has enjoyed a career longevity that is rare in this business. He has crafted his own distinctive sound and become a staple on contemporary jazz radio. He has produced No. 1 hits for David Benoit, Marc Antoine and former Rod Stewart band sidekick Jeff Golub. Braun achieved collaborative success on massive hits with Boney James, as a member of RnR with saxophonist Richard Elliot and with BWB, a powerhouse trio completed by Grammy® winners Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown. Braun has hosted an annual New Year’s Eve event for almost a decade that benefits autism. His daughter is autistic and Braun has made it a mission to bring awareness to autism. “One of my passions is just trying to help people who are affected by autism. It is really important for me to just reach out and help wherever I can,” shares the inspiring musician. Around The Horn follows Braun’s 2014 CD Can You Feel It and further ensconces the trumpeter as among one of the greatest of his generation. Braun concludes, “For me music is not just about going out touring and making a living. Music has always been a source of joy, almost a therapy. When things are not going right or when I am not feeling right about myself, if I can get into my studio and make some music and dig into that world, it always makes me feel better. It is an absolute pleasure seeing the joy that it brings to others. I love every moment of it!”

 

Richard Elliot

When tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot began preparing Summer Madness, his follow-up to 2014’s critically acclaimed Lip Service, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. First and foremost, it had to be funky. “When I was growing up in the ’70s and first learning to play the saxophone,” he says, “I was mostly attracted to instrumentally based R&B and to jazz that had R&B roots. This record definitely goes down that path, leaning more on the funk side.”

He also knew precisely who he wanted to accompany him on the new music. “I wanted to involve my band,” Elliot says. “A lot of artists tour with a group of musicians, and then when it’s time to make a record they hook up with a producer and go into the studio and use completely different people that maybe they’ve never even met before. I feel that if you’re lucky enough to have a regular group of musicians that you work with, and you don’t draw on their talent and their inspirations, you’re short-changing yourself.”

Summer Madness, set for release on September 9, 2016 via Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, is a new kind of Richard Elliot recording. For one thing, the cast includes two other horn men augmenting Elliot’s signature sax work: trumpeter/trombonist Rick Braun, who also produced the album and, on several tracks, baritone saxophonist Curt Waylee. Most importantly though, the music was created from scratch as Elliot and his handpicked musicians formulated and honed their ideas in the studio, with Braun’s ultra-capable guidance. For Elliot, recruiting the additional players and having the entire band—plus a well-respected veteran producer help him shape the music—was integral to the project’s success.

“I didn’t want to direct them,” he says. “I wanted to bring them in and let them be part of the process—the writing, the arranging—and to do it all together. I had a lot of confidence that these guys are mature enough musically. Everybody brought what they do to the table and we all put our heads together. We didn’t have rehearsals first, we didn’t have writing sessions first. We booked some days in the studio and the music just poured out.” The result of these impromptu jams—seven new originals and three classic interpretations—is unquestionably one of the most electrifying and gratifying recordings of Richard Elliot’s three- plus-decade solo career. From the opening salvo, a super-funkified take on Spyro Gyra’s

“Cachaca,” through the closing “Mr. Nate’s Wild Ride,” spotlighting bassist Nathaniel Phillips, who wrote the track along with Elliot and Braun, Summer Madness is one of those albums that simply takes hold the moment you press play and never lets go. Along the way it touches down on a variety of moods and styles, from Latin- and African-inspired funk to soul jazz, even flirting with fusion on the hard-driving, appropriately titled “Ludicrous Speed.”

A couple of sparkling ballads pay tribute to heroes of Elliot’s going back to his earliest days of musical discovery: “Europa,” on which he honors one of his saxophone inspirations, the late Gato Barbieri—who famously remade the Carlos Santana-penned track in his own image, and the title track “Summer Madness,” a mid-’70s hit for funk titans Kool & the Gang.

Among the original compositions, “Harry the Hipster,” says Elliot, “is reminiscent of songs that had cool, recurring melodies and a funky pulse—the idea was not to wrap yourself up in how much complexity you could put into the song, but how much feeling and groove can you put into the song?” Another highlight, the band-written “West Coast Jam,” is Elliot’s nod to yet another influence, the late leader of funk trailblazers Zapp, Roger Troutman, while “Breakin’ It Down,” which arrives early on Summer Madness, is designed, he says, to bridge the genres of funk and contemporary jazz, with which Elliot has long been associated. “I sort of formulated that theory later though,” he confesses. “When we were making the music we were just making it.”

It should come as no surprise to Elliot’s longtime fans that he would, at some point in his career, choose to celebrate funk in such a dedicated, decisive way. It was, after all, with the legendary Tower of Power that many first heard the saxophone virtuosity of Richard Elliot. Although he was born in Scotland and grew up in Los Angeles, where he started playing saxophone while in middle school, his five-year run with the Bay Area institution ToP during the 1980s was when Richard Elliot first came to prominence.

“I learned more about being a musician, about being a performer, about being a team player in a horn section, about how to make a statement when you step out and do a solo, from being with Tower of Power than from any other group or artist I ever worked with,” Elliot says, adding that it was “initially terrifying” to find himself among some of the most accomplished and highly respected musicians on the funk/R&B scene. In fact, he learned enough from working with them, Elliot says now, to know that he was ready to go off on his own when he did.

“Leaving Tower of Power was the hardest decision I ever made,” he says now, but great things were to follow almost immediately. By the late ’80s, Elliot had launched his solo career and was signed to Blue Note Records, where he worked with the legendary record executive Bruce Lundvall, an early champion of Elliot’s work. Since then, Elliot has released more than 20 albums as a leader, and has also polished his chops serving as a sideman for a considerable list of diverse giants, including Motown hitmakers Smokey Robinson and the Temptations. One of Elliot’s favorite projects was the collaborative 2013 release Summer Horns, which found him teaming up with fellow sax-slingers Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Mindi Abair—the album was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Throughout all of his music, Richard Elliot has always strived to achieve one certain goal. “Miles Davis said, ‘The hardest thing for a musician to do is sound like himself.’ That stuck with me,” Elliot says. “If you fixate on a single influence, you tend to sound like someone who’s trying to sound like that person. I never know if I’ve achieved that goal but on occasion I’ve had someone come up to me and say, ‘I heard a song on the radio and I knew it was you.’” Summer Madness puts a bit of a new twist on the classic Richard Elliot sound, but you won’t doubt for a single second who you are hearing.

 

Aubrey Logan

Aubrey Logan is an award-winning artist with vocals that range from deep and electric to delicate and vulnerable. She breaks traditional genre barriers by combining jazz vocals with R&B, neo-soul, pop, and a touch of rock.

The singer/instrumentalist/composer dazzles audiences wherever she’s seen and heard around the globe. Wrapping a 12-city tour throughout the U.K. and Dubai, U.A.E., Aubrey dashes home to L.A. to continue work on a new album. Then it’s off again to be featured on tour with Scott Bradlee’s acclaimed Postmodern Jukebox in 18 European cities from Stockholm to Athens. Stateside this year, Aubrey appears in concerts in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Seattle, as well as jazz festivals in Boston and Bakersfield and Sunfest in South Florida.

Winner of the top vocal competitions at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Aubrey electrifies fans with her stock-in-trade staccato phrasings and a vocal range that reaches to the stars.

Aubrey’s much-anticipated album, slated for release this year, promises some favorite covers and a lot of original material direct from her heart.

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