(Note: I had intended on doing Bob James today, then discovered I had already featured him here all the way back in 2013, when this blog was just a baby. It needed an update.)
Bob James is one of the original smooth jazzers. He is a keyboardist, producer, composer and arranger, has collaborated with a number of artists, including Stanley Turrentine, David Sanborn, and Earl Klugh, and is one of the founding members of Fourplay. He’s possibly best known for “Angela,” which was the theme song from the late-’70’s TV show Taxi.
Our first selection today is “Nautilus,” from his first album One (1974). The website WhoSampled.com tells us that it’s been sampled 312 times in hip-hop records.
“Take Me To The Mardi Gras” is from Bob’s second album, Two (1975). It has also been sampled frequently, 425 times.
Bob’s full discography can be found on his website, and his most recent album, Espresso, was released this past August. Many of his songs and collaborations are available on YouTube.
Bob James, your Two For Tuesday, December 11, 2018.
I found this video from Estelle Caswell at Vox about the Smooth Jazz Phenomenon of the ’90’s. While Smooth Jazz started much earlier than then and is still going strong despite the format disapparing from the airwaves (but not the Internet), I like her description.
It took me a minute to find her playlist, which is on Spotify rather than YouTube. You can find it here. You’ll need a Spotify account, which is free (unless you want to pay $10 a month for a premium subscription).
As I mentioned above, the Smooth Jazz format has pretty much disappeared from the airwaves, but there is still a veritable plethora of the music on the Internet, and many of those outlets have apps that run on iOS and Android devices. Some of the ones I listen to include SmoothJazz.com, SmoothJazz247.com, and 101SmoothJazz.com. Additionally, JazzRadio.com and Accuradio.com both have several Smooth Jazz channels and apps to go along with them. A lot of these can be accessed through Alexa and other virtual assistants. As a good friend of mine used to say, knock yourself out…
David Benoit started playing piano at 13 and majored in music theory and composition at El Camino College. After college, he was music dirctor and conductor, first for Lainie Kazan, and later for Ann-Margret and Connie Stevens. He recorded six albums for Blue Moon Records before 1986’s This Side Up on the En Pointe label, which reached #4 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. Since then, he’s recorded albums on GRP, Varese Sarabande, Peak, Concord, and other labels, his most recent being last year’s So Nice, a collaboration on Shanachie with guitarist Marc Antoine.
His 1992 album Letter To Evan was a tribute to pianist Bill Evans, who recorded an album by the same name in 1980. Here’s the title track.
He recorded Here’s To You, Charlie Brown! in 2000, as a memorial to Charles M. Schulz, who had died earlier that year. The album had a number of songs that had been written by Vince Guaraldi, who wrote and performed the music for the Peanuts specials before his death in 1976. Here’s “Christmas Time Is Here,” from A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). The vocals are provided by the gospel sextet Take 6.
In addition to Antoine, Benoit has recorded several collaboration albums, including two with Russ Freeman of The Rippingtons, Jane Monheit, Brian Bromberg, and Greg Bissonette. According to his website, he’s currently on tour with vocalist Sara Gazarek, his “Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown,” which has dates in California and Colorado.
David Benoit, your Two for Tuesday, December 4, 2018.
Like a lot of early smooth jazz artists, keyboardist Dave Grusin started out playing straight-ahead jazz and gradually got smoother. He has an impressive array of credits writing for the movies and TV, earning an Oscar for Best Original Score for The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for “It Might Be You” from Tootsie (1982). He’s written the theme music for a number of TV shows, as well as the score for a number of episodes. He was responsible for the score for the TV movie Prescription: Murder, in which Peter Falk’s character Columbo was introduced.
One of the TV themes he wrote is “Theme from St. Elsewhere” (1982). The show ended in 1988, but the theme is still played on smooth jazz stations.
Dave has collaborated with other smooth jazz artists on some projects, including the album Harlequin (1985) with Lee Ritenour. Here’s “Early A. M. Attitude” from that album. It won the 1986 Grammy for Best Arrangement on an Instrumental, and the album was nominated for several other Grammys.
Dave and his business partner, Larry Rosen, founded GRP Records in 1978. It was one of the first labels to specialize in all-digital productions. It was (and still is) the place to go to hear smooth jazz. Grusin and Rosen left GRP in the hands of producer Tommy LiPuma in 1995 and have since started another label, N-Coded Music (formerly N2K Encoded Music), in 1997.
Dave Grusin, your Two For Tuesday, November 27, 2018.
Saxophonist Gerald Albright grew up in Los Angeles. He started with piano lessons, but when his teacher realized he really didn’t care for it, he gave Gerald a saxophone. After getting his degree in Business Administration from the University of Redlands, he switched to bass guitar for a while. He started as a session player in the ’80’s and appeared with Anita Baker, Ray Parker Jr., Olivia Newton-John and The Temptations before joining a band started by Patrice Rushen, playing saxophone. His bass skills came in handy when, while on tour, the band’s bass player suddenly quit. (Musicians, it never hurts to know more than one instrument.) He’s recorded seventeen studio albums, the latest being 30 released in May of this year, and a live album.
“Groovology” is the title track from his 2002 album.
“Bermuda Nights” is the title track from his second album, released in 1988.
Gerald has a signature line of saxophones built by Cannonball Music. Of course, he has a website and is active on social media. The website tells us he’ll be in Austin, Texas this Saturday and in Buffalo, New York on December 14.
Gerald Albright, your Two for Tuesday, November 20, 2018.