Two for Tuesday: Gregg Karukas

An original member of The Rippingtons (he was on their first album, 1987’s Moonlighting), pianist Gregg Karukas experimented with several instruments (drums, guitar, trumpet) before pursuing music as a full-time career when he was in high school (around the same time I was). At 16, he was one of the first people to own a Minimoog synthesizer. He spent five years with the band East Coast Offering before moving to LA, where he worked with David Benoit, Richard Elliot, and other smooth jazz and pop artists. He recorded his first of 12 albums, The Night Owl, in 1987. He’s been nominated for a number of Oasis and National Smooth Jazz awards. His most recent album, 2014’s Soul Secrets, was issued on his own label, Nightowl Records.

From Soul Secrets, “Rio Drive.”

From 2005’s Looking Up, the title track.

His website tells us that he’ll be at the Laguna Beach (California) Festival of the Arts on July 25. He has a Facebook page and you can find more of his music on YouTube and Spotify.

Gregg Karukas, your Two for Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

Two For Tuesday: Russ Freeman & The Rippingtons

Up until recently, one of the best places to hear smooth jazz in the US was on The Weather Channel, during their “Local On The 8’s” segment. The local forecast and current conditions are displayed on the screen as smooth jazz plays in the background. TWC found this was so popular that they actually compiled several CD’s worth of some of the more popular tunes.

Anyway, if you’ve ever seen one of those segments, you have probably heard The Rippingtons, a band that generally consists of guitarist/keyboardist/programmer Russ Freeman backed by a rotating group of musicians, which have included David Benoit, Greg Karukas, Jeff Kashiwa, Paul Taylor, Eric Marienthal, and other stars of the genre in their own right. They’ve recorded 20 studio albums, all of which have been in the Top 10 of jazz record sales (including six #1’s), two live albums, and have had one compilation album created by GRP Records, their original label.

From their most recent #1 album, 2016’s True Stories, here is the title track. Note the cat on the album cover: it has been on the cover of every Rippingtons album, in one form or another.

From their first #1 album and fourth overall, 1990’s Welcome To The St. James’ Club, here is the title track.

All of their albums can be found on YouTube and Spotify. Their official website is currently displaying their most recent album, Open Road, which came out in March of this year. And, of course, the band has a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Russ Freeman & The Rippingtons, your Two for Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

Two For Tuesday: Marc Antoine

Marc Jean Roland Antoine Vouilloux, more simply known as Marc Antoine, is a smooth jazz guitarist from France. He got his first guitar when he was 11, and by 13 his father was so impressed that he sent Marc to Conservatoire de Paris, where he leraned to be a classical guitarist. When he turned 18, he was ready to make his debut, but had an accident while he was playing with his dog where he injured his left hand and was told he would probably never play the guitar again. Through a lot of patience and hard work he managed to fully recover from his injuries. By age 25, he had moved to England and was part of Basia’s recording band, then moved to the US where he backed up a number of singers, including Cher, Queen Latifah, Sting and Rod Stewart, as well as starting his solo career.

From his most recent album, 2017’s So Nice, a joint effort with David Benoit, the title track.

From his second solo album, 1995’s Urban Gypsy, one of his better-known songs, “Latin Quarter.”

I had trouble getting to his website, but you can hear more of Marc Antoine on YouTube and Spotify. There is a second Marc Antoine who’s a Haitian-Canadian singer, so make sure you’re listening to the right one (although Marc Antoine the singer is quite good, too).

Marc Antoine, your Two for Tuesday, July 2, 2019.

Two For Tuesday: Chieli Minucci and Special EFX

Chieli Minucci is the leader of the group Special EFX as well as having a solo career of his own. They’ve recorded 30 CD’s, eight of which are solo efforts by Minucci. He has recorded with a number of jazz and pop artists, and composed for film and TV. He won Daytime Emmys in 1998, 2007 and 2008 for his compositions for the daytime drama The Guiding Light.

Here’s the title track from Minucci’s 2003 solo album, Night Grooves.

From Special EFX’s latest album, 2017’s Deep As The Night, the title track. This was the #1 Smooth Jazz Song for last year.

According to his website, he and Special EFX will be appearing in Tokyo at the end of this week, and will be touring through the US through October. He’s present on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, so if you’re active on one or more of those platforms you’ll be able to follow him.

Chieli Minucci and Special EFX, your Two for Tuesday, June 25, 2019.

Two For Tuesday: Paul Jackson Jr.

I forget where I first heard of Paul Jackson Jr., but it was not long after he had released his 1993 album, A River In The Desert, that I bought a cassette of it and stuck it in the tape player of my car, where it stayed for a month because I was just amazed at what a fantastic guitarist he was. He was a session player for a bunch of rock, R&B and smooth jazz artists before going off on his own. He’s recorded eight solo albums (one of which was 1990’s Out Of The Shadows), and he played for a time with the Tonight Show Band when Jay Leno was the host.

His most recent album is 2016’s Tales From Stompin’ Willie. Here’s the first track, “Sassay.”

From his 1993 album A River In The Desert, here is “The Flavor.”

His website hasn’t been updated in a while, but you can find his music on YouTube and Spotify, and you can get updates on Facebook and Twitter, though he doesn’t seem to update them frequently.

Paul Jackson Jr., your Two For Tuesday, June 18, 2019.