Billboard reported these as the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums of 1997:
- The Moment – Kenny G
- Sweet Thing – Boney James
- Dream Walk – Keiko Matsui
- Que Pasa – Gato Barbieri
- A Twist of Jobim – Various Artists
- Soulful Strut – Grover Washington, Jr.
- Breathless – Kenny G
- Caravan of Dreams – Peter White
- Beneath the Surface – Incognito
- Body and Soul – Rick Braun
This year’s top jazz albums are on the Billboard site. Looks like another good year for Tony Bennett.
Jazz For Japan is a benefit album recorded in two days by 25 of the top jazz musicians in the world benefiting the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. The recordings took place last week in Los Angeles at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. Legendary and Grammy nominated performers include: Kenny G, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, George Duke, Rickey Minor, Tom Scott, Billy Childs, Boney James, Lee Ritenour, Keiko Matsui, Bob James, and many others.
Larry Robinson, Jazz For Japan producer states; “This project came about after discussing the tragic aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan with my co-workers. I told them that many of the American jazz musicians tour Japan numerous times a year. It was at that moment the seeds of Jazz For Japan were born. Within five days we called all our jazz friends and put together this truly amazing line up of musicians to record at Hollywood’s famous Capitol Recording Studio who all donated their time.”
The album features jazz standards including “Maiden Voyage,” “Body & Soul,” “Watermelon Man,” “So What,” “Sophisticated Lady,” etc. along with a DVD release including interviews with the artists stating their support and sympathy for the Japanese people. “You, the Japanese people inspire us with your resilience. We are trying to send our strength with what we have – and that’s music,” states Steve Gadd (drummer, performing on “Maiden Voyage”, and “So What”).
Jazz For Japan is being produced by Avatar Records and is available now worldwide via iTunes with profits benefiting the International Red Cross in Japan.
It’s hard to believe that Kenny G is 51 years old but, after releasing 26 albums for Arista, he is starting a new relationship with Concord Records. Concord, by the way, is about the only record company supporting jazz in a big way these days (thank God for an independent label!). I haven’t really listened to Kenny G since his Kenny G Live album from 1989, and if it wasn’t for my emusic subscription, I probably wouldn’t have picked this release up. But Concord has been on a pretty good roll with their releases, so I decided to give the smooth one a shot. This is actually a good album, and this is coming from someone who felt Kenny’s best years were when he was still using his last name and playing along side a guy named Lorber. The album starts off with a “Sax-o-loco” that sounds a lot like “Tequila,” a real upbeat Latin number, but it’s on the next tune, “Ritmo y Romance” that I really sat back and listened hard. Kenny’s as good as anyone in contemporary jazz on this one – maybe even better; no repetitive, simple smooth (boring) jazz here. There’s a little Samba, some Salsa, Spanish and Latin flavorings all tossed together to create a very seductive sounding album, where the energy is bubbling just beneath the surface ready to breakout. There was a time, 40 or so years ago, when the jazz labels, routinely put their stars in a Latin or Bossa setting, even Concord did it 20 and 30 years ago. Listen to Kenny tackle the standard “Besame Mucho” and you’ll understand why it was such a popular idea. If you haven’t listened to Kenny G in awhile, or got tired of all the holiday songs and standards he was putting out, or just gave upon him as I did, give Rhythm & Romance a listen. You just might be as pleasantly surprised as I am.
Buy the CD from Amazon.com!
Buy the download from iTunes!
John Luciano says that Concord Records is “about the only record company supporting jazz in a big way these days (thank God for an independent label).” The label distributes music from Heads Up (home of too numerous to mention contemporary jazz acts), Peak Records (home to a good number of contemporary jazz artists), Stretch Records (Chick Corea’s label), and others. The best-selling saxophonists in smooth jazz are on their roster – Kenny G and Boney James. The best thing about the label is that they successfully market their recordings. You can see and hear them – often on display – at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and other popular retailers who sell music. Their press releases are actually picked up by the press. A press release for Marcus Miller’s latest, Marcus, strives to promote the artist in addition to the recording, stating that he isn’t the “household name he should be.” Like John L. wrote in his review, I also haven’t paid attention to Kenny G for about 15 years but, due to media promotion, I know his new release is Latin-influenced. With the abundance of ways people can get news today, getting the word out where the greatest number of people can read it is difficult. Given that Concord is an independent label and no doubt has a tiny staff for jazz promotion, it’s all the more admirable. Congratulations to Concord’s team(s) for helping to keep contemporary jazz in the public eye.