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  • Review of Guitars and Saxes at Thornton Winery

    Founded by Bob Engel and John Harrington in 1995, Guitars and Saxes has since featured artists including Marc Antoine, Rick Braun, Steve Cole, Warren Hill, Mindi Abair, Wayman Tisdale, Jonathon Butler, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, Peter White, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, and more. With 2006 marking its eleventh year on tour, the group’s popularity in the smooth jazz community was apparent in its sold out show at the Thornton Winery in Temecula, California. This year’s show featured saxophonists Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot as well as guitarists Peter White and Jeff Golub.

    The Guitars and Saxes show seemed to feature the artists in an almost, “get to know the artists and their music” sort of manner. Featuring the artists one at a time, for the most part, gave each of the four the opportunity to play songs off of their newest albums, which were available for purchase. Of course, they did play a few charts that were not off the newest albums. For example, Jeff Golub and Gerald Albright performed Cold Duck Time, which is on one of Jeff’s previously recorded albums.

    Gerald Albright, was the first to take the stage. With a combination of his amazing tone and killer saxophone technique and abilities, Gerald Albright really showed the audience that he had earned his place on the tour. Playing his original take on Georgia on my Mind, a Ray Charles tune off his newest album New Beginnings, Mr. Albright showed the audience that he truly has command of his saxophone and can say whatever he wants through his music. Later in the show, to the surprise of the audience, Gerald took up the bass on one of the songs to display his versatility as a musician. The talent that Gerald possesses is enviable by anyone and appreciated by everyone.

    Richard Elliot was able to take hold of the audience with his catchy soul jazz compositions and his “schtick” that he so well known for. One of the things he would do is move low to the ground and growl into his saxophone. The other thing he would do was bite the reed to play altissimo and glissando to the highest note he could possibly squeeze out. Richard Elliot, along with Peter White is one of the reasons that the Guitars and Saxes tour has been going as long as it has, and it probably would not be as successful without him.

    Jeff Golub, like Gerald Albright, proved that he deserved to be a part of the Guitars and Saxes show. One of the newer members of the tour, Jeff Golub casually took the stage but played quite elegantly. Dressed in jeans, an unbuttoned shirt and converse, Jeff Golub showed the audience that to him, music is really all about the music and not about the artist. A misconception that a lot of artists have – especially in the smooth jazz community.

    Peter White, also a guitarist, has also earned his place on the Guitars and Saxes tour. As the most popular smooth jazz guitarist over the last decade, Peter White has consistently released “chart-topping” albums, and has almost shaped the way smooth jazz guitar is defined to this day. On stage, Peter played very heartfelt guitar, fusing his rock roots with his smooth style to create the sound he is associated with as an artist today.

    Overall, the Guitars and Saxes show had its ups and downs, just as every show does. However, the show did not lack in musicality or energy at any point. Whether it was Gerald Albright’s inimitable playing and sound, Jeff Golub’s youthful rocking out on guitar, Peter White’s definitive guitar playing, or Richard Elliot’s schtick, these four artists certainly made their mark on the audience that day as they have throughout their careers. Years from now, their names will be remembered amongst the next generation of musicians and the influence will be apparent in the style of the future artists of smooth jazz.

    November 20, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 972

  • Review of Lin Rountree’s Performance at Spaghettini’s Sep 2, 2012

    This past weekend has been a whirlwind of music events, and I had the pleasure of seeing and sitting in with several great artists. The first event was a performance by Incendio where I had the chance to sit in on a few songs, you can read the review on Teen Jazz. Lin Rountree’s performance with U-Nam was the following night, and although vastly different from the music of Incendio, it was just as exciting.

    Lin Rountree is an accomplished trumpet player who performs in the smooth jazz and soul/R&B styles. He began playing the trumpet at the age of 11 and since has led a successful career with four solo projects. He endorses Wisemann trumpets and flugel horns.

    The concert featured the music of Lin Rountree and U-Nam, the two main artists, and consisted of two sets. The band was outstanding, the artists had the audience on their feet and even those on the other side of the restaurant snuck into the bar to see what all the excitement was about. It was a fantastic performance and it was amazing to see these two great artists perform together.

    November 13, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1130

  • Guitarist Chieli Minucci | Teen Jazz Influence Interview

    Name: Chieli Minucci
    Instrument: guitar
    Years Playing: since age of 8
    Location: New York
    School/Major/Degree: Ithaca College, never finished, English major, music major for one year

    We also interviewed Chieli in 2013. You can read the updated interview here.

    THE INTERVIEW

    Chieli Minucci, an established guitarist in New York, has been renowned for both his skills as a performer and as a composer. With impressive credits and an extensive discography, Minucci has been successful in many genres of the music industry including performance, recording, composing for artists, himself, musicals, et al. and much more.

    Minucci offers a variety of advice for aspiring musicians including the age-old expression “practice makes perfect”. He illustrates that it isn’t just about constantly playing your instrument, it needs to be a “combination of serious ‘woodshedding’ and practicing the rudiments of your instrument”.

    Influenced by musicians from different spectrums of the music world including John McLaughlin, Eric Clapton, and Pat Metheney, it is apparent that Minucci has emphasized diversity in his music. In his own words, “I’ve tried to be in as many different musical situations as possible. There is a lot of variety in music, and the person who can perform in the most settings gets the most work. Besides, it is more interesting to be more diverse in music.”

    Minucci contributes some of his success to the relationships that he has made throughout his career. “I’ve always been really outgoing and friendly and I like what I do and I like the kind of people I meet in the [music] industry. Music is just a secondary part of who you are, and you share that with other musicians. The relationships that you have with other people in the music industry are essential to a successful career; I get work because of how I play guitar, but most of the work I get are because of the relationships I have developed with other people. I have very close relationships with the people that I work with.”

    Chieli’s father, who is a great melody writer (and has written some Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby and some classic crooner standards), has played a major role in Chieli’s decision to be a musician. Because grew up in house with melodies being played all the time, it was no big surprise that Chieli chose music as a career. His father has also been a big influence in his writing, which Chieli recently won a Emmy for…

    With a career as successful as Chieli Minucci’s, going out on the road is inevitable. Luckily, Chieli loves being out on the road. “The road is the whole reason I do this. I love traveling with my band.”

    Chieli has performed and recorded with top pop artists Celine Dion, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Lopez, Jewel, Mark Anthony, Jessica Simpson, Anastasia, as well as the jazz artists Marion Meadows, Jay Beckenstein, Gerald Veasley, Lao Tizer, Nestor Torres, Bob Baldwin, and many others.

    Visit chielimusic.com for more information.

    October 18, 2012 • Interviews • Views: 1060

  • Chieli Minucci, Without You Review

    In my experience as an active music enthusiast, I have yet to discover an artist who can more cleverly merge such diverse styles of music not only onto a single album, but also within each individual song. Guitarist Chieli Minucci creatively hints at his vast musical influence and repertoire with his epic new release Without You.

    The album opens with a very intriguing rhythmic, almost world-music styled piece entitled “Quivering”. Described by Minucci as “mischievous”, the opening piece fuses a fusion-influenced melody with a somewhat Middle Eastern track. The first piece makes a fantastic introduction to the album; Without You musically transverses the globe and generations of musical style in 22 songs and 2 discs.


    Chieli constantly throws curveballs at his listeners with his new album. This includes everything from incorporating violin into most of his compositions to short musical interludes between some of the longer works. Many of the pieces on Without You are modern, updated renditions of the Special EFX catalog. “You Make Me” and “You Make Me Blue” are contemporary versions of “You Make Me Smile” while the 1982 “Sambuca Nights” appears halfway through “The Night is Ours”. “Ballerina Rocks” also makes an appearance on the album as an island-style piece with an instrumental rock styled melody, not to mention several other Special EFX songs disguised in new arrangements.

    Overall, the album has the perfect blend of intense, fusion, hard-driven pieces and mellow, relaxing, smooth compositions providing listeners with a diverse aural experience. With everything from orchestral film scores to Brazilian and Latin pieces, RNB-influenced vocals to electronica, any music fan will find something to enjoy.

    Without You features many well-known guests including Lao Tizer, Karen Briggs, Jeff Lorber, Will Brock, Dave Anderson, and Alan Grubner. Chieli’s son, Gianluca Minucci, is also showcased on the song “Wonderboy” as both a composer and as a bassist.

    Leave it to Chieli Minucci to ensure his listeners are constantly on their toes. At some point, each song harmonically, melodically (or both!) goes to a place one wouldn’t expect. Without You implements modern music style and technology to avoid the typical instrumental song format which has become too predictable and repetitive.

    If it hasn’t already been added into your music playlist, I would be amiss if I didn’t recommend you doing just this! For diehard fans, the physical version of the album includes an in-depth history of the band Special EFX.

    Get Without You on Amazon

    September 19, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1093

  • Review of Incendio Performance at Spaghettini’s Sep 1, 2012

    On September 1, 2012, the Latin guitar world fusion group, Incendio, performed at Spaghettini’s in Seal Beach as part of their 2012 tour. Incendio was established in 1999 and has since released seven albums (with an eighth on the way). The members – JP Durand, Jim Stubblefield, Liza Carbé, Nicole Faizone and Brian Brock – come together to create an energetic and exciting performance with unique compositions and excellent playing.

    Incendio’s performance at Spaghettini’s featured many of their classic and popular tunes including “Los Rios” and “Misterioso” as well as unexpected titles such as Burt Bacharach’s “Close to You” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” In addition to a captivating selection of original music and covers, the evening was filled with virtuosic acoustic guitar solos from Jim Stubblefield and JP Durand, skilled percussion and drumming from Nicole Fazione and Brian Brock, while Liza Carbé provided her talents on bass.

    With impressive unison guitar licks, Latin-influenced music and a contagious energy, Incendio’s music had the audience dancing in their seats. The night was as entertaining as it was musical.

    For those looking for something a little outside the typical instrumental scene, this is a must-see performance. For young artists, they also make a fantastic example of strong stage presence and audience communication. Check out Incendio‘s website to see when they are performing in a venue near you.

    September 2, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 958

  • U-Nam | Weekend in LA: A Tribute to George Benson Review

    Today marks the official US release date for French guitarist U-Nam’s George Benson Tribute Project, “Weekend in L.A.” The album has already made it to #1 on iTunes in Japan for Jazz, the Top 13 on Amazon in the US and has been a Top 5 for radio stations throughout Europe and the world.

    “Weekend in L.A” provides fans with a fresh perspective on many of Benson’s most popular songs with the playing and performances comparable to the great artist himself. The songs are reinterpreted in a way that not only remains true to George Benson, but leaves listeners with something new, fresh and exciting. One definitely has reason to listen to and enjoy the album on it’s own and without comparison.

    With this album, U-Nam’s goal was to provide tribute to an artist who served as a significant musical influence while taking classic songs and making them his own with a soulful and urban touch. In other words, only U-Nam could successfully incorporate rap into the R&B classic “On Broadway.” That’s not to say, of course, that Jeff Lacey’s well composed lyrics didn’t help in the success of this feat – it’s quite the contrary! In fact, Lacey’s cleverly crafted words appear on more than one track on the album.

    Weekend in LA, a tribute to George Benson The project also features the talents of many renowned musicians including Phil Perry, Ronnie Foster, George Duke, Marcus Miller, Michael White, Wah Wah Watson, Patrice Rushen, Stockley Williams, Paul Jackson Jr, and more. Despite the amazing list of guests, however, the real stars are vocalist Tim “TiO” Owens and U-Nam himself. Tim Owens is a huge part of the album, appearing as the primary vocalist on the majority of the tracks. He does a fantastic job performing the different pieces, namely my favorite track from the album “Give Me the Night.” Of course, as for U-Nam, there are no words to describe his excellent playing and all the heart he poured into putting together this album.

    Although I was a part of this project since it’s inception and performed as part of the horn section, I did not have the opportunity to hear the songs in their entirety until the album was mixed and mastered. Like anyone else, the first time I heard each of the songs from start to finish and without pause was when I received a finished copy of the album. When I finally had the hard copy, I was very impressed with how it all came together, especially since I had the opportunity to see all the work that went into the project behind the scenes.

    Because of U-Nam’s tribute, I personally have found a reason to connect with the music of George Benson and that of artists that came a generation or two before me. That’s not to say I was not a fan of Benson – I’ve always appreciated his great artistry – but U-Nam’s contemporary versions of his music provided me with the means to relate to the songs and the music in a way that didn’t exist for me before the release of this album.

    Overall, I think the album is amazingly put together. U-Nam combines the talent of a large collection of musicians from a diverse range of genres, bringing them all together to pay tribute to a great artist. I give this album two thumbs up and I definitely have to say it is my favourite tribute albums by far.

    Track listing:

    1. Weekend in L.A (feat. Andreas Oberg & Ronnie Foster)
    2. Give Me the Night (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens)
    3. Shiver (feat. Paul Jackson Jr & Tim “Tio” Owens)
    4. Love X Love
    5. Nature Boy (feat. Stokley Williams)
    6. This Masquerade (feat. Marcus Miller, Phil Perry, Tim “Tio” Owens, Jeff Lacey & George Duke)
    7. Hip Skip
    8. I Just Wanna Hang Around You (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens)
    9. Turn Your Love Around
    10. Before You Go / Breezin’ (feat. Patrice Rushen)
    11. On Broadway (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens & Jeff Lacey)

    Buy the album Weekend In L.A ( A Tribute To George Benson ) | Download the album Weekend in L.A (A Tribute to George Benson )

    August 29, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1404