|Gardena Jazz Festival 2015 Artists|
Picking up a guitar at age 8, Norman Brown was initially inspired by Jimi Hendrix but it was his father's preference for Wes Montgomery that set Norman on his stylistic journey. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue music, attending the Musicians Institute where he also taught for a time. Playing with his own group in local clubs and drawing comparisons to George Benson, he was discovered and signed to the fledgling MoJazz label, a division of Motown. His debut, "Just Between Us" was followed by the gold-certified "After the Storm" and "Better Days Ahead." Moving to Warner Bros., he released "Celebration," which first teamed him with producer Paul Brown. The follow-up, "Just Chillin", earned him Grammy® recognition in the best pop instrumental category. Next, on "West Coast Coolin'," Norman tested his skills as a vocalist, a move embraced by the urban Adult Contemporary radio market and found him topping the charts, with a fan base that's been expanding over the years. His compilation "The Very Best Of Norman Brown" was one of the best-selling smooth jazz albums of 2005 and 2006. His 2010 release "Sending My Love" with its seamless blend of pop, R&B and jazz marked his 8th solo album. 2012 saw the release of "24/7", in collaboration with saxophonist Gerald Albright.
Marion Meadows began playing clarinet and studying classical music at age 8. He gravitated to the soprano sax in high school, and his passion for various types of music led him to appreciate numerous jazz musicians, including Stanley Turrentine, Sidney Bichet, Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington, and Coleman Hawkins. After studying jazz with Anthony Truglia, he attended Berkeley College of Music, majoring in arranging and composition and later attended SUNY Purchase School for the Arts. "I got a lot of sideman jobs in college, and I have always said I got a graduate degree playing clubs," says Meadows, who perfected his craft studying with Joe Henderson, Dave Liebman and Eddie Daniels. Shortly after he finished school, drummer Norman Connors recorded his song "Invitation" and then asked Marion to join his band. Meadows first hit the airwaves in 1991 with For Lovers Only, but his career really began one day in the late '80s at NYC's Grand Central Station. He'd been a sideman with Connors for 3 years, with only vague notions of eventually going solo. While waiting for a train, he pulled out his horn and began playing under Grand Central's huge dome. He caught the attention of fellow commuter TV composer Jay Chattaway, who was so impressed that he hooked Meadows up with legendary keyboardist Bob James. James signed Meadows to his label, and though Meadows' first recording went unreleased, the experience put him on the road to his eventual success. Marion became a well-known sideman in his own right, recording or performing over the years with Brook Benton, Eartha Kitt, Phyllis Hyman, Jean Carne, The Temptations, Michael Bolton, Angela Bofill, and Will Downing among others. In the late '80s he stretched his usual pop/jazz boundaries as a member of a New York avant-garde band called the Aboriginal Music Society. The '90s marked the beginning of his solo career and he became a staple of the smooth jazz format with his subsequent recordings in the 1990s and 2000's through today.
Back in January of 2011, Smooth Jazz Journalist of The Year nominee, Denis Poole commented that 'North End Soul' from multi-instrumentalist, writer, and producer Vincent Ingala was, by any standards, an outstanding piece of work. In fact, it proved to be a spectacular debut and set the scene for what evolved into a truly remarkable year, In San Diego, at what became known as 'The Lemonade Weekend,' Ingala owned the stage at Anthology and later that night played with Peter White at the Hard Rock Hotel. Twelve months later, his ever growing fan-base would be rewarded with Vincent's follow up album 'Can't Stop Now', earning him two Billboard top five singles, one of them topping at #1 for four weeks. With seven original compositions, two spellbinding covers and guest performances from Gregg Karukas & Jonathan Fritzen, 'Can't Stop Now' is a measure of just how far Ingala has come and a tribute to the focus and dedication he has for his music.
Indeed, 'Can't Stop Now' bears testimony to the way Vincent pursues his musical goals with determination and zeal. Not only did he write and co-write seven of the tracks, he also played every instrument and, if that wasn't enough, produced and programmed the album throughout. This all seems a far cry from the time his parents bought him his first drum set at the age of four. Later, he was given his first guitar and after only nine months of lessons in third grade, was strumming Elvis tunes that he had perfected by ear. Both friends and family quickly sensed that there was something special going on and this was confirmed when in fifth grade he mastered the keyboard before trading it in for the saxophone. Finally, Vincent had found the sound for which he had been searching. He was hooked and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since May 2011, Vincent has become an ever-increasing presence on the Smooth Jazz Circuit, performing as a solo artist at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Jazz Festival, Cataling Island Jazz Trax Festival, The Seabreeze Jazz Festival and was a featured artist on the Dave Koz & Friends 2011 Alaskan Cruise. He will also be on board for Koz's 2016 Caribbean Cruise this fall. Vincent will be releasing his third album, "Coast to Coast" on May 1st, 2015.
A Yamaha Performing Artist, Vincent cites Elvis Presley, Sam Butera, Wilton Felder and Richard Elliot as being among some of his major influences in music. Family is also a core value for Vincent. He enjoys nothing more than spending time with his parents and their large, extended Italian family. With more dates in support of 'Can't Stop Now' already planned for this year, there has never been a better time to experience the magic of Vincent Ingala. Vincent plays Yamaha saxophones exclusively.
Take one of the hottest composers and keyboard players in instrumental pop, add in featured performances from the likes of Gerald Albright, Paul Taylor and Nils Landgren, hook them up with ten wonderful new tunes and what do you have? The answer is 'Fritzenized', the latest album from the Billboard chart-topping, artist Jonathan Fritzén.
It is the Swedish American's fifth solo CD and follows the critically acclaimed 'Magical' from which the title cut blasted a path to #1 on every smooth jazz airplay chart on the planet.
The fact that even before its release date, 'Fritzenized' has already become a chart topper says much for a collection that, two years in the making, is Fritzén's most personal to date. Writing, producing and (for the first time) mixing every track, he comes closer to his true magical vision than with any other project he has created so far.
A case in point is the aptly titled 'A Funky Night' that finds him reuniting with vocalist Laila Adele. As Jonathan explains, "Laila is not only a long term collaborator of mine but also one of my favorite singers. The groove for the song was inspired by one of the most sampled drum loops in rap music, 'Juicy Fruit' that I thought would fuse nicely with my own musical spices."
There is no doubt it worked out just fine and much the same can be said of 'Guacamole', which has a vibe of the kind Fritzén first heard when touring in Nicaragua many years ago. "After the shows", Jonathan recalls, "we would go out to the local clubs to party. The songs that the DJ's were spinning would often have this beat they called "reggaeton" and this is my own take on it. Guacamole is probably my favorite thing to eat so I thought it would be a good title for the tune." It features Swedish trombone player Nils Landgren, one of Europe's most famous jazz musicians, and another guest performer that Fritzén was eager to have on board is Gerald Albright whom Fritzén describes as being one of the greatest sax players on earth.
As Jonathan tells it, "We were figuring out who was going to play sax on the track 'Celebration' and, for me, Albright was the perfect choice. A number of years ago we played in Germany at the same festival, just when I was coming onto the scene, and we had breakfast together. I remember what a nice person he was and, having seen him at various festivals in the States where we've both played, it felt natural to ask him. I wanted a very 'jammy' ending to the number, where we could play off each other, so his versatility and master of improvisation was just what I needed." The title reflects the festive feeling that the song has and is helped in this respect by Alex Al on bass and Randy Jacobs on guitar, guys who Fritzén considers to be two of the hottest cats on the scene today.
Talking of hot, Paul Taylor's contribution on 'Euphoria' is top notch yet, in the final analysis, 'Fritzenized' is all about the magic that the music of Jonathan Fritzén invariably brings. Take for example the first single to be serviced to radio, 'A New Beginning' of the dreamy 'Sailing Away' on which Fritzén utilizes his under-used singing voice for the first time since 2008 and the release of his debut album 'Love Birds'. Both these masterpieces of rhythm and melody find him at his excellent best and seem set to accelerate his already meteoric rise to fame at a rate rarely seen since the mid-seventies when those other Swedish superstars, Abba, took the USA by storm.
As Jonathan puts it, "I feel so fortunate that my dreams of touring the world, sharing my music with so many people and playing with childhood idols has beome a reality. Now, I feel more strongly that I want to focus on different types of goals and for my music to affect people's lives in a very positive way. Music can be a powerful force and all I want is for everybody who hears this record to come out a little bit different on the other side. That's my dream for Fritzenized."