Saxophonist Elan Trotman, has quickly become one of jazz’s most thrilling and emotive performers as he continues to stand out and push boundaries as a composer, performer, teacher and recording artist. Trotman’s playing, though inspired by Grover Washington, Jr., Kirk Whalum and Najee, displays his own fresh ideas and distinctive tone. So much so that the New England Urban Music Awards, and The Barbados Music Awards both named him Jazz Artist of The Year on multiple occasions.
Trotman is also the Executive Producer and host of the Barbados Jazz Excursion, a jazz and golf weekend getaway which brings over 300 music lovers to the island every Columbus Day Weekend. Past performers include Jeff Lorber, Javier Colon, Gerald Veasley, Brian Simpson, Althea Rene, Marcus Anderson, Peter White and Jeffrey Osborne. Elan is also the founder of the Never Lose Your Drive Foundation – a Non-Profit which directly funds the Headstart Music Program. Headstart Music provides FREE weekly instrument instruction to students ages 7-11 on saxophone, trumpet, flute, clarinet and percussion. In 2016, over $6,000.00 was raised at the Jazz Excursion Weekend and Golf Tournament. All proceeds go towards tutor salaries, instrument maintenance and supplies for the program.
Born and raised in Barbados, the native island of pop star Rihanna, and educated at the world-renowned Berklee College Of Music in Boston,Trotman approaches jazz in his own way. Blending Caribbean rhythms from his roots with skillful horn textures, his playing is full of surprises.
Trotman has recorded and performed with a number of world-class musicians, including Michael McDonald, Roberta Flack, Jonathan Butler, Keiko Matsui, Johnny Gill, Jeffrey Osborne, Sheila E, Marcus Miller, Will Downing, Earl Klugh, Jeff Lorber, Peter White, Peabo Bryson, Brian Simpson and many others. A huge sports fan, Trotman has performed the National Anthem on numerous occasions for such teams as the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers. As an avid sports fan, Elan has provided entertainment for numerous celebrities including The Bronson Arroyo Band, Cold Pizza on ESPN with Woody Page, Jeffrey Osborne Celebrity Golf Classic, Chris Tucker Charity Golf Tournament, Ray Allen Golf Tournament, Hot Stove Cool Music with Peter Gammons and Theo Epstein.
As a recording artist Elan has topped the Billboard Radio Charts over 10 times. As a solo artist charting songs include “Heaven In Your Eyes” feat. Brian Simpson, “Tradewinds” feat Peter White, “Master Blaster”, “As” feat. Lin Rountree, “Thoughts of Sumer” feat. Will Downing, and “Smooth N Saxy”. Collaborations that have topped the charts include “Magic Men” (Marion Meadows), “Groove Me” (Greg Manning), “Just What You Need” (Brian Simpson), “Smooth (Cal Harris) and “Ride Along” (Julian Vaughn).
Grammy nominated saxophonist and flautist, Najee has made a career following his heart and keen musical intuition by pushing musical boundaries, all of which have made him an international pioneer in the music industry. Having collaborated with everyone in the music business from Prince, Quincy Jones to Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock, Najee’s technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion and fearless genre bending have made him one of the most sought after musicians of his generation. With two Platinum and four Gold albums under his belt, Najee is an icon whose musical vision spawned an entire new genre by fusing the music close to his heart (R&B and Jazz).
Born in the Greenwich Village in New York City and raised in Jamaica, Queens; an alumnus of the New England Conservatory of Music, Najee was mentored by jazz giants Frank Foster and Jimmy Heath as well as classical maven and flutist Harold Jones of the New York Philharmonic. When he emerged onto the scene with his soulful R&B, and jazz fused sound, with songs such as “Najee’s Theme,” “Sweet Love” and “Betcha Don’t Know,” it was not long before his trademark soprano found a home at the top of the charts and he carved out his own unique niche in the musical landscape. “My first love was the tenor saxophone and flute,” confides Najee. “It was my brother Fareed who got me to play soprano saxophone. We would argue over me not wanting to play soprano. Then one day someone gave me a soprano saxophone and I played on his songs. That began my soprano saxophone career and little did I know then, that would be the instrument to make me popular. As I began to develop on my instrument, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Yusef Lateef, Grover Washington Jr. and Hubert Laws on flute were some of the artists that inspired me. As an industrious and hungry young musician, Najee had the good fortune of coming through Dr. Billy Taylor’s now legendary Jazzmobile program. While a student at the New England Conservatory (where both Najee and his brother attended) he studied saxophone performance with Joe Allard and performed with George Russell and Jaki Byard big bands. After his studies at the conservatory, Najee returned to New York in the early 80s and was lucky to land a gig with Chaka Khan along with his brother and guitarist Fareed (who is now his manager).
In 1986, Najee’s Theme, was released and the saxophonist earned a slot on tour with singer Freddie Jackson. The following year, Day By Day was released, and in 1991, Tokyo Blue, which is one of Najee’s most successful and enduring recordings. Tokyo Blue (which was produced by Najee’s brother Fareed) and Day By Day both went Gold and led to two Soul Train Awards for Najee (Best Jazz Artist in 1991 and 1993). Just An Illusion came in 1992 and around this time he collaborated with such iconic figures as Quincy Jones and jazz greats Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham and Larry Carlton which resulted in the album Live At The Greek. Following his collaborative live album, his next album Share My World was released in 1994 and was followed in 1995 by a critically acclaimed tribute to Stevie Wonder’s 1976 classic, Songs In The Key Of Life. The CD was produced by George Duke and features Herbie Hancock and Sheila E. among others. His CD Morning Tenderness was released in 1998 and went to #1 on the contemporary jazz charts. Also released the same year was The Best of Najee, and his tour with the USO for the troops in the Mediterranean: Spain and Turkey.
For Najee, the late ‘90s were marked by extraordinary international experiences, from performing at Nelson Mandela’s birthday celebration in South Africa to playing as a special guest of President Clinton at the White House at an event honoring President Jerry Rawlings of the Republic of Ghana. Najee also spent two years of touring (2001-2003) with Prince and appears on Prince’s albums “Rainbow Children” and “One Night Alone”. In 2003 Najee released Embrace featuring special guests Roy Ayers and BeBe Winans. My Point Of View was his follow up in 2005 featuring his good friend and vocalist Will Downing. In 2006, Najee won an NAACP Image Award for “Best Jazz Artist”. 2007’s Rising Sun, joined Najee with Phil Perry and Mind Over Matter, from 2009 paired Najee with singer Eric Benét. 2012 saw the release of Najee’s critically heralded The Smooth Side Of Soul. In 2013, Najee released his second recording for Shanachie Records, The Morning After – A Musical Journey; which earned him a NAACP Image Award Nomination for “Outstanding Jazz Album” (2014) and Soul Train Awards Nomination for “Best Contemporary Jazz Performance” (2014). In 2015, he released You, Me And Forever, an inspired collection of songs that charted #1 Most Added Song on Billboard and Smooth Jazz charts.
Najee’s new offering Poetry In Motion (August 25, 2017), is dedicated to two ground-breaking musicians who Najee has had the distinction of working with – Prince and Al Jarreau. “Both artists in their own way have changed the culture of music forever,” shares the saxophonist. “Whenever I have worked with people of their caliber of artistry, I have always walked away with something that helps to shape my musical conversation.” Produced by Barry Eastmond, Poetry In Motion finds Najee nothing short of inspiration, as he calls upon a few all-star friends to create a dialogue well worth remembering. Najee’s fourth recording for Shanachie unites him with such dynamic musicians as Will Downing, Maysa, Eric Roberson, Incognito, Bobby Lyle, and Blake Aaron.
Poetry In Motion opens with the buoyant and luminescent “Stratosphere,” showcasing Najee’s soaring, warm and supple soprano saxophone. Najee penned the intoxicating and inviting original with Barry Eastmond who lends his piano and compositional skills to several tracks on the CD. Eastmond has produced and collaborated with everyone from Al Jarreau and Anita Baker to Freddie Jackson and Brandy. “I’ve known Barry for a very long time and working with him was one of the greatest joys of recording this album,” shares Najee. The irresistible and fun loving “Is It The Way” features singer Eric Roberson. “Eric is one of the brightest young R&B vocalists, producer, songwriter and performer in our industry and it was an absolute pleasure to have him contribute his gift on this record,” shares Najee. Roberson’s soulful vocals gel perfectly with Najee’s bluesy soprano and Eastmond’s buttery keys. Poetry In Motion also finds Najee collaborating with the brilliant producer, multi-instrumentalist and Incognito mastermind Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick. “Bluey is one of the greatest people to work with in the studio,” shares Najee. “He is unique in his approach to getting the work done.” Indeed Najee, Bluey and Incognito get the work done on the tour-de-force dance-floor number “Let’s Take It Back.” Najee changes the pace with the seductive and Latin-tinged “Noche Romantica,” the perfect platform for the saxophonist to shine a spotlight on his gorgeous tone and impeccable phrasing. The syncopated intro with Najee on his flute calls to mind Chick Corea’s “Spain,” while his passionate and emotive tenor saxophone at times is reminiscent of the longing tenor of Gato Barbieri. Najee enlists the “Prince Of Sophisticated Soul,” Will Downing for the moving “We’ll Be Missing You.” He shares, “Over the years we have worked together on several records and have performed around the world. I could not have made a better choice to write and perform a song that honors Al Jarreau and Prince.” Downing also came up with the title of the album. The song “Poetry In Motion,” is a memorable number that showcases Najee’s agile flute and Bobby Lyle’s funky and groove-heavy piano. “Song For The Ladies,” will no doubt delight Najee’s female devotees. The sweet R&B flavored ditty with a new jack swing is hard to resist. The Grammy-nominated and dynamic vocalist Maysa adds her sultry and honey-toned alto to “Don’t Make Me Wait” which she co-wrote with Najee. The chemistry that Maysa and Najee share is undeniable. “Maysa is my sister musically speaking,” shares Najee. “She is truly one of the best and most versatile vocalists in the music industry.” A highlight on Poetry In Motion is the song “Running Away.” It’s air-tight groove, synergistic interplay and boundless joy make for one of the album’s defining moments as Najee is joined by guitarist Blake Aaron and guitarist Randy Bowland, who penned the tune originally for Jill Scott. The album comes to the perfect close with the gorgeous flight of fancy “Duology.”
With the release of Poetry In Motion, Najee concludes, “Making music at this point in my career is still exciting and I am always evolving. As a musician the love of performing for people whether in studio or live is still a gratifying experience. The best feeling to me is presenting something new to the world!”
A unique, instantly identifiable vocal sound encompassing both Jazz and R&B. Grammy-nominated Soul/Jazz Maysa, celebrates her 25th year as a solo recording artist this year.
Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Maysa Leak knew early on that she would be a musician. “I was six years old when my mom took me to see Purlie,” she recalls. “When Melba Moore came on stage and sang her heart out, I knew at that moment I wanted to make people feel the way she made me feel.”
Maysa’s journey took her from singing upon graduation with Stevie Wonder for a year to becoming the lead singer for Incognito in the 90s. In 1995 she recorded her first solo album.
After celebrating her 26th year as a solo artist, Maysa kicks off the summer with her new album, LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD, a hand picked collection of Maysa’s favorite songs, redone with her own unique soulful twist, solidifying her as the greatest Soul-Jazz singer of her generation-the latest in a distinguished line of singers that stretches back through Anita Baker, Chaka Khan, Will Downing, Angela Bofill, Marlena Shaw and more recently, Ledisi and Chrisette Michele
Alex Bugnon has been a prolific, energetic force on the contemporary music scene for almost three decades. A renowned musician, composer and bandleader, Bugnon hales from the picturesque town of Caux, Switzerland – 4 miles above Montreux, site of the world famous Jazz Festival. No doubt, the annual convergence in his hometown and in his own home, of some of music’s most illustrious names played a role in his decision to pursue a musical career, as did his early friendship with Herbie Hancock. The fact that his uncle was the legendary Donald Byrd only served to further his decision.
Bugnon left Montreux to continue his training at the Paris Conservatory before landing in Boston to study at the Berklee School of Music. It was here in the U.S. that his exposure to a diversity of musical styles, from R&B to gospel, Jazz and funk, began to shape and influence his personal sound. Shortly after moving to New York City, Alex began touring with almost every R&B artists, such as Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, Patti Austin, James Ingram and Glenn Jones to name a few. But it would be his encounter with saxophonist Najee that would ultimately turn the tide for him. Signed to Orpheus Records, Najee would make the introduction that would result in Alex’s first recording contract.
His first album, Love Season (1989) catapulted the virtual unknown to prominence and set him on his musical course. The album rocketed to number 2 on the R&B charts, was nominated for best jazz album at the Soul Train Awards, and earning him Black Radio Exclusive’s, Best New Artist Award.
It was no coincidence that Alex was embraced by an R&B/soul audience, after all his love of music was rooted in an appreciation and understanding of classic jazz and soul-based artists, Horace Silver to Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk to Ahmad Jamal and from Art Blakey to Earth, Wind and Fire.” This was his inspiration and it easily translated into his own compositions and in his delivery of the standards.
In 1991, he parted ways with Orpheus Records and signed with Epic to record his award-winning third album, 107 Degrees in the Shade (1991) for which he received another Soul Train Award, only losing to Quincy Jones’ Back on the Block! He released one more album under the Epic label, the best selling, This Time Around (1993), before signing with RCA for the critically acclaimed Tales from the Bright Side (1995).
As the new millenium began, Alex was also beginning anew. Signed to the Narada/EMI label, He produced the first of four albums for the label; As Promised (2000) followed by Soul Purpose (2001), Southern Living (2003) and Free (2005). His next 3 CD’s were released under his own label, Xela Records, and another, The Best Of, released under Michael Cuscuna’s Mosaic label.
Over almost 3 decades, Alex Bugnon has built a strong and loyal fan base across the country and around the world. His tour schedule has never eased, even besting the great Dizzy Gillespie’s record of appearances at Washington, D.C.’s Blues Alley. Last year marked Alex’s 20th consecutive year’s appearance at the legendary venue! He makes it a point of never missing a day of piano practice or of writing. If he is not composing, he is listening to his favorite artists and biggest influences: Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Red Garland, Ahmad Jamal, Kenny Kirkland, Mulgrew Miller, Wynton Kelly, Joe Sample, George Duke and Keith Jarrett.
Karen’s span across genres as a violinist includes an eclectic range of orchestral, gospel, R&B, Latin, new age, rock, hip hop and several jazz styles. Linked by improvisation and embellishment, her audio-visual signature has become popular and sought after for a variety of events and recordings internationally. Karen is featured in twelve music video concerts, hundreds of recordings and four solo projects. She continues to develop original music while seeking continued expansion and development of the contemporary violin sound.
Karen has conducted improvisational violin workshops as an artist-in-residency at Berklee Music College, The Kennedy Center and The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. In an effort to encourage the evolution of the instrument’s use in contemporary music and advocating the preservation of music in American public schools, Karen has been an inspiration to many.
Karen started learning violin in junior high school. With strong family music influences, Karen began to experiment with the violin outside of its traditional expectations. She quickly caught on, locally, as a unique talent at weddings and jazz and church concerts. She was featured with the marching band at halftime for a Norfolk State University homecoming game. This took place while she was also performing with The Virginia Symphony and studying as a music media major.
Validated by the knowledge of a few violinists who also performed non-traditional violin styles, including Noel Pointer, Jean Luc Ponty and Dr. Roland Sunkins, Karen performed at local jam sessions and learned more about improvising and study of classical techniques.
After a four-time winning streak on “Amateur Night at the Apollo”, she moved to Los Angeles where she investigated the local Latin music scene for several years. In 1990, she landed her first major tour with British based R&B sensation, “Soul ll Soul”, a unique show that included a trio of dancing violinists.
The following year, Karen auditioned for the Yanni string band. Now often referred to as “the lady in red”, Karen’s fiery violin solos have been seen by millions internationally. The PBS special Yanni: Live at the Acropolis has been broadcasted in 65 countries, viewed by over 500 million people and is the second best-selling music video of all time. Karen is the first African American Violinist to have ever performed at The Herodian Theater, The Taj Mahal, Agra, India and the Forbidden City in China, and had the distinguished honor of being included on “The History Maker’s” roster.
While accompanied by pianist/composer Dave Grusin, Karen performed for a NYC string program fundraising event hosted by Itzhak Perlman and Isaac Stern, marking her feature debut at Carnegie Hall. The resulting family movie classic Music of the Heart featured a cameo appearance by Karen, marking her among the top violinists in the world.
Original “Return-To-Forever” members Stanley Clarke and Lenny White assembled a jazz-rock project called “Vertu”, earning Karen even more respect in the jazz-fusion genre. Soon after, an invite from Diana Ross came, with an opportunity to record and appear on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”.
Karen’s musical expression is featured on successful hip hop releases such as “Reunited” by Rza & Wu Tang Clan and Hidden Beach’s Unwrapped series Vol. 1-5, on which her rendition of “Gangsta’s Paradise” continues to command standing ovations.
Karen endorses Yamaha Silent Electric Violins.
Damon Williams is a former Subway sandwich shop owner from Chicago began his career at All Jokes Aside Comedy club. Damon can be heard weekly on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show doing the hilariously funny SERIOUSLY IGNORANT NEWS. Damon’s numerous television appearances include BET’s Comicview annually since ’94 including his own one hour special. He’s been featured on BET LIVE,Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, The Joyner Skyshow on TV ONE and HBO’s P Diddy’s Bad Boys of Comedy.
Williams even hosted several episodes of the legendary Showtime at the Apollo formerly hosted by TV star Steve Harvey. In 1999 Damon performed for over 300,000 fans as the opening act for the highly successful Kings of Comedy Tour, establishing him as one of the elite comics in the nation. Damon is a veteran of The Us Comedy Arts festival in Aspen. Damon headlined the Cedric the Entertainer Comedy Revue.
Damon is a crowd favorite on the college, club and concert circuit. Damon also performs internationally with regular appearances in Canada with stops in Vancouver, Montreal and every long weekend in Edmonton. Damon was recently featured on The Real Deal Comedy Jam, which airs in the UK. Williams can be seen on the current season of HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. Look out for a ground breaking set on the new season of Martin Lawrence’s 1st Amendment Stand Up as well as Comics Unleashed.
His material is universal and there’s something for all ages. His popularity has provided him the opportunity to work with some of the biggest stars in the business and also as host for a campaign brunch for then US Senator Obama. Some of these stars include Aretha Franklin, Pattie Labelle, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Chris Rock, James Brown, Jamie Foxx ,Little Richard and even President Barack Obama. The monthly comedy shows he produced for the House of Blues came about after one appearance on the Jenny Jones Show. He was contracted to write, perform, and produce over 50 episodes. His starring role in the hit musical comedy tour “Laughin’ on the Outside, Cryin’ on the Inside” generated standing ovations every performance. And finally, Damon maintains his monthly comedy showcases in Chicago (FunnyFirstSaturdays.Com) A star on the rise, his motto is “Don’t stop and Don’t quit”!!!
Standing on the shoulders of flute giants from worlds as diverse as Rampal & Galway in Classical Music; Richard Egues’ Cuban Charanga style; rocker Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull; Herbie Mann and – most influential of all – Hubert Laws as pioneers of Jazz Flute, Latin Grammy Award winning Nestor Torres’ rhythmic and mellifluous flute sound remains apart in a class all by itself. His 14 recordings as a soloist; 4 Latin Grammy nominations, one Grammy nomination and one Latin Grammy Award; collaborations with diverse artists such as Gloria Estefan, Kenny Loggins, Dave Mathews, Herbie Hancock, Tito Puente, Michael Camilo, Paquito D’ Rivera and Arturo Sandoval; as well as performances with the Cleveland, Singapore, and New World Symphony Orchestras among many others, are testament to the remarkable journey of an Artist who continues to grow and enrich the lives of those who experience his talents.
Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Nestor Torres moved to New York City, where he pursued Classical flute studies at Mannes School of Music, Jazz at Berklee College of Music and Classical and Jazz at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. During that time he also learned to improvise in the ‘Charanga’ Cuban Dance Music style, which helped shape and develop Nestor’s melodic and danceable sound.
His CD This Side Of Paradise won the Latin Grammy award in the Pop instrumental category, scheduled to be presented on September 11, 2001. This great achievement – and its timing – proved to be a major turning point for Torres.
“Of course it was a great honor and privilege to win the Grammy. That being said, the fact that I was to receive it on 9/11 gave my work and my music a stronger sense of mission and purpose.”
Since then, Torres has focused on transcending his role as a Jazz Flautist to that of an agent of change through crossover multi-media productions, compositions and performances. To that effect, his compositions ‘Successors’, Marta y Maria and Disarmament Suite (commissioned by the Miami Children’s Chorus, St. Martha-Yamaha Concert Series, and ICAP – International Committee of Artists for Peace – respectively), are variations on Nestor Torres’ multi-cultural fusion sounds as expressions of today’s world. Then again, Nestor’s music has always been about that: a Crossover fusion of Latin, Classical, Jazz and Pop sounds. Rich and engaging, complex and exuberant, profound yet accessible.
In addition to his achievements in the studio and on the stage, Torres is also the recipient of many awards, including two honorary doctorate degrees from Barry University and Carlos Albizu University, for his commitment to youth, education and cultural exchanges.
Brian was born December 5th, 1960 in Tucson Arizona. He grew up in a family of musicians and artists. His father and brother played the drums. With all that music around the house, and drums all over the place, it was natural for Brian to start playing the drums as well. Brian was two and a half years old, beating up the furniture and banging on anything that didn’t move. After some years of playing and practicing, Brian began his professional career as a drummer at the age of thirteen.
In elementary and Jr.high School, Brian also played the cello. That was one instrument that Brian did not feel very comfortable playing. One day in orchestra class at jr. high, the orchestra director came over to Brian and said, hey Brian, you see that big bass over there in the corner? You know that nobody is playing it. Don’t you want to play that big cool bass over there? You see, the orchestra director had a plan. He thought that having one bad bass player was better then not having one at all. That was his way of getting Brian to stop trying to saw his cello in half!
That day was a blessing in disguise. Brian didn’t realize that he had the gift for melody as well as rhythm. With his drumming background, and all this new melody available to him from the bass, Brian knew that this was going to be his path.
From ages fourteen to eighteen, Brian locked himself up in a room and practiced day and night. Testing out of high school early and devoting all his time to music, for the next few years Brian played every type of gig imaginable. Quite often Brian would play five to seven nights a week with several different bands.
Brian’s first big break came in 1979 when Marc Johnson, the wonderful bassist with the great jazz pianist Bill Evans, heard Brian play. Several months later while on tour, Marc ran into legendary jazz saxophonist Stan Getz. Stan was looking for a new bass player and asked Marc if he knew any new young players. Marc told Stan about Brian. Brian auditioned for Stan and joined the Stan Getz quintet in December of 1979. Brian had just turned 19 and spent nearly a year touring the world with Stan and his band.
Brian has also played on many movie soundtracks, including:
“The Fabulous Baker Boys”
“The Preachers Wife”
“Guilty by Suspicion”
and many more
Brian’s solo career began with the release of his first album A New Day in 1986. Right from the beginning with this first release, critics started noticing that Brian was different, doing things with the bass that had not been done before. Bromberg’s reputation was starting to spread throughout the world. Smooth jazz radio took notice as well, breaking Brian into the format and charting with his first record.
His next release Basses Loaded, started to propel his visibility more. Even the title track became a cult classic amongst many bass players. Again, radio embraced his music and Brian was beginning to be recognized as a composer as well as a bassist.
Brian’s very much anticipated third release, Magic Rain was the #1 most added record to radio in the country within the first week of release. Many people feel that this recording is when Brian started really coming into his own skin as an artist.
Bromberg’s fourth release BASSically Speaking, actually a reissue of Brian’s first recording with some new tracks and additions, went top 5 on the radio charts and #7 on the Billboard sale’s charts.
Brian chose to go back to his mainstream jazz roots for his fifth release, It’s About Time, The Acoustic Project. This is a straight ahead jazz record that feature’s jazz greats “Freddie Hubbard” and “Ernie Watts”. This is an all-acoustic jazz record that went to #4 on the mainstream jazz charts.
Brian went back to his electric, more contemporary sound for his next record, Brian Bromberg. This CD has an all star cast featuring: Everette Harp, Ivan Lins, Jeff Lorber, Lee Ritenour, Toots Thielemans, Ernie Watts, Kirk Whalum and many more. This disc ranges in styles from extremely funky to wild and crazy all the way to mellow and soothing.
In February 1998, Brian released You Know That Feeling, An exceptional CD featuring smooth jazz greats, Rick Braun, Joe Sample, Jeff Lorber, and Everette Harp, among many others. By June of ’98, Brian had his first #1 record of his career and had three singles in a row that each went to #3 on the charts. He spent 17 consecutive months on the charts, 8 months in the top 10, nearly 6 months in the top 5. Brian’s CD was the 5th most played CD from the top 100 CD’s of the year in smooth jazz. To this day, You Know That Feeling still remains in regular rotation on smooth jazz stations across the country.
In 2002 Brian recorded his first acoustic jazz trio CD Wood featuring the incredible Randy Waldman on piano and Brian’s brother David Bromberg on drums. A mixture of jazz standards and modern classics ranging from Cole Porter to the Beatles. This recording not only sold very well throughout the world, but it also gained Brian quite a bit of notoriety as an acoustic bass virtuoso as well as a respected producer. The audio quality of this recording has been compared with some of the best sounding recordings in jazz. Wood has been used all over the world to demo the highest quality audiophile stereo equipment available and has become a standard in many audiophile retail stores throughout the world.
Brian’s next project, Jaco, was originally released in Japan. The concept of the project was to have an all star cast of bass players contribute one song each on a CD that was a tribute to Jaco Pastorius’s 50th birthday, had he lived. Brian was slated to produce the project and was only going to play one song on the record with the remaining songs played by other well known bassists. For unknown reasons that puzzled both Brian as well and the record company, almost every single bassist that was asked to participate on the CD fell though. The record company decided that there couldn’t be a tribute CD featuring one musician. By default the record became a Brian Bromberg project featuring many of Jaco’s most well known songs, in addition to tunes that were made popular by the group Weather Report that Jaco had a major presence in. Needless to say, Brian looked at this as a very daunting task and often says that it is impossible to fill Jaco’s shoes, and certainly no bass player can out Jaco, Jaco. Brian truly made this his own project and significantly changed the arrangements on many of the popular songs while using his acoustic bass as a major voice on the CD. Jaco never played the acoustic bass yet Brian used his greatest tool to give tribute to one of the best electric bass players that has ever lived. This CD holds a very special place in Brian’s heart because on many occasions he had hung out and even played with Jaco. It meant a lot to Brian to make a record honoring a musician that he respected so much. Brian’s CD Choices in 2005 is a recording made up of music that was in his mind and heart for a long time. Most of the music on
Choices was written and inspired from real life experience. Brian looks at this CD as a book of short stories. Each song is a different story with a common theme of the artists’ voice. He wanted to tell many different kinds of stories with a collection of music, using vastly different types of songs and styles, from funky grooves like “Never Give Up”, “Bass Face” and “B²,” all the way to true human experiences like the Columbine High School tragedy in the
song “Why?,” and the song “Hear Our Cry,” which is Brian’s story of a fight for freedom and a tribute to the indigenous people of Africa.The one thing Brian will tell you is that this is a big picture CD, not just a CD about bass playing. All of the guitar sounding parts were played on basses tuned to the register of a guitar, and truly used the bass in many different ways. Brian used his versatility and use of the modern bass to be more melodic and help tell the big picture story that held inside of him.
Brian’s next release called Metal is his first instrumental rock fusion recording highlighting his command of the piccolo bass. When you listen to this record you would swear that it is a screaming rock guitar record, yet there is not one single guitar on this CD. Brian has yet again demonstrated how he can push the envelope as an innovator of the bass.
After rocking out with Metal, Brian chose to follow up with a sequel to his award winning acoustic jazz trio CD, Wood with Wood II. Wood II shows more of Brian’s sense of humor and adds a breath of fresh air to a Jazz trio project. It features the incredible talent of Randy Waldman on piano, and the world’s most in demand drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Truly the perfect blend of serious traditional jazz and lighthearted fun that will make you smile.
Still in the acoustic vibe, Brian received his first Grammy Nomination with his next project Downright Upright. Another groundbreaking project for Brian as it topped the Smooth Jazz and the Traditional Jazz charts at the same time with the same record. This is a very challenging feat. The CD features an all star cast including Rick Braun, Vinnie Colaiuta, George Duke, Boney James, Jeff Lorber, Lee Ritenour, Ganin Arnold, and Kirk Whalum. A blend of originals and jazz classics, this without a doubt a fun, funky, feel good record.
Brian’s next American release after his Grammy nominated Downright Upright is the fun and funky It Is What It Is, This CD is quite a departure from his past few releases. It focuses heavily on the electric bass and has an in your face ten piece horn section! Bromberg gets loose and groovy throughout the 13 tracks on It Is What It Is, including his unique spin on the B52’s dance classic “Love Shack” and Quincy Jones’ theme song to the classic hit TV series “Sanford and Son”. Brian is joined again by some of the greatest musicians in the world including: George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Jeff Lorber, Randy Brecker, Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot, Rick Braun, Gary Meek, Will Kennedy, Dave Weckl, Alex Acuña, Paul Jackson Jr., Dan Siegel and more.
Brian’s next project is his first completely solo acoustic bass CD called Hands. Originally released in Japan, this CD was the vision of King Records executive Susumu Morikawa. Recorded at a beautiful private recording studio on a ranch surrounded by horses and giant California Redwoods, this CD is truly one of a kind. It is a purely audio file recording which was captured using three state of the art Neumann digital microphones. It was recorded at 24 bit 96Khz bandwidth and is a remarkable recording. The diversity of the songs makes this album an adventure to listen to. The listener will experience everything from jazz classics like Stella By Starlight and In A Sentimental Mood, to songs by The Beatles, Jaco Pastorius, Sting (“King Of Pain”), and even Led Zeppelin (“Black Dog”) and Usher (“Yeah”). If you are a fan of the acoustic double bass you will love this State of the art solo bass recording.
Bromberg then released a high energy jazz release called Compared To That. Backed by a ten-piece horn section and full orchestra string section, bassist Brian Bromberg’s Compared To That is rooted in straight-ahead acoustic jazz, but in classic Bromberg style, there are many twists and turns along the way.
“One thing I feel that makes Compared To That a unique project is that it is a live jazz recording that also has a ten-piece horn section on many tracks, a full orchestra string section on two cuts, and the production of a much bigger project. Essentially, it really was a two-day live jazz recording session along with months of the kind of production used on big pop records. I truly blended the best of both worlds: live acoustic jazz with the audiophile of a major production,” Bromberg said. “I went more to my jazz roots on this CD with a lot of swing and walking bass.”
Throughout the album, Bromberg plays his acoustic, electric and piccolo basses, throwing in funk, ballads and swing styles along the way. the centerpiece of Compared To That is an incredible orchestral composition called Hayride, featuring the brilliant banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck. In addition to the horn and string sections, Bromberg enlisted an impressive line-up of guest artists to appear on the album, including Alex Acuna, Gannin Arnold, Charlie Bisharat, Randy Brecker, Vinnie Colaiuta, George Duke, Bela Fleck, Mitch Forman, Larry Goldings, Jeff Lorber, Gary Meek and Tom Zink.
In 2012 Bromberg released two CD’s dedicated and inspired by two of the 1960’s most influencial and unique artists, Jimi Hendrix and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Bromberg Plays Hendrix is a high energy shredding rock/fusion CD playing the most popular songs from Jimi Hendrix featuring the amazing Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Brian uses about 11 different basses on this CD truly showcasing Brian’s versitilty on the bass as well as his mastery of the piccolo bass which is a bass tuned to the register og a guitar. People cannot believe that Brian on piccolo bass is not playing guitar. In fact guitar players are regularly quite shocked that what they are hearing players is actually on a bass and not a guitar. Not to many holiday cards from guitar players for Brian these days!
In the same guitar vibe but with a totally different sound and feel is Bromberg’s In The Spirit Of Jobim. Brian splits the CD up between Jobim classics mixed in with Brian’s original compositions written in the Jobim Brazillian bossa nova genre. Brian features the nylon string piccolo bass on this recording sounding like a nylon string classical guitar, as well as his 300 year old acoustic bass. This all acoustic recording also features a full orchestra string section as well as Bravillian music legends Airto and Oscar Castro-Neves, formally Jobim’s music director. In The Spirit Of Jobim is a lush feel good very positive energy recording that truly sums up the summer bossa nova feel.
Brian Bromberg hasn’t released an album in the U.S. since 2012…a fact that might not have been cause for concern if you know that at one point he released three albums in one year. Every man deserves a break. However, once you realize that this chameleon with over 20 projects in his catalog recently had reason to believe that he might never play music again, you understand the gravity of his latest acoustic jazz project, Full Circle – one he says may well be “the most important record of my career.”
A freak accident that Bromberg had at his home a couple years ago resulted in him breaking his back in two places with severe trauma. The fall nearly debilitated him requiring extensive rehabilitation to stand and walk, let alone cradle an upright bass properly or strap an electric bass on his back. Through sheer intestinal fortitude, exhaustive work, and the love and support of the woman in his life, Bromberg made an amazing recovery. When he did, a familial spirit guided him to make an album that returned him to his roots in acoustic jazz. That spirit is that of his father, Howard Bromberg, a once-busy drummer in Tucson, Arizona (where Brian was born) who inspired both his sons to play drums as well.
Like all of his work, Bromberg’s latest features a stellar cast that includes trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Kirk Whalum and Doug Webb, pianists Randy Waldman, Mitch Forman and Otmaro Ruiz, and percussionist Alex Acuña. The project also finds ‘the man that refuses to sit still’ mixing styles from New Orleans funk and a legit jazz cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop `Til You Get Enough” to Cubop – with a sizzling relentless swing throughout. But the aspects that make this project resonate deeper than anything Bromberg’s done prior boils down to a series of life changing events, career firsts and the magic of today’s technology meeting mediums of old.
Full Circle opens and closes with the tunes “Jazz Me Blues” and “Washington & Lee Swing” that were originally recorded by the senior Bromberg with a band of friends onto a one off acetate. Spiritually moved by a desire to play with his late father – something he never got to do when he was alive due to a stroke he suffered just when Bromberg became proficient on bass – he copied the platter with a USB turntable, had the file cleaned up at Oasis Mastering then overdubbed himself in his home studio playing bass in his dad’s old quintet. “A few really amazing things happened to me when I was recording those tracks with my father; those tracks originally were recorded before I was born, so it was such a trip playing with my Dad before I was even on this planet! When I was playing with him I realized at that moment where I got my time feel and swing from, it was effortless to play with him, mind blowing actually. I guess the experience that inspired the whole concept of this CD was feeling his time feel and swing inspired me to start playing drums again, because it felt so good.” That sentimental journey inspired Full Circle. Bromberg seamlessly laid down the rhythm tracks for bass, drums and “guitar” (the latter facilitated by playing melodies and solos on the higher pitched piccolo bass) on every song. As a bassist, Bromberg playing the piccolo bass with his fingers affords him a unique sound (much like Stanley Jordan on guitar) from the majority of guitarists that play using picks.
“That’s where the ‘Full Circle’ concept came around. I didn’t know if I was ready to do it but, spiritually, I felt that my father wanted me to do it and to do it now.”
Breaking down his methodology, Bromberg shares, “When I wrote the tunes, I made demos with swingin’ drum samples that I programmed just to hold down the time, and then I played reference piccolo bass parts and regular bass parts to make a musical foundation. Then I had the piano players come over and I’d play drums live with them for interaction. The point is, by the time I played drums to it, I had good swinging bass parts to lock my drum parts to or vice versa. I added all my piccolo bass (and the horn players’ solos) last. I’m proud that I don’t sound like ‘a good drummer for a bass player.’ It doesn’t sound overdubbed and the feel of the pocket is righteous. Because I don’t have the facility of a drummer that’s played for 35 years, there’s more space than a normal drummer would leave which gives it a unique sound.”
Bromberg is among the proud few to have a solid foundation in traditional jazz yet enjoy success in smooth jazz. This explains the accessibility of the songs that comprise Full Circle. “The smooth jazz world helped me understand the power of reaching people and what that means beyond the myopic world of being a virtuoso. It’s helped me become a more melodic and storytelling improviser.”
Summing up the crafting of this album, Bromberg states, “Full Circle has been incredibly important to me – more as a human being than as an artist; a cathartic experience. It became something life changing and much bigger than me. I don’t know what the ‘statement’ is – and it’s not like I’m trying to make one – it’s just honest and real. There’s a lot of expediency and determination in my notes – very simple music that’s not intense yet has intensity. There’s so much passion even the mellow tunes are played with emotional power.”
“This CD is just a swinging, in your face traditional jazz CD with simple tunes that are easy to sing along with and remember, but have a foundation in hardcore “real” jazz.” Bromberg concludes. “I hope people enjoy this CD for it is and what it means to me vs. judging it for what it’s not.”
In addition to Brian’s success as a solo artist, he has developed quite a reputation as a producer. To see some of the projects that Brian has produced, go to the B² Productions area of the site as there are many CD’s and sound bites from some of those projects.
All in all, Brian has produced at least a dozen top #10 hits as well as three #1 songs for several artists!
Brian certainly has evolved into a very respected voice in music industry. From smashing through the barriers of how the bass is SUPPOSED to be played, cutting edge bass design, to being recognized as a world-class producer, songwriter, and session musician. He keeps pushing the envelope to become the best that he can be and to keep pushing the boundaries. As Brian himself says, “There are no rules, just dreams”.
Born in North Philadelphia, Jeff Bradshaw is known as a soul-jazz and hip-hop/funk innovator, so it was only right that this trombone virtuoso found a home at Hidden Beach Recordings. Coming up in and out of the Philadelphia Soul Movement, he had performed along some of the music industry’s greats – Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Pattie LaBelle, to name a few. In 2004, he released his solo debut Bone Deep, which earned him critical acclaim throughout the industry and among his fans. His signature smooth sound secured his consistent spot on the festival circuit as solo act and as a guest to artists such as Jill Scott, the Roots, and Mary J. Blige. His sophomore album at Hidden Beach, Bone Appetit, was a 2-disc release that featured a host of guest performers, including his Raheem DeVaughn, Marsha Ambrosius, and his Hidden Beach label mates – Kindred the Family Soul.
Music is the universal language of love, to get the messages across. It would affect our lives. Think about the music our parents had: They were listening to Sam Cooke, Junior Walker & the AllStars—it put people in a great place. You had Smokey singing, “ooh baby baby,” and Marvin singing “what’s going on.” That music empowered us. They talked about love, social injustice. We have a responsibility as artists to record music that talks about our experiences. I’m honored with that responsibility—my message is all about love. – Jeff Bradshaw