Weather Report’s Birdland and Jazz Fusion

Posted September 18th, 2012 at 12:35 pm (UTC+0)
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Heavy Weather

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – In the early 1970s, jazz fusion gained popularity when American saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Austrian-born keyboard player Joe Zawinul, and Czech bassist Miroslav Vitous formed the jazz band Weather Report.  The group played their hit song “Birdland” live at Stadthalle Offenbach Concert in Germany, in 1978. The jazz-fusion instrumental composition was written by Zawinul using brand new elaborate musical technology that incorporated a Polyphonic synthesizer and new forms of amplification.

“Birdland” debuted in 1977 on the group’s 7th studio album, Heavy Weather. It hit stores a few weeks after the group hired bassist Jaco Pastorius.  The award-winning song became known as a jazz standard, and attracted huge media coverage, propelling Weather Report into fame on the jazz scene. Birdland’s popularity drove other musicians to license it for their set lists, among them: Quincy Jones, Buddy Rich, The Manhattan Transfer, Maynard Ferguson’s big band, and The String Cheese Incident.

In 1994 I profiled Weather Report on my Jazz Club USA show to the Middle East [mp3 here]. I think the group was definitely one of the pre-eminent jazz fusion bands.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2011_06/omar_weather_report.mp3]

Weather Report grouped other acclaimed musicians, including Jaco Pastorius, Victor Bailey, Peter Erskine, Airto Moreira, Omar Hakim, Alphonso Johnson, and Chester Thompson. Through his skills and melodic bass quality, Pastorius helped to further push the group’s popularity. But to many fans’ dismay (including me)  in 1987, Weather Report was no more. The group disbanded.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

1619 Broadway by Distinguished Jazz Singer Kurt Elling

Posted September 9th, 2012 at 6:33 pm (UTC+0)
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Kurt Elling's new album will be released in two weeks

Kurt Elling’s new album will be released in two weeks

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Grammy-winning singer-lyricist Kurt Elling is getting ready to release his much-anticipated new album 1619 Broadway. The title refers to the address of the 81-year-old Brill Building on 49th Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan, in New York City. In its heyday, the building was home to the world’s best songwriting teams who would compete to outdo each other constantly.

The new album showcases 11 Great American standards as interpreted and arranged by Elling, including “On Broadway,” “A House Is Not A Home,” “So Far Away,” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”  Download Jazz Beat.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_09/jazzbeat_KurtElling_diaa_bekheet_sept2012.mp3]

“We have our top position on this record called ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ which I think a lot of people would know as a hit that the Flamingos had way back in the days,” Elling told VOA’s Jazz Beat. “So, what we’re doing is I tried to comb through hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hit songs that came out of the Brill Building and choose things that I could get behind emotionally and I thought were relevant at this point and present them in a way that reflected my kind of aesthetic in my view as a jazz singer.”

1619 Broadway is Elling’s 11th album. He started writing music and lyrics about 20 years ago. His music heroes include Mark Murphy, Joe Hendrix, Joe Williams, and Stevie Wonder.

He says Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, and Aretha Franklin also influenced him to develop his own style. “I have developed my own take on things, which is what you hear on 1619 Broadway,” he explained. “You hear me as myself doing what I do to music that I believe in.”

Elling has a rich four-octave baritone voice that features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. I asked him what song he would love to sing best — “I wish I could sing ‘Drown in My Own Tears’ in a way that someway it would pass – which is impossible – the way Aretha Franklin sang it,” he responded. “And there’s no way that I’ll ever do it.” If I could sing ‘Drown in My Own Tears in a way that was more sorrowful and more heavy that what Aretha Franklin did to it, then that would be the whole concept for me. I would come out, I would just sing that song then walk off the stage. That would be the night.”

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Charlie Byrd’s Rendition of Francis Lai’s Un Homme et Une Femme

Posted August 30th, 2012 at 4:08 pm (UTC+0)
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Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – When American jazz legend Charlie Byrd lived in Paris in the 1940s, he adapted the popular song “Un Homme et Une Femme” or “A Man and A Woman” for the American audience.

In my view, “Un Homme et Une Femme” by Francis Lai is one of the all-time killer songs for lovers. A close friend of mine from France reminded me about this romantic song, which is responsible for melting many hearts under the Eifel Tower (La Tour Eiffel) in Paris, city of romance! She is planning to start a blog featuring great love songs.

In 1945, while living in Paris – the city of love and romance – Byrd fell in love with jazz. After returning to the United States in 1950, he studied jazz theory and composition at Harnett National Music School. His studies gave him the skills to fuse jazz, blues, classical and Latin styles.

Byrd is credited with pioneering Brazil’s Bossa Nova music, which stole America’s heart.  He will always be remembered for Bossa Nova recordings such as “Jazz Samba” which introduced the Brazilian music style to American audiences.  Just before he died in 1999, Byrd was honored as a Knight of the Rio Branco by Brazilian government.

In addition to Bossa Nova, the prolific guitarist has left a legacy of more than 100 albums over a career spanning five decades. When Charlie Byrd died in December 1999, I produced a special obituary for him on my show, Jazz Club USA (Arabic mp3).

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_08/Guitarist_Charlie_Byrd_diaa_bekheet_1999_JazzClub.mp3]

Du Hot Club De Concord – Charlie Byrd

I remember listening to another great Charlie Byrd song when my brother returned home from Paris with an album (a vinyl record) titled Du Hot Club De Concord.   The song is “Moon River” a rare recording of Charlie Byrd playing live at the Concorde (‘Place de la Concorde’), the largest thoroughfare in Paris, near the ChampsÉlysées (mp3 here). [audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_08/Guitarist_Charlie_Byrd_moonriver_diaa_bekheet_1999_JazzClub.mp3]

Byrd travelled to Italy in 1954 where he studied with the great Spanish classical guitarist Andres Segovia. Upon returning to the States, he worked with famous American musicians such as Stan Getz, Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel, and Brazilian Laurindo Almeida who blended classical with jazz, into a style that gained popularity among jazz fans.

In 1983, Byrd and Almeida released a joint album titled Latin Odyssey.  Byrd’s career continued to flourish from the late 1950s until his death in 1999 at age 74.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Honoring Miles Davis and Edith Piaf

Posted August 23rd, 2012 at 6:57 pm (UTC+0)
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Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – In 2007 I traveled to Paris, France. One of my main goals was to visit the ‘Place de la Concorde’ where there is a 3200-year-old ancient Egyptian obelisk which was placed there in the 19th century. From this marvelous location you can also gaze upon the Arc de Triomphe” and La Tour Eiffel.  Of course, it’s normal to hear French music everywhere, but that day, I heard a song that caught me off guard.

“I know this one indeed,” I said to myself. “Wow, that’s “Summertime” by Miles Davis, one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th Century. I asked a young lady if the American jazz legend was known in France. “Bien sure, (of course),” she responded enthusiastically. “J’aime beaucoup Miles Davis,” she smiled.

The French government awarded Miles Davis the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in July 1991, for being a perpetual jazz innovator.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2011_05/Russ_Miles_David_28apr11.mp3]

The young French lady asked if Americans know any French singers. What a coincidence! The question came as we stood outside a shop that was playing “La Vie En Rose” by Edith Piaf. “ Of course! The dazzling and glamorous Edith Piaf,” I answered. “This year (2007) there’s a (biopic) movie named after her song,” I added. Piaf was a music and cultural force not only in France and Europe but also in the United States thanks to her huge hit song “La Vie En Rose.”

Last June, the U.S. postal service and its French counterpart released commemorative stamps honoring the two music legends: Miles Davis and Edith Piaf.

Music legends Miles Davis and Edith Piaf

Commemorative stamps of music legends Miles Davis and Edith Piaf

“The U.S. Postal Service and La Poste, the French postal administration, are proud to honor Miles Davis and Edith Piaf on two stamps that cross borders, cultures and generations,” announced Roy Betts of the U.S. Postal Service. “The Postal Service learned about a significant exhibit in Paris focusing on Miles Davis this year and believed it was an appropriate time to honor an American music icon beloved in France and a legendary French singer who developed a huge following in the United States.”

Davis and Piaf appeared on the June issue of Forever stamps. They also appeared on the cover of the U.S. Postal magazine “Philatelic.” The stamps are now sold in the United States and in French postal services. The stamps commemorate the accomplishments and contributions of Davis and Piaf throughout our music history.

Davis and Piaf have left indelible marks on the music stage worldwide.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Pat Metheny’s Unity Band

Posted August 1st, 2012 at 8:06 pm (UTC+0)
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Pat Metheny's Unity Band

Pat Metheny’s Unity Band

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Celebrated Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, one of the brightest stars in the jazz sky, has released a new album with his new killer quartet, Unity Band.  Pat Metheny Unity Band showcases nine new, original compositions.

The band includes saxophonist and bass clarinetist Chris Potter, drummer Antonio Sanchez, and bassist Ben Williams. “This is a group of musicians who can do just about anything,” says Metheny.

Metheny features a tenor saxophone in the front line for the first time in three decades. In his 1980 recordings, Metheny featured now-trumpet-legend Michael Brecker and saxophone titan Dewey Redman.

After just returning to the United States following a European tour, Pat Metheny is wasting no time touring American cities. Tickets for many of his upcoming concerts with Unity Band have already sold out.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_08/goldrecords_Metheny_JazzBeat_july2011.mp3]

During his career as a popular jazz guitar master, Metheny has won several awards, including 19 Grammys and three gold records for “Still Life (Talking),” “Letter from Home,” and “Secret Story.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h20HhCIOdSU

In May 2012, Pat Metheny and his guitar-maker Linda Manzer received an award for innovative thinking and design at the Tribeca Film Festival. Metheny and Manzer created the 42-string Pikasso guitar in 1984.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_08/Diaa_Bekheet_Pat_Metheny_JazzBeat_july2011.mp3]

The Pikasso has a special feature known as “The Wedge,” a tapered body shape that makes the side closest to the player thinner than the side that rests on the player’s knee. That design makes the top lean back toward the player for a more aerial view of the strings.

Click here for my Pat Metheny profile and interview (mp3) (from last year about his music, guitar design, and more).

 

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Acclaimed Trumpeter Randy Brecker

Posted July 19th, 2012 at 7:48 pm (UTC+0)
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Randy Brecker

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Randy Brecker, a Grammy award winning jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist was a special guest at the B Flat Jazz Festival in Milan, Italy last week. Known for his versatility in musical tastes, Randy showed off his blend of hard jazz mixed with funk, Latin, and occasionally soft rock — a style that many young trumpeters try to emulate.

He initially gained prominence in 1967 as a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears on their first LP, Child Is Father To The Man.  In the late 1970’s Randy recorded with the highly influential American jazz musician Charles Mingus on his last album, Me Myself an Eye.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1945, Randy grew up outside Philadelphia listening to the Clifford Brown/Max Roach group that included trumpeter Miles Davis, saxophonist Sonny Rollins, pianist Horace Silver, and drummer Art Blakey.  His pianist father nurtured and encouraged him to play music at an early age. As a teenager, Randy began playing R&B and funk with local bar bands, and developed an ear for Hard Bop after listening to his father’s music collection.  He and his brother Michael later attended Indiana University, and settled in New York to make a name for themselves on the jazz scene.

During four months in 1966, Randy toured the Middle East and Asia as a Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. State Department. His strong musical message won many friends for America. “I hope people concentrate on art and music, and forget about our petty political differences,” Randy told VOA’s Jazz America. “The core of the human heart is universal.” He later toured Eastern Europe when it was still under communist rule.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_07/Radny_Brecker_VOA_JazzBeat.mp3]

Earlier this year, Randy Brecker was a special guest on All Over The Place, the new album of one of his favorite collaborators, Mike Stern. He also recorded The Jazz Ballad Songbook, with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. The album includes two original songs and the rest are well known themes like “Cry Me A River” and “The Immigrant” from the film Godfather 2.  The 10-track album also includes “All Or Nothing, ” “Someday My Prince, Will Come ” “Foregone Conclusion, ” “Goldfinger, “Skylark, ” “I Talk To The Trees, ” “This Is All I Ask, ” and “Round Midnight”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx5OwYNtWkY

During his career, Randy has played or recorded with a variety of bands and artists including Parliament-Funkadelic, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, and Frank Zappa. He was a member of Larry Coryell’s seminal jazz fusion band The Eleventh House in 1973. He also recorded and toured as a member of Jaco Pastorius‘ Word of Mouth big band. In 2001, Randy reunited with his brother, saxophonist Michael Brecker, for a European tour. The concert series featured an acoustic version of the Brecker Brothers’ music.

In August, Legacy Recordings is planning on releasing a new complete eight-album collection box set by the Brecker Brothers.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

 

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Karim Shukry's Take Me Back To Cairo

Posted July 13th, 2012 at 7:34 pm (UTC+0)
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[audio:http://www.mikeouds.com/audio/mb/ks_take_me_back_to_cairo.mp3]

Take Me Back To Cairo album cover

Take Me Back To Cairo

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – The name Karim Shukry  may not strike a chord with Westerners, but he was popular in Egypt and the Arab world in the early 1960s. When I heard that Shukry, a Canadian-Egyptian singer, composer and film producer died last May,  I was filled with nostalgia.

I recall his hit song, “Take Me Back To Cairo”.  Shukry was one of the talented, popular Egyptian entertainers who pioneered Anglo-Arab and Franco-Arab music in the early 1960s. I grew up listening to “Take Me Back To Cairo”. I was impressed by its bilingual  (English-Arabic) lyrics  mixed with  modern Western and Egyptian classical tunes.  For me,  the song’s lyrics and instrumentation evoke strong emotions. I admit that my heart skips a beat when I watch a video clip of the song, which has become an anthem for the Egyptian diaspora.

The gorgeous imagery of the lyrics aside, the song instantly transports me back to the summer of 1970 when I first heard it, having moved more than 6,000 miles away from my beloved native land. Now, I can’t hear it without being transported back to my childhood and the good times with friends whom I miss dearly.

One of the reasons “Take Me Back To Cairo” became a hit in Egypt was its mix, which incorporates the segments of a popular Egyptian folk song called “ Ya Nakhleteen fel Allali”.  The song sparked passion and fascination in the hearts and minds of a whole generation of Egyptians. Several other Egyptian artists have released their own versions of the song, including popular pop and jazz singer Samir El-Eskandarany, whose album remained at the top of the Egyptian radio charts for several months.

Born in Cairo in 1933 as Jean Zaloum, Karim Shukry (his stage name), worked in the shipping and booking department for MGM in Cairo when he was 16. He devoted himself to the movie and entertainment industry in Egypt, and maintained good relations and close contacts with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars who traveled to Egypt to work on such films as Valley of the Kings and Cleopatra. His dedication earned him higher positions in MGM’s publicity and public relations departments and later, as 20th Century Fox’s publicity and operations manager for the entire Middle East.

Shukry grew up also listening to classical Arabic and Western music, and became a singer and composer himself.  But his singing career was short-lived in Egypt, because he had to move to Canada in 1965.  At the time, the nusic scene was dominated by big names like Umm Kulthoum, Abdel Wahab and thenightingale” and actor Abdel Halim Hafez.

Shukry later earned respect as a film distributor and producer in Montreal. He also worked as a distributor in Canada for Paramount Pictures. Eventually, he started to produce his own films, including the Quebec box office hits Après Ski (1971) and Les Beaux Dimanches (1974). Years later,  he teamed with his son Alain, then a young director, and produced the films Canvas (1992), Suspicious Minds (1997) Promise Her Anything (1999) C’est Pas Moi, C’est L’Autre (2004) and Nouvelle France (2004). On his last trip to Egypt in 2005, Shukry was honored at the Cairo International Film Festival, and presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by screen legend Omar Sharif.

TAKE ME BACK TO CAIRO

Music & Lyrics by Karim Shukry
Arranged by Andre Ryder, an acclaimed Egyptian score writer

Take me back to Cairo
Beside the river Nile
My heart belongs to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Where I have found my smile

Take me back to Cairo
Beneath the silver moon
I left my heart in Cairo, Oh Cairo
The day I heard this tune

يا نخلتين فى العلالى يا بلحهم داوا
يا نخلتين على نخلتين هما الاتنين طرحوا سوا

I have been yearning to go back and see my darling
And still remember the big gardens in the sun
How can I stay away so long, my heart is burning
Please take me back I want to be near my dear one

Take me back to Cairo
I’ve been away so long
I must return to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Again to hear that song

There is a saying that came out from the Sahara
That if you ever taste the water of the Nile
You will return again I heard it from Samara
Although you may be far away many a mile

Take me back to Cairo
Beneath the silver moon
I left my heart in Cairo, Oh Cairo
The day I heard this tune

Eternal sunshine winter, summer any season
Go there and hear the Sphinx he’s talking every night
And oriental tunes they play and for a reason
They must be celebrating someone’s wedding night

Take me back to Cairo
I’m sad and never smile
I must go back to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Just once again
to see the Nile

Take oh take me,
Take oh take me,
Take oh take me back
To Cairo

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

 

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Sax Powerhouse Mindi Abair Tours with Rock Legends Aerosmith

Posted June 29th, 2012 at 7:19 pm (UTC+0)
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Mindi Abair (Courtesy Photo By Reisig & Taylor)

Mindi Abair (Courtesy Photo By Reisig & Taylor)

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – American saxophone powerhouse and singer Mindi Abair is on concert tour with legendary rock & roll band Aerosmith. Abair, who is also a songwriter and bandleader, is the featured saxophonist on the group’s six-week “Global Warming Tour,” which kicked off last week.  She will also perform with Cheap Trick in Canada.

I recently talked to Abair about her tour with one of America’s greatest rock & roll bands. We talked about her life as a musician and her solo album, In Hi-Fi Stereo as well. The album was released in 2010 on the Heads Up International label – a division of Concord Music Group.  Listen to Abair and her songs.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_06/Mindi_Abair_Jazz_Beat_aa_Bekheet_27june12.mp3]

“I’m having a blast,” Abair told Jazz Beat. “As a kid, I grew up listening to rock ‘n’ roll and pop. I didn’t get into jazz until later. I was well into high school when I started seeing jazz bands in different schools and thought, oh that’s pretty cool. I like that.”

Mindi Abair’s Albums

  • Always and Never the Same (1999)
  • It Just Happens That Way (2003)
  • I Can’t Wait for Christmas (2004)
  • Come As You Are (2005)
  • Life Less Ordinary (2007)
  • A Peter White Christmas with Mindi Abair and Rick Braun (2007)
  • Stars (2008)
  • In Hi-Fi Stereo (2010)

Mindi Abair was born in Florida and spent much of her early life on the road with her father’s band, The Entertainer.  Lance Abair (her dad) played saxophone and keyboards. Mindi started on piano at home at the age of four.  When she was in elementary school, the band instructor laid out instruments on the first day of band class, asking each student to choose the instrument they most wanted to play. Eight-year-old Abair picked up the saxophone. In high school, she auditioned and won the first chair alto saxophone for the Florida All-State Jazz Band. She later graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts then started her early music career in Los Angeles, California, before forming her own band.

For more on jazz saxophonists, including interviews with Sarah Elgeti, Miguel Zenon, Jessy J, Aart  van Bergen, Boney James, and Peter Apfelbaum click here.

As a young girl, Abair listened to Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. Later in life, after improving her skills, Abair performed with Springsteen at New York’s famed Beacon Theatre in Comedy Central’s “Stand Up For Heroes” show. She has also played with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra on the “Late Show with David Letterman”.  Most recently, she landed as spot as the featured saxophonist on American Idol. Now Abair is performing with Aerosmith.

“When I got hired for the [Aerosmith] tour I thought, well this isn’t going to be a lot of work. I knew most of the songs,” explained Abair who is staying on the cutting edge of saxophone techniques and styles for her own brand of rock, pop, and soul meeting jazz.

Abair, who won the prize for Best New Artist at the 2003 Smooth Jazz Awards, says she was bummed about not having a “huge rock ‘n’ roll voice” like Tina Turner. “I wanted to run around the stage and sing like Tina Turner, and I couldn’t sing like her, which is very disturbing,” said Abair.  So instead, she built a career around rock, pop and jazz music. Her extensive saxophone skills, virtually allow her to do anything she wants. “So, I think saxophone was a great avenue for me because it allowed me to have that huge voice, you know, I could scream on it like she [Turner] did, and kind of have that edge,” she explained.

In Hi-Fi Stereo by Mindi Abair

In Hi-Fi Stereo by Mindi Abair

For the first time ever, Abair will perform with Aerosmith and also with her own band at the Hollywood Bowl on August 26. “I’ll play the Hollywood Bowl twice in August, which is actually pretty unheard of for me at least,” she noted. “I’ve never played there with my band. What an amazing, historic night for me.”

Music critics say Abair’s talent is reminiscent of some of her heroes, including Clarence Clemons, King Curtis, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, and David Sanborn. “I’m a huge David Sanborn fan,” Abair admits. “He bridged the gap between pop and jazz for me.”

Her solo career has produced 11 number 1 singles on the Contemporary Jazz Radio charts. The latest is “Be Beautiful,” which remained at number 1 for seven weeks. Her records have also topped Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Charts.

For more on jazz guitarists click here, and for more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

New Albums by Marcus Miller, Mike Stern

Posted June 22nd, 2012 at 3:41 pm (UTC+0)
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Marcus Miller's new album

Marcus Miller’s new album

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – American multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller, the last primary collaborator of jazz legend Miles Davis, has a new album. Renaissance is Miller’s eighth studio project since his debut, Suddenly, in 1983.  It showcases an especially emotive 13-song collection that includes eight original compositions with richly inspired interpretations of songs by WAR, Janelle Monáe, The Jackson 5, Ivan Lins and more.

The two-time Grammy winner, world-renowned electric bass guitarist, clarinetist, saxophonist, keyboardist, and composer will tour the world to take the message of his musical movement straight to the people. Miller, whose resume brims with over 500 recording credits on albums across the spectrum of musical styles, has written the score for more than 20 movies, including “Boomerang” in 1992, starring comedian Eddie Murphy.

Renaissance is set for release August 7 on Concord Jazz.

Last week, 59-year-old jazz-fusion guitar legend Mike Stern released his new album, All Over the Place. The six-time Grammy nominee has special guests on the album, including high-caliber electric and acoustic bass players Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson, Dave Holland, Tom Kennedy, Will Lee and Victor Bailey. Mike’s wife, Leni Stern, is on board with her guitar and an exotic string Malian instrument called n’goni.

 

Mike Stern's new album

Mike Stern’s new album

Mike Sternwas a member of the acclaimed Blood, Sweat & Tears in the mid-1970s. He also performed with Miles Davis in the 1980s. He’s been using his jazz roots as a starting point for exploring a range of other music genres, including R&B, rock, swing, funk, and world music.

Stern just returned from a tour in Japan, and will travel to Canada next week to perform at the Toronto and Edmonton Jazz Festivals. In July, he will start a tour in Europe to promote All Over the Place in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark and Holland.

For more on jazz guitarists, including interviews with Pat Metheny, John Pizzarelli, Rez Abbasi, and Berta Rojas, click here.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Cindy Douglas’s My New Jive, and the Glamor of Jazz

Posted June 15th, 2012 at 6:35 pm (UTC+0)
3 comments

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Sparkling Scottish jazz singer and songwriter Cindy Douglas has released her long-awaited debut album, My New Jive. The album arrives in stores after Cindy spent a few years impressing audiences across the United Kingdom with her unique and modern twist on American jazz classics.

Cindy Douglas - My New Jive

Cindy's debut album

The 11 tracks showcase her superb performance, fine talent, and passion for swing, bebop and world music, particularly from North African and the Middle East.

For me, My New Jive was well worth the wait. Cindy kicks it off with “A Little Quiet,” which pairs her lyrics, with music written by saxophonist and flutist John Handy. She contacted the American Grammy winner to ask for permission to write lyrics to his song.

“I had a wonderful conversation with him on the phone. It was a delight and a surprise,” she said in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “I’m grateful to say that he did like them [my lyrics].”

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_06/jazzbeat_cindydouglas_diaabekheet_june2012.mp3]

Cindy has also written lyrics to works by American jazz icons Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Ron Carter, and South Africa’s ‘King of Jazz’ Abdullah Ibrahim. Fans say her lyrics have substance as evidenced in the soulful “A Little Quiet”. The song was the first vocal version of a Handy tune. What’s more, “A Little Quiet” showcases Cindy’s wonderful voice and lyrical ability – at a time when the lyrical abilities of some of today’s songwriters are described as limited and generic.  Her voice is reminiscent of the great Ella Fitzgerald.

Cindy’s strong, impassioned voice captures the glamor of the golden era of jazz in the 1940’s. She says she has always had a love for jazz. “At a time when jazz has crossed over into just about every musical genre, the one constant in my musical tastes is rhythm and emotion: the heart of jazz, ” Cindy writes in her bio.  She says she was especially inspired by acclaimed jazz artists including Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Bobby Timmons, Horace Silver, Brad Mehldau, Shelley Manne, Anita O’Day, Betty Carter, Michel Petrucianni, and Abdullah Ibrahim.

Tracks on Cindy's debut album

Cindy Douglas developed passion for world music too, after visiting Cuba, Morocco and Egypt some 20 years ago. She says she learned to incorporate percussion in her music, thanks to a visit to Havana, Cuba, where she met members of the Buena Vista Social Club. Cindy also took lessons in djembe and Middle Eastern singing with Reem Khelani.

Her passion for World Music is reflected on the medley of Dizzy Gillespie’s classic “A Night In Tunisia & Caravan,” which features special guests, including Algerian percussionist Abdelkader Saadoun, and Ian East on saxophone and zurna. The song has a distinct Middle Eastern flavor that is captivating.

Born and raised in a small town on the West Coast of Scotland, Cindy took to the stage early in life. She grew up listening to traditional Scottish music.  She started to sing competitively in public in Primary School. In high school she got involved in drama and musical theater productions.  She focused on acting, and spent a year at a Theater Workshop in Edinburgh, learning stage craft and participating in more than 50 performances of “A Christmas Carol.” Later, Cindy pursued a career in human resources and at the same time, attended professional workshops for vocalists. Then, an event Cindy describes as “significant” changed both her life and career: the birth of her daughter.  In her bio, Cindy says it helped her rediscover jazz and re-evaluate her life. That’s when she decided to leave corporate life for good and focus all her energies on being a parent and a musician.

The extremely talented vocalist sings with all of her heart and soul, and her glamorous voice reflects that. I highly recommend her debut album to all  jazz and world music aficionados.

My New Jive was recorded in London with the Tim Richards Trio.  It was released simultaneously on CD and as a digital album on Apple’s iTunes Store.  Critics say Cindy’s passionate delivery, combined with her swingbebop mix, has given classic American jazz standards a new raw, regal poignancy, and marketability.

Track Listing: A Little Quiet; Alice in Wonderland; Jive Samba; I Should Have Told You Goodbye (Daahoud); Lover Man; The Party’s Over; Love for Sale; Waltz for Debbie; Social Call; This Here; A Night in Tunisia / Caravan.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Scottish singer, songwriter Cindy Douglas (Courtesy: Photographer Alicia Bruce)

Scottish singer, songwriter Cindy Douglas (Courtesy: Photographer Alicia Bruce)

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

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VOA’s music bloggers bring you info about all kinds of music. Katherine Cole will keep you up-to-date on the world of Bluegrass and Americana music while Ray McDonald rocks the Pop charts and artists. Diaa Bekheet  jams with you on Jazz.  Visit us often. Your comments are welcome.

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