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A fusion of jazz, fashion and art, THE JAZZ IN M.E.E. magazine is the premiere source for the jazz industry and its artists. Captivating an audience of over 180,000 national and international readers, this quarterly digitaland print magazine chronicles the stories behind the hottest and most fascinating artists and trends in the jazz industry.  THE JAZZ IN M.E.E. magazine celebrates the jazz genre from a fresh and passionate perspective throughdynamic cover stories, trendy blogs, festival/cruise insights, and “Jazz Watch” music reviews on past and present artists.

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Contents Editor’s Notes of Jazz

04

The Melody In M.E.E.

07

Working for the Dreamers

Grace Kelly

08

Swag M.E.E

09

Danny Kusz

Rick Braun - Berks Jazz Festival Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Melody Warren

COVER STORY

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The Journey

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Bob Baldwin

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Houston Spotlight

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Julian Vaughn

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M.E.E. Art Gallery

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Greg Manning

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Mariea Antoinette

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Tip Jar: Dwight Sills

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Gospel In M.E.E.

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Unbreakable Heart

Ken Navarro

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Berks Jazz Festival

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Jazz Watch

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Under The Sign With M.E.E.

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Contributing Writers Carolyn Beverly Katherine Gilraine Peter Böhi Syrone Harvey Monica Murphy Eaves Sharon Rae North

Adding New Artists to the Mix

Contributing Photographers Heidi Powell Prera Peter Böhi David Snashfold Terez Dean Narrio Wright Katherine Gilraine Alexander Gomez

Music in the Key of Stevie

Cover Image The Jazz In M.E.E. Design Team Design & Layout Tonya D. Wright Jereme Brown Copy Editor Angela P. Moore-Thorpe THE JAZZ IN M.E.E. P.O. Box 683184 Houston, Texas 77268 281-260-8469 info@thejazzinmee.com www.thejazzinmee.com THE JAZZ IN M.E.E. is published 4 times a year quarterly. The publisher assumes no responsibility for claims or actions of its advertisers. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher, advertisers or staff. No portion of this publication may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher

All rights reserved by Multifaceted Exquisite Events Inc. & THE JAZZ IN M.E.E.

Ezra Brown

Patrick Wiliams

Limitless

Tony Atkins

The Chronicles of Greg Manning

Straight from the Harp A Musicians Take on Smooth Jazz

Jolie Rocke Brown

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Who’s On The Line Up?

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Melody Warren, Editor-In-Chief

THE JAZZ IN MEE MAGAZINE JUL 2015

The Jazz In M.E.E. Magazine is a huge supporter of independent artists, and we had a chance to meet the indie sax player that first grabbed our attention with his brand image and musically addictive and colorful project SEXY.FUNK:: VELVET JAZZ.

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We had a chance to witness Danny Kusz’s live show stopping performance under the beautiful venue and bright lights of Cocktails and Rumors in Houston on March 19, 2015. The tone that resonated from his horn during his live show was magical, and the music was stunning. The Houston-based band members were a perfect compliment to his Minneapolis funky”style. Patrick Williams on drums; Brennen Nase on guitar; Shawn Allen on bass; and his long-time Musical Director Russ King on keys. Danny Kusz’s multi-faceted artful approach kept us intrigued through each song, and you could not wait for the next one. "Sexy Sax M.F." made the audience want to dance uncontrollably, with its spellbound bass groove, hip synthesized vibe and jamming sax melody; a real party to your ears. Kusz spoke emotionally through his sax delivering a musical explanation of "Life". "Perfect Score" was a mesh of deep, alto, melodic perfection. Watch out for this young talent. He is on the move to a bright musical future. www.dannykusz.com


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photos by Heidi Powell Prera

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THE JAZZ IN MEE MAGAZINE JUL 2015

by Dwight Sills

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I want to talk a little about the changes in the genre we know as "smooth jazz" and for what it's worth, give some advice to newcomers. I've been playing for over 40 years; many of which have been professionally. When I started recording as a solo artist back in 1989, and there was no such thing as smooth jazz. It was called contemporary jazz with artist such as Bobby Lyle, Gerald Albright, Spyro Gyra, Yellow Jackets, George Howard, Najee, George Duke, Kirk Whalum, Grover Washington, Bob James, David Sanborn, and many more. I was label mates at Sony/Columbia with Kirk and Grover for a few years. These artists that I mentioned were indicative of the mu-

sical atmosphere at the time. Lots to live up to and a very high bar set. And, also bear in mind we were all signed to major labels back then. That's virtually unheard of now! The music back then was different in that there seemed to be more substance and more focus on writing good songs. Playing is subjective, but I'll get more into that later. For the sake of not writing a book, I'll fast forward a few years. At some point the moniker "smooth jazz" came about. Maybe it was a natural transition from the Quiet Storm radio formats during that time. I have no idea. All I know is


the tradeoff is that artists are now free to create what they want without restrictions. We are the leaders of our own musical destinies. As far as any advice I would give young up and coming musicians who are seeking a career in this genre, there are a few important things. These days it's not enough to just be a musician. You also have to be a business person as well. Even with management somewhere down the line, you must know how your business is being handled at all times. You must always control your "brand." Secondly, work on your craft and keep working on it. If we're going to continue calling this genre "Smooth Jazz" then I say honor the jazz in that name. Keep the music interesting in some way. Make every song written and played something you are proud of. I find that many young musicians in smooth jazz go no further in their musical history than some of the artists I listed above. That's fine, but delve a little deeper. Who did they listen to? The deeper you go the more musical vocabulary you have access to in order to express yourself musically. At that point the sky's the limit!!

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that all of a sudden there was this thing called smooth jazz and at that same time the music started changing. What I started to hear was a decline in the writing. There was less attention given to songs that had nice chord progressions and bridges and more attention was given to mid-tempo grooves with little or no variation in harmony. It started replacing what we knew to be Muzak...aka...elevator music! More and more artists started to come onto the scene because, in my humble opinion, the musical demands that were once there no longer existed for the most part. Then there's radio which had played a very important part in everyone's careers. Years ago, radio programmers had more freedom to play what they wanted, but that came to a close when Broadcast Architecture came into existence. That, in my opinion, was that death of contemporary jazz and the creation of manufactured assembly line music. And because of that, artists would alter and construct their music in order to fit BA's musically restrictive standards and parameters. That sucked the creativity right out of the music. But there's good news! BA no longer exists and record companies are no longer calling the shots. Sure, major labels had advantages in that they already had a well-oiled industry machine in place with a far reach. But

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The annual Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, PA, celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. The event got started in 1991 by Bill Royston, then president of the Berks Arts Council, with a few concerts over one weekend and has gradually evolved over the years to a 10-day festival with numerous concerts taking place in various venues across Reading. Apart from the ticketed events in bigger venues, there are lots of free shows in clubs and restaurants, having this town bristle with music wherever you go during the festival. The festival’s general manager, John Ernesto, is the glue that holds it all together. Being employed at the local newspaper, he was responsible for marketing during the first few years, after a few personal changes in the festival’s management and the Berks Arts Council. He took over as general manager, programming and organizing the event ever since, supported by a loyal staff of locals. Most notable are the 300-plus volunteers that make this festival possible. They are the friendly face of the festival and set the Berks Jazz Fest apart from any other festival in the U.S. I always enjoy meeting those people and several have become friends.

The festival was always supported by important partners over the years, including Philly’s smooth jazz radio station WJJZ with radio host, Michael Tozzi and the local newspaper, The Reading Eagle. Currently, the festival’s main sponsor is Boscov’s, a big local department store chain. The festival has always been a community effort by numerous sponsors, local musicians, educators, musicians and fans, and the army of volunteers, who often use part of their holidays to be present at the festival. This is why this festival is the favorite festival for many people, especially the musicians look forward to be back at this event and appear in a setting that not only allows for great musical performances, but also gives them the opportunity to mingle with their fans. After each show, the artists are available for signing CDs, picture taking and a friendly chat. They stay at the same hotel like their fans, and I have repeatedly met many of my favorite players personally over the years at this event. Some players have become the backbone of the festival, like bassists Brian Bromberg and Gerald Veasley; trumpet player Rick Braun, and guitarist Chuck Loeb.


Unique to this festival is the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam that brings together a large number of the players present at the festival during the week, jamming on stage in a loose fashion creating many magical moments, usually put together by guitarist Chuck Loeb. Another special event are the Midnight Jams led by bassist Gerald Veasley, having people just improvise, seeing what is happening. A nice evening is the Berks Bop night, where our favorite smooth jazz players can show their straight ahead chops, this year even in a big band setting. The range of music presented is broad, most importantly there is smooth jazz featuring people like Boney James, Gerald Albright, Peter White, Euge Groove, Everette Harp, Nick Colionne, Jeff Lorber, Brian Culbertson, Richard Elliot and Rick Braun, but there are also some more traditional jazz concerts with artists like Pat Martino, Larry Coryell, Dianne Reeves, Gregory Porter, Wynton Marsalis and Esperanza Spalding. In addition, there are some R&B shows featuring artists like Jeffrey Osborne, Peabo Bryson, Maysa and Incognito. The festival also featured some blues acts like Joe Bonamassa and Robert Cray, and for the past years, was concluded by a gospel night.

There were also some shows that were specially put together for the festival, like Keiko Matsui with strings, featuring the Reading Pops Orchestra, or Dianne Reeves who was supported by the Reading Symphony Orchestra, providing a special experience. My favorites were the memorable tribute shows put together by Jason Miles, especially those for Grover Washington Jr. and Luther Vandross, both bands featuring veteran players that had a connection with those artists, even some family members were in attendance. Things like this make the Berks Festival truly special. I could go on endlessly, if you want to know more about all the great artists that have performed over those 25 years and the festival itself, then check out the commemorative book that went on sale during the festival. It has tons of photographs in it, and several people, from organizers to fans to artists, reflect on the event and express their feelings about the Berks Jazz Fest. Brian Culbertson appropriately sums it up in one word: family. And that is what keeps me coming back every year!


THE JAZZ IN MEE MAGAZINE JUL 2015

Jazz In P!nk

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John Stoddart

Vincent Ingala

Will Downing

Jonathan FritzĂŠn


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www.mindiabair.com

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photo by Chapman Management

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http://kgilrainejazz.smugmug.com/Music/Jazz/


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