JIMMIE SMITH: HAMMOND ORGAN
Being a man of deep faith – in fact, lead pastor at Effective Life Church, which he founded with his wife in Conyers, GA – Jimmie Smith surely appreciates the glorious divine irony in having been blessed with the same blazing talent for the Hammond B-3 as a legend with essentially the same name.
Paying homage to the great Jimmy Smith (who died in 2005) while illustrating the vast present and future possibilities for this iconic instrument, Jimmie caps a lifetime of ministry and a simmering passion for jazz, blues and gospel with his highly anticipated, cleverly titled Woodward Avenue debut Live In Music City: Jimmie Smith Plays Jimmy Smith. The explosive ten track, 80 minute live performance was recorded as a “Tribute to the Hammond Legend” in front of a revved up audience of over 250 Smith and Smith enthusiasts at The Rutledge in Nashville.
JEFF RYAN : SAXOPHONE
Woodward Avenue Records is excited to announce that we have signed saxophonist Jeff RYAN to the label for his debut album.. Jeff is one of those rare talents that comes around maybe once every 10 years, and we expect that he will become a force in the world of contemporary jazz.....and more!
> Jeff Ryan
DW3: Band - Urban Soul
With the release of their highly-anticipated Woodward Avenue Records debut, Southern California’s premiere R&B, funk and contemporary urban jazz powerhouse DW3 lets the world in on a cool “Vintage Truth.” Driven by the ever-evolving musical vision of core members - brothers Eric and Billy Mondragon and Damon Reel - their deepening artistry continues to transcend a well-earned reputation as a high energy, fun and freewheeling party band. While they continue to anchor Thursday nights and the 94.7 The Wave Sunday Brunch at Spaghettini in Seal Beach and electrify festival and cruise-goers as they have for more than a decade, the versatile ensemble is rapidly emerging as a multi-faceted recording outfit in their own right.
Building on the success of their 2011 single, “I Got You” featuring Gerald Albright, which hit #16 on the Billboard charts, and the “On The Floor” album that went #1 on the UK soul charts, DW3 – now expanded to nine pieces with the addition of a horn section – captures all the dynamics of their live show on the twelve tracks on “Vintage Truth.” The set features exciting original vocal tracks along with freshly re-imagined covers of classics like The Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why,” Luther Vandross’ “So Amazing” and Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.” It also includes DW3’s soulful take on The Mamas & the Papas gem “California Dreamin’,” which won the California Lottery Powerball song contest and spawned a popular YouTube video. Eric, Billy and Damon all contribute lead and harmony vocals, while Eric plays keys (including synth horns and strings) and Billy adds percussion.
Reflective of the band’s incredible popularity among the urban jazz community’s fans, core artists and musicians, “Vintage Truth” features contributions from a handful of the genre’s superstar performers. Brian Culbertson plays piano on the opening track, the rousing, vocal harmony laden R&B tune “Let The Music.” Paul Brown produced, mixed and contributes his inimitable guitar to “I Can’t Tell You Why,” while Greg Adams lends trumpet and horns to Eric’s original tune “Hold Me,” and Dave Koz infuses his lush sax emotion on “When You Cry.” Before he passed away, legendary GRAMMY®-winning drummer Ricky Lawson, who performed with DW3 in the final two years of his life, co-produced four of the core tracks on “Vintage Truth” with keyboardist Sean Dancy – including “Dance With Me,” “Overjoyed,” “California Dreamin’” and “When You Cry.” In fact, the band dedicates “Vintage Truth” to “Our Big Brother, the Drummer to the Stars, Mr. Ricky Lawson.”
“We titled the album ‘Vintage Truth’ because of the way we approached the recording process, like a live jam session where the core musicians - the guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer - were in the room playing at the same time,” says Eric. “We rehearsed each song twice, then got in the studio and pressed play. Our previous recordings featured a lot of drum programming, but this project has all live drums. When you’re working with a legend like Ricky, how can you have it otherwise? Another vintage element we added that we absolutely love is the live horns – so much so that we recently added a horn section to our lineup so that we could perform these songs properly onstage.”
Hailing from La Puente, California and growing up in the Los Angeles areas of El Sereno and Lincoln Heights, Eric and Billy began their musical careers in high school by playing club dates with their parents; their father is a bass player, and he and their mom are singers. DW3, an outgrowth of that original family band, which took the Mondragon’s sound and professionalism to the next level, has been an evolving collective of musicians since then – but the core (Down With 3) members since 2003 are Eric, Billy and Damon. They became an integral part of the contemporary urban jazz scene in 2004 when they played on the first Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise and were subsequently booked as resident performers at Spaghettini.
Since the mid-2000s, in addition to their weekly shows at the popular Seal Beach jazz venue, DW3 has built a massive following via their appearances on numerous theme cruises, including The Smooth Jazz Cruise and the Dave Koz Cruise, and captivating performances at the Sea Breeze Jazz Festival, Newport Beach Jazz Festival, Long Beach Jazz Festival, Thornton Winery Champagne Jazz Series, Las Vegas Jazz Festival, San Diego Jazz Festival, JazzFest West, Taste of Soul Festival and many other nightclubs and festivals bookings. In 2015, they will be making their second appearance at Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, a five-day wine and jazz festival taking place in the heart of Northern California’s wine country. DW3 will also be performing at the inaugural Cancun Jazz Festival over Labor Day Weekend.
While recording several independent albums, including “Live At Spaghettini” and “Life, Love and Music,” DW3 has expanded their artistic horizons performing with and singing background for numerous jazz and R&B legends and popular contemporary artists including Sheila E., Marcus Miller, Brenda Russell, Patti Austin, Bobby Caldwell, Mindi Abair, Jonathan Butler, Jody Watley, Brian McKnight, David Pack, Evelyn “Champagne” King and the late George Duke.
“We’re really excited to share ‘Vintage Truth’ with of our wonderful and loyal longtime fans and new listeners, and believe this is the start of a new phase in our career as recording artists,” says Eric. “Our musicianship both live and in the studio has evolved in amazing ways over the last ten years and we’re so thrilled now to have the horn section joining us. The process of recording this album has helped us ‘up’ our game to create shows that are better, more explosive and feature more original songs in the old school funk/R&B and urban jazz vein than ever before.”
> www.DW3Soul.com > DW3 on iTunes
DARREN RAHN : SAX
With its perfect balance of powerhouse funk, melodic magic, instantly infectious grooves and emotional ballads, Darren Rahn’s highly anticipated Woodward Avenue Records debut transcends its picture perfect title Sonic Boom. But his choice to focus on a single horn voice – after a decade of solo works that mixed things up – earns him a classic jazz reference that could easily have been its alternate title. Tenor Madness was a classic 1956 album by the legendary John Coltrane with the Sonny Rollins Quartet. With his brash, bold and inspiring latest 10 track collection, the multi Grammy nominated multi-instrumentalist, producer, mixing engineer and sonic architect creates the contemporary urban jazz equivalent.
After a decade of hit making, Rahn – who has scored over 25 #1 radio singles for himself and other artists - makes his most dynamic artistic statement yet on a set where “madness” and fun set the tone around an emotional core that’s alternately romantic and poignant. In addition to working with a core of top jazz/funk musicians (guitarist Allen Hinds, bassist Mel Brown, drummers Anthony Steele, Anthony Jones and Tarell Martin), he’s also got a spectacular guest list, vibing intensely with everyone from bassist Julian Vaughn and keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen to trumpet great Rick Braun and famed trombonist Robin Eubanks. Rahn also showcases his lesser known instrumental superpowers on piano, vocals, EWI and retro keyboards like the Hammond B-3 organ and Fender Rhodes.
> DarrenRahn.com > Darren Rahn on iTunes
BROTHER STRUT: Band
There are few bands that can boast members who have played on countless hit records that have sold millions and performed with the biggest artists in the music business. Brother Strut has a whole gang of them, and is a collective of some of the best session musicians in the world. Band members have performed and recorded with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker, Elton John, Tina Turner and Amy Winehouse.
> Brother Strut
DEON YATES: SAXOPHONE
In May of 2015, Deon Yates earned his Master’s of Communications and Public Relations from Lasell College and is now a featured lecturer at Macomb Community College – a renowned Michigan based institution – on the history of jazz music in Detroit. A longtime innovative presence on his hometown’s jazz scene and two time Emmy Award nominee, he brings a fresh and unique perspective on the subject. But that’s just the start of the curriculum for the multi-talented composer and saxophonist. On his infectious, intensely soulful and hard groovin’ Woodward Avenue debut, Yates opens a spirited, high energy School of Funk, offering a dynamic, 11 track master class on the present and future of contemporary urban jazz.
The emotional focus of the collection is on Yates’ unique ability to switch off between tenor, alto and soprano as the lead melodic voice from track to track and create dazzling dual horn harmonies. But like all great teachers, Yates brings in an exciting array of “guest lecturers” and sonic architects to help him break all funk IQ barriers. Chief among these is fellow Michigander and Woodward Avenue Records label mate Nate Harasim, School of Funk’s main producer and co-writer, with Yates, of six of its tracks. In addition to emerging as an eclectic solo artist, Harasim – whose Fender Rhodes and organ vibe provides the perfect complement to Yates’ lead sax action - has brought the radio magic to tracks by Darren Rahn, Julian Vaughn, Michael Lington and others. Yates first met Harasim at a show in Kalamazoo in 2009, and Harasim has participated in a live music series Yates and his wife have produced in Detroit to spotlight up and coming urban jazz performers.
> Deon Yates
When emerging soul/jazz singer Melina talks about the good fortune that took her from being a gigging vocalist in her hometown of San Antonio to a national recording artist with her highly anticipated debut album Wishing On Love, she’ll say things like “Honestly, all this is a dream come true!” Or “I think I’m kind of in a daze!” And then, showing her refreshing sense of gratitude and humility, “It’s hard to say what I am expecting because I never expected any of this.”
But the truth is, from the minute we hear her pure, soulful tones -- with simple piano accompaniment -- on the opening track and first single “Maybe Not Today,” it’s the listener who gratefully enters the cool and often surreal musical dreamscape created by her and guitarist/producer Paul Brown. We’re the ones dazed and dazzled by this naturally gifted musical storyteller’s ability to tap into the joys, challenges and raw emotions of her own life, which allows her to take us on this initial journey. It’s an adventure that reminds us - in an often hard world where good news is increasingly harder to come by – that if today doesn’t bring that love and joy, we just need to wait for tomorrow.
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