Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Adele and Chasing Pavements

Last week, Laine in Hong Kong sent me a text message mentioning what a cool track CHASING PAVEMENTS is. You see, we've both been updating each other on great music finds--especially the more current and contemporary kind as our iPods are filled with so much dated (and age-revealing) music.

The totally clueless me asked her what CHASING PAVEMENTS was, and Laine then pointed out that it was a song by MySpace wonder, ADELE (Adele Laurie Blue Adkins). I promised to research on the artist and the music; but literally moments later, much to my surprise as I turned on my TV, here was ADELE performing CHASING PAVEMENTS on ELLEN. What are the chances?

I was mesmerized. This Brit has a deep and raspy tone, emotionally-charged and cracking at the most vulnerable moments of the piece. And the song? An stirring melody with a most engaging hook, one of those you can hum after just one listening. 

CHASING PAVEMENTS is set at the crossroads where the persona asks herself if it is wiser to stop in her tracks or continue her pursuit even if it leads nowhere. The song is said to be based on an event in ADELE's life, a troubling break-up with her beau that found her running down an empty street.

Since her early career, ADELE has been writing music that reflects her most intimate experiences. In late 2004, one such song was posted on MySpace by her friend; the popularity of the demo earned a record deal for the then 16-year old.  With last year's successful UK release of her album, 19, the artist then began her attempt to reach an American audience. The efforts seemed futile until in October 2008 when ADELE was slated to guest on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (SNL), on the same episode when SARAH PALIN made her appearance. The show, which garnered SNL's highest viewership since 1994, drew much attention to singer-songwriter. The next day, 19 topped the iTunes charts and ranked #5 on Amazon.com.

Last December 4, ADELE, 19, and CHASING PAVEMENTS received 4 Grammy Award nominations: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Female Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist. 19 has been released in the U.K. under the XL Recordings label, and in the U.S. through Columbia Records.

Here's a music video of ADELE and CHASING PAVEMENTS.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas Carols versus Christmas Songs

It's that time of year again when scores of Christmas carols and songs begin to bombard our ears, not only over the radio and in malls, but so too inside elevators, doctors' offices, and even through telephone hold music. But what constitutes the difference between a Christmas carol and a Christmas song?

Ultra-talented keyboardist Palan Reyes used to warn us ignorant choir members to make no mistake: Christmas carols and Christmas songs are a breed apart. Of course he was referring to the common error of confusing sacred Christmas hymns for contemporary holiday tunes. It is easy after all to commit poor judgment these days as the term "carols" is now often used to denote generic Christmas music.

In truth, however, "carol" comes from the French word "carole," or a circle dance. As such, musicologists in the past were quick to define carols as songs with verses and repeating choruses used in dancing, not only during Christmas but also in other holidays. Still, the great divide between Christmas carols and songs is really more about the content of the lyrics than it is about the song form.

Yuletide carols are those that reflect the poignant spirituality that shapes the core of our celebration. They are religious in nature, and refer to the miracle of the season--the Christ-Child, the Virgin-birth, the God-with-us. O, HOLY NIGHT and JOY TO THE WORLD are fine examples. Christmas songs are secular in thought and style, often about holiday fun, kids and gifts, romance during the season. Check out WHITE CHRISTMAS or even RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER. Oh, and then there are Winter songs that speak of the season (snow and all) with no reference to the holiday or to the religious celebration--like LET IT SNOW or WINTER WONDERLAND.

But what about songs like AVE MARIA? Palan often smirks at the thought of the this being passed off as a carol. Though the Visitation event is closely associated with Christmas, the song AVE MARIA is a prayer set to music. Then there are the trickier ones--LITTLE DRUMMER BOY and DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR, for instance. Christmas carol or song? They do refer to some religious aspects of the celebration but have a more secular message, don't they?  I guess the debate goes on....

Good friend and song collaborator Jandi Arboleda received the biggest shock of his life when a choir in the Simbang Gabi he attended sang as a processional hymn, FROSTY THE SNOWMAN. At least I am not that ignorant.

Here are two of my favorite pieces of Christmas music these days. Swingle Singers's version of the Christmas carol, SILENT NIGHT and a more recent find, Amy Grant's Christmas song with a contemporary essence, I NEED A SILENT NIGHT. May we all enjoy peaceful times this Yuletide.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CMMA names Hindi Kita Malilimutan best religious album

On its 30th year, the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) has recognized Bukas Palad Music Ministry's HINDI KITA MALILIMUTAN as best religious album in ceremonies staged at the GSIS Theater in Pasay City yesterday, October 29, 2008. HINDI KITA MALILIMUTAN bested four other finalists in the category including Gary Valenciano's REBIRTH and Timmy Cruz's MY GUIDING LIGHT.

Bukas Palad's HINDI KITA MALILIMUTAN is an album that celebrates over 20 years of the group's music and ministry. The double-disc project contains 20 tracks: 10 liturgical hymns appropriate for celebrating the Eucharist, and 10 inspirational tunes that are radio-friendly. In the album are songs written by fellow Bukas Palad members, by winners of a song-writing contest mounted by the group, and by guest musicians Gary Granada and Noel Cabangon who appear in the CD along with violin virtuoso Coke Bolipata.

Throughout its ministry, Bukas Palad has written, recorded, and performed songs that reflect the group's faith and love for God. Its more popular hymns include Hindi Kita Malilimutan, Anima Christi, Sa 'Yo Lamang, Tanging Yaman, I Will Sing Forever, and Humayo't Ihayag. The group was formed in 1986 by college friends who were members of the Ateneo Student Catholic Action and Ateneo Christian Life Community led by Fr. Manoling Francisco, Norman Agatep, and Jandi Arboleda, who had started collaborating on religious songs when they were in high school.

Bukas Palad is currently on national tour, performing in concerts and conducting choral workshops across the country. The group's album, HINDI KITA MALILIMUTAN produced by the Jesuit Communications Foundation is available in record stores nationwide. The CDs may also be purchased in Tanging Yaman outlets at the Sonolux Building and Loyola House of Studies in Ateneo de Manila, at the Gateway Mall, and at SM Megamall Building B.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spotlight: Burt Bacharach & Traincha

He is a legendary pianist and composer whose musical career has spanned 5 glorious decades. She is a Dutch jazz singer who joined the industry after participating in an amateur music contest with her brother in 1990. Together, Burt Bacharach and Trijntje Oosterhuis (otherwise known as Traincha) has put together a most definitive collection of Bacharach's classic and more recent tunes through the albums THE LOOK OF LOVE (2006) and WHO'LL SPEAK FOR LOVE (2008).

Ok, I am a self-confessed, die-hard Bacharach fan, and I have purchased nearly all the recent tribute albums to the man who made complex chord progressions and multi-meter fashionable in popular music. There was SHAGADELIC BACHARACH (2001) from the Australian mainstream jazz group, Steve Newcomb Trio. Then came LONG AGO TOMORROW (2003) from the Irish singer with the smooth pipes, Siobhan Pettit. More recently, there was BACK TO BACHARACH (2008) from Grammy-winning Steve Tyrell, who used to produce for Bacharach himself. But I will dare to say that Tarincha's tributes are for me, the most fascinating.

Traincha's collaboration with Bacharach began when her record label sent the composer a disc and DVD featuring the singer, and a request for him to allow her to record his music and for him to appear in the project. Bacharach admits that he approaches with trepidation the prospect of artists recording a full album of his songs.  But after having watched the DVD, Bacharach declared, "I was blown away."  After recently purchasing THE LOOK OF LOVE and receiving through my sister (who recently came home from the U.S.) a copy of WHO'LL SPEAK FOR ME, so was I.

What I particularly appreciate about the albums is the successful attempt to keep the original spirit of Bacharach's music alive. This is brought out especially through the lavish arrangement and performance of the Metropole Orchestra that accompanies Traincha in every track. Thus, you hear the familiar horns, the sweeping strings, an occasional harp, some brush drums, a timpani, even Bacaharach's fingers on the ivories. This of course is not to say that the songs are mere replicas of the originals. On the contrary, while we hear similar instruments, the arrangements remain fresh and contemporary, putting a twist to the songs we have grown to love.

And what about the singer? Traincha rivals Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield with her unique interpretation of Bacharach. Hers is a richly-textured tone that soars as effortlessly as it does plunge, leading the listener through the peaks and valleys of Bacharach's emotional tunes. if you have not listened to Traincha, I urge you to look for her albums. It is easy being enamored by her voice, one that has learned to tell a most moving story with a most moving instrument.

While THE LOOK OF LOVE contains more of the classic Bacharach hits, WHO'LL SPEAK FOR LOVE has more contemporary tunes including the title track, which was written specifically for Traincha. Have a listen. Through Traincha, you will remember why you fell in love with Bacharach in the first place. 


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Making Your Brand Sing!

Once a year for three years now, I give a talk on Music Marketing to professionals enrolled at the Post Graduate Diploma Program in Marketing Communications Management. This program, offered by the De La Salle Graduate School of Business is mounted in partnership with the Philippine Association of National Advertisers Foundation, and is orchestrated by friend, colleague and client, Asia Brewery's Jun Alcantara.

Throughout my research, I have come across many case studies on how advertisers and their ad agencies have managed to get their brands to sing. At the turn of the century, for instance, many companies would sponsor sporting activities, barn dances and college proms. Soon, they would reflect popular musical events in their print ads. In 1931 for example, an ad for Chesterfields (shown here) featured sister and brother Adele and Fred Astaire mimicking their roles in the hit review then, The Bandwagon.

But more than through print ads, jingles have been most effective in allowing brands to penetrate pop culture (especially if pop singing stars are involved), offering various contact points with consumers everywhere. So yes, brands can indeed sing-- and in surround sound. Some examples:

ROCK STAR BOOSTS CAREER BY OFFERING HIS SONG TO A CAR BRAND
Sting's 2000 release of his album BRAND NEW DAY failed to jump-start a career that was stuck since 1995. The artist was hoping that his single, DESERT ROSE would do the trick, but radio stations were not too sure about the Arabic intro that the song carried, and airplay was little. For the video of the song, Sting had already featured the Jaguar S-Type, and so he and his managers entertained the idea of approaching the luxury car brand to cut a commercial. Jaguar went to bed with the rock star, feeling certain that such a campaign would bring their brand closer to a broader market. And they were right. When the ad aired in the U.S., both the car and the song (and the artist) received substantial consumer interest. Check this out:

SPORTSWEAR BRAND TAPS RISING POP STAR AND HIS "NEW SHOES"
More recently, Puma and Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini forged a partnership through Warner Music International to help push the brand's sport shoes internationally. After winning a pop trivia quiz during a concert in 2003 and being made to sing impromptu on stage, the amateur 17-year old was then signed to a record label and released his fist CD in 2006--in it, the hit single, New Shoes. In the Puma campaign, Nutini appears in advertising around the globe, performing New Shoes across television, radio, mobile and online efforts. He is also touring stores everywhere, having been to Tokyo recently and in Jamaica with athletes bound then for the Olympics.  Here's the TV ad:


POP DUO CATCHES TV JINGLE AND RECORDS A FULL-LENGTH VERSION
And so the story goes. Richard Carpenter was watching TV one day and caught the commercial of some bank in the U.S. Moved by the music and recognizing the singer's voice to be Paul Williams's, he and sister Karen researched on the tune with the hope of getting to record a longer version of the ballad. Paul Williams acknowledged that there was indeed a full length song that became the basis for the TV ad soundtrack. So the Carpenters hit the studio. Now here's the vintage commercial and its jingle. Now you know why the song has become a favorite in weddings.


Gee, there are just so many case studies to discuss. More here in the future. Are there any jingles that have become your favorite? Feel free to share...

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Evening With The ScoLo Quartet in Manila


While queuing at the entrance to the Rockwell tent to get my wrist stamped for the John Scofield & Joe Lovano (ScoLo) Quartet concert last October 16, a guy behind me muttered, "You know when what you're watching is a jazz show--the dudes come much earlier than the chicks."

There may be some truth to the observation. These intimate mainstream jazz gigs are indeed dominated by males, many of whom are musicians themselves teaching or studying at the conservatory and performing in ensembles, or professionals in bands doing the nightly city circuit. Others are enthusiasts
toting their cameras (no lighters or pen lights) and well-kept posters, magazines LPs and CDs of their idols, hoping for an autograph later.

I myself have become a fan of these events and have enjoyed the relaxed and quaint atmosphere they bring. Outside the tent are food stalls vending sausages and finger foods, beer and a selection of wines. Nearly everyone aims to get a light buzz before the opening act. But for now, they check out the posters, shirts,
CDs and other merchandise waiting to be bought.

Inside the venue, people pick their spots and wave to fellow guests. Everyone seems to know each other. Perhaps they've recorded at the same studio or have met during some other jazz fest. They catch up on industry gossip (did you know Herbie Hancock is coming over next year?) and await the announcement for the show to begin.

And it does. The crowd bursts into cheers when legendary guitarist John Scofield and saxman Joe Lovano emerge with super talented artists acoustic bassist Matt Penman and drummer Matt Wilson. Cameras click away, of course (as does mine). How often does one, after all, be in the presence of such music royalty?

As I said, the show is pretty is intimate, and I in my front row seat cannot help
but marvel at the performers before me. John Scofield is considered one of the 'big three" along with Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell among the current crop of jazz guitarists. A master of improvisation, he has a distinct style that sits comfortably between post bop, funk-edged jazz, and R&B. Inspired by rock and blues players, Scofield picked up his first guitar at age 11, and eventually attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. After recording and touring with such heavyweights as Chet Baker, George Duke and Charles Mingus, Scofield joined Miles Davis, planting himself securely in the foreground of jazz consciousness as a composer and instrumentalist.

Today, aside from touring with his own group for most parts of the year, he is an Adjunct Professor of Music at the New York University.

Born to a family of brass blowers, Joe Lovano's exposure to jazz and the saxophone was early and constant. He began playing the alto sax at 5,
switching to a tenor a few years later. At 16, he began working professionally
as a musician, playing the clubs (often substituting for his dad) and performing with Motown cover bands. He eventually got to save enough to get himself through college also at Berklee.

After years of jamming and recording in the U.S. and Europe with some of the most gifted artists on the planet, Lovano met vocalist and dancer Judi Silvano, with whom he would make a lasting collaboration (today, they live together in upstate New York). Then in 1989, Lovano's next high profile gig brought him more national and international attention--and that was with John Scofield's Quartet.

It is easy to sense that both men are long time friends and collaborators. Without much of a nod or a tap of the foot to signal the other, they just know where each one is in the lavish pieces of music where one may quite easily lose himself. But such is the irony of jazz and improvisation: Scofield and Lovano do lose themselves in the music. Buried in the rhythm and harmony, they each slip into a private zone, tapping into some hidden thought or feeling, and pushing this out via a riff on the guitar or a scale on the saxophone. They are immersed in their own realms, oblivious to the bobbing heads in the crowd but sensitive to each other's world. And when their worlds do meet, the result is sheer genius.

Everything comes together with the musical contributions of the two Matts. Matt Penman is a New Zealander who first embraced an acoustic bass when he was 14.  Like Scofield and Lovano, he is a Berklee alumnus, moving soon after to New York where he manages a busy schedule of teaching and performing. Now an established member of the SFJazz Collective, Penman and 7 others have devoted their efforts to presenting each other's works as well as their arrangements of other jazz artists' music. The group is currently featuring the songs of Joe Lovano, among others.


Voted #1 Rising Star Drummer in 2005 by the Downbeat Critic's Poll for the 3rd year in a row, Matt Wilson became mesmerized with the drums after seeing Buddy Rich on the Lucy Show when he was in third grade. He finished college at Wichita State University, and moved on to Boston and then to New York, playing with the likes of Cecil McBee, Lee Konitz and Fred Hersch. Since 2001, Wilson has become most associated with Arts & Crafts, a quartet formed by Wilson recognized seriously for their fun jazz recordings and gigs.

Mere meters away, all four musicians of the ScoLo Quartet hypnotized the
audience with their repertoire of intense bluesy jazz, their acute sense of syncopation, and a melodic kind of dissonance that intrigues yet deeply quenches. A particular favorite was a piece in 6/4 meter that had everyone keeping time.

The main theme was just joyous, and its rhythm made our hearts skip a beat. Each of the four shined in their solos, as they demonstrated an effortless dexterity that was magnified by the infectious euphoria on their faces--we too could only smile with them.

In the end, members of the ScoLo Quartet proved to be the extremely passionate musicians I had envisioned them to be. Granted Manila was just a pit stop in their Asia Pacific tour (we were not even listed in their published 
itinerary), and the Rockwell Tent
is not such a gigantic venue, each played like he would in any music hall, with the bravura of a celebrated concert star, the humility of a performer who salutes the talents of his bandmates, and the jubilation of an artist who has no agenda but to share his brand of jazz to us with an ear to listen.

After the show, the four completed our experience by engaging us in chitchat, and granting our requests for them to sign autographs on music memorabilia we had collected over the years.

As expected, local jazz guitarists and saxophonists (Tots Tolentino, whom I had worked with for Bukas Palad and Raul Banzon, whom I had performed with in high school, to name just 2), fell in line themselves to meet their idols. At the end of the day, amidst the ScoLo Quartet, we are all but fans.

The concert organized by the Philippine International Jazz & Arts Festival was merely a prelude of things to come. Early next year, in a festival beginning February 27, the Philippines will get to hear the enthralling music of Herbie Hancock, Dave Koz, Flora Purim and Airto, The New York Voices, and Ivan Lins among other jazz greats. 

I am certain I will be among the first to purchase tickets (as I was this year). Maybe the shows will be very intimate again, and the queues not too long. But because the guests are such phenomenal talents, a big part of me wishes we could all be there.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Musical Artists Born on October 15

In honor of a friend celebrating her birthday today, I'm listing below the names of some musical artists who share the same zodiac sign with her. Whether or not my friend chooses to find some similarity with these guys is all up to her though. Here goes:


TITO JACKSON
Brother of Michael, Janet, and La Toya, he helped propagate the Motown sound as one of THE JACKSON 5. Referred to as the quiet Jackson, he hid his musical talent as a kid, playing his father's guitar when dad wasn't around. It was only when one of the guitar's strings broke that Tito's secret was discovered.




RICHARD CARPENTER
Half of THE CARPENTERS, he learned to play the piano when sister Karen was playing baseball. His most famous composition, TOP OF THE WORLD. On Valentine's Day this year, he met with President Arroyo who sang with him the Carpenters' hit, I HAVE YOU. He also collaborated on a recording with Claire dela Fuente, a.k.a. Karen Carpenter of the Philippines.



CHRIS DE BURGH
This Irish rocker is credited for the 1986 ballad hit, LADY IN RED and the more obscure DON'T PAY THE FERRYMAN. He had an affair with his children's nanny when wife Diane was in the hospital, and his daughter Rosanna (for whom LADY IN RED was written) was crowned Miss World in 2003 (Philippine rep Maria Rafaela Yunon was in the top 5).




ERIC BENET
This former UPS man and now R&B singer made waves with his renditions of GEORGY PORGY and SPEND MY LIFE WITH YOU. Unfortunately, he did not get to spend his life with ex-wife Halle Berry who had caught him cheating during their brief marriage. Making his film debut in Mariah Carey's GLITTER in 2001, Benet has just released LOVE AND LIFE CD this year to favorable reviews.



LAINE LAUDICO-SANTANA
A member of the Bukas Palad Music Ministry, hers is the voice behind some BP favorites like EMPTY SPACE, BREATH OF GOD, and the re-recorded version of PASTORALE, among others. Laine was personally handpicked by Jose Mari Chan to guest in his albums and to interpret classics MAYBE THIS YEAR and more recently APRIL FOOLS (Coincidentally, Chan also recorded EMPTY SPACE for the Jesuit Music Ministry).  Oh, and she has sung the jingles of such brands as ABOITIZ EXPRESS, SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, GENERALI PILIPINAS and for the government's OPLAN PAGLALANSAG. Happy birthday, Laine!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

This Week's Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown

Though the rankings may have changed, the top five in this week's smooth jazz top 20 are the same five in last week's list. Allen Keppler revealed his top 20 countdown aired last Sunday over my comfortable choice, 106.7 DREAM FM.

Radio & Records pick for personality of the year, Dave Koz edged out Sax Pack to earn the top spot this week with his LIFE iN THE FAST LANE from his greatest hits CD. Sax Pack's FALLIN FOR YOU dropped to #3. Meanwhile, Earl Klugh's DRIFTIN came in at #5, falling two notches from last week's rankings. Eric Darius's GOIN ALL OUT and Norman Brown's POP'S COOL GROOVE remained at #2 and #4 respectively.

Check out the music of this week's smooth jazz topnotchers below.







































Friday, October 10, 2008

AMPARO: two musical worlds in one passionate album

Weeks ago I listed some upcoming CDs which I had hoped would make their presence felt in the Philippines. In the list was AMPARO, an instrumental album from longtime friends and musicians Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin. 

A week later, I was greeted by a familiar image sitting on a shelf of the ASTROVISION PLUS branch at the PODIUM in Pasig--the CD cover of the album I was looking forward to. Well, the music has been playing non-stop in my iPod since then.

A follow-up to the 2000 Grammy-nominated classical album TWO WORLDS from the same tandem, AMPARO once again marries songs seemingly worlds apart through a musical setting that threads the entire album. In the track list are classical favorites from the likes of Handel, Ravel and Faure. But so too are more contemporary compositions from Ritenour and Grusin, even from Brazilaln Bossa legend Antonio Carlos Jobim. All, however, are masterfully arranged by Grusin borrowing from the rich musical heritage of South America. Thus, the songs are rustic and passionate, interpreted with a soulful latin influence.

Dear musical friend Fr. Manoling was riding in my car the other day, and I let him sample a few tracks. Because he was well-acquainted with the classical pieces, he automatically said they sounded like the originals; though he was quick to add, "But this one sounds Ecuadorian." Not a surprising comment. Grusin says he was careful to remain faithful to the original musical intent of the songs. A lot of the latin flavor surfaced through the combination of Grusin's piano, Ritenour's guitar, the chamber strings, and through guest artists Joshua Bell (violin), Chris Botti (trumpet) and Renee Flemming and James Taylor (vocals).

Here are two tracks to let you get a better grasp of the album concept. First is Antonio Carlos Jobim's OLHA MARIA, a haunting piece featuring Joshua Bell. It no longer sounds like a Brazilian ballad but more like a stirring classical vehicle. The second is PAVANE from French impressionist Gabriel Faure. This one, through Bell's expert hands and Flemming's stunning vocals transforms into some spellbinding latin dance. Grusin suggests that through the reassignment of musical phrases to these two artists, the piece becomes a musical dialogue that's pure seduction. Have a listen.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Whatever Happened to Howard Jones?

I must have been graduating from high school when Howard Jones burst into the music scene with his synthpop brand of music--keyboard-rich, ultra-quantized, and mega-danceable. His was the kind of music being dished out by a classically-trained pianist with a couple of fancy synthesizers to toy around with, and the result was sheer joy. Add to that the thick vocals of this Englishman, and you've got a hit in your hands.

And hits did Howard Jones produce, who's seen here in a photo during the height of his career (left) and then some 20 years later.  You might remember tracks like WHAT IS LOVE, LIKE TO GET TO KNOW YOU WELL, THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER, and LIFE IN ONE DAY, all of which became top charters in the U.K and U.S. To refresh your memory, take a look at this video and watch out for the crazy 80s hair:


While he continued to have considerable success in the U.S. in the early 90s, his last U.K. top 40 hit ALL I WANT came in 1986. After that, he balanced his music career with managing a vegetarian restaurant named NOWHERE.

But nothing can stop a musician at heart. By 2001, Jones was touring as a keyboardist for Ringo Starr on the latter's ALL STARR BAND, but soon after was concentrating on his own gigs, particularly his 20th anniversary concert staged in London in 2003. See here two more videos. The first is of Jones (while touring with Starr) performing THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER. The second is of the artist singing PRISONER in the 2003 show celebrating 20 years of Howard Jones's music. 



The success of his concerts prompted the Englishman to produce REVOLUTION OF THE HEART, a retro electronic album targeting a niched group of loyal fans in the U.S., U.K., and selected European countries. Though the project was a success, sales paled in comparison to when the musician had legions of fans across the globe.

And so has been Howard Jones's career--one steeped in a unique 80s sound which he has pushed successfully into the next century. And though his listeners have become much like a tribe in number, they have remained steadfast.

2008 marks Jones's 25th year in the industry, and just last month, he celebrated the event with yet another show plus a tour beginning with a performance in Japan (he is incidentally a member of Japanese Buddhist lay organization and is the musical director of its choir). There, he and others visited a Japanese karaoke club, and just for fun, Jones sang one of his own songs. His score? A 92. 

In between his shows today, Howard Jones is working on a triple CD of his 25th anniversary concert. But before we get to see that in stores, here's a clip taken by an avid fan in the audience of him singing what else...WHAT IS LOVE.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Jazz Legends in Manila, October 16

Their names may not ring as loud a bell in the Philippines as say Earl Klugh's or Kenny G's, but their music has struck a chord with many die-hard jazz enthusiasts around the world. And the two legends will be here in Manila on October 16 for an intimate musical affair.

John Scofield is considered one of the "big three" along with Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell among the current crop of jazz guitarists. He is a master at improvisation, with a distinct style that sits comfortably between post bop, funk-edged jazz, and R&B.

Inspired by rock and blues players, Scofield picked up his first guitar at age 11, and eventually attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. After recording and touring with such heavyweights as Chet Baker, George Duke and Charles Mingus, Scofield joined Miles Davis, planting himself securely in the foreground of jazz consciousness as a composer and instrumentalist.

Today, aside from touring with his own group for most parts of the year, he is an Adjunct Professor of Music at New York University.

Born to family of brass blowers, Joe Lovano's exposure to jazz and the saxophone was early and constant. He began playing the alto sax at 5, switching to a tenor a few years later. At 16, he began working professionally as a musician, playing the clubs (often substituting for his dad) and performing with Motown cover bands. He eventually got to save enough to get himself through college also at Berklee.

After years of jamming and recording in the U.S. and Europe with some of the most gifted artists on the planet, Lovano met vocalist and dancer Judi Silvano, with whom he would make a lasting collaboration (today, they live together in upstate New York). He says, "Judi's sound, in particular, influenced ideas and feelings that were instrumental in opening up my concept about an ensemble sound that includes voice. I feel it gives my music a very organic, alive, human quality."

It was in 1989, however, when Lovano's next high profile gig would bring him more national and international attention--and that was with John Scofield's Quartet.

It has been many years since Scofield and Lovano have discovered each other's special brand of jazz, and they are rediscovering each other with their current tour of Asia and the Pacific. Following shows in Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore and Bangkok, the two jazz legends will find themselves at the Rockwell tent in Manila for a one-night concert, dubbed PRELUDE TO A FEST, that promises to be a stirring musical event. Showtime begins at 9pm, and tickets are priced at Php 1287.50. Call Ticketworld at (632) 891-9999 for tickets, or visit their site here: PRELUDE TO A FEST. After Manila, they will move on to Australia and New Zealand.

In between his hectic touring schedule, Scofield is producing his album of "old-time gospel" tunes, which the artist feels ought to be heard beyond church doors. Meanwhile, Lovano's highly-acclaimed album KIDS, produced last year, is still out in the market (but hard to find in Manila).

To get a sample of their music, view below two videos. The first is a performance on Jay Leno by John Scofield with John Mayer. The second is of Joe Lovano with Hank Jones on the keys.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

This Week's Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown

Part of the joys of driving on a Sunday afternoon (besides finding EDSA to be relatively traffic-free), is tuning in to 106.7 FM at 4pm and listening to Allen Kepler's Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown. In the 2-hour show, the acclaimed trumpet player lists the 20 biggest tunes topping the Smooth Jazz chart based on monitored airplay in the U.S.

Having discovered the show only recently, it has now become a favorite. And why not? I have been a smooth jazz advocate since the late 70s when jazz fusion made the music scene. Influenced by my sister Audrey with her LPs of Bob James and Joe Sample among others, I was easily hooked (you can imagine my sadness when 88.3 F changed format). The show on 106.7 lets me keep track of the freshest smooth jazz and quiet storm recordings, the newest artists in the genre, and the latest news about the music icons I've respected since the 70s.

This week, topping the Kepler's list again is Sax Pack's FALLIN' FOR YOU, a bouncy, breezy, brassy track from heavyweight saxophonists, Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, and Steve Cole. Other exciting acts in the list are fellow brass boys Dave Koz, Najee, Boney James, and Kenny G., as well as guitar greats Chuck Loeb and Earl Klugh, whose new album SPICE OF LIFE is a most welcome project since his last CD 9 years ago. Also in the list are vocalists Mick Hucknall (Simply Red) and gospel and soul legend, Al Green. My personal pick, however, is bassist Marcus Miller's FREE, a remake of Deniece Williams's popular smooth jazz recording, but this time interpreted through Corinne Bailey Rae's sultry vocals.

Check out below the this week's top 20:






















































And listen to Sax Pack's top charter, FALLIN' FOR YOU, here:


The Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown eith Allen Kepler is heard exclusively on DWET 106.7 DREAM FM, your comfortable choice, every Sunday from 4pm to 6pm.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

10 Holiday CDs out this October

Christmas for me is such a grand musical event, and I cannot let a year pass without adding to my growing collection of holiday music. Unfortunately however for us in the Philippines, the array to choose from has not been widening in proportion to the material being produced around the globe. Ok, so there has been a fair amount of Filipino Christmas CDs out there, but beyond that, much of what we have on the shelves are aged stocks (though recently I must admit, there has been a wealth of Disco and Bossa Christmas music).

So I have resorted to ordering some holiday music abroad, requesting friends and relatives to bring them home; well this year will not be an exception. This month alone, so many Christmas CDs are being released in the U.S., many of which I fear will not see the light of day here. Ten that have intrigued me are in a list below. 

If you have kababayans scheduling a trip back home, why not request for a copy of any one of these?

CHRISTMAS DUETS (Elvis Presley) Here's a collection of previously recorded holiday tunes from Presley, but with overdubs from current bigwigs in the industry--Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Olivia Newton-John, and Anne Murray to name some. The duets ought to appeal to a broad age range with a particular fondness for the wintry yet cozy attitude of a country Christmas. Get the new Elvis Christmas CD here: CHRISTMAS DUETS



THE CHRISTMAS COLLECTION (Amy Grant) The fourth Christmas project from gospel great, Amy Grant features the best from her previous holiday CDs but adds 4 new tracks (1 with hubby Vince Gill) for a total of 18. Those who don't have her earlier Christmas work will love the 6-time Grammy awardee's rendition of GROWN-UP CHRISTMAS LIST and BREATH OF HEAVEN. Order her new CD here: THE CHRISTMAS COLLECTION



CHRISTMAS (Al Jarreau) After 40 years in the music industry, jazz, R&B, and pop legend (only he has Grammys in all genres) Al Jarreau releases his first yuletide album aptly titled, CHRISTMAS. Here, the artist lends his unique vocal stylings to a dozen Christmas classics. Those who watched his recent concert with George Benson in Manila might want to get Jarreau's latest work (following his album in 2006). To pre-order the album, click here: CHRISTMAS


I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (Brian McKnight) A holiday CD of 12 tracks, the album showcases the R&B singer's twist on Christmas favorites, some in tandem with other great talents. Josh Groban lends a hand in ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH, and Take 6 grooves it up with BLESS THIS HOUSE. Watch out for the special participation of Brian McKnight Jr. and Nikolas McKnight. Check out the CD here: I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS



PEACE ON EARTH (Casting Crowns) The Christian soft rock band recognized by both the Grammy and Dove Awards releases its first Christmas CD, PEACE ON EARTH. With the project, the group hopes to point listeners to the deeper meaning of songs sung for generations, many of which were written from a place of searching and desperation. The album promises to be insightful and moving. Order it here: PEACE ON EARTH



A NEW THOUGHT FOR CHRISTMAS (Melissa Etheridge) For her latest yuletide project, Melissa Etheridge asks the question: If we're all talking about peace on earth, what if we all concentrated on peace on earth and made it happen? The CD is a rock, blues, jazz, mix of 10 traditional and newly composed songs to celebrate a spiritual time of the year. Listen to some samples: A NEW THOUGHT FOR CHRISTMAS



MY KIND OF HOLIDAY (Elliot Yamin) American Idol alumnus Elliot Yamin releases MY KIND OF HOLIDAY, which is essentially the Christmas album exclusively distributed by Target stores last year, with the addition of 2 new tracks. The collection presents Yamin's pop R&B style in such fresh yuletide songs as CHRISTMAS WITHOUT CAROL and BACKDOOR SANTA. My fave is his rendition of THIS CHRISTMAS. Pre-order the CD here: MY KIND OF HOLIDAY


IT'S CHRISTMAS (Ledisi) Twice Grammy-nominated R&B singer Ledisi lets loose her soaring interpretation of 12 Christmas tracks (5 written for the album), in this jazz and blues influenced set. Fans of the traditional Christmas sound will be challenged by the artist's earthy, inventive style, but Ledisi's fans will be ecstatic. To have a sample of the work and to order the CD, click here: IT'S CHRISTMAS



A SWINGIN' CHRISTMAS (Tony Bennet) What's Christmas without swing, and what's swing without Tony Bennet? The man dishes out the most loved classic holiday tunes like SILVER BELLS, MY FAVORITE THINGS, and THE CHRISTMAS WALTZ, all with that brand of razzmatazz he has been associated with all these years. And accompanying him? The Count Basie Big Band, no less. Check this out to pre-order a copy: A SWINGIN' CHRISTMAS


SONGS OF JOY & PEACE (Yo-Yo Ma & Friends)
With 22 tracks, something tells me this is the big buy this Christmas. The famed cellist's SONGS OF JOY & PEACE is described as a musical party inspired by the season. It gathers music greats James Taylor, Dave Brubeck, Diana Krall, Chris Botti, Alison Kraus, plus many more to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid al-Adha, Kwanzaa, and New Year's Day. The album even comes with a bonus 60-minute DVD. Take a look: SONGS OF JOY & PEACE