April 30 - The International Jazz Day is a worldwide initiative designated to celebrate Jazz music as a symbol of peace and unity among nations. Created by UNESCO in 2001, its focus is to promote peace, intercultural dialogue, diversity and respect for human dignity, eradicating discrimination, foster gender equality, and promote individual expression.
Musicians, Bands, Instrumentalists, Songwriters, Bands, record labels performers, artiste, composers, producers and music business professionals and anyone looking to advance their music and music business career.
A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Inspirational Jazz Pianist George W. Russell, Jr. is a performer, a composer, and an educator.
George began taking piano lessons when he was 7 years old. Along with studying formally, he had the fortune of growing up playing at his local church. There was no written music at church, so he was given the opportunity to develop his ear.
As George continued studying music in college, he discovered jazz and the harmonies that were used in jazz. It was then that he began to understand, from a theoretical view point, what exactly he was playing, both in church and from his classical repertoire. In that period of time, George’s unique fusion of Gospel and Jazz was beginning to form.
His performances range from a solo piano, to a groove- oriented jazz trio, to a soulful, fresh-sounding larger ensemble that arouses the listener's intellect and, most importantly, touches their soul. His playing is filled with passion, fire, soul and, most of all, spirit.
George will often refer to himself as "a drummer who happens to plays the piano." This is made clear when you hear the strong sense of rhythm that envelops each and every performance.
George began teaching private piano lessons at the age of 16. This love for teaching encouraged George to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Music Education at Duquesne University. After graduating from Duquesne, he realized three very important things. First of all, teaching music to grades 1-12 in a school system was not conducive to a performing career. Secondly, He still loved teaching but wanted to do so on a college level. Lastly, He was not satisfied with his development as a musician. This lead him to continue his study of music and pursue a Masters degree in Jazz Studies at the New England Conservatory.
While in grad school, George taught at local community music schools and eventually acquired a job as a piano instructor at Tufts University. He then went on to Chair the Jazz department at the New England Conservatory Extension Division. He also served as the Chair of the Jazz Department at the Pennsylvania’s Governor’s School for the Arts for over 20 years.
Currently George is the Chair of the Harmony Department at the Berklee College of Music. Prior to becoming Chair, He served as a Professor of Harmony and Piano at Berklee. George has been awarded the Ted Pease Award for Excellence in Teaching, along with the Curriculum Development Award for the Writing Division. George has also been recognized with the highest award that Berklee gives to faculty, the Most Distinguished Faculty Award.
Two-time Grammy nominated saxophonist and flautist, Najee has made a career following his heart and keen musical intuition by pushing musical boundaries, all of which have made him an international pioneer in the music industry. Having collaborated with everyone in the music business from Prince, Quincy Jones to Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock, Najee’s technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion and fearless genre bending have made him one of the most sought after musicians of his generation. With two Platinum and four Gold albums under his belt, Najee is an icon whose musical vision spawned an entire new genre by fusing the music close to his heart (R&B and Jazz).
Born in the Greenwich Village in New York City and raised in Jamaica, Queens; an alumnus of the New England Conservatory of Music, Najee was mentored by jazz giants Frank Foster and Jimmy Heath as well as classical maven and flutist Harold Jones of the New York Philharmonic. When he emerged onto the scene with his soulful R&B, and jazz fused sound, with songs such as “Najee’s Theme,” “Sweet Love” and “Betcha Don’t Know,” it was not long before his trademark soprano found a home at the top of the charts and he carved out his own unique niche in the musical landscape. “My first love was the tenor saxophone and flute,” confides Najee. “It was my brother Fareed who got me to play soprano saxophone. We would argue over me not wanting to play soprano. Then one day someone gave me a soprano saxophone and I played on his songs. That began my soprano saxophone career and little did I know then, that would be the instrument to make me popular. As I began to develop on my instrument, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Yusef Lateef, Grover Washington Jr. and Hubert Laws on flute were some of the artists that inspired me. As an industrious and hungry young musician, Najee had the good fortune of coming through Dr. Billy Taylor’s now legendary Jazzmobile program. While a student at the New England Conservatory (where both Najee and his brother attended) he studied saxophone performance with Joe Allard and performed with George Russell and Jaki Byard big bands. After his studies at the conservatory, Najee returned to New York in the early 80s and was lucky to land a gig with Chaka Khan along with his brother and guitarist Fareed (who is now his manager). In 1986, Najee’s Theme, was released and the saxophonist earned a slot on tour with singer Freddie Jackson. The following year, Day By Day was released, and in 1991, Tokyo Blue, which is one of Najee’s most successful and enduring recordings. Tokyo Blue (which was produced by Najee’s brother Fareed) and Day By Day both went Gold and led to two Soul Train Awards for Najee (Best Jazz Artist in 1991 and 1993). Just An Illusion came in 1992 and around this time he collaborated with such iconic figures as Quincy Jones and jazz greats Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham and Larry Carlton which resulted in the album Live At The Greek. Following his collaborative live album, his next album Share My World was released in 1994 and was followed in 1995 by a critically acclaimed tribute to Stevie Wonder’s 1976 classic, Songs In The Key Of Life. The CD was produced by George Duke and features Herbie Hancock and Sheila E. among others. His CD Morning Tenderness was released in 1998 and went to #1 on the contemporary jazz charts. Also released the same year was The Best of Najee, and his tour with the USO for the troops in the Mediterranean: Spain and Turkey.
For Najee, the late ‘90s were marked by extraordinary international experiences, from performing at Nelson Mandela’s birthday celebration in South Africa to playing as a special guest of President Clinton at the White House at an event honoring President Jerry Rawlings of the Republic of Ghana. Najee also spent two years of touring (2001-2003) with Prince and appears on Prince’s albums “Rainbow Children” and “One Night Alone”. In 2003 Najee released Embrace featuring special guests Roy Ayers and BeBe Winans. My Point Of View was his follow up in 2005 featuring his good friend and vocalist Will Downing. In 2006, Najee won an NAACP Image Award for “Best Jazz Artist”. 2007’s Rising Sun, joined Najee with Phil Perry and Mind Over Matter, from 2009 paired Najee with singer Eric Benét. 2012 saw the release of Najee’s critically heralded The Smooth Side Of Soul. In 2013, Najee released his second recording for Shanachie Records, The Morning After – A Musical Journey; which earned him a NAACP Image Award Nomination for “Outstanding Jazz Album” (2014) and Soul Train Awards Nomination for “Best Contemporary Jazz Performance” (2014).
Najee’s third album for the label, You, Me And Forever, released on June 23, 2015, is an inspired collection of songs that break the often heard formulaic approach. Instead, Najee harnesses his expansive musical palate to craft a sonic journal that fuses his love of jazz with R&B, Brazilian music, blues and pop. His latest musical offering is a commanding statement and affirmation as to why he has long reigned as the King of contemporary jazz. Najee assembles an all-star cast of musicians on You, Me And Forever that includes pianists/composers James Lloyd (Pieces Of A Dream) and Robert Damper (Kenny G). The album also features guest spots from vocalist Frank McComb (Branford Marsalis, Buckshot LeFonque, Gamble & Huff), guitarist and vocalist from Najee’s touring band, Chuck Johnson, and singer Andrea Wallace (Kirk Franklin). The making of You, Me And Forever was intercontinental as Najee recorded the music in such diverse and far apart locations as Kansas City and London. Equally at home playing the tenor, soprano and flute, Najee features all three throughout the CD. “As a whole they all make up my musical personality,” he explains. “The instrument I use depends on the composition. However, I did play more flute on this recording.” Najee’s intoxicatingly warm and sweet flute opens You, Me And Forever on the fluid and majestic original “Air.” He effortlessly soars over blistering up tempo passages supported by a funk and groove-heavy rhythm section. Switching to tenor, Najee and Chris “Big Dog” Davis let loose on a bluesy number he penned with fellow saxman Alex Bugnon, “Fly With The Wind.” Then, Najee transports to Brazil with a stellar and tender reworking of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s anathematic 1967 Bossa Nova hit “Wave” featuring pianist Robert Damper.
“The CD reflects my need as an artist to show the different facets of my musical personality,” comments Najee who enjoys biking, swimming and family time when he is not busy touring. “I enjoy the challenge of recording music that can be commercially accessible and diverse at the same time.” Najee’s chameleonic artistry allows him to traverse diverse artistic terrain without skipping a beat. He seamlessly moves from Jobim to a rousing version of David Pack and Ambrosia’s 1980 Gold selling hit “Biggest Part of Me.” The memorable number highlights the powerhouse vocals of guitarist and singer Chuck Johnson. “He’s a great talent that I have had the pleasure of featuring every night on the road. We’ve been working together since 2007.” Najee also shines light on the vocal artistry of Frank McComb, whose buttery smooth vocals can be heard on the song “Signature,” which the singer co-wrote. Najee’s cascading flute elevates us to new heights on the melodically free-flowing and pirouetting “Butterfly Girl.” Najee met Andrea Wallace, a member of Kirk Franklin’s ‘Kirk Franklin & The Family,’ while performing at the Dallas Convention Center early in 2015. “She sang a song with me onstage and blew the audience away,” the multi-instrumentalist recalls. Najee knew Wallace was the perfect voice to deliver the show-stopping number “Give It All We’ve Got,” which the duo shared hands in writing along with Dean Mark, Gareth Brown and Mark Walker.
Najee joins forces with keyboardist Robert Damper for the album’s seductive R&B ballad and title track. The duo go back to their days at the New England Conservatory of Music. “We have been friends ever since. He is a native of Seattle, WA and attended the same High School as Kenny G. He has been Kenny’s keyboardist and musical director for well over 30 years.” The edgy, syncopated, percussion driven and funk-laced “Spectrum,” follows and Najee enlists support from Pieces Of A Dreams’ keyboardist supreme James Lloyd for the Ahmad Aladeen composition “Jannah.” The playful and synergistic interplay between Najee and Lloyd take listeners on an intimate musical journey as the duo stretch out and take flight. Their riveting performance is the perfect way to conclude You, Me And Forever.
With the release of You, Me, and Forever, Najee concludes, “Making music at this point in my career is still exciting and I am always evolving. As a musician the love of performing for people whether in studio or live is still a gratifying experience. The best feeling to me is presenting something new to the world!”
Joss Stone has been obsessed with soul music since she was a little girl. By the time she was in her early teens she had begun to intuitively hone her now trademark gravelly-but-lustrous vocals by singing along to Aretha’s Franklin’s Greatest Hits. She began pursuing a singing career at thirteen, securing a record deal at 15, and recording her star-making debut album, The Soul Sessions, which was released in 2003. 10 years on from those stunning debut sessions, Joss decided to bring things full circle and revisit where it all began - with her follow up to that multi million selling debut The Soul Sessions Volume 2. A stunning exercise in vocal poise, passion and power, the album was well received globally and charted in the Top 20 both in the UK and in the US, garnering some of the best her reviews for many years. 2014 will see her complete work on her seventh studio album and start out on her most ambitious project to date – the Total World Tour.
The Total World Tour kicked off in April 2014 with gigs already completed in Morocco, Dubai, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Australia and New Zealand amongst others, and sees Joss embarking her most ambitious project to date – her aim is to play a concert in every country on the planet. In each country Joss aims to collaborate with local homegrown musicians, playing indigenous music as well as her own songs. Joss will also work with a variety of good causes and learn about important humanitarian and environmental issues throughout the trip. (The Lesotho visit saw an amazing collaboration with HRH Prince Harry’s charity, Sentebale). Each gigs may vary in size along the way- from a stadium concert in Sydney to an acoustic jamming session on one of Burma’s unknown beaches. The second leg of the tour starts in July 2014 with a show in Lebanon, and goes on to take in 13 European countries from Spain, France and Germany to Croatia, Czech Republic and Hungary.
Following her critically acclaimed arrival on the music scene in 2003 (which preceded the plethora of soul-inspired female artists that came along in her wake) things took off for Joss in an enormous way. Her second record, 2004’s Mind Body & Soul capitalized on The Soul Sessions’ commercial momentum and critical adoration and earned Stone three Grammy nominations, including one for Best New Artist. It also spawned a self-penned UK Top 10 single, “You Had Me”, and earned her Two Brit Awards that same year. Her third album, 2007’s Introducing Joss Stone, was a more independent, less packaged effort, on which Joss further showcased her songwriting abilities, and revealed the singer had truly been embraced by the American audience when it crashed into the US charts at No.2, marking the highest debut ever for a female British solo artist on the Billboard charts. With over 12 million album sales to date and a wealth of experience under her belt, including recent collaborations on record with the likes of Dave Stewart and Mick Jagger (some of her most recent musical adventures), 2012 seemed the right time to return to the Soul Sessions template.
In her short young life and already long career, Joss has performed onstage with the likes of James Brown, Gladys Knight, Solomon Burke, Blondie, Smokey Robinson and Melissa Etheridge among many others. She’s contributed to albums by Jeff Beck and Ringo Starr, played the Super Bowl pre-game show, performed on the Grammy’s, - and indeed won a Grammy herself! In her twenty-five years she’s participated in more moments of absolute musical wonder than most people can hope for in an entire lifetime. And she’s approached it all with a sense of independence and joie de vivre. Stone has always been a bit of a rebel, whether she’s dancing barefoot onstage or dyeing her hair various colors or speaking out on issues she’s passionate about, part of what her fans love about her is that she’s a free-spirit, following her own instincts at all times.
The past few years have seen further albums: 2009’s ‘Color Me Free’ and 2011 saw two releases – Joss’ own debut album release on her label Stone’d Records, ‘LP1’, (written and recorded with Dave Stewart) and a collaboration project, ‘Superheavy’, with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Damien Marley and AR Rahman, and latterly Soul Sessions 2.
Despite some of the dramas that have followed or beset Stone in her short life so far, it is her approach to music - intuitive and freeform – merged with the backdrop of nearly a decade of hard-earned experience in the industry – that characterises the Stone mindset. If she wants to do something badly enough she gets it done, no matter what the obstacles – but only if she’s having fun along the way. And the upcoming Total World Tour should be certainly be fun, as well as challenging and - rather like her life and career so far – one hell of a ride!
As Stone herself puts it “My mission is to explore and understand the universal language of music in every country on the planet. The tour will be tiring and tough and I know at times very emotional but it will be a truly amazing journey and of discovery and one hell of a ride.”
Joss Stone’s Total World Tour continues with its second leg in July 2014. Stone is currently completing work on her 7th studio album.
Kayode Ajayi is a multi-talented music professional, more commonly known across the globe as Kayomusiq. He has created a niche for himself in the music and movie industry both in Nigeria and the United States.
For years, Kayode has left an indelible imprint on the music industry, expanding his creativity to a wide range of music styles from afro-beats to world music. Kayode has played, produced, and mixed tracks for many different bands and artists, from The Nobles, Lara George, Naija Sings, Eric Idols, Styl Plus, Bolade, Cohbams, Blessing Ali, and Suki Yaki. His fervor for musical arrangement and production technique led him to start his own music studio, KRYSTAL STUDIO LIMITED in 2008.
Kayode has had the honor of being the recipient of The Nollywood & African Film Critic's Award for best sound for the movie Boxing Day. This award is also referred to as NAFCA, the African Oscar award. Today, he has an impeccable list of accolades under his belt, including scoring and designing sound for Ayo Makun's multimillion-dollar movie, "A Trip to Jamaica." This movie was ranked the second highest grossing Nigerian film in 2016. He was involved in the production and creation of the "Blessed" Album, by Blessing Ali and more recently "Welcome to Afrotown" by Sukiyaki.
Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Kayode earned his Bachelors of Music in Music Production and Engineering from the prestigious Berklee College of Music with distinction.
Kayode's love for music began at an early age. His curiosity for rhythm and melodies encouraged him to start learning the piano on a plank of wood with the keys drawn on. When he finally found a two-octave piano in his estate, his passion impelled him to learn the piano on his own.
Artists such as Michael Jackson and Fela Kuti inspired Kayode in his development and through their sounds, he was able to discover his own. Because of his ability to stay ahead of the curve as a multi-instrumentalist with a versatile sound he has been sought by many musicians on collaborative music projects.
Kayode has a keen interest to use music as a platform to bring awareness to issues close to home and around the world. His most recent creative endeavor was his project "Praying For Peace," which was birthed during the tumultuous time of kidnapping and terror wreaked on Nigeria in 2014 by Boko Haram.
He does not like to classify music according to a genre; instead, he looks for authenticity. He believes that art that is genuine wins, and art that isn't does not.
Presently, Kayode runs his own record label and continues to follow his passion of building up artists who share his passion for music. He hopes to bring authentic African music to a larger audience in the United States.
Kevin Turner got his professional start playing jazz at the age of 16 in Columbus, Ohio. Over the years, he’s toured and/or recorded with a number of artists, including Ray Charles, Dr. John, and Diane Schuur. For the past 10 years, Kevin has performed regularly with Kirk Whalum. As a solo artist, Kevin’s debut gospel jazz project of hymns entitled “Him” garnered a Stellar Award nomination.
A Memphis native, Marcus Finnie graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. While in college he recorded a Grammy winning song with Smokie Norful,and Grammy nominated T.D. Jakes, Vickie Winans and Donnie McClurkin. Over the years, he has worked and toured with Donna Summer, Billy Preston and Larry Carlton overseas. He has performed with Lalah Hathaway, Chuck Wicks, Gerald Albright, India Arie, Aaron Neville, CeCe Winans and several others. His art has taken him around the world touring with Country super group, Lady Antebellum, Earl Klugh and Kirk Whalum.
The Sound of Souls, Mind, Body & Spirit blended with tasteful Rhythm Inspired by nature’s own music, that offers unreserved reverence, we sing forth a new sound, blended “JazzFusion” with African elements to give a distinct rhythmic flow.
A group of experienced musician knocking on the door of creativity to open a new realm of un-parallel sound, breaking boundaries and re-defining conventions.
Truly African, Truly Nigerian based in Lagos Nigeria, they have performed in several shows, they also cater to dance music and its modern trends in the entire music Industry, especially corporate organization, social events such as weddings etc.
“The World will always stand and applaud the man that knows where he is going in life, “we have come thus far by the grace of God, its been indeed a long road to freedom, we all started playing music at a tender age with the aim of passing it to the next generation.