Today’s mix is based on the “six degrees of separation” theory. If you are unfamiliar with the theory, it posits that anyone and anything can be connected within six steps or less. The theory took on some fame when it was used to connect actor Kevin Bacon to any other actor using six steps or less. For the purposes of today’s post, I’m using it to connect smooth jazz trumpeter Rick Braun to bassist Nathan East, through some smooth jazz songs. The audio introduction above gives a brief description of what I have planned for today, but if you can’t hear or play it, just read along.
Today’s featured songs are:
- Rick Braun, “Notorious”
- Boney James, “Stone Groove”
- Joe Sample, “Melodies Of Love”
- The Crusaders, “Soul Caravan”
- Larry Carlton, “Hello Tomorrow”
- Fourplay, “Still The One”
- Nathan East (featuring Chick Corea), “Shadow”
If you can’t hear all the songs included in the YouTube playlist, the above listing can help you seek out the songs you aren’t able to listen to.
A few notes about today’s songs, and how they connect: Trumpeter Braun has been a smooth jazz mainstay for the last twenty-five years or so; today’s song is featured from his 1996 album, Body And Soul. Incidentally, Braun released a new album on February 24th entitled Around The Horn, and I like it a lot.
Featured on “Notorious” with Braun is smooth jazz superstar Boney James. James has also been around for a long time in the format, and has also worked together with Braun on the album Shake It Up, billed to both artists. “Stone Groove” is taken from James’ 2004 album Pure, the first album that James produced himself. James also happens to be my mother’s favorite saxophonist at the moment. Take that for whatever you will.
Featured on “Stone Groove” with James is the late keyboardist Joe Sample. Sample made his name with the group that follows him in this playlist, The Crusaders. Today’s song, “Melodies Of Love,” is from Sample’s first solo album, released in 1978. The tune is regarded as one of the artist’s signature songs.
Sample’s solo career ran parallel to his main band, and in 1975 they released one of their most highly-regarded albums, Chain Reaction. From that album, I’ve chosen the Sample composition “Soul Caravan.” Just sit back and groove awhile to that lovely tune, featuring the horn section of Wilton Felder on sax, and Wayne Henderson on trombone.
Guitarist Larry Carlton made his name as a member of The Crusaders, and it’s his guitar that you hear on “Soul Caravan.” Prior to joining in with the venerable soul-jazz group, he had released a few solo albums, though his solo career really began to pick up steam in the 1980s. He was also one of the most in-demand session guitarists for other groups, most notably Steely Dan. From his 1986 album, Discovery, I chose “Hello Tomorrow,” one of my favorites by the guitarist.
Once Lee Ritenour left the smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay, his seat in the band was filled by Carlton. Carlton stayed with the band for seven albums, released from 1998-2008, when he was replaced by Chuck Loeb on Fourplay’s Let’s Touch The Sky album from 2010. Today’s choice, “Still The One,” is from Carlton’s first Fourplay album, 4. It’s the group at its best, and it shows Carlton seamlessy fitting in with the group.
The final step in the six degrees of separation brings us to Nathan East, who teams with fusion pioneer Chick Corea on the song “Shadow.” The song comes from East’s second solo album, Reverence, which was released earlier this year. East has been playing bass for over 40 years, but hadn’t released a solo project until his in 2014. He has worked with many of the best in the business, and has a co-writing credit on Philip Bailey and Phil Collins’ hit song “Easy Lover.”
Thanks for listening and reading, and I hope you enjoy this mix of tunes whenever you get around to hearing it.