The 2017 Artists
2018 Artist page coming soon!
In a career that spans seven solo albums and countless collaborations in the studio and live on stage, Florida native Mindi Abair has made her mark on a broad stretch of the musical landscape that includes jazz, pop, rock, R&B, soul, funk and more. The powerhouse saxophonist/vocalist has made scores of friends along the way and earned the respect of top-shelf artists representing every one of the aforementioned genres.
Abair received her first GRAMMY® nomination in 2014 in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns, a #1 recording with her friends Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot. In 2015, she received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for her solo CD Wild Heart.
Several of Abair's friends join her on Wild Heart, her most recent studio album that includes guest performances by – and songwriting collaborations with – Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Booker T. Jones, Keb' Mo', Trombone Shorty, Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel and others. On this album, Abair plunges headlong into vintage rock and soul territory, harkening back to the days when saxophone was as integral an instrument as the guitar in the early days of rock and soul.
The magna cum laude graduate of Berklee College of Music describes her creative philosophy with a sense of power and reach. "I've recorded, toured and collaborated with so many artists representing so many styles of music," Abair says. "I'm the luckiest person in the world to be surrounded by such talent and true artistry. I don't care about labels or boundaries or preconceptions with music. I just want to play and create and keep moving forward."
If you’ve ever seen Rick Braun perform, you know what a high-energy entertainer he is. But ask him to talk about his career and the gregarious, charismatic musician-songwriter-producer becomes visibly uncomfortable and awkwardly quiet. “The collective moments are one big unfolding story that’s still not done. I just sit back and be grateful to still be making music with friends,” says the humble trumpeter-flugelhorn player-vocalist, a consistent chart-topper who has amassed a catalogue of No. 1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart and radio hits throughout his solo career that began in earnest in 1992.
One of those memorable moments for Braun occurred twenty years ago at influential Los Angeles radio station 94.7 The Wave with friend and fellow contemporary jazz star Peter White. The two had a hit from Braun’s 1994 breakthrough release Beat Street entitled “Club Harlem,” a horn and nylon string guitar duet. It was a track that came at a time when both artists were being propelled from being first-call sidemen to solo recording artists. Braun recalls turning to his frequent collaborator and asking, “How long do you think we’ll be able to keep doing this?”
Looking at his diverse, award-winning career that spans jazz, pop and rock, the Allentown PA native says, “There have been many great moments with so many great artists in the studio and live.” Co-writing the Top 20 pop hit “Here With Me” for REO Speedwagon was his entry, and the gifted horn player became a highly-respected sideman touring and recording with Rod Stewart, Sade, Tina Turner, Natalie Cole and Tom Petty, before committing to his solo career in 1994. Braun's fifteenth and latest solo CD, released in 2014, is Can You Feel It.
Braun has not only crafted his own definitive hits that have been radio staples since the ‘90s, but he’s produced No. 1 hits for David Benoit, Marc Antoine and former Rod Stewart band sidekick Jeff Golub. He’s achieved collaborative success on massive hits with Boney James, as a member of RnR with saxman Richard Elliot, and with BWB, a powerhouse trio completed by Grammy® winners Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown. His enthusiasm for collaboration carries over to his concert schedule. Not only is he a popular headliner on his own, but Braun regularly shares the spotlight touring with BWB and as part of Jazz Attack, comprised of the trumpeter along with Peter White and Euge Groove.
Saxophonist Richard Elliot, born in Glasgow, Scotland and raised in Los Angeles, released his 17th solo album Lip Service during his 30th year for blowing audiences away with his soulfully robust playing. Elliot collaborated with two-time GRAMMY Award-winning producer Paul Brown on the project which includes seven all new original compositions and three choice covers of soul and pop hits.
“It’s not a radical departure,” Elliot says with a chuckle, “just a softer edge. The intensity is still there, just channeled in a different way. I’ve been madly in love with my wife Camella for over 20 years (courtship and marriage combined). Romance has always been an important part of our relationship. With five children, there’s never a dull moment in our home but we always take time away for us…something we never had to work at. It just gets better every year - and that’s not Lip Service!”
Slow burning intensity has been Richard Elliot’s stock-in-trade since debuting as a member of the novel Chapman Stick-based quartet Kittyhawk in 1979 at the age of 19. A former member of the classic soul band Tower of Power, with influences ranging from Grover Washington, Jr. to John Klemmer, Elliot’s broad range of saxual expression knows no bounds. He has topped charts and toured the world as a leader as well as with the innovative groups Guitars & Saxes (often with Peter White), RnR with Rick Braun, and GRAMMY nominated Summer Horns with Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Dave Koz. It’s the unabashed excitement from concert fans that drives him to this day.
Looking back on the 16 solo projects that led up to Lip Service, Elliot concludes, “I’ve never counted my albums. Recording is a fun yet arduous process… but I never get tired of playing live. I always say I play my concerts for free and get paid for everything else I have to do the other 23 hours of the day! It’s a privilege to play music for a living…and I never take a gig for granted.”
Born Steven Eugene Grove in Hagerstown, Maryland, Euge Groove has been called upon for his saxophone prowess by everyone from Tina Turner and Luther Vandross to Joe Cocker, Richard Marx, Tower of Power and Huey Lewis, among countless others. A road warrior, Euge stays at the top of his game by maintaining a busy touring schedule. "I love live performance, which is probably pretty obvious to anyone that has seen me live," shares the energetic saxman.
Euge's latest CD release, Got 2 Be Groovin', includes nine originals and one cover, with guest appearances by guitarists Peter White and Paul Brown, and vocalists Elliot Yamin and Chanel Haynes. "On a sonic level, I try to capture the space of a live performance when I record. I try to envision what the sound would be if it was playing on a theater or small venue stage," states Euge.
In an industry where artists are consistently put in a box and categorized, Euge Groove remains an artist who chooses to continually push the boundaries and let his music go where his heart leads, concocting a timeless organic groove of jazz, pop, R&B, gospel, funk and soul. "Good music is good music, no matter what," the graduate of the University of Miami's School of Music states. Euge's open heart and ears have led the free-spirited saxophonist, composer, producer and radio host to the top of the charts multiple times, resulting in thirteen number 1 hits.
Over the years, Peter White has maintained a reputation as one of the most versatile and prolific acoustic guitarists on the contemporary jazz landscape. Armed with an unparalleled combination of lyricism and energy, the artist born in Luton, a small town north of London, combines elements of jazz, pop and classical guitar to create a sound that is singular and at the same time accessible to a broad audience.
In a career that spans nearly four decades, over a dozen solo recordings and countless performances, White insists that it’s the faces in the crowd and the fans that keep the experience fresh. “I’ll play a live show, and someone will come to me afterward and say, ‘Oh, I loved this CD,’ or ‘This song helped me through a bad time,’” he explains. “Or I get emails from people saying, ‘Oh, I love the way you covered one of my favorite songs on your record back in 1994.’ The idea that someone can write me an email and tell me about something I did on a record that was released fifteen years ago – you can’t buy that. That’s priceless. That’s what keeps me going – the idea that people out there really care about what I do, the idea that I’ve made a difference for someone."
White's latest CD, Smile, is his fourteenth solo recording. It consists of ten original tracks and features special guests Mindi Abair, Rick Braun, Euge Groove, and Philippe Saisse. The proud father also includes daughter Charlotte playing violin on one song.
Blending the incredible jazz gospel vibe of Jonathan Butler and Kirk Whalum and the melodic and funk sensibilities of Brian Culbertson with a dynamic and innovative keyboard style all his own, rising star Nicholas Cole helps usher in the next generation of contemporary jazz artists. Having played piano and organ in church since the age of four, the Goldsboro, North Carolina native brings a unique variety of secular and spiritual musical influences to his performances. Quickly recognized for his gifts while attending Rhema Christian Academy, the pianist was asked by the principal to become the official musician for all school events, and he frequently performs at Mt. Zion Church Ministries in Goldsboro.
Quickly making a name for himself as a studio musician, Cole has recorded with artists Brian Simpson, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, Marcus Anderson, Lebron, Lin Rountree, and Julian Vaughn. However, he is now breaking through as a live solo artist, often performing as part of Generation neXt with Lin Rountree and Lebron. His 3rd and latest CD, Night Sessions, featuring the radio hit "Mary Ann," provides the listener the opportunity to recognize Nicholas' influences of Stevie Wonder, Brian Culbertson, and Alex Bugnon, while developing an appreciation for this high energy talent who is clearly part of the future of smooth jazz.
Rising star Lin Rountree began playing the trumpet in Alexandria, Virginia when he was just 11 yrs. old and frequently attended music development programs at The Duke Ellington School for performing arts in Washington DC. Upon his graduation, Lin was recruited into the Music program at Florida A&M University where he performed with the famed Marching 100’. After his graduation and after several stops around the country, he found his home in Detroit, a city with a rich tradition in R&B, Soul and Jazz music, and played in several top 20 Motown bands before founding his first group, "Up Close." In 2012, Rountree appeared in the film "Sparkle" starring Whitney Houston which led to him headlining his first solo show in early 2013 at the Dubai International Jazz Festival and being signed to a recording contract with Trippin N' Rhythm Records.
Lin cites trumpeters Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, and Tom Browne as huge influences on both his playing and writing styles. Soulfunky, his fifth and latest studio CD, is filled with hard driving funk-laden grooves, soulful melodies, and lush production. All in all, Soul-Jazz trumpeter Lin Rountree and his music represent a new direction in instrumental soul. A polished recording artist, an outstanding live performer, and a thankful musician, Rountree is a leader amongst a new generation of smooth jazz artists.
6’7” lead bass player from Kansas City, rising star Julian Vaughn grew up in the church where his grandfather pastored until turning over the reins to Vaughn’s father. Like other kids at the church, he began his music career playing the drums, but says, “Trying to play the drums at church was like ten football players going after a fumble. Everyone wanted to play.” Years went by and the fight over the drums got old. At 15 Vaughn decided to try a different instrument. He picked up a bass guitar that another man in his church was playing and immediately fell in love. When Vaughn was 19 his grandfather bought him a 6-string bass guitar. He discovered the art of bass soloing and knew at that point it was more than just a hobby but was his life’s passion. “My friends use to get on me because I would stop playing the bass line and start soloing,” he remembers.
Influenced by artists Wayman Tisdale and Marcus Miller, Vaughn has performed at notable jazz festivals such as the Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Catalina Island Jazz Festival, Big Bear Lake Festival and the Dubai International Jazz Festival. His fourth studio album, Limitless, includes the radio hit "Ride Along" and features appearances by Darren Rahn, Elan Troutman, and Althea Rene. He stays current on industry trends but doesn’t try to write music to fit the radio format. “ I know what flavor works in the music industry but I don’t write my material based on that. I write from my heart," said Vaughn. “Music is my everything that’s why I love doing what I do,” he said. Vaughn is prepared to be a torch bearer, ready to lead the charge of fresh and innovative young talent preparing to take C-Jazz into its new future.
Saxophonist Tom Braxton, a Lubbock, Texas native who calls Dallas/Ft. Worth home, has performed for audiences nationally and internationally for nearly two decades. After graduating as valedictorian from his high school, Tom attended Texas Tech University on track and music scholarships, graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Music/Performance degree. He has recorded eight solo albums, his latest The Next Chapter featuring Peter White, Bob James, Earl Klugh and Ricky Lawson. Tom toured extensively throughout the world with the late Wayman Tisdale for 17 years, serving as Wayman's Musical Director for 10 years, and he has been a featured performer and fan favorite on The Smooth Jazz Cruise since 2005. He has shared the stage with many great artists including Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Peter White, Brian Culbertson, Marcus Miller, Candy Dulfer, Euge Groove, Warren Hill, Bob James, George Duke, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Golub, Norman Brown, Earl Klugh, Keiko Matsui, Sheila E., Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross and Phillip Bailey.
Bassist Tim George was raised in Manhattan, Kansas where he began playing the drums at age 6 but was always drawn to the sound of the bass. One day in a garage band jam session, there were too many drummers but no bass players, and the rest is history! Graduating with a Music Education degree from Kansas State University studying classical acoustic bass, Tim has been teaching elementary school music in Pinellas County, Florida for almost 30 years when not playing music professionally. Some of the artists that he has performed with include Mel Torme, Ray Charles, Bobby Caldwell, Chuck Loeb, Jeff Lorber, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Kim Waters, Mindi Abair, Nick Colionne, Euge Groove, Paul Taylor and Peter White. Music has always been a driving force in Tim's life and that force is as strong as ever.
Guitarist Randy Jacobs was born in San Francisco and raised in Detroit where he learned to play guitar and bass, but now calls Los Angeles his home. Randy has performed and/or recorded with numerous artists, including Seal, BB King, Tears for Fears, Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Mindi Abair, Brian Simpson, Peter White, Euge Groove, the Staple Singers, Bonnie Raitt, Brook Benton, Ron Banks and the Dramatics, Alicia Myers, Ray Parker and Raydio, Richard Elliot, Warren Hill, Michael Henderson, the Boneshakers, Don Was and Was (Not Was), Willie Nelson, Paula Abdul, and many more. When not out on the road or on The Smooth Jazz Cruise electrifying audiences with his unique style of guitar, Randy's hobbies include spending quality time with his girl and basketball.
Drummer Dave Reinhardt was born in Washington, DC and lived there until moving with his family (and brother Ron) to his current home of Clearwater, Florida prior to the 8th grade. Touring with Richard Elliot for over 10 years, Dave has also performed with other numerous contemporary jazz artists, including Peter White, Rick Braun, Mindi Abair, Jeff Golub, Euge Groove, Paul Taylor, Steve Cole, Jackiem Joyner, Nick Colionne and Jeff Kashiwa, and has played on countless studio sessions. Dave's versatility has also enabled him to perform with other diverse artists such as Nat Adderley, Jeff Berlin, Slash (of Guns 'n' Roses), Chick Corea and Rick Derringer.
Keyboardist and Musical Director Ron Reinhardt was born in Salisbury, MD and currently resides north of Tampa, Florida. Ron has had the good fortune of working with virtually everyone in the Smooth Jazz world (including his brother Dave) and has been a member of Richard Elliot's band since 1992, touring throughout the world. A well-recognized musician on The Smooth Jazz Cruise, he has worked with artists including David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, George Duke, Wayman Tisdale, Chris Botti, Candy Dulfer, Rick Braun, Peter White, Mindi Abair, Euge Groove, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, Nick Colionne, Jeff Golub, Warren Hill, Paul Taylor, Eric Darius, Craig Chaquico, Marc Antoine, Rick Derringer, Jeff Berlin and many others. In the late 80's and early 90's, Ron toured with Donny Osmond and served as Music Director in 1990-2 before joining Richard Elliot. His song "Sly," which appeared on Elliot's 2004 Ricochet CD, reached #2 on the national R&R Chart, and Ron's current solo CD, aptly entitled From The Shadows, was released in 2012.