Charles Jenkins’ single ‘Grace’ emerges on gospel music charts

Chicago-based artist Charles Jenkins‘ latest finger-snapper, “Grace” (Inspired People/Empire), boasts an old school Motown sample, the sonorous singing of Fellowship Chicago and a dynamic vocal assist from Le’Andria Johnson. Last week, the inspiring, mid-tempo track debuted in the Top 20 on both the Billboard Magazine Gospel Airplay (No. 19) and the Mediabase Gospel Airplay (No. 18) charts. The song anchors Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago’s highly anticipated and, as yet, untitled third album which is expected to release in either the 4th quarter of 2017 or the first quarter of 2018.

The song hits iTunes and all major digital service providers on July 7. The success of “Grace” comes on the heels of Charles Jenkins opening Bishop T.D. Jakes’ bi-annual MegaFest conference with a rousing performance of the song last week in Dallas, where he taught it to an ecstatic audience of thousands. A few days before, Jenkins headlined WLOU 104.7 FM and 1350 AM’s annual SummerFest concert in Louisville, KY. “He just shut the park down,” says WLOU Program Director, Brodric Purvis in a news release. “It was his first time performing in this market and he really gave Louisville a great concert that they will never forget.”

In another career first, prior to jumping on a plane to head to the aforementioned event in Kentucky, Jenkins commanded the stage at Mamby on the Beach in Chicago. The electronic dance music festival drew 30,000 dance music fans to the city’s lakefront and featured EDM superstars such as MGMT, Flying Lotus, Misterwives and Sir the Baptist. Jenkins and his music crew opened the Saturday festivities with an energetic, rousing noon-day program of his urban-flavored tracks such as “Winning,” “Reach for the Sky” and a club rendition of his signature song, “Awesome,” which spent 24 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart in 2012. The spectacular set has already earned Jenkins an invitation to perform at next year’s event.

Guitarist Molly Miller strikes out on her own in new project

Dr. Molly Miller

Since she picked up a guitar at age seven, Dr. Molly Miller has been captivating audiences with performances that display a talent for entertaining and effortless musicianship seemingly well beyond her years. Now 28 – and the youngest Chair of a University Guitar department in the country – Miller has become one of Los Angeles’ most sought-after musicians, touring the world with superstars such as Jason Mraz and The Black Eyed Peas. In her debut album as a leader, The Shabby Road Recordings, due out this month, Miller heads a trio that includes the all-star rhythm section of Jay Bellerose (B.B. King, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt) and Jennifer Condos (Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks).

The album’s joyful, groove-based instrumentals bring a wealth of musical talent to reimagine popular songs spanning genres and eras, from “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino and “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me” by Smokey Robinson, to “Innocent When You Dream” by Tom Waits. The album’s repertoire was formed organically, over months at the trio’s weekly gig at L.A.’s Perch.

“It was thrilling and humbling to work alongside Jay and Jen – two legendary instrumentalists – to distill these timeless songs to their essence,” says Miller in a news release.

Miller – who received her doctorate in music from University of Southern California – became the youngest Guitar Chair in the country at the same time that she maintained a busy touring and recording schedule with top pop, indie, and jazz artists.

The Shabby Road Recordings came about in a rather spontaneous way – the three musicians would regularly get together to play and one day decided to record in the spur of the moment. The album’s opener “Gimme A Little Sign” (as popularized by Brenton Wood) stems from that first living room session and it captures a spirit that pervades the album – joyful, groove-based instrumental music that recalls a bygone era of such luminaries as Booker T and the MG’s, The Ventures, and Duane Eddy.

The emotional center of the album comes from their touching rendition of the Jackson Brown via Velvet Underground and Nico song “These Days.” Long regarded as a seminal track, “These Days” has been with Miller since she was in high school consuming a steady diet of Velvet Underground and Nico records.

Summer of ’96 showcases originality of jazz/hip-hop fusion

The summer of 1996 was a turning point for singer/rapper/producer Lonnee Stevens and composer/producer Antman Wonder. Not only did the remarkable music of the time point them in the direction of their future careers, but it was the moment when both men took their first steps in the transition from avid fans to creators. Joining forces for the first time as Summer of ’96, Stevens and Antman draw inspiration from the individuality and innovation of that foundational year to discover new pathways into the juncture of hip-hop, jazz and R&B on their debut album, Splendid Things Gone Awry, available July 21 via Unsociable Music/RED.
“1996 was the coming of age for music for my generation,” says Stevens in a news release, citing particularly hip-hop’s unparalleled flowering but also an impressive year for inventive rock music: Sublime’s self-titled debut, DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…, Beck’s Odelay, and countless others. “Everything sounded so new, just as we were coming of age as creative people.”
Although the fusion of jazz and hip-hop reached a pinnacle in the mid-’90s, the two musics had been intertwined since hip-hop’s beginnings. The always forward-looking Herbie Hancock was one of the earliest pioneers, pointing the way to the future with his 1983 smash hit “Rockit.” As Antman puts it, “One begat the other. Jazz influenced hip-hop majorly, especially in the Golden Era. Hip-hop introduced me to Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and [producer] David Axelrod through the music that was sampled when I was growing up by people like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Just Blaze.”
Hancock’s former boss, Miles Davis, was of course at the forefront as well, collaborating with producer Easy Mo Bee for his final album, Doo-Bop. Hip-hop producers sampled jazz grooves and melodies from the beginning, including Gang Starr’s “Words I Manifest,” which sampled Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia,” and UK-based Us3’s ubiquitous 1993 hit “Cantaloop,” built on the infectious hook from Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island.” Central to the Summer of ’96 idea are the efforts of the Native Tongues collective, a loose-knit group of hip-hop pioneers that included A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers and De La Soul (who released their direction-changing fourth album, Stakes Is High, that year).
Flash forward to today, when those artists’ innovations paved the way for a new generation of jazz/hip-hop fusion. Artists like Flying Lotus, Thundercat and Kamasi Washington are redefining the marriage of the two musics (among other influences) while leading rappers like Kendrick Lamar are finding new ways to draw upon jazz approaches.
Enter Summer of ’96, who don’t so much channel the music of their namesake year as they continue in its spirit of reinvention and individuality. Splendid Things Gone Awry is a rarity in the streaming age, a true album with a central mood and an experimental spirit. The duo built the album via a long-distance collaboration between California native Stevens’ Atlanta digs and Antman’s Philly base. The music is entirely original, using live instrumentation and no samples, with compositions created and played by Antman and restructured and adde onto by Stevens.
“Today everything is synthesized,” Stevens says, “but back then everything was sampled, and it was sampled from soul and jazz records. When we got together, we decided we wanted to make a record that sounds classic but using all original stuff.”

Burning Ghosts release ‘Reclamation’ now available

Burning Ghosts photo by Eron Rauch

According to a recent news release, Burning Ghosts is a politically motivated quartet at the forefront of the jazz-metal underground featuring four of the most acclaimed musicians in the L.A. experimental music scene. Playing scorching instrumentals that touch on heavy metal and jazz, the music is uncompromising and intense, filled with precise rhythmic complexity and textural power. Their first release on Tzadik is an incendiary blockbuster and is destined to become an instant classic!

‘Live from Jazz at the Bistro’ exhibits Sean Jones’ creative spark

The young jazz veteran trumpeter Sean Jones believes passionately in championing the creative arc of artists who are committed to their life journey.
“I think the progression of the art form [jazz] comes with people being allowed to be themselves in their rawest form with no compromise,” he noted and added, “My body of work is going to show a progression of who Sean Jones is in the most honest form.”
While he spoke these words a few years ago, they serve as a vivid manifesto for his new Mack Avenue Records album, Live from Jazz at the Bistro, his eighth for the label and arguably the most dynamic, playful and loose-limbed excursion of his career. Indeed, the 38-year-old Jones brings to the sessions a stalwart poise, the fire of ecstasy and a whimsy in motion. The album is now available for purchase.
“In a nutshell, I’ve been wanting to do a live album for a while,” he says in a news release. “I wanted to capture the band’s energy live and record what it’s like to go to one of my gigs. Granted, recording in a studio creates a polished sound where the music is all tied up. But this album, it’s real raw.”
Recorded at the St. Louis club Jazz at the Bistro, the seven-song album, produced by Al Pryor, features Jones presenting two versions of his band, as quartet and quintet, as they “hover on the bandstand between sobriety and intoxication,” he says. The longstanding quartet, comprising pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire has been together for 11  years.
“Having a band this long is really rare in jazz these days,” Jones says. “It’s really hard to do, but we have managed to keep playing together. When we play, it’s become like a conversation, like second nature.” The exception here is bringing in drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. on four tunes as a replacement for Calvaire, due to a scheduling conflict. On the four quintet tracks, Jones showcases another old friend and collaborator, alto and soprano saxophonist Brian Hogans.

Mitch’s Travel: MiiSTS, the ultimate spray for summer travel

 

Whether you’re flying, driving, pushing, carrying or even sometimes dragging your children around the world, plan smart travel strategies with the ultimate on-the-go spray. Perfect for sporting events, camping with the kids, the car, the office or even a trip to the beach, this ultra-slim, long-lasting spray will be virtually invisible in your pocket. The new standard for convenient travel packaging, MiiSTS allows you to carry your everyday items without the annoying bulge associated with round bottles.

Need a little spritz for your skin? Discover MiiSTS NEW Rose Water Facial Spray! Experience the delicate floral scent of real roses while you use it as a perfume, body splash or even combine in your own unique beauty formula!

Ideal to slip into pockets, golf bags, glove boxes, purses, boats, and even that stylish beach tote this summer, check out the different travel essentials from MiiSTS:

  • SPF 50 SunscreenWho needs sun protection? Everyone! Developed using the latest research and FDA guidelines, this greaseless formula is free of gluten and nut oils, making it the preferred sunscreen for children and people with sensitive skin. Ultra-portable and water resistant for up to 80 minutes, this is the go-to spray for any outdoor activity or summer event!
  • Natural Insect RepellantBug busting strength is a travel necessity! With an essential oil combination of lemongrass, cedar, citronella, and mint oils blended in a base of purified water and coconut oil, this repellent not only works great, but smells wonderful and leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth. All natural and travel-sized, take this sturdy spray when camping, hiking, fishing, or just hanging in the backyard!
  • Hand Sanitizer SprayLooking to stay germ-free all summer? Clean up your kiddo’s tiny, dirty hands with a strong, germ fighting tool – anytime, anywhere. Killing 99.9 percent of most common germs including MRSA, Influenza A and E. Coli, this spray isn’t just for hands! Unlike common sanitizers, MiiSTS can also be used for sterilizing ATM’s, dining tables, hotel remotes, or you can even wipe down that yoga mat or stinky shoes!

For more information, go to miists.com. MiiSTS are available on Amazon (with FREE shipping!) and select CVS stores, Cibo airport stores, Camping World, Flight 001, and independent stores/gift shops and on the miists.com order page.

Pop icon Seiko Matsuda’s first jazz project goes into high gear

With over 40 music awards, a record of 24 consecutive No. 1 single hits on Japan’s Oricon charts and several hits on the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart, Seiko Matsuda has been active internationally since 1980. Now, after six years of planning, Matsuda finally unveils her first jazz album Seiko Jazz (available via Verve).
Known as the “Eternal Idol” in Japan due to her long standing career as a pop culture icon, Matsuda has historically collaborated with jazz greats in the past while leaving a visible footprint within its scene. In 2011, famed producer Quincy Jones invited her to take part in his iconic, career spanning “Quincy Jones and the Global Gumbo All-Stars” concert at Los Angeles’ legendary Hollywood Bowl. The following year, Matsuda was a featured artist on the contemporary jazz supergroup Fourplay’s album Esprit de Four. Upon celebrating the 35th anniversary of her debut in 2015, she won the Japanese equivalent of a Grammy Award when she received Best Vocal Performance at the Japan Record Awards.
Seiko Jazz marks the critically acclaimed singer’s debut jazz album, produced by Shigeyuki Kawashima (the first Japanese jazz producer to receive a Grammy® Award) and arranged by Grammy Award-winning bandleader David Matthews. Matsuda is joined by Matthews’ Manhattan Jazz Orchestra to present standards such as “Smile” and “The Way We Were,” as well as the Bossa Nova staple “The Girl From Ipanema” in a way that showcases the cornerstones in the history of jazz.
“I am not only overjoyed to be able to release my album with Verve, but I also feel I have turned over a new leaf after 37 years,” Matsuda says via news release. “Holding this special appreciation to all of the people who have supported me throughout the my career, I only hope to become a better version of myself by constantly learning and taking on new challenges.”

UK’s Blossoms team with Chase & Status on ‘This Moment’

According to a news release, Blossoms have collaborated with fellow UK chart-toppers Chase & Status for a brand new track titled “This Moment,” out worldwide.

Following their much-lauded performances at Coachella and a main support run with Two Door Cinema Club last month, Blossoms will be returning to North American shores in June with a handful of headlining tour dates plus appearances at  Governor’s Ball in New York City and Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. They will return in August for Lollapalooza in Chicago. For a full list of tour dates, see below. For tickets, go to www.blossomsband.co.uk

The British five-piece, hailed as the year’s “biggest guitar-pop shooting stars” and “modernist rock heroes” by the NME and whose debut album recently went GOLD in their homeland, have also announced they will be performing at this year’s Glastonbury Festival on the Pyramid Stage, as well as supporting The Stones Roses, opening for them at the legendary Wembley Stadium in London this June.

Be sure to catch the band live at any of the following dates and listen to their critically acclaimed debut full-length on iTunesApple MusicSpotifyAmazon today.

Mitch’s Commercial Break: The Plastic Recycling Process

The Plastic Recycling Process

3D popup cards to reveal Billboard Music Award winners

dick clark productions and Lovepop announced in a news release that Lovepop will create original 3D popup cards to reveal the “2017 Billboard Music Awards” winners during the awards ceremony. Each card will be one-of-a-kind paper art, designed exclusively for the winning artist and unveiled by the award presenter. This special card reveal will replace the traditional envelope opening.

Lovepop, a maker of hand-crafted, intricately designed cards, is best known for its 3D paper sculptures. After appearing on “Shark Tank” in late 2015, Creators Wombi Rose and John Wise — along with the guidance of businessman and Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary — went on to launch a thriving business providing customers with artistic greetings that create an emotional and personal connection between two people.

In advance of the awards show, Lovepop, the Billboard Music Awards and Lovepop investor Kevin O’Leary invited ABC’s “Shark Tank” cameras back into the design studio to get an insider’s look at the process of drafting, sketching and prototyping the “2017 Billboard Music Award” winner cards. “Shark Tank” will show a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the “2017 Billboard Music Awards” cards on at 9 p.m. Eastern time / 6 p.m. Pacific time Friday, May 5 on ABC. The finished designs will be revealed for the first time to artists and fans during the “2017 Billboard Music Awards,” broadcast live at 8 p.m. Eastern time / 5 p.m. Pacific time May 21 on ABC.

For more information, visit www.billboardmusicawards.com or the Billboard hub at www.billboard.com/bbma.