Monday, December 21, 2009

Introducing our Artists - Danny Paradise

This is our final installment of "Introducing our Artists", and we are pleased to introduce Danny Paradise and his album River of the Soul.

“…a rare journey of diverse beauty and inspiration. Learn and enjoy!” - Sting

“Danny Paradise reflects his life through his music. An avid traveler, ashtanga yogi and teacher, his music tells the tales of mystical sunrises and houses made of bamboo. River of the Soul is organic, folky and interesting, with well-crafted circular melodies. Danny met his band while teaching Yoga in Nepal. Members from Nepal’s Karma and Prastar record six of the album’s tracks, accompanying Danny’s nylon string guitar with flute, violin, sitar and tablas. Other songs were recorded in Cairo with Dominic Miller, a multi-instrumentalist who works with Sting.

Speaking of Sting, Danny Paradise’s yoga students include Sting, Madonna, Eddie Vedder, Paul Simon and Mickey Hart! Paul Simon, Edie Brickell and Sting add a little bit of their magic to several tracks. The lyrical content is poetic, spiritual, even trippy! Portions of the CD’s proceeds go to Witness, a human rights organization that provides video cameras to document human rights abuses around the planet. Danny Paradise is a luminous citizen of the world, a traveler fully connected to the Source.” - Yoga Chicago

Danny has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga since May 1976 and teaching publicly (and occassionally privately) worldwide since 1979. He teaches all levels of students and teachers and was in one of the earliest groups of westerners to learn all the classical sequences of Ashtanga Yoga.

His first teachers were David Williams & Nancy Gilgoff. David was the first western Ashtanga adept. He began teaching with David Williams in 1979 and was asked to assist him at that time.

Danny introduces the forms to beginning students, experienced/adavanced practitioners and teachers. Many people he has taught are now themselves teaching and have their own schools. He’s also introduced the Ashtanga forms to many people who were Yoga teachers in other traditions and styles.

He’s taught numerous well known artists, musicians, dancers, sports champions and studied with K. Patabbhi Jois in 1978 in Hawaii and 1980 in Hawaii in the USA. This included K.P. Jois’s first advanced series public classes in 1980 which were in Maui, Hawaii.

He’s also studied and practiced with numerous teachers of other Yoga forms as well as various martial arts including Karate, Kung Fu and Tai Chi. His influences in Spirituality have come from Krishnamurti, teachings of Buddha, Jesus, Shiva, Yoga, as well as numerous Shamanic traditions of Native North and South Americans, from indigenous cultures of the Pacific, Tibet, Africa and South East Asia. Some of these traditions also include Mayan, Egyptian, Hawaiian…

Friday, December 18, 2009

Introducing our Artists - Dulcie Taylor

In continuation, we would like to introduce Dulcie Taylor with whom we have most recently released Diamond and Glass.

“I like to write on an immediate level,” says singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Dulcie Taylor. To me, art is communication.”

Delivered via a clear, supple voice and lyrics that are powerfully direct and down-to-earth, the 10 original songs on Mirrors and Windows –Taylor’s high energy second CD for Black Iris Records — beautifully reflect that sentiment.

Taylor’s new CD ranges from the Byrds-tinged “Blackberry Winter” to the roots rock ‘n roll “Seaboard Train,” from the smoky, blues-inflected “Woman I Used to Be” to the sweet, pure acoustic “Love Like Yours and Mine” and the haunting country-acoustic “Ice Melts.”

“Mirrors and Windows gave me the joy of exploring the musical styles I love, keeping them updated and fresh, and making them all work together,” Taylor says.

Throughout, Taylor continues her emphasis on strong, memorable melodies and mixing arrangements and sounds.
“I try to write songs that will stay in your mind, and I like to mix up the sounds to keep the CD interesting.”

On Mirrors and Windows, which was released in March, 2004, Taylor was helped by her label’s decision to record at the Signature Sounds studio in Palmer, MA, with Mark Thayer producing and Dulcie and long-time guitarist John Landau co-producing. It features Dulcie on vocals, guitar, dulcimer, and harmonica, and continues her interest in working with the best musicians around. Several of fine musicians support her on this CD: Rounder Records recording artist Duke Levine (of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s band) plays guitars and lap steel; Richard Gates (Suzanne Vega, Richard Thompson, Patty Larkin) plays bass; Lorne Entress on drums and percussion (Mighty Sam McClain, Susan Tedeschi) and Michael Bellar on Hammond B3 (Art Garfunkel).

Mirrors and Windows follows Taylor’s first Black Iris debut release (2002), Diamond & Glass, which received substantial airplay nationwide, charting at Album Network’s non-commercial AAA, and garnered rave reviews, such as:

“It shines exactly like its title, Diamond & Glass.” — Robert Oermann, Music Row

“Dulcie Taylor is a gifted writer; she also has a compelling voice which she employs with nuance and emotion.” — Kerry Dexter, Dirty Linen

“Taylor is a poet, a romantic” – Mike Joyce, The Washington Post

Mirrors and Windows has also received substantial airplay nationwide, reaching No. 7 on the Roots Rock Chart at Roots Music Report. Like Diamond & Glass, it has also been the TOP PICK MP3 at The Washington Post MP3 site. It has received wonderful critical response:

“Throughout, the writing is smart, witty, and heartfelt.” – Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, No Depression

“This album has it all.” – Victor Heyman, Sing Out!

“She writes from the heart, for the heart.” – Katy Hershberger, Washington Post MP3

At the Washington Area Music Association Awards ceremony ceremony in February 2003, Diamond & Glass won a Wammie (Washington Area Music Award) — Dulcie’s second in her career — being chosen as the Best Contemporary Folk Recording. Taylor was also chosen as a finalist in the Chris Austin songwriting contest at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC.

Taylor has shared the stage with a wide variety of acts – Asleep at the Wheel, Guy Clark, Steve Forbert, John Gorka, Richard Shindell, Livington Taylor, to name a few, performing at venues such as The Iron Horse, The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, and The Birchmere. She is also a writer of poetry and prose, and was elected to the Board of Directors of the Poetry Series at Washington, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library. The Folger attracts scholars from around the globe, and is also home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, as well as magnificent collections of other rare Renaisance books and manuscripts.

When asked about her strongest influences, Dulcie laughs and says, “The unknown boy at Myrtle Beach who wandered up on the porch where we were staying, sat on my ukulele and smashed it. I was 10 years old and devastated! That Christmas, Mother said ‘we’ll just get you something a little bigger’ and gave me a guitar.”

The biggest early influence on Taylor was simply being raised in a small community. “You’re in people’s faces a lot. That makes you look at the human situation very closely.” That perspective and experience has defined the things Dulcie holds precious in this world: “Most of life is made up of the day-to-day small things, so I try to see the beauty in them.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Introducing our Artists - Dudu Fisher

In continuation, we would like to introduce Dudu Fisher, and our release In Concert from Israel.

Dudu Fisher is known throughout the world for his stirring performance as Jean Valjean in the hit show “Les Miserables,” but his career began in his native country Israel many years before.

After three years of service in the Israel defense forces, Fisher studied at the Tel Aviv academy of music and studied privately with some of the great cantors of the previous generation. He was only 22 when he was invited to become the Cantor of the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv. Along with his synagogue duties, Fisher also traveled throughout the world, bringing traditional Hassidic, Yiddish and Cantorial music to new audiences.

During a trip to London in 1986, he happened to see a performance of the musical “Les Miserables.” It was an event that changed his life. When word was released of the show’s forthcoming production in Hebrew, Fisher knew that he had to audition for the show. The fact that he had absolutely no experience working in the theater did not deter him for a moment. In true Broadway musical fashion, the British director of the Israeli version, Stephen Pimlot, chose the inexperienced Fisher for the lead role of Jean Valjean. The rest is history. “Les Miz” became the longest running show in Israel and Fisher became a superstar.

His stardom is not limited to Israel. In 1988 he was invited to London to take part in a royal command performance hosted by the queen of England. The performance was a special version 0f “Les Miz,” featuring artists from the many “Les Miz” productions playing around the world. From there, the play’s producer, Cameron Mackintosh, invited Fisher to play the role of Jean Valjean on Broadway and London’s West End.

The role of Jean Valjean even took him to soccer’s world cup final at Wembly stadium, where he and four other “Valjeans” were invited to sing. Although Dudu Fisher is not the first Israeli actor to achieve success in the theater and musical world, Fisher did achieve a first of a different kind. As an observant Jew, he was the first actor on Broadway and the west end to be excused from performing on Friday nights, Saturday matinees and all Jewish holidays.

During his long career, Fisher has recorded over twenty albums. He sang the role of Moses in the Hebrew version of Stephen Spielberg’s “The Prince of Egypt.” He has sung with the Israel philharmonic orchestra, conducted by maestro Zubin Mehta, recorded an album of show tunes with the London symphony orchestra and has performed as well with the Baltimore and Queens symphony orchestras.

In addition to Britain’s royal family, he has performed for the Thai Royal Family and for President and Senator Clinton. He was the first Israeli artist allowed to sing in the Soviet Union in the days before Perestroika. His concerts there were attended by thousands of Jews thirsting for Jewish culture.

A particularly moving concert took place in his father’s hometown of Dubnow in the Ukraine. In the theater, Fisher has played leading roles in the productions of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Kol Nidre”, by Lalo Shifrin and Avi Koren, “Over The Rainbow”, and “Stairways to Heaven”. Fisher’s first one-man show “Never on Friday”, opened at Off-Broadway’s Jewish Repertory Theater in 1999. Lawrence Van Gelder of the New York times called the show… “A display of a vocal talent that resists confinement and is an explosion of religious faith that is reflected in the show’s title. Mr. Fisher possesses the spectrum of talent to make it work.”

From January to April of 2001, Dudu Fisher was seen on Israeli stages starring in “The Rothschilds”, a musical by Jerry Bock and Sherman Yellen. Shortly after, he was presented the “Liberty Award” at the Lower East Side Festival, which celebrates contributions to Jewish culture in America. In October of 2002, Dudu again thrilled his audiences with a one-man show, “Something Old, Something New”, which was written by Richard Jay-Alexander, Dudu’s Broadway “Les Miz” director. He opened to rave reviews. Victor Gluck of back stage wrote of fisher, “The energy that Fisher radiates on stage can light a small city”. Cheryl Kupfer of the Jewish press entitled her review, “Something Old, Something New-Something Awesome”. “He might just as well have called it Something for Everyone”, wrote Lawrence Van Gelder of The New York Times. Adding to Fisher’s accomplishments are his staring role in the film “The Road to Glory”, acting as host on an Israeli television series and appearing on innumerable radio and television programs throughout the world.

It is safe to say that Dudu Fisher has excelled in every aspect of his profession. He is happily married and the proud father of three children. Dudu’s fall 2004 one-man show “Dudu Fisher Coming to America” which features selections from “Fiddler on the Roof”, “The Jazz Singer” and “Yentl” recently toured in the United States. In Israel, Dudu brings back Yiddish and Klezmer music with an ongoing production for the Yiddishspiel Theater.

Audiences are thrilled by his latest show, “Jerusalem”. The tour of this show began in Jerusalem and he continues to travel through the states and europe with the production. He has recently completed filming a PBS special in the valley of Beit She’an in Israel. The premier airing of the program which took place in Florida in December of 2008 was a huge success. This PBS show will be aired nationwide in 2009.

From the opera house in Sydney Australia to Madison square garden in New York, from the Budapest Opera House to the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Dudu Fisher spends most of the year traveling around the globe bringing joy to millions of people.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Introducing our Artists - The Mermen

In our continuing effort to introduce ourselves, we are once again pleased to introduce you to our artist "The Mermen" with whom we have released At The Haunted House, Food For Other Fish, Kril Slippin’, and most recently The Amazing California Health And Happiness Road Show.

On his classic 1967 album Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix quipped “You’ll never hear surf music again,” thus ending an era of three minute, twangy, oceanic rhapsodies like “Pipeline” and “Stick Shift” and “Wipeout.” Hendrix’s soaring guitar instantly obliterated the past, making the world rife with fresh possibilities, and exiling the generic to the oldies bin. But sadly the Voodoo Chile didn’t stick around long enough to hear The Mermen, San Francisco’s premier psychedelic surf trio (who took their name from his song “1983 (A Merman I Shall Turn To Be).”

Jim Thomas, the band’s guitarist/composer sites surf lord Dick Dale, country rock Telecaster master Clarence White, gypsy jazzman Django Reinhardt, the amphetamine rush of punk rockers The Dead Kennedys and, of course, psychedelic guitar-god archetype Jimi Hendrix as the prime source of his inspiration. He formed The Mermen, an instrumental trio, in 1988 as a garage band that specialized in obscure surf nuggets from yesteryear. But in short time they developed their own sonic concoction of one part shimmering melody, one part trippy improvisation and one part hardcore overdrive garnished with plenty of chops to spare. “Two guys that instantly come to mind are Ravi Shankar and Neil Young. When you watch them play, they’re digging into that same place. Their music is completely different, but it’s that creative well, and that’s what I’m trying to get at,” states Thomas.

Jazz critic Ira Gitler once attempted to describe tenor saxophonist John Coltrane’s massive tone pouring out of his instrument as “sheets of sound.” If that’s the case, it could be said that The Mermen’s swelling guitar chords and thundering drums create a crescendo that truly captures “the swells of the ocean.” Unlike Beach Boy Brian Wilson who sat alone on the beach composing tomes to the surfing life, Thomas is the genuine article. When he’s not on stage, Jim can be found down at Half Moon Bay, riding the waves. He’s a genuine outgrowth of surf culture and communicates the lifestyle through his compositions. Championship surfers Ken Bradshaw and Grant Washburn both dig The Mermen, claiming the band makes “music that communicates to real surfers.”

With the release of their first CD Food For Other Fish in 1994, The Mermen’s popularity began to rise in Bay Area clubs while their disc crested at #3 on local station KUSF-FM. One year later, A Glorious Lethal Euphoria won the 1995 Bammie (Bay Area Music Award) for the “Outstanding Independent Album” of the year. Their name also appeared on several best of lists, including Guitar Player and Guitar World, while receiving accolades from Rolling Stone and Alternative Press. The band, which soon became the hottest ticket in the Bay Area, sold out shows at The Warfield Theatre and The Fillmore, while opening for everyone from David Byrne to Nancy Sinatra, from Rancid to Tiny Tim. This was followed by ’96’s six-song EP entitled Song Of The Cows, and a national tour that won the band critical praise in every corner of the country. And then, right when it seemed as if The Mermen were poised to explode in a major way, here was slence. To stay true to the ocean metaphors, there was a proverbial low tide in the band’s creativity. “It was a time for pulling back. I built a recording studio and began exploring new music,” says Thomas. “By refocusing, I was able to push it a bit further.”

The Mermen have now re-emerged ready for the next wave. The group’s latest disc The Amazing California Health & Happiness Road Show plunges you ears-first into a primordial swamp of sound (fins and all), and then takes you for a sultry sidestroke around the moon. Three years in the making, Jim Thomas has proven himself a truly charmed songwriter and composer, orchestrating The Mermen’s best album to date. Whether the band can recapture the success of previous years remains to be seen, but for Thomas when inspiration is flowing it’s worth the chase.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Introducing our Artists - Chris Standring

In order to properly introduce ourselves, we must let you know about our artists. We are pleased and honored to have released Groovalicious with Chris Standring.

“Groovalicious!” sounds like just the sort of thing Austin Powers might say if he heard the deliciously funky, ultra-hip and vibey, retro-jazz-soul flavors on Chris Standring’s long awaited follow-up to Hip Sway, his hit 2000 recording which defined the urban-minded contemporary jazz experience as we crossed millenniums.

Since the release of Velvet, his 1998 debut as a solo artist, The British born guitarist has titled his discs as a way of defining the places his creative muse has taken him. Velvet, whose single “Cool Shades” went Top 10 for over three months on Gavin/Radio & Records’ airplay charts, came at a time when Standring was into the ambient European phenomenon known as the “chill out movement.” The seductive moniker of Hip Sway, whose title track featuring sax great Richard Elliot peaked at #2 and was one of 2000’s most played songs, captured the retro-flavored, dance floor ready, funk-soul-jazz 60’s mindset explored by Standring with his bandmates Rodney Lee (keyboards), Dino Soldo (sax), Andre Berry (bass) and Dave Karasony (drums). The title of the 2001 U.K. and Europe only compilation release Shades of Cool is obviously self-perpetuating.

That fresh, hipswaying coolness and heavy pocket grooving seduces us into the Groovalicious experience as well, but with a mini time-traveling twist—its retro tastes move up a decade from Hip Sway, firmly into the deeper funk elements of the 70’s. With the exception of “Say What!”, a locomotive blues-oriented track reminiscent of Lee Morgan’s classic “Sidewinder” that recaptures that 60’s train of thought, the tracks on Groovalicious take the hottest retro sounds of the Me decade and fuse them with a very contemporary drum and bass foundation. Add to those some of Standring’s best compositions ever and the cool yet edgy string style he and his trademark Robert Benedetto arch top jazz guitar have become famous for, and it’s clearly time for some finger snapping, fast and slow dancing, and…whatever comes next with your dance partner.

“I try to make every record I do cohesive in a slightly different direction,” he says. “There’s always an overall vibe in what I’m trying to do. The 70’s vibe is the reference point here, but the fun was that we didn’t set out to make it that way, it just happened as I got together with the guys and started writing. We played the new tunes live and they just started moving in that direction. Many of them were written in a real old school fashion, beginning with me strumming chords on an acoustic guitar, humming melodies and writing them down on manuscript paper. I’d bring them to Rodney’s studio, and if he liked what he heard, he’d get working on the groove and we’d demo it. He’s a huge influence on my sound. All the guys in the band are part of this sonic architecture.

“The feel for the bass and drums is a bit thicker and deeper and the groove and horn arrangements show the inspiration of a lot of our favorite 70s funk acts like Parliament, Cameo, Ohio Players, Average White Band and, of course, Earth, Wind & Fire,” Standring adds. “We’re creating environments where I can develop my own playing style, and it’s great being open to new ideas each time out. I’ve never been interested in hashing the same things as I did the last time. Conventional wisdom says, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but I say, break it! It’s important to push the envelope and myself to the far edges while also keeping things accessible. It’s exciting to think of my fans out there, wondering where I’m going to go next. That keeps me inspired as well.”

Standring complements his tight ensemble on Groovalicious with standout guest stars on three key tracks. The easy moods of “Snowfall” feature the emotional duality of Standring’s lines with the smoky trumpet cool of smooth jazz superstar Chris Botti.

Lee creates gorgeous synth-symphonic textures for the vocal tune “Come Back Home,” a thumping R&B gem featuring 22 year old breakout talent Ashely Ta’mar’s dreamy and soulful declaration of love. The trippy and moody “All in Good Time” blends Berry’s hypnotic bassline with expansive atmospheres and the plucky flute energy of Katisse Buckingham.

Elsewhere, Groovalicious gets tasty from the get-go, opening with the snappy guitar seduction, simmering soul-blues and punchy brass accents of “I ‘Aint Mad Atcha” before strutting into the throbbing party retro-jam atmosphere of the Marvin Gaye influenced “Miss Downtown Sugar Girl.” The first single “Hypnotize” lives up to its title, featuring some of Standring’s most crisp and sexy guitar lines in a sonic space that ventures from laid back to funky, with wordless vocals and smooth brass accents. “Fat Tuesday” is all sweet, old school brassy soul and mystical ambience, while the title track is a crazy, spaced out, dreamy slice of 70’s wah-wah heaven featuring unique synth-vocal effects. Rounding out the set are the soundscape and atmosphere heavy “Ray of Sunlight,” the trippy moods of “Shadow Dance” and the thoughtful closing ballad “Do What You Do”.

Based on his amazing fusion of pop, soul and jazz influences, Chris Standring’s fans often assume that he grew up listening to all the hippest musical trends, but his early years were spent studying classical guitar on a farm in Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. He started exploring rock guitar in his mid-teens, but his first college experiences were spent mastering classical music. Moving to L.A. for a year at age 20, he started hanging out at the famed Baked Potato club, listening to guitar masters like Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. Ford advised the young musician that if he wanted to work in the studios, he should start a band when he returned to England. Standring did just that while enrolled at the London College of Music, using his classical studies as an excuse to play jazz every free hour of the day.

After years of immersing himself in London’s studio scene, he moved back to L.A. and started an edgy local band with a fusion leaning. Hooking up with Rodney Lee when both played with singer Lauren Christy (now part of the powerhouse production team The Matrix) introduced Standring to the funkier side of jazz. The two clicked immediately, releasing the well-received acid jazz project SolarSystem on Sonic Images in 1996. Standring also plugged heavily into the smooth jazz scene and started gigging with genre stars Rick Braun and Marc Antoine. He joined those two on the annual Guitars & Saxes tour in 1998 just as Velvet was hitting the charts. It hit #9 on the Gavin and R&R radio charts and was a Top Ten pick from Jazziz Magazine.

Since Hip Sway cemented his status as one of smooth jazz’s top stars in 2000, Standring has appeared regularly at top festivals (including the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival) and was a regular performer at The Wave’s Smooth Jazz Nights at the Garden of Eden in Hollywood. He’s also traveled back to London each winter to perform shows at the popular Pizza Express jazz club. The guitarist has also appeared on numerous jazz and R&B recordings, including dates by Braun, Bryan Savage, Jody Watley and Bebe and Cece Winans.

Standring’s desire to help up and coming talent has led to his owning and operating the popular website, A&R Online (, to promote unsigned artists. Musicians from all genres can send in music, and Standring picks three artists to feature each month in hopes of connecting them with record companies looking to sign new acts. His commitment to educating young musicians extends to his writing a handful of popular e-books, including the recent Street Team: A Killer Promotional Strategy for Independent Artists.

“I always get a kick out of helping people who want to get to the next place in their career,” he says. “We’ve all been in the place where we needed guidance from some of the artists who have been in our shoes. While I count guys like Larry Carlton, Jeff Beck and (Dutch rock-fusion legend) Jan Akkerman as enormous influences on me as a guitar player, I think my success in contemporary jazz has come from learning how to connect with audiences. I learned so much from the guys on the Guitars & Saxes tour, because they were not only great musicians but also knew how to perform. In England, it’s about being the best player you can be, but here, I’ve learned the importance of how to communicate with the listeners. That has made all the difference.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

Introducing our Artists - King Sunny Ade

In order to properly introduce ourselves, we must let you know about our artists. We are pleased and honored to have released Seven Degrees North with King Sunny Ade.

“I dedicate this record to the people of Nigeria for their determination, good humor, indomitable spirit and their unfailing faith in working towards a better future. We have labored these many years since independence to re-establish democracy, human rights, a free and fair society, and a better world for all of our children.”
— King Sunny Ade
For more than three decades, King Sunny Ade and his African Beats have been thrilling audiences worldwide with their extraordinary music. The Nigerian singer, guitarist, bandleader, and entrepreneur is the acknowledged master of juju, a cross-cultural sound that sends listeners on a remarkable journey into the heart of one of Africa’s most vital cultures. His music draws from the many idioms and forms of the Yoruba language, and imbues it with a modern sense of spirituality, politics and honor.

King Sunny’s new release “Seven Degrees North” is a spiritually uplifting soundtrack to the democracy movement of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city, Lagos, Nigeria. The music takes on many issues: from those that express in simple praise, the Lord’s good works, to those that delve deep into the Yoruba world of proverbs and metaphor to deliver a deeper message about freedom and hope.

Juju is a thrilling hybrid of Western pop and traditional African music that incorporates electric guitars and synthesizers with such indigenous instruments as talking drums. Lyrically, juju is rooted in the Yoruba tradition of conveying broad social and cultural messages through archetypal proverbs and parables. A remarkably convivial music, juju has at its heart a dynamic and interactive nature that incorporates a plenitude of grooves, call-and-response choruses and polyrhythmic breaks. Multiple lead guitars, harmonic counter-melodies, and shimmering waves of multi-layered percussion blend with sonic surprises – such as reggae and dub sound system effects or the lilting pedal steel guitars of American country & western – that traverse the boundaries of culture and genre.

King Sunny began his extensive career as a member of Moses Olaiya’s Federal Rhythm Dandies then later became the bandleader with the Green Spots. Though he has released more than 100 records in Nigeria, King Sunny first became known in the U.S. after a critically acclaimed three-record run on Island Records in the 1980s. Since then, he and his African Beats have become a leading light in bringing African pop to the West. Recognized as the ambassador of juju, King Sunny has been called “the titan who dominates juju music” by the Village Voice. His last release “Odu” was nominated for a Grammy Award for 1998’s “Best World Music Album”. In 1995, KSA signed up with Mesa/Atlantic and released the acclaimed “E DIDE/GET UP,” the King’s first American studio album in over a decade.

A great many musicians talk about giving back to the community, but few have contributed as generously as King Sunny. He is known to many at home as ‘the Chairman,’ an appellation he earned due to his top role in numerous and diverse businesses. A sort of capitalist-cum-philanthropist, King Sunny has channeled the monies earned as a music superstar into holdings in a multitude of companies, including an oil firm, a mining company, a nightclub, a film and video production house, record labels (for African artists who cross a musical spectrum that includes highlife, folklore, reggae, juju, and jazz), pressing plants, even a PR firm. Ultimately, it appears King Sunny’s greatest investment is in the lives of others. The Chairman estimates that over 700 people work for him in one way or another, with 200 of them directly employed in music.

“About 70% of my business is about music,” Sunny points out. “But I never allow any of the businesses, outside of music, to occupy too much of my time. I am lucky to have good managers running things.”

Recently elected as president of the Performing Musician’s Association of Nigeria, King Sunny continues to be a leading advocate for musician’s rights. He has put forth the first ever Musician’s Bill of Rights for ratification. This bill recognizes the basic rights of musicians, their creative work, and their right to earn a decent living. If all that weren’t enough to occupy most of his time, KSA also chairs the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, an organization whose mandate is to halt the rampant record piracy that plagues Africa and to protect the intellectual property and international trade rights of his fellow musicians.

We have many cases in court right now,” he says. “We’re fighting with the Nigerian Copyright Commission, because we want them to make sure that all radio stations, television stations and so on, pay the royalties to the musicians. And also to get more power to form a task force in order to arrest the pirates and to make sure piracy and the pirates are wiped out. My society is now doing a promotion for the people to know the difference between the pirated music and the originals. Most people say, ‘I didn’t know it was pirated. I just liked the music so I bought it.’ But they have to look for the originals, they have to look for the proper releases. We have also gotten the companies to put an official hologram on every cassette and every CD. All the recording companies are being assigned numbers from the Copyright Commission, so that if they find any official holograms on any pirated tapes, the government will know who is responsible. So, because of this, the pirating in Africa is not as bad as before.”

In his continuing efforts to support African music, Sunny has also established the King Sunny Ade Foundation, which the Chairman founded with local civic and business leaders. The Foundation, which is situated on five hectares of land donated by the Lagos State Government, includes a performing arts center, a fully-equipped recording studio and housing for young performers and musicians, and offers financial assistance to both the children of dead musicians as well to elderly musicians who can no longer perform.

“The motive behind the Foundation is to see the underprivileged people of different areas, different professions, benefit from my success,” says King Sunny. “Those who want to be musicians, those who want to study music, those who want to study acting, they can all be part of the King Sunny Ade Foundation. Even those who are old, who can no longer do certain things, they are part of it.

“I think it is better for me to do this while I’m still alive,” the Chairman continues. “Most foundations are established after the death of the founder. I want to see it work. I just want the King Sunny Ade Foundation to remain, to be immortal, and if God permits, I will continue to do it.”

A longtime supporter of Nigerian political unity, in 1996, King Sunny created an eclectic African supergroup to record the song, “The Way Forward.” KSA brought together a number of different Nigerian stars from differing ethnic backgrounds to address the continuing problem of Africa’s cultural dissents.

“A friend and I co-wrote the song with the idea of getting different musicians from different traditions together,” KSA says. “I play with so many different people around the whole world, I began thinking, ‘What would be my contribution to my country?’ The politics of Nigeria are so bitter, which I try not to involve into my music, but no matter what you do, as an artist, your contribution is to tell the people to be proud that this is our country. So I thought it would be good for Nigeria’s musicians to come together to make ‘The Way Forward.’ It doesn’t have to do with the government, it has to do with the people. The people have to know this is our country, and only together can we make it work.”

“Whatever you do in life, you have to find time to enjoy yourself,” King Sunny explains, “because no matter what you do, no matter how much money you have, no matter how good a person you may be, tomorrow somebody else will come and you are going to be part of history. So what I preach is what you need to do is to do good, so you leave a legacy behind you. If you truly love your neighbor as you love yourself, that will continue when you’re gone.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Introducing our Artists - Steven Santoro

In order to properly introduce ourselves, we must let you know about our artists. We are pleased and honored to have released Whisper My Name with Steven Santoro.

Steven Santoro, born Steven Kowalczyk, from Milford, Massachusetts, did not have to look far to find his new name. His grandfather, Libertore Santoro was a saxophone player and inspired Steven, the fourth grader, to play the horn as well. But during his freshman year in High School , Steven’s musical interests took a turn. Even though he loved playing classic Big Band charts like Count Basie’s “Queen Bee”, he truly found himself while sitting in front of a piano writing songs. Soon his band director was lending him the keys to the Grand piano in the auditorium.

Steven’s songwriting and singing addiction eventually led him to the University of Massachusetts to study Afro American Music and Jazz with Dr. Horace Boyer. While learning to sing and improvise on classic 32 bar songs made famous in the Jazz and Swing eras, Steven wrote and arranged his own pieces. Some were inspired by the form and tone of the classics and others continued on the ever changing path of the pop music that pervaded.

Steven’s ability to authentically juggle the two styles is what years later, caught the ears of Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary founder of Atlantic Records. After a stint of teaching Special Education classes in Los Angeles, Steven recorded his first album, “Moods And Grooves”, for Atlantic Records with producers Ertegun and Shane Keister. Released worldwide, it rose to #20 on the Jazz Radio Charts in the USA while Kowalczyk toured the country as an opener for FOURPLAY ( Bob James, Nathan East, Lee Ritenour, Harvey Mason). After parting with Atlantic Records, Steven played to eager audiences in London and “Moods And Grooves” shot to #1 on United Kingdom’s Jazz FM Radio.

Back home, Steven performed in New York’s club scene and worked as a studio session singer, lending his voice to many national and international ad campaigns. He also produced and arranged for other independent recording artists and kept on writing the songs he loved to write. At the same time he was able to take part in his other love, teaching. The Public School Repertory Company, a performing arts alternative High School located in the heart of Times Square, tapped into the talented, now more experienced Steven Kowalczyk. For three years he taught Songwriting, Music Theory and Vocal Technique to a creative and restless crew of NYC’s Hip Hop culture. Under his guidance, his Songwriting class won the award for Best Original Song in the National Gospel Choir Competition.

Meanwhile, While on a session at Signature Sounds Studio in Massachusetts, Steven called in some of NY’s heaviest players (James Genus, Clarence Penn, Nathaniel Townsley, Marc Ciprut, Jon Cowherd, Jeremy Manasia, Jon Smith, more…) to lay down the tracks to some of his original tunes. He took on his grandfather’s name and this time with himself as producer, Steven Santoro created the album, “Soul Of The Night .” Here he infused the sophisticated harmony of Jazz with the sexy rhythms and vocal sounds of R and B and Pop. He sings of the pain and beauty of childhood, love, and life in the city. The album drew thousands of listeners online.

Now Steven has packaged two new albums of originals. “Where I Come From” is an homage to the R&B inflected sound of the 70’s. “Whisper My Name”, is the newest studio endeavor, which brings Steven back to his Swing/Adult Contemporary roots. The songs, simply produced by Steven with quartet James Genus, Clarence Penn, Jon Cowherd and Marc Ciprut, are swinging and romantic, simple yet sophisticated.

Thirty Tigers/BMG invited Steven to arrange and perform a cut on the “Song of America” release ( Sept ‘07) in which he and other artists such as Take 6, John Mellencamp, Black Crowes, Andy Bey and more, present a history of classic American songs that span 2 Centuries. And in the Fall of ‘07, “Ivory Joe Cole,” A new musical for which he is the lyricist, is being presented in workshop in conjunction with the William Morris Agency, under the direction of Kenny Leon (”Raisin In The Sun” with Sean Combs and Phyllicia Rashad). Steven is currently on faculty at the famed Berklee College of Music.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Introducing our Artists - Lalah Hathaway

In order to properly introduce ourselves, we must let you know about our artists. We are pleased and honored to have released Outrun the Sky with Lalah Hathaway:

All things in time…so they say.
The finer things in life, such as art, can never be rushed. They arrive when The Creator deems the work, the channel and the audience to be ready.

Such is the case with songwriter and vocalist supreme Lalah Hathaway’s Outrun the Sky (in stores September 28, 2004), only her third album as a solo artist…and her first in ten years. It is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, her most revealing work to date – one that encompasses more of her own compositions than ever before. And with the album’s stylistic breadth, it will once and for all extricate the luscious, resonantly smoky-voiced singer from any “box” that listeners, including her staunchest fans, may have placed her.

Sister Lalah is simply, naturally, beyond categorization.

“I am so excited that this record is finally done,” Ms. Hathaway declares with a playful mix of exasperation and gratitude. “People have been asking me for years, ‘When’s your new album coming out?’ The time it takes is never something you plan. Nobody waits for 10 years to put a record out! It’s just ‘the bizness’ and timing, particularly if you’re not the kind of artist who can be plugged into a niche. I do a lot of things and always have. It was a matter of finding the right place and people willing to make it happen.”

Ray Shields, Lalah’s longtime manager, found the perfect place for her: Mesa/Blue Moon Recordings, headed by George Nauful. “We have a really good relationship,” Lalah states. “He trusts my instincts as it relates to the peoplewho want to hear me and why. A lot of these songs would not have been able to go on my first or second record. I was not in a place creatively where people would let me do that.”

Such dedication and patience has yielded Outrun the Sky, a candidly personal, 13-song offering from the Berklee School of Music graduate whose mother is classically trained singer Eulaulah Hathaway and whose father is Donny Hathaway, a profound artistic contributor to what has been reverently dubbed “The Black Pool of Genius.”

Outrun the Sky takes you on a rich emotional journey through Lalah’s reflections on love and relationships. From the soaring acoustic resiliency of “Stronger,” the country-tinged “If You Ever” and something funky to shake off an old lover to titled “Back Then” to the delectably dreamy “More,” a long, hot soak in a steam bath of blues titled “We Were Two,” and the soul-baring groover “In The End.” Each and every song is its own story, speaking intimately to your spirit and on multiple levels.

Producer Mike City (whose work has minted hits for such kindred artists as Gerald Levert, Yolanda Adams, Dave Hollister, Mary Mary and Carl Thomas) contributed the seductive cha -cha “Better & Better” and the delightful “Your Favorite Song,” the latter a sentiment that everyone will relate to. “I hear that phrase, ‘your favorite song,’ so much,” Lalah relates, “in reference to my songs, my dad’s songs, or songs in general. Me, I’ve rarely had a favorite of anything, not even a favorite color.

There’s even a slinky, organ and electric guitar-driven rocker with powerfully shifting dynamics that Donny would have dug, titled “Admit It.” “That was penned by some friends,” Lalah shares. “My band and I performed it in Japan and they loved it.” And then there is “Boston,” an especially haunting piece that sets you down in a stark painting from Lalah’s past for a misty meditation on not only lost love, but lost innocence.

“This album is really about growing up,” Lalah states. “It’s about coming into my own – becoming a woman – and figuring out how to most gracefully maneuver through the joys as well as the disappointments of life.”

Much of the inspiration for the love songs on Outrun the Sky was autobiographical. Some of Lalah’s friends were going through similar situations, so she was privy to much emotional information that nourished her song craft. “I’m a little more naive than I care to admit sometimes,” she says. “I would sing certain songs, people would cry and I’d think, ‘Don’t cry.’ It’s only in the last few years that I’ve wanted to cry after singing those songs. I sang a lot of heartbreak songs on my first two albums, but I never had a lot of that in my life. At this point, my record seems prophetic. I can feel the songs because I went through the experiences and I connect with that overall feeling. It’s like an inner joy/pain…and I’m beginning to understand what that feeling really is.”

It is this deeper intuition that thoroughly informs her brilliant interpretation of the CD’s sole cover, Luther Vandross’ “Forever, For Always, For Love.” Among the last songs Lalah recorded, it was originally produced by Rex Rideout for the all-star GRP concept project Forever, For Always, For Luther, a salute to the ailing music giant who has been sidelined by a stroke. It is an undeniable standout of that collection and Outrun the Sky.

“I’ve never met Luther,” Lalah admits, “but I love his music. My aunt was into the group Change [with whom Luther sang the hit “The Glow of Love”]. And when I was in the 6th grade, a gang of my girlfriends’ moms ALL had Luther’s records. When Rex invited me to be a part of the project, I had another song in mind, but someone else had recently recorded it. So we went back and forth over the e-mail. When Rex suggested ‘Forever, For Always, For Love,’ I didn’t remember it right away. So I bought it off of iTunes, listened, then told him, ‘I want to do this as ‘Luther’ as possible, so let’s keep it in his key.’ After that, I didn’t listen to the song again until the day of the session…on the way over to the session. The basic track was already done and I cut my vocal in three hours. That’s the kind of experience you always want in the studio. Every time I see Rex, he remarks about how happy he is with it.”

The album title Outrun the Sky, suggests many things…escape…an indelible artistic impression…the never-ending journey of life. “I wrote that song around 1996,” Lalah explains. “I was on a flight to Las Vegas that was really turbulent. Wanting to focus on something else, I started thinking about all the things I would do once the plane landed. That title is so ‘me’ as far as where my head is…slightly ethereal. It is also confirmation of what my dad is able to do right now. It absolutely floors me that 25 years after his death, he has a new record out (the compilation These Songs For You, Live!) and so do I. That’s almost too much for me to handle.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

About Mesa/Bluemoon Recordings continued

Today we wanted to share with you our artist roster as well as some of the past accolades of Mesa/Bluemoon Recordings:

  • King Sunny Ade

  • Lalah Hathaway

  • Dudu Fisher

  • The Mermen

  • Danny Paradise

  • Steven Santoro

  • Chris Standring

  • Dulcie Taylor


  1. Five Times Gavin Award Winner Jazz/Adult alternative Indy Label of the Year

  2. Twice Nominated Adult Album Alternative Indy Label

  3. Nominated R&R Smooth Jazz Label of the Year

  4. Nine-Time Grammy-nominee

  5. Three-Times Grammy Winner

  6. Co-Founder of Passport Jazz of Passport Records

  7. #1 and #2 Billboard Jazz Chart Titles

  8. Winner Billboard’s World Music Album of the Year

  9. Winner Guitar Player Magazine’s Best Blues Album of the Year

  10. Leading developer of world reggae music movement and smooth jazz with over 30 titles

Monday, December 7, 2009

An Introduction to Mesa/Bluemoon Recordings

Mesa/Bluemoon has re-entered the game with a wealth of experience, the pace setting agility of an indie label and the reach of major label distribution. This combination can’t be beat in these times of powerful change and the reinvention of the industry. At Mesa/Bluemoon, we are not stalled by these changes, but rather excited by the unlimited new opportunities. We believe that regardless of the way our audience gets their music, it’s still about the quality of the music – it’s still about the artist.

In the last twenty years Mesa/Bluemoon has been at the forefront of the popular genre of adult alternative music – worldbeat, jazz, contemporary jazz, and singer songwriter (with some pop and rock thrown in). We have received Grammy Awards and nominations, Gavin Awards and #1 Billboard hits. Our recordings include artists such as John Scofield, Dizzy Gillespie, Al DiMeola, King Sunny Ade, Gilberto Gil, Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun, Black Uhuru, Lalah Hathaway and Strunz & Farah.

Mesa/Bluemoon remains committed to offering the best adult alternative music. Look for a wide variety of releases to be announced each month on our site

About the owner
George Nauful’s extensive and multi-faceted music business background encompasses senior positions at independent and major labels, as well as with leading distribution companies. This experience, coupled with his classical training as a musician, gives him an invaluable “big picture” perspective on the industry today, its evolution and, most importantly, its future.

Nauful’s career began when he ventured west to California in a station wagon with just a guitar, his two best friends and his dog in the early ’70s. He quickly became a Los Angeles studio musician/session player, writer and producer and was signed to Mercury Records. He appeared on stage with a number of well known artists of the day including, Dave Mason, Stevie Nicks, John Stewart, Charlie Daniels, Jerry Riopelle and the Doobie Brothers.

Nauful’s record business start was with administrative stints at Capitol Records and several indie labels, followed by a tenure overseeing import/export for Japan-based Eastern Pacific Sounds. His first executive position was as general manager for The PARAS Group, founded in the early ’80s as a marketing and distribution outfit specifically created to service independent labels. It was later purchased by Jem Distribution/Passport Records where Nauful held the position of General Manager. In 1989, Nauful and his business partner started Mesa/Bluemoon. Nauful holds a Business degree from The Citadel, and a degree in composition and arranging from the Southern California Conservatory of Music.