Isaiah Katumwa, saxophone
Isaiah Katumwa, the Uganda-born saxophonist, will release his new album in July featuring collaborations with contemporary jazz hitmakers Dave Koz, Adam Hawley (guitar), and Darren Rahn (sax). Mr. Katumwa, who felt compelled to confront global issues, in particular the pandemic and systemic racism, assembled a collection of African, American and Latin musicians to help him create Dance Again. He also wrote and co-wrote all ten songs on the album, each of which is brimful of joyous light and sunny optimism. Fellow saxophonist Mr. Rahn produced six tracks for the set, along with Mr. Hawley who produced three. Rwandan producer Marc Kibamba brought hope and comfort with “The Sun Will Shine Again,” a jubilant African rhythmic groove illumined by a vocal chorus. Another standout is Mr. Koz ‘s magical alto sax work on the Afropop fusion track, “Nsiima.” The album contains the following songs: “Dance Again,” “Smile On,” “Nsiima,” “Swahili Breeze,” “Home Away,” “My Joy,” “Nkwagala,” “What Is Love,” “The Sun Will Rise Again,” and “My Prayer.”
“Por la Orrilla del Mar”
Matt Willard, saxophone
Saxophonist Matt Willard, from Virginia, has just released his debut single, “Por la Orrilla del Mar.” The exotic track, which he wrote, showcasing the tenor saxman’s impassioned play, is the first in a series of singles for his upcoming album later this year. A staccato Latin rhythm constructed by drummer Steve Brewster and bassist Jacob Lowery is the pedestal for the lush melodies of “Por la Orrilla del Mar.” Guitarist Dave Cleveland adds to the harmony, while keyboardist Jason Webb shines when trading solos with Mr. Willard, whose deft saxplay runs the gamut of emotion from intense, raw and emotional to restrained, poised and harnessed. A horn section underscores and illumines the saxophone excursions. “Por la Orrilla del Mar” offers a promising glimpse of what’s to come from the artist upcoming album.
Richard Smith, guitar
Last March, guitarist Richard Smith was in a battle for his life with stage-3 throat cancer. A year later and now cancer free, Mr. Smith has released his first US single in five years, “Let’s Roll,” which he wrote with guitarist Adam Hawley, and featuring saxophonist-flutist Jeff Kashiwa. The single previews the artist forthcoming 13th album, Language of the Soul, which he plans to drop in the fall. According to Mr. Smith the album title comes from a piece written by the Nobel prize poet Pablo Neruda, whom he discovered while on tour in Argentina. The new album will feature a collection of pieces that the artist recorded over the last two years while living in Finland, Italy, Greece, London, and while isolated in LA due to the pandemic. Although Mr. Smith describes the exuberant R&B instrumental groove on “Let’s Roll” as “very West Coast, very LA,” songs from the upcoming album tackle weightier subjects than just “palm trees, ocean breezes and great vibes.”