The Los Cabos Jazz Experience 2018

Wendy Ross By

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Meli'sa Morgan allowed a brief interview after her set, mentioning her excitement about being invited to Cabo. "I had contact with one of the organizers, Edward Roebuck, who I had worked with on Sheryl Lee Ralph's "Divas' Simply Singing." "He said he liked my voice and knew I sang with Najee sometimes. He said he would pitch for me and Najee to be invited to perform at the festival." At that time, over a year ago, she didn't know what Life Luxe Jazz was. When she received the invitation, she said she was excited about working with Najee again and about coming to Cabo for the first time. She has a new CD called Love Demands and she appreciated the jazz fans purchasing it and knowing her work.

"This has been a wonderful experience, the setup on the beach, the ambiance, the audience, the food." She said she liked the camaraderie of seeing artists like Kirk Whalum, whom she had not seen since they both worked with Whitney Houston. and getting to meet some artists for the first time, like Maysa. Her only regret was that her schedule required her to fly back out the next day. "If I had the time, I would stay longer..." When asked about the relationship between R&B and jazz, she replied, "I think that has always been. I don't think you do good R&B without doing a little bit of Jazz. Because you have to have the flexibility to be creative and be unconstructed and jazz allows you to do that. It doesn't have to be so dang proper. You have to know how to go off the radar and come back, musically, you know, and jazz allows you that and you put the structure of R&B with that together...awesome!."

Bass guitarist Michael Manson was introduced to feature, and also later play along with friend Kirk Whalum whom he introduced as his brother from another mother. Manson greeted the audience then performed the song "Coming Right At Ya" from his 2014 Thumpin' album. His signature base guitar riffs and gravelly vocals were familiar yet fresh. Both men have a history of being supportive sidemen but while Whalum stepped to the fore in the 80's forming his own band and developed his voice and writing, Michael Manson's emergence as a leader happened on his 2002 album The Bottom Line.

Manson began engaging the crowd by talking about how most people assume musicians have rhythm in all areas. As he began to play a Latin tempo, the intro to his hit song "Just One Touch" from his 2002, The Bottom Line album, he shared the story of taking salsa lessons with his wife and finding out that his rhythmic talents did not include dancing. He asked the audience to get up and demonstrate their prowess and many did. Manson performed "There's Nothing Better Than Love" from his 2006 Just Feelin' It album. Lauretha Martin sang vocals, her runs and riffs, free and improvisational. Manson claimed his Chicago roots as he went into his next song "Outer Drive," a jamming tune with a saxophone groove from his 2008 album Up Front . On that 2008 album, he collected the top rung of smooth jazz performers, including fellow festival performers Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown.

Manson announced he was going to perform Bill Wither's "Lovely Day" "Chicago steppin' style, as Kirk Whalum joined him on the stage. Kirk Whalum took over toward the end with a long solo, that veered between a jam and a smooth vibe. Whalum gave props to Manson as he took over the stage." That's a bad brother right there, Michael Manson." Saxophonist, Kirk Whalum is the winner of twelve Grammy nominations, since 2001. He toured with Whitney Houston for seven years and had a standout performance in the saxophone solo in, "I Will Always Love You." Whalum also toured with Luther Vandross and keyboardist Bob James. He was a session player for artists such Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Quincy Jones and many others. His hit "For You" was a career high, and also his three albums in theGospel According to Jazz series.

Kirk Whalum greeted the audience in Spanish and played Grover Washington's "Mister Magic." Then he took the audience to church, by relating the words to Whitney Houston's song "I Will Always Love You," to the resurrection story. He played the instrumental similar to the version from his 2017Love Covers # album with the vocalist joining in the last minutes. He finished his set with "Wade in the Water" from his 1998 Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter 1 album.

Maysa brought her deep velvety vocals that are easily at home with jazz, and R&B and she can definitely bring the funk. Grammy nominated, she has been on the solo recording scene for over twenty-five years. She went from singing with Stevie Wonder upon graduation to becoming the lead singer for Incognito in the 90's. She sang "Inside My Dream" from her 2013 album, Blue Velvet. Maysa has the ability to encompass many genres at once. She can sound soulful, jazzy, and funky all at once. No performance goes without that wildly popular hit "Deep Water" off of Incognito's 1993 Positivity album. She knows her audience, and is not afraid to give them what they want even if it means digging back into her treasure chest of hits and R&B favorites. She talked about her title song from 2017 album release Love Is a Battlefield reprising Pat Benatar's, rock hit that was a favorite from her youth. She has put a slower spin on it, and changed some of the lyrics and admits to addressing some of today's political situations about inclusiveness. She finished with her "funk party" medley of beat heavy old school jams.

Norman Brown, and Bobby Caldwell. Norman Brown, the headliner for Saturday is a Grammy award winning jazz & R&B guitarist who has secured a place at the top of the Billboard charts. The guitarist has sold close to two million albums and has shared the stage with popular smooth jazz standouts like, his fellow headliner Boney James. In 2002 he formed the super group, BWB, with trumpeter Rick Braun, and fellow festival performer Kirk Whalum. Brown's music is multilayered, his dexterity and guitar mastery produces jamming beats, while maintaining the fluidity, of a stream flowing over rocks. There is always a nostalgic aspect to his music, especially his classic "Just Between Us" the title song from his 1992 album. His expressions as he grooves the music out of his instrument are priceless, sometimes revealing an element of surprise at his own virtuosity. His set included "For the Love of You" and Janet Jackson's "That's the Way love Goes" from the 1994 album After the Storm .
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