April 4-6, 2019 | 16th Annual!
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With a career that encompasses five Grammys, numerous chart successes and personal and professional accolades, as well as collaborations with some of the world’s most prominent artists, Michael McDonald remains an enduring force in popular music. Hailing from St. Louis, McDonald arrived in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, honing his talents as a studio musician before becoming an integral part of Steely Dan. In the mid-’70s McDonald was invited to join the Doobie Brothers as the band redefined their sound with McDonald serving as singer, keyboardist and songwriter on such Top 40 singles as “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “It Keeps You Runnin’,” “Minute By Minute” and “What A Fool Believes.” Throughout the ’80s and ’90s McDonald’s solo career took off with a string of hits including “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” “Sweet Freedom,” “On My Own” (with Patti LaBelle) and the Grammy-winning James Ingram duet “Yah Mo B There,” plus he co-wrote the Van Halen hit “I’ll Wait.” McDonald has performed with a who’s-who of critically acclaimed artists across a number of genres, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Vince Gill and Grizzly Bear.
McDonald’s latest album, Wide Open (September 15, 2017 via BMG), finds him collaborating with a number of special guests including Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Marcus Miller and Branford Marsalis. McDonald’s first album of original material in 17 years, Wide Open is comprised largely of material written over a number of years in-between projects and recorded in McDonald’s Nashville studio with drummer Shannon Forrest (Faith Hill, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Toto) and an extensive cast of Nashville session musicians. The record follows a trio of albums of R&B and soul covers McDonald recorded for the fabled Motown label, the most recent being 2008’s Soul Speak.
McDonald’s other recent collaborations include his work on the critically acclaimed track “Show You The Way” with multi-genre bassist, singer and producer Thundercat and Kenny Loggins; McDonald performed the song with Thundercat during a surprise guest appearance at Coachella in April. This past spring, McDonald was joined by Solange Knowles, Allen Stone, Lawrence and members of Snarky Puppy and Vulfpeck at the Okeechobee Music Fest. McDonald continues to tour extensively as a solo artist, with a lengthy run of summer and fall tour dates planned with Loggins and Boz Scaggs.
Since GRAMMY®-winner Earl Klugh released his inaugural album in 1976, the Detroit-born master of the acoustic-classical guitar has become one of the most imitated icons of the instrument. He has released over 40 records, 24 of which have been on Billboard’s top-10 list of jazz albums and 6 of which have made it to the No. 1 slot.
Klugh’s recordings have received 13 Grammy® nominations (including one for his latest release, HandPicked) – and his collaboration with pianist Bob James, One on One, walked away with the 1980 Grammy® Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. In 2016, Earl celebrates the 40th Anniversary of his debut album Earl Klugh (1976, Blue Note Records) with a very special catalogue of shows, highlighting selections from over 250 original compositions and featuring Klugh’s favorite standards, influences and collaborations from throughout his illustrious career.
What the world needs now is love…but as is often the case, what the world needs begins with one person and one household. Thus, the crux of the story behind South African singer/guitarist Jonathan Butler’s 23rd album, Close To You, his tribute to the hallowed pop canon of Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics). The 11-song project features 10 Bacharach/David gemstones from the mid-60s to early 70s (including vocal versions of “The Look Of Love,” “Walk On By,” “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” “This Guy’s In Love With You” and the lead single “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” plus instrumental versions of “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” and “I Say A Little Prayer”) as well as one original composition, the ebulliently autobiographical “Cape Town.”
Following several monumental decades of moving from South Africa to America, building a worldwide audience for his music while also raising his children to adulthood, Jonathan Butler arrived at a crossroads in his marriage which ended in divorce.
“I realized then this was not the season to write about me or my relationship,” Butler shares. “It was a season for me to listen to what is in the atmosphere. The music of Burt Bacharach is what I was hearing. The next day I called my manager and told him I wanted to do a Bacharach songbook album and reinvent myself in the process. I am honored to become a student of this music. To recognize the precious, golden ‘origin era’ of great songwriting. I did my homework then sprinkled South African spice on top with my chanting and rhythmic approach to playing the guitar. This is music I could really dig into.”
The highlights of Close To You are bountiful, beginning with the title track that features the touching violin introduction of Nadira Kimberly (Hidden Figures, The Voice). There is “A House Is Not A Home” which Butler sings solely to guitar/bass accompaniment – “a lyric I just felt I needed to pay attention to.” Then there is the existential musing, “Alfie.” “I had to reach a level of maturity to sing this one,” he states. “The lyric is so profound. At the start, I am having a chat with the listener. Then at the end where it says, ‘Without love, we just exist’…what a revelation! We all have many things to sort out in life but this is said in such a beautiful way. ‘When you walk, let your heart lead the way / Then you’ll find love any day.’”
Deepest of all is “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” a message destined to ring out in today’s troubled times as it did when introduced in 1965. “It’s a 6/8 groove that keeps opening and opening, wrapping ’round the listener,” he says. “People are ready to go to a higher place. At my concerts, I’ve seen them standing together, holding hands. Starting with me, I hope this song will start a new love movement.” Reflecting upon his roots in poverty and apartheid in Cape Town, Butler adds, “What I am seeing today in America truly hurts my heart. I know what it is to see a ‘whites only’ sign. There are three things that are important for a Black man to know: Who you are; Where you are, and; When you speak, be bold, loud enough for everybody to hear. Many people that come to my concerts, I can see, are still conflicted. When I am among them, I am very open and real. I tell them my story.”
Butler’s musical story began at age 12 recording the Burt Bacharach song “Please Stay,” originally recorded by vocal quartet The Drifters in 1961. Escaping then-Apartheid-poisoned South Africa through a love for music instilled within him from his parents and siblings, Butler has become a world-renowned singer, guitarist and entertainer via songs ranging from the pop of “Sarah, Sarah” and the soul of “Do You Love Me” to the jazz of “Deliverance” and his Contemporary Gospel classic “Be Encouraged.” Now 56, Jonathan Butler has come back to Bacharach full circle with the music of Close To You.
At the tender age of 14, Joey Alexander has already recorded two GRAMMY®-nominated studio albums, 2015’s My Favorite Things and 2016’s Countdown, as well as Joey.Monk.Live!, a critically acclaimed surprise release from late 2017 to honor Thelonious Monk’s centennial. With his third studio effort Eclipse, his most personal statement to date, Joey takes another giant step forward, demonstrating his aptitude as a composer, bandleader, and musician, hinting at the many artistic paths open to him in the decades ahead.
Born in 2003 in Bali, Alexander lived in Jakarta from age eight to ten and then moved to New York City in 2014, where he has experienced one of the most ascendant careers ever seen in jazz. Jason Olaine, a GRAMMY-winning producer who serves as Director of Programming for Jazz At Lincoln Center and has produced all four of Alexander’s albums, says he continues to be impressed by the pianist’s fantastic gift. “Joey is such a huge talent coming out of a young player, however he wants to create and have fun by playing. It’s not about the accolades or the applause.” He added, “Eclipse shows what an amazing journey Joey has been on, and he’s playing with an openness and clarity.”www.joeyalexandermusic.com
"There has never been anyone that you can think of who could play like that at his age. I love everything about his playing – his rhythm, his confidence, his understanding of the music.” – Wynton Marsalis