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Walter Beasley (c) walterbeasley.comContemporary jazz saxophonist and vocalist Walter Beasley shares selections from his music library, with artists including James Brown, Earth Wind Fire, and Herbie Hancock.

Steve Shapiro (c) linkedin.com/in/steveshapironycSteve Shapiro, accomplished composer/arranger, and talented session musician/producer shares some of his favorite albums with greats including Steely Dan, Al Green and more.

Ken Hatfield (c) kenhatfield.comGuitarist, composer, and educator Ken Hatfield is a truly unique voice in the world of contemporary jazz. His distinctive fingerstyle playing and songwriting is colored by eclectic tastes, which are informed by both traditional jazz as well as classical music, as evidenced by his recent book/CD, Etudes for Solo Guitar in 24 Keys (Arthur Circle Music).

For the past 40+ years, David Sanborn has been perhaps the most influential saxophonist in the worlds of RB, jazz, rock, pop, and crossover, spawning countless imitators. The iconic saxophonist has added his distinctive touch to recordings by such diverse artists as David Bowie, Gil Evans, Guru, Ween, Ron Carter, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, George Benson, and Bruce Springsteen.

For his new disc, Here and Gone (Emarcy Records), the six-time Grammy winner teamed up with the likes of Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks, Christian McBride, and Steve Gadd to pay tribute to the blues and RB music of his youth.

1. E.S.P. Miles Davis

It’s the first recording of the Miles Davis quintet including Wayne Shorter, along with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams Ron Carter (and Wayne’s tunes are featured on the record).

2. Born Under A Bad Sign Albert King 

Both the song and the record are quintessential Albert King.

3. Unity Larry Young 

This redefined the sound of an organ group and features extraordinary playing by Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson and Elvin Jones.

4. Voodoo D’Angelo 

Everything about this album is great: the songs, the production, the singing, and Roy Hargrove’s trumpet playing.

5. There’s a Riot Going On Sly Stone (Sly and the Family Stone) 

Sounds like the music is happening in Sly’s head. Tunes like “Family Affair” and “You Caught Me Smilin’” are classics.

6. Crescent John Coltrane 

There are so many great John Coltrane albums it’s hard to choose, but I picked this one because it’s got some great tunes on it like “Lonnie’s Lament,” “Bessie’s Blues,” and the title track, “Crescent.”

7. Kind of Blue Miles Davis

Because it’s a classic!

8. Blond on Blond Bob Dylan

This album is scary, funny, and deep. There are so many levels that this album operates on it’s kind of amazing.

9. Juju Music Sonny Ade

This album is great because there are so many layers of rhythm going on and the kind of spooky joyful singing on the record is extraordinary.

10. Saxophone Colossus Sonny Rollins 

This record is on every saxophone player’s top ten list.

11. Impressions John Coltrane

This is another record I also have to include. It is a live album that is, to me, the ultimate live recording of the John Coltrane Quartet including Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison, and McCoy Tyner.

Esperanza Spalding (c) Johann SautyaBassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding was just 15 years old when she began her professional music career, performing at a Portland, Ore. blues club. Other early gigs included stints with area jazz septets, a trio, and the fusion group, Noise for Pretend, that released two albums on the Hush Records label.

Diane Schuur (c) www.dianeschuur.comDiane Schuur, who has collaborated with the likes of B.B. King, Stan Getz, the Count Basie Orchestra, and Ray Charles, first made major waves in the jazz world with her stirring interpretation of “Amazing Grace” at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1979. Following a televised gig at the White House in 1982, Schuur’s career was truly off and running.

Frank Macchia (c) Frank Macchia (.net)Composer/arranger/saxophonist Frank Macchia has collaborated with such legends as Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Yes, and Clare Fisher. In 2004, he was a Sundance Labs Composer Fellow and the recipient of a National Endowment Grant for Jazz Arts. Frank has written and orchestrated music for a number of television shows and films. Recently, Macchia helped with some of the orchestrations in the blockbuster movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets. In January, his work on the score for Wade Balance’s short film, The HusBand was featured at the Park City Film Music Festival.

Dana Leong (c) Mat SzwajkosDana Leong is an accomplished young performer, composer, and producer who has been gaining recognition for his distinctive fusion of jazz, hip-hop, classical, rock, and sonic soundscapes. 

At the age of 27, Leong has already collaborated with the likes of Paquito D’Rivera, Ray Charles, Diddy, Norah Jones, Dafnis Prieto, Talib Kweli, Wynton Marsalis, and Christian McBride, among many other notables. Late 2007 saw the release of Anthems of Life, the follow-up to the Dana Leong Quintet’s acclaimed first album, Leaving New York (Tateo Sound).

Roni Ben Hur (c) Richard Conde PhotographyA powerful force in the jazz scene since the 1990s, Roni Ben-Hur is widely recognized as one of the most significant guitarists, bandleaders, and educators of his time.

Winner of the JAZZIZ Reader’s Poll for “Best New Talent” in 2000, Ben-Hur has performed with the likes of Jimmy Heath, Etta Jones, John Hicks, Barry Harris, Walter Booker, Earl May, and many others. His previous four recordings have earned praise from fans and critics alike and response to his newest disc, Keepin’ it Open (Mote;ma) has been enthusiastically positive.

Spyro GyraSince the mid-#149;70s, Spryo Gyra’s infectious and danceable take on pop-jazz has made them one of the more successful practitioners of the genre. Skillfully incorporating aspects of RB, rock, and Caribbean music into their sound, the band’s music is lively, infectious, and (significantly) very accessible albums such as Morning Dance, Freetime, and In Modern Times are amongst the most popular jazz releases of the past two decades. Good to Go-Go, the ensemble’s fourth disc for Heads Up, dropped earlier this summer and is being praised as one of their strongest collections to date.

Alex Skolnick (c) Alex SkolnickHaving made a name for himself in the late ’80s and early ’90s as one of metal’s most gifted guitarists, Alex Skolnick’s career took an abrupt left turn when he departed the San Francisco-based thrashers, Testament, in late 1992 and refocused his energies on studying jazz.

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