Twang/swang: A lot of people are going country, but at least one country artist is going jazz. Guitarist Brent Mason has appeared on innumerable Nashville sessions; his polished twang helps define the sound of modern country. But on Mercury’s forthcoming “Hot Wired,” it’s Mason’s polished glide that might turn heads outside the country charts.
The instrumentals that make up the disc are kin to some of the era’s contemporary jazz sounds – sleek and lightly syncopated. After hearing the music, it comes as little surprise that among those thanked by Mason in the record’s notes are George Benson, Pat Martino, and Larry Carlton. Mason has previously recorded with contemporary jazz saxophonist Warren Hill. The label wants to make sure that the Oct. 7 release is appreciated by two audiences.
"This is the first jazz release we’ve ever done,” says Chris Stacey, Mercury’s national director for promotion and artist development, “so we’re learning as we go. But we’re definitely chasing NAC and smooth jazz formats, as well as country radio. We’ve brought in an independent promotion person to help out on this title because we don’t know all the particulars of the jazz format. But I know that if we can get them to listen, ‘Hot Wired’ will really go somewhere."
The label did a late-in-the-game sequencing change to place the lead track, “Blue Water Girl,” in its primary spot. The former lead was the record’s title cut. “That one is the only really twangy thing on the album,” says Stacey. “We said, ‘Let’s not do that, we might scare off the jazz aficionados.’ This record actually shows off Brent’s chops and diversity, which isn’t hard to do."
Ads will be taken out in guitar magazines and musician-oriented trade publications. Live dates will be planned according to how well “Hot Wired” does. “Because hof his studio schedule, Brent’s not going to be out there on the road a lot,” says Stacey. “But if radio airplay demands it in certain markets, we’re going to back it up with the promotional boogie – put players behind him to show the jazz community what this guy’s all about.” Country fans shouldn’t fret too much: “Hot Wired” also has a blistering take on the traditional picking staple “Sugarfoot Rag."
East Coast, West Coast: Youngsters are getting breaks all over the jazz spectrum these days. Included on this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival bill is a student group from Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Dubbed the Berklee Monterey Quartet ’97, the ensemble will play Sunday (21) on the festival’s Garden Stage. The band members hail from all over the globe. Pianist Leo Blanco is from Venezuela, tenor sax player Anat Cohen from Israel, bassist Yoshi Waki is a Tokyo native, and drummer Steve Hass is a Brooklyn, N.Y., boy.
This is the second year the school has sent a band to the festival. Berklee has also been documenting its talent in the studio. On Sept. 6, a compilation of collegiate musicians titled “Summa Cum Jazz” was released through a relationship with the BMG record club. It carries a $6.98 list. The club’s World Wide Web address is www.bmgmusicservice.com.
Speaking of Berklee, jazz guitarist John Scofield accepted an honorary doctor of music degree Sept. 5 at the school’s convocation. The well-known improviser and Verve recording artist is a Berklee alumnus, class of 1973.
This, the 40th edition of the Monterey bash, packs an immense amount of music into a three-day stretch, starting Sept. 19 and ending Sunday (21). Highlights include a pair of notable debuts. On opening night, Dave Grusin presents his update of “West Side Story,” due to be released in album form by N2K Tuesday (23). The next evening finds guitarist Jim Hall augmenting his quartet with a brass ensemble, addressing pieces. from his latest Telarc disc, “Textures."
Warner Bros.’ historical overview, the three-disc “Monterey Jazz Festival: 40 Legendary Years,” was released Sept 9.
Rest in Peace: Jazz: Blue Notes is late with the news of guitarist Chuck Wayne’s July 29 death. One of the first bop guitarists to work on 52nd Street during the heyday of swing, he participated on several studio dates with Dizzy Gillespie. He also helped Woody Herman’s Orchestra with its fluid stomp during the mid-’40s. From there it was a gig with a bit more restraint: the George Shearing Quintet. During his later years, Wayne taught in the New York area. Emphysema was the cause of death. Wayne was 74.
Yoshi Wakibassist, composer/arranger,