Phil Denny’s Armory Smooth Jazz Fete is proud to present the inaugural artist line-up listed below. Expect a broad range of dynamic and engaging musical performances from downbeat till sundown. Click on the individual artist pictures to learn more about their profiles, music and more.
Over the years, Peter White has maintained a reputation as one of the most versatile and prolific acoustic guitarists on the contemporary jazz landscape. Armed with an unparalleled combination of lyricism and energy, he combines elements of jazz, pop and classical guitar to create a sound that is singular and at the same time accessible to a broad audience.
Born in 1954 in Luton, a small town north of London, White and his family moved to nearby Letchworth shortly after he was born. As a child, he learned to play several musical instruments, including the clarinet, trombone, violin and piano. And of course, like so many youngsters growing up during the heyday of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, he gravitated to the guitar.
He learned his first chords on an acoustic guitar, then bought his first electric guitar in his early teens and studied the recordings of the reigning guitar gods of the day – Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. But his musical aspirations ultimately veered back in an acoustic direction following an accident that doomed his beloved electric guitar. The axe was destroyed in a fire, one that White’s younger brother Danny – an aspiring pianist – accidentally started.
“The funny thing is that Danny didn’t actually admit to setting that fire for at least twenty-five years,” says White. “I had been kind of obsessed with the electric guitar at that point in my life, so that episode kind of forced me to go back to playing the acoustic. In retrospect, that’s a good thing.”
Indeed, White’s interests after the accident shifted more toward the music of acoustic artists like Crosby, Stills and Nash, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell. Plugged or unplugged, he had decided by his late teens that music was his calling, and his first professional gig was at a holiday resort in England when he was 19 years old.
Barely a year later, he was invited to join Al Stewart’s band as a keyboardist for a tour of England, Scotland, and the U.S. in 1975. In addition to opening for artists like Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel and Queen, White worked with Stewart in the studio in the making of Year of the Cat, which became a huge hit for Stewart in 1976. The tour and the album marked the beginning of a twenty-year association with Stewart. In that time, the two musicians co-wrote numerous songs, including Stewart’s 1978 hit, “Time Passages.”
By the beginning of the ‘80s, White and Stewart had relocated to Los Angeles, formed a band called Shot in the Dark, and established a music publishing company called Lobster Music. Around the same time, Danny White – he of the burning guitar incident several years earlier – formed a group called Matt Bianco, which included a talented Polish singer named Basia Trzetrzelewska. Danny White and Basia splintered off to launch the singer’s solo career with the 1987 debut album, Time and Tide, which featured Peter White on guitar.
After fifteen years as a backup musician and a session player, White launched his solo recording career with the 1990 release of Reveillez-Vous (French for “Wake up,” a title chosen by White in honor of his French mother). The album included several unused songs that White had written for Stewart, and it became a favorite among contemporary jazz radio stations.
He followed with three records on the Sindrome label – Excusez-Moi (1991), Promenade (1993) and Reflections (1994) – before signing with Columbia for the 1996 release of Caravan of Dreams. He maintained an ambitious release schedule through the ‘90s and beyond, but also found time to appear on recordings by many of his friends, including Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, Lee Ritenour, Kirk Whalum, Boney James and many others.
On the road, he has participated in numerous “Guitars and Saxes” tours with the aforementioned players, and has established an annual “Peter White Christmas Tour” – the latter enterprise fueled by the success of his two highly regarded holiday albums, Songs of the Season (1997) and A Peter White Christmas (2007).
Good Day, released in 2009 on Peak Records, a division of Concord Music Group, was White’s first collection of original songs in several years. “I just started going through my backlog of material – songs that I’d never finished, some going as far back as ten or fifteen years – and I discovered that I had a lot of gems that I really wanted to show to the world,” he says. “I wanted to record them in my own time and in my own way, without any outside influence or interference.”
White released Here We Go in 2012 on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group. The 11-song set, produced by White and DC (George Benson, Larry Carlton, Bob James, Patty Austin), featured several high-profile guest musicians, including saxophonists David Sanborn and Kirk Whalum, and pianist Philippe Saisse, and included a range of original material written in the recent and distant past. “I wanted variety,” says White. “I wanted songs that moved me, in the hopes that they’ll move the listener as well. I’m on a journey, and I want to bring with me anyone who’s willing to follow.”
Smile, released on October 7, 2014, is the final CD in White’s trilogy of albums consisting entirely of his own material. Co-produced with DC, the recording features ten tracks – some were written recently, some White wrote along the way with close friends and some were from the vault. Special guests include Mindi Abair (vocals), Rick Braun (horns), Euge Groove (soprano sax) and Philippe Saisse (keyboards, piano and orchestra programming). White’s daughter, Charlotte, plays violin on one song.
In a career that spans nearly four decades, over a dozen solo recordings and countless performances, White insists that it’s the faces in the crowd and the fans that keep the experience fresh. “I’ll play a live show, and someone will come to me afterward and say, ‘Oh, I loved this CD,’ or ‘This song helped me through a bad time,’” he explains. “Or I get emails from people saying, ‘Oh, I love the way you covered one of my favorite songs on your record back in 1994.’ The idea that someone can write me an email and tell me about something I did on a record that was released fifteen years ago – you can’t buy that. That’s priceless. That’s what keeps me going – the idea that people out there really care about what I do, the idea that I’ve made a difference for someone.”
One of the premiere saxophonists in the world, Marcus Anderson is not only a sought after solo artist, with eight albums to date. He also performs to audiences all over the world, and accompanies other great artists such as CeeLo Green and Judith Hill. He is also known as being a featured saxophonist with the late Prince and The New Power Generation. In addition to playing sax and flute, Marcus plays piano, bass, is a singer, a writer, a choreographer, a producer and horn arranger. His talent is undeniable to most audiences and to his peers. In addition to this, his recent accomplishments include ranking #1 on Billboard Smooth Jazz and SirusXM Radio Watercolors.
Marcus recently became a key contributor to CeeLo Green’s tour band, traveling internationally with the Love Train Tour. Marcus is no stranger to notoriety touring often with his own band both as a recording artist and performer. Marcus’ eight albums to date include his three produced in the past two years. The “Marcus Anderson Xperience… M.A.X. Live in Concert” is a limited edition CD celebrating Marcus’s tenth anniversary performing and recording as a solo act. The CD, AND Coffee, is an ode to and for coffee lovers, celebrating the launch of Marcus’s recent coffee brand of the same name www.ANDproducts.net. The single, “A Cup of Joe,” received the highest honors as #1 on Billboard Smooth Jazz and #1 on SirusXM Radio Watercolors. Recently, Marcus released, My Inspiration, his first solo inspirational CD.
Marcus has played with several headliners during guest appearances on well-noted shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Arsenio Hall Show, Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show. He is a veteran and audience favorite at such notable festivals as the Essence Music Festival, Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival, Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Capital Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival, and more.
Marcus has a strong international presence and his 2015 MAX Tour – London performances were received by rave reviews. The package Marcus brings on stage, with his showmanship and sheer jubilance, electrifies audiences everywhere. In a note, Marcus has taken his traditional smooth jazz roots and infused his music with R&B, Pop, Rock, Latin and funky grooves.
Marcus studied with Branford Marsalis, Dr. Ira Wiggins and Gospel saxophonist Donald Hayes for several years. He achieved many accolades along the way, including a North Carolina Gospel Announcers’ Prestige Award for Gospel Jazz Artist of the Year, thus displaying his musical diversity. He has performed for President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson, amongst other dignitaries. He has also toured with Judith Hill, Sheila E, Liv Warfield and Anthony Hamilton.
As a solo artist, Marcus has been honored to open for and join on stage artists such as Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, Brian Culbertson, Esperanza Spaulding, Peter White, Boney James, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, George Duke, Wynton Marsalis, Alex Bugnon, Nnenna Freelon, Jeff Lorber, Bob Baldwin, Jennifer Holiday and The Sax Pack.
With the release of his previous CD, The Just Feelin It . Michael Manson joined the ranks of today’s premiere jazz artists.
His first single “Coming Right At Ya” reached the top 10 on the R&R Smooth Jazz. Bass-master Michael Manson moved from sideman to center-stage on his solo debut The Bottom Line.
His passion and precision are displayed with both unrelenting power and laid-back grace on the album that, he says, “reflects the deepest expression of all I have felt making music for the last twenty years.”
On Michael Manson’s new CD “Up Front”. It, he is credited for writing and production. For this album Michael has collected the who’s who of Smooth Jazz: Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Lorber, Brian Culbertson, Nelson Range, Norman Brown, Paul Jackson Jr., the legendary George Duke and many more great jazz musicians. This album is a great mix of contemporary jazz, R&B and even a little gospel.
For Michael Manson the bottom line has always been great music. Since he first picked up a guitar (not a bass), he has moved persistently from strength to strength, one association leading inevitably to another in a career that has brought him front and center with the most esteemed names in jazz, gospel, R&B, rock and pop.
Manson’s uniquely lyrical voice has its roots in Chicago, Illinois. He recalls, “My grandmother and mother played piano, but no one else in the family was really involved in music. My dad had an old beat-up folk guitar that he never picked up and so my older brother and I got interested in music about the same time-I was fourteen-and started playing it. After that, we bugged my mom to buy us some instruments. She finally bought my brother a guitar and me a $25.00 bass and a $25.00 amp that we shared”.
Returning to Chicago State University, he joined the Chicago State Gospel Choir and, in Manson’s words, “things started snowballing.” One gig or association would lead to another, with Manson playing with one Gospel great after another: Tramaine Hawkins, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Jessy Dixon and James Cleveland. He even played on the Winan’s album All Out, only the first of many times he would perform with childhood musical heroes.
After his graduation from Chicago State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, he went on to complete a Masters in Music Performance at Northwestern University. In 1995 Manson met Steve Finkle (now Steve Cole) who was playing with Brian Culbertson. Soon Manson was playing the Chicago club circuit and touring in support of Culbertson’s City Lights. Manson went on to record selections on Brian’s After Hours in ’97. That same year, one of his gospel connections put him together with Kirk Whalum, and he ended up playing on the Dove and Stellar-Award nominated “The Gospel According To Jazz.” Recorded live at the Roy Acuff theatre, it featured Whalum, George Duke and Paul Jackson Jr. “That’s how I met George Duke in ’97,” quips Manson.
Manson’s association with George Duke ultimately led to the gig of a lifetime. George, who was the musical director and a featured artist on the Montreux Jazz tour (summer of 2000), invited Manson onboard, where he shared the stage with his greatest childhood hero, Al Jarreau, along with David Sanborn, Roberta Flack and Joe Sample. Pal Kirk Whalum said with typical good humor, “After that tour you could have retired.” But Manson is just getting started. Through Kirk, he met Larry Carlton and toured with him before and after his chart-topping Fingerprints album. Kirk also included him on his “Hymns In The Garden” album that garnered a nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album at this years Grammys. Manson has shared the stage with Warner Bros. Records artists Larry Carlton, Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Rick Braun, Kenny Garret, George Duke and Kevin Mahogany. Other Warner artists featured on the album included Fourplay (with bassist Nathan East), Bob James and Gabriel Anders. Released in October of 2000 to critical acclaim, it is being followed by a DVD release in 2001.
For Michael Manson, love of musical communication, exploration, collaboration and celebration is clearly what it’s all about. This sophomore release reflects Manson’s unabated passion with joy and inspired artistry, “There are musical conversations that are intriguing and I hope the audience shares in that. But it is just great for musicians to communicate in thai way. That’s the joy of music. To make great music like that every night, that’s what it’s all about.”
The Phil Denny surge has become a topic of conversation and interest among an international audience spawning loyal and borderless fanfare. Impressive artistry, presence and passion combined with a unique ability to connect with people on and off the stage have earned Denny a resume of notable achievements in just a short time and give reason to play on.
Since emerging onto the smooth jazz scene in 2012 much traction has been made by the efforts of saxophonist and businessman, Phil Denny. The four-time Billboard charting, independent artist has been described as a passionate and soulful player often captivating audiences with his smooth, sexy yet energetic style. Friends and fans alike often describe him as a people’s musician having developed and maintained a very active, loyal and ever-growing fan base even before the release of his internationally recognized 2012 debut CD, Crossover.
Denny’s sophomore CD release, Upswing, offers 11-tracks infusing elements of R&B, urban vibe, uptempo pop and funk and features the hit track, Diggin’ On which has enjoyed more than 11 weeks on the Billboard chart having peeked at an impressive #13 position. A career first top ten (#7) on the Mediabase chart and a Sirius XM Watercolors weekly #1 has also been added to Denny’s radio credit resume. Additional radio singles, Soak It Up and Radio Flyer also received national and international airplay on FM and internet radio stations as well as SiriusXM. Denny’s latest release Upswing demonstrates a clear ability to raise the bar while displaying growth in artistry. Expect new, artist-defining music later this year!
Performances of note to date include an appearance at the 2012 Dubai International Jazz Festival, Headlining Jazz Under the Stars 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, Co-headlining 2014, 2013 Arizona Jazz Festival, 2013/2014 GrandJazzFest, 2014 Inaugural Shoreline Jazz Festival, 2015/2016 Cabin Fever Jazz Festival, 2016 Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Jazz Festival and on-going appearances at the MGM Grand Detroit casino Additionally, Denny has performed as sideman to guitarist Peter White, trumpeter Rick Braun, keyboardists Gregg Karukas and Oli Silk, R&B vocalist Stokley Williams and has opened for RnR, Brian Culberston and even once jammed with Stevie Wonder.
Ashling Cole, also known as “BISCUIT”, is one of the most dynamic vocalists to ever come out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Her soaring voice and unparalleled professionalism make her a first call talent in the arena of R&B, jazz, funk and gospel. For the last 7 years she has been touring internationally with legendary bassist Larry Graham, which has landed her center stage with such greats as Carlos Santana, Bootsy Collins, Marcus Miller and Prince.
After a lifetime in the background, Ashling finally released “Where Love Began”, a much anticipated EP of five songs she wrote, arranged and co-produced with guitarist, Cam Perridge. You feel an island breeze with “Let’s Pretend”, your heart shatters with “What Do You Do” and you fall in love all over again with the title track. If this EP is any indication of where her career is headed, We can say her days in the background are over!
Ashling Cole is also a permanent fixture on the annual Dave Koz Cruise, wowing audiences in performances with Chris Botti, Michael McDonald, Keb Mo, Jonathan Butler, Richard Elliot and Kirk Whalum, just to name a few. She was named “MVP of the Cruise” two years in a row, by Mr. Koz himself, for her impeccable talents, infectious personality, and stellar stage presence.
He said this about Ashling Cole’s EP…
“Finally, something that showcases just how intensely talented this woman really is! All us FOA’s (Fans Of Ashling) have waited a very long time for this—and it’s well worth the wait. You find an artist at the top of her game, singing from her very core, about meaningful things—and setting such an amazing mood. She can do it all, but here she takes the listener to a very personal place that is so satisfying on every level. And what a voice…amazing!” – Dave Koz
Trumpeter Farnell Newton is one of the most versatile musicians & educators in the Northwest, playing straight ahead jazz, smooth jazz, Latin music, soul, hip hop, funk and more. When he is not teaching at Portland State University’s Jazz Department or working with his youth jazz group, PDX Jazz Project, he is touring, recording, and sharing the stage with Skerik, Lettuce, Slightly Stoopid, Karl Denson, Galactic, Nigel Hall, sax man Mike Phillips , the DooDooFunk All-Stars, & many more.
In the last few years, Farnell has been touring with 3 time Grammy winning singer/songwriter Jill Scott and with the Legendary Rhinestone Rockstar Bassist Bootsy Collins. In previous years, Farnell has performed with great musical artists, including Lalah Hathaway, Ron Isley, R. Kelly, Cee Lo Green, Fantasia, Gladys Knight, Charlie Wilson, Chaka Khan, Najee, Will Downing, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and and many more.