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Tamara Champlin & Bill Champlin in Concert, photo by Garbis H. Sarafian, protected by copyright © 

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 Kirsten Nash Releases a New Album

Kirsten Nash 2016 front pageFrom the artwork that adorns the front cover, to the graphic design of the CD cover, inside and out and the songs that comprise A Feather And A Scale the new album from Canadian singer, songwriter and musician Kirsten Nash, this is a masterpiece. Oh did we happen to mention that the artwork on the front cover is a painting by Nash, just one of the many gifts that this artisan possesses. The graphic design is by Heather Aston.    

Kirsten Nash vocals are sublime and they are showcased in her song “Easy Gets So Hard,” with its mix of R&B, Soul and Funk grooves and rhythms. Kirsten Nash’s saxophone is superb, Darryl Havers’ organ compliments nicely and adds texture and Pat Steward (The Odds, Bryan Adams, Matthew Good) is his incredible self on drums.

“I think the lyrics speak for themselves. We all have dreams and things that we want to do and things that we think maybe are going to be easy. We go down that path and it turns out to not be as easy as you thought it was going to be.  Life just takes you where it is going to take you. It can be rather tricky to deal with it. Sometimes easy just gets so hard. That is basically what (the song) is about,” says Nash.

She describes the new album as being about life and says that the initial inspiration came about when a friend of Nash’s youngest son, experienced his mother’s dying when she was still quite young. Left behind, were her two sons and a husband.

“That just hit me so hard, having two young boys myself. I think the worst thing is saying goodbye to your children when they go and the next thing to that is to say goodbye to your children when you go.  I was getting haunted by her and the whole album became about life.  It is about life experiences and not about one person or one instance, but it is just about life that happens to you and life from the perspective of not being eighteen anymore, not being thirty anymore. I am going to be fifty-five in March (2016). I am speaking about things that somebody who is in their twenties doesn’t know yet. That is where I feel that I belong in this thing, which is where I am a fifty-four year old woman who has lived through a lot of stuff and I want to share with people that sometimes “Easy Gets So Hard.” You think you have this and you think this is going to go the way that it is going to go, but sometimes (it) just goes around the corner and at the end of the day you still get through.  It is going to  Read More

Jeff Fasano Celebrity Photographer

Jeff Fasano Photo OneRiveting Riffs Magazine sat down to talk to celebrity photographer Jeff Fasano just days after the music world lost two mega stars, Natalie Cole and David Bowie and just a couple of days before Glenn Frey passed away. In light of those tragic deaths we thought it was appropriate to ask Jeff Fasano what role photographers play in preserving the legacy of artists such as the ones we just mentioned.

“If you look over all of the years that David Bowie has been photographed from the early, early days up until the latest shots, it is a wonderful documentary of images of a Rock and Roll star,” says Fasano, before continuing, “Let’s go to Jim Morrison. He died at 27 and he would be (72 years old) today. There is an image of Jim Morrison taken by a woman photographer (he could not recall her name) and it left a lasting impression on me. I was really young back then.

For most of us that’s all we ever see, unless we know the artist or we saw them in concert and it depends on the photographer and what that photographer captured in that person and what you see in every single image, especially of Bowie. All of the looks that guy had for all the years and the personas, Ziggy Stardust and all of the different looks up until now. You see many sides of a person and that is why photography is great, because you are capturing an image in a moment of time and it will never happen again.  Some of Bowie’s record covers really stand out.

When I was at Parsons School the photo department was run by Ben Fernandez who is a fairly well known photojournalist and Mario Cabrera was a photojournalist with Associated Press, so I was learning photography and all of the basics from the darkroom and the inside out from photojournalists.  I go all of the way back to my favorite photographers and they still are to this day Walker Evans, Eugene Smith and Dorothea Lange. My three favorite photographers were all photojournalists and all of them photographed for Life Magazine back in the day. Dorothea Lange was shooting the migrant workers out here in California. Eugene Smith shot World War II and all of those amazing places.  It was Walker Evans’ street photography.  It was all about capturing what happened in the moment. That is how you do it as a photojournalist. You see it and that moment will never happen again, so you capture it.” Read More

Mark Christian in Concert with Merle Jagger

Merle Jagger in Concert

Photo by Mike Kendall protected by copyright ©
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Merle Jagger website

Sally Stevens Interview Part I

Sally Stevens Front Page PhotoWe would be here all day if we attempted to list every one of the musical accomplishments during Sally Stevens' career, but throughout the course of our recent conversation with Sally and in the account of that interview which you will read here, we will attempt to give the reader a glimpse into the career of one of America’s and the music industry’s most successful people, during this two-part interview.  

Sally Stevens has performed and recorded as a solo singer, a session singer, she has scored feature films and she has worked as a vocal contractor, auditioning and hiring the singers and choir members who appear on major films and her film work as relates to music now encompasses more than 600 films, including Academy Award winners and nominated movies. Here are just a few of the films that Sally Stevens has worked on, Tomorrowland, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Secret of NIMH, Dr. Zivahgo, The Sound of Music, Bridge of Spies and Jurassic World.

She toured and recorded with Burt Bacharach and she lent her voice to the records of, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Country Joe and the Fish, Neil Diamond, Michael Bublé, Percy Faith and Sonny and Cher to name just a few of the iconic artists with whom she has worked.

Sally Stevens grew up in Los Angeles and in Tujunga located in the Greater Los Angeles Area.

“My mom (Betty Clarke) and dad (Ken Stevens) and step-father (Tom Clarke) were all singers and my mom and dad met in Chicago when they were both in radio. My dad came out here first and he worked on the Joe Penner Radio Show and he also worked with Ken Murray’s Blackouts. He Read More

From Rock Star To Cake Diva

Brie Howard Darling front page PhotoHave you ever wondered what it would be like to hold Jimmy Page’s double neck guitar in your hands? Now you can, sort of.  Brie Darling Cakes replicated one of Page’s guitars as a cake and you can eat everything including the guitar strings. Although, you will not be holding the entire cake, because it is life size, you will be holding a piece of it in your hands, so go out and tell your friends. It is not the first instrument that Darling and her team have replicated as they also reproduced in delicious form, a harmonica.

“I did a cake for a friend of mine Ted Andreadis and it was a harmonica cake. It was a Hohner harmonica and it made me so happy, because of the detail. I carved all of the little things that are carved into the metal (of the harmonica). It had the key that the harmonica was in and then I decided to go the extra mile and I cut up a cake box and I made it look like the Hohner harmonica box.  I love it when they turn out great and it blew his mind. He loved it. I went that extra mile to make it just right. That is what I love and that’s why I don’t want to get cranky pants about the money, because for me that is purely the enjoyment of getting it to a place where it will blow the recipient’s mind and it will blow the mind of whoever sees it, while making everybody uncomfortable, because they will have to cut into it. I have no problem with that. I love it that you have to destroy it to enjoy it. I don’t know why I have no attachment to it. I also paint and you have to get it just right or it is going to sit there on paper or canvass forever.  With cakes you do it, you take a shot, you take a picture and it’s gone. There is something about it that is freeing,” says Brie Howard Darling, as she is also referred to in the music business.  

Starting something from scratch and Read More

Andrea Celeste Is Amazing

Andrea Celeste Photo Front PageAndrea Celeste is a singer and songwriter who makes her home in Genova, Italy, a bastion for Italian musicians, singers and songwriters and although she is still in her twenties, Andrea Celeste has been turning heads in several circles in Italy since she was a teenager and in recent years music fans and journalists in other countries have begun to take note of her talents. She is completely fluent in Italian, English and Spanish and she can somewhat navigate her way through the German and French languages, plus she is also studying Portuguese. During our conversation Andrea Celeste who is equally comfortable singing Pop, Gospel, Jazz and Soul music hinted that her next album may have more of an international flavor and it may be recorded in several different languages with a return to a Jazzier feel to the music. She is also getting close to releasing her most recent album Kaleidoscope.

Kaleidoscope, wow! It took two years to complete this album. We were mastering it this morning and I couldn’t believe this, because the album took so much time. I think it is a good production and that we have good songs. I can say this, because they are not just my songs. I wrote the songs with Massimo Trigona who is a friend of mine. He is a fretless player and he is an amazing musician. We started to write together two years ago. I had a very hard period of my life when my father died and I was a little bit confused and sad. Massimo came into my life as a friend. He is (great) musician. We said let’s try to write songs together. It was like a jam session and we wrote thirty songs in two months. He also plays bass guitar and acoustic guitar. When we are together he just played a few chords and I said the melody could go like this and the lyrics could go like this. We work very fast together and we like each other. Read More

Alice Wallace - Country's Next Star

Alice Wallace front page photo“Poor Cleopatra,” the second song on Orange County, California singer, songwriter and guitarist Alice Wallace’s third and best album yet, Memories, Music & Pride sends a strong signal that the affable young woman who grew up in Florida has definitely arrived on the Country music scene. Not since artists like the Judds, Reba and Janie Fricke arrived on the scene decades ago has a female Country artist appeared with such impeccable vocals that remain true to the classic Country sound and who also possesses tremendous gifts as a songwriter. Did we happen to mention that she is also an incredible yodeler? We will have more about that later.

Alice Wallace is signed to California Country Records a new record label founded by two superb singers and songwriters and multiple music award winners Manda Mosher and Kirsten Proffit, who comprise two-thirds of CALICO the band. Memories, Music & Pride was co-produced by Proffit and Steve Berns (who also mixed the album), with Eric Craig acting as the Executive Producer. Alice Wallace has a wealth of talented and experienced people behind her who are also very savvy about the business side of music and this should enable her to realize her full potential as one of the best Country music artists to come our way in this millennium.

As for the song “Poor Cleopatra,” Wallace says, “There are two storylines that are meant to be one and the same. The town Jerome, Arizona is a copper mining town and the mine kept catching fire. At one point it was burning for about twenty years. They couldn’t put the fire out, so everyone abandoned the town and it became a ghost town. I wanted to write a song about the town and the mine fire that couldn’t be extinguished. To me it was this incredible idea that you would Read More

Billy Vera Harlem To Hollywood

Billy Vera 2015 front page photo“At this Moment,” became that rarest of things, an organic grassroots hit with no payola. The next thing you know it (the song) was leaping over the Madonnas and all of the people who were popular at the time.  We wound up at # 1 for two weeks in a row.  Here I was 42 years old, bald, with a number one record and on American Bandstand to screaming teenage girls,” singer, songwriter, producer and actor Billy Vera recalls, “It was pretty thrilling to hear myself on the radio, because I hadn’t heard myself on the radio in quite a few years.

Thank God my mother was still alive. She had terminal cancer at the time, but she was down there in Boca Raton, Florida and she would call up radio stations down there and she would tell them that she was my mother and ask if they would play my song. It was even more special than you think, because these morning disc jockeys are such snotty guys, wise asses and they were making fun of her. She was hip enough to know that they were making fun of her and she didn’t give a shit, as long as they played her little boy’s record. She lived long enough to see me not end up on food stamps.”

The song “At This Moment,” had been in Billy Vera’s collection of songs for a very long time, before it was catapulted to the top of the charts from being featured in two episodes of the television show Family Ties during the 1985-’86 and ’86-’87 seasons, prompting Billy Vera & The Beaters to re-record the song that had barely made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart when it was released by Alfa Records a few years earlier. Read More

Alyse Black

Alyse Black front page photoWhen you listen to Austin, Texas (by way of Seattle, Washington) singer-songwriter and musician Alyse Black cover songs such as “You Belong To Me,” (first recorded in 1952), “Seven Shades of Blue,” (Beth Nielsen Chapman) and “The Story,” (Brandy Carlile) you are struck by a few things, first of all her beautiful vocals, her connection to the lyrics even though she did not write them and her ability to stay in the moment. All three songs were originally going to appear on on her new still to be released self-titled album, which has at its helm as her producer Eric Rosse, however it has now been decided to release those songs on a separate recording. The album will feature some original songs by Ms. Black including “Put Your Feet Up,” a song about getting to the end of the day and cuddling with your honey. Another song “Wildest Dream,” which will be on the new album we suspect provides a glimpse into the personal life of Alyse Black and the many parts of the world she has experienced, as well as reflecting her love for her her husband and children. “Make Love + Laughter,” is about self-discovery.

When complimented on making “You Belong To Me,” her own, especially since it dates back to 1952, decades before Ms. Black was born, she says, “Yes, I like to joke that it has been covered by Bob Dylan and the  Prime Minister of France’s wife. It has been covered by everybody.  I am horrible at (trying to make a song sound exactly like someone who did it before). I am horrible at it (she laughs).

This is a really fun story. I wrote in a journal years ago that I wanted to do three songs, three love song covers. When I went to record this album with producer Mark Hallman (the original producer) in Austin we decided to put three covers on it and these were the three songs.  We  Read More

Rich Spina and The Fire

Rich Spina Front Page PhotoRich Spina (pronounced spee nah) earlier this year (2015) released Silly Melodies & Soliloquies, a solo album comprised of twelve songs, eleven of which were written and arranged entirely by him and the third track “The Fire,” was a co-write with Cindy Smart. Those who live in Cleveland, Ohio may recall the teenage Spina bursting onto the local music scene and fronting a couple of bands, the most notable being Love Affair, which enjoyed some success with the song “Mama Sez.” When Love Affair disbanded on amiable terms, Spina put together another band, Richard & The Heartbeats, whose song, “Somebody Loves You,” was a national pick by Billboard Magazine. Those who are aficionados of the 1960s music scene may recognize Rich Spina as the former keyboardist and music director for Gary Lewis & the Playboys for eighteen years, before he started touring with Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits. Spina’s songs have been recorded by artists such as Billy Hufsey, Gary Lewis and Sonny Geraci (The Outsiders – “Time Won’t Let Me,” and Climax – “Precious and Few”). In addition he has produced Billy J. Kramer, Mark Lindsay and others.

“It took much longer (to complete) that the album should have taken, because I was doing it in between my touring. It took me a year or a year and one-half to get the album done and I was knocking off songs whenever I could. I was purposely putting a collection together that was a little more adult. In other words, I stayed away from my Rock side on that album and I was keeping it more Pop. In fact, that was the only thing I was thinking about when I was putting   Read More

Cindy Alexander is an American Girl

cindy alexander photo front pageMusic fans everywhere are in for a real treat, as Cindy Alexander is about to release her new EP An American Girl, which can stand on its merit as a quality collection of great songs, but it also serves as a prelude to an even bigger undertaking, a double album that is already in the works.

On the phone from her home in Los Angles, singer, songwriter and musician Cindy Alexander explains, “I am doing a series of EPs and I am working with different co-writers / producers, so the next EP I will be doing is with Colin Devlin and I have some more surprises in store. We are going to take these EPs and put them together into a double album with probably some extra tracks, some live tracks and a couple of extra songs. We are going to create a double LP, Four Sides of Cindy Alexander. The next EP will probably come out in March and three to four months after that there will be another one. I would say probably next year by this time.”

The eight song An American Girl record demonstrates masterful songwriting, fabulous vocals, top-notch production quality and good musicians.  In addition to Alexander playing piano and singing the EP also features, Chip Moreland (drums and background vocals), Carl Sealove (bass), Phil Parlapiano (keyboards and piano), Dave Darling (guitar and background vocals), Randy Ray Mitchell (guitar, dobro), percussionist Tina Trevino, violinist Serena McKinney, Doug Livingston (pedal steel guitar) and Bernie Barlow Read More

Ethical Fashion On Stage Berlin

Ethical Fashion Show Berlin

Photo by Thomas Lohnes protected
 by copyright © 2015 Getty Images

Viktoria Tolstoy's A Moment of Now

Viktoria Tolstoy front page photoViktoria Tolystoy is a Swedish singer and songwriter who has worked on stage with and recorded with some stellar musicians and composers during her career, including Belgian Jazz guitarist and harmonica player Toots Thielemans, Swedish producer, singer and trombonist Nils Landgren (Björn Skifs, ABBA, Herbie Hancock) and iconic Swedish clarinetist Putte Wickman.

Viktoria Tolstoy fondly reflects upon all three gentlemen “Putte Wickman passed away nine years ago (2006) and he was a great person. He taught me more than I can understand. I can understand it now. He was so cool. He was world class, but he was never outside of Sweden. He played together with Arne Domnérus, the saxophone player (Charlie Parker, Art Farmer, James Moody). It is so sad now, it is fading out and all of these great giants are somewhere else now in heaven and playing for the angels. I really believe that. I can see the picture. They have a lot of fun up there now I guess (she laughs lightly).  Putte Wickman is the number one choice for me (of people she has collaborated with) both personally and how I developed when I was singing with him and his cool feeling against everything.

Toots Thielmans is my all-time favorite musician in all categories. He says it all. He is a beautiful soul. I got to meet him a couple of times and I also had the pleasure of singing with him. (Editor’s note:  Toots Thielmans is a Belgian Jazz guitarist and harmonica player.)

Then of course Nils Landgren, who is my mentor and he has produced almost all of my albums. We have been on hundreds of gigs together and he is also a very dear friend.

Viktoria Tolstoy’s debut album Smile, Love and Spice (1994) was comprised of songs with English lyrics and her second album För Älskad (1996) was an album with entirely Swedish songs. Even though Swedes are taught English in school from a very early age, we wondered if it had posed a challenge for Viktoria Tolstoy Read More

Brazil's Rique Pantoja

Rique Pantoja Front Page PhotoRique Pantoja is one of Brazil’s most highly respected composers, arrangers, orchestrators, pianists / keyboardists and singers, who has been living in Los Angeles for the past two decades. He was recognized early in his career and he still is, for being a brilliant composer and a music innovator, as his songs have been recorded by artists such as Chet Baker. His band Cama de Gato is legendary and impacted the Brazilian music scene as much as the Fusion band Weather Report did the North American Jazz scene. In essence Cama de Gato influenced future generations of Brazilian artists and songwriters. Rique Pantoja has worked with some of the most iconic people in the music industry including Brazil’s Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins and Djavan, as well as prolific artists like, Carlos Santana, Ricky Martin, Ernie Watts, Lee Ritenour, Luis Conte, Brenda Russell and Alex Acũna. His music has appeared in numerous feature films and television shows, as well as it has been used to promote some of the world’s top brands, such as Coca Cola, Honda and Toshiba.

Rique Pantoja grew up in Rio de Janeiro, one of six children, the fourth oldest boy and he also had two younger sisters. He says that his father who passed away almost six years ago was the greatest influence on him musically. He remembers his father as a great pianist and although he did not pursue a music career professionally he did complete all of the conservatory requirements. He played Chopin and Debussy, as well as American Jazz standards and the music of Erroll Garner (American composer and pianist known for “Misty”). Pantoja says that his sister was also a good concert pianist.

“My dad was not really an improviser. He had incredible chops and he was a good sight reader.  We grew up listening to him always playing music after diner and all of us six kids played piano. Read More

Maureen Davis & the Mercury 5

Maureen Davis front page photoWhen Maureen O’Hara Lana Turner Davis was born, just her name alone suggested this was going to be a fun ride for her and for the rest of us. Actually, the singer, songwriter, actress, music director of a late night talk show and once upon a time comedian’s birth certficate reads Maureen Lana Davis, but her mother, a former big band singer and lover of the films of the golden era named her daughter after two of her favorite actresses. The little girl born in Detroit and who as a child moved with her family several times to new homes in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois would go on to share the stage with Bernadette Peters in the Broadway production of the Tony Award winning play Into The Woods, she toured worldwide as a singer and now fronts her Rockabilly band Maureen & the Mercury 5 and she is the first woman to act as the musical director for a late night show that is currently being developed for television by Second City Hollywood, After Dark with Julian Clark.

Maureen Davis’ musical influences were sown early in life as she recalls, “my sisters Carolyn and Leslie had huge vinyl collections. They exposed me to all of the music that they loved. I was the baby," says Davis.

She remembers her childhood years, “What is funny is I was very religious. I was very Jewish and I wanted to be a rabbi, so I was in all of the choirs. I got so much of my musical knowledge from the cantor at the temple. I was in the children’s choir and the youth choir. I studied Hebrew music, which is the trope and that is the melody of reading Hebrew. It just fascinated me. I learned all of these trills and all of these things based on religious music. I had music in school and I did theater as a child and then something really tragic happened, my rabbi died.  He was like my mentor. Read More

Manda Mosher of Calico the Band

Manda Mosher by Anthony Mills

Photo by Anthony Mills protected by copyright ©
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Mary McGuire is Love Struck

Mary McGuire 2015 front pageWe caught up with American singer, songwriter and musician Mary McGuire recently, after she had performed the night before at the largest art competition in the world, Art Prize in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an event that attracts people from all over the world. McGuire took time out from her busy schedule to talk to Riveting Riffs Magazine about her new album Love Struck.

As for how long this album has been in the works, Mary McGuire says, “Oh gosh, a year and one-half. It was complicated to record an album in Detroit when I lived on Mackinac Island. I would find time that I could get off and I would come down state and coral all of the musicians, so I would get a session in at Pearl Sound. I was determined to make Love Struck at Pearl Sound, because Chuck Alkazian is a great producer. He has great ears and he knows how to make everything sound incredible. I trust him completely as a musician, because he is a great drummer and piano player. We were doing a little Blood Sisters (A band collaboration) pre-production test, because we were going to make an album and as it turned out we didn’t have the time or the finances to do it, so Barbara (Payton) said why don’t you just make your album? I said that’s a great idea.  That is how that got started. I started to get everybody that I could, to play on the album. I went in and I recorded fourteen acoustic songs, just my guitar and me and songs that we could choose from to make the album. We settled on seven.

A lot of it was just like, okay we’re done. What will we do next? It was great. Everybody except me lives in the Detroit area and I lived on Mackinac. I would come down and I would do what I could do. Sometimes I would be in the studio with the guys and other times they would just go work with Chuck and they would send me things. It was always like a gift and a surprise. I wasn’t micro managing anyone’s playing. Everybody did what everybody wanted to do and I think Read More

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