Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tommy Lepson Band at Blues Alley Wednesday December 1st 2010

I went to see the Tommy Lepson Band performance at Blues Alley last Wednesday evening.
Had a great time on a cold night, the band was cooking and the audience was receptive.
Ive been a fan since the old Columbia Station days and have always enjoyed Tommy’s singing, its now gotten to the level where the shows are just stunning. To para phrase Bill Bucks from Soul and Jazz and “In vocalist Tommy Lepson, they've found a real talent... no histrionics – just honest soul singing”. The Tommy Lepson band consisted of Gary Crocket, Mike Davis, Josh Howe, John Bell, and Wayne Sulc. Highly recommend. When Tommy sings Dr John, Neville Brothers, or Joe Cocker he channels the true spirit of the material without covering it, and it stops you in your tracks./

Thursday, November 18, 2010 reviews Urban Funk Heroes And Legends

Thursday, 18 November 2010 19:47 Bill Buckley

Urban Funk are a US band whose music isn't quite the funk that their name implies. Rather, the sound of Urban Funk is the sound of smooth jazz. On this 13 tracker you could make comparisons with outfits like Spyro Gyra and the Rippingtons, though in fairness these Urban Funksters offer, in places anyway, a little more bite and attack. Throughout it's all pleasing, pleasant and polished and like most classic smooth jazz sets the repertoire is a mix of originals and covers with a smattering of vocals thrown in for variety.

Indeed two vocal covers are the album's highlights – probably because of their familiarity and accessibility; they are Marvin Gaye's 'Mercy, Mercy Me' and Bobby Caldwell's 'What You Won't Do For Love' – two great songs to begin with and Urban Funk don't stray too far from the originals. In vocalist Tommy Lepson, though, they've found a real talent... no histrionics – just honest soul singing. The other covers are takes on Bob Marley's 'Is This Love', Christopher Cross's 'Sailing' (both very light), Steely Dan's 'Josie' (some great, driving sax from Wayne Sulic), Chick Corea's 'Spain', Santana's 'Samba Pa Ti', the film theme 'Black Orpheus' (all chosen to show the band can "do" Latin properly) and Stevie Wonder's 'Ribbon In The Sky' ( great keys from Steve Long here).

That leaves a quartet of original tunes of which the opener, 'Urban Phunk' is the strongest. It rides a great soul groove and features catchy rifffing from the three piece brass section. 'Under The Sea' is another goodie – more flavours of Steely Dan... clearly the band dig Becker and Fagen. More established smooth jazz outfits would be rightly proud of these two cuts and you can find out more about the album on , while the album is currently available from CDBaby.

(BB) 3/5

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Smooth Jazz Gateway reviews Urban Funk Heroes And Legends

Ronald Jackson's Smooth Jazz Gateway
Urban Funk – Heroes and Legends
Bringing us some East Coast jammin’ is this MD-based group, Urban Funk, which does a really decent job of incorporating a solid group of covers with some competent original material to create Heroes and Legends, a nice collection to add to your smooth jazz goodies.Designed with the intent, as the group says, “to pay homage and elaborate on the creativity of our teachers, gurus and masters of an art form we love” as well as to “add original material as the culmination of the experiences performing, recording and representing the pulse of the eras in we which we participated,” this album obviously has a direction. The covers are nicely interpreted though only conservatively tweaked. I suppose that was to drive home the point that the approach to these tunes was to preserve the integrity of the compositions and to show respect for the work of those coming before this group. A noble gesture.
The original material suggests that the group didn’t just sit down and bang out a few notes, record them, and thrust them forward without regard to the listening public’s sensitivities.
After a funky and snappy opening track, their original “Urban Phunk,” the group goes right after Steely Dan’s “Josie,” a brave gesture in my opinion, since I highly respect Steely Dan’s work, and it handles it most effectively.
There are other examples of some satisfying quality playing (and singing, as is evidenced on Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love,” sung here quite well by one Tommy Lepson), and you can hear that time was truly used wisely-- and not wasted-- in creating this production.
Posted by Ronald Jackson at 8:28 PM

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Best Funk Drummer!

John Thomakos is a professional Drummer and Percussionist.
With a career spanning nearly three decades, he has performed with some of the finest musicians and entertainers in the world. His most recent undertaking: a North American tour with Cirque du Soleil’s- KOOZA.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, John received his first drum set when he was five years old. Soon after, he played his first performance-Greek music with his Godfather on bouzouki in the social hall of their church. With a growing passion for music, he began playing in bands and honing his skills which led him to study at the Baltimore School for the Arts, as a Percussion/Music major. He graduated with a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts- And went on to study at the Musician’s Institute of Technology in Los Angeles, California, where he was awarded a Certificate of Honor, and an award for “Best Funk Drummer”.

Back East from California, Thomakos quickly became a sought after sideman in a variety of musical settings. In his words, “All of the various, gigs, recording, groups and artist with which I have been involved, have been an invaluable experience and education to me.”

Today his Discography of Recordings with an eclectic range of artists and groups is, to some degree, a testament of his merit and most certainly a reflection of his versatility. He has also recorded jingles for radio and TV, as well as music for The Discovery Channel, HBO Pictures and the television shows, The Young and the Restless, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Regis and Kelley Show, Brooklyn South, That’s Life, and Homicide.

Over the span of his career, John has also performed live on television shows including The Regis and Kelly Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He has been employed by a variety of extraordinary artists and groups, ranging from The Global Percussion Trio to New Orleans legend and guitar superman, John Mooney, to pop superstar and three-time Grammy Nominee Vanessa Carlton.

Most recently, John has toured with Cirque du Soleil’s show, KOOZA. Having performed over 600 shows across North America and Canada, this high energy production features some of the world’s top performers and spotlights John in a high energy drum solo.

Aside from enjoying a successful professional career as a freelance drummer and percussionist, he has also realized the opportunity and enjoyment of sharing his passion for music through education. As a student of the instrument and music himself, he has also become a sought after teacher and educator. His articles have been featured in Modern Drummer Magazine as well as on He has also written two critically acclaimed drum set method books:

Drum Back Beats Encyclopedia, published and distributed by Alfred Publications.

Encyclopedia of Drumset Styles published band distributed by Mel Bay Publications.
John is featured on “Urban Funk’s Heroes And Legends”.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coconut Times Reviews Urban Funk's Heroes And Legends

Now what got me thinking of those sexy men on sax was a blast from the past from our old friend Wayne Sulc who played with Jr. Cline and the Recliners for many years in several clubs here. Most of you know that Darryl (aka Jr.) had some health problems that prevented him from performing but he’s back and better than ever. Wayne told me they have played a few dates and are working on a return to Fager’s Island - maybe. Let’s hope, right? Anyway, Wayne has continued playing with several groups over the past few years doing everything from jazz to salsa, and now has assembled a group of superb musicians to produce a CD of Urban Funk titled Heroes and Legends. I can tell you I am really enjoying this collection of songs, most of which are arranged by Wayne Sulc with vocals recorded by another person with whom we are quite familiar, Tommy Lepson. The CD opens with the jazzy cool instrumental “Urban Phunk,” one of the originals on the CD, composed and arranged by Steve Long, that immediately captured my attention. Next is “Josie,” by Walter Becker & Donald Fagen, a superb arrangement by Mr. Sulc that is mostly instrumental with vocal tags by Lepson and Jennifer Smith. Following is “Mercy Mercy Me,” composed by Marvin Gaye, that is another combination of arranging genius and musicians’ triumphant performances. Another highlight for me is “Lourdes From Heaven” written by Wayne Sulc. So, you get the picture. Homage is paid to artists who helped shape the preferences and styles of these musicians; hence the name Heroes and Legends. This is a magnificent studio collaboration that spanned a few years to its completion. I doubt that we will ever hear these musicians assembled live, so go to saxman productions or request it from your local music store to hear what I’ve been happily listening to.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Susie Mudd-Mid Atlantic Music News, The Red Rocker Review

Urban Funk’s debut CD is why I am so determined to get my words heard, so I can spread the word out about our music. “Heroes and Legends” is easily one of the best pieces of music I have ever heard. There is nothing really bad about this release. The best of the best are in this group. These creative energies have created the masterful release. Heroes and Legends were born by the love of the saxophone. Probably, that is one of the reasons (our) Music keeps me dreaming of getting my energy and spirit back, and Music Monthly (albeit) with a new name. Heroes and Legends is brilliant. Title tells it all, and when you hear the best we have lay down tracks and create magic. On the disc are Steve Long, Wayne Sulc, Jeff Bonk, Don Junker; John Thomakos, Tim Cututrona, Chuck Underwood¸ Tommy Lepson ,and Jennifer Smith. If you get off on great, funky music, with amazing vocals, licks to die for, and freaking awesome drums, excuse me, I mean percussion. I am sure the release is available wherever you can get good and bad music. Thank you so much for the gift of this CD. The first cut knocks me out, and it just keeps getting better from there. The fact that this record is all covers, doesn’t alter my opinion of this record—these guys picked some great tunes. I imagine it was really fun laying down tracks for it. Phenomenal listen!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jennifer Smith lends her polished voice and members of Naked Blue

Jennifer Smith not only brought her polished voice to Heroes and Legends but her whole band.

Mike Davis known not only for his thoughtful bass lines but also for his undesea adventures blends many of the pieces with his talented purposeful playing and chooses the right instrument for the right song, from fretless to fret full Mike plays the funk and the ballad with equal testimont.

John Thomakos has been their rythym maker through the years and wouldnt miss a project that the band advocates, his busy schedule from teacher to road smasher with Cirque di Soleil has made this a fortunate project.

Here's more on Naked Blue and the Smith team's initiatives.

Borrowing from the Americana tradition, but firmly grounded with a pleasing pop sensibility, the performing songwriter team, Jen and Scott Smith, and their band, Naked Blue, have become one of the most successful independent acts in the Mid-Atlantic. In May 2003 they celebrated their 5th CD release, Five by Five, which has sold thousands of copies to date. Paste Magazine says: "Naked Blue has that universal appeal musicians yearn for....will make you want to dance and cry.."Naked Blue has appeared on CNBC's 'After Hours' and numerous other AAA and community radio and tv programs in the U.S., Europe and U.K. Some highlights of the 2003 tour included shows from New York to Atlanta to Los Angeles at the Keswick Theater, The Forum, The Birchmere, The Rams Head Stage, Scottish Rite Auditorium, The Bitter End, The Avalon Theatre, The Rosebud, Eddies Attic, and Gengis Cohen. "Jen & Scott share the evening with their audience like old friends. No wonder reservations flooded in to sell out the show." Phil & Ilene White, Presenters, House in the Woods.Jen & Scott's songwriting credits include cuts on Evangeline's 'French Quarter Moon' Margaritaville/MCA, Troy Turner's latest single on Telarc Records and spots on The Young & the Restless, Brooklyn South, Jack & Jill, That's Life and the films The Girl Next Door, About Sarah, The Smokers and Second to Die.Awards include Washington Area Musician's Association Best Female vocalist in the Rock/Pop, Roots Rock and Contemporary Folk catagories as well as Music Monthy Magazines Best in Genre and Best Folk Group.
"With the release of their new CD, Five by Five, Naked Blue has established itself as a vital player on the folk-pop scene." Metro Beat

Friday, January 8, 2010

John Cocuzzi-Virtuoso, Prodigy, Emprasario

John Cocuzzi Biography • Articles • Reviews
Alan [Dale] andJohn [Cocuzzi]reflect the honestyand purity of good,hard-swingingmusic. TheseGentlemen of Jazzare both preservingand invigoratingwhat has becomea perishable art.
— LOUIE BELLSONDrummer forLouis Armstrong,Lionel Hampton,Duke Ellington,Count Basie,Benny Goodman,Tommy Dorsey,Harry James,Woody Herman,and others.

"Versatility, virtuosity and passion"IN THE SPIRIT OF LOUIS ARMSTRONGIntro paragraph for promo bio (150 word count)
Swingster John Cocuzzi has New Orleans flavor and East Coast flair, playing with passion and intensity on piano, vibes and drums. For more than 25 years, John has been entertaining crowds in the Washington, DC area and performing alongside jazz and blues greats at festivals across the United States and in Europe. With dynamic style and diverse rhythms, John's innovation breathes new life into familiar tunes, from swingin' and burnin' jazz and blues to lush and sultry ballads. An intuitive performer, John possesses that musical "fire in the belly," igniting the crowd with skillful improvisation, "telling his story" through spirited, high-energy solos. In addition to being a fine pianist, John has earned a nationwide reputation as a premier swing vibraphonist. He now lives in Northern California, spreading the jazz/blues/swing gospel in the Sacramento area as a soloist and bandleader, and working with the finest musicians in town. Famous jazz drummer Louie Bellson called John a "Gentleman of Jazz" and hired John's band to perform at his wedding reception in 1992. Click here to view the names of musicians John has worked with over the years.
Jazz journalist Cam Miller wrote: "His command of a vibraphone and piano, as well as being a fine 'shy-guy' vocalist, make him a triple-threat musician whose enthusiasm and engaging personality brighten any room in which he performs."

Click here to read What Others SayAbout John Cocuzzi

Partial list of past PERFORMANCEVENUES
Partial list ofMUSICIANS
NEWS Releases

"Besides having amarvelous earfor harmony,John Cocuzzi hasfire, enthusiasm,and speed." — STEVE JORDANGuitarist forBenny Goodman,Stan Kenton, Artie Shaw

"Versatility, virtuosityand passion:This is whatyou need to knowabout the musicof John Cocuzzi."— JEFF BARNHARTJazz pianist

"John Cocuzzi isa fabulous musicianand entertainer whocan do it all—vibes,piano and vocals."— DAVID COOPERDirectorSan Diego Jazz Party

John Cocuzzi was born in the '60s at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC. His father, Frank Cocuzzi, had been a percussionist for the U.S. Marine Band and was a professional jazz drummer. Growing up, John would accompany his dad and sit-in at jam sessions with the older players. As a young man exposed to great jazz, John was able to get acquainted with these players and their music. There was live music everywhere he went, leading him to his musical life path. John soon established himself as a dynamic stylist and multi-instrumentalist in the Washington, DC area.
First a drummer, then a piano player, John didn't add the vibraphone till his late teens when he was inspired by Lionel Hampton recordings. Drumming greatly influenced John's rhythmic versatility on piano and vibes. Cocuzzi's piano work is influenced by Jelly Roll Morton, Thomas "Fats" Waller, Mead "LUX" Lewis, Professor Longhair, Nat "King" Cole, James Booker, and Erroll Garner. One can also hear echoes of Gene Harris and Dave McKenna in John's playing. His vibraphone influences include Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo, and Milt Jackson. His vocal influences are New Orleans jazz and blues stylists, but John also has his own shy-guy style on ballads. He enjoys making old songs new by creatively introducing fresh rhythms and honoring the rhythms of New Orleans in the spirit of Louis Armstrong.
Lionel Hampton
For 15 years, John was Music Director for the 219 Restaurant’s Basin Street Lounge in Old Town, Alexandria, VA. He was also Music Director for the Crystal City Jazz Celebration, a jazz party in the DC area, where John worked since its inception in 2003 through 2006, presenting the best artists in classic jazz today. In 2009, John became VP of the Sac. Trad. Jazz Society, which produces the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.
John has been working as both sideman and leader with top musicians since the mid-1980s and continues to attract new fans wherever the music takes him, whether its cross-country with Ed Polcer's All-Stars or Allan Vaché's "Benny Goodman Tribute," or to Europe with the Joe Ascione Quartet. In the DC area, John appeared with his own trio/quartet and performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian’s IMAX Jazz Café, the Corcoran Art Gallery, and Blues Alley, Washington DC’s premier jazz club. He has also performed at the Lincoln Center in New York City, the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD, Snug Harbor and the Palm Court Jazz Café in New Orleans, Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, and Marian's Jazz Room in Bern, Switzerland.
IN GOOD COMPANYJohn has been blessed to perform and/or record with numerousjazz and blues greats — listed alphabeticallyClick on the w to visit their website

IN JOHN'S WORDS:“My fatheralways wantedto learn the piano butdidn’t really have anopportunity to do soin his childhood,so he got pianolessons for me whenI was 8 years old.I studied with myfirst teacher,Mrs. Sturgis,in Cheverly, MD.(Thank youMrs. Sturgis!)I had a lesson everySaturday morningat her house.Then, I studiedwith Mr. Pollackfor 6 years.(Thank youMr. Pollack!)When I heard his8-year-old sonplay Bach on the'good' piano upstairs,I realizedI wasn’t cut out to bea classical pianist,so I spent my timelearning andlistening to jazz.Mr. Pollackfinally lost patiencewith me improvisingBach’s music,and the restis history." —JOHN COCUZZI

BLUES LEGENDS “Weeping” Tommy BrownFloyd DixonEarl KingJimmy McCracklinJimmy “T-99” Nelson
PLUS OTHER GREATS OFBLUES and JUMP BLUES:"Little Charlie" BatyMookie BrillJaniva Magness "Big Joe" Maher w Kevin McKendree w Bob Seeley
• • • • •

VOCALSTerry Blaine wYve Evans w Banu Gibson Rebecca Kilgore wVivian Lee w Brady McKay w Barbara Morrison w Daryl Sherman

PIANOJeff BarnhartJohn BunchJudy Carmichael w Skitch Henderson Eddie HigginsTom Hook Dick HymanJim Martinez w Mark ShaneJohn SheridanRossano Sportiello w Ray TemplinJohnny Varro

JAZZ LEGENDSLouis Bellson, drKeter Betts, bBilly Butterfield, tptDoc Cheatham, tptBarrett Deems, drBob Haggart, bSkitch Henderson, composer, arranger, conductor, pianistMilt Hinton, bSteve Jordan, gtr w Snooky Young, tpt• • • • •

VIBRAPHONEPeter Appleyard Chuck Redd w

VIOLINJohnny FrigoAndy Stein

GUITARHoward Alden w James ChirilloJoe CohnVinnie CorraoEddie EricksonMarty GroszSteve Homan w Steve JordanJerry KrahnRussell MaloneBucky PizzarelliJohn Pizzarelli w

TRUMPET / CORNET Billy ButterfieldDoc Cheatham, tpt Jackie Coon (flugelhorn) Jim Cullum w Duke Heitger Clyde HuntJon-Erik Kellso w Ed Polcer w Randy ReinhartRandy SandkeTom SaundersBob Schulz Bria Skonberg w Byron StriplingWarren Vaché w Snooky Young Joe Wilder

TROMBONEBill AllredJohn Allred w Dan Barrett wWycliffe Gordon w Bob HavensGeorge MassoRuss Phillips w Mike Rinta

BASSKeter Betts Andy CleyndertFrank TatePhil FlaniganVince GiordanoBob Haggart Milt Hinton Paul Keller w Kristin Korb Jennifer Leitham wChris LutyNicki Parrott w John Previti wRichard Simon w Murray Wall

CLARINET(See below for Clarinet/Sax) Evan ChristopherKim CusackBob Draga Bobby GordonChuck Hedges Eric SchneiderAllan Vaché w

CLARINET / SAX Harry Allen w John AltmanDan BlockAnat Cohen Kenny DavernTom FischerJim GallowayRed HollowayDan Levinson w Mike McMullenTommy Newsom Joep Peeters Ken Peplowski w Houston Person w Scott RobinsonFrank RoberscheutenAntti SarpillaBob Wilber

DRUMSJoe Ascione wLouie Bellson Frank Cocuzzi w Danny CootsBarrett Deems Gerald FrenchJake HannaAli Jackson Eddie LockeEd Metz, Jr. w Butch MilesBobby RosengardenPete Siers

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On radio, John recorded a session for NPR’s “Riverwalk: Live at The Landing” with the Jim Cullum Band. It was a tribute to Benny Goodman, “The Swing Shift: Jazz on Late-Night Radio,” and featured Allan Vaché on clarinet with Nicholas Payton on trumpet.
National tours with Ed Polcer have included educational programs for grades K-12 and college level clinics involving demonstrations, information, technique, and performance. They discuss America’s original art form—jazz and blues—and the instruments and musicians that made classic jazz what it is today.
John also does composing and arranging for jazz and other styles, and he does studio recording/mixing for classic jazz and swing. Visit the MUSIC page to hear samples of some of his recordings.
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Articles, News, and Reviews
REVIEW - CONCERT: John Cocuzzi Quartet in Sac., CABy Vivian Lee
REVIEW - CONCERT: "Sunday Eve. Jazz" at JB's in Sac., CA By Vivian Lee
REVIEW - CONCERT: John Cocuzzi for STJS – AATJBy Judy Hendricks
REVIEW – CD: "Swingin' and Burnin'" – All About JazzBy Dave Nathan
REVIEW – CD: "Swingin' and Burnin'" – epinions.comBy Mike Holmes
REVIEW – CD: "LIVE! In Cactus Country" – L.A. Jazz SceneBy Harvey Barkan
REVIEW – CD: "Swingin' and Burnin'"Assorted from The Absolute Sound, Jazz Times, and CMJ New Music Report
REVIEW – CD: "We Got Rhythm" by the Big Three TrioBy Oscar Groomes, O's Place Jazz Newsletter
REVIEW – CD: "We Got Rhythm" by the Big 3 TrioBy Jim Santella, Cadence Magazine
NEWS RELEASE – John Cocuzzi named "Jazz Ambassador 2007" at AZ Classic Jazz Festival – Chandler, Arizona
ARTICLE – 2 articles on the West Texas Jazz Party in May 2009.
ARTICLE – "Swing & Jazz Preservation Society January 15, 2008 Concert: ED POLCER AND HIS JAZZ ALL-STARS" – by Mort Mozar
ARTICLE – "The Day John Cocuzzi’s Band Almost Blew the Roof Off the Glendora Ballroom" – by Nicolette Modaber
ARTICLE – "Jazz in Mountain Time: Summit Jazz is Top-Level Music" – by Bob Lynn
ARTICLE — (Riverwalk Radio) "The Swing Shift: Jazz on Late-Night Radio" – by Don Mopsick

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© 2008 John Cocuzzi Live Music Performance and Event Production — Vibraphone/Piano/Drums/Vocals

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Steve Wolf The Man Is A Ninja!

Steve Wolf, bassist, has been a fixture on the Washington music scene since the late 60s. During that time he has performed throughout the United States and Europe with such D.C. area notables as Danny Gatton, Tom Principato, The Nighthawks, Cathy Ponton-King, Catfish Hodge, Deanna Bogart, Bob Margolin, Linwood Taylor, Ron Holloway, Big Joe Maher, Jessie Yawn, and a diverse group of national artists ranging from Chuck Berry, The Coasters and Bo Diddly to Doctor John, Brian Auger and sax man Clarence Clemons. His well respected work in the blues arena has led him to back Chicago blues legends Sunnyland Slim, Pine Top Perkins, Charlie Musselwhite, Guitar Junior (Luther Johnson), and many others. Steve has also garnered an impressive list of recording credits as both a performer and producer. To read more about Steve, visit

Monday, January 4, 2010

Chuck Underwood The Man With The Larger Than Life Sound

Chuck Underwood has been an in demand guitarist for more than 20 years performing and recording with some of Washington, DC's most respected musicians. Chuck has performed as a guest soloist with the National Symphony and as part of Patti LaBelle's touring band, appeared on The Tonight Show, Showtime At The Apollo and venues worldwide.

Currently Chuck works with Pam Bricker, The Manny Bobenrieth Ensembleand leads his own jazz trio. Chuck was nominated by the WashingtonMusic Association for best instrumentalist in 2002.

Chuck adds his work to "Under The Sea" and "Josie" on Urban Funks Heroes And Legends