Author Archives: Melanie

In Memory of Willie Payne

In Memory of Willie Payne – Please share your memories and appreciation for Willie Payne

Willie Lee Payne Jr.

October 25, 1947 – August 3, 2020

When Willie Payne passed away in August, it was another gut punch to the smooth jazz community, which has suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic without their lifeline of live music, travel and fellowship with jazz friends. Now, one of the most generous sponsors and supporters of the genre is gone.

However, Willie was a positive person, and rather than mourn his loss with sadness, he’d probably prefer that we celebrate the fun times we had with him. So, to append to the tribute we published in the September-October digital edition of Smooth Jazz News  we’re adding this space for more of his friends and colleagues to share their memories and appreciation for the beloved the founder of Payne Pest Management, who was also a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, brother and mentor.

RIP Willie Payne, you are truly missed …

We hope you’ll also enjoy the gallery of snapshots from Willie’s life.

Memories & Appreciation for Willie Lee Payne Jr.

“Christmas was always a big family time at our house, and my dad spoiled us like no other. When I started having my own kids, it was even better. My dad would come over every Christmas morning and watch my kids open their presents and have breakfast with them, and then we would go to his house and open more presents and have a big family dinner. He would ask my daughter, Niyla, ‘What will papa get you?’ And, by age 3, he taught her to say ‘Anything I want.’”  – Angela Seward, Willie Payne’s daughter

“We are still grieving the loss of Willie Payne, and can’t believe he’s gone. I’m sure you’re feeling the same way. I remember when we met Willie and Kathy. They wanted to be closer to the band and our group had a seat that we could share. We got to know them better and he shared info about other events he felt we would be interested in. They celebrated my husband Dan’s 65th birthday with us. We have been together at The San Diego Jazz Festival, Brian Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway and Dave Koz cruises, plus our trips to the wineries in Napa. Willie introduced us to several wineries but the most awesome experience was at Chappellet. It was an amazing experience, and one that we continue to visit and will do this always in his memory. His laughter was contagious. He called us his ‘North Carolina connection,’ and we will never forget how well he took care of us when we were at any of the events. We admired how genuinely passionate he was about music, and would do anything for his friends. We will miss his presence at any future events. He appointed himself to be the person to check on everyone … to be sure they had what they needed and that they were having a good time. Willie lived life to the fullest and wanted everyone around him to do the same.  He will forever be in our hearts.  RIP our friend!” – Connie Vestal (part of Willie’s “North Carolina connection”)

“Several years ago, my brother Jerry Davis, and sister-in-law Mitzi Davis, talked us into going on a Dave Koz Jazz Cruise. We were jazz newbies but quickly fell in love with jazz music. Brian Culbertson was on the cruise and we heard about his Jazz Getaway in Napa. We all vowed to try to go. The next year we found out when the tickets went on sale. Unfortunately, the date tickets went on sale was while Jerry and Mitzi were on another jazz cruise. So, I was designated to get online the minute tickets went on sale and try to get six tickets. I was all set with two computers and everyone’s information the minute tickets went on sale, when I got a call from Mitzi. She said they had partied the evening before with this wonderful couple named Willie and Kathy Payne. They told him that we were trying to get tickets to the Jazz Getaway, and that I was all set to try to get the tickets. Willie said he might be able to help us. Brian was on the cruise and Willie worked with him to get tickets for all of us, including me and my husband. Willie paid for our tickets even though we had never met. When I corresponded with Kathy to send her payment for our tickets we commented that sometimes God puts people in your path at the right time. We later met Willie and Kathy at Brian’s Jazz Getaway and quickly became friends. We knew as soon as Willie walked in the hotel that the party had started. We spent the week sharing his passion for jazz and wine. It was one of our best trips ever, and Willie made it happen. We quickly became part of Willie’s “North Carolina connection.” We shared two of Brian’s Jazz Getaways and attended two of The San Diego Jazz Festivals with Willie and Kathy. They included us in some group dinners at the festival and invited us to their suite for after-parties. Willie was just a natural host. He made everyone feel welcome, and wanted to make sure you had a good time. Mitzi and I were also lucky enough to be included in his surprise 70th birthday cruise to Mexico. It was his birthday party, but he jumped in to make sure his family and friends had a good time. He even arranged a bus tour to a water spout for us. Willie and Kathy also visited North Carolina to help us celebrate Dan Vestal’s birthday. My favorite memory of Willie is when he spotted Mitzi and I on the dock before we left to go on his birthday cruise. His expression was priceless. It just hit him that this might be more than a weekend getaway with family. The package from North Carolina that Kathy had been checking on had arrived.”  – Darlene Reinhardt (part of Willie’s “North Carolina connection”)

“We met Kathy and Willie Payne when they attended a birthday party in North Carolina for Dan Vestal. Then we started going on cruises, vacations and The San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival with them. But we also enjoy their family activities. My favorite memory of Willie is how he taught us to “Party Willie Payne Style.” We admired how Willie “worked to play,” and how he was able to separate the two and enjoy life. We are going to miss making more memories with him. We had so many planned in the future that he made possible. And, I would like to say thank you for my birthday present, Willie & Kathy!” – Joy Kay (part of Willie’s “North Carolina connection”)

Please feel free to share your memories and appreciation for Willie Payne in the comment box below.

Camella and Richard Elliot’s 2019 Halloween Bash

Richard Elliot and his wife Camella at their 2019 Halloween Bash in Escondido, California (Photo: David Hopley)

By Melanie Maxwell

Heidi Klum may be the queen of Halloween for the fashion and acting crowd, but in the smooth jazz world, Camella Elliot and her GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist husband, Richard Elliot, slay the holiday with dragons, skeletons, ghouls, goblins and a DW3 dance party!

Richard and Camella Elliot with their daughter, Mikayla (Photo: David Hopley)
Hillside dragons at the Elliot Family Ranch (Photo: David Hopley)
Party-crashing skeletons at Elliot Family Ranch (Photo: David Hopley)

Camella’s decor, both inside their home and throughout their vineyard and ranch combines scary, creative, amusing, shocking and creepy. But this annual bash at their Escondidio, California, estate in North San Diego County, is hauntingly cool!

Skelton, ghost & goblin dinner party (Photo: David Hopley)
Front porch of the Elliot’s home (Photo: David Hopley)
Pirate and parrot skeletons at Elliot Family Ranch (Photo: David Hopley)

Invited guests included smooth jazz industry insiders, musicians, family friends and their five children’s BFFs.

Willie & Kathy Payne 2019
Willie & Kathy Payne of Payne Pest Management (Photo: David Hopley)
Steve Chapman, Pat Prescott, Lori Stoll & Craig Collier (Photo: David Hopley)
Laurie Sisneros (co-owner of Spaghettini Fine Dining & Entertainment) with her husband, Fred (Photo: David Hopley)
Richard and Camella Elliot with guests (Photo: David Hopley)
Vocalist and DW3 band member DamonReel with his wife (Photo: David Hopley)
Bassist Nate Phillips with his wife, Pam (Photo: David Hopley)
Matt Mahoney (San Diego radio station Z90’s “New Matt”) with Kelly Cole, on-air personality at San Diego’s Magic 92.5 (Photo: David Hopley)

The event, held on the Saturday night before Halloween, included an open bar, margarita station, wine from the Elliot Ranch Reserve wines (bottled by Hungry Hawk Vineyards and Winery), a catered pizza oven, platters of tasty sweet treats, live performances by DW3 (with special guest, the host himself, Richard Elliot), a DJ spinning dance tune between band breaks, and the opportunity to get your makeup professionally applied and designed by makeup artist Angel Garner-Collier.

Assortment of Krispy Kreme Halloween doughnuts (Photo: David Hopley)
Halloween candy bar (Photo: David Hopley)
Pizza and salad station (Photo: David Hopley)

Check out the photos from the bash, all of which were taken by David Hopley.


Willie & Kathy Payne 2019
Willie & Kathy Payne of Payne Pest Management (Photo: David Hopley)
Camella Elliot with makeup artist Angel Garner-Collier (Photo: David Hopley)
Cardiologist Jeffrey Gorwit and his wife, Linda (Photo: David Hopley)
Dr. Jacqueline Elliot (Richard’s sister, educator & author of “Passionate Warrior: My Charter School Journey) with her husband (Photo: David Hopley)
Camella Elliot with Halloween party guests (Photo: David Hopley)
Pam Phillips and Camella Elliot (Photo: David Hopley)
Camella & Richard Elliot
Richard & Camella Elliot hosting their annual Halloween party at their home ranch and vineyard in Escondido, California (Photo: David Hopley)

Richard Elliot with friends (Photo: David Hopley)
Skeleton-drawn pumpkin carriage (Photo: David Hopley)
Camella Elliot with makeup artist Angel Garner-Collier (Photo: David Hopley)
Makeup artist Angel Collier creating her magic on a partygoer in Richard Elliot’s studio (Photo: David Hopley)
Makeup artist Angel Garner-Collier with her husband (Photo: David Hopley)
Jailed skeleton (Photo: David Hopley)
Richard Elliot performing with DW3 at his annual Halloween bash (Photo: David Hopley)
The West Coast Horns performing with DW3 during the Elliot’s Halloween party (Photo: David Hopley)
Banjo-playing skeletons at the Elliot Family Ranch backyard (Photo: David Hopley)
Richard and Camella Elliot watching the “Best Costume” contest at their Halloween party (Photo: David Hopley)
Best Costume awards to be given out later in the evening (Photo: David Hopley)
“Best Costume” winner (Photo: David Hopley)
Fred and Laurie Sisneros (Spaghettini Fine Dining & Entertainment) with Kathy & Willie Payne of Payne Pest Management (Photo: David Hopley)
Pat Prescott (94.7 The WAVE on-air personality), Steve Chapman & Lori Stoll (Photo: David Hopley)
Richard Elliot & The West Coast Horns performing with DW3 during the Elliot’s Halloween party (Photo: David Hopley)
Steve Chapman, vocalist DamonReel, Craig Collier & Melanie Maxwell (Photo: David Hopley)
Camella, Richard & Mikayla Elliot with Bub’s girlfriend Brinae (Photo: David Hopley)
Camella Elliot and her daughter Candice
Eli and Mikayla Elliot as Julian from Trailer park boys and Fran the Uni brow dodgeball player, respectively
Candice Elliot and her boyfriend Garret, dressed up as Cardi B and Post Malone
Bub Elliot (as a straw) with his girlfriend Brinae (as Ursula from “The Little Mermaid”)
Julian Elliot in a pickle costume

Camella & Richard Elliot’s 2018 Halloween Bash!

Partying down in Elliot town on Halloween!

Richard and Camella Elliot enjoying their Halloween Bash (Photo: David Hopley)

Spooky and spectacular is the type of Halloween bash Camella and Richard Elliot threw last Saturday night. Nearly every inch of their North San Diego County ranch was decorated in spirited, scary and sometimes shocking flair:

Elliot’s tombstone and skeleton-filled front yard (Photo: David Hopley)

From the entrance of their home filled with skulls, angry pumpkins, a huge black widow

Elliot’s front porch (Photo: David Hopley)

and musical instrument-playing corpses;

Music-playing corpses greet guests at the 2018 Elliot Halloween Bash (Photo: David Hopley)

and the skeleton family seated in the formal dining room,

Skeleton family wine-tasting in formal dining room (Photo: David Hopley)

to all of the ghosts, goblins and creepy clowns hanging from trees throughout the sprawling grounds,

Creepy creature hanging in backyard orange tree (Photo: David Hopley)

which included pumpkin-headed scarecrows in their vineyard.

Pumpkin scarecrow guarding the Elliot vineyard (Photo: David Hopley)

Pumpkin scarecrow (Photo: David Hopley

It was a full-service affaire with food trucks,

Habit Burger Grill Food Truck (Photo: David Hopley)

an open bar with bartenders who filled every empty glass (many of them with the Elliot Ranch Albarino white wine, a vintage made from grapes grown on the Elliot estate),

Elliot Ranch Albarino white wine, made from grapes grown on the family’s home vineyard (Photo: David Hopley)

and attendants who kept all of the tables tidy and the dance floor clean. And, to enhance partygoers’ facial appearances, a professional makeup artist was onsite to do just that.

Makeup artist Angel Garner-Collier applying makeup to Cathy Lee (Photo: David Hopley)

Plus, the GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist invited a bunch of his artist buddies and musician friends, including DW3 and the West Coast Horns who performed in costume.

DW3 and the West Coast Horns performing at the Elliot Halloween Bash (Photo: David Hopley)

Camella Elliot dancing with Garrett Baulmer (who just returned from deployment), daughter Candace’s boyfriend (Photo: David Hopley)

Richard Elliot performing with DW3 at his Halloween party (Photo: David Hopley)

Trumpeter Rick Braun was there, too, but you couldn’t spot him with the mask he was wearing. I finally figured it out when I saw his wife, Christiane, their daughter, Emma, and son, Kyle, chatting with him.

Christiane Braun dancing with her masked husband, trumpeter Rick Braun (Photo: David Hopley)

My formula for identifying others was to look for the spouses. That’s how I discovered bassist Nate Phillips, who arrived with his wife, Pam.

Bassist Nate Phillips (Photo: David Hopley)

Later, I spotted B leading someone wearing in an inflated white snowman type of apparatus, who turned out to be her husband, drummer Eric Valentine.

Dr. Lee, Kyle Braun, Eric Valentine and his wife, B (Photo: David Hopley)

Steve Chapman (Chapman & Co. Management, Elliot and Braun’s manager) was dressed as a nerd, while his business partner Bud Harner made a perfect Anderson Cooper.

Bud Harner (as Anderson Cooper), Steve Chapman (as a nerd) and another Keith Butler (Photo: David Hopley)

Payne Pest Management owners Kathy Payne, dressed as a great Lucille Ball, while her husband, Willie, was Ricky Ricardo.

Willie and Kathy Payne (owners of Payne Pest Management) dressed as Ricky Ricardo and Lucille Ball (Photo: David Hopley)

Sandy Riser (Rick Braun’s business partner with his cruises and New Year’s Eve Getaway) arrived as a dragon slayer, with her husband, Bernie, as the dragon.

Sandy Riser as dragon slayer, with her husband, Bernie as a dragon (Photo: David Hopley)

Guitarist Adam Hawley and his wife, Kat, dressed up as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Guitarist Adam Hawley with his wife, Kat, dressed up as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Photo: David Hopley)

More than 100 people––including the couple’s five children and their friends––danced, drank and ate the night away (although many also watched the World Series in the living room). And, toward the end of the evening, a best-costume contest produced three finalists.

Partygoers dancing away the night (Photo: David Hopley)

Here are some more photos from that amazing night, Saturday, Oct. 27, which were all taken by David Hopley.

Post by Melanie Maxwell on October 30, 2018

Husband of makeup artist Angel Garner-Collier, demonstrating his wife’s best work! (Photo: David Hopley)

Elliot’s doorway (Photo: David Hopley)

Camella Elliot enjoying her Halloween party (Photo: David Hopley)

Christiane Braun enjoying the dance music (Photo: David Hopley)

Elliot porch and doorway (Photo: David Hopley)

Bub Elliot, Camella and Richard Elliot’s son (Photo: David Hopley)

Sun-loving skeletons (Photo: David Hopley)

Rick Braun, Christiane Braun, Dr. Lee, Cathy Lee, Kyle Braun and Emma Braun (Photo: David Hopley)

Pirate skeletons (Photo: David Hopley)

Ghost in chains (Photo: David Hopley)

Creepy clown (Photo: David Hopley)

Skeleton pirates chilling in the Elliot’s backyard (Photo: David Hopley)

Poolside ghosts (Photo: David Hopley)

Poolside ghost and Trick-or-Treating goblins (Photo: David Hopley)

Day of the Dead display in Elliot’s kitchen (Photo: David Hopley)

Makeup artist Angel Garner-Collier with her husband, Ken, who she made up for the party (Photo: David Hopley)

Ghostly grandma (Photo: David Hopley)

Halloween-inspired fireplace mantel (Photo: David Hopley)

BFFs Camella Elliot and Christiane Braun (Photo: David Hopley)

Candace Elliot with her boyfriend Garrett Baulmer (right) and their friend at her family’s Halloween party in Escondido, California (Photo: David Hopley)

Skull, snake, crow and bone pile (Photo: David Hopley)

Lisa and keyboardist Patrick Bradley with their daughter at the Elliot’s Halloween party (Photo: David Hopley)

Fountain-turned-cauldron (Photo: David Hopley)

Partygoers (Photo: David Hopley)

Tania Drake, Camella Elliot’s cousin from Texas (Photo: David Hopley)

Partygoers (Photo: David Hopley)

Keyboardist Ron Reinhardt and his wife, Laura, dressed up as trailer trash rednecks with filmmaker Lori Stoll, right (Photo: David Hopley)

Michael Purcell kissing Moose, the Elliot’s Newfoundland dog (Photo: David Hopley)

Comedian Tommy Davidson and his wife, Amanda, with their son as “Black Panther” characters (Photo by David Hopley)

“Best Costume” contestants at the Elliot Halloween party (Photo: David Hopley)

International partygoers (Photo: David Hopley)

Cardiologist Jeffrey Gorwit and his wife, Linda (Photo: David Hopley)

Magic 92.5 on-air personality Kelly Cole, left, with Lisa Blaisdale at the Elliot’s Halloween party (Photo: David Hopley)

Partygoers (Photo: David Hopley)

Partygoers (Photo: David Hopley)

Partygoers (Photo: David Hopley)

Partygoers outside on the patio (Photo: David Hopley)

Partygoers (Photo: David Hopley)

Camella and Richard Elliot join partygoers on the dance floor (Photo: David Hopley)

Candace Elliot with friends (Photo: David Hopley)

“Best Costume” contestants Michelle Cavasa and tattoo artist Stevie O’Dell (Photo: David Hopley)

Camella and Richard Elliot surrounded by friends and loved ones (Photo: David Hopley)


Camella Elliot dances with her BFF Christiane Braun (Photo: David Hopley)

As the party winds down, people are snapping their final memories of another fabulous events hosted by the Elliots! (Photo: David Hopley)

Steve Chapman and his wife, Lori Stoll (Photo: David Hopley)

Craig Collier (Smooth Jazz News distribution and operations manager), Bub Elliot and Richard Elliot (Photo: David Hopley)

Ron Reinhardt, Nate Phillips, Craig Collier, Eric Valentine (in white inflated costume) and his wife, B Valentine, Laura Reinhardt and Pam Phillips (Photo: David Hopley)

Reggie Jackson, Willie Payne, Kyle Braun, 94.7 The WAVE on-air personality Pat Prescott and Kathy Payne

Craig Collier, Nate Phillips and his wife, Pam

Camella & Richard Elliot’s Halloween Bash pics!

Richard and Camella Elliot at their annual Halloween Bash in Escondido, California (Photo by David Hopley)

Saxophonist Richard Elliot and his wife, Camella, hosted their annual Halloween Bash on Saturday, Oct. 28, in the North San Diego community of Escondido. As usual, it was equal parts spooky and uber cool, and 100 percent fun!

Those lucky enough to receive an invitation to this concert/costume party were treated to music by DW3 and The West Coast Horns (with an occasional appearance by “monster” Elliot and “werewolf” Rick Braun as special musical guests), an open bar and food truck catering by Habit Burger and The Red Oven Pizza.

Camella converted the elegant Elliot home into a Halloween haunt filled with scary, humorous, creepy and entertaining decor that would make Martha Stewart turn pea soup green with jealousy.

Rather than me telling you in words what it was like, I’ll show you with photos (all taken by David Hopley). But, I dare you to spot other costumed smooth jazz stars!

Richard Elliot is scheduled to perform at California Center for the Arts, Escondido, on Friday, March 23, 2018. This event, which also features West Coast Jam and The West Coast Horns, is a benefit for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and includes a silent auction and VIP After-Party with the artists. For tickets or more information, visit,, or call 800-988-4253.

By Melanie Maxwell

French Guitarist Marc Antoine (right) with his wife, Rebeca Vega, and their 15-year-old son, Alex
(Photo by David Hopley)

Richard & Camella Elliot’s son, Bub, in his homemade Trump, ship the “dangerous” “Bad Hombre” back to Mexico costume
(Photo by David Hopley)

Richard Elliot, Christiane Braun, Camella Elliot & Rick Braun (Photo by David Hopley)

Scary Clown at the Elliot’s Halloween Party (Photo by David Hopley)

Willie & Kathy Payne (Payne Pest Management), 94.7 The WAVE radio personality Pat Prescott, Reggie Jackson and Pat’s friend from New York (center)
(Photo by David Hopley)

Richard Elliot & Rick Braun (werewolf on percussion) sitting in with DW3 & The West Coast Horns (Photo by David Hopley)

The party is ON at the Elliot’s home! (Photo by David Hopley)

Creepiness times 2! (Photo by David Hopley)

Richard Elliot sitting in with DW3 & The West Coast Horns
(Photo by David Hopley)

Marc Antoine, Richard Elliot, Antoine’s son Alex, Camella Elliot & Antoine’s wife, Rebeca Vega
(Photo by David Hopley)

DW3 vocalist Damon Reel (right) with his wife, children and a family friend
(Photo by David Hopley)

Party-goers filling up on cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, french fries and sweet potato fries at the Habit Burger truck (Photo by David Hopley)

DW3 & The West Coast Horns in costume (Photo by David Hopley)

Creepy clown at the Elliot’s Halloween party (Photo by David Hopley)

Damon Reel flying his “Superman” through the crowd
(Photo by David Hopley)

Bub “Bad Hombre” Elliot & Taxi Driver
(Photo by David Hopley)

Richard Elliot’s sister, Dr. Jacqueline Elliot, with her husband
(Photo by David Hopley)

Major smooth jazz supporters and philanthropists Marilyn James and Rick Phetteplace
(Photo by David Hopley)

Elliot’s front yard greeter (Photo by David Hopley)

Welcome to the Elliots (Photo by David Hopley)

Elliot’s doorman (Photo by David Hopley)

Skulls, bones and skeletons (Photo by David Hopley)

Kitchen centerpiece (Photo by David Hopley)

Jello shots anyone (Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

A skeleton picnic (Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

Pre-party poolside patio setup (Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

Scary Richard Elliot (Photo by David Hopley)

Skull in Richard Elliot’s home office (Photo by David Hopley)

Richard Elliot’s home office/studio (Photo by David Hopley)

Skeleton working at Richard Elliot’s home office (Photo by David Hopley)

Richard and Camella Elliot (Photo by David Hopley)

Richard & Camella Elliot with Richard’s manager, Steve Chapman
(Photo by David Hopley)

French Guitarist Marc Antoine & photographer/filmmaker Lori Stoll
(Photo by David Hopley)

Emma Braun enjoying the party (Photo by David Hopley)

Camella Elliot greets guests in her kitchen (Photo by David Hopley)

Rick Braun (werewolf) and his wife Christiane (right) and their son, Kyle (left of Rick)
(Photo by David Hopley)

Camella and a gorgeous guest (Photo by David Hopley)

Magic 92.5 radio personality Kelly Cole (left) and her husband, Mike, (right), pose with partygoers
(Photo by David Hopley)

Kathy Payne (Payne Pest Management) takes photo of Pat Prescott, bassists Nate Phillips & Darryl Williams and another musician (Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

Bassist Nate Phillips and photographer/filmmaker Lori Stoll (Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

Partygoers (Photo by David Hopley)

Partygoers watching the World Series at the Elliot’s Halloween party (Photo by David Hopley)

Rick Braun (werewolf), Kathy Payne, Kyle Braun, Willie Payne & Pat Prescott
(Photo by David Hopley)

Mikayla Elliot (blonde in red dress) with friends (Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

Eric Mondragon (DW3) and his family (Photo by David Hopley)

The West Coast Horns (Photo by David Hopley)

Pam Phillips (wife of bassist Nate Phillips), Pat Prescott & Camella Elliot dance and sing with partygoers
(Photo by David Hopley)

Dance Party! (Photo by David Hopley)

Everybody dance now (Photo by David Hopley)

The party gets wilder (Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

Camella Elliot with party guests (Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

(Photo by David Hopley)

Beyond gross! (Photo by David Hopley)

Spooky Halloween dinner guests at the Elliot’s home

Daytime view of the Elliot’s vineyard (Photo by David Hopley)

Sunset in the Elliot’s cabernet vineyard (Photo by David Hopley)

Enchantment is the Grand Tradition for Jazz in Fallbrook, CA

Sparkling fountain along the tree-shaded pathway at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens (Photo: Pat Benter)

The Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens’ Jazz & Wine Festivals have taken root with jazz fans, blossoming into an enchanting outing for thousands of genre enthusiasts since its inception in 2013. However, when the owners of this storybook wedding and private event venue in Fallbrook, California, partnered with The Centre in Escondido to create The REVV Summer Concert Series this year, the concept caused some confusion among jazz fans. It wasn’t easy for some people to grasp the idea of one promoter booking different concerts on different dates at two separate venues.

Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens in Fallbrook, California (Photo: Pat Benter)

Waterfall at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens in Fallbrook, California (Photo: Pat Benter)

The lush, 18-acre, themed botanical paradise accented with waterfalls, arched stone bridges floating over soothing streams, a heart-shaped lake with a fountain in the center, along with other floral displays, water features and the Veranda Restaurant overlooking it all, still offered it’s signature jazz event. Bands perform simultaneously at three of these venues with tiered start times, from 3:30-6 p.m., followed by an opening act and headliner on the main stage adjacent to the lake.

Heart-shaped lake with fountain at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens (Photo: Pat Benter)

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers performing on the main stage at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens’ Jazz & Wine Festival on Aug. 5, 2017, as part of the new REVV Summer Concert Series (Photo: Pat Benter)

The number of festivals was extended to three this year, featuring headliners such as The Stanley Clarke Band (June 17), The Rippingtons with Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers as the opening act (Aug. 5) and Fourplay (scheduled for Sept. 9).

Wazabe Blue with Jerome Dawson performing in the Arbor Terrace Pavilion at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens’ Jazz & Wine Festival on Aug. 5, 2017 (Photo: Pat Benter)

Patrons enjoying music, food and libations at the Orchid Bar during the Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens’ Jazz & Wine Festival on Aug. 6, 2017 (Photo: Pat Benter)

The REVV Concerts partnership merely added a second venue at The Centre from which to enjoy musical entertainment on the Moonlight Veranda atop Lexus Escondido. It also features a fine dining experience at Vintana, the 2016 Gold Medallion Award winner for Best American Modern/Global Influence. The concerts are held on the same level as Vintana, outside, just beyond the vodka bar and cocktail lounge, and offers VIP seating, private cabanas and general admission options.

Beverly Mansion and Veranda Restaurant at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens in Fallbrook, California (Photo: Pat Benter)

Gourmet dinner buffet enjoyed on the Veranda at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens’ Jazz & Wine Festival on Aug. 5, 2017 (Photo: Pat Benter)

Although the final concert at The Centre is happening tonight, Sunday, Aug. 27, featuring John Pizzarelli with Jessica Molaskey, there is one more Jazz & Wine Festival at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens, scheduled for Sept. 9, featuring Fourplay as the headliner (with Kirk Whalum replacing Chuck Loeb, who sadly passed away last month), and David Maldonado as the opener. Entertainment throughout the gardens includes Sinatra & Martinis in the Orchid Bar, Viva Santana in the Arbor Terrace Pavilion, Len Rainey & The Midnight Players at the Arbor Terrace Waterfall, and Charlotte Littlehales inside the Beverly Mansion (where a gourmet pre-show, all-you-can-eat dinner and dessert buffet is available in the ballroom and Veranda restaurant for an additional fee).

Gourmet dinner buffet at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens’ Jazz & Wine Festival on Aug. 5, 2017 (Photo: Pat Benter)

Cash bar at the Veranda Restaurant at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens (Photo: Pat Benter)

One of my favorite aspects of this event is that if gets too hot outside, you can purchase the buffet dinner and stay inside the air-conditioned Veranda restaurant until it cools down. And, with a cash bar nearby, there are a lot of choices for refreshing beverages to enjoy with the delicious meal and gorgeous views!

View from the Gazebo at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens in Fallbrook, California (Photo: Pat Benter)

For more information about the REVV Concert series in Escondido and Fallbrook, California, or to purchase tickets to Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens’ Jazz & Wine Festival, located at 220 Grand Tradition Way, Fallbrook, California, featuring Fourplay and more, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 9, visit or call 760-728-6466.

  • By Melanie Maxwell
  • Waterfall at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens in Fallbrook, California (Photo: Pat Benter)

    Seating area at the Orchid Bar at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens in Fallbrook, California (Photo: Pat Benter)

    Beverly Mansion and Veranda Restaurant at Grand Tradition Estate & Gardens in Fallbrook, California (Photo: Pat Benter)

San Diego re-emerges as America’s Finest “Jazz” City!

Peter White; Maggie & Willie Shares from Atlanta; Brian Culbertson at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival (Photos: Pat Benter)

With a stellar lineup of fan favorites and popular emerging artists, The San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival returned to the Embarcadero Marina Park South to record crowds!

Presented by Payne Pest Management (Kathy & Willie Payne, along with their son, Jason) and Rainbow Promotions, this classy and scenic event featured Brian Culbertson (as host and performer), Boney James, West Coast Jam (Rick Braun, Richard Elliot & Norman Brown), Peter White, Euge Groove & Keiko Matsui (performing as EPK), Michael Franks, Gerald Albright & Jonathan Butler, Nick ColionneEric Darius, Monty Seward, Curtis Brooks, and The The L.A. Collective (Adam Hawley, Greg Manning, Darryl Williams and Tony Moore).

For those who weren’t there, here are some photos to see what you missed! For those of us who attended this revived annual event, we can reminisce about the great time we had.

This is a partial post, which I plan to update shortly, along with dates for next year’s San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival. So, after reviewing these photos, please check back again.

By Melanie Maxwell, PublisherSmooth Jazz News

Brian Culbertson, Marqueal Jordan on sax and vocals and Michael Stever on trumpet, at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival on July 8, 2017 (Photo: Pat Benter)

Embarcadero Marina Park North, venue for The San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival before gates opened on July 8, 2017 (Photo: Pat Benter)

Brian Culbertson performing at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival on July 8, 2017 (Photo: Pat Benter)

Marqueal Jordan and Brian Culbertson performing at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival on July 8, 2017 (Photo: Pat Benter)

Nick Colionne performing (and thrilling fans) at the 2017 San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival (Photos: Pat Benter)

Peter White, Keiko Matsui & Euge Groove performing as EPK at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival (Photos: Pat Benter)

Eric Darius in the VIP section at the 2017 San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival (Photo: David Hopley)

Fans enjoying The San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival at Embarcadero Marina Park North (Photo: Pat Benter)

Left photo: (Bottom row) Kathy Payne (Payne Pest Management) with her mother, Joan Giddens (celebrating her 86th birthday at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival) & Tim Hurley (Kathy’s brother)
Top row:Ursula Hurley (Kathy’s sister-in-law married to Tim); Mitch Hurley (kathy’s brother), Marilyn James & Rick Phetteplace; Other photos (clockwise): Eric Darius serenading Joan Giddens; Kathy Payne groovin’ to Michael Franks’ “Popsicle Toes”; Eric Darius wishing Joan Giddens a happy 86th birthday; Nick Colionne playing to Joan Giddens
(Photos: Pat Benter)

Food vendors at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival at Embarcadero Marina Park North (Photos: Pat Benter)

Michael Franks singing his hits in his home town at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival (Photo: Pat Benter)

VIP section lounge and lunch buffet (Photos: Pat Benter)

Festivalgoers posing with the free Justin Young “Blue Soul” CD they received at the Smooth Jazz News booth (Photo: David Hopley)

Smooth Jazz News booth at the entrance of The San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival (Photos: David Hopley)


Check out the surprise guests at the SJN party

During Smooth Jazz News’ 17th Anniversary Brunch Party & Jam Session at Spaghettini, DW3 commands brunch crowd to wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care (Photo by David Hopley)

Like an orchestra with many different musicians and instruments, publishing Smooth Jazz News requires a lot of people playing a variety of roles. One of the key components of nearly every artistic endeavor is funding. And, for magazines, advertising sales keep the presses rolling. So, each year, we host the Smooth Jazz News Anniversary Brunch Parties & Jam Sessions to show our appreciation to our advertisers.

Spaghettini Champagne Jazz Brunch (clockwise, left to right): Damon Reel, Rick Braun; Rick Braun, Gail Jhonson & Richard Elliot; Christiane Braun & Camella Elliot (Photos by David Hopley)

We invite everyone who has advertised with us in the prior year, along with some special guest artists, to sit in our allocated area of the performance lounge at Spaghettini Fine Dining and Entertainment in Seal Beach, California. The remainder of the lounge and the entire restaurant is open to the public for reservation purchases, so our readers and other jazz fans can also enjoy DW3 (or a featured band) and the special entertainment. And, because we invite so many advertisers, we can’t fit them all into our section, so that’s why we have two parties. They’re usually held in January during the NAMM Show (when a lot of musicians are in Anaheim, California, for that National Association of Music Music Merchants industry-only convention), and in February when DW3 is available to perform.

Conga line parading through Spaghettini’s lounge while DW3 brings the party ON during Smooth Jazz News’ 17th Anniversary party! (Photos by David Hopley)

We held the last of our 2017 parties on Sunday, Feb. 19, with DW3 back onstage in the lounge during Spaghettini’s Legendary Champagne Jazz Brunch. Our musical guests featured trumpeter Rick Braun with his wife Christiane and daughter Emma, saxophonist Richard Elliot and his wife Camella (Rick and Richard are touring this year as West Coast Jam with Norman Brown and a horn section) and keyboardist Gail Jhonson (founder of the all-female ensemble Jazz in Pink).

Camella Elliot (left) takes photos of her husband, Richard Elliot, during his jam with DW3 (Photos by David Hopley)

Our advertisers guest list included concert and festival promoters such as Kim and Ozzie Benoit (Rainbow Promotions), Kim’s dad Al Williams (founder of Rainbow Promotions, who is now retired) and his wife Sandy, Evette Benjamin (Gardena Jazz Festival) and Sandy Riser (Rick Braun’s Signature Events) and her husband Bernie Weisberg.

Celebrating Smooth Jazz News’ 17th Anniversary at Spaghettini in Seal Beach (clockwise, left to right) Camella & Richard Elliot; Al Williams, Ozzie Benoit, Willie Payne, Kim Benoit, Easton Schirra; back row: DW3 (Billy Mondragon, Eric Mondragon & Damon Reel, front row: Joan Giddens, Kathy & Willie Payne, Kim & Ozzie Benoit (Photos by David Hopley)

Kathy and Willie Payne, owners of Payne Pest Management, attended the event with Kathy’s mom, Joan Giddens. The Paynes have been longtime sponsors of many smooth jazz concerts and festivals, including the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival, scheduled for July 7-9, which is produced by Rainbow Promotions.

Daniel Broadway (Mack Avenue Records) & Easton Schirra; keyboardist Gail Jhonson & trombonist Geoff Alpert; writer Ken Capobianco with his wife, Ratanan (Photos by David Hopley)

Daniel Broadway, the latest addition to Mack Avenue Records‘ sales and marketing team, along with his guest Easton Schirra, got their first glimpse into the live smooth jazz scene at our party.

Brenda Lavery-Madruga, Rick Braun & Emma Braun dancing in the crowd at Spaghettini (Photo by David Hopley)

Artist managers Steve Chapman and Bud Harner of Chapman & Co. Management were there with their wives, photographer-filmmaker Lori Stoll and writer-actor Debra Harner, respectively.

Advertisers and artists celebrating Smooth Jazz News’ 17 anniversary at Spaghettini on Feb. 19, 2017 (left to right): back row: Craig Collier, Willie Payne, Daniel Broadway, Emma Braun, Rick Braun, Ozzie Benoit, Damon Reel, Eric Mondragon, Gail Jhonson, Billy Mondragon, Bud Harner, Lori Stoll, Steve Chapman; front row: Evette Benjamin, Kathy Payne, Christiane Braun, Sandy Riser, Q (Spaghettini manager), Al Williams, Kim Benoit, Richard Elliot, Camella Elliot, Debra Harner (Photo by David Hopley)

These are the people who provide the financial support to allow me, as maestro of sorts for Smooth Jazz News, to compose this magazine along with a team of … Professional journalists who write the stories about the artists and events we love; Seasoned editors who proofread myriad drafts of all of the content contained in each issue; Photographers who capture the images of the artists and this lifestyle; Highly skilled graphic designers who take that copy and those photos and create visually pleasing layouts; A top-notch web press that prints and binds each magazine; An efficient support staff that processes subscription and merchandise orders, handles the mass mailings of the magazines and all administrative duties; Local and national distributors, who deliver bundles of magazines to select outlets. Nearly all of this is being done on a deadline.

Gina Giblin, Smooth Jazz News graphic designer, with her husband Shane at Spaghettini (Photo by David Hopley)

The last few days of production for each issue of Smooth Jazz News are the most intense. That is when final editing happens, layout revisions are made and headlines tweaked, etc. During this time, I sit with our graphic designer, Gina Mancini-Giblin, at her desk going over the pages, choosing photos, placing ads, making corrections and finalizing any changes. A replacement graphic designer, who once filled in for Gina while she sailed on her first Dave Koz & Friends at Sea cruise during one of those deadlines, once described this frenetic process as me being like an air traffic controller directing Gina as though she was dozens of incoming and outgoing aircraft. She said the speed at which we communicated as Gina flew between layouts and files was so fast that she got motion sickness from watching the rapid changes on the computer screen.

Rick Braun at the buffet with fans at Spaghettini (top photo); Willie Payne, Camella Elliot, Cary Hardwick (Spaghettini and Citizen co-owner) & Richard Elliot at Spaghettini’s Legendary Champagne Jazz Brunch (Photo by David Hopley)

Although, we have a bunch of great folks who volunteer to help at concerts and festivals, professional graphic designers, writers, editors, distribution companies, support staff and printing presses don’t work for free. In order to pay them and other business expenses, we rely on advertising sales. Without advertisers, Smooth Jazz News magazine would not have been in business for the past 17 years.

Richard Elliot sitting in with DW3 at Spaghettini, while server Jill Bogle hands Damon Reel a note from a fan (Photo by David Hopley)

We also wanted to include some of these integral, behind-the-scenes contributors in our celebration.

Craig Collier, Smooth Jazz News operations and distribution manager, leads conga line dancers into the lounge at Spaghettini (Photos by David Hopley)

Our beloved writer Ken Capobianco enjoyed the day with his wife, Ratanan, while our newest editor Kerri De Rosier got to share her first-time Spaghettini brunch experience with her dentist husband, Dave.

Kerri De Rosier (SJN editor), Kris Glaeser (SJN volunteer), Felicia Pennington (SJN volunteer), Pete Glaeser (SJN volunteer) and Dr. Dave De Rosier (Photo by David Hopley)

Longtime SJN festival and distribution volunteers Kris and Pete Glaeser, along with Felicia Pennington, celebrated with us as well.

Smooth Jazz News party hostess Brenda Lavery Madruga (photo by David Hopley)

And our parties would not be nearly as fun or successful without the help of Smooth Jazz News hostess Brenda Lavery-Madruga, our outstanding Spaghettini server Angelina Calandrino and her assistants.

Angelina Calandrino, Spaghettini server, providing outstanding service to Smooth Jazz News party guests (Photo by David Hopley)

To everyone, I say THANK YOU! And, I hope to see you next year.––By Melanie Maxwell

For more information about the smooth jazz scene, keep reading Smooth Jazz News, in print or online,

Meanwhile, here are some more photos from the Smooth Jazz News 17th Anniversary Brunch Party & Jam Session at Spaghettini in Seal Beach, California (all photos by David Hopley):

Smooth Jazz News 17th Anniversary Brunch Party & Jam Session at Spaghettini: top photo – Rick Braun dancing with his daughter, Emma; bottom photo – DW3-inspired conga line dancing through the lounge (Photos by David Hopley)

Damon Reel, Rick Braun, Eric Mondragon, Gail Jhonson, Richard Elliot & Billy Mondragon (Photo by David Hopley)

Writer Ken Capobianco, Sandy Williams, Al Williams, Ozzie Benoit, Willie Payne, Kim Benoit, Easton Schirra & Daniel Broadway (Photo by David Hopley)

Al Williams, Kim & Ozzie Benoit, Easton Schirra, Daniel Broadway and more (Photo by David Hopley)

Al Williams chats with Rick Braun & Richard Elliot while Brenda Lavery-Madruga (Smooth Jazz News hostess) looks on (Photo by David Hopley)

DW3 engages brunch crowd at Spaghettini (Photo by David Hopley)

Rick Braun performing with DW3 at Spaghettini (Photo by David Hopley)

Gail Jhonson, Willie Payne, Kim Benoit & Ozzie Benoit at Spaghettini’s Legendary Champagne Jazz Brunch (Photo by David Hopley)

Emma Braun (left) enjoying the music of DW3 at Spaghettini (Photo by David Hopley)

Marcus Anderson at the Smooth Jazz News 17th Anniversary Brunch & Jam Session on Jan. 22 (Photo by David Hopley)

Phillip “Doc” Martin, Ray Parker Jr., Mariea Antoinette, Pat Prescott and Paul Jackson Jr. at the Jan. 22, 2017, party (Photo by David Hopley)

Pat Prescott interviewing Ray Parker Jr. during live broadcast with Los-Angeles-based radio station 94.7 The WAVE at Spaghettini on Jan. 22, 2017 (Photos by David Hopley)

Phillip “Doc” Martin, Ray Parker Jr. and Paul Jackson Jr. at the Smooth Jazz News 17th Anniversary Brunch Party at Spaghettini on Jan. 22, 2017 (Photo by David Hopley)

Legendary singer Al Jarreau dies at 76

Al Jarreau

Al Jarreau, one of the world’s great singers and a song stylist who defied categorization for decades, died today, the same date as the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards, in Los Angeles at the age of 76.

The seven-time GRAMMY winner had recently announced his retirement from the entertainment business after being hospitalized for exhaustion. Jarreau had fought through respiratory and cardiac issues in recent years.

“We feel very fortunate to have worked with Al, one of the most distinctive and extraordinary vocalists in the music,” says Concord Records President John Burk. “He was truly a force of nature and a beautiful human being that will be fondly remembered and deeply missed by us all.”

Jarreau had little interest in boundaries or preconceived limitations. Since the mid-1970s, he applied his distinctive and instantly recognizable vocal style––a unique combination of lyrical swing and captivating vocalese––to a broad spectrum of musical genres. With this eclectic approach, he earned much success along the way––enough to position him as the only vocalist in history to claim GRAMMY Awards in the three distinct genres of jazz, pop and R&B.

Jarreau’s final recording, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, was released August 5, 2014 on Concord Records, a division of Concord Music Group. The album, which re-interpreted some of Duke’s renowned catalog of post-bop, jazz-fusion, R&B and Brazilian jazz, spent two weeks at #1 on Billboard‘s Contemporary Jazz Albums and Current Jazz charts.

The following statement was posted on his website this morning, “A few days ago, I was asked to describe Al to someone who knew of his success, but did not know him as a person. I responded with this: His 2nd priority in life was music. There was no 3rd. His 1st priority, far ahead of the other, was healing or comforting anyone in need. Whether it was emotional pain, or physical discomfort, or any other cause of suffering, he needed to put our minds at ease and our hearts at rest. He needed to see a warm, affirming smile where there had not been one before. Song was just his tool for making that happen.

A few things I think he would want mentioned right now: To Al’s wife, son, sister, brothers, and family: You allowed Al to share himself with the world. He was grateful that you gave him that gift. He knew it was difficult, and regretted that more than he could explain. Please know that your gift was to us, too, and that we are also grateful.

To everyone who attended his concerts, and listened to his albums: He needed you, and you always were there for him, for more than 50 years. He was thankful for you every day, and did his best to show that to each of you.

To his band, and to the many, many talented musicians, writers, composers, and arrangers who played and collaborated with Al over the years: You enabled, supported, and thrilled him. He treasured you, and considered you brilliant. He loved sharing the stage with you, and was honored that you shared it with him.

To each promoter, presenter, and producer: Thank you for your faith in him. Your commitment to Al was both essential and endless, and he never took you for granted.

To his agents, managers, crew, counselors, publicists, and journalists who supported his work, and also to all of the airline, hotel, venue, and other people who hosted him like royalty: He noticed every bit of the dedication and effort that you unselfishly provided, without limits. And, he appreciated you completely.

To young people everywhere, especially the musicians he was grateful to meet at school workshops, musical competitions, residencies, and at concerts: From you, Al asks a favor. Please find any artistic thing that you can do with passion, and do it. With art in your life, you will be a better family member, neighbor, friend, and citizen.

Finally, to Al Jarreau: Thank you Al, from all of us. You completed your ministry in a beautiful and gracious way. Godspeed … you’ve earned it.”

He is survived by his wife, the former Susan Player; a son, Ryan; two brothers, Marshall and Appie; and a sister, Rose Marie Freeman.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music,

I will be updating this post with more information shortly, so please keep checking back.

By: Melanie Maxwell

Al Jarreau (Photo by: Marina Chavez)

Smooth jazz in a magnificent resort setting

The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa Announces Spring 2017 Performances for “Grooves at The Westin” Jazz Concert Series

The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, California

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – January 20, 2017 – The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa announces the line-up of the next four concerts with world-class musicians performing in the beautiful outdoor resort setting of the Masters Plaza, weather permitting. Prices vary for seating options from $45 to $99, but all seats offer exceptional views.

The concert schedule is as follows:

Greg Adams & East Bay Soul

Saturday, February 18, 7 p.m. – Greg Adams and East Bay Soul, LA Collective featuring Adam Hawley and Greg Manning with special guest Eric Darius

Eric Darius (photo by Jeff Sciortino)

Greg Adams and East Bay Soul will move you with a performance that keeps the funk alive.  A combination of instrumental funk, soul jazz and rhythm and blues vocals, East Bay Soul creates a union that is nothing short of musical wizardry. Opening the show is the high-energy performance of LA Collective featuring Adam Hawley and Greg Manning with chart-topping saxophonist Eric Darius.

The sound of Greg Adams and East Bay Soul is one of the world’s best-known musical signatures, with a musical journey that has spanned more than four decades.  Adams is a founding member of Tower Of Power, legendary for the arrangements that made the TOP horn section a sought out entity all its own. Greg Adams is the driving force behind East Bay Soul. The expansive ensemble is a blend of Funk Jazz, R&B and Soul. East Bay Soul with a most soulful ensemble creates a union that has been nothing short of musical wizardry. Their extraordinary combined talents all bring incredible energy to the music with heart and soul.  East Bay Soul is dedicated to a singular vision of bringing their brand of funk and the magic of their live performance into every note they play.

Los Angeles Collective, LA Collective for short, is a group of five producers/ musicians/ engineers/ artists/ songwriters who collectively create a variety of versatile styles of music such as Rock, Funk, Dance, Disco, Ska, Punk, Hip-Hop, Reggae, Metal, Country, Folk, R&B, Blues, Electro, Pop, Jazz, Samba, Bossa Nova, Cumbia, Tropical, Merengue, Punta, Indy, etc. Their high-energy performances have been delighting audiences since 2011. Joining them is chart-topping recording artist, Eric Darius. A contemporary jazz saxophonist and composer, Darius’s music has been described as a combination of jazz, R&B, hip-hop and pop.

Tickets for the February 18th show can be purchased at

Mindi Abair

Saturday, March 4, 7 p.m. – Mindi Abair

The smooth Lady of Saxophone comes to the Westin for the first time. In a career that spans seven solo albums and countless collaborations in the studio and live on stage, Mindi Abair has made her mark as one of the most recognizable saxophonists in the United States. She has appeared on stage with Bruce Springsteen for a historic night at the Beacon Theater, performed with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” and is the only saxophonist to tour with rock legend Aerosmith since 1973. She has earned the respect of top-shelf artists representing just about every genre of music. Abair’s solo work has garnered ten #1 radio hits, six top-five spots and two #1 spots on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz album chart. Abair received a 2014 GRAMMY nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns, a #1 recording with her friends Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot, and more recently she received a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for her solo CD “Wild Heart.”

Tickets for the March 4th show can be purchased at

Rick Braun

Saturday, March 18, 7 p.m. Rick Braun and special guest Josh Vietti

Rick Braun is a smooth jazz trumpet player, multi-instrumentalist and producer known for his gregarious and charismatic performances. However, the humble trumpeter-flugelhorn player-vocalist Braun is “grateful to still be making music with friends.” Braun is a consistent chart-topper who has amassed a catalogue of No. 1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart and radio hits throughout his solo career that began in earnest in 1992. A two-time winner of the Gavin Report’s Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year award, Braun excels playing any style and genre of music, and his style on the trumpet is unrivaled. In addition to his solo career, Braun also plays in the band BWB, with saxophonist Kirk Whalum and guitarist Norman Brown. In 2005, he and saxophonist Richard Elliot co-founded ARTizen Music Group.

True to his reputation, Rick Braun brings a smooth, mellow and heartfelt performance to Grooves at The Westin. Rick Braun’s inimitable style of jazz trumpet delivers an experience straight to the soul. Joining him is Josh Vietti, Grammy-nominated hip-hop/pop violinist from southern California who incorporates pop, classical, country, gospel and jazz into his performances.

Tickets for the March 18th show can be purchased at

Peter White

Saturday, April 1, 2017, 7 p.m. – Peter White with All-Star band featuring Michael Paulo

Undoubtedly one of the most popular figures in smooth jazz and a jazz fusion guitarist and songwriter, Peter White is a veteran on the scene. 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. He is known for his 20-year collaboration with Al Stewart. In addition, his songs “Midnight in Manhattan”, recorded by Grover Washington, Jr. (1998), and “Bright” (2009) have each reached number one on the Billboard Jazz Songs chart.

Back by popular demand White brings his endearing style and immense talent on acoustic guitar back to Grooves at The Westin, where he will be performing songs from his 15th solo release “Groovin” and will be joined by saxophonist Michael Paulo and keyboardist Gregg Karukas.

Tickets for the April 1st show can be purchased at

Post sponsored by The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa, 71333 Dinah Shore Dr., Rancho Mirage, California. (760) 328-5955

RIP: Alphonse Mouzon, Legendary Jazz Drummer

Alphonse Mouzon
(Nov. 21, 1948-Dec. 26, 2016)

It is with great sadness we report that legendary jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon passed away today after a recent battle with neuroendocrine carcinoma, a rare form of cancer. He was 68 years old.

alphonse collage

Mouzon, who was born in Charleston, South Carolina, was a charter member of the group Weather Report. Along with guitarist Larry Coryell, Mouzon was co-founder of ’70s fusion band The Eleventh House. Mouzon and Coryell still tour together in a trio and with the Eleventh House.

He also played and/or recorded with Kenny G, Dave Koz, Richard Elliot, Lee Ritenour, David Benoit, Gerald Albright, Russ Freeman, George Howard, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Lorber, Gregg Karukas, Roy Ayers, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola, Les McCann, Ronnie Laws, Jaco Pastorius, Joey DeFrancesco, Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Donald Bird, Chet Baker, Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, Ernie Watts, Sonny Rollins, Arturo Sandoval, Christian McBride, John Klemmer, Billy Harper, Dave Grusin, ex-girlfriend Roberta Flack, Sheila E., Denise Williams, Freda Payne, and numerous others. In 1991, he performed with Miles Davis on the movie soundtrack Dingo.

Mouzon’s rock-pop credentials include gigs with Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Chubby Checker, Deep Purple and others.

Mouzon notified Smooth Jazz News via the following email on Nov. 1 of his illness:

September 7, 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 3-4 Neuroendocrine Carcinoma, an incredibly rare cancer. On October 10, 2016, I went to Kaiser Permanente for a scheduled appointment with my Oncologist – but I was immediately admitted into the hospital because my lab test results revealed that my kidneys were failing. I was told by my Nephrologist that if I went back home, I would die. I was hospitalized for 13 days straight and was finally released from Kaiser Permanente on October 23, 2016. While I was hospitalized, my surgeons tried to place stents in my left and right kidneys but were unsuccessful because of size of my malignant pelvis mass. They instead performed a nephrostomy on my left kidney on October 11th and on my right kidney on October 18th. I currently have catheters coming out of my back to drain the urine from my kidneys into two external bags. On top of this, I was told that I suffer from Anemia (you couldn’t tell from my drumming), borderline diabetes, and that my 2006 Prostate Cancer has returned. Well, I’ve known about the prostate cancer since March because my PSA rose up to 63. I’ve been taking injections every three months to bring down my PSA level, and luckily it has gone down to 6. As for my Neuroendocrine Carcinoma cancer, my Oncologist and Nephrologist aren’t giving me a chance to survive, but my faith in God is strong and I know that anything is possible through Him! My kidneys are too weak for the doctors to perform chemotherapy, but I know that through God’s grace, I will beat my rare cancer and I will soon beat my drums again. The renown C.H.I.P.S.A. Gerson Therapy Hospital in Mexico specializes in natural cancer treatments and boasts a 95% cancer treatment successful rate, but I must raise enough money ($32,000) for these natural treatments. With the financial support of strangers, fans, family and friends, I know that I can overcome this battle. I want to be around for my beautiful children, grandchildren, family, friends and fans! I’ve started a GoFundMe campaign at to raise money for my rare Neuroendocrine Carcinoma cancer treatments. Please keep me alive by donating as much as you can to my GoFundMe campaign. No amount is too big or too small, and your prayers are greatly appreciated. Thanks a Million for your support. Sincerely, Alphonse Mouzon

Mouzon’s GoFundMe campaign had raised $61,084 at the time of his death.

For more information on Mouzon, visit

By Melanie Maxwell