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

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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. He likes the way that I sing and the way that I put down melodies and I like the chords and the harmonies that he uses. They are not so usual. We wrote all of these songs and we said maybe we should make an album.

We chose the songs that we like the most and then we had a great dream come true, because we had the chance to record some of the songs on this album with Al Schmitt (Winner of 23 Grammy Awards and some of the artists that he has worked with include, Henry Mancini, Steely Dan, Toto, Natalie Cole, Quincy Jones, George Benson). I am still excited when I am say this, because I just can’t believe we did it.

It wasn’t in Los Angeles; it was in Read More

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 at the beginning of her career when she was singing in English and for to grasp the various nuances of a phrase or word.

“It was nothing that I thought about much at the time. I just sang it, but now twenty years later and listening to some of my old recordings from a long, long time ago, I just think oh my God, do you know what you are talking about girl? 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

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 (background vocals). The record was produced and mixed by Dave Darling and engineered by Zack Darling.

The opening song “Play,” written by Cindy Alexander and Dave Darling is one of the best Rock songs Riveting Riffs Magazine has listened. 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. If there were family problems I would run to him and Read More

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  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 the record together. My joke was the first nine songs took a year and two months and then the last three songs I did in a couple of weeks, because I was so focused. I just set everything aside and I got it done,” says Rich Spina.  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  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

Ellen Johnson's Form & Formless

Form and Formless front page photoIn some ways the album cover for Ellen Johnson’s Form & Formless reminds one of a Vincent Van Gogh painting, as the image is comprised of a mix of solid lines and portions of the image, which are less defined. The image prepares the listener for the music they are about to hear.

Ellen Johnson explains, “That's interesting about Van Gough, but I thought of it much like a painting as well. If you get up close to the computer images they are really fascinating. It is hard to tell on the little CD cover. I was thinking of it more as going from something concrete to an atomic structure. The idea is that we see form from our limited point of view but there is a world of atoms all around us, just like in music when we hear a song, but there are vibrations happening that we can't perceive other than through the song form. It is a way to experience what's beyond all of this and the idea of perception.

The photographer Adrian Mendoza took the photo and then he did a computer imaging process that created the effect, then Jeff (her husband) further processed (the image) in photoshop to create the illusion of it going from form to formless.”

As for the music that appears on the album, she says, “We had no preconceived idea of what we were going to be doing. We had no charts, no sheet music or anything.  We never discussed hey let’s do this here or let’s create this there. We never discussed anything, so here we were. I was in my little studio booth and John (Stowell) was in his little studio booth and somebody started and out of that a song occurred.  What makes Read More

Continental Drifters

Continental Drifters front page photoThroughout the 1990s and the first part of the 21st century the Continental Drifters formed as a band in Los Angeles and later relocated to New Orleans, as some of their members returned to their hometown. The media brief from Omnivore Recordings that accompanies the double album set Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond suggests Continental Drifters “The best Americana supergroup that you’ve probably never really heard of, although you know several of its individual members.”  Although Omnivore gives top billing to Vicki Peterson (The Bangles), Susan Cowsill (The Cowsills) and Peter Holsapple, it was our guest at Riveting Riffs Magazine, bassist Mark Walton (Dream Syndicate), Carlo Nuccio, Gary Eaton and Ray Ganucheau who founded the group and first began playing gigs together at Raji’s in Hollywood.

Mark Walton remembers, “Carlo and I had a little tiny house in Studio City and we had a couch and a bunch of chairs. Carlo liked to cook gumbo and all kinds of stuff. We would sit around and drink cases of beer, eat, be merry and play music. Everybody would just pickup guitars and sing. It was a jamboree and that is how we did it.

Carlo and I were playing in bands around Los Angeles. I kept hearing Carlo sing songs on the couch and I kept saying, you’re so good and he said you should play bass with me and I said ya’ that would be fun.  We were so busy doing so many other things.

Ray had moved to town and he was working for Microsoft in their sales office for Read More

Ethical Fashion On Stage Berlin

Ethical Fashion Show Berlin

Photo by Thomas Lohnes protected
 by copyright © 2015 Getty Images

WW Club Dancing In My Dreams

WW Club Photo Front PageThe last time that we spoke to Amanda Walther she was on the verge of a huge musical breakthrough as one-half of the Rootsy duo Dala. Along with her musical partner Sheila Carabine, Walther embarked on several years of touring more than 200 days per year primarily in America and Canada, with some additional concert dates in the U.K.

Fast forward to 2015 and Amanda Walther says, “I am a new mom. I am a year in and I love it. It is wonderful. I wasn’t a mother when we started this album (More Better by WW Club, pronounced as Double W Club), but I am now. It is quite fitting and it has been helpful.”

The children’s album opens with a song that takes its title from the group’s name WW Club, a gentle rap / R&B blend that gets your toes tapping, your hips moving and your head nodding to the beats and grooves. The message is simple to love, “love like your mom makes, love like syrup on pancakes,” and “we don’t exclude, we just love,” and the harmonies on the chorus are beyond smooth, while inviting you to sing along with them, whether you are a child or an adult. The liner notes do not tell us whether it is Tim or Mike Walther leading the rap, but whoever it is does a good job.

Then there is the Pop song “Dancing In My Dreams,” oh yes!! With Amanda Walther singing lead vocals, sign this lady up – wait she is already signed. She is joined by Mel, Tim and Mike Walther. Yes More Better is a family affair. This is an upbeat, beautiful little song that made this writer wonder if there is a children’s Top Forty, because if there is, this one would rank at the top of the charts.

When and how was the album More Better created? A better question might be where were the seeds of creation first sown? Would you believe in the hearts of some children in a crawl space when cousins were visiting one another?

Amanda Walther explains, “I have always been very close to my cousins. We grew up together  Read More

Interview with Michael Maron

Michael Maron Photo front pageMichael Maron’s has enjoyed an illustrious career as a makeup artist, critically acclaimed photographer and beauty consultant. He has authored books such as Child Inside Me and Makeover Magic, which took a look at corrective cosmetics and cosmetic surgery and his book Michael Maron’s Instant Makeover Magic was a New York Times best seller. Maron has been sought out by some of the beauty industry’s top models, as well as some of the entertainment world’s biggest stars and yet he also delights in being of service to clients whose names are only known to their families and neighbors. Michael Maron has been a radio and television personality and worked on the production side of television as well. He was thrust firmly into the spotlight when an entire hour of Oprah’s television show was dedicated to Maron doing a makeover of Oprah in front of the cameras. His work with charities and with burn victims has earned him a special place in the hearts of those who have worked with him, in the hearts of his friends and with those who have been the recipients of his generosity. Riveting Riffs Magazine was honored when Michael Maron accepted our invitation to be interviewed by this publication.

Michael Maron was born in New York City and as a child moved with his family of four to Los Angeles.

“(One of) my mother’s many sisters lived in Southern California and she said to my mother, ‘It’s time you took your family and moved here.’ We did and she (the sister) sort of orchestrated everything about where to live and so we could be near her. It may be one of the best things that my parents ever did,” he says. 

Maron talks about his early creative endeavors, “When a kid starts drawing instinctively or maybe even in school you just sort of know Read More

Ada Rovatti's Disguise

ada rovatti disguise coverItalian / American saxophonist Ada Rovatti is a renowned saxophonist, composer and arranger and her current album Disguise also serves as a testament to her versatility in all of those areas, as eight of the ten songs are original compositions and there is a re-arranged interpretation of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” and a funky version of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” with guests Adam Rogers (guitar) and Randy Brecker (trumpet).

As she did with Harold Arlen’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” on her previous solo album The Green Factor, Ada Rovatti created a new arrangement for another classic song “Smile.”

She says, “The melody is gorgeous and the lyrics are amazing.  It is kind of interesting that the title is “Smile,” but there is really nothing to smile about it. He’s totally sad. It is one of those melodies that every time I hear it, it gives me goosebumps. It was one tune that I always thought was beautiful and I always wanted to do it. Here again I didn’t wanted to use the Classical chords, the original chords and I just heard the little darkness, because the title is “Smile,” but the words and the lyrics are so sad. I wanted to add a little extra on the chords. I wanted a little darker chord progression.”

I come from a family of music appreciators. They participated in choirs or lessons growing up, but I am the only professional musician in my family.  I am the only one in my family, who went into it, but everyone in my family is supportive and they have a strong appreciation for music.

My parents had me late in life. They were in their mid-forties when I was born and the music of their generation was always playing.  There was Carole King and a lot of James Taylor, hits from the sixties, Rock from the seventies, Linda Ronstadt, Peter, Paul and Mary and a lot of folk. My dad Read More

Manda Mosher of Calico the Band

Manda Mosher by Anthony Mills

Photo by Anthony Mills protected by copyright ©
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Melanie Stace - The Key To Me

Melanie Stace the key to me cd cover front pageMelanie Stace in collaboration with Wayne Brown has created a breathtaking album of beautiful and original songs with the album The Key To Me. The songs range from the tender love letter “Change of Season,” to the up-tempo “Waiting Game,” a song about waiting for a lost love to call again and the song “The Night Has Just Begun,” about a lady of the night.

“Change Of Season,” expresses all of those feelings that come to the surface when you finally realize this is the one! This is the person with whom you are in love and how your step has a little more bounce, how you take great delight in the smallest of things that perhaps you didn’t notice before. Ms. Stace’s phrasing is impeccable and in the lines “You opened up my eyes / To ever sunny skies / Exactly! What I have been missing,” she sings exactly with conviction.  It is easy to imagine “Change Of Season,” as the first dance between and groom at a wedding reception. It is just as easy to imagine two lovers driving down the road in a convertible, with the radio turned up and singing this song together, sharing smiles and knowing looks.

“I wrote this song when I had returned from a long but great seven months working in Seattle with Teatro Zinzanni. It had been raining almost non-stop during the time I was there, and I arrived back at Heathrow (airport in London) to unexpected sunshine. I reflected on what an amazing time I had in Seattle (performing) in the show and what a personal journey I had been on. Having never thought the weather affected me much previously, I thought a lot about how it can have a big influence on practically everything. It’s fairly obvious that this song is about being happy to be in love, but it’s also about love being the reason for many things including the reason to step out and change things up a little in order to experience your own “Change Of Season,” says Melanie Stace. Read More

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