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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 to in 2015. From the very first bar of music this song will get you up on your feet and one can easily imagine being at a Cindy Alexander concert and en masse people rising up out of their seats, dancing where they stand and once they know the words singing them back to her while she performs.

“It is a feel good song for me, so I hope that it is a feel good song for the listener and I am talking about the healing power of the music. Dave Darling came up with that track. We needed a rocker and we needed something up-tempo. When I heard it I had just read a blog about somebody who had struggled with mental illness, but all 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 wanted to give them a genuine charm. The things that I do well are keeping it simple and genuine. I think sometimes I get faulted for that, because (there are times when) people would like it to be more complex. I don’t do that very well. To me it is all about communication, the voice and the honesty behind it.”

Before embarking on a fulltime music career, Alyse Black was a scholastic marvel earning three degrees from the university of Washington, in international studies, communications and business and she spent time in the mainstream business world. During her studies the Seattle native spent time in several different countries and she now draws upon those various experiences.  Read More

Manda Mosher of Calico The Band

Manda Mosher by Anthony Mills

Photo by Anthony Mills protected by copyright ©

Visit the CALICO THE BAND website

Brazil's Rique Pantoja

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

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

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

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 the Los Angeles region.  We knew Gary from some other bands. We just started off sitting around living rooms playing songs just to have fun.  We liked it so much we thought we would go out and play in one show, just to have some fun and that was it!  Read More

LA's Mark Winkler is Hip

Mark Winkler front page photoOne look at the eleven songs that appear on platinum award winning singer / lyricist Mark Winkler’s current album Jazz and Other Four Letter Words suggests this is a hip guy, with hip music and a hip attitude about life. If that is the conclusion that you reached, you would be right. There are songs such as the original tune that he co-wrote with Rich Eames, “Stay Hip,” and then there is the Dave Fishberg and Bob Dorough song “I’m Hip,” that he performs as a duet with Cheryl Bentyne. There are also songs that testify to his hipness, such as the swinging “My Idea Of A Good Time,” a Mark Winkler and Greg Gordon Smith collaboration, then there is the convergence of love and Jazz, both hip, as told through the words and music of “Your Cat Plays Piano,” (music by Bill Cantos, lyrics by Mark Winkler). For those old enough to remember or whose parents told them about the Beatnik culture of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, the story Winkler tells in “Your Cat Plays Piano,” is of a person who had they been born a few decades earlier might have fit in well as a Beatnik. One look at the eleven songs that appear on platinum selling songwriter Mark Winkler’s current album Jazz and Other Four Letter Words leaves the definite impression this is a hip guy, with hip music and a hip attitude about life. If that is the conclusion that you reached, you would be right. There are songs such as the original tune that he co-wrote with Rich Eames, “Stay Hip,” and then there is the Dave Fishberg and Bob Dorough song “I’m Hip,” that he performs as a duet with Cheryl Bentyne. There are also songs that testify to his hipness, such as the swinging “My Idea of a Good Time,” a Mark Winkler and Greg Gordon Smith collaboration, then there is the convergence of love and Jazz, both hip, as told through the words and music of “Your Cat Plays Piano.” For those old enough to remember or whose parents told them about the Beatnik culture of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, Winkler 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 the idea of improvisation work is listening to each other intently and being sensitive to each other. It is being able to work when somebody can be a leader and somebody can be a follower. It 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 Read More

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 Read More

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. 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.”

As for the Led Zeppelin tune, “People never expect “Stairway To Heaven.” “Usually, when I play live I say the title (for other songs), but when I (introduce) “Stairyway To Heaven,” I say, we will play a tune that you have probably heard a few times before and let’s see if you can recognize it.  As soon as Randy (Brecker) and I do our intro, you can see big smiles on almost everybody’s faces, like I got it. (We joke that now she is a Read More

Ethical Fashion On Stage Berlin

Ethical Fashion Show Berlin

Photo by Thomas Lohnes protected
 by copyright © 2015 Getty Images

New Merle Jagger Album Soon

Mark Christian front page BTake a little bit of Merle Travis, a touch of Buck Owens, mix in a Rock guitarist who played on a Berlin (“You Take My Breath Away”) record and received an invitation to join the band, was a session player for Moon Martin, The Monkees, Robert Palmer and The Village People (also served as a songwriter) and you have a pretty highly regarded and eclectic guitarist. Los Angeles guitarist Mark Christian who is also a well-respected producer and sound engineer now has people whispering his name respectfully in Country Music circles as his band Merle Jagger causes ears to perk up with their original songs “Hillbilly No. 9,” and “Ranch Party,” as well as their cover of Earl Scruggs’ “Randy Lynn Rag.”

Mark Christian explains how the band’s name was determined, “The Merle of Merle Jagger is actually Merle Travis. Merle Travis was in behind the calculated science of my band name.  Merle Travis was the first Country guitar hero. He wrote “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette,” and he wrote “Sixteen Tons.” He was the Bruce Springsteen of the 40s. He played a Bigsby tremolo (guitar). He was playing with a thumb pick and he would pick the guitar like a banjo. He played all of the bass lines and the guitar lines together at the same time.

Chet Atkins admitted he got everything from Merle Travis. He basically stole his style. He applied it to what he was doing and then everybody else followed. Pretty much the whole Chet Atkins thumb picking thing was basically started by Merle Travis.

I figured I was a Rock guy trying to play Country. I figured the guitar hero of Merle Travis meets the bad boys of Rock and Roll, The Rolling Stones and I came up with Merle Jagger. There were some runner-up names like, Gringo Star. I also wanted to have a band name like Jethro Tull or Elvis Costello. I wasn’t sure if people were going to get what I was doing. I wanted people to be intrigued by the band name and that would lead them to the music. The t-shirts sell really well. I was absolutely not going to do the Mark Christian Band. It was not going to happen.”

To date Merle Jagger has released one album, but another is on the way. The current one, Read More

Angela Parrish - New EP

Angela Parrish Photo front pageThe first thing you notice about Los Angeles based, Kansas born and raised, singer-songwriter-musician Angela Parrish is her vocals. Her vocals to the casual listener sound effortless as she masters Jazz, Americana and lighter Pop songs, but to the trained ear, one realizes right away that this is an artist who has invested a lot of time in honing her craft. The second thing that jumps out at you as you listen to songs such as, “Higher,” “The Couple Down The Hall,” “Hand Me Down,” and “Noon In Denver,” is Angela Parrish is a skilled songwriter.  In the autumn of 2015 Parrish will be releasing a new EP and she collaborated with producer Jamie Candiloro who has worked with artists such as Courtney Love and R.E.M. and who regularly composes and produces for television and film.

Life began for Angela Parrish in the small town of Newton, Kansas and she has one sibbling, a younger sister Abbey.

She says, “Newton is a small town and it has a small town feel and I like everything about that.

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 listens to a lot of traditional Country artists such as Kenny Rogers, the Oak Ridge Boys and good groups with harmony.  Read More


Three Women Mourn the Apocalypse

Three Women Mourn the ApocalpyseUntil September 20 th, a new play by Canadian playwright Hannah Ritter, Three Women Mourn the Apocalypse is being presented at The Theatre Centre in Toronto, by Old Norman Productions and more specifically by the three outstanding young actresses who star in this play, Nicole Cardoni, Sarah Baskin and Carol Brown.  Riveting Riffs Magazine hopes that someday the theatre going public in general will realize that the best plays are not always and only found in larger venues and there is ample evidence of that in the performances of Cardoni, Baskin and Brown, under the direction of Marina McClure.

As the play opens with a sparse set and Melina (Sarah Baskin) waking up on the floor and her lover Samantha sitting in what amounts to being the only comfortable piece of furniture in their underground bunker, a living room chair, it is evident that some sort of catastrophe has befallen the world and the dialogue later in the play suggest one of a nuclear nature. Thinking however that this play revolves solely around that theme however, would be a mistake, for this is a play that explores the marginalization of some people in Melina and Samantha’s world, but also in the one in which you and I live.

This is not an egalitarian society, it is far from it. It is a society that favors those who fall in line and who behave in all the right ways and who sacrifice their individuality for what I suppose Ekora (Carol Brown) might think of as the greater good. This state of mind and how one achieves it is referred to as “acceptance.” Ekora who makes the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz seem almost powerless and weakly is a frightening individual with a haunting laugh. If she cannot seduce or coerce you into “acceptance,” she will break your soul, heart and mind, as she does with Melina.

When we talked to Hannah Ritter following the performance she had this to say, “I started writing the play just over a year ago and it looked very different and it sounded very different, but it came from the same place of wanting to know and to deal with the perfection that society is Read More

Riani Show Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Berlin

mercedez benz fashion week riani show

Model: Stefanie Giesinger Photo by: Frazer Harrison
copyright © 2015 Getty Images, All Rights Reserved

Lisa Hilton Talks About Horizons

Lisa Hilton front page 2015Malibu, California Jazz pianist and composer Lisa Hilton’s current album Horizons is another masterpice by an artist who continues to compose breathtakingly beautiful songs. The recording consists of nine Hilton original compositions, plus Duke Ellington’s “Sunset and the Mockingbird,” the Black Keys’ “Gold On the Ceiling,” and Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.”

The album opens with the spritely “Vapors and Shadows,” showcasing Lisa Hilton’s exquisite playing with Rudy Royston backing her on drums, while he adds some percussion panache. The album then segues into the head nodding, toe tapping “Nocturnal,” and it’s time to showcase Sean Jones on trumpet and J.D. Allen on tenor saxophone, while Hilton sets a brisk tempo on the piano. Let’s not forget Gregg August.

While taking a sip of her ice water, Hilton says, “On the horns, I try and mix things up. New York Sessions (the album) had a horn and two saxophones and Twilight Blues (another one of her albums) had a horn and a saxophone.  I guess I just thought I would try it again. I had told myself at one time that I was never, ever going to do a quintet again, (she whispers as if she is confiding a secret), because it is a lot more work.  I wanted to mix it up and to do something different.  I know a lot of people prefer horns and you know you are always trying to find the magic secret to create the sound that everybody loves.

On a few pieces (on the album Horizons) I know that Sean used a flugel horn, instead of the trumpet and that is an even rounder and prettier sound, then of course the tenor sax is a deeper and mellower instrument, so I thought that worked well. The trumpet has more of that high register that stands out and I think it goes well against the texture of my piano. J.D. is the perfect foil for me. I tend to be a little pretty and he tends to be a little deep. I think it is a very nice balance there.”  

Lisa Hilton takes time to talks Read More

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