Jan. 29, 2004 – The first Jazz in the Moonlight concert season on St. Croix winds up on Feb. 7 with a performance at Island Center for the Performing Arts by smooth jazz legends Chieli Minucci and Special EFX.
"With their amazing mixture of Latin, R&B and cool jazz, Chieli Minucci and Special EFX continue to be the masters of the contemporary jazz scene," concert series producer and St. John resident Steve Simon says. "These guys will blow you away!"
Founded by guitarist Minucci and world music percussionist George Jinda in the early '80s, the group has 17th albums over 20 years to its credit. It has been on tour in January promoting the latest — "Party."
The band's 16th release, "Butterfly," featured the single "Cruise Control," which held the top spot on R&R [for Radio and Records] Magazine's Smooth Jazz charts for five weeks last year.
And Minucci's latest single album, "Smooth Grooves," yielded the single "Kickin' It Hard," which was R&R's No. 3 Smooth Jazz song for 2003 — staying on the chart for 33 weeks.
Jazziz Magazine calls Minucci "both an influential elder statesman and [a] true innovator."
Special EFX "has been my vision of what contemporary instrumental music should be," he says on the the band's Web site. "One of the reasons we have been able to maintain our popularity is because we have evolved … When the band first started we had a heavy world music influence. Later we highlighted more of a progressive rock sound, followed by acid jazz. And now we have more of a rhythm and blues influence. When people hear our music, they can expect to hear a little of everything."
Thirteen albums after forming Special EFX, Minucci and Jinda amicably went their separate ways, Minucci pursuing a solo career and Jinda staying with the band. When a medical condition forced Jinda to give up his work, Minucci returned to lead the band with his former partner's blessings.
A composer, arranger and producer as well as a performing and session artist, Minucci has worked with Celine Dion, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, Jewel and Spyro Gyra, to name a few.
A composer for he soap opera "The Guiding Light," he won an Emmy Award for Best Music Composition on a Daytime Drama in 1998 and has been nominated several times for others — including last year. He composed and produced the soundtrack for the 2003-04 Clear Channel/Nickelodeon live tour of the hit TV series "Dora the Explorer — The City of Lost Toys."
Minucci composed all 10 tracks on the "Party" album. "The whole idea was to create a vibe that permeates the entire album from start to finish. It's like music for your own private party," he says. His guitar work is showcased on only two of the cuts, the thumping '80s inspired "Get On Up" and the Flamenco-tinged "Mi Amore." The CD "is heavily saxophone driven," he says, spotlighting his longtime friend David Mann, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Tower of Power, James Taylor and Paul Simon and will be playing at Island Center.
Other "Party" tracks include "Ladies' Man," released as a single; the drum and bass-tinged "Ready For Anything" and the hip-hop flavored "Fantasies," featuring Mann on flute. Then there's "Dusk 'Til Dawn," a tribute to bassist Jaco Pastorious that features Special EFX bass man Jerry Books, a 10-year member of the band. Books "is incredibly varied in his ability on bass," Minucci says.
Also appearing in the Island Center concert will be San Francisco jazz singer Greta Rose with her band.
The program is to begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door for general admission; those under age 18 are admitted free. Advance sales are at Pier 69, Morning Glory Coffee & Tea, Victor Mencho, IB Designs and the Island Center box office. For further information, call Amy Dixon at 719-1288.
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