Greg Karukas -Heatwave
Karukas (Kuh-ROO-kiss) is one of those artists who had and still
has tremendous success in the Smooth Jazz market. He started his
career with his album "The Nightowl" in 1987 an independant
recording followed by "Key Witness" (1991), "Sound of
Emotion" ('92), "Summerhouse" (#1 Gavin in '93), "You'll
Know It's Me" ('95), Blue Touch ('98), "Night
Shift" (2000) and now "Heatwave" (2002). As a
keyboardist he was soon an in demand musician for live events and
studio work. He was playing with such known artists as Richard
Elliot, Grant Geissman,
Ronnie Laws, Melissa
Manchester, Brandon Fields, Patti
Austin, Brenda Russell, David
Benoit, Dave Koz, Kenny
G, Ricardo Silveira,
Sergio Mendes, and The
Rippingtons. He became an original member of this group in the
mid-1980's. Gregg has produced or co-produced CD's for artists such as
David Lanz, guitarist Phil
Sheeran, Shelby Flint, Tony Darren, and the Pointer Sisters. Gregg
also arranged and performed most of the instruments on hit tracks for Kirk
Whalum, Peter White, Craig
Chaquico, and Brian
Gregg comments his new album:
"Heatwave" was to be released in the Summer, (it got delayed
through no fault of mine) and some of the songs, to me, are
"cool"; meant to be a relief from the stuffy, humid East
Coast summers I "know and love". Others are pretty funky and
will make you sweat if you listen to them under the right conditions."
Rendezvous is a laidback grooving tune. Dino Soldo (Sax), Paul
Jackson Jr. are sharing Gregg 's journey into light and lush mood.
Smile features Michael O'Neill, longtime touring partner of
George Benson, Mel Brown, the bassist well-known as a member of Metro
and Louis Conte, the in demand
percussionist. Rhythm and melody are similiar to often heard songs at
Smooth Jazz charts. Nothing to think badly about it.
Drive is featuring in addition to the above mentioned
artists the "heatwave horns" (Rick
Braun - trumpet, Andy
Suzuki - sax and Nick Lane - trombone). An uptempo tune with
Gregg's accentuated piano play and Michael O'Neill's quick guitar
The title of the song Too
Cool (To Be Hot) has its own story. Karen
Alves, a Karukas fan, suggested in a competition: "Too Hot
to be Cool". Gregg liked it but changed it around to be "Too
Cool to be Hot". Gregg comments: "In fact, the title seemed
to match another song better, so I made that switch too."
Wonderful how Gregg touchs the keys tenderly outlining
perfect melodies and creating an atmosphere of uplifting mood.
showcases Kirk Whalum on sax. Gregg: "I'm
dedicating my just finished CD, "Heatwave", to
both my parents for their constant support, their tolerance
of all my band practices in our garage, and for always allowing me to pursue
my musical dreams." Gregg's
Conner Karukas, passed away at
Monday August 26 after
a long, painful battle with pancreatic cancer.
I can imagine that Gregg has dedicated especially this contemplative
song to his beloved mother.
is one of those tunes people are dancing on at Gregg's
both coasts. Gregg is a really busy musician.
A more intimate club jazz feeling
is spreaded on Penthouse View. William
Kennedy on drums and John Leftwich on bass. Curently Gregg is touring
with John and Shelby Flint for the 6th annual Home for the Holidays Tour.
More groove is to find on Brooklyn
Nights. I like to listen particulary to Andy Suzuki's alto and
C flutes. The flute is an instrument which is neglected on many Smooth
Jazz radio stations.
Soldo is the featured saxophonist on Home To
You. Although playing in the best known Smooth Jazz style on
Gregg's album, he has released several remarkable albums as
"Strange & Beautiful" ("A
collection of warm, home-cooked, progressive folk/pop songs that roll
along like an Orleans procession") or "StoneCoat", his
alias, which was founded in late '96 on the Sonic Images label
("The project was an inspired journey into his cherokee
heritage."). All these album are far beyond the Smooth Jazz
ground but still easily accessible.
Many Smooth Jazz
musicians have a great affinity to Latin music. Gregg worked with a
number of Brazilian musicians, including stints with Ricardo Silveira,
Sergio Mendes, and Grammy nominated recordings with Dori Caymmi. Last
Train has some
Brazilian accords. Michael O'Neill's guitar work is brilliant. But
superior is Gregg's piano play. Bravissimo, Gregg!
is another place of rest. Dave Koz 's sax play is very sensible and
I Meant What I
Said is one of
these tunes, most critics are describing as "Smoking".
"Heatwave" is the nucleus of Smooth Jazz. This album is
highly professional, no wonder with all these great artists staying on
the summit of their musician life. Gregg was recently writing about
his "fan-to-artist subscriber" concept "In a way,
I'm "subscribing" to my favorite artists these days by
buying their new CD's on faith. Especially since even the single you
may or may not hear on the radio could be very different from most of
the music on the full length CD. I will be supporting their
"career flow" so they will hopefully be able to continue
making more music." Let's start realizing this concept with
Gregg's album. It's worth every penny.