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New album featuring RnB vocalist Femi Knight

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    Posted: 30 Sep 2020 at 8:04pm

The SAN GABRIEL 7 is a unique and distinctive group of musicians. It was formed in 2006 by JIM LEWIS, a trombonist and a spacecraft engineer who works at JPL, the federally funded research and development center managed for NASA by Caltech, located in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley. Music is a popular activity for many scientists, for example, Brian May, the guitarist for Queen has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and Greg Graffin, the frontman for the punk-rock band Bad Religion, has a PhD in zoology. Lewis formed the first iteration of SG7 with a few of the talented musician/scientists from JPL and Caltech. Today, Lewis still leads SG7, but the original musicians have moved on and the group now features some of the top, professional jazz musicians from Southern California.
The SG7 is now releasing RED DRESS,their tenth album. CHRIS GORDON, the album's producer, says, "The group has been flying under the radar since its inception. It has grown and changed over the years, and with a new focus for the band, we felt it was time to bring our music to a larger audience outside of the region."
The musicians on RED DRESS each have a long list of professional credits playing with some of the biggest names in the music business. The rhythm section comprises CHAD EDWARDS on keyboards and Hammond B3, MATT WEISBERG on keyboards, CHRIS GORDON on grand piano, STEVE GREGORY on guitar, JONATHAN PINTOFF on bass, RANDY DRAKE on drums, and SCOTT BREADMAN on percussion. The horn section is MIKE McGUFFEY on trumpet, JEFF JARVIS on trumpet and flugelhorn, KYE PALMER on trumpet, GLEN BERGER on tenor and alto sax, and JIM LEWIS on trombone.
SG7 started gigging around the Los Angeles area shortly after their inception and released their first album in 2007, recording it in Cal Tech's pro studios. The band played mostly straight-ahead standards as well as a mix of other styles until 2009, when they underwent a major change. Lewis is a member of the National Guard and was sent to Afghanistan for 18 months right after 9/11 as a Special Forces Team Leader. When he was deployed to Afghanistan again in 2010 for another 18 months, he asked the prolific composer and arranger DAVE CUSHMAN to take the helm of the band and keep it going. When Lewis returned from his tour of duty, everything about the band the was different.
As band members left, Cushman started bringing on board more professional musicians, but a bigger change was in the music they were playing. Cushman has a funky edge to his writing, and he brought his original charts and compositions to the band. Lewis loved the new direction and Cushman has been the sole arranger for the group ever since.
Lewis is always looking for the most skilled players to add to the group's roster, and over the years the band has been joined by some of the finest jazz musicians in the country as guest artists, like Bruce Lofgren, Steve Huffsteter, Pete Christlieb, and Eric Marienthal, to name just a few. Lewis started taking lessons from trombone legend Bill Watrous in 2008. The two became friends, and Watrous became a supporter of the band, appearing on several SG7 recordings.
Lewis has eclectic tastes and always seeks new directions for musical inspiration. He decided to take the band down two different paths for their recordings. The first is producing all instrumental albums featuring Cushman's arrangements. The other path features vocalists. Lewis is especially fond of singer/songwriters, and he decided to make albums presenting some of his favorite vocalists. However, rather than hire a singer to perform the band's music, the band performs the music chosen by the singer, whether they are originals or just part of the singer's repertoire. Cushman arranges all the music, whether it's an instrumental or vocal album.
The band's first foray into vocal music was with the 2016 release of Lost My Heart, featuring the popular Australian singer Ingrid James. The album received critical acclaim and was a hit for James in Australia.
RED DRESS features singer, songwriter, keyboardist, and voiceover actor FEMI KNIGHT, AKA Dawn Bishop. Night has collaborated with a long list of well-known musical artists, actors, choreographers, and record producers, but she is perhaps best known for her long association with Sergio Mendes and the different versions of his bands.
RED DRESS features seven songs composed by Knight and two live performances of Knight and the SG7 recorded at the Cal Tech Jazz Festival. The live cuts include "When a Woman's Had Enough," composed by Bettye LaVette, and "Never Make Your Move Too Soon," by Stix Hooper. Knight's original compositions have a funky, R&B feel that befits her take on modern relationships and the challenges that face women in the 21st century. "I'm Going Home" is about a woman learning the steps of a relationship dance. "Give A Little" is an emotional plea for true communication between lovers. Glen Berger provides a stellar alto saxophone solo. "West Indian Brown" has a gospel funk feel, especially in Chad Edwards' Hammond B3 playing. "New Tomorrow" is a Brazilian-tinged song about a woman who contemplates a spiritual reality. Kye Palmer's trumpet solo shines with optimism. "The Next Best Thing" is a song full of despair, captured beautifully in Steve Gregory's somber intro and solo on acoustic guitar. "Stranger" is about a woman examining her own feelings.
There is real synergy between Dave Cushman's fun and engaging arrangements and The San Gabriel 7, a high energy band of top-notch players. Knight has a smooth, flexible, and warm voice. She is a veteran performer who can sing in just about any style, from jazz and rhythm & blues to Brazilian, funk, and gospel. The music on RED DRESS is swinging and suffused with toe-tapping funkiness, aided and abetted by Knight's intelligent, sensitive lyrics.
RED DRESS was released on September 11, 2020 and is available online everywhere..

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