Recent Accolades for "First & Monroe":
"(Bob Shimizu's) 'First & Monroe" is a contemporary jazz disc that is full of sweet melodies and tasteful, impressive chops... The playing serves the songs and is impressive in both content and technical skill..."
"Bob Shimizu possesses a classy style that carries over into his music."
"This is what jazz guitar is SUPPOSED to sound like! I give it a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an "E.Q" (energy quotient) of 4.97 and a PICK for this issue for Best Jazz Guitar" ~ Dick Metcalf, AKA Rotcod Zzaj/Improvisation Nation
"I guess you could call guitarist Bob Shimizu's First & Monroe(Signal Strength) easy listening, but it veers more toward Wes Montgomery's later years than "neo-dentist's office". His music pushes in the right places and is lyrical throughout. Joining Shimizu here are organist Joey DeFrancesco, saxophonist Eric Marienthal and others. All 11 tracks are soothing, hip originals." ~ Mark Myers/JazzWax.com
"Joey DeFrancesco along with (Dominick) Farinacci and (Eric) Marienthal all give stellar performances and add depth and texture to this oustanding release. There is no drop-off here, solid writing and presentation makes this the sleeper of the year for contemporary jazz! ~ Digital Jazz News
"Guitarist Bob Shimizu's new album of all original material, "First & Monroe", is readymade for those attracted to George Benson's late-1970s mellow jazz hey-day..." ~Doug Simpson/Audiophile Audition
"It was a fun date with great musicians. Bob's a gentleman and that's reflected in his playing."
"(Bob) Your solos are first-rate and the tone is to die for! Thank you for making my guitars sound so great!"
"The man writes melodies that sing, and plays them with heart."
"In the best tradition of the 1980s, jazz guitarist/composer Bob Shimizu's relaxing sound and welcoming tone echoes the style of guitarists like Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton". ~ Jazz Times Magazine
"Many will rush to slap the "smooth jazz" label on Shimizu while forgetting "smooth jazz" is a radio format and not a genre of music. If comparisons must be made to avoid type casting then Shimizu is a highly lyrical player with the clean runs of a Kenny Burrell and the improvisational skills of a Wes Montgomery, "First & Monroe"is a cut above most stereotypical "smooth jazz", with variety and improvisation that boils down to real musicians in a real studio playing real music...."
Bob Shimizu has played the guitar since the age of twelve. He began his involvement with music through fascination with the sound of the guitar. The guitar, Bob feels, is the "King" of instruments where popular music is concerned. This instrument is easy to play poorly, and difficult to play well. It is an inexhaustible source of personal challenge and inspiration.
Bob studied with John Shacklett, an early contemporary of Wes Montgomery. Bob studied with Mr. Shacklett both in Madison, WI, and later at Norfolk State College in Hampton, VA. Bob moved on to perform in the University of Maryland Jazz Ensemble, where he majored in performance and composition.
After school, Bob was a founder of Come Out Swinging, an avante-garde jazz band in Washington, DC. While with C.O.S., Bob appeared to critical acclaim at Cellar Door, Blues Alley, The Wax Museum, One Step Down, Carter Barron Amphitheater, WPFW, WMUC and WDCU radio stations.
In 2008, after a long sabbatical from performing, Bob's decision to focus on music once again has yielded a remarkable ascent. Says Bob, "Years of playing at music coupled with a long break led to my decision to give my music an opportunity it never had before. I asked myself: What would happen if I put all my resources into the endeavor?"
This new beginning saw the birth of the band Signal Strength and Bob's first original and self-produced recording, "Cuchillero". "Cuchillero" fared quite well on college radio (achieving top-ten status in nearly 20 markets) as Bob and the band started to make a dent in the Phoenix-area music scene, playing some of its finest clubs (Voce, Skye, The Raven).
A meeting with AZ-based club owner and jazz manager Mike Florio (Nelson Rangell, Joey DeFrancesco, Marion Meadows, etc.) led to another new beginning as Bob set out to up his game further.
Teaming with noted producer, Clarke Rigsby (Tower of Power, Jimmy Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, etc.) and Todd Chuba (Stevie Nicks, Glen Campbell, Annie Sellick), the three men set a course to rework a whole new book of original material and plan a contemporary jazz outing that was to be performed rather than pieced together as modern recordings often are.
The results are in.
We are pleased to introduce you to Bob Shimizu's "First & Monroe", eleven original compositions rooted in the jazz tradition that are influenced by a lifetime of the love of all great music. "F&M" was recorded using an approach that harkens back to the early days: jazz dynamics meeting pop sensibilities, musicians tracking live together, limited overdubs and the embrace of an "analog" ethic intended to touch us as humans.
On "First & Monroe", Bob Shimizu teams with pioneers of the genre including Eric Marienthal (saxophones), David Garfield (keyboards) and Lenny Castro (percussion) as well as the legendary Joey DeFrancesco (organ), Young Lion Dominick Farinacci (flugelhorn) and a host of talented players meeting at an "intersection" of memorable melodies, interesting harmonies and inspiring performances in a true fusion of jazz, latin and pop.
Her "Gentle Touch In Moonlight" is a funky romp through a delicate melody. Bob's patience with the melody and his "less-is more" approach equates to "more" indeed. A nice vibraphone solo shows up courtesy of Matt Williams as a welcome sonic surprise, lending a warm and fuzzy organic quality to the track. Drummer Todd Chuba's hypnotic groove will keep heads nodding throughout.
On "Easy To Be With", one first notices the unique and extremely infectious Brazilian influenced "Partido Alto" groove laid down by drummer Todd Chuba and percussionist Lenny Castro. Once again Bob shows great patience in both the delivery of the melody and solo which is extremely effective in contrast to jazz veteran Eric Marienthal's angst-funky soprano saxophone solo. The two meet for the closing melody over a grooving Samba and trade through the fade.
"Trace of A Nordic Blonde" immediately hooks the listener with its unison line reminiscent of the great Joe Sample's "Hippies On The Corner". A wonderfully tasty solo by Bob is followed by a Joe Sample-esque piano solo by David Garfield, who flavors the track with late night sophistication.
"Padrone" is a funky, hooky, soul-tinged journey that features an extremely lyrical melody, a retro-inspired groove and an Al Green-inspired soul feel. Eric Marienthal brings his alto sax along for the ride as he and Bob plant themselves firmly in the pocket. David Garfield's B3 padding and soloing bring this track further into the land of Soul.
The aptly titled "Above the Clouds" is an inspired Samba featuring the warm and delicate flugelhorn of New York's Dominic Farinnaci. Bob's nylon-string Buscarino guitar makes an appearance as he serves the tune with great musicianship. The song, inspired by traveling at 41,000 feet, assigns YOU a First-Class seat.
"Yavapai Lulluby" is anything but a lullaby in the traditional sense. Drummer Todd Chuba lays down a Steve Jordan-inspired groove as Bob delivers yet another lyrical melody. This might be one of Bob's most boisterous guitar solos on the album. It certainly inspires David Garfield on keys. An infectious and memorable lullaby for sure.
"Flying Home" is a "Pat Metheny-esque" piece with a well-named title. Bob is once again guilty of selling the melody with patience (as if this melody needs to be sold). "Flying Home" is a wonderfully textural piece that includes sitar, rolling cymbals and a wonderful maturity. Hit the Repeat button on this baby after a long day.
"L-Ski", penned for Bob's daughter Mariel, is a fun little sonically organic affair. A sweet melody and a fun groove gives the listener a sense of who Mariel might be. Take a listen. Maybe there is an "L-Ski" in your life.
Buckle up as we venture down "1235 Moio Way", Bob's George Benson-influenced track which was penned for noted guitarist Bill Moio. This tune features a "Ramblin'" drum groove and burnin' good-time solo efforts from Bob and David Garfield. Added ear candy is the tasteful and strategically placed strings in the B-section, courtesy of Lamar Gaines. "1235 Moio Way" might just take you back to the good 'ole days of Contemporary Jazz...can you say "Breezin'"?
If you've ever had occasion to tour Northern Arizona, you'd understand the overwhelming majesty and peacefulness of "Sycamore Canyon". From note one, Bob's influence is evident, prideful and appropriate. The track speaks for itself and pays great homage to a fantastic piece of Arizona.
Recorded live at an undisclosed location, Bob meets the legendary Joey DeFrancesco at the intersection of "First & Monroe" for this organ trio romp. Bob seems to channel personal heroes Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell as he gives a lesson in subtleties, laying down a tasty, inspired and thoughtful solo. Drummer Todd Chuba "kills" the Philly Joe Jones- inspired shuffle and Joey... Well, he's Joey!
On this outing, Bob Shimizu has shown real bravery by not allowing the influence of the Smooth Jazz broadcast idiom's whimsical rules or, the tradition and "commandments" of the Jazz Police to alter the musical vision.
Bob Shimizu has simply recorded a true contemporary jazz record in the most honest sense and, most importantly, he's simply made great music!
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